The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Contemporary Review, Volume 36,
November 1879, by Various

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Title: The Contemporary Review, Volume 36, November 1879

Author: Various

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Language: English

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On Freedom. By Professor Max Müller 369
Mr. Gladstone: Two Studies suggested by his "Gleanings of Past Years." I. By a Liberal.—II. By a Conservative 398
The Ancien Régime and the Revolution in France. By Professor von Sybel 432
What is the Actual Condition of Ireland? By Edward Stanley Robertson 451
The Deluge: Its Traditions in Ancient Nations. By François Lenormant 465
Suspended Animation. By Richard A. Proctor 501
John Stuart Mill's Philosophy Tested. IV.—Utilitarianism. By Professor W. Stanley Jevons 521

[Pg 369]


Not more than twenty years have passed since John Stuart Mill sent forth his plea for Liberty.[2]

If there is one among the leaders of thought in England who, by the elevation of his character and the calm composure of his mind, deserved the so often misplaced title of Serene Highness, it was, I think, John Stuart Mill.

But in his Essay "On Liberty," Mill for once becomes passionate. In presenting his Bill of Rights, in stepping forward as the champion of individual liberty, a new spirit seems to have taken possession of him. He speaks like a martyr, or the defender of martyrs. The individual human soul, with its unfathomable endowments, and its capacity of growing to something undreamt of in our philosophy, becomes in his eyes a sacred thing, and every encroachment on its world-wide domain is treated as sacrilege. Society, the arch-enemy of the rights of individuality, is represented like an evil spirit, whom it behoves every true man to resist with might and main, and whose demands, as they cannot be altogether ignored, must be reduced at all hazards to the lowest level.

[Pg 370] I doubt whether any of the principles for which Mill pleaded so warmly and strenuously in his Essay "On Liberty" would at the present day be challenged or resisted, even by the most illiberal of philosophers, or the most conservative of politicians. Mill's demands sound very humble to our ears. They amount to no more than this, "that the individual is not accountable to society for his actions so far as they concern the interests of no person but himself, and that he may be subjected to social or legal punishments for such actions only as are prejudicial to the interests of others."

Is there any one here present who doubts the justice of that principle, or who would wish to reduce the freedom of the individual to a smaller measure? Whatever social tyranny may have existed twenty years ago, when it wrung that fiery protest from the lips of John Stuart Mill, can we imagine a state of society, not totally Utopian, in which the individual man need be less ashamed of his social fetters, in which he could more freely utter all his honest convictions, more boldly propound all his theories, more fearlessly agitate for their speedy realization; in which, in fact, each man can be so entirely himself as the society of England, such as it now is, such as generations of hard-thinking and hard-working Englishmen have made it, and left it as the most sacred inheritance to their sons and daughters?

Look through the whole of history, not excepting the brightest days of republican freedom at Athens and Rome, and I know you will not find one single period in which the measure of Liberty accorded to each individual was larger than it is at present, at least in England. And if you wish to realize the full blessings of the time in which we live, compare Mill's plea for Liberty with another written not much more than two hundred years ago, and by a thinker not inferior either in power or boldness to Mill himself. According to Hobbes, the only freedom which an individual in his ideal state has a right to claim is what he calls "freedom of thought," and that freedom of thought consists in our being able to think what we like—so long as we keep it to ourselves. Surely, such freedom of thought existed even in the days of the Inquisition, and we should never call thought free, if it had to be kept a prisoner in solitary and silent confinement. By freedom of thought we mean freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of action, whether individual or associated, and of that freedom the present generation, as compared with all former generations, the English nation, as compared with all other nations, enjoys, there can be no doubt, a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and sometimes running over.

It may be said that some dogmas still remain in politics, in religion, and in morality; but those who defend them claim no longer any infallibility, and those who attack them, however small their minority, need fear no violence, nay, may reckon on an impartial and even sympathetic hearing, as soon as people discover in their pleadings the true ring of honest conviction and the warmth inspired by an unselfish [Pg 371] love of truth.

It has seemed strange therefore to many readers of Mill, particularly on the Continent, that this cry for Liberty, this demand for freedom for every individual to be what he is, and to develop all the germs of his nature, should have come from what is known as the freest of all countries, England. We might well understand such a cry of indignation if it had reached us from Russia; but why should English philosophers, of all others, have to protest against the tyranny of society? It is true, nevertheless, that in countries governed despotically, the individual, unless he is obnoxious to the Government, enjoys far greater freedom, or rather licence, than in a country like England, which governs itself. Russian society, for instance, is extremely indulgent. It tolerates in its rulers and statesmen a haughty defiance of the simplest rules of social propriety, and it seems amused rather than astonished or indignant at the vagaries, the frenzies, and outrages, of those who in brilliant drawing-rooms or lecture-rooms preach the doctrines of what is called Nihilism or Individualism,[3]—viz., "that society must be regenerated by a struggle for existence and the survival of the strongest, processes which Nature has sanctioned, and which have proved successful among wild animals." If there is danger in these doctrines the Government is expected to see to it. It may place watchmen at the doors of every house and at the corner of every street, but it must not count on the better classes coming forward to enrol themselves as special constables, or even on the co-operation of public opinion which in England would annihilate that kind of Nihilism with one glance of scorn and pity.

In a self-governed country like England, the resistance which society, if it likes, can oppose to the individual in the assertion of his rights, is far more compact and powerful than in Russia, or even in Germany. Even where it does not employ the arm of the law, society knows how to use that softer, but more crushing pressure, that calm, but Gorgon-like look which only the bravest and stoutest hearts know how to resist.

It is rather against that indirect repression which a well-organized society exercises, both through its male and female representatives, that Mill's demand for Liberty seems directed. He does not stand up for unlimited licence; on the contrary, he would have been the most strenuous defender of that balance of power between the weak and the strong on which all social life depends. But he resents those smaller penalties which society will always inflict on those who disturb its dignified peace and comfort:—avoidance, exclusion, a cold look, a stinging remark. Had Mill any right to complain of these social penalties? Would it not rather amount to an interference with individual liberty to wish to deprive any individual or any number of individuals of those weapons of self-defence? Those who themselves [Pg 372] think and speak freely, have hardly a right to complain, if others claim the same privilege. Mill himself called the Conservative party the stupid party par excellence, and he took great pains to explain that it was so, not by accident, but by necessity. Need he wonder if those whom he whipped and scourged used their own whips and scourges against so merciless a critic?

Freethinkers, and I use that name as a title of honour for all who, like Mill, claim for every individual the fullest freedom in thought, word, or deed, compatible with the freedom of others, are apt to make one mistake. Conscious of their own honest intentions, they cannot bear to be mistrusted or slighted. They expect society to submit to their often very painful operations as a patient submits to the knife of the surgeon. That is not in human nature. The enemy of abuses is always abused by his enemies. Society will never yield one inch without resistance, and few reformers live long enough to receive the thanks of those whom they have reformed. Mill's unsolicited election to Parliament was a triumph not often shared by social reformers; it was as exceptional as Bright's admission to a seat in the Cabinet, or Stanley's appointment as Dean of Westminster. Such anomalies will happen in a country fortunately so full of anomalies as England; but, as a rule, a political reformer must not be angry if he passes through life without the title of Right Honourable; nor should a man, if he will always speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, be disappointed if he dies a martyr rather than a Bishop.

But granting even that in Mill's time there existed some traces of social tyranny, where are they now? Look at the newspapers and the journals. Is there any theory too wild, any reform too violent, to be openly defended? Look at the drawing-rooms or the meetings of learned societies. Are not the most eccentric talkers the spoiled children of the fashionable world? When young lords begin to discuss the propriety of limiting the rights of inheritance, and young tutors are not afraid to propose curtailing the long vacation, surely we need not complain of the intolerance of English society.

Whenever I state these facts to my German and French and Italian friends, who from reading Mill's Essay "On Liberty" have derived the impression that, however large an amount of political liberty England may enjoy, it enjoys but little of intellectual freedom, they are generally willing to be converted so far as London, or other great cities, are concerned. But look at your Universities, they say, the nurseries of English thought! Can you compare their mediæval spirit, their monastic institutions, their scholastic philosophy, with the freshness and freedom of the Continental Universities? Strong as these prejudices about Oxford and Cambridge have always been, they have become still more intense since Professor Helmholtz, in an inaugural address which he delivered at his installation as Rector of the University of Berlin, lent the authority of his great name to these misconceptions. "The tutors," he [Pg 373] says,[4] "in the English Universities cannot deviate by a hair's-breadth from the dogmatic system of the English Church, without exposing themselves to the censure of their Archbishops and losing their pupils." In German Universities, on the contrary, we are told that the extreme conclusions of materialistic metaphysics, the boldest speculations within the sphere of Darwin's theory of evolution, may be propounded without let or hindrance, quite as much as the highest apotheosis of Papal infallibility.

Here the facts on which Professor Helmholtz relies are entirely wrong, and the writings of some of our most eminent tutors supply a more than sufficient refutation of his statements. Archbishops have no official position whatsoever in English Universities, and their censure of an Oxford tutor would be resented as impertinent by the whole University. Nor does the University, as such, exercise any very strict control over the tutors, even when they lecture not to their own College only. Each Master of Arts at Oxford claims now the right to lecture (venia docendi), and I doubt whether they would ever submit to those restrictions which, in Germany, the Faculty imposes on every Privat-docent. Privat-docents in German Universities have been rejected by the Faculty for incompetence, and silenced for insubordination. I know of no such cases at Oxford during my residence of more than thirty years, nor can I think it likely that they should ever occur.

As to the extreme conclusions of materialistic metaphysics, there are Oxford tutors who have grappled with the systems of such giants as Hobbes, Locke, or Hume, and who are not likely to be frightened by Büchner and Vogt.

I know comparisons are odious, and I am the last man who would wish to draw comparisons between English and German Universities unfavourable to the latter. But with regard to freedom of thought, of speech, and action, Professor Helmholtz, if he would spend but a few weeks at Oxford, would find that we enjoy a fuller measure of freedom here than the Professors and Privat-docents in any Continental University. The publications of some of our professors and tutors ought at least to have convinced him that if there is less of brave words and turbulent talk in their writings, they display throughout a determination to speak the truth, which may be matched, but could not easily be excelled, by the leaders of thought in France, Germany, or Italy.

The real difference between English and Continental Universities is that the former govern themselves, the latter are governed. Self-government entails responsibilities, sometimes restraints and reticences. I may here be allowed to quote the words of another eminent Professor [Pg 374] of the University of Berlin, Du Bois Reymond, who, in addressing his colleagues, ventured to tell them,[5] "We have still to learn from the English how the greatest independence of the individual is compatible with willing submission to salutary, though irksome, statutes." That is particularly true when the statutes are self-imposed. In Germany, as Professor Helmholtz tells us himself, the last decision in almost all the more important affairs of the Universities rests with the Government, and he does not deny that in times of political and ecclesiastical tension, a most inconsiderate use has been made of that power. There are, besides, the less important matters, such as raising of salaries, leave of absence, scientific missions, even titles and decorations, all of which enable a clever Minister of Instruction to assert his personal influence among the less independent members of the University. In Oxford the University does not know the Ministry, nor the Ministry the University. The acts of the Government, be it Liberal or Conservative, are freely discussed, and often powerfully resisted by the academic constituencies, and the personal dislike of a Minister or Ministerial Councillor could as little injure a professor or tutor as his favour could add one penny to his salary.

But these are minor matters. What gives their own peculiar character to the English Universities is a sense of power and responsibility: power, because they are the most respected among the numerous corporations in the country; responsibility, because the higher education of the whole country has been committed to their charge. Their only master is public opinion as represented in Parliament, their only incentive their own sense of duty. There is no country in Europe where Universities hold so exalted a position, and where those who have the honour to belong to them may say with greater truth, Noblesse oblige.

I know the dangers of self-government, particularly where higher and more ideal interests are concerned, and there are probably few who wish for a real reform in schools and Universities who have not occasionally yielded to the desire for a Dictator, of a Bismarck or a Falk. But such a desire springs only from a momentary weakness and despondency; and no one who knows the difference between being governed and governing oneself, would ever wish to descend from that higher though dangerous position to a lower one, however safe and comfortable it might seem. No one who has tasted freedom would ever wish to exchange it for anything else. Public opinion is sometimes a hard task-master, and majorities can be great tyrants to those who want to be honest to their own convictions. But in the struggle of all against all, each individual feels that he has his rightful place, and that he may exercise his rightful influence. If he is beaten, he is beaten in [Pg 375] fair fight; if he conquers, he has no one else to thank. No doubt despotic Governments have often exercised the most beneficial patronage in encouraging and rewarding poets, artists, and men of science. But men of genius who have conquered the love and admiration of a whole nation are greater than those who have gained the favour of the most brilliant Courts; and we know how some of the fairest reputations have been wrecked on the patronage which they had to accept at the hands of powerful Ministers or ambitious Sovereigns.

But to return to Mill and his plea for Liberty. Though I can hardly believe that, were he still among us, he would claim a larger measure of freedom for the individual than is now accorded to every one of us in the society in which we move, yet the chief cause on which he founded his plea for Liberty, the chief evil which he thought could be remedied only if society would allow more elbow-room to individual genius, exists in the same degree as in his time—aye, even in a higher degree. The principle of Individuality has suffered more at present than perhaps at any former period of history. The world is becoming more and more gregarious, and what the French call our nature moutonnière, "our mutton-like nature," our tendency to leap where any bell-wether has leapt before, becomes more and more prevalent in politics, in religion, in art, and even in science. M. de Tocqueville expressed his surprise how much more Frenchmen of the present day resemble one another than did those of the last generation. The same remark, adds John Stuart Mill, might be made of England in a greater degree. "The modern régime of public opinion," he writes, "is in an unorganized form what the Chinese educational and political systems are in an organized; and unless individuality shall be able successfully to assert itself against this yoke, Europe, notwithstanding its noble antecedents and its professed Christianity, will tend to become another China."

I fully agree with Mill in recognizing the dangers of uniformity, but I doubt whether what he calls the régime of public opinion is alone, or even chiefly, answerable for it. No doubt there are some people in whose eyes uniformity seems an advantage rather than a disadvantage. If all were equally strong, equally educated, equally honest, equally rich, equally tall, or equally small, society would seem to them to have reached the highest ideal. The same people admire an old French garden, with its clipped yew-trees, forming artificial walls and towers and pyramids, far more than the giant yews which, like large serpents, clasp the soil with their coiling roots, and overshadow with their dark green branches the white chalk cliffs of the Thames. But those French gardens, unless they are constantly clipped and prevented from growing, soon fall into decay. As in nature, so in society, uniformity means but too often stagnation, while variety is the surest sign of health and vigour. The deepest secret of nature is its love of continued novelty. Its tendency, if unrestrained, is towards constantly creating new varieties, which, if they fulfil their purpose, become fixed for a time, or, it may [Pg 376] be, for ever; while others, after they have fulfilled their purpose, vanish to make room for new and stronger types.

The same is the secret of human society. It consists and lives in individuals, each being meant to be different from all the others, and to contribute his own peculiar share to the common wealth. As no tree is like any other tree, and no leaf on the same tree like any other leaf, no human being is exactly like any other human being, nor is it meant to be. It is in this endless, and to us inconceivable, variety of human souls that the deepest purpose of human life is to be realized; and the more society fulfils that purpose, the more it allows free scope for the development of every individual germ, the richer will be the harvest in no distant future. Such is the mystery of individuality that I do not wonder if even those philosophers who, like Mill, reduce the meaning of the word sacred to the very smallest compass, see in each individual soul something sacred, something to be revered, even where we cannot understand it, something to be protected against all vulgar violence.

Where I differ from Mill and his school is on the question as to the quarter from whence the epidemic of uniformity springs which threatens the free development of modern society. Mill points to the society in which we move; to those who are in front of us, to our contemporaries. I feel convinced that our real enemies are at our back, and that the heaviest chains which are fastened on us are those made, not by the present, but by past generations—by our ancestors, not by our contemporaries.

It is on this point, on the trammels of individual freedom with which we may almost be said to be born into the world, and on the means by which we may shake off these old chains, or at all events carry them more lightly and gracefully, that I wish to speak to you this evening.

You need not be afraid that I am going to enter upon the much discussed subject of heredity, whether in its physiological or psychological aspects. It is a favourite subject just now, and the most curious facts have been brought together of late to illustrate the working of what is called heredity. But the more we know of these facts, the less we seem able to comprehend the underlying principle. Inheritance is one of those numerous words which by their very simplicity and clearness are so apt to darken our counsel. If a father has blue eyes and the son has blue eyes, what can be clearer than that he inherited them? If the father stammers and the son stammers, who can doubt but that it came by inheritance? If the father is a musician and the son a musician, we say very glibly that the talent was inherited. But what does inherited mean? In no case does it mean what inherited usually means—something external, like money, collected by a father, and, after his death, secured by law to his son. Whatever else inherited may mean, it does not mean that. But unfortunately the word is there, it seems almost pedantic to challenge its meaning, and people are always grateful if an easy word saves them the trouble of hard thought.

Another apparent advantage of the theory of heredity is that it never [Pg 377] fails. If the son has blue, and the father black, eyes, all is right again, for either the mother, or the grandmother, or some historic or prehistoric ancestor, may have had blue eyes, and atavism, we know, will assert itself after hundreds and thousands of years.

Do not suppose that I deny the broad facts of what is called by the name of heredity. What I deny is that the name of heredity offers any scientific solution of a most difficult problem. It is a name, a metaphor, quite as bad as the old metaphor of innate ideas; for there is hardly a single point of similarity between the process by which a son may share the black eyes, the stammering, or the musical talent of his father, and that by which, after his father's death, the law secures to the son the possession of the pounds, shillings, and pence which his father held in the Funds.

But whatever the true meaning of heredity may be, certain it is that every individual comes into the world heavy-laden. Nowhere has the consciousness of the burden which rests on each generation as it enters on its journey through life found stronger expression than among the Buddhists. What other people call by various names, "fate or providence," "tradition or inheritance," "circumstances or environment," they call Karman, deed—what has been done, whether by ourselves or by others, the accumulated work of all who have come before us, the consequences of which we have to bear, both for good and for evil. Originally this Karman seems to have been conceived as personal, as the work which we ourselves have done in former existences. But, as personally we are not conscious of having done such work in former ages, that kind of Karman, too, might be said to be impersonal. To the question how Karman began, the accumulation of what forms the condition of all that exists at present, Buddhism has no answer to give, any more than any other system of religion or philosophy. The Buddhists say it began with avidyâ, and avidyâ means ignorance.[6] They are much more deeply interested in the question how Karman may be annihilated, how each man may free himself from the influence of Karman, and Nirvâna, the highest object of all their dreams, is often defined by Buddhist philosophers as "freedom from Karman."[7]

What the Buddhists call by the general name of Karman, comprehends all influences which the past exercises on the present, both physically and mentally.[8] It is not my object to examine or even to name all these influences, though I confess nothing is more interesting than to look upon the surface of our modern life as we look on a geological map, and to see the most ancient formations cropping out everywhere under our feet. Difficult as it is to colour a geological map of England, it would be still more difficult to find a sufficient variety of colours to mark the different ingredients of the intellectual surface of this island.

[Pg 378] That all of us, whether we speak English or German, or French or Russian, are really speaking an ancient Oriental tongue, incredible as it would have sounded a hundred years ago, is now admitted by everybody. Though the various dialects now spoken in Europe have been separated many thousands of years from the Sanskrit, the ancient classical language of India, yet so unbroken is the bond that holds the West and East together that in many cases an intelligent Englishman might still guess the meaning of a Sanskrit word. How little difference is there between Sanskrit sûnu and English son, between Sanskrit duhitar and English daughter, between Sanskrit vid, to know, and English to wit, between Sanskrit vaksh, to grow, and English to wax! Think how we value a Saxon urn, or a Roman coin, or a Celtic weapon! how we dig for them, clean them, label them, and carefully deposit them in our museums! Yet what is their antiquity compared with the antiquity of such words as son or daughter, father and mother? There are no monuments older than those collected in the handy volumes which we call Dictionaries, and those who know how to interpret those English antiquities—as you may see them interpreted, for instance, in Grimm's Dictionary of the German, in Littré's Dictionary of the French, or in Professor Skeats' Etymological Dictionary of the English Language—will learn more of the real growth of the human mind than by studying many volumes on logic and psychology.

And as by our language we belong to the Aryan stratum, we belong through our letters to the Hamitic. We still write English in hieroglyphics; and in spite of all the vicissitudes through which the ancient hieroglyphics have passed in their journey from Egypt to Phœnicia, from Phœnicia to Greece, from Greece to Italy, and from Italy to England, when we write a capital F Script F, when we draw the top line and the smaller line through the middle of the letter, we really draw the two horns of the cerastes, the horned serpent which the ancient Egyptians used for representing the sound of f. They write the name of the king whom the Greeks called Cheops, and they themselves Chu-fu, like this:[9] Sieve, horned serpent and bird representing sounds chu, fu, u Here the first sign, the sieve, is to be pronounced chu; the second, the horned serpent, fu, and the little bird, again, u. In the more cursive or Hieratic writing the horned serpent appears as Hieratic serpent; in the later Demotic as Demotic serpent and Demotic serpent. The Phœnicians, who borrowed their letters from the Hieratic Egyptian, wrote Phœnician serpent and Phœnicians serpent. The Greeks, who took their letters from the Phœnicians, wrote Mirrored F. When the Greeks, instead of writing like the Phœnicians from right to left, began to write from left to right, they turned each letter, and as Mirrored K became K, our k, so Mirrored F, vau, became F, the Greek so-called Digamma, the Latin F.

The first letter in Chu-fu, too, still exists in our alphabet, and in the transverse line of our H we must recognize the last remnant of the lines which divide the sieve. The sieve appears in Hieratic as Hieratic sieve, in [Pg 379] Phœnician as Phœnician sieve, in ancient Greek as Greek sieve, which occurs on an inscription found at Mycenæ and elsewhere as the sign of the spiritus asper, while in Latin it is known to us as the letter H.[10] In the same manner the undulating line of our capital Script L still recalls very strikingly the bent back of the crouching lion, which in the later hieroglyphic inscriptions represents the sound of L.

If thus in our language we are Aryan, in our letters Egyptian, we have only to look at our watches to see that we are Babylonian. Why is our hour divided into sixty minutes, our minutes into sixty seconds? Would not a division of the hour into ten, or fifty, or a hundred minutes have been more natural? We have sixty divisions on the dials of our watches simply because the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived in the second century B.C., accepted the Babylonian system of reckoning time, that system being sexagesimal. The Babylonians knew the decimal system, but for practical purposes they counted by sossi and sari, the sossos representing 60, the saros 60 × 60, or 3600. From Hipparchus that system found its way into the works of Ptolemy, about 150 A.D., and thence it was carried down the stream of civilization, finding its last resting-place on the dial-plates of our clocks.

And why are there twenty shillings to our sovereign? Again the real reason lies in Babylon. The Greeks learnt from the Babylonians the art of dividing gold and silver for the purpose of trade. It has been proved that the current gold piece of Western Asia was exactly the sixtieth part of a Babylonian mnâ, or mina. It was nearly equal to our sovereign. The difficult problem of the relative value of gold and silver in a bi-monetary currency had been solved to a certain extent in the ancient Mesopotamian kingdom, the proportion between gold and silver being fixed at 1 to 13⅓. The silver shekel current in Babylon was heavier than the gold shekel in the proportion of 13⅓ to 10, and had therefore the value of one-tenth of a gold shekel; and the half silver shekel, called by the Greeks a drachma, was worth one-twentieth of a gold shekel. The drachma, or half silver shekel, may therefore be looked upon as the most ancient type of our own silver shilling in its relation of one-twentieth of our gold sovereign.[11]

I shall mention only one more of the most essential tools of our mental life—namely, our figures, which we call Arabic, because we received them from the Arabs, but which the Arabs called Indian, because they received them from the Indians—in order to show you how this nineteenth century of ours is under the sway of centuries long past and forgotten; how we are what we are, not by ourselves, but by those who came before us, and how the intellectual ground on which we stand is made up of the detritus of thoughts which were first thought, not on these isles nor in Europe, but on the shores of the Oxus, the Nile, the Euphrates, and the Indus.

[Pg 380] Now you may well ask Quorsum hæc omnia?—What has all this to do with freedom and with the free development of individuality? Because a man is born the heir of all the ages, can it be said that he is not free to grow and to expand, and to develop all the faculties of his mind? Are those who came before him, and who left him this goodly inheritance, to be called his enemies? Is that chain of tradition which connects him with the past really a galling fetter, and not rather the leading-strings without which he would never learn to walk straight?

Let us look at the matter more closely. No one would venture to say that every individual should begin life as a young savage, and be left to form his own language, and invent his own letters, numerals, and coins. On the contrary, if we comprehend all this and a great deal more, such as religion, morality, and secular knowledge, under the general name of education, even the most advanced defenders of individualism would hold that no child should enter society without submitting, or rather without being submitted, to education. Most of us would even go further, and make it criminal for parents or even for communities to allow children to grow up uneducated. The excuse of worthless parents that they are at liberty to do with their children as they like, has at last been blown to the winds. I still remember the time when pseudo-Liberals were not ashamed to say that, whatever other nations, such as the Germans, might do, England would never submit to compulsory education. That wicked sophistry, too, has at last been silenced, and among the principal advocates of compulsory education, and of the necessity of curtailing the freedom of savage parents of savage children, have been Mill and his friends, the apostles of liberty and individualism.[12] A new era may be said to date in the history of every nation from the day on which "compulsory education" becomes part of their statute-book; and I may congratulate the most Liberal town in England on having proved itself the most inexorable tyrant in carrying out the principle of compulsory education.

But do not let us imagine that compulsory education is without its dangers. Like a powerful engine, it must be carefully watched, if it is not to produce, what all compulsion will produce, a slavish receptivity, and, what all machines do produce, monotonous uniformity.

We know that all education must in the beginning be purely dogmatic. Children are taught language, religion, morality, patriotism, and afterwards at school, history, literature, mathematics, and all the rest, long before they are able to question, to judge, or choose for themselves, and there is hardly anything that a child will not believe if it comes from those in whom the child believes.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic, no doubt, must be taught dogmatically, and they take up an enormous amount of time, particularly in [Pg 381] English schools. English spelling is a national misfortune, and in the keen international race between all the countries of Europe, it handicaps the English child to a degree that seems incredible till we look at statistics. I know the difficulties of a Spelling Reform, I know what people mean when they call it impossible; but I also know that personal and national virtue consists in doing so-called impossible things, and that no nation has done, and has still to do, so many impossible things as the English.

But, granted that reading, writing, and arithmetic occupy nearly the whole school-time and absorb the best powers of the pupils, cannot something be done in play-hours? Is there not some work that can be turned into play, and some play that can be turned into work? Cannot the powers of observation be called out in a child while collecting flowers, or stones, or butterflies? Cannot his judgment be strengthened either in gymnastic exercises, or in measuring the area of a field or the height of a tower? Might not all this be done without a view to examinations or payment by results, simply for the sake of filling the little dull minds with one sunbeam of joy, such sunbeams being more likely hereafter to call hidden precious germs into life than the deadening weight of such lessons as, for instance, that th-ough is though, thr-ough is through, en-ough is enough. A child who believes that will hereafter believe anything. Those who wish to see Natural Science introduced into elementary schools frighten schoolmasters by the very name of Natural Science. But surely every schoolmaster who is worth his salt should be able to teach children a love of Nature, a wondering at Nature, a curiosity to pry into the secrets of Nature, an acquisitiveness for some of the treasures of Nature, and all this acquired in the fresh air of the field and the forest, where, better than in frouzy lecture-rooms, the edge of the senses can be sharpened, the chest be widened, and that freedom of thought fostered which made England what it was even before the days of compulsory education.

But in addressing you here to-night it was my intention to speak of the higher rather than of elementary education.

All education, as it now exists in most countries of Europe, may be divided into three stages—elementary, scholastic, and academical; or call it primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Elementary education has at last been made compulsory in most civilized countries. Unfortunately, however, it seems impossible to include under compulsory education anything beyond the very elements of knowledge—at least for the present; though, with proper management, I know from experience that a well-conducted elementary school can afford to provide instruction in extra subjects—such as natural science, modern languages, and political economy—and yet, with the present system of Government grants, be self-supporting.[13]

The next stage above the elementary is scholastic education, as it is supplied in grammar schools, whether public or private. According as [Pg 382] the pupils are intended either to go on to a university, or to enter at once on leaving school on the practical work of life, these schools are divided into two classes. In the one class, which in Germany are called Real-schulen, less Latin is taught, and no Greek, but more of mathematics, modern languages, and physical science; in the other, called Gymnasia on the Continent, classics form the chief staple of instruction.

It is during this stage that education, whether at private or public schools, exercises its strongest levelling influence. Little attention can be paid at large schools to individual tastes or talents. In Germany, even more perhaps than in England, it is the chief object of a good and conscientious master to have his class as uniform as possible at the end of the year; and he receives far more credit from the official examiner if his whole class marches well and keeps pace together, than if he can parade a few brilliant and forward boys, followed by a number of straggling laggards.

And as to the character of the teaching at school, how can it be otherwise than authoritative or dogmatic? The Socratic method is very good if we can find the viri Socratici and leisure for discussion. But at school, which now may seem to be called almost in mockery σχολή, or leisure, the true method is, after all, that patronized by the great educators of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Boys at school must turn their mind into a row of pigeon-holes, filling as many as they can with useful notes, and never forgetting how many are empty. There is an immense amount of positive knowledge to be acquired between the ages of ten and eighteen—rules of grammar, strings of vocables, dates, names of towns, rivers, and mountains, mathematical formulas, &c. All depends here on the receptive and retentive powers of the mind. The memory has to be strengthened, without being overtaxed, till it acts almost mechanically. Learning by heart, I believe, cannot be too strongly recommended during the years spent at school. There may have been too much of it when, as the Rev. H. C. Adams informs us in his "Wykehamica" (p. 357), boys used to say by heart 13,000 and 14,000 lines, when one repeated the whole of Virgil, nay, when another was able to say the whole of the English Bible by rote:—"Put him on where you would, he would go fluently on, as long as any one would listen."

No intellectual investment, I feel certain, bears such ample and such regular interest as gems of English, Latin, or Greek literature deposited in our memory during our childhood and youth, and taken up from time to time in the happy hours of our solitude.

One fault I have to find with most schools, both in England and on the Continent. Boys do not read enough of the Greek and Roman classics. The majority of our masters are scholars by profession, and they are apt to lay undue stress on what they call accurate and minute scholarship, and to neglect wide and cursory reading. I know the [Pg 383] arguments for minute accuracy, but I also know the mischief that is done by an exclusive devotion to critical scholarship before we have acquired a real familiarity with the principal works of classical literature. The time spent in our schools in learning the rules of grammar and syntax, writing exercises, and composing verses, is too large. Look only at our Greek and Latin grammars, with all their rules and exceptions, and exceptions on exceptions! It is too heavy a weight for any boy to carry; and no wonder that when one of the thousand small rules which they have learnt by heart is really wanted, it is seldom forthcoming. The end of classical teaching at school should be to make our boys acquainted not only with the language, but with the literature and history, the ancient thought of the ancient world. Rules of grammar, syntax, or metre, are but means towards that end; they must never be mistaken for the end itself. A young man of eighteen, who has probably spent on an average ten years in learning Greek and Latin, ought to be able to read any of the ordinary Greek or Latin classics without much difficulty; nay, with a certain amount of pleasure. He might have to consult his dictionary now and then, or guess the meaning of certain words; he might also feel doubtful sometimes whether certain forms came from ἵημι, I send, or εἶμι, I go, or εἰμί, I am, particularly if preceded by prepositions. In these matters the best scholars are least inclined to be pharisaical; and whenever I meet in the controversies of classical scholars the favourite phrase, "Every schoolboy knows, or ought to know, this," I generally say to myself, "No, he ought not." Anyhow, those who wish to see the study of Greek and Latin retained in our public schools ought to feel convinced that it will certainly not be retained much longer, if it can be said with any truth that young men who leave school at eighteen are in many cases unable to read or to enjoy a classical text, unless they have seen it before.

Classical teaching, and all purely scholastic teaching, ought to be finished at school. When a young man goes to University, unless he means to make scholarship his profession, he ought to be free to enter upon a new career. If he has not learnt by that time so much of Greek and Latin as is absolutely necessary in after-life for a lawyer, or a student of physical science, or even a clergyman, either he or his school is to blame. I do not mean to say that it would not be most desirable for every one during his University career to attend some lectures on classical literature, on ancient history, philosophy, or art. What is to be deprecated is, that the University should have to do the work which belongs properly to the school.

The best colleges at Oxford and Cambridge have shown by their matriculation examinations what the standard of classical knowledge ought to be at eighteen or nineteen. That standard can be reached by boys while still at school, as has been proved both by the so-called local [Pg 384] examinations, and by the examinations of schools held under the Delegates appointed by the Universities. If, therefore, the University would reassert her old right, and make the first examination, called at Oxford Responsions, a general matriculation examination for admission to the University, not only would the public schools be stimulated to greater efforts, but the teaching of the University might assume, from the very beginning, that academic character which ought to distinguish it from mere schoolboy work.

Academic teaching ought to be not merely a continuation, but in one sense a correction of scholastic teaching. While at school instruction must be chiefly dogmatic, at University it is to be Socratic, for I find no better name for that method which is to set a man free from the burden of purely traditional knowledge; to make him feel that the words which he uses are often empty, that the concepts he employs are, for the most part, mere bundles picked up at random; that even where he knows facts, he does not know their evidence; and where he expresses opinions, they are mostly mere dogmas, adopted by him without examination.

But for the Universities, I should indeed fear that Mill's prophecies might come true, and that the intellect of Europe might drift into dreary monotony. The Universities always have been, and, unless they are diverted from their original purpose, always will be, the guardians of the freedom of thought, the protectors of individual spontaneity; and it was owing, I believe, to Mill's ignorance of true academic teaching that he took so desponding a view of the generation growing up under his eyes.

When we leave school, our heads are naturally brimful of dogma, that is, of knowledge and opinions at second-hand. Such dead knowledge is extremely dangerous, unless it is sooner or later revived by the spirit of free inquiry. It does not matter whether our scholastic dogmas be true or false. The danger is the same. And why? Because to place either truth or error above the reach of argument is certain to weaken truth and to strengthen error. Secondly, because to hold as true on the authority of others anything which concerns us deeply, and which we could prove ourselves, produces feebleness, if not dishonesty. And, thirdly, because to feel unwilling or unable to meet objections by argument is generally the first step towards violence and persecution.

I do not think of religious dogmas only. They are generally the first to rouse inquiry, even during our schoolboy days, and they are by no means the most difficult to deal with. Dogma often rages where we least expect it. Among scientific men the theory of evolution is at present becoming, or has become, a dogma. What is the result? No objections are listened to, no difficulties recognized, and a man like Virchow, himself the strongest supporter of evolution, who has the moral courage to say that the descent of man from any ape whatsoever is, as yet, [Pg 385] before the tribunal of scientific zoology, "not proven," is howled down in Germany in a manner worthy of Ephesians and Galatians. But at present I am thinking not so much of any special dogmas, but rather of that dogmatic state of mind which is the almost inevitable result of the teaching at school. I think of the whole intellect, what has been called the intellectus sibi permissus, and I maintain that it is the object of academic teaching to rouse that intellect out of its slumber by questions not less startling than when Galileo asked the world whether the sun was really moving and the earth stood still; or when Kant asked whether time and space were objects, or necessary forms of our sensuous intuition. Till our opinions have thus been tested and stood the test, we can hardly call them our own.

How true this is with regard to religion has been boldly expressed by Bishop Beveridge.

"Being conscious to myself," he writes in his "Private Thoughts on Religion," "how great an ascendant Christianity holds over me beyond the rest, as being that religion whereinto I was born and baptized; that which the supreme authority has enjoined and my parents educated me in; that which every one I meet withal highly approves of, and which I myself have, by a long-continued profession, made almost natural to me: I am resolved to be more jealous and suspicious of this religion than of the rest, and be sure not to entertain it any longer without being convinced, by solid and substantial arguments, of the truth and certainty of it."

This is bold and manly language from a Bishop nearly two hundred years ago, and I certainly think that the time has come when some of the divinity lecturers at Oxford and Cambridge might well be employed in placing a knowledge of the sacred books of other religions within the reach of undergraduates. Many of the difficulties—most of them of our own making—with regard to the origin, the handing down, the later corruptions and misinterpretations of sacred texts, would find their natural solution, if it was shown how exactly the same difficulties arose and had to be dealt with by theologians of other creeds. If some—ay, if many—of the doctrines of Christianity were met with in other religions also, surely that would not affect their value, or diminish their truth; while nothing, I feel certain, would more effectually secure to the pure and simple teaching of Christ its true place in the historical development of the human mind than to place it side by side with the other religions of the world. In the series of translations of the "Sacred Books of the East," of which the first three volumes have just appeared,[14] I wished myself to include a new translation of the Old and New Testaments; and when that series is finished it will, I believe, be admitted that nowhere would these two books have had a grander setting, or have shone with a brighter light, than surrounded by the Veda, the Zendavesta, the Buddhist Tripitaka, and the Qur'än.

But as I said before, I was not thinking of religious dogmas only, or even chiefly, when I maintained that the character of academic [Pg 386] teaching must be Socratic, not dogmatic. The evil of dogmatic teaching lies much deeper, and spreads much further.

Think only of language, the work of other people, not of ourselves, which we pick up at random in our race through life. Does not every word we use require careful examination and revision? It is not enough to say that language assists our thoughts or colours them, or possibly obscures them. No, we know now that language and thought are indivisible. It was not from poverty of expression that the Greek called reason and language by the same word, λόγος. It was because they knew that, though we may distinguish between thought and speech, as we distinguish between body and soul, it is as impossible to tear the one by violence away from the other as it is to separate the concave side of a lens from its convex side. This is something to learn and to understand, for, if properly understood, it will supply the key to most of our intellectual puzzles, and serve as the safest thread through the whole labyrinth of philosophy.

"It is evident," as Hobbes remarks,[15] "that truth and falsity have no place but amongst such living creatures as use speech. For though some brute creatures, looking upon the image of a man in a glass, may be affected with it, as if it were the man himself, and for this reason fear it or fawn upon it in vain; yet they do not apprehend it as true or false, but only as like; and in this they are not deceived. Wherefore, as men owe all their true ratiocination to the right understanding of speech, so also they owe their errors to the misunderstanding of the same; and as all the ornaments of philosophy proceed only from man, so from man also is derived the ugly absurdity of false opinion. For speech has something in it like to a spider's web (as it was said of old of Solon's laws), for by contexture of words tender and delicate wits are ensnared or stopped, but strong wits break easily through them."

Let me illustrate my meaning by at least one instance.

Among the words which have proved spider's webs, ensnaring even the greatest intellects of the world from Aristotle down to Leibniz, the terms genus, species, and individual occupy a very prominent place. The opposition of Aristotle to Plato, of the Nominalists to the Realists, of Leibniz to Locke, of Herbart to Hegel, turns on the true meaning of these words. At school, of course, all we can do is to teach the received meaning of genus and species; and if a boy can trace these terms back to Aristotle's γένος and εἶδος, and show in what sense that philosopher used them, every examiner would be satisfied.

But the time comes when we have to act as our own examiners, and when we have to give an account to ourselves of such words as genus and species. Some people write, indeed, as if they had seen a species and a genus walking about in broad daylight; but a little consideration will show us that these words express subjective concepts, and that, if the whole world were silent, there would never have been a thought of [Pg 387] a genus or a species. There are languages in which we look in vain for corresponding words; and if we had been born in such a language, these terms and thoughts would not exist for us. They came to us, directly or indirectly, from Aristotle. But Aristotle did not invent them, he only defined them in his own way, so that, for instance, according to him, all living beings would constitute a genus, men a species, and Socrates an individual.

No one would say that Aristotle had not a perfect right to define these terms, if those who use them in his sense would only always remember that they are thinking the thoughts of Aristotle, and not their own. The true way to shake off the fetters of old words, and to learn to think our own thoughts, is to follow them up from century to century, to watch their development, and in the end to bring ourselves face to face with those who first found and framed both words and thoughts. If we do this with genus and species, we shall find that the words which Aristotle defined—viz., γένος and εἶδος—had originally a very different and far more useful application than that which he gave to them. Γένος, genus, meant generation, and comprehended such living beings only as were known to have a common origin, however they might differ in outward appearance, as, for instance, the spaniel and the bloodhound, or, according to Darwin, the ape and the man. Εἶδος or species, on the contrary, meant appearance, and comprehended all such things as had the same form or appearance, whether they had a common origin or not, as if we were to speak of a species of four-footed, two-footed, horned, winged, or blue animals.

That two such concepts, as we have here explained, had a natural justification we may best learn from the fact that exactly the same thoughts found expression in Sanskrit. There, too, we find gâti, generation, used in the sense of genus, and opposed to âkriti, appearance, used in the sense of species.

So long as these two words or thoughts were used independently (much as we now speak of a genealogical as independent of a morphological classification) no harm could accrue. A family, for instance, might be called a γένος, the gens or clan was a γένος, the nation (gnatio) was a γένος, the whole human kith and kin was a γένος; in fact, all that was descended from common ancestors was a true γένος. There is no obscurity of thought in this.

On the other side, taking εἶδος or species in its original sense, one man might be said to be like another in his εἶδος or appearance. An ape, too, might quite truly be said to have the same εἶδος or species or appearance as a man, without any prejudice as to their common origin. People might also speak of different εἴδη or forms or classes of things, such as different kinds of metals, or tools, or armour, without committing themselves in the least to any opinion as to their common descent.

Often it would happen that things belonging to the same γένος, such as the white man and the negro, differed in their εἶδος or appearance; [Pg 388] often also that things belonging to the same εἶδος, such as eatables, differed in their γένος, as, for instance, meat and vegetables.

All this is clear and simple. The confusion began when these two terms, instead of being co-ordinate, were subordinated to each other by the philosophers of Greece, so that what from one point of view was called a genus, might from another be called a species, and vice versâ. Human beings, for instance, were now called a species, all living beings a genus, which may be true in logic, but is utterly false in what is older than logic—viz., language, thought, or fact. According to language, according to reason, and according to Nature, all human beings constitute a γένος, or generation, so long as they are supposed to have common ancestors; but with regard to all living beings we can only say that they form an εἶδος—that is, agree in certain appearances, until it has been proved that even Mr. Darwin was too modest in admitting at least four or five different ancestors for the whole animal world.[16]

In tracing the history of these two words, γένος and εἶδος, you may see passing before your eyes almost the whole panorama of philosophy, from Plato's ideas down to Hegel's Idee. The question of genera, their origin and subdivision, occupied chiefly the attention of natural philosophers, who, after long controversies about the origin and classification of genera and species, seem at last, thanks to the clear sight of Darwin, to have arrived at the old truth which was prefigured in language—namely, that Nature knows nothing but genera, or generations, to be traced back to a limited number of ancestors, and that the so-called species are only genera, whose genealogical descent is as yet more or less obscure.

But the question as to the nature of the εἶδος became a vital question in every system of philosophy. Granting, for instance, that women in every clime and country formed one species, it was soon asked what constituted a species? If all women shared a common form, what was that form? Where was it? So long as it was supposed that all women descended from Eve, the difficulty might be slurred over by the name of heredity. But the more thoughtful would ask even then how it was that, while all individual women came and went and vanished, the form in which they were cast remained the same?

Here you see how philosophical mythology springs up. The very question what εἶδος or species or form was, and where these things were kept, changed those words from predicates into subjects. Εἶδος was conceived as something independent and substantial, something within or above the individuals participating in it, something unchangeable and eternal. Soon there arose as many εἴδη or forms or types as there were general concepts. They were considered the only true realities of which the phenomenal world is only as a shadow that soon passeth away. Here we have, in fact, the origin of Plato's ideas, and of the various systems of idealism which followed his lead, while the opposite [Pg 389] opinions that ideas have no independent existence, and that the one is nowhere found except in the many (τὸ ἕν παρὰ τὰ πολλά), was strenuously defended by Aristotle and his followers.[17]

The same red thread runs through the whole philosophy of the Middle Ages. Men were cited before councils and condemned as heretics because they declared that animal, man, or woman were mere names, and that they could not bring themselves to believe in an ideal animal, an ideal man, an ideal woman as the invisible, supernatural, or metaphysical types of the ordinary animal, the individual man, the single woman. Those philosophers, called Nominalists, in opposition to the Realists, declared that all general terms were names only, and that nothing could claim reality but the individual.

We cannot follow this controversy further, as it turns up again between Locke and Leibniz, between Herbart and Hegel. Suffice it to say that the knot, as it was tied by language, can be untied by the science of language alone, which teaches us that there is and can be no such thing as "a name only." That phrase ought to be banished from all works on philosophy. A name is and always has been the subjective side of our knowledge, but that subjective side is as impossible without an objective side as a key is without a lock. It is useless to ask which of the two is the more real, for they are real only by being, not two, but one. Realism is as one-sided as Nominalism. But there is a higher Nominalism, which might better be called the Science of Language, and which teaches us that, apart from sensuous perception, all human knowledge is by names and by names only, and that the object of names is always the general.

This is but one out of hundreds and thousands of cases to show how names and concepts which come to us by tradition must be submitted to very careful snuffing before they will yield a pure light. What I mean by academic teaching and academic study is exactly this process of snuffing, this changing of traditional words into living words, this tracing of modern thought back to ancient primitive thought, this living, as it were, once more, so far as it concerns us, the whole history of human thought ourselves, till we are as little afraid to differ from Plato or Aristotle as from Comte or Darwin.

Plato and Aristotle are, no doubt, great names; every schoolboy is awed by them, even though he may have read very little of their writings. This, too, is a kind of dogmatism that requires correction. Now, at University, a young student might hear the following, by no means respectful, remarks about Aristotle, which I copy from one of the greatest English scholars and philosophers:—"There is nothing so absurd that the old philosophers, as Cicero saith, who was one of them, have not some of them maintained; and I believe that scarce anything can be more absurdly said in natural philosophy than that which now is called Aristotle's Metaphysics; or [Pg 390] more repugnant to government than much of that he hath said in his Politics; nor more ignorantly than a great part of his Ethics." I am far from approving this judgment, but I think that the shock which a young scholar receives on seeing his idols so mercilessly broken is salutary. It throws him back on his own resources; it makes him honest to himself. If he thinks the criticism thus passed on Aristotle unfair, he will begin to read his works with new eyes. He will not only construe his words, but try to reconstruct in his own mind the thoughts so carefully elaborated by that ancient philosopher. He will judge of their truth without being swayed by the authority of a great name, and probably in the end value what is valuable in Aristotle, or Plato, or any other great philosopher far more highly and honestly than if he had never seen them trodden under foot.

But do not suppose that I look upon the Universities as purely iconoclastic, as chiefly intended to teach us how to break the idols of the schools. Far from it! But I do look upon them as meant to freshen the atmosphere which we breathe at school, and to shake our mind to its very roots, as a storm shakes the young oaks, not to throw them down, but to make them grasp all the more firmly the hard soil of fact and truth! "Stand upright on thy feet" ought to be written over the gate of every college, if the epidemic of uniformity and sequacity which Mill saw approaching from China, and which since his time has made such rapid progress Westward, is ever to be stayed.

Academic freedom is not without its dangers; but there are dangers which it is safer to face than to avoid. In Germany—so far as my own experience goes—students are often left too much to themselves, and it is only the cleverest among them, or those who are personally recommended, who receive from the professors that personal guidance and encouragement which should and could be easily extended to all.

There is too much time given in the German Universities to mere lecturing, and often in simply retailing to a class what each student might read in books often in a far more perfect form. Lectures are useful if they teach us how to teach ourselves; if they stimulate; if they excite sympathy and curiosity; if they give advice that springs from personal experience; if they warn against wrong roads; if, in fact, they have less the character of a show-window than of a workshop. Half an hour's conversation with a tutor or a professor often does more than a whole course of lectures in giving the right direction and the right spirit to a young man's studies. Here I may quote the words of Professor Helmholtz, in full agreement with him. "When I recall the memory of my own University life," he writes, "and the impression which a man like Johannes Müller, the professor of physiology, made on us, I must set the highest value on the personal intercourse with teachers from whom one learns how thought works on independent heads. Whoever has come in contact but once with one or several first-class men will find his intellectual standard changed for life."

[Pg 391] In English Universities, on the contrary, there is too little of academic freedom. There is not only guidance, but far too much of constant personal control. It is often thought that English undergraduates could not be trusted with that amount of academic freedom which is granted to German students, and that most of them, if left to choose their own work, their own time, their own books, and their own teachers, would simply do nothing. This seems to me unfair and untrue. Most horses, if you take them to the water, will drink; and the best way to make them drink is to leave them alone. I have lived long enough in English and in German Universities to know that the intellectual fibre is as strong and sound in the English as in the German youth. But if you supply a man, who wishes to learn swimming, with bladders—nay, if you insist on his using them—he will use them, but he will probably never learn to swim. Take them away, on the contrary, and depend on it, after a few aimless strokes and a few painful gulps, he will use his arms and his legs, and he will swim. If young men do not learn to use their arms, their legs, their muscles, their senses, their brain, and their heart too, during the bright years of their University life, when are they to learn it? True, there are thousands who never learn it, and who float happily on through life buoyed up on mere bladders. The worst that can happen to them is that some day the bladders may burst, and they may be left stranded or drowned. But these are not the men whom England wants to fight her battles. It has often been pointed out of late that many of those who, during this century, have borne the brunt of the battle in the intellectual warfare in England, have not been trained at our Universities, while others who have been at Oxford and Cambridge, and have distinguished themselves in after-life, have openly declared that they attended hardly any lectures in college, or that they derived no benefit from them. What can be the ground of that? Not that there is less work done at Oxford than at Leipzig, but that the work is done in a different spirit. It is free in Germany; it has now become almost compulsory in England. Though an old professor myself, I like to attend, when I can, some of the professorial lectures in Germany; for it is a real pleasure to see hundreds of young faces listening to a teacher on the history of art, on modern history, on the science of language, or on philosophy, without any view to examinations, simply from love of the subject or of the teacher. No one who knows what the real joy of learning is, how it lightens all drudgery and draws away the mind from mean pursuits, can see without indignation that what ought to be the freest and happiest years in a man's life should often be spent between cramming and examinations.

And here I have at last mentioned the word, which to many friends of academic freedom, to many who dread the baneful increase of uniformity, may seem the cause of all mischief, the most powerful engine for intellectual levelling—Examination.

[Pg 392] There is a strong feeling springing up everywhere against the tyranny of examinations, against the cramping and withering influence which they are supposed to exercise on the youth of England. I cannot join in that outcry. I well remember that the first letters which I ventured to address to the Times, in very imperfect English, were in favour of examinations. They were signed La Carrière ouverte, and were written long before the days of the Civil Service Commission! I well remember, too, that the first time I ventured to speak, or rather to stammer, in public, was in favour of examinations. That was in 1857, at Exeter, when the first experiment was made, under the auspices of Sir T. Acland, in establishing the Oxford and Cambridge Local Examinations. I have been an examiner myself for many years, I have watched the growth of that system in England from year to year, and in spite of all that has been said and written of late against examinations, I confess I do not see how it would be possible to abolish them, and return to the old system of appointment by patronage.

But though I have not lost my faith in examinations, I cannot conceal the fact that I am frightened by the manner in which they are conducted, and by the results which they produce. As you are interested yourselves at this Midland Institute, in the successful working of examinations, you will perhaps allow me in conclusion to add a few remarks on the safeguards necessary for the efficient working of examinations.

All examinations are a means to ascertain how pupils have been taught; they ought never to be allowed to become the end for which pupils are taught.

Teaching with a view to examinations lowers the teacher in the eyes of his pupils; learning with a view to examinations is apt to produce shallowness and dishonesty.

Whatever attractions learning possesses in itself, and whatever efforts were formerly made by boys at school from a sense of duty, all this is lost if they once imagine that the highest object of all learning is gaining marks in examinations.

In order to maintain the proper relation between teacher and pupil, all pupils should be made to look to their teachers as their natural examiners and fairest judges, and therefore in every examination the report of the teacher ought to carry the greatest weight. This is the principle followed abroad in all examinations of candidates at public schools; and even in their examination on leaving school, which gives them the right to enter the University, they know that their success depends far more on the work which they have done during the years at school, than on the work done on the few days of their examination. There are outside examiners appointed by Government to check the work done at schools and during the examinations; but the cases in which they have to modify or reverse the award of the master are extremely rare, and they are felt to reflect seriously on the competency or impartiality of the school authorities.

[Pg 393] To leave examinations entirely to strangers reduces them to the level of lotteries, and fosters a cleverness in teachers and taught often akin to dishonesty. An examiner may find out what a candidate knows not, he can hardly ever find out all he knows; and even if he succeeds in finding out how much a candidate knows, he can never find out how he knows it. On these points the opinion of the masters who have watched their pupils for years is indispensable for the sake of the examiner, for the sake of the pupils, and for the sake of their teachers.

I know I shall be told that it would be impossible to trust the masters, and to be guided by their opinion, because they are interested parties. Now, first of all, there are far more honest men in the world than dishonest, and it does not answer to legislate as if all schoolmasters were rogues. It is enough that they should know that their reports would be scrutinized, to keep even the most reprobate of teachers from bearing false witness in favour of their pupils.

Secondly, I believe that unnecessary temptation is now being placed before all parties concerned in examinations. The proper reward for a good examination should be honour, not pounds, shillings, and pence. The mischief done by pecuniary rewards offered in the shape of scholarships and exhibitions at school and University, begins to be recognized very widely. To train a boy of twelve for a race against all England is generally to overstrain his faculties, and often to impair his usefulness in later life; but to make him feel that by his failure he will entail on his father the loss of a hundred a year, and on his teacher the loss of pupils, is simply cruel at that early age.

It is always said that these scholarships and exhibitions enable the sons of poor parents to enjoy the privilege of the best education in England, from which they would otherwise be debarred by the excessive costliness of our public schools. But even this argument, strong as it seems, can hardly stand, for I believe it could be shown that the majority of those who are successful in obtaining scholarships and exhibitions at school or at University are boys whose parents have been able to pay the highest price for their children's previous education. If all these prizes were abolished, and the funds thus set free used to lessen the price of education at school and in college, I believe that the sons of poor parents would be far more benefited than by the present system. It might also be desirable to lower the school-fees in the case of the sons of poor parents, who were doing well at school from year to year; and, in order to guard against favouritism, an examination, particularly vivâ voce, before all the masters of a school, possibly even with some outside examiner, might be useful. But the present system bids fair to degenerate into mere horse-racing, and I shall not wonder if, sooner or later, the two-year olds entered for the race have to be watched by their trainer that they may not be overfed or drugged against the day of the race. It has come to this, that schools are bidding for clever boys in order to run them in the races, and in France, I read, that parents actually extort [Pg 394] money from schools by threatening to take away the young racers that are likely to win the Derby.[18]

If we turn from the schools to the Universities we find here, too, the same complaints against over-examination. Now it seems to me that every University, in order to maintain its position, has a perfect right to demand two examinations, but no more: one for admission, the other for a degree. Various attempts have been made in Germany, in Russia, in France, and in England to change and improve the old academic tradition, but in the end the original, and, as it would seem, the natural system, has generally proved its wisdom and reasserted its right.

If a University surrenders the right of examining those who wish to be admitted, the tutors will often have to do the work of schoolmasters, and the professors can never know how high or how low they should aim in their public lectures. Besides this, it is almost inevitable, if the Universities surrender the right of a matriculation-examination, that they should lower, not only their own standard, but likewise the standard of public schools. Some Universities, on the contrary, like over-anxious mothers, have multiplied examinations so as to make quite sure, at the end of each term or each year that the pupils confided to them have done at least some work. This kind of forced labour may do some good to the incorrigibly idle, but it does the greatest harm to all the rest. If there is an examination at the end of each year, there can be no freedom left for any independent work. Both teachers and taught will be guided by the same pole-star—examinations; no deviation from the beaten track will be considered safe, and all the pleasure derived from work done for its own sake, and all the just pride and joy, which those only know who have ever ventured out by themselves on the open sea of knowledge, must be lost.

We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the brilliant show of examination papers.

It is certainly marvellous what an amount of knowledge candidates will produce before their examiners; but those who have been both examined and examiners know best how fleeting that knowledge is, and how different from that other knowledge which has been acquired slowly and quietly, for its own sake, for our own sake, without a thought as to whether it would ever pay at examinations or not. A candidate, after giving most glibly the dates and the titles of the principal works of Cobbett, Gibbon, Burke, Adam Smith, and David Hume, was asked whether he had ever seen any of their writings, and he had to answer, No. Another, who was asked which of the works of Pheidias he had seen, replied that he had only read the first two books. That is the kind of dishonest knowledge which is fostered by too frequent examinations. There are two kinds of knowledge, the one that enters into our very blood, the other which we carry about in our pockets. Those who read for examinations have generally their pockets [Pg 395] cram full; those who work on quietly and have their whole heart in their work are often discouraged at the small amount of their knowledge, at the little life-blood they have made. But what they have learnt has really become their own, has invigorated their whole frame, and in the end they have often proved the strongest and happiest men in the battle of life.

Omniscience is at present the bane of all our knowledge. From the day he leaves school and enters the University a man ought to make up his mind that in many things he must remain either altogether ignorant, or be satisfied with knowledge at second-hand. Thus only can he clear the deck for action. And the sooner he finds out what his own work is to be, the more useful and delightful will be his life at University and later. There are few men who have a passion for all knowledge, there is hardly one who has not a hobby of his own. Those so-called hobbies ought to be utilized, and not, as they are now, discouraged, if we wish our Universities to produce more men like Faraday, Carlyle, Grote, or Darwin. I do not say that in an examination for a University degree a minimum of what is now called general culture should not be insisted on; but in addition to that, far more freedom ought to be given to the examiner to let each candidate produce his own individual work. This is done to a far greater extent in Continental than in English Universities, and the examinations are therefore mostly confided to the members of the Senatus Academicus, consisting of the most experienced teachers, and the most eminent representatives of the different branches of knowledge in the University. Their object is not to find out how many marks each candidate may gain by answering a larger or smaller number of questions, and then to place them in order before the world like so many organ pipes. They want to find out whether a man, by the work he has done during his three or four years at University, has acquired that vigour of thought, that maturity of judgment, and that special knowledge, which fairly entitle him to an academic status, to a degree, with or without special honours. Such a degree confers no material advantages;[19] it does not entitle its holder to any employment in Church or State; it does not vouch even for his being a fit person to be made an Archbishop or Prime Minister. All this is left to the later struggle for life; and in that struggle it seems as if those who, after having surveyed the vast field of human knowledge, have settled on a few acres of their own and cultivated them as they were never cultivated before, who have worked hard and have tasted the true joy and happiness of hard work, who have gladly listened to others, but always depended on themselves, were, after all, the men whom great nations delighted to follow as their royal leaders in their onward march towards greater enlightenment, greater happiness, and greater freedom.

To sum up. No one can read Mill's Essay "On Liberty" at the present moment without feeling that even during the short period of the last [Pg 396] twenty years the cause which he advocated so strongly and passionately, the cause of individual freedom, has made rapid progress, aye, has carried the day. In no country may a man be so entirely himself, so true to himself and yet loyal to society, as in England.

But, although the enemy whose encroachments Mill feared most and resented most has been driven back and forced to keep within his own bounds,—though such names as Dissent and Nonconformity, which were formerly used in society as fatal darts, seem to have lost all the poison which they once contained,—Mill's principal fears have nevertheless not been belied, and the blight of uniformity which he saw approaching with its attendant evils of feebleness, indifference, and sequacity, has been spreading more widely than ever in his days.

It has even been maintained that the very freedom which every individual now enjoys has been detrimental to the growth of individuality; that you must have an Inquisition if you want to see martyrs; that you must have despotism and tyranny to call forth heroes. The very measures which Mill and his friends advocated so warmly, compulsory education and competitive examinations, are pointed out as having chiefly contributed to produce that large array of pass-men, that dead level of uninteresting excellence, which is the beau idéal of a Chinese Mandarin, while it frightened and disheartened such men as Humboldt, Tocqueville, and John Stuart Mill.

There may be some truth in all this, but it is certainly not the whole truth. Education, as it has to be carried on, whether in elementary or in public schools, is no doubt a heavy weight which might well press down the most independent spirit; it is, in fact, neither more nor less than placing, in a systematized form, on the shoulders of every generation the ever-increasing mass of knowledge, experience, custom, and tradition that has been accumulated by former generations. We need not wonder, therefore, if in some schools all spring, all vigour, all joyousness of work is crushed out under that load of names and dates, of anomalous verbs and syntactic rules, of mathematical formulas and geometrical axioms, which boys are expected to bring up for competitive examinations.

But a remedy has been provided, and we are ourselves to blame if we do not avail ourselves of it to the fullest extent. Europe erected its Universities, and called them the homes of the Liberal Arts, and determined that between the slavery of the school and the routine of practical life every man should have at least three years of freedom. What Socrates and his great pupil Plato had done for the youth of Greece,[20] these new academies were to do for the youth of Italy, France, England, Spain, and Germany; and, though with varying success, they have done it. The mediæval and modern Universities have been from century to century the homes of free thought. Here the most eminent men have spent their lives, not merely in retailing [Pg 397] traditional knowledge, as at school, but in extending the frontiers of science in all directions. Here, in close intercourse with their teachers, or under their immediate guidance, generation after generation of boys, fresh from school, have grown up into men during the three years of their academic life. Here, for the first time, each man has been encouraged to dare to be himself, to follow his own tastes, to depend on his own judgment, to try the wings of his mind, and, lo, like young eagles thrown out of their nest, they could fly. Here the old knowledge accumulated at school was tested, and new knowledge acquired straight from the fountain-head. Here knowledge ceased to be a mere burden, and became a power invigorating the whole mind, like snow which during winter lies cold and heavy on the meadows, but when it is touched by the sun of spring melts away, and fructifies the ground for a rich harvest.

That was the original purpose of the Universities; and the more they continue to fulfil that purpose the more will they secure to us that real freedom from tradition, from custom, from mere opinion and superstition, which can be gained by independent study only; the more will they foster that "human development in its richest diversity" which Mill, like Humboldt, considered as the highest object of all society.

Such academic teaching need not be confined to the old Universities. There is many a great University that sprang from smaller beginnings than your Midland Institute. Nor is it necessary, in order to secure the real benefits of academic teaching, to have all the paraphernalia of a University, its colleges and fellowships, its caps and gowns. What is really wanted are men who have done good work in their life, and who are willing to teach others how to work for themselves, how to think for themselves, how to judge for themselves. That is the true academic stage in every man's life, when he learns to work, not to please others, be they schoolmasters or examiners, but to please himself, when he works from sheer love of work, and for the highest of all purposes, the conquest of truth. Those only who have passed through that stage know the real blessings of work. To the world at large they may seem mere drudges—but the world does not know the triumphant joy with which the true mountaineer, high above clouds and mountain walls that once seemed unsurpassable, drinks in the fresh air of the High Alps, and away from the fumes, the dust, and the noises of the city, revels alone, in freedom of thought, in freedom of feeling, and in the freedom of the highest faith.

F. Max Müller.


[1] An Address delivered on the 20th October, before the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

[2] Mill tells us that his Essay "On Liberty" was planned and written down in 1854. It was in mounting the steps of the Capitol in January, 1855, that the thought first arose of converting it into a volume, and it was not published till 1859. The author, who in his Autobiography speaks with exquisite modesty of all his literary performances, allows himself one single exception when speaking of his Essay "On Liberty." "None of my writings," he says, "have been either so carefully composed or so sedulously corrected as this." Its final revision was to have been the work of the winter of 1858 to 1859 which he and his wife had arranged to pass in the South of Europe, a hope which was frustrated by his wife's death. "The 'Liberty,'" he writes, "is likely to survive longer than anything else that I have written (with the possible exception of the 'Logic'), because the conjunction of her mind with mine has rendered it a kind of philosophic textbook of a single truth, which the changes progressively taking place in modern society tend to bring out into stronger relief: the importance, to man and society, of a large variety of character, and of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions."

[3] Herzen defined Nihilism as "the most perfect freedom from all settled concepts, from all inherited restraints and impediments which hamper the progress of the Occidental intellect with the historical drag tied to its foot."

[4] Ueber die Akademische Freiheit der Deutschen Universitäten, Rede beim Antritt des Rectorats an der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin, am 15 October 1877, gehalten von Dr. H. Helmholtz.

[5] Ueber eine Akademie der Deutschen Sprache, p. 34. Another keen observer of English life, Dr. K. Hillebrand, in an article in the October number of the Nineteenth Century, remarks: "Nowhere is there greater individual liberty than in England, and nowhere do people renounce it more readily of their own accord."

[6] Spencer Hardy, "Manual of Buddhism," p. 391.

[7] Ibid., p. 39.

[8] "As one generation dies and gives way to another, the heir of the consequences of all its virtues and all its vices, the exact result of pre-existent causes, so each individual, in the long chain of life, inherits all, of good or evil, which all its predecessors have done or been; and takes up the struggle towards enlightenment precisely there where they left it."—Rhys Davids, Buddhism, p. 104.

[9] Bunsen, "Egypt," ii., pp. 77, 150.

[10] Mémoire sur l'Origine Egyptienne de l'Alphabet Phénicien, par E. de Rougé, Paris, 1874.

[11] See Brandis, "Das Münzwesen."

[12] "Is it not almost a self-evident axiom, that the State should require and compel the education, up to a certain standard, of every human being who is born its citizen? Yet who is there that is not afraid to recognize and assert this truth?"—On Liberty, p. 188.

[13] Times, January 25, 1879.

[14] "Sacred Books of the East," edited by M. M., vols. i., ii., iii.; Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1879.

[15] "Computation or Logic," t. iii., viii., p. 36.

[16] Lectures on Mr. Darwin's "Philosophy of Language," Fraser's Magazine, June, 1873, p. 26.

[17] Prantl, "Geschichte der Logik," vol. i. p. 121.

[18] L. Noiré, "Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch," p. 157; "Todtes Wissen."

[19] Mill, "On Liberty," p. 193.

[20] Zeller, "Ueber den wissenschaftlichen Unterricht bei den Griechen," 1878, p. 9.

[Pg 398]



Gleanings of Past Years: 1843-1878. By the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P. Seven vols. London: John Murray.


Lord Beaconsfield and his party are still holding on. All the over-praised Disraelian craft has dwindled somehow to this merely muscular operation. An attempt is, indeed, made to disguise the attitude by keeping strict silence, and arranging the facial expression of the Cabinet, if not of the Party, in a way not agreeing with the strain; but the country is fast finding out that the real posture of the Conservatives at this moment is that of clutching at office, and nothing more. However, no amount of not talking about the elections will put them off finally. In his most efficient days Lord Beaconsfield was hardly clever enough to operate upon the almanack, and a certain terrible date is approaching upon him with increasing swiftness. It will be rather humiliating at last for a Premier to be brought up by the day of the month, and to be reminded by the great officials of Parliament what year of Our Lord it is. But these latter personages are partly paid for watching the efflux of time, and no doubt they will do their duty. It may be unpleasant for them to have to tell Lord Beaconsfield that dates make it impossible for him to go on any longer, but they must get what consolation they can from the remembrance that it is the first time they ever had to say this to a Minister. Several Parliaments in our history have been nicknamed rather uglily, but it is likely that the Beaconsfield House of Commons will be known under a description more humiliating than any, because so inescapeably accurate. It will literally be the run-to-the-last-dregs Parliament, and when, on there not being another moment left, the dissolution has necessarily to be ordered, the not-any-longer-to-be-put-off elections will take place.

When that unpostponeable day comes, it is very well known beforehand whose will be the most towering figure on the hustings, whose the form towards which all eyes must turn. It will be that of him whose name is [Pg 399] written at the head of this paper—Mr. Gladstone. Most Englishmen will at first feel a crick in the neck in having to look behind them so far north as Midlothian. But Liberals and Conservatives alike understand that wherever Mr. Gladstone chooses to take up his position that becomes the centre of the fight. If he stood for the Orkneys, he would still be too near for his opponents; and, as for his friends, they remember that with Ulysses' bow it did not greatly signify whether the hero was a few yards further off or nearer. The bolts will reach. It is, indeed, not unlikely that Mr. Gladstone may force on the conflict, and, after the speech at Chester, the other side cannot say that they were left without warning. The Conservative leaders have, in fact, a nearer date to calculate than the final one of the Parliamentary calendar—that, namely, of Mr. Gladstone's appearance in Midlothian. It may be supposed that they are already anxiously counting the days of the dwindling interval. Whenever he gives instructions for his hustings to be put up, the Conservatives will have to send for their own carpenters, and order planks.

The present moment, while he is temporarily absent, and just before he again necessarily reappears in the very front of the public stage, may not be an ill time for taking a hasty review of him and his career. It is, in fact, a favourable chance. Mr. Gladstone, by stress of glorious hard work and sheer public efficiency, has so unceasingly filled the passing hour, always being fully occupied himself in dealing with a special matter, and enforcing the attention of the nation to it, that he has left people very little at leisure to take in a retrospect of him. The result is, that there is great inadequacy in the public appreciation of the dimensions of his career; it stretches back further, expands wider, rises higher than most of us commonly keep in our minds. Lately, it is true, Mr. Gladstone has taken great pains to remind the country of his years; he has rather ostentatiously postured as an old man. But without meaning to impugn his veracity, or to dispute the register, we may say that he has scarcely got anybody to believe it. He has gone on felling trees, writing letters and articles, and publishing volumes, with utterances of more and better speeches between than anybody else can make, in a way which has led not a few to congratulate themselves that he was not any younger. In particular, his opponents, so soon as they found out that his announcement of retirement into ease meant that he was going to take the truest rest of all, to work a little harder in another kind of way, positively made an outcry as if he had pledged himself to gratify them by doing nothing. They seem rather to complain that he has retired into greater publicity; but there is something to be said about that matter. The implied bargain on Mr. Gladstone's side at the time obviously was that the Conservatives were themselves not to do anything in particular. It was to be a time of stagnation, and they have not kept to that understanding; no sooner had he turned his back than they began to swagger up and down the world as Imperialists. They have risked the highest interests of the empire and [Pg 400] have made England figure on the wrong side, arrayed against the oppressed and blustering for war. Mr. Gladstone could only keep quiet by foregoing all patriotism. It was too much to ask from an old-fashioned English statesman, who had always himself stood on the side of freedom and peace, and had grown accustomed to seeing his country ranged there too. However, we will speak again a little later on this point of his announced retirement.

It is nearly superfluous to remind any one that there is no statesman now before the public with an official record which can in any way be set beside Mr. Gladstone's even in the mere matters of length of time and diversity of parts. There are a number of men in the House of Commons older than Mr. Gladstone; there are some, though not many, who have had a seat in it longer than he has; but there is no one whose Ministerial life goes back nearly so far. He held office forty-five years ago. Nearly a score of years had to pass after his first appointment to a post before Mr. Disraeli joined a Ministry, and then he stepped into the place which had been refused by Mr. Gladstone. The latter's range of official experience excels others in breadth even more than in length. Before he became Prime Minister he had been Under-Secretary for the Colonies, Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Master of the Mint, President of the Board of Trade, full Secretary for the Colonies, and Chancellor of the Exchequer more than once. There is no other journeyman politician with a stroke of work left in him who has anything like this list of credentials of apprenticeship to show. Mr. Gladstone learnt his craft under Peel, Aberdeen, Palmerston, Russell; and then himself became the selecter and instructor of a group of younger men for whom renewed office is only biding a not very distant date. It is an honour alike to name the men he served under and those whom he commanded; including in the association with him some whom he attracted, and to whom the latter phrase might scarcely fully apply; for Mr. Cobden worked with him without an office, and Mr. Bright in one. These latter were achievements of personal influence which may fairly rank a trifle higher than merely taking precedence of a Duke in a Cabinet. If we go on to consider what has happened in his time in the way of legislation and social reform, and his connection with it, it may be said, speaking generally, that he has witnessed the political and economical remoulding of this kingdom; and, taking all things together, has helped it forward in more ways than anybody else who still survives. If while Mr. Bright lives his name must always have the honour of first mention when the Repeal of the Corn Laws is spoken of, it was Mr. Gladstone who wrought out all the details of Peel's fiscal reforms. He too it was who, much later, gave effect to Cobden's negotiation of the French Commercial Treaty; and also, again, made the best bargain that could be made when that first international arrangement lapsed. Every amelioration bearing on taxation and trade in our time has been naturally fated in some [Pg 401] way to touch the hands of Mr. Gladstone. So, too, it was his conversion, or rather his progress, on the question of the Franchise—proved by his bringing in of the Russell measure—which made the immediate granting of the vote certain, and challenged the Tory trick of the last Reform Bill. The Ballot Act, without which the vote was but a sinister gift, came from his Ministry. But let us turn from England to the sister country. If Ireland is ever pacified, it will be then seen that it was Mr. Gladstone who, by the Disestablishment of the Irish Church and by his Land Act, laid the foundations of the peace. If the Roman Catholics get a University now, they will only get what he offered them years ago. The prosperity of Ireland is, indeed, sure some day to give to Mr. Gladstone's memory a splendid revenge for the ingratitude she showed to the man who brought legislating for Ireland into vogue. If we shift our regard to diplomacy, the future is still clearly with him in several of the chiefest international arrangements this generation has witnessed. When the Berlin Treaty is cobwebbed, and forgotten by everybody but historians and bookworms, the Treaty of Washington will be a living, ruling precedent between the mighty English-speaking nations on both sides of the Atlantic; and on the day that the Turks are thrust out of Europe, and the peoples of those regions are settling the Eastern Question finally for themselves, the then British Government, in begging somebody to take Cyprus off our hands, will hear a larger Greece gratefully couple Mr. Gladstone's name with the cession of the Ionian Islands.

In every one of these matters Mr. Gladstone gets his good fortune with posterity, as we believe, from having acted on Liberal principles. It is the merit of those principles that, to borrow a phrase of his own, they put Time on a man's side. He has trusted himself to the popular impulses, which are the breezes blowing towards the future, giving auspicious omens by the very working out of the world's events. But if, apart from Liberalism, he would have had not much more significance for the coming generations than Lord Beaconsfield will have when his foreign policy has once been undone and set aside, Mr. Gladstone must not be defrauded of a tittle of his due credit. He who has done all this was once a Conservative, and, to make it still more wonderful, a Peelite. Of that pale group of a Parliamentary section, which never could be a party, he is the only one who escaped from the vain middle region of ineffectiveness. For a man who was once a Peelite and has never ceased to be a High Churchman to have gained supreme power in this country is a political miracle. It was worked by sheer mental force. Mr. Gladstone's greatest feat, making all the rest possible, was the slowly but ever-ripeningly turning himself into a good, sound, robust Liberal; but he not only had the wit to appreciate the inevitableness of popular progress, he made himself a shaper and a helper of it in ways which showed a willing adoption of its cause. For we may scrutinize his career more closely than in the above rapid sketch, may look down lower than these great pictorial incidents we have been recapitulating; [Pg 402] and, if we do so, we shall see a set of administrative reforms, less showy, but very hard to carry, and which exhibit genuine Liberalism in the grain of every one of them. It was under his auspices that the Civil Service was thrown open to unlimited competition; he, in spite of the Lords, with Earl Derby at their head, took the duty off paper, giving us cheap newspapers; he consolidated the Law Courts, doing away a whole web of legal artificialities; it was as his colleague that Mr. Forster gave to the country its first national educational scheme; but for him Mr. Cardwell would never have succeeded in altering the principle of our military organization from long-period enlistments to the short-term service; while Mr. Gladstone's opponents are willing to thrust upon him the whole honour of abolishing purchase in the army, because they think the issue of the Royal Warrant which, thanks to their resistance of the reform, was the only means of effecting it, lends itself to a taunt. Add to this list, the fact that although he, at first, for easily seen reasons of mere habit of mind, going back to the earlier days when he was Conservative, did not favour University Reform, yet he finally lent himself fully to it, and it is not difficult to understand the successive outcries raised against him in the higher social quarters. He gave all the "interests" splendidly sufficient reasons for their dislike, since wherever there was an abuse Mr. Gladstone was as certain in the end to confront it as he is to appear, axe on his shoulder, before any tree in Hawarden woods which has lived past its time.

But there is another way, more compendious still, of summing up his political chronicle. His opponents at times exult over the fact of his having often changed his constituencies. It is true, but it was always for his growing Liberalism. Certainly, there are those who once ensconced in a shire—say, in Buckinghamshire—remain there as long as they need a seat. They never offend any one by progress of view. Mr. Gladstone has not acted by that rule; he has got himself turned out of constituency after constituency; but, we repeat, it was always for the same reason—he became too big for them. Among his highest distinctions are these,—he is the resigner of Newark, the rejected of Oxford, the loser of South Lancashire. The thing has occurred too often to admit of a casual explanation. It was not for Liberalism, as it is now understood, that he, when still in his youth, offended the mighty Duke of Newcastle and had to give up Newark, but it was for reasoned-out consistency which gave hope of Liberalism. He would not stultify his intellect by voting for Peel's proposed increase of the Maynooth Grant in contradiction of his own book on Church and State. But all the world knows that it was for Liberalism somewhat developed that he quitted Oxford; and the cause of his defeat in Lancashire was that he had for years been too busy in pushing forward reforms on all hands. It was a noble vanquishment for him, whatever it was for his party, for Lancashire, or for the country. Test his career [Pg 403] how we will, the result still comes out to his honour. He, for conscience' sake, offended the great patron on whom his whole prospects then depended, remaining out of Parliament for a time; later, he went over with Peel, knowing that it meant an ineffective hanging between two parties for an indefinite time, sharing the hopes and chances of neither; when Lord Derby came into power, he refused office on its being offered. In a word, he has evidenced his sincerity and proved his patriotism in every way for which it is allowed to other men to claim honour. When a man has risked personal prospects, refused place, held office in all its kinds, left one lagging constituency after another behind him, and finally, by sheer insisting on rapid progress, temporarily wearied the weak and lazy of his countrymen throughout the whole nation, as the last general election showed that he had, what more is there left for him to do for his country? Only one thing remained: the sacrificing his retirement after the formal announcement of the close of his career, and, afresh taking up his old post in the front of the battle as if he were still young and had place and public life to secure, striving his hardest a last time for the sake of his principles and his party. It is this final possibility of sacrificing ease and renewing labour which Mr. Gladstone undertakes in the Midlothian campaign now so very soon to be opened by him.

The above is the merest bird's-eye glance at his career, but it seemed to us a retrospect which all Liberals should have in their minds more completely than is common when he again draws to him the national gaze, as he of necessity will do.

But on reading back, how inadequate does the above record seem for Mr. Gladstone! It is simply the background of the picture; a field of industry and achievements, on which the portraiture of the man himself needs yet making to stand out. We have been speaking of the ex-Premier, for instance, just as we might talk of any politician, and Mr. Gladstone, though our chiefest politician, has throughout been so much more than that. It is perfectly true that there is no public man among us who has projected less of a special atmosphere of personality than he has through which his doings are to be beheld. He has been too busy with his work to think of any attitudinizing or trick in doing it. Mr. Gladstone's only mannerism has been that of superior excellence of thinking, speaking, and doing. Anybody else might have done and said what he has uttered and effected, if only they had had the same ability and industry. His one comprehensive distinction, summing up all the others, lies in his having developed more of these two simple, old-fashioned things than his best contemporaries. He has invented no mysteries, traded in no artificialities, given us no pyrotechnics; only a plain common air lies along his track, in which, if we perhaps except two or three points where a little mist hangs, everything can be clearly seen in white light, without exaggeration or distortion. His whole style has been the old [Pg 404] traditionary English one, accentuated only by Scotch earnestness and seriousness of religious feeling. If Mr. Gladstone, however, has not made any eccentric or theatrical impression on the public mind, he has done something larger and better. He has kept all the three kingdoms continuously aware of him as an element in our general thinking, as well as being a power in our practical affairs. If we put aside Mr. Carlyle, Mr. Mill, and Mr. Ruskin, scarcely any one has had so much to do with the general mental activity of the last two generations as Mr. Gladstone. The result is what we have just pointed out,—that if we sketch him as a statesman only, everybody sees that the canvas is not big enough. It is a sufficiently full description of most men who have been politicians to ascribe to them statesmanship; but in Mr. Gladstone's case we want a yet larger phrase; his business has not been politics merely, it has been patriotism; and he has made time, nobody quite knows how, to do nearly as much work outside Parliament as within it. We may cut a scholar able to adorn a university out of Mr. Gladstone, and then carve from him a fine student and reverencer of Art; next mark off a reviewer and general littérateur whom professed authors will respectfully make room for in their ranks; and not only is there still left, solid and firm, the great Parliamentary Minister, but of the scattered fragments a couple of Bishops might easily be made, with, if nothing at all is to be wasted, several preachers for the denominations. The latter would be derived from a morsel or two of material which Mr. Gladstone himself is not fully aware of as being in his composition. It is not very easy to give a complete impression offhand of such a multiform personage as this. We must take him a little simpler. The general effect of it all has been, as we said above, that the mental activity of the community in all matters relating to politics and practical affairs has had to take its rate and much of its scale largely from him, and he has been thinking with the speed, not of the old jog-trot political life, but with the rapidity of ethical and religious cogitation, and has insisted on giving thought to everything. In fact, the ultimate impression which Mr. Gladstone has made upon the community has been that of an intellect weaponed with a perfectly fluent tongue, and a hand holding the quickest of pens, occupying the very highest national posts, ceaselessly going on reasoning, insisting upon doing it, whether the reasoning might occasionally go wrong or not, just as if thinking, speaking, and writing were man's right employment. His chief opponents would, perhaps, hesitate in flatly saying that they were not; but, at any rate, they have continually been wanting him to stop. Nearly all the complaint that was ever made of Mr. Gladstone resolves itself into a charge that he has thought and spoken and written too much. The accusation is one which it would task a great many men to lay themselves open to; it is never thought of in the case of the bulk of us. Above all, he has kept on thinking; he would use his mind. Possibly the other side might [Pg 405] have forgiven it, if only he had not done it so well; if only this promptest, quickest ratiocination on the part of a practical politician in our times had not, as it progressed, brought him ever nearer to the conclusions of Liberalism. He has, we are, however, rather ashamed to admit, had to suffer from his own party for this unusualness of mental activity. Our practical politics for generations past had been carried on upon such shallow reasoning, on such a hand-to-mouth principle of mere party expediency, that even some Liberals were surprised when he brought a little subtlety of intellect into public life. It was enough to make a smaller man despair of his countrymen's sanity when he found that for years many of them could not distinguish between an Anglican High Churchman and an admirer of Rome.

To speak plainly, there was never such a humiliating spectacle of public stolidity as that which for so long a time was witnessed in the popular mystification as to Mr. Gladstone's religious position. It went for nothing that his first critical Parliamentary step was to give up his seat rather than vote more money to Maynooth; nobody seemed to bear in mind that as far back as 1852 he both predicted and publicly hoped for the downfall of the temporal power of the Papacy, and that ten years later Sir George Bowyer openly attacked him on that very point in Parliament; it did not avail that he it was who paved the way for the unification of Italy by dragging into the light before all Europe the prison secrets of Neapolitan tyranny. Because he had the good sense to oppose the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and the loyalty to remain on terms of friendship with the companions of his youth after they became Puseyites, and avowed that he held the same views as to Church doctrine which some of the greatest Church of England divines taught, he was called on to explain, every month or so, that he was not a Jesuit. Not until he published his pamphlet on the Vatican Decrees, and by so doing threw all the Roman Catholics in England and elsewhere into a white heat of rage, was the silliness quite exploded. It is true that the dull public might plead that a real profession of religiousness on the part of a leading politician was such a novelty that it might be excused being a little puzzled, and believing the worst in its perplexity. Worst or best, Mr. Gladstone has gone on speaking and writing about his religion just as if a man's ethics and faith ought to have some connection with his politics, and, as time has passed, people appear to think it less strange. This non-reticence on the score of religion has made more serious the impression Mr. Gladstone has produced upon the public mind; but in reality it is no specialty in his mode of public thinking, but only a necessary part of it. He tracks his commonest politics to their fundamental principles, and makes of them a system. He has always in his reasoning to go back to history, and this has delayed his advance in comparison with men who dispense with that; but there never yet was a public man who explained so [Pg 406] fully as Mr. Gladstone the reasons of his changes. All the progress of his mind is to be traced in speeches, articles, pamphlets, volumes. He has given too much explanation, not too little, for his mind has an insatiability for reasons. Most people are content when they get hold of a good one; but he wants three or four—in fact, all that can be got by searching for; and if it be true, as it certainly is, that he likes the last to have a little subtlety about it, long-sustained thinking cannot take people too deep in politics, whatever it may do now and then in religion. For instance, on the question of Reform Mr. Gladstone has certainly exhausted the process, having at last got at the final ideal argument. It turns out, as he stated it to Mr. Lowe, to be this,—that, apart from, or rather in addition to, all the hard reasons of justice and safety that Mr. Bright can urge for extending the franchise, the vote ought to be given because it has an educative power, and will make our humbler fellow-countrymen better citizens. It is open to any one, who is stupid enough, to call that argument subtle, but no one can deny that it is truly Liberal. There is not a man among us to-day who keeps the main Liberal issues so broad and clear as Mr. Gladstone does, and this simply because he will get to a principle. He adds a tremendous multiplicity of ideas in the way of side issues, but, as we above put it, they are all reasons in addition. There is a very simple test of it,—he has never recanted a single article of his Liberal progress, never gone back a single step. This hardly can be said of either Mr. Lowe or a few others who might be named. It could not even be said of so thorough a Liberal as Earl Russell. Mr. Gladstone's alleged over-refining has ended in placing and keeping him in the practical lead of his party, at a time of life when many born in the faith grow faint-hearted. Even the one bit of mysticism which his political feeling has developed—namely, the belief that the popular judgment is truest of all in very large matters—is only the full flowering of the popular trust which every Liberal professes to have. The bulk of the nation will forgive him that excess of political belief, if it be an excess, for it is the last compliment a statesman can pay them, and they have but to merit it, and it then turns to Mr. Gladstone's praise as well as theirs. But, at any rate, it will not do for Liberals to set out to argue the point with Mr. Gladstone, or they will quickly find themselves tripped up by a principle; for it is no sentimentality in him which underlies the view, but completed logic and wide recollection of historical instances.

Indeed, although it was necessary in trying to reproduce the general impression Mr. Gladstone has made upon his contemporaries to speak of this alleged over-refining, what is meant by it has been after all a kind of superfluity of mental operation. His intricacy of thinking has never hindered his activity; least of all living men has Mr. Gladstone been a dreamer. He stands in history as a reviser of fiscal policies; an introducer of new administrative modes; a widener of the boundaries of political rights; a ceaseless overthrower of public abuses. From first to [Pg 407] last he has been, as the hatred of his opponents has too well witnessed, a man of practice. You may add to this that he reasons too minutely, if you like; but it was not by a transcendental casuistry of politics that he wearied the country: it was by his enormous energy in ceaselessly proposing wide sweeping measures. The casuistry was all in addition. The over-refining of Mr. Gladstone has, in fact, been of a wholly different kind from what is common among men; it has consisted in finding justifications afterwards for very prompt vigorous doing. Examine, if any one thinks it worth while at this time of day, the Ewelme Rectory case, or the issue of the Royal Warrant on Purchase, or the Collier appointment, and it will appear that it was for bold decision in taking a practical step that he was arraigned as much as for subsequently finding too many reasons for it. For ourselves, as we have not set out to apologize for Mr. Gladstone (men of his dimensions must be taken as they are), but simply to put down hints recalling more fully than is usual the great features of his career, there is no need for our not saying that we wish he had in some cases dispensed with these arguments in excess of the conclusion. In some instances it is as wise after all, though not so clever, to be satisfied with urging one good reason, and not to confuse ordinary people by adding five or six more not so good, the risk being that there will be a bad one among them. But the fact remains that Mr. Gladstone has not busied himself in tying mental knots for the purpose of entanglement; he has indulged in no such waste of time. The mental puzzle has always referred to some practical doing. Owing to this, his opponents have had to admit his mental sincerity, while accusing him of over-subtlety. It nearly all turned, in fact, into the psychological question of whether Mr. Gladstone's mind had not at one part of its machinery a twist, and in the meantime while this point was being discussed he went on carrying his measures. If there were Liberals who did not quite follow him in his defence of the issue of the Royal Warrant, when he drew distinctions between prerogative and statutory power, they had not the least doubt that in abolishing purchase he had effected a capital Liberal reform, and they might hope that his reasoning as well as his practice was right. Is Mr. Gladstone to be the only one to whose idiosyncrasy nothing is to be allowed? The hullabaloo which was raised when somebody could say that he had broken through a technicality seemed very like, after all, as though from this one politician perfection was expected, which was not an ill compliment at bottom; and any admirers who may admit that perfection was not always got, do not, in granting that, depreciate him much as this world goes, and may still think him the most upright of our public men. His mental machinery is complicated, whilst there is no apparatus like it for rapidity, and once set going he himself cannot always stop it; his mind, as we have said, riots in ratiocination, and will multiply arguments to the last shred of the material which any case in hand affords. [Pg 408] But, to return to the main point,—it never leaves go of the real business. Even what has seemed to some persons his off-work, his voluminous writing, has, with the one exception of his classical studies, been no mere leisurely literature, but persistent advocacy of special objects. These productions have been meant to frame public opinion, and to give him openings for legislation, if that became possible. He has used the press because it had become the hugest instrument of the time he lived in; but it was not for the purpose of multiplying books that Mr. Gladstone wrote, but with a view to practically influencing men.

This relentless subordination of everything to practical ends—this iron determination to keep doing, even while ready frankly to depend upon his power of speaking and writing to produce conviction and popular persuasion as the means for effecting his objects, gives as the final imprint of Mr. Gladstone on one's mind that he was always meant for a Liberal. A man of this kind might be born a Conservative; it might take him time to break fully with old ties; but for him to stay finally in the ranks where thought was allowed to remain muddled, where abuses were looked on with toleration, and ease was enjoyed at the cost of others, was an impossibility. Mr. Gladstone, if only from the fact that he was a born financier and an inveterate thinker, and a man with a passion for publicly talking, belonged to the Liberals from the first. His whole life, too, has consistently lent itself to that style. If it has had in it a touch of austerity, that excellently befitted the social condition of the masses of our people. His gaze has been fixed too much upon them to be attracted by the glitter of the narrow upper circle, which so foolishly persists, amidst its gaudy splendour, in believing itself the nation. That silliness was not for Mr. Gladstone. He has been subjected to some tests. If his family was not highly placed, his father was a baronet, and he himself was educated at Eton and Oxford. Nobles have been among his friends at all periods of his life, as well as his official subordinates more than once in it. But he has passed the whole of his long career without a sparkle of the glitter of adventitious display: that proudest title of all, which it is not in the power of the Crown to bestow but only to take away—"the Great Commoner"—has descended upon him, and is still his. Then he has fenced himself off with no stiffness of manner; the only dignity he has assumed has been the natural seriousness of ardent sincerity, warning off triflers only. To everybody else he has been accessible; any person could impose on him the trouble of a written reply. His post-cards were known to be public property. But putting aside that joke, which is now worn bare, scarcely has any one so fully and ungrudgingly accepted the responsibilities of his position. He has been the public's faithful, ready servant in every particular. Nor has it been mere complaisance, or a drudging of mechanical industry; he has exhibited a real faculty of interesting himself in all that anybody has been doing actively [Pg 409] and well. To say that he is the only statesman who, while clinging to the Church of England, has commanded the sympathies of the Dissenters, might provoke an enemy, embittered by the fact, to reply that he had tactical reasons for trying to do that; but it could have been nothing else than real width of mind and a robust versatility which enabled this High Churchman largely to divide impartial admiration between the Evangelical party and the Romanists, pointing out fully and exactly what is to be praised in each. Any one who wishes it can find the estimates set out in detail in the third and seventh volumes of "The Gleanings." This wide range of intellectual appreciation is really as much a characteristic of Mr. Gladstone as has been his unyielding tenacity and doctrinal hold within the limits of his personal confession of belief. He, a firm acceptor of the tenets of sacramental efficacy, apostolical succession, and the authority of the Church in her own sphere, could take up the semi-rationalistic book "Ecce Homo," and turn it round-and-round admiringly as a most curious and valuable mental production. Nothing in which thought was really shown has escaped his notice, or failed to arouse his interest. He has bent his look on Secularism, as a scientific inquirer might scrutinize a new species, and he has stooped to quote Mr. Bradlaugh. In one place you will find him, very likely on the page after giving a passage from Isaiah or the Psalms, citing the old poet Dunbar, or speaking of Rowe or Swift, or alluding to Rousseau; while long before it became a fashion he had words of sympathizing praise for Shelley, selecting, of all other places, The Quarterly Review to print them in. But, perhaps, the clearest proof of all, alike of his power to bear testimony in spite of personal disliking, and his standing hard and fast upon a principle when he has reached it, is that he, whom Macaulay nearly half a century ago described as "a young man of unblemished character," and whom his Lordship, if he were now alive, would speak of as "the old man with personal fame unspotted," could step aside in one of his articles to recognize the public debt due to Jack Wilkes as a helper forward of our freedom. Wherever a national service has been done, Mr. Gladstone's eulogy always has been ready.

Down to this point we have not spared so much as a hint to his magnificent oratory, his unsurpassed debating skill, his not infrequent successes in literary style. These were not the things that anybody needed reminding of, and that necessity was the prescribed limit of our self-imposed task. Who has forgotten when the expounding of the Budget was the greatest intellectual treat of the Session, when sugar and railway duties and tea became natural themes for eloquence, and the unfolding of the surplus was breathlessly waited for like the dénouement of a novelist's plot? Those scenes are long past, it is true, but the echoes of them can still be heard, for each year since has brought a disappointing reminder to awaken them. But the matchless vigour and splendour of his debating fence has never slackened, never weakened; the only privilege of the older generation in respect of it, is that they [Pg 410] can boast to have witnessed more of it, not to have seen better displays. As to his writings, there least of all is any reminder wanted, for he presents the public with an improving specimen each month. If any one laid themselves out to find fault with Mr. Gladstone's literature, the very worst thing they could discover to say of it, would be that it still was oratory, only written down.

This is the man who, after a few weeks of leisure, reappears next month in Midlothian; first in the field, as if that appearance was his by right of custom. How well he compares with the rest of our older party leaders! Mr. Bright, grown a little pursy, though also stricken by domestic misfortune, rests rather inertly on his laurels, which certainly are plentiful enough to invite repose; Mr. Forster has never succeeded in quite finding his way out of the clauses of his own Education Act, where he sees himself confronted with the Church of England at the end of so many vistas, that he is lost in admiration of its architecture; Mr. Goschen, by some strange weakness (which, let us hope, is only temporary) has got a scare from meeting the County Franchise wearing Joseph Arch's coat and hat; while Mr. Lowe is riding hobbies, bicycle-wise, in and out before the very select constituency of the London University, with readers of The Fortnightly Review for outside spectators, just by way of showing off his little feats of mental gymnastic. In the meanwhile, Mr. Gladstone, the veteran of them all, is putting on his harness for a fresh contest, a riper, better Liberal to-day than on any previous day of fight. It is for the younger men to rally round him.

But, before taking our leave of Mr. Gladstone, we have finally to enlarge our view of him. Early in these remarks it seemed well to give a very hasty summary of his whole career; but there remains to be attempted an exact sketch of his actual position in respect of opinions and practical relations at the moment when he ceased to be Minister. Let us, first of all, at this moment when a Brummagem Imperialism is only yet half-faded, recall what was Mr. Gladstone's opinion of the historic position and natural function of England among the nations; for it has been craftily made to appear that he was willing, and indeed anxious, for this country to efface itself. In 1870, when he was still at the height of power, he published in The Edinburgh Review his article on "Germany, France, and England," and the following was the view he then put forward of the international obligations and duties of his country, in spite of the sea dividing us from other lands:—

"Yet we are not isolated.... With vast multitudes of persons in each of the Continental countries we have constant relations, both of personal and commercial intercourse, which grow from year to year; and as, happily, we have no conflict of interests, real or supposed, nor scope for evil passions afforded by our peaceful rivalry, there is nothing to hinder the self-acting growth of concord.... So far from this implying either a condition or a policy of isolation, it marks out England as the appropriate object of the general confidence.... All that is [Pg 411] wanted is that she should discharge the functions, which are likely more and more to accrue to her, modestly, kindly, impartially.... But in order that she may act fully up to a part of such high distinction, the kingdom of Queen Victoria must be in all things worthy of it. The world-wide cares and responsibilities with which the British people have charged themselves are really beyond the ordinary measure of human strength; and until a recent period it seemed the opinion of our rulers that we could not do better than extend them yet further, wherever an opening could easily, or even decently, be found. With this avidity for material extension was joined a preternatural and morbid sensibility. Russia at the Amoor, America at the Fee-jee or the Sandwich Islands, France in New Caledonia or Cochin China—all these, and the like, were held to be good reasons for a feverish excitement lest other nations should do for themselves but the fiftieth part of what we have done for ourselves.... The secret of strength lies in keeping some proportion between the burden and the back."

Is it necessary to ask whether this is a policy combining dignified patriotism and prudently-restrained common sense? Compare it for a moment with the gewgaw skimble-skamble diplomatic sensationalism with which we have been presented since. But let us go a little more into detail as to Mr. Gladstone's standing with reference to international relations. This present Government has perhaps forgotten that there is such a nation in the world as the United States of America; but Mr. Gladstone kept it well in mind, and we suppose every one will admit that he, of all statesmen, stands well with that people of our own blood, who very shortly will be the most powerful community upon the earth, and the one with whom we shall, for all time, have most to do. However, we will keep within the bounds of Europe. It is the fashion now to give precedence to Germany. Well, Mr. Gladstone was among the first to predict the success of Prussia, and she is not likely to forget who it was who preserved neutrality at a moment most critical to her. Is it France that he is not on good relations with? Why this Minister, who invited her wine trade, and strove unceasingly to increase commerce to and fro across the Channel, and who is for giving further and further political rights to his countrymen, is the only English statesman whom the bulk of Frenchmen can understand. To them our Tories must be as antiquated as their own Royalists. Italy is a growing Power in the European comity, and who is there among our statesmen who can in her fair cities arouse half the enthusiasm he can? He is, literally, the only English politician they familiarly know. With Austria, it is true, he during the recent war lost patience for a moment, but her conduct since has told that her rulers must at the time have known that he had good reasons for it; and no one has more fully appreciated the difficulties of Austria's position than he has done, or was more early in giving her, years ago, the very counsel which she has since proved was the wisest for her. There remains one other great Power to be named—Russia; the State [Pg 412] with whom we shall have directly of necessity to stand face to face in the far East, and with whom terms will in the end have somehow to be made. It is urged against Mr. Gladstone that he has not rendered himself obnoxious enough to this remaining Power—that is, that he did not incapacitate himself for negotiating with her, and, having postponed defiance of her, might make some peaceful arrangement. Can any friend of peace think this a very grievous accusation? Mr. Gladstone has gained this position of goodwill all round at what cost?—that of having fallen into disfavour with the Turks. That is his one terrible disqualification for affairs; or, if you wish to be precisely exhaustive, and at the same time to elicit the absurdity fully, you may add to it that he has irritated the Bourbons. It is quite true, and we, indeed, wish to put it clearly forward, that he was for abating a little of our national swagger, and was prepared to see, and to welcome, advancement in other nations. But every well-grounded Liberal knows that it is only on those two conditions that England can permanently pursue her own paths of industrial development, and the world make progress. Mr. Gladstone's single sin in reference to our external relations was his readiness to favour those two results.

But how does he show when a last view is taken of him from within our politics? Here, again, first look to the circumference. In dealing with the colonies, he was for all being put in possession of a free autonomy, and then urging them to self-reliance—in those ways welding them into the integrity of the empire; and as to India, he insisted that we should strive more and more to realize what he termed the generous conception of a moral trusteeship, to be administered for the benefit of those over whom we rule. Here, once more, we get the true ring of a sound Liberalism, for those are the only principles, we venture to affirm, on which such an empire as this of ours can ever be made permanent. Treating the colonies as babies and biting the thumb at Russia, even from the most scientific frontier India can furnish, though you shout "Empress" from it as loudly as you will, has nothing truly English about it. Empire is not kept in such a mawkish, artificial manner.

But now narrow the gaze within our own home limits. The chief domestic questions for the British public are these,—extension of the County Franchise, the Redistribution of Seats, the Disestablishment of the Church, and Retrenchment of Expenditure. The Land Question will yet have to grow, and may not ripen in his time. But on three of the above pending matters Mr. Gladstone stands at the very front. He is for making our field cultivators citizens no less than our artizans; he is for re-allotting members in a manner which will give us a Parliament truly representative; and it is hardly necessary to speak of economical benefits in connection with the Minister who used the nation to reduction of taxation and surpluses arriving together, and whose last promise under that head was the total abolition of the Income Tax. On the other of these great domestic matters, that which stands third [Pg 413] in the above list, the Disestablishment of the Church, it has seemed to advanced Liberals that Mr. Gladstone has lagged. But the lively fear of his opponents on this very matter is full of hope. Since he last dissented from Mr. Miall's motion, he has written a very significant phrase in an article in this Review. In treating of "The Courses of Religious Thought," when reviewing the churches of the United States and of the British Colonies he spoke of their vigorous growth, "far from the possibly chilling shadow of National Establishments of Religion." In that phrase, for a man so practical as is Mr. Gladstone, Disestablishment seems to cast its shadow before, and not a few persons on the other side of the question shivered from the chilliness it made. But these topics of the first class do not depend upon any one statesman; the biggest of men have these capital problems thrust upon them; all that you can do is to take note how a leader stands in reference to them. And the above is Mr. Gladstone's standing. But there was another class of legislative reforms which he was the man to have gone in search of. In one of his most recent articles he has given us a hint of a dream of this kind which was in his mind. He stated it thus:—"Our currency, our local government, our liquor laws, portions even of our taxation, remain in a state either positively disgraceful, or at the least inviting and demanding improvement." That programme of the further benefits which we should have owed to Mr. Gladstone was put aside by the giddiness of twenty-five or thirty constituencies at the last elections, but it will fittingly serve to give the finishing touch to our presentation of him in this paper. Liberals have, in fact, to thank him for offering more of reform and of benefit than the country would let him give it. Splendid as his achievements have been, he really had others in reserve.

Is it too late? is the question that naturally arises. Certainly there is no hope of having the five years of administration by him which we have lost since 1874. That is irretrievable; and if Mr. Gladstone felt then his growing years, and had a wish to finish other tasks apart from politics, he is no younger now; while the aims of his purposed leisure must have been greatly interfered with by his partial recall to affairs owing to the dangers to which freedom in Bulgaria and our own national credit were exposed. It is wholly a matter for Mr. Gladstone to decide. If the next elections go in favour of the Liberals, all the world knows that office is there for him to take or to leave. Earl Granville, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Hartington would, we need not say, be among the first even to urge it as far as it was right to do so, and the whole party would welcome him back to power with a shout of joy. Who knows? Mr. Gladstone's patriotism is great, and our financial muddle will, also, be very great about that time. Between the two he might be tempted; he may yet do us the final service of putting the national finances right again. It is, we repeat, wholly for him to say. Earlier in this paper a further word was promised on the subject of his retirement; but, upon second thoughts, it scarcely seems necessary. [Pg 414] Mr. Gladstone was too experienced in Parliamentary doings not to know that the Conservatives would take care to keep enough of their majority until time itself forced them back to the unwished-for hustings. He did his party not an atom of practical injury by retiring; rather, it was a good opportunity for giving a younger leader practice. It would be quite idle, on the other hand, to argue with his opponents for complaining that he did not retire enough. He has made speeches, they say; he has written articles in every organ there is; he has even republished previous writings. As we before said, they have themselves to blame for it in great measure: if they wanted Mr. Gladstone to stay in retirement, they should have carefully kept quiet. Instead of that they made a noise before his door, disturbing him in his studies. What more natural than that he should come out? He did so, and found that, disguised like harlequins in the flimsy bedizenment which they call Imperialism, they were playing high jinks with Britain's reputation and the chances of freedom for the oppressed in the East. It was too much for him; but if they complain of the number of the weapons he attacked them with, we know that it would have been impossible for him to please them there. They never have been satisfied on that score. What they really find fault with are the blows they got.

And there are more to come. Directly we shall have them complaining that he has chosen a constituency so far away as Scotland; the real fact being that they wish he had gone much farther still. They never are sincere with Mr. Gladstone; he cannot please them. We leave them anxiously listening for his approach again unto these shores, knowing very well that to their thinking they will hear his voice all too soon.

A Liberal.


Description is said to be only possible by comparing, and when one is asked to sketch Mr. Gladstone, how is it to be set about? His admirers will have it that he has been a very great Minister, so that if we adopt the comparative method, we ought to look high for standards. Shall we match him alongside Bismarck or Cavour? The latter, to give him precedence, stands renowned for building up his country in evil days, when every omen was against her. But Mr. Gladstone, succeeding to power when England was in the full tide of prosperity and at the height of fame, gave up her prospects, and would have acquiesced in her decadence. There is no likeness whatever between him and Cavour. Then take Bismarck. The great German Chancellor shares with the Italian Minister the glory of having widened [Pg 415] the bounds and raised the position of his land, and he stands now head and shoulders above all in the midst of the diplomatic world a very Colossus. But Mr. Gladstone is and has always been outside that world altogether. Prince Bismarck has his hand on all the springs of action, and will let pass no chance of exalting his country. Mr. Gladstone, we repeat, never made the slightest impression in the regions of diplomacy; Courts did not know him, foreign statesmen left him out of their reckoning of the men that had to be dealt with. The great international achievements for which he has alone been talked of have been the surrender of British territory and the paying down of English money lavishly to another State for preposterous claims. But it will be said that it is not fair to Mr. Gladstone to compare him to Prince Bismarck and Count Cavour, for they were men who found their country in unusual circumstances. Look, then, to names in our own history. Pitt must not be spoken of for the reasons just allowed in the other cases; but there are Canning and Palmerston. How does Mr. Gladstone look alongside them? He has himself more than once alluded to Canning, as if not unwilling to be thought to have received his mantle. It was, however, always only in connection with Greece that he spoke of Canning; but that Minister looked much farther than the Mediterranean. One would have thought that so fine a rhetorician as Mr. Gladstone would not have forgotten the famous phrase in which Canning claimed to have called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old. Lord Palmerston was without any such fine phrases, but in foreign affairs he acted boldly, though he had to fall back on a musty Latin quotation to describe it. Every Englishman, however, understood Latin when their Minister said, Civis Romanus sum. Yet neither of these Ministers at any part of their career lived in times more stirring than Mr. Gladstone has done, nor when the interests of England were more endangered. He has still later had magnificent opportunities, but he did worse than lose them.

From all this, it would seem that, whether we look abroad or at home, there is no possibility of describing Mr. Gladstone by hints of comparison with these historical personages. What is said in that way appears, in fact, to turn into contrast; which is, also, itself a mode of delineation, though not usually of the kind the chief object of it wishes. We can find no Minister to couple along with him as having deliberately despaired of his country. However, Mr. Gladstone is certainly great in some way, for although other nations while we were under his sway were gradually losing sight of England herself as well as of him, he was making plenty of noise all the time at home. If it should turn out, as we go on, that he was not a great Minister but a great orator, that would seem to account for both the things. If Bismarck and Cavour have made affairs, Mr. Gladstone has made speeches, beating them as much in that as they did him in the other respect. But it is not exactly the same thing to the countries the men represent.

[Pg 416] It is, therefore, under a humbler, more domestic aspect than that of this high supreme style of Minister which we have first tried that we must begin Mr. Gladstone's portraiture. The task may be divided into two portions. There is the opinion which we Conservatives hold of the general influence and effect he has had upon our national interests, in which we may be credited with at least trying to estimate his acts and measures on their merits; and, besides that, there is a judgment of him from a narrower party view, arising out of his historic relation to ourselves. We will take the latter first.

To hear Liberals talk, one might suppose that Conservatives had always cherished a special hatred against Mr. Gladstone simply for ceasing to be a Tory and becoming a Radical. That the Conservatives rather late in his career came to show much irritation against Mr. Gladstone is perfectly correct; but it was, as I hope to show as I go on, for very different reasons than simply because he had made one Conservative less and one Liberal more. A great political party has no such immortal animosities as that supposes: party feeling is not based on merely sentimental grounds. Both sides are used to losing men. It is the common fate of Parliamentary warfare. Now and then, some rather idle person who has time to waste in going back a long way in his recollections bethinks himself that Lord Beaconsfield was not always a Conservative; but we never yet heard of any one among the party challenging sympathy for him on the score that he had been hunted by the Liberals through half a century or so for having deserted them. Yet it will be admitted that Lord Beaconsfield has injured the Liberals more than ever Mr. Gladstone has done the Conservatives. What is the reason, then, of this difference of alleged treatment in the two cases? The answer may be given in half a sentence,—Lord Beaconsfield, alike when he was Mr. Disraeli and since, has always fought fair. That is enough in politics to make your opponents acquiesce in your being such; but Mr. Gladstone as his career developed surprised and puzzled everybody, his own friends included; and those who blame the Conservatives for, in the end, losing temper and showing exasperation, should bear in mind that he finally produced the very same effect upon the country at large.

It is worth while following this point a little further, for it would not be of much use attempting to sketch Mr. Gladstone if we are supposed to dislike him from some mere party instinct. Will anybody be good enough to tell us when this inscrutable emotion of hatred of Mr. Gladstone arose? Liberals are not supposed to be strong in history, but they have very short memories indeed if they have forgotten both their own career and his. Why, in 1852—that is, in the twentieth year of Mr. Gladstone's Parliamentary life—the Conservatives were offering him office, which was not refused by him with over-much promptness. For nearly fourteen years after that he was retained as the representative of the University of Oxford. It is, in fact, not yet very [Pg 417] much more than a dozen years since this victim of political persecution, and present champion of the Radicals, was quietly ensconced in a seat for what is sometimes spoken of as the head-quarters of Toryism. He has roved a good deal among the constituencies since, but he was then willing to have gone on remaining at Oxford, if his constituents had also been willing to have been made laughing-stocks by letting him remain. Surely a man who represented Tory electors until he was getting fast on for sixty could scarcely up to that point have been much hunted and worried for Liberal principles. To speak plainly, there never was so late a conversion made of so much histrionic use as this of Mr. Gladstone's. But though it has suited both his and his present party's ends, it rather puzzles plain people who have kept their recollections a little trim to think that if he lives on into senatorial decrepitude, he will never have sat for Radical constituencies anything like so long a time as he did for Conservative ones. For between thirty and forty years this Liberal ex-Premier was a Tory member.

In fact, a glance at the right honourable gentleman's wonderfully prosperous career will show that in the list of our public men he has of all others made the fewest, the briefest, the least sacrifices either for principle or party. There are very simple ways of testing it; Mr. Gladstone has not been out of office long enough for a man who was innocent of business prudence in his career. He has, in fact, reaped the official spoils of two parties, if not of three. The dates and appointments are on record for anybody to trace out. On the very face of it, a man who has served under Peel, Aberdeen, Palmerston, and Russell, and then come out as a full-blown Liberal Prime Minister himself, must of necessity be said to offer rather a miscellaneous career. His warmest admirer must admit that he has been either the most fortunate or else the most prudent of men; and, as we do not wish to be stingy in our recognition of his skill, we prefer to compliment him by attributing his great prosperity throughout so many years and under so many different chiefs to his prudence.

If this very hasty review of Mr. Gladstone's chronicle does not agree with the impression of him which is the prevailing one on the Liberal side, it is the one which the bare facts of his career would produce on every side if they could be seen without the misleading effect of his very fine words and exceedingly solemn attitudes. Very fortunately for him it is only the Conservatives who have a full and accurate recollection of Mr. Gladstone. They have necessarily observed him continuously from their own unshifting party position, and so have been able to perceive in a way that hardly was practicable to the Liberals, who were always shifting and struggling among themselves, how invariably and consistently his announcements of change of view have hit with the opportunities for improvement of his Parliamentary position. On every occasion, to the very moment, so soon as a Liberal question had fully ripened, Mr. Gladstone presented himself to pluck it. It was so with Reform, it [Pg 418] was so with Church Rates, it was so with University Reform, it was so with the Ballot, it was so with the spoliation of the Irish Church and the unsettling of the Irish landowners, and it is so with the County Franchise, and it will be so once more, if the Liberals ever get into power again, with the English Church and the English Land Laws. Mr. Bright, Mr. Miall, and all the Radicals have drudged for many a year for Mr. Gladstone, who, when all the outdoor work has been done, has always allowed himself to be persuaded to bring in the Measure just in the nick of time, and, by expounding it in a very fine speech, has robbed its actual originators of two-thirds of the credit of making it possible.

Luckily for the Conservatives, though he never had the courage to attack a question of the very first class himself in the way of initiative, he had an insatiable ambition for meddling with smaller ones, and by making vents in these ways for his restlessness and his ambition, he finally ruined all that his skilful prudence in the larger affairs had gained him, disgusting the country till it determined to get him off its hands at any price. Still, that is not just now the point in question.

Mr. Gladstone's so slowly passing through all the stages from Conservatism to Radicalism has had this effect,—that while all other public men of his standing have grown more or less antiquated in steady loyal service to their party, and by presenting a fixed if monotonous aspect to the public, this one Parliamentary personage kept a perennial freshness, simply by skilfully dividing his prolonged career into distinct periods and going on changing. Some political section has been always welcoming Mr. Gladstone newly into its ranks and to its spoils, for, as we have said, the two things unfailingly went together; and the shouts with which he was received were always strengthened by fainter murmurs of applause from other sections more advanced along the line, who hoped to receive him themselves later on. They did so. Really to each one of them he was a recruit from the last party. To the Palmerstonians he ought at the most to have been only a Peelite; to the Liberals at worst only a Palmerstonian. But by a surprising adroitness, it was always made to appear that in all his migrations from party to party, he joined each successive group as a new retreater from the Tories. It certainly was true in one sense; he was always going further away from them. But for all party purposes and reckoning, he had as much left them when he joined Palmerston as when he shook hands with Mr. Bright and took his place in front of the Radicals.

These are only a first handful of specimens of a certain unfairness in Mr. Gladstone's position and career from first to last, from which he has largely profited, and which very naturally irked his opponents, who have had to suffer its inconveniences. He has posed as a sort of political orphan left lonely in the Parliamentary world at the death of Peel, who has been persecuted by wicked Tories from one Chancellorship of the Exchequer to another, until they finally drove him into the Premiership, but all this time he was successfully seceding from them, though they [Pg 419] continued in pursuit. It must have been Mr. Gladstone's portentous earnestness of demeanour which has covered up from the general public a joke so huge and prolonged as this, preventing everybody from seeing that such a tale did not agree with his unprecedented prosperity. But if in these ways he has kept himself interesting to the country, and fresh and surprising for every group he has in rotation joined, both he and his changes have long been stale to the Conservatives. They are able to look along his whole track, and seeing him from behind, know him as a Peelite, a follower of Aberdeen, a Palmerstonian, a Russellite, and a Radical. They are debarred from applying his own name to the last stage, and calling him a Gladstonian. Strangely enough, and indeed very significantly, that term has never taken root in our politics. There really have never been any Gladstonians: no one ever was or ever will be called by that title. Mr. Gladstone will end his days and depart without founding any school; he will stand recorded only as the acceptor of office from those who did so, and the passer of other people's measures. But in political life a man who attains the first rank of conspicuousness without founding a line may fairly be suspected. It will be found that he has been too busy in a narrower way,—looking after not questions but himself. To that very small party, numerically reckoned, consisting of only one member, Mr. Gladstone has been consistently and untiringly faithful. He has challenged for it sympathy in all the ways to which his very fine oratory has lent itself, and he has not neglected the humbler art of perpetual advertisement, keeping it by means of the press and the platform ever before the public eye. But when he finally leaves us it is certain to vanish entirely.

Very likely some ardent Radical, whose mind is so full of having got Mr. Gladstone at last that he forgets, or perhaps never knew, how many grades and shades of politicians have in succession enjoyed him before, will say that in all this we are only railing at Mr. Gladstone's success. His success! In order to describe Mr. Gladstone, we had first to write retrospectively, take in his earlier phases, and to look generally at his whole history. In that retrospect, down to a late point in it, he was exceedingly prosperous; but we never meant to say that he had been very successful since the beginning of 1874. There is not the slightest need for any Conservative to feel bitter against Mr. Gladstone now on any grounds of personal envy. He has done them the greatest service of any public man for three generations; and at any time he might have individually prospered as much as he liked for them, if it had been possible for him to do it without injuring his country. It is to this more serious examination of his career that we now go.

Not that we propose to entangle ourselves in the minute details of it, for that is in no way necessary. We have already in part explained why we may, in such a sketch as this, drop out many years of his political life. For a great length of time Mr. Gladstone was only a Budget-maker. [Pg 420] It is true he made them for Governments that were not Conservative, but he still was considered nearly a Conservative outside his financial handicraft. And here, again, part of the explanation we earlier gave applies. There is not the slightest reason why any Conservative should pause long to consider Mr. Gladstone as the passer of the Ballot, or even as the disestablisher of the Irish Church and the interferer with the rights of landed property in Ireland. The only thing special to be said about him in connection with these things as distinguishing him from the ruck of Liberals would be, that he was a very late ex-Tory, and at the time a professed High Churchman. He somehow got the Liberals to let him write his name across every one of those measures so soon as it was seen that they would pass, and he has made the legislation in that way seem to be his; but the Conservatives know with whom they had really to deal in the inception and the pushing forward of those movements, and it was not Mr. Gladstone. The real men were Mr. Bright, Mr. Dillwyn, Mr. Miall, and those who for many a year worked with them while Mr. Gladstone was never heard of, never thought of, in connection with the matters they had always matured before he had anything to do with them.

Nor was it on account of these affairs that Mr. Gladstone's fall occurred when it came, which is another reason why it would be waste of time to discuss them in connection with him. Who is proposing to alter these things now that they have been fought out between the great parties of the State and decided? As a supplement to his Irish Land Bill, we now have the Irish peasants refusing to pay any rent at all: but in these days when a thing is done in our Parliament it is done. The Conservatives, in spite of the majority at their back, have never put forward a finger to touch those settlements, nor do they mean to do so; and yet not only our own country, but all Europe, and indeed realms farther away still, have been keenly aware that the Beaconsfield Ministry has been very busy for years undoing something that Mr. Gladstone had done.

What was this gigantic task, which was not the repealing of legislation, or the passing of statutes of any kind, but which required courage and effort more arduous than those things? There must have been some cause for the bursts of applause which have again and again echoed on our shores from all parts of the civilized globe at something that was going on. It was, we hasten to answer, the rehabilitation of England in the eyes of the world,—the restoration of her ancient power as a factor in the enforcement and administration of public right among the nations. Somehow, coincidently with Mr. Gladstone's prosperity as a Minister, England, his country, had sunk, and in exactly answering ratio, and was sinking lower and lower still daily. He was very famous, or at least very notorious, at home, but the renown of Britain abroad was clouding; and our people never will bear that, as history had shown before. This man, who at heart [Pg 421] was but a financier, and who ought in the fitness of things never to have risen higher in office than a Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose function it should have been to find funds for some one else as a Prime Minister capable of a policy in the higher international politics befitting an Empire, was conducting our foreign affairs in the spirit of a commercial traveller; willing to effect a little saving by giving up a group of islands in one part or a bit of territory in another, and to effect an economy at another time by backing out of a treaty. Though, at the same time, if anybody insisted, and there loomed, however distantly, a possibility of war, he would pay the money down in a hurry by millions, as he did in the Alabama case. We should have had all the world insisting very soon, making peace more costly than war itself, besides the shame of unjustifiable surrender.

But we were spared all this; though the undoing of the humiliation, as far as it had gone, has fully occupied Mr. Gladstone's successors ever since.

This is the great accusation which the Conservatives have to bring against Mr. Gladstone—that of having degraded the position of his country; and an arraignment more fatal than this cannot be made in the case of a chief Minister. It is not alone the Conservatives who make it. Did not Earl Russell, Liberal though he was, find enough English blood in his aged veins when writing his last book, to say that Mr. Gladstone had dragged the name of England through the mire? But it would not be quite accurate to put this forward as the full explanation of Mr. Gladstone's sudden tumble from office; for it was not until after that occurred that the bulk of people quite knew the whole extent of the injury he had worked in this respect. The Conservative leaders guessed it, but they knew more about foreign affairs than the rank and file of the nation. Everybody, of course, high and low, was aware that he had unasked given up the Ionian Islands because of some literary reasons which he had come upon in writing books about Homer, that he had surrendered territory in the San Juan Boundary Question, and that he had quietly gone to Geneva and paid America, not indeed all she asked,—for even with Britain's wealth the whole of the first modest request would only have been found with difficulty,—but he had counted down a sum that made Brother Jonathan's shrewd eyes twinkle with joy. The country, from these events following one another, had come to have a very uneasy feeling that somehow under his auspices everything was going against us abroad. Still it was only later that it was made fully apparent how completely England was effaced; not until the three Emperors had begun to settle the rearrangement of Eastern Europe, without so much as saying to Great Britain, "By your leave." There is difficulty when looking back now to prevent oneself from suffering some illusion in this respect; but it is a fact, and we may be glad of it, that Englishmen did not until it was roughly forced upon them suppose beforehand that their position had dwindled to quite so low an ebb.

[Pg 422] At the elections of 1874, there was no distinct foreign policy before the public, for though there were many on the Conservative side who sympathized with France in her adversity, and saw clearly that Germany's mutilation of her territory meant trouble in time to come, not a voice was raised in deprecation of our neutrality. But, for the matter of that, it may be just as correctly said that there was no matured domestic question before the country, for it will not be supposed that there was a single Tory any more than a Liberal who wished the Income Tax to be retained on his shoulders. It was hardly for proposing to do away with that impost that everybody voted so unanimously against Mr. Gladstone; they only did so at the polling-booths in spite of his proposing it, which somehow seems rather mysterious. If his opponents were not proposing to recall any of the recent legislation, and if there was no special question of foreign affairs pending, and if nobody had any desire not to be lightened of taxation, how was it, pray, that Mr. Gladstone was so ignominiously hurled from power? In reality, there is not the slightest difficulty about it—Mr. Gladstone was decisively rejected by his countrymen, not on any question of policy, either home or foreign, but because of the personal impression he had slowly but surely imprinted on their minds. The real issue before the country was whether it would have any more of Mr. Gladstone, and it said No.

It is a common artifice on the part of his apologisers to insinuate that he had wearied the nation by offering it too many things for its good. But neither individuals nor communities are much in the habit of refusing gifts; it is the one thing, and nearly the only thing, in this world for which there is an excellent reason whenever so strange a proceeding happens. There is another way of representing the matter, one much less complimentary but far more true—the country was sick of Mr. Gladstone. Even the sight of Mr. Lowe standing at his side with four millions of surplus in his hands was not enough to tempt them. The promise to abolish the Income Tax was the most tremendous bribe ever offered to the constituencies, but, to their credit, it did not corrupt them. They would not accept Mr. Gladstone any longer at any price whatever. The believers in democracy, and Mr. Gladstone in particular, according to some of his very latest reasonings, ought to have accepted this universal disgust as being a popular inspiration. However, they have done nothing of the kind, but avow that it was a public delusion, which they at first hinted would be temporary; but if the public is liable to delusions, and to fits of them which continue for seven or eight years at a stretch, for that is now the duration of this one, what becomes of these very radical gentlemen's democracy? For it is not really open to them to plead, though they will go on doing it, that the people's eyes were dazzled by a glitter of diplomatic success, and their blood infuriated by a skilfully aroused anti-Russian feeling. It is not open to them for a simple reason, but a very conclusive one: the elections came [Pg 423] before anything of this could have happened; and the elections themselves arrived with the suddenness they did owing to something which had preceded them—namely, a steady run of Ministerial defeats in the by-contests, wherever a vacancy occurred in a constituency. Mr. Gladstone avowed all this in the address with which he startled the Greenwich electors and the whole country, though he and his friends have never mentioned the fact since. It was for the purpose of putting all things right that the elections which put them all more wrong still were so unexpectedly ordered. It was not because of being intoxicated by the diplomatic triumph of Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury at Berlin—which did not occur till years after—that the constituencies rejected Mr. Gladstone. We have no wish to be unnecessarily impolite, but the true reason for it was that which we have named already—they had come not to like Mr. Gladstone. If we trace that fact backwards in a natural way, we shall find that one cause of it was that they felt the honour and the interest of England were not safe in his hands; but this was only one among other causes. It swelled afterwards into the biggest reason of all, and now practically includes all the others; but, at the moment, it was not actually known that the safety of England was about to be imperilled.

The voters were affected by other reasons. What were those other reasons? The public must have known them pretty clearly at the time, since it acted so promptly and decidedly upon them, and it, therefore, ought not to need very much recalling of them now, for the time, after all, is not so very long ago. But it may be as well to go into them a little, since it was through the incidents furnishing them that the general public was led to form the very same estimate of Mr. Gladstone which the Conservatives had held for about a score of years before. At last the popular judgment coincided with that of his Parliamentary opponents, and he fell from power. But any one who will give a moment's consideration to the cases of the Collier appointment, the Ewelme Rectory affair, and the issue of the Royal Warrant on purchase in the army, will see that we are right in affirming that Mr. Gladstone's ignominious expulsion from office was owing to moral rather than political causes. It stands recorded that this Minister, who had put religious professions in the front of his politics in a way novel to public life, had to defend his conduct over and over again in the House of Commons by quoting the mere letter of the law. Parliament became not unlike the Old Bailey when a legal wrangle is going on over the technicalities of an indictment; and the unwonted spectacle of Lord Chief Justices accusing a theological Premier of having somehow evaded a statute was not made any less unedifying by Mr. Gladstone showing great skill in being his own attorney. Everybody must admit that he certainly did that.

It is possible to recall each of the cases in very few words. An Act of Parliament had been passed with a view to strengthening the Judicial [Pg 424] Committee of the Privy Council, and, as this Court was one of Appeal, it stood to reason that those appointed to it to revise other Judges' decisions should have had judicial experience themselves. It was expressly provided in the Act that those to be raised to this Court should be already Judges. To the surprise of the whole country, Sir Robert Collier, well known as Mr. Gladstone's Attorney-General, and, therefore, conspicuously only a waiter for a judgeship, not a judge already, was announced as the filler of one of these vacancies, before half the readers of the newspapers knew that he had ceased to be Attorney-General. It turned out, however, that he was in reality a judge at the moment, and that he had been one for some few moments previously, having, in fact, sat on the bench of the Common Pleas for just two days. There is not space to follow Mr. Gladstone's wonderful reasoning, but it chiefly turned on a point so fine as this, that what the Act meant to stipulate was not experience, but status. In other words, that a man should be made a judge of one kind for five minutes, in order to be turned into one of another kind, just for the say of the thing. Amazed members of the Legislature which had passed the enactment protested that they were not so foolishly subtle as this, and that they had never, before Mr. Gladstone mentioned it, thought of any such distinction as that between status and experience.

But this was not the only instance in which he has told people what they had intended better than they knew, and all differently. In the Ewelme Rectory business he would have it that when a statute said Oxford it meant Cambridge, or at least that its specifying Oxford did not signify, or that it included Cambridge, or, in fact, might be construed to prescribe anything else which it did not say and which was contrary to what everybody had thought of it before. However, here, again, as the lawyers would otherwise have been troublesome, the technicality was found to have been formally complied with. The words of the enactment did really require that the man who was to be made rector of Ewelme parish should be a member of Oxford Convocation, and Mr. Harvey, Mr. Gladstone's friend, who had been educated at Cambridge, and who, until that living became vacant, had never dreamed of connection with Oxford, was made a member of the Convocation, in order to receive the living. Of course, Mr. Gladstone argued that Mr. Harvey's being a Master of Arts was enough, though the statute said nothing of that, and everybody else had thought it expressly stated a certain University where the Master of Arts was to come from.

But let us go on to the third case, that of the issue of the Royal Warrant abolishing purchase. Not a few of the Liberals who exulted at the success of the party measure had a misgiving at the way in which it was secured. It was felt to be a victory which could not be repeated, and one of a style which, if they who snatched it had been Conservatives, would have thrown the country into a convulsion. The most violent [Pg 425] act in the name of the Crown which the oldest man living in England has witnessed, was counselled by Mr. Gladstone. Because the Lords, in the exercise of the power which the Constitution gives them, were not willing instantly to pass his Bill for giving an entirely new social aspect to the army, he caused the Queen to do nothing short of superseding them entirely, and practically reduced the Constitution at a stroke to the Commons and the Crown. It is just now part of the tactics of the Liberals to protest against some imagined wish to bring in "personal rule." If any such preposterous design existed, it would be Mr. Gladstone's own act which would be fallen back upon for the precedent. The feeling which has best enabled the most thoughtful among Englishmen to understand the kind of shock which foreigners experience on the occurrence of one of the political earthquakes which they call on the Continent by the name coup d'état, was that which ran through the country when Mr. Gladstone announced that there was nothing for the Lords to discuss, that he had advised the Queen to issue a Royal Warrant. We had lost all recollection of the particular sensation, but he brought back just a twinge of it. Mr. Gladstone, however, can do Radical acts and then explain them historically. Once more we found ourselves all inextricably entangled in his casuistry. He now argued that the Royal Warrant had not been issued by exercise of prerogative, but in strict pursuance of statutory power, there being some Act of the Georges to that effect, which ordinary people had forgotten. It is not necessary to follow the thing further. In the end, Mr. Gladstone became too clever for the country. Even the dullest began to perceive that Mr. Gladstone could conscientiously do whatever he liked. The more subtly he argued, the more plain John Bull got puzzled.

It may, at first sight, seem tasking the public memory too much to ask people if they remember the tension there was in the political atmosphere towards the end of Mr. Gladstone's career. But a very great many will not have forgotten it. The political weather is so far like the other sort that it is only borne in mind for its badness; that, however, was a terrible season. At the last, Mr. Gladstone seemed to have got into the air, and he did not improve the climate. He may urge, certainly, that Mr. Lowe had made himself very obnoxious, that Mr. Ayrton had been found to be intolerable, and that the great trade of the publicans, with all its supporters, was in arms against Mr. Bruce. That is all true; the country disliked each one of these his chief colleagues. But neither Mr. Lowe's hard cynicism, nor Mr. Ayrton's dogmatic inæstheticism, nor Mr. Bruce's stolid mechanical interference, stirred the large keen dissatisfaction which Mr. Gladstone's own incomprehensibility in the end did. He gave men's consciences a shock, and none of the others affected to feel so deeply as that: it was only he who had stood forward as a political moralist, and then set everybody by the ears discussing his conduct. It was the same outside Parliament and [Pg 426] within it. Everybody was arguing Mr. Gladstone; nobody could make him out, nobody felt safe, or could imagine what was coming next. If the atmosphere had but been charged a little more with him, England would not have been worth living in. Luckily the elections came, and the air was cleared.

But if in the more exaggerated instances we have above spoken of, the general public became aware of a certain obliquity, an unreliability, a dissatisfied restlessness, an imperiousness in Mr. Gladstone, the Conservatives had been more or less continuously aware of those qualities for many years. They, as we said earlier, have had to observe the right hon. gentleman closer, more continuously, and it would be easy for any one of them who is of middle age to give from his own memory a string of instances, just the same in kind as those above, though not so broadly striking, beginning much earlier in his career, and coming down much later. Very recently, Lord Salisbury at Manchester recalled Mr. Gladstone's dealings with his Oxford constituents in reference to the disestablishment of the Irish Church. But his lordship courteously spared his opponent the details. Has the world forgotten the famous letter to Dr. Hannah, bearing the date of June, 1865, written, as Mr. Gladstone himself with unlooked-for naïveté admits in his "Chapter of Autobiography," for the appeasing of doubts? He in it asserted, first of all, that the question was "remote and apparently out of all bearing on the practical politics of the day;" second, he avowed that he was probably going "to be silent" on the topic; third, he said that "he scarcely expected ever to be called on to share in such a measure;" and, as his finishing words, spoke of it as "a question lying at a distance he could not measure." These were far too many causes for not doing a thing, and the Conservatives accordingly began to look out. In 1869, Mr. Gladstone disestablished the Irish Church. The "remoteness" and the "distance which was not measurable" somehow came to be packed within these two dates,—1865-9. What had so hurried matters? Well, one can only recall what had happened in the interim, and among the events there had been these two occurrences—he had been expelled from Oxford and rejected by South Lancashire. The like suddenness attended his conversion on the subject of the Ballot. After half a lifetime of opposition, he one fine morning announced that it must pass, hardly a hint of warning having been given beforehand.

But his whole career has shown this suddenness of advance, at distinct periods, which, as we have said, always coincided with the brightening of the prospects of the respective agitations. It is true, as is earlier pointed out, that he took something like a quarter of a century to travel the ground between the Conservative starting-point and the Radical position, but the length of time was not owing to his creeping between the bounds; he has [Pg 427] traversed it at successive leaps, standing still between, and, at the places where he remained stationary, there was always the warm shelter of office. This style of progress has characterized him down to the present moment. As late as 1874 he told a deputation that he did not consider the question of the County Franchise ripe. There has been a good deal of very indifferent weather since then; but whether or not the field crops have matured, it seems now that the agricultural labourer has been growing fast. Mr. Joseph Arch has been the sun that has shone upon him, and Mr. Gladstone, as usual, is quite ready to reap the harvest. Examples might be multiplied manifold. Take the boasted case of the Liberal surplus, of which we have never ceased to hear—just as if Mr. Lowe and Mr. Gladstone had between them coined the money. Its history, stated in three words, was this: Mr. Lowe had mulcted the public in an unnecessary twopence of Income Tax, and, instead of shamefully confessing the incompetency it showed in a Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented himself before the constituencies, on the eve of the elections, with his hands full of gold, and with the air of presenting it to them.

Mr. Gladstone, great financier as he is, was not above profiting by his subordinate's miscalculation. Instead of administering a rebuke, as a good journeyman might have been expected to do to a bad apprentice, he patted Mr. Lowe on the back. Indeed, in the Greenwich address, when he so magniloquently spoke of the money being given back in the shape of abolishing the Income Tax, he seemed to take some credit to himself.

It will be beginning, perforce, to dawn upon the reader that this was a Minister very difficult to be dealt with by an Opposition. If we had space in this paper, a part of the task of sketching Mr. Gladstone would be to point out how injuriously he has confused the demarcation of parties; how unscrupulous he has been in seeking allies which on no principle of fair classification belonged to him. It may be nothing that he can half apologize for Irish Obstructionists—the Liberals have always exploited Irish members. But this very high Churchman, who clings to a tenet so ridiculous in the eyes of Dissenters as apostolical succession, can figure in Dr. Joseph Parker's chapel, and betray a close and not uncomplimentary knowledge of the trust-deed of the Rev. Newman Hall's congregation. This austere gentleman, who, when inquiring into the "Theses of Erastus" (see his article), finds out that moral offences are at the root and source of all heresy, has a kindly word for such free-thinkers as happen to be also political leaders of the working men—Mr. Bradlaugh, for example. This objector to divorce, on such stupendously elevated grounds as that we are all members of a mystical body, and who cannot bring himself to allow more than a civil marriage to a deceased wife's sister, mingles in [Pg 428] the ruck of Radicals. But if he has what they must think ecclesiastical crotchets, he always manages them with most skilful prudence. If he has to satisfy his most private feelings by bringing in no fewer than six resolutions in more or less opposition to the Public Worship Bill, he can withdraw them again. But was this the gentleman to champion Radicals and Dissenters? An Opposition which had to keep its own consistent lines, and which was closely restricted as to its allies, was at a perpetual disadvantage with one whose own opinions, subtle and complicated as they might be, cut him off from nobody who could be of aid.

Fortunately the country itself, at a certain rather tardy point, rallied its patriotism in that spontaneous way which always practically reinforces the Conservative party. The "Alabama" claims gave those who did not meddle much in politics their first shock, while for more thoughtful persons it brought back a reminiscence of the surrender of the Ionian Islands; and when, later, the public saw him stand tamely by while Russia tore up the Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of Paris, every student of our history knew that Mr. Gladstone's fate was sealed. The nation, stirred by arousings of the deeper instincts of the English character, at last reckoned with him on general grounds—dislike of his personal demeanour, and dread of what he was bringing on the country. It refused to be won either by the finest oratory or the prospect of reduced taxation.

The Conservatives came into power on the highest tide of popular feeling which living Englishmen have witnessed. But the change was too late to prevent mischief; Russia, encouraged by England's effacement during Mr. Gladstone's sway, had matured her further plans, and had already put her secret intrigues into motion. The Treaty of San Stefano showed plainly what her plan was, and just as clearly does everybody not blinded by party feeling now know that to Russia's amazement, and amidst the surprised and grateful admiration of the whole civilized globe, the present Ministry have thwarted that plan and made England again safe and famous. It would be a waste of time to retrace the details: a summary of them is to be found in Lord Salisbury's Manchester speech. What alone further concerns us here is the manner in which Mr. Gladstone has borne himself in Opposition. We have already seen how he did so as a Minister. It was understood, indeed, that he had retired, with something which was meant to pass for dignity, though to the eyes of the nation there was never anything which was not sulk which had so much the look of it. However, on the plea that something had happened in the world, he was quickly back again in front, elbowing Lord Hartington aside. Speeches, in Parliament and out, articles in every magazine, republication in pamphlet and volume, letters to everybody, which, practically, meant to all the newspapers: there never was such an active resuscitation of one who had so publicly [Pg 429] become politically defunct. It is, however, not for coming to life again that we find fault with Mr. Gladstone, for, in truth, we always expected it.

Our complaint is simply this, that if such a style of opposition as he has resorted to became habitual, the government of the country would be made impossible. No means were left untried to make Russia hope, and other nations fear, that Lord Beaconsfield had not the nation at his back, and, when owing to this encouragement, Russia showed obstinacy, and it was necessary to risk something by exhibiting boldness, that very necessity was sought to be turned into a reproach. Mr. Gladstone's own tactics made it imperative that in the matter of Cyprus, and some other negotiations, secrecy should be observed, and the Government was charged with acting unconstitutionally, as if constitutional usage imposed no limits on the Opposition, or as if those limits had not been transgressed. Just so, again, in the Afghan war. If Lord Northbrook had acted with spirit years before, that war would never have been necessary; but that trifling fact Mr. Gladstone overlooked, he and the Duke of Argyll making it appear that Lord Lytton had been at great pains to get himself and his Government into a difficulty. Why Mr. Gladstone has had so little to say about the Cape war is a mystery, which may be explained some day; all that can now be said of it is that it shows a striking inconsistency. Luckily his efforts, though his industry was gigantic, have failed, and even he must be now aware that his renewal of them, though we suppose it must go on, having been arranged so long and announced so pompously, is a trifle late, with the Cape war ended, our troops in Cabul, those of Austria at Novi Bazar, and checkmated, scolding Russia gnashing her teeth at Germany. However, no doubt we shall have some very fine speeches, proving that nothing of this ought to have happened, or that it won't last long, or that the Beaconsfield Administration did not bring it about, or any thing else, just as reasonable, for fine words can be arranged in many different ways by a practised orator.

What, then, we may finally ask, was the secret of Mr. Gladstone's success so long as he was prosperous, and what was the explanation of his fall when it so suddenly arrived? The thrifty skill of calculation in estimating the growth of questions which his whole career so irresistibly points to was spoken of early in this sketch; but a man, no matter how judicious in the management of his own approaches to a party, cannot impose himself upon it. The Liberals, on the successive occasions, welcomed Mr. Gladstone, and did so gladly, never making his very late conversions a reproach. Its leaders were more vociferous in hailing him at each renewed arrival one stage farther on than were the rank and file, though some of them, as the thing was repeated, must have been struck with the unfailing punctuality of his approach. Not that we are professing to sympathize with these gentlemen. If it satisfied them that whenever they had upset a Government, be it that of Aberdeen [Pg 430] or of Palmerston, the inevitable Mr. Gladstone always emerged out of the wreck, just a little more Liberal than the day before, ready to take the first pick of places in the new Cabinet, all well and good. But the fact was that his arrival always was a convenience, for, no matter how the sections differed among themselves, the rallying round Mr. Gladstone as a further seceder from Toryism was a proceeding in which they could all join, and it gave them, again and again, an appearance of unanimity and cohesion. This was, in fact, his great function, and in it he has been very valuable to the party. Besides, though so late and seemingly slow in politics, he had from the first been great, and at the outset even precocious, in finance; and, further, he was a wonderful orator, even quicker in debating than Mr. Bright. Such a personage, so largely prudent and so highly gifted, was sure to succeed, and to do so for a long time; but he was also certain to fail in the end, and that completely.

His temperament made that nearly certain. He was always too busy making speeches, or writing for the press, or answering letters, to be any power in social life. A strange kind of semi-recluse, but combining with bookworm habits a passion for speechifying and for using the penny post, was not likely to conciliate London, and he never did. By-and-by he was railing at the Clubs, because they did not agree with him; and then he had next to appeal from the metropolitan journals to the superior politicians and brighter wits who preside over the provincial newspapers. All this prognosticated failure. Even his special gifts and the kind of successes which fell to him turned into the means of helping it. His turn for figures not unnaturally made immediate economy his great object, forgetful of the larger connection in such a land as ours between an imperial position in the world and the preservation of our commerce, and overlooking also the costliness of reasserting our position when a crisis came; while his ready eloquence, having no longer open to it the old patriotic themes, had to expend itself in the adornment of British abnegation, and the excited applause given to his rhetoric was mistaken by him for assent to his views, till he was amazed to find himself suddenly quite out of accord with the nation, and falling, he knew not why, headlong from power.

Even to this hour he seems never to have had the least misgiving that the man who could speak with such complacency of the trading supremacy of the world passing to America (see his article on "Kin Beyond the Sea"), and who could urge as a reason for our not caring to interfere in Egypt that it would be the egg of a North African empire (see his article on "Aggression on Egypt and Freedom in the East"), was not the man to be England's Minister. But the country had found it out even before he wrote those articles; his threatening his countrymen with the calamity of finding another empire on their hands, in the only part of the world yet remaining [Pg 431] to be explored and civilized, has only proved that they were right, and will not terrify Englishmen.

But a fluent orator has always left to him a kind of gambler's hope of retrieving everything by talking. Mr. Gladstone is going to alter everything by making a dozen or two of speeches in Scotland. Are these Midlothian harangues to be longer than that made at Greenwich, or more numerous than those uttered in Lancashire? They may be as fine as they will for anything it signifies to Conservatives, if the result is only again the same as on the other occasions, and it is hardly likely that he will persuade Englishmen now amidst their returning renown to despair of the future of England.

A Conservative.

[Pg 432]


Histoire de l'Ancien Régime, par Henri Taine. Paris.
Histoire de la Revolution française, par Henri Taine. Paris.

When De Tocqueville,in his celebrated work upon the Ancien Régime and the Revolution, had described the downfall of the Bourbon monarchy, he ended with these words:—"I have now reached the threshold of the great Revolution; on this occasion I shall not cross it, but perhaps I may soon be in a position to do so, and then I shall no longer consider its causes, but its nature, and shall finally venture to pass judgment on the society that has proceeded from it."

Death prevented this admirable inquirer from accomplishing his purpose, a loss to the historical literature of Europe for ever to be regretted, and certainly not least by the author who has now undertaken to fill up the blank, and complete De Tocqueville's projected task—the description, namely, of modern France as the outcome of the immense transformation which the Revolution brought upon the Old French State. The fundamental principles which appear so clearly and sharply in Tocqueville's development are prominent in Taine's; the activity of the earlier author prepared the ground for the later to build on. But we must admit that Taine's work is pre-eminently independent, and his descriptions more striking, broad, and richly coloured than those of his precursor, while the material contents of his work are often different. But what, in spite of this, constitutes the resemblance between the two men is, their having for basis a common conception both of the State and what it presupposes, and of the historian and his task. It is the very opposite of the manner of thinking entertained in the eighteenth century which, without any heed to the peculiar character of the necessities of a given people, was bent on constructing, according to simple rules of reason and natural law, the best State for all time. Taine, in a very striking manner, declares himself free from such an error. "In 1849," he observes, [Pg 433] "I was an elector, and had to take part in the naming of a large number of Deputies. Therefore it was necessary not only to decide as to persons, but as to theories as well; I was required to be Royalist or Republican, Democrat or Conservative, Socialist or Bonapartist, and I was nothing of the kind—nay, I was nothing at all, and envied those who had the luck to be something. These worthy men built a constitution as they would a house, on the most ornamental, most new, or most simple plan; a row of models stood ready for choice, a baronial castle, a burgher's house, a workshop, a barrack, a phalanstery, a cottage, and each said of his favourite model: 'That is the only proper dwelling, the only one a rational man would inhabit.' To me this seemed an utter mistake. A people, as I thought, may indeed be able to say what house they admire, but some experience is needed to teach them what house they need, whether it be commodious and lasting, stands the weather well, and harmonizes with the customs, occupations, and fancy of its occupant. We here in France have never been content with our political erections; in the course of eighty years we have pulled them down and rebuilt them thirteen times. Other nations have acted differently, and found their advantage in so doing. They have preserved an old, substantial building, enlarged, built around, and beautified it according to their needs, but never attempted to build an ideal house at one stroke, according to the rules of pure reason. It would therefore appear that the sudden invention of an entirely new, and at the same time suitable and durable constitution is an undertaking that transcends human capacity. The political and social form which a people permanently assumes is no matter of choice, but fixed by its character and its past. It must be suited to its idiosyncrasy, even in the minutest points, or it will crack and fall. Therefore we must know ourselves before we can discover what the proper constitution for us is. We must invert the accustomed method, and first form to ourselves a picture of the nation before we sketch a constitution. At the same time this is a far harder and wider task than the one hitherto in favour. What inquiries into past and present, what labour in all domains of thought and action, are needed to understand with precision and completeness the nature and growth of a great people through centuries! But it is the only way to avoid putting out first empty discussions and then incoherent constructions; and, as regards myself, I shall not think of a political opinion until I have learnt to know France."

From this rejection of the rationalistic State theory, it follows, of course, that the author declines the style of historical writing that corresponds with it. We all know how parties who contended in the course of the Revolution have gone on attempting to justify their historical representation of it—Emigrants and Feuillans, Girondists and Montagnards, Bonapartists and Communists. They all knew exactly at the beginning of their historical labours what the conclusions arrived at [Pg 434] would be. Their own party had the ideal of the only healthy State cut and dry, and hence the sentence upon companions, allies, and enemies was pronounced beforehand. The desirable aspects of the Revolution were owing to the activity of that party, the undesirable to the worthlessness of its adversaries. The study of isolated facts only awoke real interest in so far as it sharpened the perception of the main point—our party is right, all others are wrong. To this disposition of mind more than to any other hindrances we may attribute the small advance made, up to the middle of our century, in the knowledge of facts, in the history of the Revolution; this is what explains the else inexplicable phenomenon that, spite of the large interest felt in the period, no history of Louis XVI. drawn from authentic documents has as yet been written. For that even the books of De Tocqueville and Taine, spite of the strength of their authors' intellect and the wealth of their material, have not afforded us this, we shall soon convincingly see.

Both these works, however, are invaluable preparations for the writing of such a history. With firm and decided political principles of their own, both authors have determined to serve no party, but knowledge only. Both desire to know men and circumstances before they judge of the political experiments made. Both are full of the spirit of the old saying: "Human affairs are neither to be wept over nor laughed at, but to be understood." It is only when we know the soil and the seed from which the Revolution sprang that we can understand its nature and working, and only from the understanding of the whole can we pronounce upon the details with which factions have hitherto concerned themselves in endless and unprofitable debate. We will illustrate our meaning by a contrary procedure. I have not unfrequently heard the question: "How can Taine, whose first volume reveals more fully than any previous work the utter corruption of the Ancien Régime, place the Revolution in his second in an equally unfavourable light? If the old state were so completely good for nothing, the French were perfectly right in utterly destroying it." Accordingly, there has been no want of critics who, after the appearance of the first volume, declared the author to be a thorough Liberal, and, after the second, in deep disappointment, proclaimed him a thoroughly reactionary politician. There are, indeed, certain passages that might lead to such a conclusion, certain inconsistencies do appear, but on the whole it is self-evident, from an historical standpoint, that out of so evil a condition as the first volume paints the dark pictures of the second must needs grow. Rather should we have had cause to wonder if from a diseased root there had sprung a healthy tree. The men of the Revolution had grown up on no other soil and in no other atmosphere than that of the Ancien Régime; it was under it that their notions had arisen, their passions been fostered, and their ideal formed; it was there that their nature had received its stamp and their strivings their direction; and if all relations were dislocated, political feeling perverted, all portions of the people filled with [Pg 435] bitter hatred against the State and each other, how should pupils in such a school amidst the final shock of catastrophes show themselves men of ripe experience, practical wisdom, and determined energy? He who has once taken in this simple truth will be much inclined to a mild judgment of individual men and parties; at all events, he will not be able abruptly to take sides either for or against the Ancien Régime or the Revolution. For one thing will have grown clear to him, that the Revolution was not the destroyer alone, but the undeniable offspring, of the old condition of things.

That a work of Henri Taine's displays literary ability of the first order there is no need to say. His representation of events is grounded on most industrious study; unpublished documents of all kinds are cited, as well as printed works, and among the latter we have not only French, but foreign authorities—English more especially—while German are hardly so much as noticed. At all events, the mass of thoroughly explored material is enormous, and our historical knowledge is frequently extended, rectified, and cleared thereby. We shall attempt to follow the general line of thought running through the book, and now and then to controvert it on certain points.

It will be remembered to what pregnant results Tocqueville's inquiries led. The centralized government of France is by no means a creation of our century, but a production of the Ancien Régime. Since the days of Richelieu, ministers of finance and their intendants and delegates had taken the exclusive charge of police of every kind, public works and plans, the economic and spiritual welfare of the people. The elementary principles of political liberty and parliamentary constitution, of independent local administration and commercial freedom, were destroyed thereby. Spiritual and temporal magnates had been almost sovereigns in the districts in which they fulfilled the duties of government, preserved internal and external peace, protected local interests, and consequently imposed taxes and corvées upon their dependents, while often successfully resisting royal aggression—all these magnates were now as unconditionally as the mass of the people subjected to the royal bureaucracy and forced out of all political activity—thenceforth, as hated parasites, they had to live at the cost of the working people. The King, therefore, assembled them at his Court, where, in compensation for their loss of liberty and honour, pensions and presents—always at the cost of the people—were heaped upon them. Thus the popular hatred went on intensifying with every generation, and was at length the source and essential element of the great Revolution.

It is on this thesis that Taine bases his representation of the subject. Privileges were once the reward of political service done by the heads and leaders of the people in their own territories. Then, the landlord lived in the midst of his dependents—his own interest was identical with their welfare, he was linked with them by natural and traditional ties, and appeared as their powerful advocate whenever the State [Pg 436] attempted any arbitrary and oppressive measure. Now bureaucratic government divided the landowners from the people, and by the unjustified continuance of their privileges set the two henceforth in opposition. For because the nobleman paid no taxes, the burgher and farmer had to make up the deficit. Because he retained the right of chase, his game had to be fed on the crops of his tenants. If a not inconsiderable number of the higher middle classes gained the special privileges of nobility, the burthens of the rest of the people were only increased thereby. The author has rendered us praiseworthy service by exposing the extent of privileges and feudal rights on one hand, and of the increase of taxes and duties on the other, more fully and precisely than any other writer has done. Thorough investigation has brought out a still more appalling condition than had been imagined. After the State, the Church, and the landlord had received their rates, the share of the farmer in the proceeds of his land never amounted to more than a half, and often his taxes rose to eighty per cent. of his income. On the other hand, the privileged classes paid at least a fifth less than the just proportion, and knew how to obtain on a yearly average at least a hundred millions in the shape of presents, pensions, &c. With increasingly few exceptions, there was no more thought of any care to be taken of the lower classes by the higher. Prelates and magnates streamed towards Versailles; all that the peasants knew of them was from their unmerciful agents coming for rent and taxes. Thus France fell asunder into two worlds without, unfortunately, any reciprocal knowledge or common interest, divided by contempt and hatred—worlds that lived on side by side, the smaller in wealth, enjoyment, elegance, and luxury, and, above all, brilliant idleness; the larger in poverty, wretchedness, ignorance, savagery, and, above all, in ever-growing and devouring bitterness of heart—a condition such as no other nation of Christian Europe had ever before come to.

Now all this is perfectly correct, and Taine proves it by a mass of authentic testimony: nevertheless it may be observed that it is only a part of the truth, and by this one-sidedness the author has been led into error.

I am now alluding to the first part of this exposition, that which treats of the centralization of the government in the hands of royal officials as the deepest root of all this mischief. The worst side of this centralization had been incontrovertibly exposed by De Tocqueville, but none the less his representation was unfair and unjust, because it made no mention of the brighter side. No one can contest that the political inactivity of men of all positions in a system that referred the general interests of France to a bureaucracy, demoralized the higher classes and left the lower ignorant and inexperienced. Still the historian should not forget the actual achievements of this great bureaucracy. Under Colbert's guidance it created the civic order and economical beginnings of modern France. It, for the first time in France, rendered throughout [Pg 437] a century a burghers' war an impossible thing, and it stimulated internal traffic by roads and canals, which gave rise to countless industrial and commercial undertakings. Later, under Turgot and Necker, it waged, on behalf of the people, war against the pressure of privileges, thought primarily of reform and progress, and saw with bitter regret the defeat of its popular efforts by the opposition of the nobles. Tocqueville himself tells how the Liberal parties before the Revolution thought more of reforms than liberties—that is to say, they expected the improvement of their condition from a further strengthening of the Monarchy. It came to a Revolution first, however. The Monarchy, wielded by the feeble hand of Louis XVI., was unequal to the task; then privileges fell for ever, but after ten years monarchical centralization arose anew in order a second time to satisfy the needs and inclinations of the French people throughout three generations. It seems therefore a mistake to paint this institution so out and out black. We may lament that it has not merely done nothing to educate the French in political liberty, but has as much as possible stifled liberty and the very sense of it among them. But how without it, under the circumstances that succeeded to the religious wars and the Fronde, anything like a positive constitution ever could have arisen in France, De Tocqueville does not say. We are indeed amazed when Taine, in his enumeration of the privileged classes as those luxurious idlers, those once political servants who had now renounced all political influence, numbers, as third with the clergy and nobility, the King—the head of that Government, which was only too zealous in working, and thereby drew all the power of the State to itself and excluded all others from care for the common weal. Here there is an evident contradiction, nor is it any way cleared up by the circumstance that personally Louis XV. vied in indolence and debauchery with the worst of his courtiers, or that his unfortunate successor spent much of his time and energy in Court etiquette and the chase. For the reign of Louis XVI. was from first to last spent in efforts, by the setting aside of feudal privileges, alike to strengthen the Crown and promote the good of the people, and in no case can it be more incorrect to look upon the Crown as a devouring parasitical growth upon the body of the State. This brings me back to my former remark: had Taine instead of or by the side of his picture of society under the Ancien Régime written the history of its last monarch, most assuredly he would have avoided this misconception.

But he admirably describes how the brilliant and empty position of the higher class led step by step to ruin. These distinguished personages had no earnest and strenuous activity; to be civil officials appeared to the majority of them below their dignity. They adopted the army as a mere sphere of chivalrous adventure, for even there, there was no question for them of rigid discipline; they left the drilling and care of their troops to subalterns and sergeants. Bishops and abbots drew immense revenues, and gallantly offered their devotion to [Pg 438] fair dames, but as to divine services and cure of souls, they were the affair of needy priests and hungry vicars. The only field for their ambition and interest was the Court, the salon, good society. To shine there was the object of their distinguished lives. And as the French people have ever been largely endowed with grace and esprit, these efforts resulted in a perfection of personal appearance, a virtuoso-ship of social intercourse, a fixed and yet highly elastic code of bon ton, such as the world never saw before or since. Until then the first class of a great nation had never been known to make the formation of an exquisite society its highest, nay, its only life-purpose, to subordinate and sacrifice mental activity, moral strength, and individuality of character to the promotion and claims of this cultus. Here the final end of existence was enjoyment in all imaginable degrees, and thought and action were rigidly directed to it. That the greatest part of life should be spent in society was the most pressing requirement of politeness, the reciprocal recognition without which all society becomes unendurable. The conventional forms in which this recognition clothed itself became the law of this great world, and the consequences were felt on all sides. Any appearance of individual peculiarity or opinion came to be held unfitting; to be other or better than the rest was an offence against manners. Equally forbidden was the manifestation of any strong passion, a thing by its very nature opposed to the sway of conventionality. Vice therefore was excused if it presented itself gracefully, and almost honoured if it brought a startling and exciting variety into the monotony of daily life. Mental enjoyments were as welcome as sensual, provided they could be had without trouble or labour, for the aim was not to be informed, but amused, and so any kind of knowledge was good, with the exception of the tedious. Hence it followed that all mental acquirement was estimated not by the worth of its content but the excellence of its form: abstract intelligence in the service of enjoyment, such was the motto of this society. Genial originality, unconscious creative power, native vigour, were thoroughly antipathetic there, or only tolerated in so far as they made themselves subservient to the ruling mood.

A further consideration of how essentially these characteristics of good society tended to strengthen and sharpen the revolutionary theories of its deadly foes, here becomes instructive. The development of this process may indeed be looked upon as the salient point in Taine's work, for often as the French literature and philosophy of the eighteenth century have been treated of, I know of no earlier author who with such extensive material and penetrating insight has clearly brought out the continuous reciprocal action of circumstances and theories, and thus gained an unalterable scale for the measurement of both by history. Taine begins, as is just, with the mighty impetus given to natural science since the middle of the seventeenth century throughout Europe, by which a way was opened for an utterly new view of the world and of men, in opposition to the speculative and theological conceptions of the Middle Ages.

[Pg 439] Next comes under consideration the prevalence of the inductive method, the rejection of all dogmatic assumption, the repugnance to all intuitive ideas, the proclamation of observation and experiment as the only sources of verifiable knowledge. These principles having been at once unconditionally acknowledged in the sphere of natural science, the next step was to apply the tone of thought they had engendered to the phenomena of spiritual and social life, and here also to demand thorough investigation by the one true authority—criticism. Whatever the consequence of this investigation might in particular cases be, the very fact that it had been demanded, that the right of the existing, as such, was denied, that the authority of tradition was subjected to that of critical reason—this betokened a new epoch in the world's history, and opened out possibilities of hitherto undreamed-of progress in politics and religion, State and Church, material and spiritual culture. It is now plain that if the inductive method can lead to such positive results, its application should be thorough and universal. No naturalist delivers a general law as to the life of an organism before he has considered its origin, existence, and decay in all their stages, compared it with its like, separated it from its unlike; for it is just through the discovery and recognition of the eminently special that analysis leads him to the comprehension of universal truth. And according to this same rule, in order to arrive at a just and practicable idea of reform for any State, a great mass of special observations by technically practised and prepared eyes would have been required; legal, economical, and historical inquiries made; the peculiarities of individuals and peoples, of the epoch and stage of culture, must have been known; the not merely personal but collective functions of human nature in their bases and action investigated: for only when all this had been accomplished could it be asserted that the organism of the State and its laws had been dealt with after the manner of a genuine naturalist, and that we were now in a condition to judge of single actualities according to these laws.

How came it that in the France of the eighteenth century the very opposite occurred—that politicians, stimulated by young natural science, should from the very first turn their backs upon the inductive method, and evolve the future State rationalistically, according to a few abstract principles?

Taine convincingly shows the reason of this: it was chiefly the influence of fashionable society upon literature which led to this fatal tendency.

The highest circles in Paris and Versailles, in their brilliant but idle existence, were, as we have seen, as intent upon mental as sensual excitement, and therefore prepared to open their doors to every littérateur who could satisfy this demand. Now, owing to the actual structure of society in France, the writer who did not choose merely to devote himself to a few professional subjects had no other public than this distinguished class. They and they alone were in a position to secure him praise, honours, and a certain income, therefore it was most natural [Pg 440] that the writer should conform to requirements upon the satisfaction of which his literary career was so absolutely dependent. We have now to inquire what were the characteristics of the prevalent tone of thought among the highest class. First a horror of all thoroughness, all enduring and laborious perseverance, all deep earnestness and spiritual recollection. For all this was the very opposite of enjoyment and diversion, it was a falling into the deadly sin of tediousness. It was desirable, indeed, to have much and varied knowledge, but rapidly and lightly, by vivid and pungent discussion, to reach the quintessence of the most interesting points and conclusions. Consequently the author's productions became restless, many-sided, and superficial. The mass of information in every department of knowledge which Voltaire, for instance, had at his disposal was immense; but the working out and application of it were strongly hasty, aphoristic, and frivolous. To this was added the dislike the public of the time had to any individual peculiarity, its tendency to force all personalities into one conventional form—an effort equally fatal to poetic creation and to the historical sense. For such men as these the world was comprehended in what they called the great world; they had lost the power of imagining that there was or ever had been an existence outside of it and absolutely unlike it; or if in any particular case the astounding fact could not be entirely concealed, it was understood that among cultivated persons it could never be given any importance. Even on the stage it was no longer considered becoming that peasants or labourers, a Peruvian or Iroquois, should speak in their own natural manner; they were all alike rendered polite, sententious, and fluent as their distinguished audience. Each local and individual tone was rubbed away, every person of the drama was but a mouthpiece for the eighteenth-century eloquence of the author. As with the drama, so with other literature. Taine correctly observes that if we read an English romance of the period, we have before our eyes a section of the English people; but a French one, though widely varying in garb, contains invariably a picture of a French salon, and that only. In presence of so universal a mood as this, how could any one come to the study of the State by means of difficult and distant researches on historical ground? Montesquieu did it, but he remained solitary among his contemporaries, won much celebrity, but exercised very little influence. The other reformers used quickly to turn over the pages of histories in order to find piquant quotations for some ready-made theory; as, for instance, the ambition of priests, the falsehood of diplomatists, the insatiability of princely greed. As to the complicated task of judging any individual State and its constitution according to its climatic and geographic conditions and its historical antecedents, with the exception of Montesquieu, no man dreamt of that. The public, with whom the decision lay, did not require anything of the kind, nay, would have repaid the severe toil with disapproval. It placed, as we have before said, far more stress on a [Pg 441] pleasant form than an instructive purpose, cared but little for any subject in itself, but only as affording material for the most intelligent, yet at the same time most comprehensible and exciting conversation. In debate no trace of previous knowledge won by personal effort was pre-supposed; all that was needed was never to be commonplace, and in every case to bring forward new and amazing truths. Accordingly speech and style strove neither for fulness nor depth, but so much the more for clearness and conclusiveness. In exposition, the progress was regular from syllogism to syllogism, great care being taken never to skip over a middle term. In order to be impressive the speaker became rhetorical, in order to convince he endeavoured to reduce every subject to one universal and easily inculcated proposition. Good society was delighted to be thus agreeably put in possession of the most advanced views of the world; but literature thus allowed itself to deviate from real knowledge into the way of empty abstraction.

That the literature thus fostered and guided should from the beginning of the eighteenth century have been in opposition, that since the middle of it it should have undermined with savage impetuosity all the foundations of existing conditions, this gave not the least shock to distinguished society. Disgust at their own impotence and the omnipotence of royal officials, dislike to an intolerant orthodoxy, vexation at some personal neglect at Court,—altogether there was cause enough for malicious satisfaction when philosophers, by biting criticisms, made clear the standpoint of burdensome potentates. And when an ever-growing and strengthening Materialism taught the doctrine of physical enjoyment and judicious selfishness as the guiding principle of human conduct, it only spoke out what had half-unconsciously been the sum of all the motives and activities of high society. But above all, theories were but theories, merely conversation, excitement, pastime. The nobles declaimed against obsolete abuses, but naturally each meant to keep his own rightful possessions, and among these were privileges and feudal rights. They felt conscious of a fresh superiority to the ignorant masses, because they professed humanitarianism and liberalism, and spoke against superstition and subordination. That these much-admired theories might by-and-by become common to the whole community, and then bring about horrible explosions—of this they had not the remotest suspicion. Any one who had in 1780 prophesied such a thing to the ladies of Versailles, would have been looked upon as we should look upon a prophet nowadays, who told us that in the next century cats and dogs, instead of men, were to be lords of creation.

This, then, was the public in whose atmosphere and with whose co-operation the philosophy of revolutionary enlightenment sprung up. It was here that it learned its rapid and superficial mode of study, its rejection of an historical spirit in favour of multitudinous present actualities, its taste for rhetorically adorned formulæ and commonplaces. When the construction of the best State was to be set about, common [Pg 442] characteristics were collected from the natural history of mankind, such as the dislike to pain, the impulse towards pleasure, the capacity of forming, from sensations, representations and conclusions. These characteristics were merely put together as the concept man, and from this abstract man were deduced, as in a mathematical formula, the laws of politics, morals, and rights. Since all men had the same natural impulse towards happiness, the State must render it possible for them all to reach that aim. Since all had a natural capacity to form concepts and conclusions, they would be sure to employ the right means to that end so soon as their hands were left free, or in case of a momentary mistake these right means logically pointed out to them. That passion is, in point of fact, in the great majority of men, stronger than reason, and desire more impetuous than thought, was disregarded by these admirers of abstract reason; the fact that each man had the faculty of drawing a logical conclusion appeared to them to insure his conforming his conduct to the requirements of that conclusion. If a logically formulated proof of the excellence of one of the Constitutions they had sketched could be arrived at, they fancied that the security and durability of its construction was perfectly guaranteed. On the other hand, that the preservation of constitutional order required other forces besides logical discussions, this was altogether outside their range of thought.

But logic knows no limits beyond the evolution of its own conceptions. The existing condition of things lent itself to being ground to powder. Before the critical assault of the new teaching no defence of the hoary unrighteousness of the Old Régime could make a stand; the pity was that, according to its own principles, the former found it impossible to attain to a firm and enduring constitution of any sort or colour.

But, if possible, the theories afloat set in against the existing ecclesiastical system even more strongly than against the political constitution. The natural science of the day afforded far more material for battle on that ground than the other. Astronomy, physiology, and anthropology joined with the efforts of philosophy to demonstrate that miracle was a delusion, revelation unthinkable, and an extra-mundane God unverifiable. Soon numerous voices exalted negation into the positive statement that every idea of God should be rejected, and that the so-called soul in man was only the highest function of organized matter. True, Voltaire remained through life a Deist, and Rousseau declared his faith in God and in the immortality of the soul; but the one all the more resolutely contended against the divine institution of the Church, and the other against the fundamental Christian doctrines of Sin and Justification. However different each may have been from the other, they waged in common a war for life and death against the Church, the war of utterly opposed principles. Tocqueville was wrong in saying that the Revolution was only inimical to the Church as a feudal and aristocratic institution; that after it had lost its wealth and [Pg 443] privileges, democratic society recognized how strong a democratic momentum the Church itself contained, and accordingly gave itself up with increased warmth to religious feelings. Here there is no doubt Taine's record is the more correct one. The Revolution knew well that it desired not the wealth only, but the fall of the Church; and not the partisans of the Revolution, but its adversaries, whose numbers were largely swelled by the cruelties of the Terror, have brought about the elevation of the Church in our own century.

If we now contemplate somewhat more narrowly the Constitutional theory of the illumination, we shall discern two characteristic and prominent features, which, on the one hand, show its descent from the innermost core of the Ancien Régime, and, on the other, very energetically determined the whole course of the Revolution. The ideal state deduced from the universal characteristics of mankind was as cosmopolitan as levelling. Just as on the stage of the period, Frenchman and savage, ancient Greek and modern Parisian, spoke the same language,—that of the salons of Versailles,—so political theories recognized neither Frenchman nor Englishman, Catholic nor Protestant, educated nor uneducated, only Man in general. They never considered what institutions would be adequate, in France, to the needs and capacities of the educated ranks and uneducated masses, or how far the habits and opinions of their nation would render the adoption of a foreign institution practicable or injurious; rather they formulated the rights of men, of abstract instead of actually existing men, and were convinced that a constitution based thereupon was for all men, and consequently for all peoples, the only good, and therefore the only lawful one. And just as clear as the equality of nations under the new political law, appeared the equality of all men in the new State, by which was meant not merely a claim to equal protection by law, or equal facility in obtaining one's rights, but a demand for the realization of an inborn and material equality of rights. This, as is well known, was the point on which Rousseau took his stand, and gave the last and decisive direction to the impending democratic revolution. Taine justly observes how frequently, in spite of their common principles, Rousseau's character and way of life led him to take different views from those of Voltaire and the Encyclopædists. The deepest and most unqualified indignation of these last was inspired by what they called superstition, stupidity, and priestcraft, the transformation of the old State being with them more an affair of the intellect than the feelings, a conclusion drawn from their universal theory and an ideal requirement of philanthropy. It was generosity that led them to appear as the advocates of the poor and their woes, while they themselves were high in the approval and favour of the best society. Rousseau, on the other hand, had himself led the life of the proletaire; in the nervous excitability and measureless vanity which made him almost prouder of his weaknesses and vices than of the greatness and strength of his talents [Pg 444] he—poor, often hungry, not seldom degraded and reviled—had filled himself with burning wrath against the favoured of earthly fortune, the noble and the rich, the revellers in idleness and luxury. This growing hatred he transferred to the State and the laws which had produced so unrighteous a contrast between man and man. Men, he maintained, were in their original condition good, because equal. It was the State, culture, society, that first introduced inequality, and vice and crime thereby. The existing order was not merely incompetent, as the Encyclopædists asserted, but hurtful, poisonous, deadly. And, in contrast to it, he sketches a picture of the true human State.

Equal and good men assemble in their natural condition to think on the basis of their future State. Each endows the new community with all liberty and property, in order to receive back an equal share of the management and the possessions of the whole. But this whole is omnipotent. No laws bind its will, for its will is the source of all law. No king, no official, no superior rules over it; each individual is only empowered to act, so far and so long as he upholds the plenipotence of the sovereign mass. It is not the upper classes who command the people, but the people which require obedience from its officers and throws them away when they no longer please it. For individual liberty there is here no place; but owing to the equality of all, the free will of the masses joyously and harmoniously prevails.

For a season these doctrines only served to afford a welcome mental stimulant to the minds, if not of the nobility, of the cultivated and property-possessing classes. The higher, and soon the lower, bourgeoisie inflated themselves with these views. At this period they shared certain of the privileges of the nobles, filled numerous and prominent offices in the State, gave to the nation its largest number of famous thinkers and poets, promoted industry and commerce, and daily increased in wealth, while the nobles, by their extravagance, ruined themselves financially. The former were, therefore, full of the consciousness of their own dignity, and found the continued precedence claimed by the nobles to be unendurable. They believed with inward satisfaction in this doctrine of the equality of all men and the sovereignty of the whole. For, instead of the privileged, it seemed to them self-evident that owing to their culture they, the hitherto unprivileged, ought to stand out prominently among the people as leaders of that governing whole. Thus the state of freedom and equality would be the state of pure reason as well, and, therefore, the leading position could not fail to fall to them, the masters of reasonable discussion. Meanwhile the mass of the poor, wholly cut off from the sources of culture and the mental movements of their country, for long years knew nothing of this absolute governing power which, according to the new discoveries, inalienably belonged to it, and was so surprisingly soon to fall into its lap. The only change in their condition, and thus the only preparation for their future sovereignty, was an increase of outward distress and of [Pg 445] inward confusion and embitterment; and then came the time when the small circle to which education and enjoyment were limited, and the State power they wielded, fell into internal demoralization, strife of factions, and financial embarrassments, till the very Crown itself was obliged to summon popular forces to war against the privileged. All the springs of State machinery refused to work, coffers were empty, authorities and classes at bitter internecine strife, the army unreliable and undisciplined. It was under circumstances like these that the mass of the people in towns and villages heard from their candidates, advocates, and demagogues, what in truth their rights were. In their ignorance and want, their rudeness and embitterment, they suddenly learnt that for them—as sovereign—limits, obligations, authority no longer existed, that the old corruption and slavish condition was to be thoroughly got rid of, and that then everything would belong to them. They listened with greedy ears, and rushed forward to trample under foot whatever sought to contest these rights of theirs.

The highest and noblest aims lured the century on, and animated the hearts of countless worthy men: liberty, well-being, and culture for all, no difference between man and man but that of talent and virtue, fraternity among all citizens in the State and all nations on the earth; these were the ideals that 1780 proclaimed to the world and the future, and therefore the French still love to speak of the deathless principles and fair days of this first epoch of the Revolution. All this, Thiers tells us, would have been admirably realized had not evil-hearted emigrants and foreign Powers by their malignant attacks, driven the most humane of all Revolutions into desperation, a fight for existence, and bloodshed. All would have gone well, says Louis Blanc, had not the wicked Thermidorians, on the occasion of Robespierre's fall, brought in a policy of vice and self-seeking instead of one of virtue and brotherly love. Probably, on the other side the Vosges, eighty men out of every hundred adopt one or other of these views, and so it is easily intelligible that the merciless facts by which Taine shatters these fair pictures should be received with repugnance and surprise by his countrymen. The contrast between such a reality and such an ideal is indeed enormous; fair days, or so much even as one fair day in the course of the Revolution, can no longer be spoken of; in the very hour when absolute monarchy collapsed, a wild, rude, and cruel anarchy covered the land, filling France with violence and crime of every kind for a decade, and lastly causing an unparalleled despotism to appear to the French people salvation and deliverance. The conclusion is unavoidable, either the ideal was good for nothing, and the Coblentz emigrants had right on their side against the nation, or the French people had set about their high task in a quite impracticable way, and their historical fame has this time to be limited to the motto, In magnis voluisse sat est. Neither of these alternatives will have a pleasing sound in the ears of a Liberal Frenchman.

[Pg 446] But, pleasing or not, the facts are indisputable, and up to the present time each new investigation of authentic documents has only served to give them a wider range and a more assured basis. We have seen the end of the Ancien Régime. The nobles of the former State were unnerved by idleness, debilitated by enjoyment, degraded by immorality; never had the aristocracy of a great nation fallen and been brushed away from the soil of their country, making so feeble a resistance. The leaders of the movement followed a political teaching based on a most one-sided and therefore radically false conception of human nature, and had no idea of the real nature of their fellow-citizens, or of the principles and needs of genuine political life. Finally the masses were unmoved by any political thought whatever, but were darkly conscious of their own wretched state up to the present time, and their hatred of those who had, or were supposed to have, occasioned it, were credulous and impressionable, and penetrated with the rightfulness of their wildest passions and desires. With such materials as these it is possible indeed to blow up an old and half-useless house, but not to construct on its ruins a well-planned and lasting new one.

Thus Taine shows by details from documents contemporaneous with the events, how, even before the opening of the National Assembly, the condition of things was out of joint at a hundred points. Tumults and plunder, disobedience to authorities, and maltreatment of obnoxious persons, were the order of the day; public officials were spiritless, and dared not command the already murmuring troops to restore order. The first weeks of the Assembly brought hot discussions as to the union of the three orders, attempts at reactionary State measures, and the taking of the Bastille. Excitement grew from day to day; the suspense throughout the country was tremendous. With the Parisian catastrophes the whole Ancien Régime rocked and gave way from side to side; and not merely privileges and feudal rights, but all State authorities vanished at one blow, or at the first threat from an armed mob resigned their functions. The French nation had positively no government, no laws, no police, no taxation. In place of these they had journals, clubs, societies, popular songs, and Lynch law; security for person and property no longer existed; every one did according to his heart's desire till a stronger than he preferred the opposite and knocked him down. This state of anarchy actually went on thus till the culmination of the Reign of Terror; every now and then it quieted down here or there, to burst out the following day at some other point with redoubled fury. In the midst of the omnipresent turmoil and confusion, the King, a powerless prisoner, sat in the Tuileries. The only quarter which afforded a possibility of the restoration of the State was the National Assembly, which was sufficiently respected and popular both with the people and the National Guard, to have enforced obedience had it set about it the right way. But there were two reasons which forbade the adoption of that way. One was that the Assembly was deprived of [Pg 447] free action by the ruling theory of the Rights of Man, Liberty and Equality. This included the rights of resistance against oppression, and accordingly every citizen might at any moment consider himself oppressed and authorized in resisting. It had been borne in upon these sovereign citizens that the will of the sovereign people stood higher than that of its representatives, and that the people was at any time capable of re-entering upon the direct exercise of its sovereignty. It is plain that under the influence of theories such as these any control over street-riots and local deeds of violence was a difficult, if not hopeless task. And, on the same ground, it was impracticable to attempt any control or regulation of press or clubs, which looked upon their boundless activity as the highest expression and most precious jewel of revolutionary liberty. As, according to theory, State officials were to be, not the lords, but the servants of the sovereign people, it became expedient that they should not be named by the Central Government, but chosen, and that only for a short time, by the citizens. In the same spirit the affairs of Government were entrusted not to individual officials, but to deliberating colleagues; while, as to the passing of laws, the principle of equality rendered impossible the formation of an Upper House, or any finally decisive action on the part of the King. Thus the Government remained powerless, legislation was hasty and uncertain, the lower classes unmanageable, and on very many occasions it was plain that club orators and journalists who knew how to flatter the demands of the masses bent both Government and National Assembly beneath their sway. More than once there arose indignation in the Assembly at so unworthy and dangerous a condition; but at each attempt to grapple with and remove it, the fear of a monarchical or aristocratic reaction fell upon it and paralyzed its action.

In order to control the anarchical wilfulness of demagogues and proletaires there was but one thing to be done, to strengthen the authority of the executive. This meant restoration of discipline in the army, and energetic organization of Government, extensive powers conferred on the police officials, sharp punishments, and swift justice. But how then? If power were thus conferred upon the Government to restrain proletaires and rioters, who could guarantee liberty and the National Assembly against the head of the reinforced Government, against the King, who had hitherto been by these chronic riots kept in defenceless subjection? This dilemma led to the revolutionary spirit invariably triumphing at the National Assembly. The present fear of the violence of the crowd attendant at the sittings combined with the apprehension of a future monarchical reaction. When, some years later, at the organization of the Republican Government, the weakness of authority was again felt, more than one orator freely declared the existing arrangements to be undoubtedly bad throughout, and to be amended as soon as possible; owned that this had, indeed, been perfectly known at the time of their creation in [Pg 448] 1790, but that they were intentionally framed thus, in the interests of liberty, to prevent the King from exercising any power. Enough—the Constitutional Assembly did nothing to surround personal safety and political order with any inviolable defence; on the contrary, they did much to open the door wide to the passionate and arbitrary action of the masses. We may say that they thoughtlessly sowed the seeds of all the horrors of the Terror, and had the sad beginnings of that development before their eyes, without even an attempt to avert them. This is true, most especially in the economical department: the colossal transformation of the laws of property in France, which brought half the soil into new hands, and irresistibly threw the population at large into communistic paths, was out and out the work of the Constituent Assembly.

For more than twenty years I have, in my "History of the Revolution Period," established these circumstances from authentic documents, and thus given repeated offence to the French public. I may therefore be permitted to feel all the greater satisfaction at such a distinguished investigator as Taine, after drawing forth numberless documents from Parisian archives, coming to absolutely the same conclusion. All I have heard in the way of objection to his statements is utterly unimportant. As it is not possible to drive the facts he has proved from original documents out of existence, the observation is made that though his information may be true, it is one-sided; that while he never wearies of describing revolts and misdeeds, he does not sufficiently point out in how many places the Civil Guard bravely and loyally upheld civil order. Taine would be the last to dispute this fact; had it not been so there would have been no longer any France left in the nineteenth century. But he would venture to inquire whether praise be deserved by an Assembly which, as ruler of a great State, surrendered without resistance now the third of it, now the half, during three years, to a bloody anarchy; whether we can speak of "fair days" or "humane Revolution," when in this short period six horrible Jacqueries laid the land waste, when countless political murders remained unpunished, and military émeutes and ecclesiastical brawls thrust the weapons of civil war into the hands of the masses. We are told of a pure and ideal inspiration then filling millions of liberty-loving and patriotic spirits; and well may we call that a fair time in which noble aims and infinite hopes set all pulses beating higher, and stimulate a whole people to youthful efforts, and fill it with fresh and energetic life. Yes, there were moments of golden dreams and illusions like these. Only they should have lasted longer. It is not through their feelings, speeches, wishes, but their deeds, that nations assume their historical position and receive their historical sentence. Taine writes the last, indeed, with an incisive pen, and often with glaring colours, but essentially he gives nothing but what follows by indissoluble sequence from the facts of the Revolution.

On certain points, indeed, one may notice a few omissions in his [Pg 449] work, or raise a few objections, though they do not affect it as a whole. Space does not permit me to dwell on all particular instances; I must be satisfied with pointing out a few. While during the first months of the Revolution the agitation of the lower classes was identical in town and country, and the lawless violence of artisans and peasants pursued the same ends by the same means, one of the most prominent features of the later phase, the Terror, was the gradual introduction of a war of interest between the people of the capital and the villages. The more the power of the Mountain and the Parisian Commune increased, the more absolutely the booty of the Revolution fell to the share of the town proletaires, at the cost not only of the great landed proprietors, but the small farmers as well. Our first impression at the aspect of this rivalry is the selfishness and greed of the Parisian demagogues; but we may easily convince ourselves that these could never have attained to so extended an activity if existing circumstances had not offered the possibility of a class war. But for any disquisition on this subject, or allusion to the causes that, in the first years of the Revolution, prepared its way, we look through Taine's pages in vain. Again, in the representation of the Ancien Régime, his attention is pre-eminently turned to social relations connected with the land. Had he with an equally comprehensive and minute care studied the different strata, the interests and wants of the town population, the problem alluded to would have solved itself.

It is with admirable insight and incontrovertible reasoning that Taine shows the logical untenableness and practical mischief of the theory of equality, both in the writings of Rousseau and the action of the Constituent Assembly. He proves the contradiction between this equality and the very nature of man, and how, consequently, pure democracy rendered the development of political liberty unattainable. In perfect agreement with Tocqueville, he points to the absolute necessity, under the circumstances of the time, of aristocratic institutions, for the creation and preservation of a free State, and explains how deeply seated these are in the needs and claims of human nature. This portion of his work is indeed masterly; and the more widely extended the equalitarian superstition among the Liberal parties of our day, the more one could desire Taine's views to exercise a strong and wide-spread influence. But, on the other hand, it appears to me that by this very conception of political institutions, our author has been led to show himself something more than just in the sentence he passes on the representatives of this period, the nobles and prelates of 1789. This is one of the few incongruities already alluded to between the first and second volume. After reading of the luxury, artificiality, and idleness of aristocratic society in the former, and coming with the author to the conviction that terrible consequences must attend such a condition, one is surprised to find in the latter that these privileged ones were the best, the most discerning and patriotic portion of the nation, whose [Pg 450] annihilation or exile brought about the same injurious results that the expulsion of the Huguenots had done. This contradiction is not cleared up by the fact that in the years immediately preceding the Revolution, and chiefly through the influence of Rousseau, a sentimental humanity had prevailed in high circles, that here, too, it was the fashion to speak of a return to an idyllic life of nature, of universal brotherly love, and of the relief of every form of distress. For these transformations remained, in point of fact, only fanciful phrases of the salons. When Louis XVI., Turgot, and Calonne, really desired to set about such philanthropic reforms in good earnest, it was, as we have already seen, these sentimental nobles themselves who hindered their effort, and by nullifying reform brought about the Revolution. When the catastrophe came, many of them had sufficient insight into the new position of affairs to make haste and repudiate those privileges which throughout the land had been already trampled under foot by an unchained people. The horrible persecution to which they were subjected, in utter disregard of all existing rights and all human feeling, with bloodthirsty cruelty and shameless greed, must ever insure for the victims the compassion and sympathy of every right-minded observer; and in order fully to justify revolutionary laws against emigrants, one would be driven to advance sophisms only, not arguments. But all this does not affect the question, whether, as Taine assumes, these persecuted ones did hold a distinguished place in the nation for political virtue, intellectual culture, and capacity for action. Neighbouring nations, so far as I know, without exception took at the time an entirely different view. Doubtless, there were among the emigrants many who won respect and regard in the regions whither their flight had led them. But the great majority, by their thoughtless arrogance, mutual bickerings, and shameless frivolity, left behind them a bad reputation; whereas a hundred years before the exiled Huguenots, by their unity, earnestness, and industry, won, wherever they went, the respect and gratitude of their new countrymen.

Heinrich von Sybel.

[Pg 451]


Returning to settle in Ireland after an absence that began more than twenty years ago, I found two things strongly claiming my attention. One, was the very great advance in material well-being which my country appeared to have made. The other, was the fact that both Englishmen and Irishmen appeared resolutely to ignore this progress. Nearly all who write and speak about Ireland, either dwell upon her grievances or assume poverty as her normal condition. I know not of any who have attempted to record her returning prosperity. Yet there are few facts in modern history better worthy of notice than the advance in material wealth which has taken place in Ireland during the thirty years between 1846 and 1876.

The year 1879 marks the close of just one-third of a century from the great famine. The first thirty years of this period, 1846-76, were years of continual advance in well-being. From 1877 and down to the present year a reaction has been going on, which is largely connected with a general depression of trade all over the world. For reasons which will appear hereafter, I do not hold that this reaction is likely to be permanent.

It is true that at the beginning of that period the country was in the very lowest depths of poverty and depression. The starting-point therefore was a very backward one: and the wonder is that so much advance should have been made, considering not only the backwardness of the starting-point but the difficulties of the road.

I shall not attempt to depict the state of things which prevailed at the close of the great potato famine. The condition of the country is well known; the facts are in the recollection of many persons now living; and the evidence is within the reach of all inquirers. I may safely assume that Ireland then was among the very poorest of all the countries in Europe. What is her position now?

[Pg 452] In discussing the social condition of any country, the population question naturally comes to the front. Is the population pressing unduly on the means of subsistence? then there is something wrong, and until this is set right progress is impossible. On the other hand, if the population is so sparse as to leave the resources of the country undeveloped, there is also something wrong, though in this case the evil is far less. The population, such as it is, may be prosperous and advancing, though it is not producing all it might.

The former was notoriously the state of things in Ireland before 1847.[21] In 1845 (the year immediately preceding the famine) the population was at the highest point it attained during the present century, and probably the highest it ever reached. It was estimated at 8,295,061. In 1847, the year when the famine was at its height, the numbers are given as 8,025,274. In 1875, just thirty years after the maximum, the numbers had fallen to 5,309,494. In 1877 they were estimated at 5,338,906, showing an increase over 1875 of 29,412.

It is a familiar fact that the population of 1845 and 1847 was excessive. Whether the present population may not be defective in regard of productive power is a question not without importance, but not immediately relevant. What we are now dealing with is the material welfare of the existing population; and it is clear that five millions can live where eight cannot. But are the five millions better off in some proportion to the price the country has paid for the decrease in population? And is there a real advance in the condition of the people, not a mere rise out of beggary and starvation?

In attempting an answer to a question of this nature, one looks naturally to the rate of wages first. But this test is an imperfect one: partly because local variations are still considerable; partly because money payments in many places and among large classes are more or less supplemented by subsistence drawn directly from the land. Besides, a mere increase in money wages may mean little or nothing, unless the increased wages possess increased purchasing power, and there be at the same time an upward tendency in the standard of living. Putting aside the wages question accordingly (to be discussed hereafter), let us try to find other indications of the extent and nature of the changes in the people's condition since the famine. A test of some value, though not absolutely conclusive by itself, will be afforded by changes in the area of farms. It is notorious that one of the causes which most contributed to bring about the famine and its miseries was [Pg 453] the small size of holdings. Now the census returns show that from 1851, very shortly after the famine, there has been a steady decrease in the number of farms under fifteen acres, and a steady increase in the number of farms between fifteen and thirty acres, as well as in farms exceeding thirty acres in area. Up to 1861 the number of holdings not exceeding fifteen acres had declined fifty-five per cent., while those above fifteen acres had increased 133 per cent. The number of farms between fifteen and thirty acres was in 1861 double what it had been in 1841, and the farms above thirty acres amounted in 1861 to 157,833, against 48,625, which had been their number twenty years before. Between 1861 and 1871 farms under fifteen acres decreased by 12,548, and farms above thirty acres increased by 1470. According to the latest returns (1875) the farms not exceeding one acre in area were 51,459; those of one to five acres were 69,098; those of five to fifteen acres, 166,959; fifteen to thirty acres, 137,669; the total above thirty acres being 160,298 holdings.

This distribution of the land seems to indicate a considerable improvement compared with the state of things prevailing before the famine. Unfortunately the increase in the size of holdings has not been attended by a corresponding decrease in the number held on an insecure tenure. Tenancy at will continues to be the rule, and permanency the exception, in our land tenure. I have made an attempt to estimate roughly the classes of landholders. The "Domesday" list of proprietors of land gives the number of owners of one acre and under ten as 6892, holding 28,968 acres, or an average of a little over four acres each: between ten acres and fifty there are 7746 owners, holding 195,525 acres, or an average a little over twenty-six acres: between fifty acres and a hundred there are 3479 owners, holding 250,147 acres, or an average of just under seventy-two acres. These make up a body of small proprietors, owning from one to a hundred acres, numbering 18,117. Eason's Almanac for 1879, which has been published while I write, estimates the number of "proprietors in fee" of agricultural holdings at 20,217. The same authority gives the number of leaseholders in perpetuity as 10,298; for terms of years exceeding thirty-one as 13,712; for thirty-one years and under, 47,623 (many of which may be short leases); and of leases for lives, or lives and years alternative, as 63,759. The number of tenancies at will is 526,628, or 77.2 per cent, of the whole number of holdings. These statistics were collected in 1870, and they have doubtless been in some degree modified by the working of the Church Act and the Land Act. I have omitted from my extracts from the Domesday list the proprietors of under one acre. These are given in Thom's Directory as 36,144, holding 9065 acres; but their holdings do not affect the present question, as they are mostly non-agricultural. The estimate in Eason's Almanac purports to relate wholly to agricultural holdings. Domesday includes all classes.

[Pg 454] Another index of the condition of a people may be found in the way they are housed. Mean and comfortless dwellings imply not only a low standard of comfort, but often a low morality. Let us see how this matter has stood in Ireland. The Census Commissioners of 1841 divided the dwellings of the people into four classes. The fourth, or lowest, comprised all mud cabins having only one room. Of this class there were in all Ireland, according to the 1841 census, 491,278. In the last census, 1871, the number had fallen to 155,675. The third-class dwellings were also built of mud, but contained three or four rooms, with windows; the latter convenience being by no means universally present in the one-roomed cabin of the fourth class. Of the third class the census of 1841 enumerated 533,297; by 1871 this number had fallen to 357,126. The second class are described as good farmhouses, and in towns, houses having from five to nine rooms. Of this class in 1841 there were 264,184; and in 1871 the number had increased to 387,660. The first class of houses increased during the same period from 40,080 to 60,919. Let us see now in what way the population has been distributed in the different classes of houses. In 1841 the number of families occupying first-class houses was 31,333. In 1871 the number had risen to 49,693. During the same period the number of families in second-class houses rose from 241,664 to 357,752. On the other hand, the families in third-class houses decreased from 574,386 to 432,774; and those in the fourth-class, or one-roomed cabins, from 625,356 to 227,379. By a curious coincidence, the proportion of families to houses was the same in 1841 and in 1871—one hundred and eleven families to one hundred houses. In this way the very great shifting in the classes is all the more clearly proved to indicate a real rise in the condition of the people.

In connection with this part of my subject, I may now proceed to discuss the wages question and the condition of the labouring population. Of the actual number of this class I can find no accurate return. But we have already seen that the number of families inhabiting the lowest class of houses (and these may be assumed all to belong to the lowest class of labourers) was about 227,400. As the census of 1871 gave the average number of a family as 5.07, or 507 persons to 100 families, we may estimate the number of this class at 2274 multiplied by 507, or 1,152,918. Those who inhabit a better class of house may be safely assumed on the whole to be better off in other respects. Now the money wages of the ordinary agricultural labourer are 1s. 6d. a day in the most remote and backward places. This is the minimum, and in harvest time the labourers earn 2s. 6d. a day. A great many labourers have small holdings; but as these are not rent-free they do not count directly as an element in wages. The way in which they do count is that the people are not so overworked but that the labourer and his family can attend to the holding, grow their own potatoes, feed the pig, &c.—thereby eking out the actual money payment.

[Pg 455] The diet of these labourers (I am still referring to the most backward and remote parts of Ireland) is tea and bread for breakfast, potatoes and a little bacon for dinner, and oatmeal porridge for supper. The people have quite risen out of the "potatoes and point" stage of feeding. Of course, on Fridays and other fast-days, Roman Catholics abstain from flesh meat; but there are few places so remote from the sea that fresh herrings are not to be had, and at any rate salt ones are always available. On the other hand, on Sundays and holidays many of the labouring families contrive to have butcher's meat; and I am told that in certain districts there is one day in the year when every family among the peasantry makes an invariable rule to eat a dinner of fresh meat, some animal (often a fowl) being killed on purpose to furnish this meal. This is probably some relic of a sacrificial observance.

The condition of the people being such as I have described, one would naturally expect not to find pauperism very prevalent. As a matter of fact it is not. The average daily number of paupers in the workhouses throughout 1876 was 43,235, and of recipients of out-door relief 31,600: bringing up the total to 74,835. The average of persons in receipt of relief was 140.6 in 10,000 of population. This daily average represents the current subsisting mass of pauperism, and is in a considerable measure made up of the old, infirm, and sick. Of able-bodied paupers, the males were only 1697 in the daily average of workhouse inmates, and the females were 4130. There were 10,134 healthy children under fifteen in the workhouses, and the other inmates were either sick in hospital or permanently unable to work. These figures seem to be the very reverse of alarming. Permanent pauperism is not a very virulent social disorder when only two able-bodied persons to every five hundred of the population are in receipt of in-door relief, and when the whole permanent pauper population barely exceeds fourteen in a thousand. But though permanent pauperism may be well in hand, casual pauperism may be at a high pitch. Let us see how this matter has stood. I shall first take the statistics of 1876, and then try to modify my conclusions by such later figures as may be available. In 1876 the population of England and Wales stood at 24,244,000, and the total of paupers in receipt of relief, in-door and out-door, on the 1st of January of that year, was 752,887; Scotland, with a population of 3,527,000, had a total pauper population on the 1st of January, 1876, of 66,733. In Ireland, on the same date, the total population being 5,321,600, the paupers amounted to 77,913. In other words, at a rough estimate, on the 1st of January, 1876, about one person in every thirty-three in England and Wales was in receipt of relief as a pauper; in Scotland, about one in every fifty-three; while in Ireland the proportion was only one in sixty-eight. A similar proportion appears in the incidence of the poor-rate. In 1876 England and Wales paid at the rate of 6s.d. per head of population; Scotland 5s. 0½d.; Ireland only 3s. 4d.

[Pg 456] Of course these figures must undergo modification in view of the altered circumstances of the present time. The statistics of 1876 are not an accurate guide to the facts of 1879. During the last three years there has been considerable depression of trade; and it may very well be that the returns of this year will indicate an ebb in the tide of prosperity. But, unless I am very much mistaken, after making all allowances, it will probably be found that Ireland is the part of the United Kingdom least affected by the present prolonged commercial crisis.[22]

The figures and facts recorded above will probably astonish the considerable class of persons to whom the word "Irish" has an air of wanting something, unless it is followed by "pauper." A smaller but perhaps not less intelligent class—that of English travellers in Ireland—will promptly jump to the conclusion that the figures are cooked; they will argue, "We have travelled in Ireland, and have been beset with beggars; how, then, can the country be so free from pauperism? Surely the true state of the case is that the people keep out of the workhouses merely in order to live on public charity in another form?" It cannot, I regret to say, be denied that mendicancy is very common in Ireland; so common as to be little less than a national scandal. There is, however, something to be said in mitigation of judgment, though perhaps not in defence. It is a matter in which figures are of little use; for no one could, by any possibility, estimate how many persons live wholly by begging. That there are in every community some persons who do may be taken as certain. That their number is larger in proportion to the bulk of the population in a Roman Catholic than in a Protestant community, is antecedently probable. The theory of the Roman Catholic religion positively encourages mendicancy. It is held to be no sin to live on alms, and to be a positive merit to give alms. Never turn away thy face from any poor man, is a text acted on by devout Romanists in its most literal acceptation. The result is not difficult to foresee. It must, however, be recorded to the credit of the Irish Catholic clergy, that they are beginning to see the folly of indiscriminate almsgiving; and though they are hampered in no small degree by the traditions of their Church, they have made many successful efforts in the direction of the organization of charity. Another influence, which largely contributes to the existence of the mendicancy that scandalizes the traveller, is the tradition of recent poverty. The habits of centuries are not effaced in a generation. Not much more than twenty years ago, begging was a recognized necessity in the life of the Irish [Pg 457] poor. But now, when times are moderately prosperous, begging is limited almost wholly to old people who hang about the doors of Catholic chapels, and about places frequented by tourists. On the roads leading to such "show places," also, the tourist will be often beset by little knots of children clamouring for half-pence; but these are no more professional beggars than a gentleman who amuses himself with pheasant shooting is a professional dealer in game. It is a form of excitement with them; not a very high one to be sure, but not meaner or more vicious than baccarat or rouge-et-noir.

Still, when all is said, there is more mendicancy in Ireland than would exist if things were in a healthier state; and where mendicancy is common, pauperism must fluctuate largely. In more prosperous times, a larger number of mendicants can find support from a more copious supply of alms. When evil times curtail the fund whence alms are supplied, the mendicant must fall back on legal relief. From this point of view the small increase of six in ten thousand, already referred to,[23] seems to show that the commercial depression of 1877 has not largely touched the revenues of the Irish mendicant!

An account of the condition of the Irish people would be incomplete without some reference to the statistics of drunkenness and crime. Here we shall find some results of a rather surprising kind. Thus, in England and Wales in 1876, the population being 24,244,000, the number of drunkards brought before magistrates was 205,567; being, at an approximate estimate, one in every 118 of the population. In Scotland, the population being 3,527,800, the drunkards arrested numbered 26,209, or about one in 134. In Ireland, the population being 5,321,600, the drunkards brought before magistrates were 112,253; showing the enormous proportion of one in every 47 of the people. Of course these figures in all three kingdoms include very many cases of repeated conviction, so that it would not be fair to say that one man in every 118 in England, still less in every 47 in Ireland, is actually a drunkard. All the same, this comparison is sufficiently alarming as well as perplexing. It is rather paradoxical to find Scotland showing a smaller proportion of apparent drunkards than either of the other kingdoms; and some people might be ill-natured enough to hint that this result depended mainly on greater skill in keeping out of the hands of the police. On the other hand, a patriotic Irishman might, without any very flagrant paradox, argue that the fact of so many Irish being arrested for being drunk proves that they are actually a more sober people. It takes less to make an Irishman drunk, partly because he is more excitable in temperament, and partly because he drinks but seldom. The habitually temperate man, when he does casually exceed, shows his condition very promptly; the habitual toper can dissemble it far longer. Another reason that may be given for the state of things here indicated, is that the police force is more numerous in Ireland in proportion to the population [Pg 458] than in England or Scotland;[24] and as, for reasons which will be hereafter seen, the police have actually less to do, they are able to expend a quantity of surplus energy in arresting drunkards whom the busier constables of England and Scotland would allow to stagger quietly home. That some or all these causes are in operation to bring about the startling excess of apparent drunkenness in Ireland, is manifest when we come to discuss the statistics of crime. The connection of crime with drink is a commonplace of moralists; but, like most other commonplaces, it requires to be seriously tested by the light of facts.

The crimes with which drink is most closely connected are naturally those which come under the class of offences against the person. Drink may, indeed, prompt offences against property; but chiefly in an indirect fashion. A drunkard is very likely to be in want of things which he may seek to obtain by theft; but drink is not the sole cause of poverty, and professional thieves are not habitual drunkards. Referring then to the class of offences against the person, we find that in 1876 only four persons were sentenced to death in all Ireland. The number sentenced in England was 32. Here is already a considerable discrepancy; for the population of England is to that of Ireland in the proportion of only about four and two-fifths to one, and the death sentences in England were eight times as numerous as in Ireland.[25] But this is not all. Nearly all the murders in Ireland are agrarian, and with these drink is only casually if at all connected. On the other hand, nearly every murder in England is committed more or less under the influence of intoxication. Turning to the secondary punishments, we find twelve sentences of penal servitude for life in England, while there were none in Ireland. Ten of these twelve ought perhaps to be discounted, as representing ten commutations of capital punishment, for of the thirty-two persons sentenced to death in England only twenty-two were executed. But the most remarkable discrepancy is seen when we come to sentences of penal servitude for terms of years. Of these there were only fifty in Ireland against 280 in England. In the absence of returns of crime actually committed (including undetected offences), it is not easy to pronounce an opinion of much value; but from the statistics of conviction it would appear that violent crimes against the person are much less prevalent in proportion to the population in Ireland than in England. These results are by no means contrary to reasonable expectation, when we consider the vast congestion of population in London and other cities in England, to which there is no parallel anywhere [Pg 459] in Ireland. But, such as they are, they seem to show that the apparent addiction of Irishmen to strong drink is not attended by a proportionate addiction to the more serious forms of crime. On the other hand (and this must be recorded for whatever it may be worth), we have 1078 sentences of imprisonment and other minor penalties inflicted in Ireland, against only 1533 similar sentences in England.

Turning now to the class of offences against property with violence, we find two sentences of penal servitude for life in England, against none in Ireland; 271 sentences for terms of years in England, against 26 in Ireland; 898 sentences of minor terms of imprisonment against only 69 in Ireland. In cases of this nature one might naturally expect drink to be a considerable predisposing cause. On the other hand, there is no assignable connection between drink and crime unaccompanied by violence, except in so far as poverty is an effect of drink and a cause for crime. Even here, however, the proportion fails; for the convictions for minor offences against property in Ireland were only 798, against 10,674 in England: and of these only 104 suffered penal servitude for terms of years, against 1063 in England.

All this, it may be said, simply shows that there must be a great deal of undetected crime in Ireland. To a certain extent, no doubt, this is true; but the remark applies chiefly to some of the more serious crimes, especially agrarian murder. There is not the same motive for concealing minor forms of crime, nor perhaps would even the Ribbon organization make such concealment practicable. To be sure it may be urged that, though minor crime is not purposely concealed, the police are too busy keeping the peace and looking after Fenians and Ribbonmen to have time for detecting ordinary thefts. This fact may, indeed, have something to do with the apparent scarcity of petty crime in Ireland; but this is certainly not the aspect of the case usually dwelt upon, by Judges of Assizes, for instance, when a Grand Jury sends up a pair of white gloves instead of a sheaf of criminal indictments. However this may be, I merely record the facts as I find them; leaving readers, for the most part, to draw what inferences the facts seem to suggest. One inference they suggest to me is, that Irishmen are not such very drunken animals after all; or else that they are somehow or other an exception to the rule which connects drink and crime. The undeniable blot on the Irish character—agrarian outrage—is not to be accounted for by drink. The true explanation is familiar to all who really know the country. The Irish peasant is very largely dependent on the soil for his support, and believes himself to be wholly so. He also believes himself to have a moral and a historical right to the possession of the soil; a belief which contains a considerable admixture of truth, provided it be stated with the proper limitations. Unluckily, the Irish peasant holds it without any limitation at all; and herein lies the secret of his hostility to the law. The peasant ejected, or in fear of ejectment, looks on himself as a ruined man (which he need not be), and as a wronged man (which [Pg 460] he is only very partially). Men ruined and wronged have always been raw material for brigands; and the Ribbonman is simply a brigand in a frieze coat.

I have no desire to compose an Essay on the Land Question; but it is absolutely impracticable to discuss Irish social economy without finding the Land Question in one's way. It is the question which most closely concerns the industrial classes; for the land is the mainstay of Irish industry. It is the pivot upon which all Irish politics turn; for although priestly influence counts for a great deal, that influence itself depends in great measure on the land hunger of the peasantry. I feel that I should be leaving Hamlet out of the play if I did not say a few words on the matter. As I have already hinted, the Irish peasant has three reasons for his desire to be "rooted in the soil." One is a traditional reason. He thinks that his forefathers were unjustly ousted by foreign conquerors. His belief rests on an utterly distorted view of history. It is true that eight hundred years ago a few of the ancestors of a few of the existing peasantry might in a sort of sense have been called landowners. But so far as the Gaelic race survives, it would be equally true to say that the ancestors of the existing peasantry had been the serfs or the slaves of barbarous chieftains. The old Gaelic tribal ownership, if left to itself, might or might not have ripened into a peasant proprietary; but the only real grievance which the existing Gaelic peasantry can allege, is that the English conquest forcibly interrupted the natural process of evolution. Moreover, a large number of the existing peasants are no true Gael at all, but the descendants of Danes, Normans, and the various waves of Saxon settlers from Elizabeth to William of Orange. In parts of Ireland there are even to be found the descendants of French Huguenots, of Scotch fugitives involved in the Stuart insurrections, and of refugees of 1793. That such a colluvies gentium should claim to be the heirs of Septs which occupied the land

"Ere the emerald gem of the Western world
Had been set in the crown of a stranger,"

is simply a proof of profound ignorance of history. Such, however, is the vague traditional belief; and it is complicated with a moral sentiment, that he who tills the land has a right to live by the land. The sentiment is open to no objection, provided it be understood that the land is an instrument of production in which the whole community is interested. The cultivator has the same right to live by the land as the artisan to live by his handicraft, and no more—that is, both peasant and artisan have a right to expect that the social system shall be so adjusted that neither shall be unjustly deprived of the fruit of his labour. But neither peasant nor artisan can claim that any instrument of production shall be used for the sole sake of the producer. Hence, even if peasant proprietorship were undeniably the best thing for the peasant, it does not follow that he has a moral right to it, unless it be good for the whole community as well. This consideration is too [Pg 461] often neglected by the thorough-going advocates of peasant proprietorship. They assume that the interests of the peasants are the only interests to be considered. In Ireland, indeed, they are not far wrong; for the peasantry are very nearly the whole community. This, however, only raises the previous question, whether peasant proprietorship would be a success in Ireland—of which hereafter. The last and most practical of the agrarian arguments is that a tenant evicted is a man ruined. Even this is only partially true, and at most is only an argument against capricious eviction. It is conclusive as against the system of tenancy at will, or any of those short tenures which are, in fact, a standing notice to quit. It holds good in favour of peasant proprietorship to this extent—that the ruin of a peasant proprietor can only occur through his own fault or misfortune, and not through the caprice of a landlord. In short, the discontent of the Irish peasantry proves that the Anglo-Irish system of tenure is about the worst of all possible systems; but it proves little or nothing in favour of peasant ownership.

My own opinion (valeat quantum) is that the soil and climate of Ireland render the country utterly unfit to maintain a considerable body of peasant proprietors; but that, nevertheless, it would be wise and politic to establish peasant properties as widely as may be practicable. The climate is notoriously damp, and variable in the extreme. Grain crops are inferior and precarious—root crops are not much better—even meadows are untrustworthy, because of the difficulty of haymaking—but Irish pasture is perhaps the best in the world. Natural conditions mark out Ireland as a pastoral and cattle-breeding country; and such a country is the destined home of latifundia. It is not merely that cattle require large spaces of pasture; but the trade in cattle requires capital, and requires the power of staying through seasons of adversity. An attempt to breed or deal in cattle by a class of peasant proprietors, acting singly, could only end in ruin; a ruin even more complete than bad seasons would bring upon unsuccessful cultivators of grain. Another product for which Ireland is eminently fitted is timber.[26] This also obviously requires spaces of land, and intervals of idle capital, utterly incompatible with any system of small holdings. Nature would seem to have marked out Ireland as a country to be thinly populated; historical accident once made her one of the most populous of countries, and we all know what came of it. The people were dependent on a single kind of food; it failed, and misery ensued such as modern Europe had never beheld. The scenes of 1847 we may devoutly hope will never be witnessed again; but such a season as 1878-79 would be a trial that few peasant proprietors could stand. Why then do I say that a peasant proprietary ought to be created? [Pg 462] Because I believe that in the experiment is to be found the sole method of convincing the Irish peasants that their true interest lies in quite another direction. The peasant now believes that all he wants in order to be prosperous is to be "rooted in the soil." It is of no use to appeal to abstract reasoning. He knows that he has to pay rent, and that he is liable to eviction for non-payment. Carefully as recent legislation has guarded him against capricious eviction, he knows that if his landlord chooses to pay for turning him out, out he must go. The few of his neighbours who do acquire freeholds, he perceives to be comparatively prosperous. He does not take into account that the prosperity of the freeholder is maintained by precisely the same exceptional energy and thrift which in the first instance enabled him to secure the freehold. Besides, it is undeniable that cæteris paribus a man who holds rent-free is likely to be better off than one who pays rent; and so long as rent is the rule and freehold the exception, the few freeholders will seem at least to possess an advantage over the many rentpayers. In short, the peasant farmer will never cease to believe ownership a panacea for all his ills, until he shall have tried it, and failed. Of course it does not absolutely follow that the experiment of creating a peasant proprietary must needs fail. It may succeed; and then the Irish land problem is solved. For the reasons given above, however, I think it would fail. If all the holdings of fifteen acres and under (there are 285,000[27] of them, or nearly half the whole number of farms in Ireland) were turned into peasant properties tomorrow, I believe they would in thirty, or at most in fifty, years be recast into large cattle farms, owned probably for the most part by joint-stock companies. The process of consolidation would be partly the buying out of ruined peasants after some such seasons as we are now undergoing; partly a voluntary union of the residue, who would find association desirable in order to secure a sufficiency of land and capital. But those who might be compelled to part with their lands could no longer ascribe their ruin to the tenure by which they held. It would be made clear to them and to all concerned that it is the laws of Nature and not the laws of England which hinder Ireland from maintaining a dense agricultural population.

It may be urged against what I have here said, that it is hardly worth while engaging in a social revolution merely in order that the last state of things may turn out on the whole very similar to the first. I cannot deny the force of this remark; though I may suggest, in my turn, that perhaps it is worth while to make some sacrifice for the sake of attaining stable equilibrium in the social system. I am persuaded that the one great difficulty in Irish affairs is to convince the peasant that the law is a power not hostile but friendly to him. This is no easy task. It is not so very long since the law actually was the hard [Pg 463] master it is still supposed to be. Nor is the peasant's own attitude of mind a very easy one to deal with. He clamours loudly to be "rooted in the soil," or, in other words, to be made absolute owner of his farm; but he clamours not less loudly against the absenteeship of his landlord. He utterly fails to perceive the inconsistency of his position. He cannot eat his cake and have his cake. He cannot be at one and the same time tenant to a resident lord of the manor, and owner in fee-simple of his own holding. Absolute peasant ownership is primâ facie incompatible with the very existence of a landed aristocracy; and it may be some perception of this that induces certain of the land agitators to propose fixity of tenure at a quit-rent rather than absolute peasant proprietorship. But it is clear that this is a mere evasion of the difficulty. A landlord, who is merely a rent-charger, has no more motive to reside on his estate than if he sold it and lived on the interest of the purchase-money. There is no doubt a sense in which the two things are not absolutely incompatible. Peasant properties might be intermixed with large estates owned by resident landlords. And this would certainly constitute a state of things by no means undesirable; in fact, it is what might possibly emerge from the experiment I have mentioned above. I think it more than probable that a great deal of the land, after such an experiment, would fall into the hands of joint-stock companies; but a considerable portion might also be bought up by individuals, who might choose to become resident landlords. It must, however, be remembered that there are many things besides agrarian agitation which tempt Irish landlords to become absentees. Residence in Ireland is attended with many drawbacks and discomforts, even when a landlord is on the best of terms with his tenantry. Absenteeism is no new complaint; Adam Smith discussed proposals for an absentee-tax. Its prevalence is not uncommonly ascribed to the Union, but it might as well be ascribed to the Deluge. The most potent causes of absenteeism in the latter half of the nineteenth century are the City of Dublin Steam Navigation Company, and the London and North-Western Railway. These, and kindred institutions, are also the channels which conduct a vast deal of wealth into Ireland; and if absenteeism constitutes a perennial drain on her resources, the facilities of locomotion cause the drain to return ten-fold.[28] If these facilities did not exist, it does not follow that the landlords who remained at home would necessarily be of much use to the community. The squires and squireens in Lever's and Maxwell's novels are very amusing to read about; but they are a race that nobody at the present day would seriously wish to revive. [Pg 464] However this may be, there is little inducement for the existing landlords to remain resident in a country where they are continually threatened, and occasionally shot. I cannot help thinking that in the tendency to absenteeism, courageous statesmanship might find the means of solving the Land problem. There should be little difficulty, one would imagine, in persuading a number of existing Irish landlords to part with their estates for a reasonable compensation.[29] The Church Surplus is at hand to provide the purchase-money. After deducting the sums to be paid to the Intermediate Education Board, and to the National School Teachers' Pension Fund, there will remain nearly four millions in the hands of the Temporalities Commission. This money judiciously advanced to tenant farmers would enable a considerable number of them to acquire the freehold of their farms, and thus the foundations of a peasant proprietary might be laid without any confiscation or disturbance of vested rights. The Royal Commission on Agriculture would perhaps be a good medium for acquiring information on this subject. They might include in the scope of their inquiry the best method of carrying out some such scheme as has been here indicated.

Having set out with no intention beyond that of offering a general view of a few leading facts and figures relating to Irish affairs, I find myself insensibly gliding into a political discussion. So far as I have any excuse for this, it must be found in the irrepressible character of the Land problem; which, as I before remarked, can by no possibility be evaded by any one who writes on Irish social economy. Yet this problem itself is in one aspect simply a phase of the struggle going on all over the world between, labour and capital. Side by side with this there is yet another struggle going on, which is also a phase of a world-wide conflict. It is the old story of Priesthood against Free Thought; but in Ireland, like nearly all things Irish, it bears a peculiar aspect of its own. Many a man here would be amazed to be told that he is fighting on the side of the priests; yet the Irish Orange Tory, and to some extent even the Irish Evangelical clergyman, is really and truly (though of course unconsciously) helping the policy of the Roman Church. But it would extend my essay beyond all reasonable limits to discuss this matter; and besides, I set out to write on statistics, and not on politics.[30]

Edward Stanley Robertson.


[21] The statistics in this Essay are chiefly taken from Thom's Almanac and Official Directory for 1878. The tables given in that Almanac are for the most part brought down no later than 1876. It so happens, however, that 1876 is a very convenient date for the purpose of this paper. It marks the conclusion of a period of just thirty years from the worst crisis of the Potato Famine; and it marks also the conclusion of a cycle of commercial inflation, some of whose results were strongly felt in Ireland.

I have, of course, consulted other authorities besides Thom's Directory, but I shall specify these as occasion arises. When no special reference is given, my authority is Thom.

[22] While I write Eason's Almanac for 1879 has been published. This authority gives the total average of paupers daily in receipt of relief through 1877 as 78,223, or 146.5 in 10,000 of the population. An increase of less than six in ten thousand is not very alarming, and the fact seems in some measure to justify the opinion I have ventured to express in the text, that Ireland will be found to suffer less from the present crisis than other parts of the United Kingdom. It must, however, be taken into consideration that the present year (1879) threatens a very poor harvest: and this circumstance is absolutely certain to enhance whatever distress already exists.

[23] See note on previous page.

[24] The 24¼ millions in England and Wales are kept in order by a police force of 29,689. In Scotland 3½ millions of population have only 3356 policemen. In Ireland, with a population well under 5½ millions, there are 12,081 policemen. And yet, as will appear presently, there is far less crime in Ireland relatively than in either of the other kingdoms.

[25] It is only just to admit that the death sentences are not a fair test. Too many murders remain undetected, owing to the existence of agrarian conspiracy. The number of murders known to have been committed is unluckily not to be found in the returns to which I have access. But the very fact of their remaining undetected is a proof that they are not directly connected with intoxication, for it shows that they are for the most part agrarian.

[26] It has been calculated, apparently on trustworthy data, that an acre of land planted with larch or fir, at an expense of about £20, would be worth £2000 at the end of forty years, besides the intermediate yield from clearings of young timber, game cover, and so forth. This is a very high return for a small outlay; but it is completely beyond the means of any peasant proprietor.

[27] Eason's Almanac, 1879. The actual number is 285,464. The total of agricultural holdings is 581,963.

[28] I have unfortunately been unable to obtain any statistics of the cross-channel trade. I find it stated in Thom's Directory that the trade of Belfast alone was valued in the year 1866 at £24,332,000—viz., £12,417,000 imports and £11,915,000 exports. The year 1866 was a bad year: so it may be assumed that these figures represent a low average. I find no means of estimating the import and export trade of Cork and Dublin.

I may mention here that one cause of interruption in the composition of this paper was an unsuccessful search for complete trade statistics.

[29] A few of the Home Rule M.P.'s who are now stumping the country on the Land grievance are themselves landlords. It has been suggested that they should introduce fixity of tenure on their estates, in one or other of its various forms. Mr. Errington (who is not one of the stump orators of the party) has, I am told, notified his intention to give long leases to his tenantry. In a case like this the argumentum ad hominem, though a perfectly fair one, is a perfectly useless one.

[30] I have referred above (note, p. 463) to my failure to obtain trade statistics. This circumstance has caused me to fail also in fully carrying out the original plan of this paper. I had intended not only to give a general view of the recent condition of the Irish people, but to enter somewhat fully into its causes, and discuss the probabilities of the future. The great revival in prosperity, which I have imperfectly sketched, was closely connected with the cross-channel trade. At present, affairs look sufficiently gloomy both here and in England; and the forecast of the future depends mainly upon the prospect of revival in English trade.

[Pg 465]



Of all traditions relating to the history of primitive humanity, by far the most universal is that of the Deluge. Our present purpose is to pass under review the principal versions of it extant among the leading races of men. The concordance of these with the Biblical narrative will bring out their primary unity, and we shall thus be able to recognize the fact of this tradition being one of those which date before the dispersion of peoples, go back to the very dawn of the civilized world, and can only refer to a real and definite event.

But we have previously to get rid of certain legendary recollections erroneously associated with the Biblical Deluge, their essential features forbidding sound criticism to assimilate them therewith. We allude to such as refer to local phenomena, and are of historic and comparatively recent date. Doubtless the tradition of the great primitive cataclysm may have been confused with these, and thus have led to an exaggeration of their importance; but the characteristic points of the narrative admitted into the Book of Genesis are wanting, and even under the legendary form it has assumed these events retain a decidedly special and restricted character. To group recollections of this nature with those that really relate to the Deluge would be to invalidate, rather than confirm, the consequences we are entitled to draw from the latter.

Take, for instance, the great inundation placed by the historic books of China in the reign of Yao. This has no real relation, or even resemblance, to the Biblical Deluge; it is a purely local event, the date of which, spite of the uncertainty of Chinese chronology previous to the eighth century B.C., we may yet determine as long subsequent to the fully historic periods of Egypt and Babylon.[31] Chinese authors [Pg 466] describe Yu, minister and engineer of the day, as restoring the course of rivers, raising dykes, digging canals, and regulating the taxation of every province throughout China. A learned Sinologist, Edouard Biot, has proved, in a treatise on the changes of the lower course of the Hoang-ho, that it was to one of its frequent inundations the above catastrophe was due, and that the early Chinese settlements on its banks had had much to suffer from this cause. These works of Yu were but the beginning of embankments necessary to contain its waters, carried on further in following ages. A celebrated inscription graven on the rocky face of one of the mountain peaks of Ho-nan passes for contemporaneous with these works, and is consequently the most ancient specimen of Chinese epigraphy extant. This inscription appears to present an intrinsically authentic character, sufficient to dispel the doubts suggested by Mr. Legge, although there is this rather suspicious fact connected with it, that we are only acquainted with it through ancient copies, and that for many centuries past the minutest research has failed to re-discover the original.

Nor is the character of a mere local event less conspicuous in the legend of Botchica, such as we have it reported by the Muyscas, the ancient inhabitants of the province of Cundinamarca, in South America, although here mythological fable is mingled much more largely with the fundamental historic element.

Huythaca, the wife of a divine man, or rather a god, called Botchica, having practised abominable witchcraft in order to make the river Funzha leave its bed, the whole plain of Bogota is devastated by its waters; men and beasts perish in the inundation, and only a few escape by flight to the loftiest mountains. The tradition adds that Botchica broke asunder the rocks inclosing the valley of Canoas and Tequendama, in order to facilitate the escape of the waters, next reassembled the dispersed remnant of the Muyscas, taught them Sun-worship, and went up to heaven, after having lived 500 years in Cundinamarca.


Chaldean and Biblical Narratives.—Of the traditions relating to the great cataclysm the most curious, no doubt, is that of the Chaldeans. Its influence has stamped itself in an unmistakable manner on the tradition of India; and, of all the accounts of the Deluge, it comes nearest to that in Genesis. To whoever compares the two it becomes evident that they must have been one and the same up to the time when Terah and his family left Ur of the Chaldees to go into Palestine.

We have two versions of the Chaldean story—unequally developed indeed, but exhibiting a remarkable agreement. The one most anciently known, and also the shorter, is that which Berosus took from the sacred books of Babylon and introduced into the history that he wrote [Pg 467] for the use of the Greeks.[32] After speaking of the last nine antediluvian kings, the Chaldean priest continues thus:—

"Obartès Elbaratutu being dead, his son Xisuthros (Khasisatra) reigned eighteen sares (64,800 years). It was under him that the Great Deluge took place, the history of which is told in the sacred documents as follows:—Cronos (Êa) appeared to him in his sleep, and announced that on the fifteenth of the month of Daisios (the Assyrian month Sivan—a little before the summer solstice), all men should perish by a flood. He therefore commanded him to take the beginning, the middle, and the end of whatever was consigned to writing,[33] and to bury it in the City of the Sun, at Sippara; then to build a vessel, and to enter into it with his family and dearest friends; to place in this vessel provisions to eat and drink, and to cause animals, birds, and quadrupeds to enter it; lastly, to prepare everything for navigation. And when Xisuthros inquired in what direction he should steer his bark, he was answered, 'towards the gods,' and enjoined to pray that good might come of it for men.

"Xisuthros obeyed, and constructed a vessel five stadia long and five broad; he collected all that had been prescribed to him, and embarked his wife, his children, and his intimate friends.

"The Deluge having come, and soon going down, Xisuthros loosed some of the birds. These finding no food nor place to alight on returned to the ship. A few days later Xisuthros again let them free, but they returned again to the vessel, their feet full of mud. Finally, loosed the third time the birds came no more back. Then Xisuthros understood that the earth was bare. He made an opening in the roof of the ship, and saw that it had grounded on the top of a mountain. He then descended with his wife, his daughter, and his pilot, worshipped the earth, raised an altar, and there sacrificed to the gods; at the same moment he vanished with those who accompanied him.

"Meanwhile those who had remained in the vessel not seeing Xisuthros return, descended too and began to seek him, calling him by his name. They saw Xisuthros no more; but a voice from heaven was heard commanding them piety towards the gods; that he, indeed, was receiving the reward of his piety in being carried away to dwell thenceforth in the midst of the gods, and that his wife, his daughter, and the pilot of the ship shared the same honour. The voice further said that they were to return to Babylon, and conformably to the decrees of fate, disinter the writings buried at Sippara in order to transmit them to men. It added that the country in which they found themselves was Armenia. These, then, having heard the voice, sacrificed to the gods and returned on foot to Babylon. Of the vessel of Xisuthros, which had finally landed in Armenia, a portion is still to be found in the Gordyan Mountains in Armenia, and pilgrims bring thence asphalte that they have scraped from its fragments. It is used to keep off the influence of witchcraft. As to the companions of Xisuthros, they came to Babylon, disinterred the writings left at Sippara, founded numerous cities, built temples, and restored Babylon."

By the side of this version, which, interesting though it be, is, after all, second hand, we are now able to place an original Chaldeo-Babylonian edition, which the lamented George Smith was the first to decipher on the cuneiform tablets exhumed at Nineveh and now in the British Museum. Here the narrative of the Deluge appears as an episode in the eleventh tablet, or eleventh chaunt of the great epic of the town of Uruk. The hero of this poem, a kind of Hercules, whose name has not as [Pg 468] yet been made out with certainty,[34] being attacked by disease (a kind of leprosy), goes, with a view to its cure, to consult the patriarch saved from the Deluge, Khasisatra, in the distant land to which the gods have transported him, there to enjoy eternal felicity. He asks Khasisatra to reveal the secret of the events which led to his obtaining the privilege of immortality, and thus the patriarch is induced to relate the cataclysm.

By a comparison of the three copies of the poem that the library of the palace of Nineveh contained, it has been possible to restore the narrative with hardly any breaks.[35] These three copies were, by order of the King of Assyria, Asshurbanabal, made in the eighth century B.C., from a very ancient specimen in the sacerdotal library of the town of Uruk, founded by the monarchs of the first Chaldean empire. It is difficult precisely to fix the date of the original, copied by Assyrian scribes, but it certainly goes back to the ancient empire, seventeen centuries, at least, before our era, and even probably beyond; it was therefore much anterior to Moses, and nearly contemporaneous with Abraham. The variations presented by the three existing copies prove that the original was in the primitive mode of writing called the hieratic, a character which must have already become difficult to decipher in the eighth century B.C., as the copyists have differed as to the interpretation to be given to certain signs, and in other cases have simply reproduced exactly the forms of such as they did not understand. Finally, it results from a comparison of these variations, that the original, transcribed by order of Asshurbanabal, must itself have been a copy of some still more ancient manuscript, in which the original text had already received interlinear comments. Some of the copyists have introduced these into their text, others have omitted them. With these preliminary observations I proceed to give integrally the narrative ascribed in the poem to Khasisatra:—

"I will reveal to thee, O Izdhubar, the history of my preservation—and tell to thee the decision of the gods.

"The town of Shurippak, a town which thou knowest, is situated on the Euphrates—it was ancient and in it [men did not honour] the gods. [I alone, I was] their servant, to the great gods—[The gods took counsel on the appeal of] Anu—[a deluge was proposed by] Bel—[and approved by Nabon, Nergal and] Adar.

"And the god [Êa] the immutable lord,—repeated this command in a dream.—I listened to the decree of fate that he announced, and he said to me:—'Man of Shiruppak, son of Ubaratutu—thou, build a vessel and finish it [quickly].—[By a deluge] I will destroy substance and life.—Cause thou to go up into the vessel the substance of all that has life.—The vessel thou shall [Pg 469] build—600 cubits shall be the measure of its length—and 60 cubits the amount of its breadth and of its height.—[Launch it] thus on the ocean and cover it with a roof.'—I understood, and I said to Êa, my lord:—'[The vessel] that thou commandest me to build thus—[when] I shall do it,—young and old [shall laugh at me.]'—[Êa opened his mouth and] spoke.—He said to me, his servant:—'[If they laugh at thee] thou shalt say to them: [shall be punished] he who has insulted me, [for the protection of the gods] is over me.— ... like to caverns ... —— ... I will exercise my judgment on that which is on high and that which is below ... —— ... Close the vessel ... —— ... At a given moment that I shall cause thee to know,—enter into it and draw the door of the ship towards thee.—Within it, thy grains, thy furniture, thy provisions,—thy riches, thy men-servants, and thy maid-servants, and thy young people—the cattle of the field and the wild beasts of the plain that I will assemble—and that I will send thee, shall be kept behind thy door.'—Khasisatra opened his mouth and spoke;—he said to Êa, his lord:—'No one has made [such a] ship.—On the prow I will fix....—I shall see ... and the vessel ...—the vessel thou commandest me to build [thus]—which in....[36]

"On the fifth day [the two sides of the bark] were raised.—In its covering fourteen in all were its rafters—fourteen in all did it count above.—I placed its roof and I covered it.—I embarked in it on the sixth day; I divided its floors on the seventh;—I divided the interior compartments on the eighth. I stopped up the chinks through which the water entered in;—I visited the chinks and added what was wanting.—I poured on the exterior three times 3,600 measures of asphalte,—and three times 3,600 measures of asphalte within.—Three times 3,600 men, porters, brought on their heads the chests of provisions.—I kept 3,600 chests for the nourishment of my family,—and the mariners divided among themselves twice 3,600 chests.—For [provisioning] I had oxen slain;—I instituted [rations] for each day.—In [anticipation of the need of] drinks, of barrels and of wine—[I collected in quantity] like to the waters of a river, [of provisions] in quantity like to the dust of the earth.—[To arrange them in] the chests I set my hand to.— ... of the sun ... the vessel was completed.— ... strong and—I had carried above and below the furniture of the ship.—[This lading filled the two-thirds.]

"All that I possessed I gathered together; all I possessed of silver I gathered together; all that I possessed of gold I gathered—all that I possessed of the substance of life of every kind I gathered together.—I made all ascend into the vessel; my servants male and female,—the cattle of the fields, the wild beasts of the plains, and the sons of the people, I made them all ascend."

"Shamash (the sun) made the moment determined and——he announced it in these terms: 'In the evening I will cause it to rain abundantly from heaven; enter into the vessel and close the door.'——The fixed moment had arrived, which he announced in these terms: 'In the evening I will cause it to rain abundantly from heaven.'——When the evening of that day arrived, I was afraid,——I entered into the vessel and shut my door.——In shutting the vessel, to Buzur-shadi-rabi, the pilot——I confided this dwelling, with all that it contained.

"Mu-sheri-ina-namari[37]—rose from the foundations of heaven in a black cloud;—Ramman[38] thundered in the midst of the cloud—and Nabon and Sharru marched before;—they marched, devastating the mountain and the plain;—Nergal[39] the powerful, dragged chastisements after him;—Adar[40] advanced, overthrowing before him;—the Archangels of the abyss brought destruction—in their terrors they agitated the earth.—The inundation of Ramman swelled [Pg 470] up to the sky—and [the earth] became without lustre, was changed into a desert.

"They broke ... of the surface of the earth like ...;—[they destroyed] the living beings of the surface of the earth.—The terrible [Deluge] on men swelled up to [heaven].—The brother no longer saw his brother; men no longer knew each other. In heaven—the gods became afraid of the water-spout, and—sought a refuge; they mounted up to the heaven of Anu.[41]—The gods were stretched out motionless, pressing one against another like dogs.—Ishtar wailed like a child,—the great goddess pronounced her discourse:—'Here is humanity returned into mud, and—this is the misfortune that I have announced in the presence of the gods.—So I announced the misfortune in the presence of the gods,—for the evil I announced the terrible [chastisement] of men who are mine.—I am the mother who gave birth to men, and—like to the race of fishes, there they are filling the sea;—and the gods by reason of that—which the archangels of the abyss are doing, weep with me.'—The gods on their seats were seated in tears—and they held their lips closed, [revolving] future things.

"Six days and as many nights passed; the wind, the water-spout, and the diluvian rain were in all their strength. At the approach of the seventh day the diluvian rain grew weaker, the terrible water-spout—which had assailed after the fashion of an earthquake—grew calm, the sea inclined to dry up, and the wind and the water-spout came to an end. I looked at the sea, attentively observing—and the whole of humanity had returned to mud; like unto seaweeds the corpses floated. I opened the window, and the light smote on my face. I was seized with sadness; I sat down and I wept;—and my tears came over my face.

"I looked at the regions bounding the sea; towards the twelve points of the horizon; not any continent.—The vessel was borne above the land of Nizir—the mountain of Nizir arrested the vessel, and did not permit it to pass over.—A day and a second day the mountain of Nizir arrested the vessel, and did not permit it to pass over;—the third and fourth day the mountain of Nizir arrested the vessel, and did not permit it to pass over;—the fifth and sixth day the mountain of Nizir arrested the vessel, and did not permit it to pass over.—At the approach of the seventh day, I sent out and loosed a dove. The dove went, turned, and—found no place to light on, and it came back. I sent out and loosed a swallow; the swallow went, turned, and—found no place to light on, and it came back. I sent out and loosed a raven; the raven went and saw the corpses on the waters; it ate, rested, turned and came not back.

"I then sent out (what was in the vessel) towards the four winds, and I offered a sacrifice. I raised the pile of my burnt offering on the peak of the mountain; seven by seven I disposed the measured vases,[42]—and beneath I spread rushes, cedar, and juniper wood. The gods were seized with the desire of it—the gods were seized with a benevolent desire of it;—and the gods assembled like flies above the master of the sacrifice. From afar, in approaching, the great goddess raised the great zones that Anu has made for their glory (the gods).[43] These gods, luminous crystal before me, I will never leave them; in that day I prayed that I might never leave them. 'Let the gods come to my sacrificial pile!—but never may Bel come to my sacrificial pile! for he did not master himself, and he has made the water-spout for the Deluge, and he has numbered my men for the pit.'

"From far, in drawing near, Bel—saw the vessel, and Bel stopped;—he was filled with anger against the gods and the celestial archangels:—

"'No one shall come out alive! No man shall be preserved from the abyss!'—Adar opened his mouth and said; he said to the warrior Bel:—'What other than Êa should have formed this resolution?—for Êa possesses knowledge and [Pg 471] [he foresees] all.'—Êa opened his mouth and spake; he said to the warrior Bel:—'O thou, herald of the gods, warrior,—as thou didst not master thyself, thou hast made the water-spout of the deluge.—Let the sinner carry the weight of his sins, the blasphemer the weight of his blasphemy.—Please thyself with this good pleasure and it shall never be infringed; faith in it never [shall be violated.]—Instead of thy making a new deluge, let lions appear and reduce the number of men; instead of thy making a new deluge, let hyenas appear and reduce the number of men;—instead of thy making a new deluge, let there be famine and let the earth be [devastated];—instead of thy making a new deluge, let Dibbara[44] appear, and let men be [mown down]. I have not revealed the decision of the great gods;—it is Khasisatra who interpreted a dream and comprehended what the gods had decided.'

"Then, when his resolve was arrested, Bel entered into the vessel.—He took my hand and made me rise.—He made my wife rise and made her place herself at my side.—He turned around us and stopped short; he approached our group.—'Until now Khasisatra has made part of perishable humanity;—but lo, now, Khasisatra and his wife are going to be carried away to live like the gods,—and Khasisatra will reside afar at the mouth of the rivers.'—They carried me away and established me in a remote place at the mouth of the streams."

This narrative follows with great exactness the same course as that, or rather as those of Genesis, and the analogies are on both sides striking. It is well known, and has long been critically demonstrated, that chapters vi., vii., viii. and ix. of Genesis contain two different narratives of the Deluge, the one taken from the Elohist document, the other from the Jehovist, both being skilfully combined by the final editor. Reverencing their text, which he evidently considered sacred, he omitted no fact given by either, so that we have the whole story twice narrated in different terms; and, in spite of the way the verses are mixed up, it is easy so to disentangle the two versions as that each should form a continuous and unbroken narrative. Some critics have recently pretended that, with regard to the stories of the Creation and Deluge, both cuneiform documents disproved the distinction between the two sources of Genesis, and proved the primitive unity of its composition; that the same repetitions, in effect, were to be found there. This was a premature conclusion, drawn from translations very imperfect as yet, and requiring thorough revision; and, indeed, confining ourselves to the story of the Deluge, such revision, carried on according to strict philological principles, does away with the arguments that had been based on the version of George Smith. None of the repetitions of the final text of Genesis are observable in the Chaldean poem; which, on the contrary, decisively confirms the distinction made between the two narratives, the Elohist and Jehovist, interwoven by the last compiler of the Pentateuch. It is with each of these separately—when disentangled and compared—that the Chaldean narrative coincides in its order—it is not with the result of their combination. And nothing could be easier than to demonstrate this by a synoptic table, in which the three narratives were collated.

Such a table would at once show their agreement and their difference, [Pg 472] what the three records have in common, and what each has added of its own to the primitive outline. They are certainly three versions of the same traditional history, and with the Chaldeo-Babylonians on the one hand, and the Hebrews on the other, we have two parallel streams proceeding from one source. Nevertheless, we must note on both sides divergences of certain importance which prove the bifurcation of the two traditions to have taken place at a very remote era, and the one of which the Bible affords us the expression to be not merely an edition of that preserved by the Chaldean priesthood, expurgated from a severely monotheistic point of view.

The Biblical narrative bears the impress of an inland people, ignorant of navigation. In Genesis, the name of the ark, têbâh, signifies "coffer," and not "vessel." Nothing is said about the launching of the ark; there is no mention made of the sea, or of navigation; there is no pilot. In the Epic of Uruk, on the contrary, everything shows it to have been composed amidst a maritime population; every circumstance bears a reflex of the manners and customs of people living on the shore of the Persian Gulf. Khasisatra enters a vessel, properly so called; it is launched, undergoes a trial trip, all its seams are caulked with bitumen, it is entrusted to a pilot.

The Chaldeo-Babylonian narrative represents Khasisatra as a king, who goes up into the ship surrounded by a whole population of servants and companions; in the Bible, we have only Noah and his family who are saved; the new human race has no other source than the patriarch's three sons. Nor is there any trace in the Chaldean poem of the distinction (in the Bible peculiar indeed only to the Jehovist) between clean and unclean beasts, and of each kind of the former being numbered by sevens, although in Babylonia the number seven had a specially sacramental character.

As to the dimensions of the ark, we find a disagreement not only between the Bible and the tablet copied by order of Asshurbanabal, but between the latter and Berosus. Both Genesis and the cuneiform documents measure the ark's dimensions by cubits, Berosus by stadia. Genesis states its length and breadth to have been in the proportion of 6 to 1, Berosus of 5 to 2, the tablet in the British Museum of 10 to 1. On the other hand, the fragments of Berosus do not treat of the relative dimensions of height and breadth, and the tablet gives them as equal, while the Bible speaks of thirty cubits of height and fifty of breadth. But these differences as to figures have but a secondary importance; nothing so liable to alterations and variations in different editions of the same narrative. We may observe, however, that in Genesis it is only the Elohist—always much addicted to figures—who gives the dimensions of the ark. And, on the other hand, it is the Jehovist alone who tells of the sending forth of the birds, which occupies a considerable place in the Chaldean tradition. As to the variations here between the Biblical story and that in the poem of Uruk, the latter [Pg 473] adding the swallow to the dove and the raven, and not attributing to the dove the part of a messenger of good tidings, I do not think they go for much. The agreement as to the main point is, in my eyes, of far more importance.

But what is, on the contrary, of very decided importance, is the absolute disagreement as to the duration of the Deluge between the Elohist and Jehovist, as well as between the two and the Chaldeo-Babylonian narrator. Here we have a manifest trace of different systems applying to the ancient tradition calendrical conceptions, dissimilar in each record, and yet all seeming to have proceeded from Chaldea.

By the Elohist the periods of the Deluge are indicated by the ordinal numbers of the months, but these ordinal numbers relate to a lunar year, beginning on the 1st of Tishri (September-October), at the autumnal equinox. This is admitted by Josephus, and by the Author of the Targum of the pseudo-Jonathan, as well as by Rashi and Kimchi, among the Jewish commentators of the Middle Ages; and proved, as I conceive, by Michaelis among the moderns. The rain begins to fall, and Noah enters into the ark the 17th day of the second month—i.e., Marcheshvan. The great force of the waters lasts 150 days, and the 17th of the seventh month—i.e., Nisan (March-April)—the ark grounds on Mount Ararat. The 1st day of the tenth month, or Tammuz (June-July), about the summer solstice, the mountains are laid bare. The 1st day of the first month of the following year—that is, of Tishri, at the autumnal equinox—the waters have completely retired, and Noah leaves the ark on the 27th of the second month. Thus the Deluge lasted a whole lunar year, plus eleven days—that is to say, as Ewald well remarks, a solar year of 365 days. Now, under the climatic conditions of Babylonia and Assyria, the rains of late autumn begin towards the end of November, and at once the level of the Euphrates and Tigris rises. The periodic overflow of the two rivers occurs in the middle of March, and culminates at the end of May, from which time the waters go down. At the end of June they have left the plains, and from August to November are at their lowest level. Now the dates of the Deluge, given by the Elohist, and re-stated as we have been doing according to Michaelis and Knobel, accord perfectly with these phases of the rising and falling of the two Mesopotamian rivers. They accord even better in the primitive system which served for starting-point to that of the Elohist, and which has been so ingeniously restored by M. Schræder,[45] a system attributing to the Deluge 300 days in all, or a ten months' duration: 150 days for its greatest height and 150 for its decrease. According to this system, the leaving of the ark must have taken place on the first day of the 601st year of Noah's life—that is to say, on the 1st of Tishri, at the autumnal equinox. Thus the deliverance of the father of the new [Pg 474] humanity, as well as the Covenant made by God with him and his race, were fixed on the very day to which an ancient opinion which has maintained itself among the Jews assigned the creation of the world. As to the beginning of the Deluge, it occurred, according to the same system, on the 1st day of the third month—that is to say, at the commencement of the lunation whose end coincided with the Sun's entry into Capricorn, when the conjunction of planets brought about periodic deluges according to an astrological conception of Chaldean origin, which does not indeed appear a very ancient one; but must have been based on data adopted by some of the sacerdotal schools of Babylonia as to the epoch of the cataclysm.

It is also with the winter rains, and not with the swelling of the Euphrates and Tigris in spring, that the calendrical construction, according to which the antediluvian kings or patriarchs have been placed in relation with solar mansions (a construction followed in Uruk's Epic poem), causes the commencement of the Deluge to coincide. It connects, in point of fact, the tradition of the cataclysm with the month of Shabut (January-February), and with the sign of Aquarius. Accordingly, I find great difficulty in admitting the exactness of the date, 15th of Daisios, given in the extract of Alexander Polybister, as that assigned by Berosus to the Deluge, for this would make the event occur in the middle of the Assyrian month Sivan, at the beginning of July, in a season of complete drought, when the rivers have reached their lowest level. I hold this to be an evident error, due not to the author of the Chaldean History himself, but to his transcriber. Berosus must have written μηνὸς ὀγδόυ· πέμπτῃ καὶ δεκάτῃ the 15th of the eighth month, translating into Greek the Assyrian name of the Arakh-Shanina. And by a readily explicable error Cornelius Alexander must have turned it into Daisios, which was the eighth month of the Syro-Macedonian Calendar, forgetting the difference between the initial point of its year and that of the Chaldeo-Assyrian. In reality, then, the date given by Berosus only differed by two days from that adopted by the Elohist compiler of Genesis. Besides, as Knobel rightly insists, in placing the commencement of the Deluge at the 15th or 17th of a month, we place it always at the full moon, for it is also with this phase of the light that lights the night that popular belief in Egypt and Mesopotamia links the periodic rise of Nile or Tigris.

The system of the Jehovist is quite a different one. According to him, Jahveh announces the Deluge to Noah only seven days beforehand. The waters are at their height for forty days, and decrease during forty more. After these eighty days Noah sends out the three birds at intervals of seven days, and thus it is on the 21st day after he has opened the window of the ark for the first time that he, too, goes out of the ark and offers his sacrifice to the Lord. Here the phases of the cataclysm are evidently calculated on those of the annual spring outflow of the Euphrates and Tigris, so that we need not hesitate to [Pg 475] assign the origin of the very form of the tradition received by the Jehovist writer, to the cradle of the race of the Terahites in Chaldea. The overflow of the two rivers of Mesopotamia lasts, in fact, for an average of seventy-five days from the middle of March to the end of May; and twenty-six days later—that is, at the end of the 101 in all (80 + 21 = 75 + 26 = 101), when the Jehovist makes Noah leave the ark—the lands which have been inundated become once more practicable.

What, moreover, in the Jehovist narrative bears a very marked impress of Chaldean origin is the part played in it by septennial periods; seven days intervening between the announcement and the beginning of the Deluge, seven between each sending forth of the birds. That religious and mystic importance attached to the heptade which gave rise to the conception of the seven days of creation, and to the invention of the week, is an essentially Chaldean idea. It is among the Chaldeo-Babylonians that we discover its origin and find its most numerous applications. The story of Khasisatra, in the poem of Uruk, invariably proceeds hebdomadally. The violence of the Deluge lasts seven days, and so does the stay of the vessel on Mount Nizir when the waters begin to go down. It is true, indeed, that the building of the vessel occupies eight instead of seven days; but we must add the time necessary for the embarkation of provisions, animals, passengers, and this will enable us to calculate the whole duration of Khasisatra's preparations between the vision sent him by Êa and the moment when he closes the vessel at the approach of the rain, as consisting of fourteen days or two hebdomades. This being granted, if the poem does not state precisely the intervals at which the three birds were sent forth, we are justified in applying here the figures used by the Jehovist in Genesis, and counting seven days between the first and second sending forth, seven between the second and third, and seven, lastly, between the departure of the bird which does not return, and the leaving the vessel. The whole interval, then, between the warning of Êa and the sacrifice of Khasisatra, amounts to seven hebdomades—plainly a number intentionally assigned. And the whole duration of the Deluge is doubled by the sacred writer, who was the author of the Jehovist document, 7 × 2 × 7, instead of 7 × 7; that is, fourteen weeks with just three days over, owing to the writer having employed the round numbers 40 + 40 = 80 days, instead of the precise number seventy-seven days or eleven hebdomades (7 + 4 × 7), to indicate the interval between the beginning of the diluvian rain and the sending forth of the first bird. And now, if we keep count of the time between the announcing of the cataclysm by Jahveh and its commencement, the figures of the Jehovist are in all 7 × 2 × 7 + 7 days, and those of the system of the Chaldean poem 7 × 7. But they are on both sides combinations of seven.

Where the Chaldeo-Babylonian narrative and that of the Bible absolutely diverge, is in their statement of what, after the Deluge, [Pg 476] befell the righteous man saved from it. According to the figures of the Elohist, Noah lives on among his descendants for 350 years, and dies at the age of 950. Khasisatra receives the privilege of immortality; is carried away "to live like the gods," and transported into "a distant place," where the hero of Uruk goes to visit him in order to learn the secrets of life and death. But in the Bible we have something of the same kind told us of Noah's great-grandfather Enoch, who "walked with God, and was not, because God took him." We see, then, that the Babylonian tradition united in the person of Khasisatra facts which the Bible distributes between Enoch and Noah, the two whom Holy Scripture equally characterizes as having "walked with God."

The author of the treatise "On the Syrian Goddess," erroneously attributed to Lucian, acquaints us with the diluvian tradition of the Arameans, directly derived from that of Chaldea, as it was narrated in the celebrated Sanctuary of Hierapolis or Bambyce.

"The generality of people, he says, tell us that the founder of the temple was Deucalion Sisythes, that Deucalion in whose time the great inundation occurred. I have also heard the account given by the Greeks themselves of Deucalion; the myth runs thus:—The actual race of men is not the first, for there was a previous one, all the members of which perished. We belong to a second race, descended from Deucalion, and multiplied in the course of time. As to the former men, they are said to have been full of insolence and pride, committing many crimes, disregarding their oath, neglecting the rights of hospitality, unsparing to suppliants, accordingly they were punished by an immense disaster. All on a sudden enormous volumes of water issued from the earth, and rains of extraordinary abundance began to fall; the rivers left their beds, and the sea overflowed its shores; the whole earth was covered with water, and all men perished. Deucalion alone, because of his virtue and piety, was preserved alive to give birth to a new race. This is how he was saved:—He placed himself, his children, and his wives in a great coffer that he had, in which pigs, horses, lions, serpents, and all other terrestrial animals came to seek refuge with him. He received them all, and while they were in the coffer Zeus inspired them with reciprocal amity which prevented their devouring one another. In this manner, shut up within one single coffer, they floated as long as the waters remained in force. Such is the account given by the Greeks of Deucalion.

"But to this which they equally tell, the people of Hierapolis add a marvellous narrative:—That in their country a great chasm opened, into which all the waters of the deluge poured. Then Deucalion raised an altar and dedicated a temple to Hera (Atargatis) close to this very chasm. I have seen it; it is very narrow, and situated under the temple. Whether it was once large and has now shrunk, I do not know; but I have seen it, and it is quite small. In memory of the event the following is the rite accomplished:—Twice a year sea water is brought to the temple. This is not only done by the priests, but numerous pilgrims come from the whole of Syria and Arabia, and even from beyond the Euphrates, bringing water. It is poured out in the temple and goes into the cleft which, narrow as it is, swallows up a considerable quantity. This is said to be in virtue of a religious law instituted by Deucalion to preserve the memory of the catastrophe and of the benefits that he received from the gods. Such is the ancient tradition of the temple."

It appears to me difficult not to recognize an echo of fables popular [Pg 477] in all Semitic countries about this chasm of Hierapolis, and the part it played in the Deluge,—in the enigmatic expressions of the Koran respecting the oven tannur which began to bubble and disgorge water all around at the commencement of the Deluge. We know that this tannur has been the occasion of most grotesque imaginings of Mussulman commentators, who had lost the tradition of the story to which Mahomet made allusion. And, moreover, the Koran formally states that the waters of the Deluge were absorbed in the bosom of the earth.


Indian Traditions.—India, in its turn, affords us an account of the Deluge, which by its poverty strikingly contrasts with that of the Bible and the Chaldeans. Its most simple and ancient form is found in the Çatapatha Brâhmana of the Rig-Veda. It has been translated for the first time by M. Max Müller.

"One morning water for washing was brought to Manu, and when he had washed himself a fish remained in his hands. And it addressed these words to him:—'Protect me and I will save thee.' 'From what wilt thou save me?' 'A deluge will sweep all creatures away; it is from that I will save thee.' 'How shall I protect thee?' The fish replied: 'While we are small we run great dangers, for fish swallow fish. Keep me at first in a vase; when I become too large for it dig a basin to put me into. When I shall have grown still more, throw me into the ocean; then I shall be preserved from destruction.' Soon it grew a large fish. It said to Manu, 'The very year I shall have reached my full growth the Deluge will happen. Then build a vessel and worship me. When the waters rise, enter the vessel and I will save thee.'

"After keeping him thus, Manu carried the fish to the sea. In the year indicated Manu built a vessel and worshipped the fish. And when the Deluge came he entered the vessel. Then the fish came swimming up to him, and Manu fastened the cable of the ship to the horn of the fish, by which means the latter made it pass over the mountain of the North. The fish said, 'I have saved thee; fasten the vessel to a tree that the water may not sweep it away while thou art on the mountain; and in proportion as the waters decrease thou shalt descend.' Manu descended with the waters, and this is what is called the descent of Manu on the mountain of the North. The deluge had carried away all creatures, and Manu remained alone."

Next in order of date and complication, which always goes on loading the narrative more and more with fantastic and parasitical details, comes the version in the enormous epic of Mahâbhârata. That of the poem called Bhâgavata-Purâna is still more recent and fabulous. Finally, the same tradition forms the subject of an entire poem of very low date, the Matsya-Purâna, of which an analysis has been given by the great Indian scholar, Wilson.

In the preface to the third volume of his edition of Bhâgavata-Purâna, Eugene Burnouf has carefully compared the three narratives known at the time he wrote (that of the Çatapatha Brâhmana has been since discovered), with a view to clearing up the origin of the Indian tradition of the Deluge. He points out in a discussion that deserves to remain a [Pg 478] model of erudition and subtle criticism, that it is absolutely wanting in the Vedic hymns, where we only find distant allusions to it that seem to belong to a different kind of legend altogether, and also that this tradition was primitively foreign to the essentially Indian system of Manvantaras, or periodic destructions of the world. He thence concludes that it must have been imported into India subsequently to the adoption of this system, which is, however, very ancient, being common to Brahmanism and Buddhism, and therefore inclines to look upon it as a Semitic importation that took place in historic times, not, indeed, of Genesis, but more probably of the Babylonian tradition.

The discovery of an original edition of the latter confirms the theory of the French savant. The leading feature which distinguishes the Indian narrative is the part assigned to a god who puts on the form of a fish, in order to warn Manu, to guide his vessel and save him from the flood. The nature of the metamorphosis is the only fundamental and primitive point, for different versions vary as to the personality of the god who assumes this form—the Brâhmana leaves it uncertain, the Mahâbhârata fixes on Brahma, and the compilers of the Purânas on Vishnu. This is the more remarkable that this metamorphosis into a fish Matsyavatara remains isolated in Indian mythology, is foreign to its habitual symbolism, and gives rise to no ulterior developments: no trace being found in India of that fish-worship which was so important and widespread among other ancient people. Burnouf rightly saw in this a sign of importation from without, and especially of its Babylonian origin, for classic testimony, recently confirmed by native monuments, shows us that in the religion of Babylon the conception of ichthyomorphic gods held a more prominent place than elsewhere. The part played by the divine fish with regard to Manu in the Indian legend, is attributed both by the Epic of Uruk and by Berosus to the god Êa, who is also designated Schalman, "the Saviour." Now this god, whose type of representation we now know certainly from Assyrian and Babylonian monuments, is essentially the ichthyomorphic god, and his image almost invariably combines the forms of fish and man. In astronomical tables frequent mention is made of the catasterism of the "fish of Êa," which is indubitably our sign Pisces, since it presides over the month Adar. It is to a connection of ideas based on the diluvian record, that we must attribute the placing of Pisces—primarily of the "fish of Êa"—next to Aquarius, whose relation to the history of the Deluge we have already pointed out. Here we have an evident allusion to the part of Saviour attributed by the people who invented the Zodiac, to the god Êa in the flood, and to the idea of an ichthyomorphic nature especially belonging to this aspect of his personality. Êa is, moreover, the Oannès, lawgiver of the fragments of Berosus, half-man, half-fish, whose form, answering to the description given by the Chaldean history, has been discovered [Pg 479] in the sculptures of Assyrian palaces and on cylinders, the Euahanès of Hygin, and the Oès of Helladios.[46]

Whenever we find among two different peoples one same legend, with as special a circumstance which does not spring naturally and necessarily from the fundamental facts of the narrative, and when, moreover, this circumstance is closely connected with the whole religious conceptions of one of these peoples, and remains isolated and alien from the customary symbolism of the other, criticism lays it down as an absolute rule that we must conclude the legend to have been transmitted from the one to the other in an already fixed form, to be a foreign importation, superimposed, not fused with the national, and as it were genial, traditions of the people, who have received, without having created it.

We must also remark that in the Purânas it is no longer Manu Vaivasata that the divine fish saves from the Deluge, but a different personage, the King of the Dâsas—i.e., fishers, Satyravata, "the man who loves justice and truth," strikingly corresponding to the Chaldean Khasisatra. Nor is the Puranic version of the Legend of the Deluge to be despised, though it be of recent date and full of fantastic and often puerile details. In certain aspects it is less Aryanized than that of Brâhmana or than the Mahâbhârata, and above all it gives some circumstances omitted in these earlier versions, which must yet have belonged to the original foundation, since they appear in the Babylonian legend; a circumstance preserved no doubt by the oral tradition—popular and not Brahmanic—with which the Purânas are so deeply imbued. This has been already observed by Pictet, who lays due stress on the following passage of the Bhâgavata-Purâna: "In seven days," said Vishnu to Satyravata, "the three worlds shall be submerged." There is nothing like this in the Brâhmana nor the Mahâbhârata, but in Genesis the Lord says to Noah, "Yet seven days and I will cause it to rain upon the earth;" and a little further we read, "After seven days the waters of the flood were upon the earth." And we have just pointed out the parts played by hebdomades as successive periods in that system of the duration of the flood, adopted by the author of the Jehovist documents inserted in Genesis, as well as by the compiler of the Chaldean Epic of Uruk. Nor must we pay less attention to what the Bhâgavata-Purâna says of the directions given by the fish-god to Satyravata for the placing of the sacred Scriptures in a safe place in order to preserve them from Hayagrîva, a marine horse dwelling in the abyss, and of the conflict of the god with this Hayagrîva, who had stolen the Vedas and thus produced the cataclysm by disturbing the order of the world. This circumstance too is wanting in the more ancient compositions, even in the Mahâbhârata, but it is a most important one, and cannot be looked on as a spontaneous product of [Pg 480] Indian soil, for we recognize in it under an Indian garb the very tradition of the interment of the sacred writings at Sippara by Khasisatra, such as we have it in the fragments of Berosus.

It is the Chaldean form, then, of the tradition that the Indians have adopted owing to communications which the commercial relations between the countries render historically natural, and they afterwards amplified it with the exuberance peculiar to their imagination. But they must have adopted it all the more readily because it agreed with a tradition, which under a somewhat different form had been brought by their ancestors from the primitive cradle of the Aryan race. That the recollection of the flood did indeed form part of the original groundwork of the legends as to the origin of the world held by this great race, is beyond all doubt. For if Indians have accepted the Chaldean form of the story, so nearly allied to that of Genesis, all other nations of Aryan descent show themselves possessed of entirely original versions of the cataclysm which cannot be held to have been borrowed either from Babylonian or Hebrew sources.


Traditions of other Aryan Peoples.—Among the Iranians, in the sacred books containing the fundamental Zoroastrian doctrines, and dating very far back, we meet with a tradition which must assuredly be looked upon as a variety of that of the Deluge, though possessing a special character, and diverging in some essential particulars from those we have been examining. It relates how Yima, who in the original and primitive conception was the father of the human race, was warned by Ahuramazda, the good deity, of the earth being about to be devastated by a flood. The god ordered Yima to construct a refuge, a square garden, vara, protected by an enclosure, and to cause the germs of men, beasts, and plants to enter it, in order to escape annihilation. Accordingly, when the inundation occurred, the garden of Yima with all that it contained was alone spared, and the message of safety was brought thither by the bird Karshipta, the envoy of Ahuramazda.[47]

A comparison has also been made, but erroneously as I think, between the Biblical and Chaldean Deluge and a story only found complete in the Bundahesh-pahlavi;[48] though, as a few of the older books contain allusions to some of its circumstances;[49] it must date further back than this edition of it, which is recent. Ahuramazda determines to destroy the Khafçtras—i.e., the maleficent spirits created by Angrômainyus, the spirit of evil: Tistrya, the genius of the star Sirius, descends at his command to earth, and, assuming the form of a man, causes it to rain for ten days. The waters cover the earth, and all maleficent beings are drowned. A violent wind dries the earth, but some germs of the evil [Pg 481] spirit's creation remain, and may reappear, therefore Tistrya descends again under the form of a white horse, and produces a second Deluge by another rainfall of ten days. To prevent him accomplishing his task, the demon Apusha assumes the appearance of a black horse, and engages in combat; but he is struck with lightning by Ahuramazda, as well as the demon Çpendjaghra, who had come to his aid. Finally, to bring about the complete destruction of evil, Tistrya descends the third time under the form of a bull, and produces a third Deluge by a third rainfall of ten days, after which the waters divide to form the four great and the twenty-four small seas. Now all this relates to a cosmogonic fact, anterior to the creation of man. The Khafçtras, from which Tistrya undertakes to purge the earth, are the hurtful and venomous beasts created by Angrômainyus which fervent Mazedans make it a duty to destroy in our actual world—such as scorpions, lizards, toads, serpents, rats, &c. There is no allusion here to humanity, or the punishment of its sins. If we were bent on finding in our Bible any parallel to this first rain falling on the surface of the earth—which both destroys the hurtful creatures by which it was infested and renders it productive of a fertile vegetation—we should turn, not to the account of the Deluge, but to what is said in Gen. ii. 5, 6.

The Greeks had two principal legends as to the cataclysm by which primitive humanity was destroyed. The first was connected with the name of Ogyges, the most ancient of the kings of Bœotia or Attica; a quite mythical personage, lost in the night of ages, his very name seemingly derived from one signifying deluge in Aryan idioms, in Sanscrit Ângha. It is said that in his time the whole land was covered by a flood, whose waters reached the sky, and from which he, together with some companions, escaped in a vessel.

The second tradition is the Thessalian legend of Deucalion. Zeus having worked to destroy the men of the age of bronze, with whose crimes he was wroth, Deucalion, by the advice of Prometheus, his father, constructed a coffer, in which he took refuge with his wife, Pyrrha. The Deluge came, the chest or coffer floated at the mercy of the waves for nine days and nine nights, and was finally stranded on Mount Parnassus. Deucalion and Pyrrha leave it, offer sacrifice, and according to the command of Zeus re-people the world by throwing behind them "the bones of the earth"—namely, stones, which change into men. This Deluge of Deucalion is in Grecian tradition what most resembles a universal Deluge. Many authors affirm that it extended to the whole earth, and that the whole human race perished. At Athens, in memory of the event, and to appease the manes of its victims, a ceremony called Hydrophoria was observed, having so close a resemblance to that in use at Hierapolis in Syria, that we can hardly fail to look upon it as a Syro-Phœnician importation, and the result of an assimilation established in remote antiquity between the Deluge of Deucalion and that of Khasisatra, as described by the author of the treatise "On the Syrian [Pg 482] Goddess."[50] Close to the temple of the Olympian Zeus a fissure in the soil was shown, in length but one cubit, through which it was said the waters of the Deluge had been swallowed up. Thus, every year, on the third day of the festival of the Anthestéria, a day of mourning consecrated to the dead,—that is, on the thirteenth of the month of Anthestérion, towards the beginning of March—it was customary, as at Bambyce, to pour water into the fissure, together with flour mixed with honey, poured also into the trench dug to the west of the tomb, in the funereal sacrifices of the Athenians.

Others, on the contrary, limit Deucalion's flood to Greece, even declare that it only destroyed the larger portion of the community, a great many men saving themselves on the highest mountains. Thus the Delphian legend told how the inhabitants of that town, following the wolves in their flight, had taken refuge in a cave on the summit of Parnassus, where they built the town of Lycorea, whose foundation is, on the other hand, attributed by the Chronicle of Paros to Deucalion, after the reproduction by him of a new human race. Later mythographers necessarily adopted this idea of several points of simultaneous escape from a desire to reconcile the local legends of several places in Greece, which named some other than Deucalion as the hero saved from the flood. For instance, at Megara it was the eponym of the city Megaros, son of Zeus and of one of the nymphs Sithnides, who, warned by the cry of cranes of the imminence of the danger, took refuge on Mount Geranien. Again, there was the Thessalian Cerambos, who was said to have escaped the flood by rising into the air on wings given him by the nymphs, and it was Perirrhoos, son of Eolus, that Zeus Naios had preserved at Dodona. For the inhabitants of the Isle of Cos the hero of the Deluge was Merops, son of Hyas, who there assembled under his rule the remnant of humanity preserved with him. The traditions of Rhodes only supposed the Telchines, those of Crete Jasion, to have escaped the cataclysm. In Samothracia the same character was attributed to Saon, said to be the son of Zeus or of Hermes; he seems only to have been a heroic form of the Hermès Saos or Sôcos, the object of special worship in the island, a divinity in whom M. Philippe Berges recognizes with good reason a Phœnician importation, the Sakan of Canaan identified elsewhere with Hermes Dardanos, supposed to have arrived in Samothracia immediately after these events, being driven by the Deluge from Arcadia.

In all these flood stories of Greece we cannot doubt that the tradition of a cataclysm fatal to the whole of humanity—a tradition common to all Aryan peoples—was mixed up, as Knobel rightly observes, more or less precisely with local catastrophes produced by extraordinary overflows of lakes or rivers, or the rupture of their natural [Pg 483] embankments, the sinking of some portions of the sea-coast, or tidal waves consequent upon earthquakes or sudden upheavals of the ocean bed. Such events were frequent in Greece, in the district between Egypt and Palestine, near Pelusium and Mount Casius, as well as in the Cimbric Chersonese. The Greeks used to relate how often their country had in primitive ages been the theatre of such catastrophes. Istros numbered four of these, one of which had opened the Straits of the Bosphorus and Hellespont, when the waters of the Euxine, rushing into the Ægean, submerged the islands and neighbouring coasts. This is evidently the Deluge of Samothracia; where the inhabitants who succeeded in saving themselves did so only by gaining the highest peak of the mountain that rises there; then, in gratitude for their preservation, consecrated the whole island by surrounding its shores with a belt of altars dedicated to the gods. In like manner the tradition of the Deluge of Ogyges seems connected with the recollection of an extraordinary rise of the Lake Capaïs, inundating the whole of the great Bœotian Valley, a recollection amplified later—as is ever the case with legends—by applying to the local disaster all the details popularly told of the primitive Deluge which had taken place before the separation of the ancestors of the two races, Semitic and Aryan. It is also probable that some event that had occurred in Thessaly, or rather in the region of Parnassus, determined the localization of the legend of Deucalion. Nevertheless, it always retained, as we have seen, a more general character than the others, whether the Deluge be extended to the whole earth or limited to the whole of Greece.

Be that as it may, the different narratives were reconciled by admitting three successive Deluges, those of Ogyges, Deucalion, and Dardanos. The general opinion pronounced the former the most ancient, placing it 600 or 250 years before that of Deucalion. But this chronology is far from being universally accepted; and the inhabitants of Samothracia maintain their Deluge to have been the earliest. Christian chronographers of the third and fourth century, as, for instance, Julius Africanus and Eusebius, adopted the Hellenic dates of the Deluges of Ogyges and Deucalion, and inscribed them in their records as different events from the Mosaic Deluge, which, for their part, they fixed at 1000 years before that of Ogyges.

In Phrygia the diluvian tradition was as natural as in Greece. The town of Apamea derived thence its surname Kibotos, or ark, and claimed to be the place where the Ark had stopped. Iconium had the like pretensions. In the same way the people of Milyas, in Armenia, showed the fragments of the Ark on the top of the mountain called Baris; and these were also exhibited in early Christian times to pilgrims on Ararat, as Berosus tells us that in his day the remnants of the vessel of Khasisatra were visited on the Gordyan range.

In the second and third centuries of our era, by means of the syncretic infiltration of Jewish and Christian traditions even into minds [Pg 484] still attached to Paganism, the sacerdotal authorities of Apamea and Phrygia had coins struck bearing an open ark, in which the patriarch and his wife were seen receiving back the dove with the olive branch, and side by side were the two same personages, having left the Ark to retake possession of the earth. On the Ark is inscribed the name ΝΩΕ, the very form the name assumes in the Septuagint. Thus, at this time the Pagan priesthood of the Phrygian city had, we see, adopted the Biblical narrative, even down to its names, and had grafted it on the old native tradition. They related that a short while before the Deluge there reigned a holy man called Annacos, who had predicted it, and occupied the throne more than 300 years, an evident reproduction of the Enoch of the Bible, who walked with God for 365 years.

As to the branch of the Celts—in the bardic poems of Wales, we have a tradition of the Deluge, which, although recent under the concise form of the Triads, is still deserving of attention. As usual, the legend is localized in the country, and the Deluge counts among three terrible catastrophes of the island of Prydain, or Britain, the other two consisting of devastation by fire and by drought.

"The first of these events," it is said, "was the irruption of Llyn-llion, or 'the lake of waves,' and the inundation (bawdd) of the whole country, by which all mankind was drowned with the exception of Dwyfan and Dwyfach, who saved themselves in a vessel without rigging, and it was by them that the island of Prydain was re-peopled."[51]

Pictet here observes—

"Although the triads in their actual form hardly date further than the thirteenth or fourteenth century, some of them are undoubtedly connected with very ancient traditions, and nothing here points to a borrowing from Genesis.

"But it is not so, perhaps, with another triad[52] speaking of the vessel Nefydd-naf-Neifion, which at the time of the overflow of Llyn-llion, bore a pair of all living creatures, and rather too much resembles the ark of Noah. The very name of the patriarch may have suggested this triple epithet, obscure as to its meaning, but evidently formed on the principle of Cymric alliteration. In the same triad we have the enigmatic story of the horned oxen (ychain bannog) of Hu the mighty, who drew out of Llyn-llion the avanc (beaver or crocodile?) in order that the lake should not overflow. The meaning of these enigmas could only be hoped from deciphering the chaos of bardic monuments of the Welsh middle age; but meanwhile we cannot doubt that the Cymri possessed an indigenous tradition of the Deluge."

We also find a vestige of the same tradition in the Scandinavian Ealda.[53] But here the story is combined with a cosmogonic myth. The three sons of Borr, Othin, Wili, and We, grandsons of Buri, the first man, slay Ymir, the father of the Hrimthursar or Ice giants, and his body serves them for the construction of the world. Blood flows from his wounds in such abundance that all the race of giants is drowned in it, except Bergelmir, who saves himself, with his wife, in a boat, and reproduces the race. "Thus," Pictet again observes, "the myth only [Pg 485] belongs to the general tradition through these last features, by which, however, we trace it up to a common source."

Of all European peoples the Lithuanians were the last to embrace Christianity, and their language remains nearest to the original Aryan. They have a legend of the Deluge, the groundwork of which appears very ancient, although it has assumed the simple character of a popular tale, and some of its details may have been borrowed from Genesis at the time of the first Christian missions. According to it[54] the god Pramzimras, seeing the whole earth to be full of iniquity, sends two giants, Wandu and Wêjas (fire and wind), to lay it waste. These overthrew everything in their fury, and only a few men saved themselves on a mountain. Pramzimras, who was engaged in eating celestial walnuts, dropped a shell near the mountain, and in it the men took refuge, the giants respecting it. Having escaped from the calamity, they afterwards disperse, and only one very aged couple remain in the country, greatly bewailing their childless condition. Pramzimras, to console them, sends his rainbow and bids them jump "on the bones of the earth," which curiously recalls the oracle to Deucalion. The two old people jump nine times, and nine pairs are the result, who became the ancestors of the nine Lithuanian tribes.


Egyptian Traditions.—While the tradition of the Deluge holds so considerable a place in the legendary memories of all branches of the Aryan race, the monuments and original texts of Egypt, with their many cosmogonic speculations, have not afforded one, even distant, allusion to this cataclysm. When the Greeks told the Egyptian priests of the Deluge of Deucalion, their reply was that they had been preserved from it as well as from the conflagration produced by Phaëton; they even added that the Hellenes were childish in attaching so much importance to that event, as there had been several other local catastrophes resembling it. According to a passage in Manetho, much suspected, however, of being an interpolation, Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus had himself, before the cataclysm, inscribed on stelæ in hieroglyphical and sacred language the principles of all knowledge. After it the second Thoth translated into the vulgar tongue the contents of these stelæ. This would be the only Egyptian mention of the Deluge, the same Manetho not speaking of it in what remains to us of his "Dynasties," his only complete authentic work. The silence of all other myths of the Pharaonic religion on this head render it very likely that the above is merely a foreign tradition, recently introduced, and no doubt of Asiatic and Chaldean origin. "Thus," says M. Maury, "the Seriadic land, where the passage in question places these hieroglyphic columns, might very well be no other than Chaldea. This tradition, though not in the Bible, existed as a popular legend among the Jews at the beginning [Pg 486] of our era, which confirms our supposition; as the Hebrews might have learnt it during the Babylonian captivity. Josephus tells us that the patriarch Seth, in order that wisdom and astronomical knowledge should not perish, erected, in prevision of the double destruction by fire and water predicted by Adam, two columns, the one in brick, the other in stone, on which this knowledge was engraved, and which subsisted in the Seriadic country." This history is evidently only a variety of the Chaldean legend of the terra-cotta tables bearing the divine revelations, and the principles of all sciences which Êa ordered Khasisatra to bury before the Deluge, "in the city of the Sun at Sippara," as we have had it above in the extracts from Berosus.

Nevertheless, the Egyptians did admit a destruction by the gods of primal men on account of their rebellion and their sins. This event was related in a chapter of the sacred books of Thoth, those famous Hermetic books of the Egyptian priesthood which are graven on the sides of one of the inmost chambers of the funereal hypogeum of Seti the First at Thebes. The text has been published and translated by M. Edouard Naville.[55]

The scene is laid at the close of the reign of the god Râ, the earliest terrestrial reign, according to the system of the priests of Thebes, the second, according to that of the priests of Memphis, which is the one followed by Manetho, who placed at the very origin of things the reign of Phtah, previous to that of Râ. Irritated by the impiety and crimes of the men he has made, the god assembles the other gods to hold counsel with them in profound secrecy, "so that men should not see it, nor their heart be afraid."

"Said by Râ to Nun:[56] 'Thou, the eldest of the gods, of whom I am born, and ye ancient gods, here are the men who are born from myself; they speak words against me, tell me what you would do in the matter; lo, I have waited, and have not slain them before hearing your words.'

"Said by the Majesty of Nun: 'My son Râ, a greater god than he who has made him and created him, I stand in great fear of thee; do thou deliberate alone.'

"Said by the Majesty of Râ: 'Lo, they take to flight through the country, and their hearts are afraid....'

"Said by the Gods: 'Let thy face permit, and let those men be smitten who plot evil things, thine enemies, and let none [of them remain.]'"

A goddess, whose name has unfortunately disappeared, but who seems to have been Tefnut, identified with Hathor and Sekhet, is then sent to accomplish the sentence of destruction.

"This goddess left, and slew the men upon the earth.

"Said by the Majesty of this God: 'Come in peace, Hathor; thou hast done [what was ordained thee.]'

"Said by this Goddess: 'Thou art living; for I have been stronger than men, and my heart is satisfied.'

"Said by the Majesty of Râ: 'I am living, for I will rule over them [and I will complete] their ruin.'

[Pg 487] "And lo, Sekhet, during several nights, trod their blood under-foot as far as the town of Hâ-klinen-su (Héracléopolis.)"

But the massacre ended, the anger of Râ was appeased; he began to repent of what he had done. A great expiatory sacrifice succeeded in finally calming him. Fruits were gathered throughout Egypt, bruised, and their juice mingled with human blood, 7000 pitchers being filled with it and presented to the god.

"And lo, the Majesty of Râ, the god of Upper and Lower Egypt, comes with the gods in three days of sailing to see these vases of drink, after he had ordered the goddess to slay men.

"Said by the Majesty of Râ: 'This is well; I will protect men because of it.' Said by Râ: 'I raise my hand concerning this, to say that I will no more destroy men.'

"The Majesty of Râ, the god of Upper and Lower Egypt, commanded in the middle of the night to overthrow the liquid in the vases, and the fields were completely filled with water by the will of this god. The goddess arrived in the morning, and found the fields full of water. Her face grew joyous, and she drank abundantly and went away satisfied. She no more perceived any men.

"Said by the Majesty of Râ to the goddess: 'Come in peace, gracious goddess.'

"And he caused the young priestesses of Amu to be born.

"Said by the Majesty of Râ to this goddess: 'Libations shall be made to her at each of the festivals of the new year, under the superintendence of my priestesses.'

"Hence it comes that libations are made under the superintendence of the priestesses of Hathor by all men since the ancient days."

Nevertheless, some men have escaped the destruction commanded by Râ, and renewed the population of the earth. As for the solar god who reigns over the world, he feels himself old, sick and weary; he has had enough of living among men, whom he regrets not to have completely annihilated, but has sworn henceforth to spare.

"Said by the Majesty of Râ: 'There is a smarting pain that torments me; what is it then that hurts me?' Said by the Majesty of Râ: 'I am living, but my heart is weary of being with them [men], and I have in no way destroyed them. That destruction is not one that I have made myself.'

"Said by the gods who accompany him: 'Away with lassitude, thou hast obtained all thou didst desire.'"

The god Râ decides, however, to accept the help of the men of the new human race who offer themselves to him to combat his enemies, and a great battle takes place, out of which they come victorious. But in spite of this success the god, disgusted with earthly life, resolves to quit it for ever, and has himself carried into heaven by the goddess Nut, who takes the form of a cow. Then he creates a region of delight, the fields of Aalu, the Elysium of Egyptian mythology, which he peoples with stars. Entering into rest, he assigns to different gods the government of different parts of the world. Shu, who is to succeed him as king, is to administer celestial matters with Nut; Seb and Nun receive the charge of the things of earth and water. Finally, Râ, a sovereign who has voluntarily abdicated, goes to dwell with Thoth, his favourite son, on whom he has bestowed the superintendence of the under-world.

[Pg 488] Such is this strange narrative, "in which," as M. Naville has well said, "in the midst of fantastic and often puerile inventions, we do nevertheless find the two terms of existence as understood by the ancient Egyptians. Râ begins with earth, and passing through heaven stops in the region of profundity, Ament, in which he apparently wishes to sojourn. This then is a symbolic and religious representation of life, which for every Egyptian—and especially for a royal conqueror—had to begin and end like the sun. This explains the chapter being inscribed in a tomb."

Hence it was the last portion of the narrative—which we can analyse but very briefly—the abdication of Râ and his retreat, first, in heaven, next in the Ament, a symbol of death which is to be followed by resurrection as the setting of the sun by its rising—it is this which constituted its interest in the conception of the doctrine of a future life, illustrated in the decoration of the interior of the tomb of Seti I. For our present purpose, on the contrary, it is the beginning of the story which constitutes its importance, it is that destruction of primal humanity by the gods of which no mention has been hitherto found elsewhere. Although the means of destruction employed by Râ are quite dissimilar, although he does not proceed by submersion but by a massacre in which the lion-headed goddess Tefnut or Sekhet, the dreadful form of Hathor, is the agent, the other sides of the story bear a sufficiently striking analogy to that of the Mosaic or Chaldean Deluge to show that it is the special and very individual form assumed in Egypt by that tradition. In both we have human corruption exciting divine wrath, and punished by a divinely ordained annihilation of the race, from which there escapes but a very small number destined to give birth to a new humanity. Finally, after the event an expiatory sacrifice appeases the celestial anger, and a solemn covenant is made between men and the deity, who swears never so to destroy them again. To me, the agreement of these principal features outweighs the divergence in detail. And we have also to observe how singularly akin is the part ascribed by the Egyptian priest to Râ with that assigned in the epic poem of Uruk to the god Bel, in the deluge of Khasisatra. The Egyptians believed, as did other nations, in the destruction of mankind; but as inundation meant for them prosperity and life, they changed the primitive tradition; the human race, instead of perishing by water, was otherwise exterminated; and the inundation—that crowning benefit to the valley of the Nile—became in their eyes the sign that the wrath of Râ was appeased.


American Stories of the Flood.

"It is a very remarkable fact," says M. Alfred Maury, "that we find in America traditions of the Deluge coming infinitely nearer to that of the Bible and the Chaldean religion than among any people of the Old World. It is difficult to suppose that the emigration that certainly took place from Asia into North America by the Kourile and Aleutian islands, and [Pg 489] still does so in our day, should have brought in these memories, since no trace is found of them among those Mongol or Siberian populations,[57] which were fused with the natives of the New World.... No doubt certain American nations, the Mexicans and Peruvians, had reached a very advanced social condition at the time of the Spanish conquest, but this civilization had a special character, and seems to have been developed on the soil where it flourished. Many very simple inventions, such as the use of weights, were unknown to these people, and this shows that their knowledge was not derived from India or Japan. The attempts that have been made to trace the origin of Mexican civilization to Asia have not as yet led to any sufficiently conclusive facts. Besides, had Buddhism, which we doubt, made its way into America, it could not have introduced a myth not found in its own Scriptures.[58] The cause of these similarities between the diluvian traditions of the nations of the New World and that of the Bible remains therefore unexplained."

I have particular pleasure in quoting these words by a man of immense erudition, because he does not belong to orthodox writers, and will not therefore be thought biassed by a preconceived opinion. Others also, no less rationalistic than he, have pointed out this likeness between American traditions of the Deluge and those of the Bible and the Chaldeans.

The most important among the former are the Mexican, for they appear to have been definitively fixed by symbolic and mnemonic paintings before any contact with Europeans. According to these documents, the Noah of the Mexican cataclysm was Coxcox, called by certain peoples Teocipactli or Tezpi. He had saved himself, together with his wife Xochiquetzal, in a bark, or, according to other traditions, on a raft, made of cypress wood (Cupressus disticha). Paintings retracing the deluge of Coxcox have been discovered among the Aztecs, Miztecs, Zapotecs, Tlascaltecs, and Mechoacaneses. The tradition of the latter is still more strikingly in conformity with the story as we have it in Genesis and in Chaldean sources. It tells how Tezpi embarked in a spacious vessel with his wife, his children, and several animals, and grain, whose preservation was essential to the subsistence of the human race. When the great god Tezcatlipoca decreed that the waters should retire, Tezpi sent a vulture from the bark. The bird, feeding on the carcases with which the earth was laden, did not return. Tezpi sent out other birds, of which the humming-bird only came back with a leafy branch in its beak. Then Tezpi, seeing that the country began to vegetate, left his bark on the mountain of Colhuacan.

The document, however, that gives the most valuable information as to the cosmogony of the Mexicans is one known as "Codex Vaticanus," from the library where it is preserved. It consists of four symbolic pictures, representing the four ages of the world preceding the actual [Pg 490] one. They were copied at Chobula from a manuscript anterior to the conquest, and accompanied by the explanatory commentary of Pedro de los Rios, a Dominican monk, who in 1566, less than fifty years after the arrival of Cortez, devoted himself to the research of indigenous traditions as being necessary to his missionary work.

The first age is marked with the cipher 13×400+6, or 5206, which Alexander von Humboldt understands as giving the number of years of the period, and Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg as the date of its commencement, from a proleptic era going back from the period of the execution of the manuscript. This age is called Tlatonatiuh, "Sun of Earth." It is that of the giants, or Quinames, the earliest inhabitants of Anahuac, whose end was destruction by famine.

The number of the second age is 12×400+4, or 4804, and it is called Tlatonatiuh, "Sun of Fire." It closes with the descent on Earth of Xiuhteuchli, the god of fire. Mankind are all transformed into birds, and only thus escape the conflagration. Nevertheless, one human pair find refuge in a cave, and repeople the world.

As to the third age, Ehécatonatiuh, "Sun of Wind," its number is 10×400+10, or 4010. Its final catastrophe is a terrible hurricane raised by Quetzalcoatl, the "god of the air." With few exceptions, men are metamorphosed into monkeys.

Then comes the fourth age, Atonatiuh, "Sun of Water," whose number is 10×400+8, or 4008. It ends by a great inundation, a veritable deluge. All mankind are changed into fish, with the exception of one man and his wife, who save themselves in a bark made of the trunk of a cypress-tree. The picture represents Matlalcueye, goddess of waters, and consort of Tlaloc, god of rain, as darting down towards earth. Coxcox and Xochiquetzal, the two human beings preserved, are seen seated on a tree-trunk and floating in the midst of the waters. This flood is represented as the last cataclysm that devastates the earth.

All this is most important, as a mind of the order of Humboldt's did not hesitate to acknowledge. However, M. Girard de Realle wrote quite recently:

"The myth of the deluge has been met with in several parts of America, and Christian writers have not failed to see in it a reminiscence of the Biblical tradition, nay, in connection with the pyramid of Chobula, they have found traces of the Tower of Babel. We shall not waste time in pointing out how out of a fish-god, Coxcox, among the Chichimecs, Teocipactli among the Aztecs, and a goddess of flowers, Xochiquetzal, it was easy to concoct the Mexican figures of Noah and his wife by joining on to them the story of the ark and the dove. It is enough to observe that all these legends have only been collected and published at a relatively recent period.[59] The first chroniclers, so cautious already despite their honest simplicity, such as Sahagun, Mendieta, Olmos, and the Hispano-indigenous authors, such as the Tezcucan Ixthilxochitl and the Tlascaltec Camargo, never breathe a word of stories they could not have failed to bring to light, had they existed in their days. Lastly, we find in Mr. Bancroft's[60] work a criticism of these legends, due to Don José Fernando Ramirez, keeper of the National Museum, [Pg 491] which proves incontestably that all these stories spring from all too ready and tendency-fraught interpretations of old Mexican paintings, which according to him only represent episodes in the migration of Aztecs around the central lakes of the plateau of Anahuac."

I much fear that the tendency here is not on the side of writers who are looked on as ground to powder by the epithet Christian; which, indeed, be it said in passing, might well surprise a few among them. And this tendency, when resolved at any cost to attack the Bible, is as anti-scientific as when grasping at any uncritical argument in its defence. No doubt the identical character of Xochiquetzal or Maciulxochiquetzal, as goddess of the fertilizing rain and of vegetation, with that of Chalchihuitlicué or Mallalcuéyé, is a well-known fact, more certain even than the character of fish-god of Coxcox or Teocipactli. But the transformation of gods into heroes is a very common fact in all polytheisms, and most common in the kind of unconscious euhemerism from which infant peoples never free themselves. There is therefore nothing here to contradict the fact that these two divine personages, contemplated as heroes, may be taken as the two survivors of the Flood, and the ancestors of the new humanity. As to the theory of Don José Ramirez, about the symbolic pictures that have been interpreted as expressing the diluvian tradition, it is very ingenious and scientifically presented, but not so absolutely proved as M. Girard de Realle considers. But even granting its incontestability, it only removes part of the evidence which may have been unintentionally forced by those naturally disposed to see in it a parallel to Genesis; as for instance, with regard to the sending out the birds by Tezpi. Still the existence of the tradition among Mexican peoples would not be shaken, for it rests upon a whole of indubitable testimony, confirming in a striking manner the interpretation hitherto given of the "Codex Vaticanus."

The valuable work in the Aztec language, and in Latin letters, compiled by a native, subsequently to the Spanish conquest, called Codex Chimalpopoca by Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, who gives an analysis and partial translation of it in the first volume of his "Histoire des Nations Civilisees du Mexique," contains in its third portion a history of the suns, or successive ages of the world. Each takes its name from the way in which humanity is destroyed at its close. The first is the age of jaguars, who devour the primordial giants;[61] the second, the age of wind; at its close men lost themselves, and were carried off by the hurricane, and transformed themselves into monkeys. Houses, woods, everything was swept away by the wind. Then comes the age of fire, whose sun is called Tlalocan-Teuctli, "Lord of the lower regions," the usual appellation of Mictlanteuctli, the Mexican Pluto, which seems to point to the idea of an age of special volcanic activity. At its close, mankind is destroyed by a rain of fire, and such as do not perish escape under [Pg 492] the form of birds. Finally, the fourth age is that of water, which immediately precedes our present epoch, and closes with the Deluge.

Here is the narrative according to Abbé Brasseur's version, held correct by Americanists:—

"This is the sun called Nahui-atl, '4 water.'[62] Now the water was tranquil for forty years, plus twelve, and men lived for the third and fourth times. When the sun Nahui-atl came there had passed away four hundred years, plus two ages, plus seventy-six years. Then all mankind was lost and drowned and found themselves changed into fish. The sky came nearer the water. In a single day all was lost and the day Nahui-xochitl '4 flower,' destroyed all our flesh.

"And that year was that of cé-calli, '1 house,'[63] and the day Nahui-atl all was lost. Even the mountains sank into the water, and the water remained tranquil for fifty-two springs.

"Now at the end of the year the god Titlacahuan had warned Nata and his spouse Nena, saying: 'Make no more wine of Agave, but begin to hollow out a great cypress, and you will enter into it when in the month Tozontli the water approaches the sky.'

"Then they entered in, and when the god had closed the door he said: 'Thou shalt eat but one ear of maize and thy wife one also.'

"But as soon as they had finished they went out, and the water remained calm, for the wood no longer moved, and on opening it they began to see fish.

"Then they lit a fire, by rubbing together pieces of wood, and they roasted fish.

"The gods Citlallinicué and Citlalatonac instantly looking down said: 'Divine Lord, what is that fire that is making there. Why do they thus smoke the sky?' At once Titlacahuan-Tezcatlipoca descended. He began to chide, saying, 'Who has made this fire here?' And seizing hold of the fish he shaped their loins and heads, and they were transformed into dogs (chichime)."

This last touch is a satire on the Chichimecs, or "barbarians of the North," founders of the kingdom of Tezcuco. It proves the decidedly indigenous character of the story, and removes any such suspicion of a Biblical imitation, as the date might have led to.

The manuscript, written in Spanish by Motolina, who belonged to the generation of the "conquistadores," has hitherto only been known by extracts given from it by Abbé Brasseur in his "Recherches sur les Ruines de Palenque," a work containing many useful documents, though already pervaded by the delusions which towards the end of his career so strangely misled this learned pioneer of Mexican antiquarianism. Here, too, we find the theory of the four suns, or four ages, given in the same order as by the author of the "Codex Chimalpopoca."

The first is called "age of Tezcatlipoca," because that god had then added on a half to the sun, which was only half luminous, or had "made himself sun in its place." This was the age of the Quinames, or giants, who were almost all exterminated by famine. After this, Quetzlcoatl, the god of the air, having armed himself with a great stick, struck Tezcatlipoca with it, threw him into the water, and "and made himself sun in his place." The fallen god, transforming himself into a jaguar, [Pg 493] devoured such of the Quinames as had escaped from the famine. The statements of the "Codex Vaticanus" and the "Codex Chimalpopoca" as to the final catastrophe of the world's first age, are thus reconciled by this last narrative.

Motolina calls the two next ages those of wind and fire; they are closed in the way we have seen.

The fourth is the age of the "Sun of Water," placed under the patronage of the goddess Chalchihuitlicué. The Deluge terminates it, and after this last cataclysm, we enter upon our present era.

We come next to the "History of the Chichimecs," by Don Fernando d'Alva Ixtlilxochitl, descendant of the old pagan kings of Tezcuco, whose pretended silence on the subject we have seen appealed to as disproving the authenticity of these Mexican diluvian traditions. In the first chapter of his first book, Ixtlilxochitl relates the story of the cosmic ages according to the traditions of his native city. He only gives four in all, including the actual period. The first is the Atonatiuh, or "Sun of Waters," which begins with the creation, and ends with a universal deluge. Then comes the Thlachitonatiuh, or "Sun of Earth," when the giants called Quinametziu-Tzocuilhioxime lived, descendants of the survivors of the first epoch. A frightful earthquake, overthrowing the mountains, and destroying the greater part of the dwellers on earth, closes this age. It is in the third age, Ehecatonatiuh, "Sun of Wind," that Olmecs and Xicalanques came from the east to settle in the south of Mexico. At first they were conquered by the remnant of the Quinames, but ended by massacring these. Quetzalcoatl next appears as a religious reformer, but is not listened to by men, whose indocility is punished by the appalling hurricane during which such as escaped became monkeys. Then begins the present age, Tlatonatiuh, or "Sun of Fire," thus called because it is to end by a rain of fire. We see, therefore, that Ixtlilxochitl was perfectly acquainted with the diluvian tradition, and if he does not enter into its details, he assigns it an important place in his series of ages.

Therefore we must needs acknowledge the diluvian tradition to be really indigenous in Mexico and not an invention of missionaries. We may doubt as to some particulars in some of the versions, though this arises chiefly from a preconceived idea, because they too much resemble the story in Genesis; but as to the fundamental tradition it is unassailable, and intimately connected with a conception not drawn from the Bible—and universally admitted to have existed—that, namely, of the four ages of the world. Between this conception, and that of the four ages or Yugas of India, and of the manvantaras where the destruction of the world and the renewals of humanity alternate, there is an analogy which appeared very significant to Humboldt, MacCulloch, and M. Maury. It is one that justifies us in asking whether the Mexicans devised it independently or borrowed it more or less directly from India. The system of the four ages, inseparable in Mexico from that of the [Pg 494] diluvian tradition, confronts us with the problem—ever recurring with regard to American civilization—of how far these are spontaneous and how far derived from Asia through Buddhist or other missionaries. In the present state of our knowledge we can as little solve this problem negatively as affirmatively, and all attempts made to come to a positive conclusion are premature and unproductive. Before discovering whence American civilizations came, we must thoroughly know what they were, nor attempt the arduous and obscure question of their origin till we frame a real American archæology on the same scientific basis and by the same methods as other archæologies. And in this respect Messrs. T. G. Müller and Herbert Bancroft appear to me greatly in advance of their precursors in this field of inquiry.

For the present, all that can be done is, as I have attempted with Flood stories, to determine facts without pretending to draw inferences. Hence I should no longer boldly write, as I did eight years ago: "The Flood stories of Mexico positively prove the tradition of the Deluge to be one of the oldest held by humanity—a tradition so primitive as to be anterior to the dispersion of human families and the final developments of material civilization; which the Red race peopling America brought from the common cradle of our species into their new home, at the same time that the Semites, Chaldeans, and Aryans respectively carried it into theirs."[64] The fact is that among American peoples this tradition may not be primitive. We may indeed affirm that it was not borrowed from the Bible after the arrival of the Spaniards, but we cannot be equally confident that it was not the result of some previous foreign importation, the precise date of which we have no means of fixing.

Be that as it may, the doctrines of successive ages, and of the destruction of the men of the first age by a Deluge, is also found in the curious book of Popol-vuh that collection of the mythological traditions of Guatemala, written after the conquest in the native tongue, by a secret adept of the old religion; discovered, copied, and translated into Spanish in the beginning of the last century by the Dominican Francisco Ximenez, curé of St. Thomas of Chiula. His Spanish version has been published by M. Schelzer, the original text with a French translation by Abbé Brasseur. Here we read that the gods, seeing that animals were neither capable of speaking nor of adoring them, determined to make men in their own image. They fashioned them at first in clay. But those men had no consistency, could not turn their heads; spoke, indeed, but understood nothing. The gods then destroyed their imperfect work by a Deluge. Setting about it for the second time, they made a man of wood and a woman of resin. These creatures were far superior to the former; they moved and lived, but only like other animals; they spoke, but unintelligibly; and gave no thought to the gods. Then Hurakan, "the heart of heaven," the god of storm, caused a rain of burning resin to fall, while the ground was shaken by a fearful earthquake. [Pg 495] All the descendants of the wood-and-resin pair perished, with a few exceptions, who became monkeys of the forest. Finally, out of white and yellow maize, the gods produced four perfect men: Balam-Quitze, "the smiling jaguar;" Balam-agab, "the jaguar of the night;" Mahuentah, "the distinguished name;" and Igi-Balam, "the jaguar of the moon." They were tall and strong; saw and knew everything, and rendered thanks to the gods. But the latter were alarmed at this their final success, and feared for their supremacy: accordingly, they threw a light veil, like a mist, over the vision of the four men, which became like that of the men of to-day. While they slept the gods created for them four wives of great beauty, and from three of these pairs the Quichés were born—Igi-Balam and his wife Cakixaha having no children. This series of awkward attempts at creation is sufficiently removed from the Biblical narrative to do away with any suspicion of Christian missionary influence over this indigenous quadrennial legend, where, as usual, we find the belief in the destruction of primal mankind by a great flood.

We meet with it in Nicaragua as well. Oviedo relates that Pedsarias Davila, governor of the province in 1538, charged F. Bobadilla, of the Order of St. Dominic, to inquire into the spiritual condition of those Indians whom his predecessors boasted of having converted in great numbers to Catholicism, which he, Davila, with good reason, doubted. The monk accordingly examined the natives, and Oviedo has transmitted several dialogues which show us the creed of the Nicaraguans a few years after the Spanish conquest. The following bears directly on our subject:—

"Question by Bobadilla. Who has created heaven and earth, the stars and moon, man and all else?

"Answer (by the Cacique Avogoaltegoan). Tamagastad and Cippatoval, the one is a man, the other a woman.

"Q. Who created that man and woman?

"A. No one. On the contrary, all men and women descend from them.

"Q. Did they create Christians?

"A. I do not know, but the Indians descend from Tamagastad and Cippatoval.

"Q. Are there any gods greater than they?

"A. No; we believe them to be the greatest.

"Q. Are they gods of flesh or wood, or any other substance?

"A. They are of flesh; they are man and woman, brown in colour like us Indians. They walked on earth dressed like us, and ate what Indians eat.

"Q. Who gave them to eat?

"A. Everything belongs to them.

"Q. Where are they now?

"A. In heaven, according to what our ancestors have told us.

"Q. How did they ascend thither?

"A. I only know that it is their home. I do not know how they were born, for they have no father nor mother.

"Q. How do they live at present?

"A. They eat what Indians eat, for maize and all food proceeds from the place where dwell the teotes (gods).

"Q. Do you know, or have you heard tell, whether since the teotes created the world it has been destroyed?

[Pg 496] "A. Before the present race existed, the world was destroyed by water and all became sea.

"Q. How did that man and woman escape?

"A. They were in heaven, for that was their dwelling, and afterwards they came down to earth and re-made all things as they now are, and we are their issue.

"Q. You say the whole world was destroyed by water. Did not some individuals save themselves in a canoe, or by some other way?

"A. No. All the world was drowned, according to what my ancestors told me."

The great god Tamagastad, of whom mention is made in this dialogue, is evidently the same as Thomagata, the awful-visaged spirit of fire, whose cultus was anterior among a portion of the Muyscas at Tunga and Sogamosa to that of Botchica. This, therefore, brings us back to the religious and cosmogonic traditions of the very advanced civilization in the high table-land of Cundinamarca, and we are led to recognize in the Flood-legend of Botchica a certain echo of the so universally spread tradition of the Deluge of early ages, mingled with the memory of a local event, from which the ancestors of the Muyscas had suffered at the time of their first settlement. Neither must we forget that Botchica and his wicked spouse, who brought about the inundation of Cundinamarca, are no other than personifications of the sun and moon, as were the pair Manco-Capac and Mama-Oello in the empire of the Incas. "The moon of Peru is gentle and beneficent," well observes M. Girard de Realle, "she helps her brother and husband in the work of civilization; on the plateau of Cundinamarca, on the contrary, she is a witch, a veritable deity of night and of evil, worthily represented by the lugubrious owl."

Some have believed themselves to have discovered the Flood-tradition among the Peruvians, but careful criticism disproves this. For it only arises from an unintelligent interpretation of the myth of Viracocha or Con, god of waters, or more precisely, the personification of the element, as shown by the legend which represents him as having no bones, and yet stretching himself out afar, lowering the mountains and filling up the valleys in his course. He was the chief god of the Aymaras, who, according to them, had created the earth; and who, issuing from Lake Titicaca, to manifest himself on earth, had assembled the earliest men at Tiahuanaco. Later, the official cosmogony of the Incas led to his undergoing an euhemeristic transformation diminishing his religious importance; and he is represented as one of the sons of the Sun, come upon earth to dwell among and civilize mankind, a younger brother of Manco-Capac. Now it is under the government of Viracocha that the Deluge is placed by the writers of very recent date, who mention this event, of which the native tradition was unknown to the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, to Montesinos, Balboa, Gomara, F. Oliva, and, in short, to all authorities of any weight in Peruvian matters. MacCulloch does indeed quote Acosta and Herrera, but these authors never speak of a Deluge involving all humanity; they only say that [Pg 497] Viracocha gave laws to the earliest men at the close of a primordial period anterior to their creation, when the whole surface of the earth had been under water.

Numerous legends of the great inundation of earliest times have been found among the savage tribes of America. But by their very nature these leave room for doubt. They have not been committed to writing by the natives, we only know them by intermediaries who may, in perfectly good faith, have altered them considerably in an unconscious desire to assimilate them to the Bible story. Besides, they have been only collected very lately, when the tribes had been for a long time in contact with Europeans, and had often had living among them more than one adventurer who might well have introduced new elements into their traditions. They are therefore very inferior in importance to those we have found existing in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, previous to the arrival of the Spanish conquerors.

The most remarkable of them, as excluding by its very form the idea of European communication, is that of the Cherokees. It seems a childish version of the Indian tradition, only that it is a dog instead of a fish who plays the part of deliverer to the man who escapes the catastrophe; but this brings us back to a myth special to America—that of the transformation of fish into dogs, as we have seen in the Flood-story of the "Codex Chimalpopoca."

"The dog," says the legend of the Cherokees, "never ceased for several days to run up and down the banks of the river, looking fixedly at the water and howling as in distress. His master was annoyed by his ways and roughly ordered him to go home, upon which he began speaking and revealed the impending calamity, ending his prediction by saying that the only way in which his master and his family could escape was by throwing him at once into the water, for he would become their deliverer by swimming to seek a boat, but that there was not a moment to lose, for a terrible rain was at hand which would lead to a general inundation in which everything would perish. The man obeyed his dog, was saved with his family, and they repeopled the earth."

It is said that the Tamanakis, a Carib tribe on the banks of the Orinoco, have a legend of the man and woman who escaped the flood by reaching the summit of Mount Tapanacu. There they threw cocoa-nuts behind them, from which sprung a new race of men and women. If the report be true, which, however, we cannot affirm, this would be a very singular agreement with one of the distinctive features of the Greek story of Deucalion and Pyrrha.

Russian explorers have reported a childlike narrative of the flood in the Aleutian Islands, forming the geographical link between Asia and North America, and at the extremity of the north-east of America among the Kolosks. Henry the traveller gives the following tradition as current among the Indians of the Great Lakes:—

"In former times the father of the Indian tribes dwelt towards the rising sun. Having been warned in a dream that a deluge was coming upon the earth, he built a raft, on which he saved himself with his family and all the animals. He floated thus for several months. The animals, who at that time spoke, loudly [Pg 498] complained and murmured against him. At last a new earth appeared, on which he landed with all the animals, who from that time lost the power of speech as a punishment for their murmurs against their deliverer."

According to Father Charlevoix, the tribes of Canada and the valley of the Mississippi relate in their rude legends that all mankind was destroyed by a flood, and that the good spirit, to repeople the earth, had changed animals into men. It is to J. S. Kohl we owe our acquaintance with the version of the Chippeways—full of grotesque and perplexing touches—in which the man saved from the deluge is called Menaboshu.[65] To know if the earth be drying he sends a bird, the diver, out of his bark; then becomes the restorer of the human race and the founder of existing society. Catlin relates a story, current among the Mandans, of the earth being a great tortoise borne on the waters, and that when one day, in digging the soil, a tribe of white men pierced the shell of the tortoise, it sank, and the water covering it drowned all men, with the exception of one, who saved himself in a boat; and when the earth re-emerged, sent out a dove, who returned with a branch of willow in its beak. Here we have Noah's dove, as in the story of Tezpi and Menaboshu we have other birds substituted for it. But the native originality of this detail, as of the whole diluvian tradition among the Mandans, may well be doubted when we remember that the physical peculiarities of this curious tribe on the banks of the Missouri led Catlin to consider it of mixed blood, and partly white origin.

In the songs of the inhabitants of New California allusion was made to a very remote period when the sea left its bed and covered the earth. The whole race of men and animals perished in this deluge, sent by the supreme god Chinigchinig, with the exception of a few who had taken refuge on a high mountain which the water failed to reach. The Commissioners of the United States who explored New Mexico before its annexation, tell of the existence of a similar tradition among the different native tribes of that vast territory. Other travellers give us kindred narratives, more or less strikingly resembling the Bible record. But for the most part they are too vaguely reported to be entirely trusted.


Polynesian Traditions.—In Oceania even, and not among the Pelagian negroes or Papoos,[66] but the Polynesian, racenatives of the archipelago of Australasia, the diluvian tradition has been traced, mingled with recollections of sudden rises of the sea, which are one of the most frequent scourges of those islands. The most noted is that of Tahiti, which has been specially referred to the primeval tradition. Here it is as [Pg 499] given by M. Gaussin,[67] who has published a translation of it, as well as the Tahitian text, written by a native named Maré:—

"Two men had gone out to sea to fish with the line, Roo and Teahoroa by name. They threw their hooks into the sea, which caught in the hair of the god Ruahatu. They exclaimed, 'A fish!' They drew up the line and saw that it was a man they had caught. At sight of the god they bounded to the other end of their bark, and were half dead with fear. Ruahatu asked them, 'What is this?' The two fishermen replied, 'We came to fish, and we did not know that our hooks would catch thee.' The god then said, 'Unfasten my hair;' and they did so. Then Ruahatu asked, 'What are your names?' They replied, 'Roo and Teahoroa.' Ruahatu next said, 'Return to the shore, and tell men that the earth will be covered with water, and all the world will perish. To-morrow morning repair to the islet called Toa-marama; it will be a place of safety for you and your children.'

"Ruahatu caused the sea to cover the lands. All were covered, and all men perished except Roo, Teahoroa, and their families."

This story, like all in this part of the world currently referred to the memory of the Deluge, has assumed the childish character peculiar to Polynesian legends, and moreover, as M. Maury justly observes, it may be naturally explained by the recollection of one of those tidal waves so common in Polynesia. The most essential feature of all traditions properly called diluvian is wanting here. The island, observes M. Maury, has no resemblance to the Ark.[68] It is true that one of the versions of the Tahitian legend states that the two fishermen repaired to Toa-marama, not only with their families, but with a pig, a dog, and a couple of fowls, which recalls the entry of the animals into the Ark. On the other hand, some details of a similar story among the Fijis, especially one in which, for many years after the event, canoes were kept ready in case of its repetition, far better fit a local phenomenon, a tidal wave, than a universal deluge.

However, if all these legends were exclusively related to local catastrophes, it would be strange that they should appear and be almost similar in a certain number of localities at a great distance from each other, and only where the Polynesian race has taken root, or left indubitable traces of its passage;—this race, indigenous in the Malay Archipelago, not having migrated thence till about the fourth century of the Christian era—i.e., at a time when, in consequence of the communication between India and a portion of Malaysia,[69] the Flood-tradition under its Indian form might well have entered in. Without, therefore, deciding the question one way or other, we do not think that that opinion can absolutely be condemned which finds in these Polynesian legends an echo of the tradition of the Deluge, much weakened, [Pg 500] much changed, and more inextricably confused than anywhere else with local disasters of recent date.

The result, then, of this long review authorizes us to affirm the story of the Deluge to be a universal tradition among all branches of the human race, with the one exception, however, of the black. Now a recollection thus precise and concordant cannot be a myth voluntarily invented. No religious or cosmogonic myth presents this character of universality. It must arise from the reminiscence of a real and terrible event, so powerfully impressing the imagination of the first ancestors of our race, as never to have been forgotten by their descendants. This cataclysm must have occurred near the first cradle of mankind, and before the dispersion of the families from which the principal races were to spring; for it would be at once improbable and uncritical to admit that at as many different points of the globe as we should have to assume in order to explain the wide spread of these traditions—local phenomena so exactly alike should have occurred, their memory having assumed an identical form, and presenting circumstances that need not necessarily have occurred to the mind in such cases.

Let us observe, however, that probably the diluvian tradition is not primitive but imported in America; that it undoubtedly wears the aspect of an importation among the rare populations of the yellow race where it is found; and lastly, that it is doubtful among the Polynesians of Oceania. There will still remain three great races to which it is undoubtedly peculiar, who have not borrowed it from each other, but among whom the tradition is primitive, and goes back to the most ancient times; and these three races are precisely the only ones of which the Bible speaks as being descended from Noah, those of which it gives the ethnic filiation in the tenth chapter of Genesis. This observation, which I hold to be undeniable, attaches a singularly historic and exact value to the tradition as recorded by the Sacred Book, even if, on the other hand, it may lead to giving it a more limited geographical and ethnological significance. In another paper I propose to inquire whether, in the conception of the inspired writers, the Deluge really was universal, in the sense customarily supposed.

But as the case now stands, we do not hesitate to declare that, far from being a myth, the Biblical Deluge is a real and historical fact, having, to say the least, left its impress on the ancestors of three races—Aryan or Indo-European, Semitic or Syro-Arabian, Chamitic or Kushite—that is to say, on the three great civilized races of the ancient world, those which constitute the higher humanity—before the ancestors of those races had as yet separated, and in the part of Asia they together inhabited.

François Lenormant.


[31] The date of the termination of the works undertaken by Yu, in order to repair the damage done by this flood, lies between 2278 and 2062 B.C. according to the chronological system adopted.

[32] This work of Berosus was already out of existence in the fourth century of our era, when Eusebius of Cesarea, to whom we owe such fragments as we possess, wrote. Only two abridgments remained, due to later polygraphers, Abydenus and Alexander Polybistor. Eusebius gives the version of each editor, the one I quote is that of Alexander.

[33] Abydenus says, "all that composed the scriptures."

[34] He is provisionally called Izdhubar or Ghirdhubar, transcribing for want of a more certain method, according to their phonetic value, the characters composing the ideographic spelling of his name.

[35] The text is published in "Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia," vol. iv. pp. 50 and 51. The two principal translations hitherto given are those of George Smith and M. Oppert. The one we now offer contains a large share of personal work. We avail ourselves of the labours of our illustrious precursors, but believe that we have also added some important steps towards a precise understanding of the text.

[36] Here several verses are wanting.

[37] "The water of the twilight at break of day," one of the personifications of rain.

[38] The god of thunder.

[39] The god of war and death.

[40] The Chaldeo-Assyrian Hercules.

[41] The superior heaven of the fixed stars.

[42] Vases of the measure called in Hebrew Seäh. This relates to a detail of the ritualistic prescriptions for sacrifice.

[43] These metaphorical expressions appear to designate the rainbow.

[44] The god of epidemics.

[45] Studien zur Kritik und Erklarung der Biblischen Urgeschichte, p. 150.

[46] Oannès and Euahanès belong to an Accadian form: Êa-Khan, "Êa the fish;" Oès to the simple Êa, as the Aos of Damascus.

[47] Vendidâd, ii. 46.

[48] Chapter vii.

[49] See especially Yesht viii., 13 Vendidâd, xix. 135.

[50] It is in virtue of this assimilation that Plutarch (De Solert anim. 13) speaks of the dove sent out by Deucalion to see if the Deluge had ceased, a circumstance mentioned by no other Greek mythographer.

[51] "Myvyrian Archæology of Wales," vol. ii. p. 50, triad 13.

[52] Ibid. p. 71, triad 97.

[53] Vafthrudnismal, st. 29.

[54] Hanwsch, Slawischer Mythus, p. 234.

[55] "Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archæology," vol. iv. pp. 1-19.

[56] Personification of the primordial abyss.

[57] Nevertheless, the Deluge holds an important place among the cosmogonic traditions—decidedly original in character—which Reguly has found among the Voguls. We also hear of a diluvian story among the Eulets or Kalmuks, where it seems to have come in with Buddhism.

[58] We must, however, observe that Buddhist missionaries appear to have introduced the diluvian tradition of Judea into China. Gutzlaff, "On Buddhism in China," in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1st series, vol. xii. p. 78), affirms that he saw its principal episode represented in a very fine painting of a temple to the goddess Kivan-yin.

[59] Recently published, not recently collected. The date of Pedro de los Rios shows this.

[60] "The Native Races of the Pacific States," vol. iii. p. 68.

[61] By a singular alteration of the text it is said that the jaguars "were devoured," instead of "they devoured."

[62] From the day of the year when the final cataclysm was supposed to have occurred.

[63] This designation of the year accords with the system of Mexican cycles, containing four groups of years, each named after some object or animal.

[64] "Essai de commentaire des fragments de Berose," p. 283.

[65] This name looks like a corruption of that of the Indian Manu Vaivasvata.

[66] Except in the Fiji Islands, where the Polynesians have been for some time settled among the Melanians, and have only been destroyed by these after having infused into the population an element sufficiently marked to render the Fijis a mixed rather than a purely black race.

[67] Gaussin: "Du Dialecte de Tahiti et de la Langue polynésienne," p. 235. See also Ellis's "Polynesian Researches."

[68] We may, however, observe that in the Iranian myth of Yima, which we have reported above, a square enclosure (vara) miraculously preserved from the deluge, holds the place of the Biblical Ark and of the vessel of Chaldean tradition.

[69] The date of the first establishment of Indian Brahmanists in Java remains uncertain, but from the end of the second century B.C. the Greek Iambulos (Diod. Sicul. ii. 57) very exactly described as the way of writing in this island the syllabic system Kavi, borrowed from India.

[Pg 501]


Some time since an article appeared in the Times, quoted from the Brisbane Courier (an Australian paper of good credit), stating that one Signor Rotura had devised a plan by which animals might be congealed for weeks or months without being actually deprived of life, so that they might be shipped from Australia for English ports as dead meat, yet on their arrival here be restored to full life and activity. Many regarded this account as intended to be received seriously, though a few days later an article appeared, the opening words of which implied that only persons from north of the Tweed should have taken the article au grand sérieux. Of course it was a hoax; but it is worthy of notice that the editor of the Brisbane Courier had really been misled, as he admitted a few weeks later, with a candour which did him credit.[70]

This wonderful discovery, however, besides being worth publishing as a joke (though rather a mischievous one, as will presently be shown), did good service also by eliciting from a distinguished physician certain statements respecting the possibility of suspending animation, which otherwise might have remained for some time unpublished. I propose [Pg 502] here to consider these statements, and the strange possibilities which some of them seem to suggest. In the first place, however, it may be worth while to recall the chief statements in the clever Australian story, as some of Dr. Richardson's statements refer specially to that narrative. I shall take the opportunity of indicating certain curious features of resemblance between the Australian story, which really had its origin in America (I am assured that it was published a year earlier in a New York paper), and an American hoax which acquired a wide celebrity some forty years ago, the so-called Lunar Hoax. As it is certain that the two stories came from different persons, the resemblance referred to seems to suggest that the special mental qualities (defects, bien entendu) which cause some to take delight in such inventions, are commonly associated with a characteristic style of writing. If Buffon was right, indeed, in saying, Le style c'est de l'homme même, we can readily understand that clever hoaxers should thus have a style peculiar to themselves.

It can hardly be considered essential to the right comprehension of scientific experiments that a picturesque account should be given of the place where the experiments were made. The history of the wonderful Australian discovery opens nevertheless as follows:—"Many of the readers of the Brisbane Courier who know Sydney Harbour will remember the long inlet opposite the heads known as Middle Harbour, which, in a succession of land-locked reaches, stretches away like a chain of lakes for over twenty miles. On one of these reaches, made more than ordinarily picturesque by the bold headlands that drop almost sheer into the water, stand, on about an acre of grassy flat, fringed by white beach on which the clear waters of the harbour lap, two low brick buildings. Here, in perfect seclusion, and with a careful avoidance of publicity, is being conducted an experiment, the success of which, now established beyond any doubt, must have a wider effect upon the future prosperity of Australia than any project ever contemplated." It was precisely in this tone that the author of the "Lunar Hoax"[71] opened his account of those "recent discoveries in astronomy which will build an imperishable monument to the age in which we live, and confer upon the present generation of the human race a proud distinction through all future time." "It has been poetically said," he remarks—though probably he would have found some difficulty in saying where or by whom this had been said,—"that the stars of heaven are the hereditary regalia of man, as the intellectual sovereign of the animal creation; he may now fold the zodiac around him with a loftier consciousness of his mental supremacy" (a sublime idea, irresistibly suggestive of the description which an American humourist gave of a certain actor's representation of the death of Richard III., "he wrapped the star-spangled banner round him, and died like the son of a hoss").

[Pg 503] It next becomes necessary to describe the persons engaged in pursuing the experiments by which the art of freezing animals alive is to be attained. "The gentlemen engaged in this enterprise are Signor Rotura, whose researches into the botany and natural history of South America have rendered his name eminent; and Mr. James Grant, a pupil of the late Mr. Nicolle, so long associated with Mr. Thomas Mort in his freezing process. Next to the late Mr. Nicolle, Mr. James Grant can claim pre-eminence of knowledge in the science of generating cold, and his freezing chamber at Woolhara has long been known as the seat of valuable experiments originated in his, Mr. Nicolle's, lifetime." Is it merely an accident, by the way, or is it due to the circumstance that exceptional powers of invention in general matters are often found in company with singular poverty of invention as to details, that two of the names here mentioned closely resemble names connected with the Lunar Hoax? It was Nicollet who in reality devised the Lunar Hoax, though Richard Alton Locke, the reputed author, probably gave to the story its final form; and, again, the story purported to come from Dr. Grant, of Glasgow. In the earlier narrative, again, as in the later, due care was taken to impress readers with the belief that those who had made the discovery, or taken part in the work, were worthy of all confidence. Sir W. Herschel was the inventor of the optical device by which the inhabitants of the moon were to be rendered visible, a plan which "evinced the most profound research in optical science, and the most dexterous ingenuity in mechanical contrivance. But his son, Sir John Herschel, nursed and cradled in the observatory, and a practical astronomer from his boyhood, determined upon testing it at whatever cost." Among his companions he had "Dr. Andrew Grant, Lieutenant Drummond of the Royal Engineers, and a large party of the best English mechanics."

The accounts of preliminary researches, doubts, and difficulties are in both cases very similar in tone. "It appears that five months ago," says the narrator of the Australian hoax, "Signor Rotura called upon Mr. Grant to invoke his assistance in a scheme for the transmission of live stock to Europe. Signor Rotura averred that he had discovered a South American vegetable poison, allied to the well-known woolara (sic) that had the power of perfectly suspending animation, and that the trance thus produced continued until the application of another vegetable essence caused the blood to resume its circulation and the heart its functions. So perfect, moreover, was this suspension of life that Signor Rotura had found in a warm climate decomposition set in at the extremities after a week of this living death, and he imagined that if the body in this inert state were reduced to a temperature sufficiently low to arrest decomposition, the trance might be kept up for months, possibly for years. He frankly owned that he had never tried this preserving of the tissues by cold, and could not confidently speak as to its effect upon the after-restoration of the animal operated on. Before he [Pg 504] left Mr. Grant he had turned that gentleman's doubts into wondering curiosity by experimenting on his dog." The account of this experiment I defer for a moment till I have shown how closely in several respects this portion of the Australian hoax resembles the corresponding part of the American story. It will be observed that the great discovery is presented as simply a very surprising development of a process which is strictly within the limits, not only of what is possible, but of what is known. So also in the case of the Lunar Hoax, the amazing magnifying power by which living creatures in the moon were said to have been rendered visible, was presented as simply a very remarkable development of the familiar properties of the telescope. In both cases, the circumstances which in reality limit the possible extension of the properties in question were kept conveniently concealed from view. In both cases, doubts and difficulties were urged with an apparent frankness intended to disarm suspicion. In both cases, also, the inventor of the new method by which difficulties were to be overcome is represented as in conference with a man of nearly equal skill, who urges the doubts naturally suggested by the wonderful nature of the promised achievements. In the Lunar Hoax, Sir John Herschel and Sir David Brewster are thus represented in conference. Herschel asks whether the difficulty arising from deficient illumination may not be overcome by effecting a transfusion of artificial light through the focal image. Brewster, startled at the novel thought, as he well might be, hesitatingly refers "to the refrangibility of rays and the angle of incidence," which is effective though glorious in its absurdity. (Yet it has been gravely asserted that this nonsense deceived Arago.) "Sir John, grown more confident, adduced the example of the Newtonian reflector, in which the refrangibility was arrested by the second speculum and the angle of incidence restored by the third" (a bewilderingly ridiculous statement). "'And,' continued he, 'why cannot the illuminated microscope, say the hydro-oxygen, be applied to render distinct, and if necessary even to magnify, the focal object?' Sir David sprang from his chair in an ecstasy of conviction, and leaping half-way to the ceiling" (from which we may infer that he was somewhat more than tête montée), "exclaimed, 'Thou art the man!'"

The method devised in each case being once accepted as sound, the rest of course readily follows. In the case of the Lunar Hoax a number of discoveries are made which need not here be described[72] (though I shall take occasion presently to quote some passages relating to them which closely resemble in style certain passages in the Australian narrative). In the later hoax, the illustrative experiments are forthwith introduced. Signor Rotura, having so far persuaded Mr. Grant of the validity of the plan as to induce him to allow a favourite dog to be experimented [Pg 505] upon, "injected two drops of his liquid, mixed with a little glycerine, into a small puncture made in the dog's ear. In three or four minutes the animal was perfectly rigid, the four legs stretched backward, eyes wide open, pupils very much dilated, and exhibiting symptoms very similar to those caused by strychnine, except that there had been no previous struggle or pain. Begging his owner to have no apprehension for the life of his favourite animal, Signor Rotura lifted the dog carefully and placed him on a shelf in a cupboard, where he begged he might be left till the following day, when he promised to call at ten o'clock and revive the apparently dead brute. Mr. Grant continually during that day and night visited the cupboard, and so perfectly was life suspended in his favourite—no motion of the pulse or heart giving any indication of the possibility of revival—that he confesses he felt all the sharpest reproaches of remorse at having sacrificed a faithful friend to a doubtful and dangerous experiment. The temperature of the body, too, in the first four hours gradually lowered to 25 degrees Fahrenheit below ordinary blood temperature, which increased his fears as to the result; and by morning the body was as cold as in natural death. At ten o'clock next morning, according to promise, Signor Rotura presented himself, and laughing at Mr. Grant's fears, requested a tub of warm water to be brought. He tested this with the thermometer at 32 degrees Fahrenheit" (which, being the temperature of freezing water, can hardly be called warm), "and in this laid the dog, head under." In reply to Mr. Grant's objections Signor Rotura assured him that, as animation must remain entirely suspended until the administration of the antidote, no water could be drawn into the lungs, and that the immersion of the body was simply to bring it again to a blood-heat. After about ten minutes of this bath the body was taken out, and another liquid injected in a puncture made in the neck. "Mr. Grant tells me," proceeds the veracious narrator, "that the revival of Turk was the most startling thing he ever witnessed; and having since seen the experiment made upon a sheep, I can fully confirm his statement. The dog first showed the return of life in the eye" (winking, doubtless, at the joke), "and after five and a half minutes he drew a long breath, and the rigidity left his limbs. In a few minutes more he commenced gently wagging his tail, and then slowly got up, stretched himself, and trotted off as though nothing had happened." From this moment Mr. Grant had full faith in Signor Rotura's discovery, and promised him all the assistance in his power. They next determined to try freezing the body. But the first two experiments were not encouraging. Mr. Grant fortunately did not allow his favourite dog to be experimented upon further, so a strange dog was put into the freezing room at Mr. Grant's works for four days, after having in the first place had his animation suspended by Signor Rotura. Although this animal survived so far as to draw a long breath, the vital energies appeared too exhausted for a complete rally, and the animal died. So [Pg 506] also did the next two animals experimented on, a cat and a dog. "In the meantime, however, Dr. Barker had been taken into their counsels, and at his suggestion respiration was encouraged, as in the case of persons drowned, by artificial compression and expansion of the lungs. Dr. Barker was of opinion that, as the heart in every case began to beat, it was a want of vital force to set the lungs in proper motion that caused death. The result showed his surmises to be entirely correct. A number of animals whose lives had been sealed up in this artificial death have been kept in the freezing chamber from one to five weeks, and it is found that though the shock to the system from this freezing is very great, it is not increased by duration of time."

I need not follow the hoaxer's account of the buildings erected for the further prosecution of these researches. One point, however, may be mentioned illustrating the resemblance to which I have already referred as existing between this Australian narrative and the Lunar Hoax. In describing the works erected at Middle Harbour, the Australian account carefully notes that the necessary funds were provided by Mr. Christopher Newton, of Pitt Street. In like manner, in the Lunar Hoax we are told that the plate-glass required for the optical arrangement devised by Sir J. Herschel was "obtained, by consent be it observed, from the shop-window of M. Desanges, the jeweller to his ex-majesty Charles X., in High Street."

Now comes the culminating experiment, the circumstances of which are the more worthy of being carefully noted, because it is distinctly stated by Dr. Richardson that none of the experiments described in this narrative, apocryphal though they may really be, can be regarded as beyond the range of scientific possibilities:—"Arrived at the works in Middle Harbour, I was taken into the building that contains Mr. Grant's apparatus for generating cold.... Attached to this is the freezing chamber, a small, dark room, about eight feet by ten. Here were fourteen sheep, four lambs, and three pigs, stacked on their sides in a heap, alive, which Mr. Grant told me had been in their present position for nineteen days, and were to remain there for another three months. Selecting one of the lambs, Signor Rotura put it on his shoulder, and carried it outside into the other building, where a number of shallow cemented tanks were in the floor, having hot and cold water taps to each tank, with a thermometer hanging alongside. One of these tanks was quickly filled, and its temperature tested by the Signor, I meantime examining with the greatest curiosity and wonder the nineteen-days-dead lamb. The days of miracles truly seem to have come back to us, and many of those stories discarded as absurdities seem to me less improbable than this fact, witnessed by myself. There was the lamb, to all appearance dead, and as hard almost as a stone, the only difference perceptible to me between his condition and actual death being the absence of dull glassiness about the eye, which still retained its brilliant transparency. Indeed, this brilliancy of the eye, which is [Pg 507] heightened by the enlargement of the pupil, is very striking, and lends a rather weird appearance to the bodies. The lamb was gently dropped into the warm bath, and was allowed to remain in it about twenty-three minutes, its head being raised above the water twice for the introduction of the thermometer into its mouth, and then it was taken out and placed on its side on the floor, Signor Rotura quickly dividing the wool on its neck, and inserting the sharp point of a small silver syringe under the skin and injecting the antidote. This was a pale green liquid, and, as I believe, a decoction from the root of the Astracharlis, found in South America. The lamb was then turned on its back, Signor Rotura standing across it, gently compressing its ribs with his knees and hands in such a manner as to imitate their natural depression and expansion during breathing. In ten minutes the animal was struggling to free itself, and when released skipped out through the door and went gambolling and bleating over the little garden in front. Nothing has ever impressed me so entirely with a sense of the marvellous. One is almost tempted to ask, in the presence of such a discovery, whether death itself may not ultimately be baffled by scientific investigation." In the Lunar Hoax there is a passage resembling in tone the lively account of the lamb's behaviour when released. Herds of agile creatures like antelopes were seen in the moon, "abounding in the acclivitous glades of the woods." "This beautiful creature afforded us," says the narrator, "the most exquisite amusement. The mimicry of its movements upon our white-painted canvas was as faithful and luminous as that of animals within a few yards of the camera obscura. Frequently, when attempting to put our fingers upon its beard, it would suddenly bound away, as if conscious of our earthly impertinence; but then others would appear, whom we could not prevent nibbling the herbage, say or do to them what we would." And again, a little further on, "We fairly laughed at the recognition of so familiar an acquaintance as a sheep in so distant a land—a good large sheep, which would not have disgraced the farms of Leicestershire or the shambles of Leadenhall Market; presently they appeared in great numbers, and on reducing the lenses we found them in flocks over a great part of the valley. I need not say how desirous we were of finding shepherds to these flocks, and even a man with blue apron and rolled-up sleeves would have been a welcome sight to us, if not to the sheep; but they fed in peace, lords of their own pastures, without either protector or destroyer in human shape."

Not less amusing, though more gravely written, is the account of the benefits likely to follow from the use of the wonderful process for freezing animals alive. Cargoes of live sheep can be readily sent from Australia to Europe. Any that cannot be restored to life will still be good meat; while the rest can be turned to pasture or driven alive to market. With bullocks the case would not be quite so simple, because of their greater size and weight, which would render them more difficult [Pg 508] to handle with safety. The carcass being rendered brittle by freezing, they are so much the more liable to injury. "It sounded odd to hear Mr. Grant and Signor Rotura laying stress upon the danger of breakage in a long voyage." This one can readily imagine.

Some of the remoter consequences of the discovery are touched on by the narrator, though but lightly, as if he saw the necessity of keeping his wonders within reasonable limits. Signor Rotura, "though he had never attempted his experiment on a human being," which was considerate on his part, "had no doubt at all as to its perfect safety." He had requested Sir Henry Parkes to allow him to operate on the next felon under capital sentence. This, by the way, was a compromising statement on our hoaxer's part. It requires very little acquaintance with our laws to know that no one could allow a felon condemned to death to be experimented on in this or in any other manner. Such a man is condemned to die, and to die without any preliminary tortures, bodily or mental, other than those inseparable from the legally adopted method of bringing death about. He can neither be allowed to remain alive after an experiment, and necessarily free (because he has not been condemned to other punishment than the death penalty), nor can he be first experimented upon and then hanged. So that that single sentence in the narrative should have shown every one that it was a hoax, even if the inherent absurdity of many other parts of the story had not shown this very clearly. As to whether a temporary suspension of the vital faculties would affect the longevity of the patient, Signor Rotura expressed himself somewhat doubtful; he believed, however, that the duration of life might in this way be prolonged for years. "I was anxious," says the hoaxer, "to know if a period of, say, five years of this inertness were submitted to, whether it would be so much cut out of one's life, or if it would be simply five years of unconscious existence tacked on to one's sentient life. Signor Rotura could give no positive answer, but he believes, as no change takes place or can take place while this frozen trance continues, no consumption, destruction, or reparation of tissue being possible, it would be so many unvalued and profitless years added to a lifetime." Of some of the strange ideas suggested by this conception I shall take occasion to speak further on; I must for the present turn, however, from the consideration of this ingenious hoax to discuss the scientific possibilities which underlie the narrative, or at least some parts of the narrative.

In the first place, it must be noticed that in the phenomena of hibernation we have what at a first view seems closely to resemble the results of Signor Rotura's apocryphal experiments. As was remarked in the Times, the idea underlying the Australian story is that the hibernation of animals can be artificially imitated and extended, so that as certain animals lie in a state of torpor and insensibility throughout the winter months, all animals also may perhaps be caused to lie in such a state for an indefinite length of time, if only a suitable degree of cold is maintained, [Pg 509] and some special contrivance adopted to prevent insensibility from passing into death. The phenomena of hibernation are indeed so surprising, when rightly understood, that inexperienced persons might well believe in almost any wonders resulting from the artificial production (which, be it remembered, is altogether possible) of the hibernating condition, and the artificial extension of this condition to other animals than those which at present hibernate, and to long periods of time. It has been justly said, that if hibernation had only been noticed among cold-blooded animals, its possibility in the case of mammals would have seemed inconceivable. The first news that the bat and hedgehog pass into the state of complete hibernation, would probably have bean received as either a daring hoax or a very gross blunder.

Let us consider what hibernation really is. When, as winter approaches and their insect food disappears, the bat and the hedgehog resign themselves to torpor, the processes which we are in the habit of associating with vitality gradually diminish in activity. The breathing becomes slower and slower, the heart beats more and more slowly, more and more feebly. At last the breathing ceases altogether. The circulation does not wholly cease, however. So far as is known, the life of warm-blooded animals cannot continue after the circulation has entirely ceased for more than a certain not very considerable length of time.[73] The chemical changes on which animal heat depends, and without which there can be no active vitality, cease with the cessation of respiration. But dormant vitality is still maintained in hibernation, because the heart's fibre, excited to contract by the carbonized blood, continues to propel the blood through the torpid body. This slow circulation of venous blood continues during the whole period of hibernation. It is the only vital process which can be recognised; and it is not easy to understand how the life of any warm-blooded animal can be maintained in this way. The explanation usually offered is that the material conveyed by the absorbents suffices to counterbalance the process of waste occasioned by the slow circulation. But this does not in reality touch the chief difficulty presented by the phenomena of hibernation. So far as mere waste is concerned (as I have elsewhere pointed out) the imagined Australian process is as effectual as hibernation; in that process, of course the circulation would be as completely checked as the respiration; thus there would be no waste, and the absorbents (which would also be absolutely dormant) would not have to do even that slight amount of work which they accomplish during hibernation. Science can only say that the known cases of hibernation among warm-blooded animals show that the vital forces may be reduced much lower without destroying life, than but for them we should have deemed conceivable.

But next let us consider what science has to say as to the artificial [Pg 510] suspension of vitality. In Dr. Richardson's paper on this subject there is much which seems almost as surprising as anything in the Australian story. Indeed, he seems scarcely to have felt assured that that story really was a hoax. "The statements," he says, "which, under the head of 'A Wonderful Discovery,' are copied from the Brisbane Courier, seem greatly to have astonished the reading public. To what extent the statements are true or untrue it is impossible to say. The whole may be a cleverly-written fiction, and certain of the words and names used seem, according to some readers, to suggest that view; but be this so or not, I wish to indicate that some part at all events of what is stated might be true, and is certainly within the range of possibility." "The discovery," he proceeds, "which is described in the communication under notice, is not in principle new; on the subject of suspension of animation I have myself been making experimental inquiries for twenty-five years at least, and have communicated to the scientific world many essays, lectures, and demonstrations, relating to it. I have twice read papers bearing on this inquiry to the Royal Society, once to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, two or three times in my lectures on Experimental and Practical Medicine, and published one in Nature. In respect to the particular point of the preservation of animal bodies for food, I dwelt on this topic in the lectures delivered before the Society of Arts, in April and May of last year (1878), explaining very definitely that the course of research in the direction of preservation must ultimately lead to a process by which we should keep the structures of animals in a form of suspended molecular life." In other words, Dr. Richardson had indicated the possibility of doing precisely that which would have constituted the chief value of the Australian discovery, if this had been real.

Let us next consider what is known respecting the possibility of suspending a conscious and active life. This is first stated in general terms by Dr. Richardson, as follows:—"If an animal perfectly free from disease be subjected to the action of some chemical agents or physical agencies which have the property of reducing to the extremest limit the motor forces of the body, the muscular irritability, and the nervous stimulus to muscular action, and if the suspension of the muscular irritability and of the nervous excitation be made at once and equally, the body even of a warm-blooded animal may be brought down to a condition so closely resembling death, that the most careful examination may fail to detect any signs of life." This general statement must be carefully studied if the reader desires thoroughly to understand at once the power and the limits of the power of science in this direction. The motor forces, the muscular irritability, and the nervous stimulus to muscular action, can be reduced to a certain extent without destroying life, but not absolutely without destroying life. The reduction of the muscular irritability must be made at once and equally; if the muscular irritability is reduced to its lowest limit while the [Pg 511] nervous excitation remains unaltered, or is less reduced, death ensues; and vice versâ, if the nervous excitation is reduced to its lowest limits while the muscular irritability remains unaltered, or is little reduced, death equally follows. Then it is to be noticed that though when the state of seeming death is brought about, the most careful examination may fail to detect any signs of life, it does not follow that science may not find perfectly sure means of detecting cases where life still exists but is at its very lowest. Of course all the ordinary tests, in which so many place complete reliance—a mirror placed close to the mouth, a finger on the pulse, hand, or ear applied to the breast[74] over the heart, and so forth—would be utterly inadequate, in such a case, to reveal any signs of life. That doctors have been deceived by cases of suspended vitality not artificially produced, but presenting similar phenomena, is well known. A case in point may not be out of place here, as illustrating well certain features of suspended animation, and showing the possibility that in some cases consciousness may remain, even when the most careful examination detects no traces of life. The case is described by Dr. Alexander Crichton, in his "Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement." "A young lady, who had seemed gradually to sink until she died, had been placed in her coffin, careful scrutiny revealing no signs of vitality. On the day appointed for her funeral, several hymns were sung before her door. She was conscious of all that happened around her, and heard her friends lamenting her death. She felt them put on the dead-clothes, and lay her in the coffin, which produced an indescribable mental anxiety. She tried to cry, but her mind was without power, and could not act on the body. It was equally impossible to her to stretch out her arms or to open her eyes or to cry, although she continually endeavoured to do so. The internal anguish of her mind was, however, at its utmost height when the funeral hymns began to be sung and when the lid of the coffin was about to be nailed on. The thought that she was to be buried alive was the first one which gave activity to her mind, and caused it to operate on her corporeal frame. Just as the people were about to nail on the lid, a [Pg 512] kind of perspiration was observed to appear on the surface of the body. It grew greater every moment, and at last a kind of convulsive motion was observed in the hands and feet of the corpse. A few minutes after, during which fresh signs of returning life appeared, she at once opened her eyes, and uttered a most pitiable shriek." In this case it was considered that the state of trance had been brought about by the excessive contractile action of the nervous centres. St. Augustine, by the way, remarks in his "De Civitate Dei" on the case of a certain priest called Restitutus (appropriately enough), who could when he wished withdraw himself from life in such sort that he did not feel when twitched or stung, but might even be burned without suffering pain except afterwards from the wound so produced. Not only did he not struggle or even move, but like a dead person he did not breathe, yet afterwards he said that he could hear the voices of those around him (if they spoke loudly) as if from a great distance (de longinquo).

To return, however, to Dr. Richardson's discussion of the artificial suspension of active life.

He recognises three degrees of muscular irritability, to which he has given the names of active efficient, passive efficient, and negative,—though doubtless he would recognize the probability that the line separating the first from the second may not always be easily traced, and that, though there is a most definite distinction between the second and the third, the actual position of the boundary line has not as yet been determined. In other words, so far as the first and second states are concerned, there are not two degrees only, but many. As regards the third or negative state, which is only another way of describing death, there is, of course, only one degree, though the evidence as to the existence of this state may be more or less complete and obvious. Dr. Richardson defines the active efficient state of muscular irritability as that "represented in the ordinary living muscle in which the heart is working at full tension, and all parts of the body are thoroughly supplied with blood, with perfection of consciousness in waking hours, and, in a word, full life." The second, or passive efficient state, "is represented in suspended animation, in which the heart is working regularly but at low tension, supplying the muscles and other parts with sufficient blood to maintain the molecular life, but no more." The third of these states—the negative—"is represented when there is no motion whatever of blood through the body, as in an animal entirely frozen."

With the first and third of these states I have in reality nothing to do, unless indeed it could be shown that the third or negative state can be produced without causing death. Perhaps in assuming, as I did above, that this state is identical with the state of the dead, I was, in fact, assuming what science has yet to demonstrate. I may at any rate, however, say without fear of valid contradiction, that science has as yet never succeeded in showing that this negative state may be [Pg 513] attained even for a moment without death ensuing; and the probability (almost amounting to certainty) is that death and this change of state have in every instance been simultaneous. Dr. Richardson speaks of the second stage as that in which animation is usually suspended; but he does not show that the third stage can even possibly be attained without death.

The second stage, or stage of passive efficiency, closely resembles the third, "but differs from it in that, under favouring circumstances, the whole of the phenomena of the active efficient stage may be perfectly resumed, the heart suddenly enlarging in volume from its filling with blood, and reanimating the whole organism by the force of its renewed stroke in full tension. So far as we have yet proceeded," continues Dr. Richardson, "the whole phenomena of restoration from death are accomplished during this stage;" meaning, it would seem, that in all instances of restoration the restoration has been from the second, never from the third stage. "To those who are not accustomed to see them they are no doubt very wonderful, looking like veritable restorations from death. They surprise even medical men the first time they are witnessed by them." He gives an interesting illustration. At a meeting of the British Medical Association at Leeds, "a member of the Association was showing to a large audience the action of nitrous oxide gas, using a rabbit as the subject of his demonstration. The animal was removed from the narcotizing chamber a little too late, for it had ceased to breathe, and it was placed on the table to all appearance dead." "At this stage," he proceeds, "I went to the table, and by use of a small pair of double-acting bellows restored respiration. In about four minutes there was revival of active irritability in the abdominal muscles, and two minutes later the animal leaped again into life, as if it had merely been asleep. There was nothing remarkable in the fact; but it excited, even in so cultivated an audience as was then present, the liveliest surprise."

But when we learn the condition necessary that a body which has once been reduced to the state of passive efficiency should be restored to active life, we recognise that even when science has learned how to reduce vitality to a minimum without destroying it, few will care to risk the process, either in their own persons or in the case of those dear to them. Besides the condition already indicated, that the muscular irritability and the nervous excitation must be simultaneously and equally reduced, it is essential that the blood, the muscular fluid, and the nervous fluid should all three remain in what Dr. Richardson calls the aqueous condition, and not become what he calls pectous, a word which we must understand to bear the same relation to the word solid or crystalline that the word "aqueous," as used by Dr. Richardson, bears to the word watery. If all three fluids remain in the aqueous condition, "the period during which life may be restored is left undefined. It may be a very long period, including weeks, and possibly months, [Pg 514] granting that decomposition of the tissues is not established; and even after a limited process of decomposition, there may be renewal of life in cold-blooded animals. But if pectous change begins in any one of the structures I have named, it extends like a crystallization quickly through all the structures, and thereupon recovery is impossible, for the change in one of the parts is sufficient to prevent the restoration of all. Thus the heart may be beating, but the blood being pectous it beats in vain; or the heart may beat and the blood may flow, but the voluntary muscles being pectous the circulating action is vain; or the heart may beat, the blood may flow, and the muscles may remain in the aqueous condition, but the nerves being pectous the circulating action is in vain; or sometimes the heart may come to rest, and the other parts may remain susceptible, but the motion of the heart and blood not being present to quicken them into activity, their life is in vain." Add to this, that the restoration of the motor forces, of the muscular irritability, and of the nervous excitation, must be as simultaneous and as equal as their reduction had been, and we begin to recognise decided objections to the too frequent suspension of animation, even when the most perfect artificial means have been devised for bringing about that interesting result.

Although, however, we may not feel encouraged to believe that many will care to have experiments tried on themselves in this direction, we may still examine with interest the results of experimental research and experience. These agree in showing that there are means by which active life may be suspended, while at the same time the aqueous condition of the fluids mentioned above (the blood, the muscular fluid, and the nervous fluid, the two latter of which are for convenience called the colloidal animal fluids, and are derived from the blood) is retained.

The first and in some respects the most efficient of these means is cold. The blood and the colloidal fluids remain in the aqueous condition when the body is exposed to cold at freezing-point. "At this same point all vital acts, excepting perhaps the motion of the heart" (it is Dr. Richardson, be it remembered, who thus uses the significant word "perhaps"), "may be temporarily arrested in an animal, and then some animals may continue apparently dead for long intervals of time, and may yet return to life under conditions favourable to recovery." Dr. Richardson gives a singular illustration of this, describing an experiment which must have appeared even more surprising to those who witnessed it than that in which the rabbit was restored to life. "In one of my lectures on death from cold," he says, "which I delivered in the winter session of 1867, some fish which during a hard frost had been frozen in a tank at Newcastle-on-Tyne, were sent up to me by rail. They were produced in the completely frozen state at the lecture, and by careful thawing many of them were restored to perfect life. At my Croomian lecture on muscular irritability after systemic death, a similar fact was illustrated [Pg 515] from frogs." It would appear, indeed, that so far as cold-blooded animals are concerned, there is no recognisable limit to the time during which they may remain thus frozen yet afterwards recover. But, even in their case, much skill is required to make the recovery sure. "If in thawing them the utmost care is not taken to thaw gradually, and at a temperature always below the natural temperature of the living animal, the fluids will pass from the frozen state through the aqueous into the pectous so rapidly that death from pectous change will be pronounced without perceiving any intermediate or life stage at all." Naturally it is much more difficult to restore life in the case of warm-blooded animals. Indeed, Dr. Richardson remarks, that in the case of the more complex and differently shielded organs of warm-blooded animals, it is next to impossible to thaw equally and simultaneously all the colloidal fluids. "In very young animals it can be done. Young kittens, a day or two old, that have been drowned in ice-cold water, will recover after two hours' immersion almost to a certainty, if brought into dry air at a temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The gentlest motion of the body will be sufficient to re-start the respiration, and therewith the life."

Remarking on such cases as these, Dr. Richardson notes that the nearest natural approach to the stage of passive efficiency is seen in hibernating animals. He states, however, that in hibernation the complete state of passive efficiency is not produced. He does not accept the opinion of those who consider that in true hibernation breathing ceases as above described. A slow respiration continues, he believes, as well as that low stage of active efficiency of circulation which we have already indicated. "The hibernating animal sleeps only; and while sleeping it consumes or wastes; and if the cold be prolonged it may die from waking." More decisive, because surer, is the evidence derived from the possibility of waking the hibernating animals by the common methods used for waking a sleeper. This certainly seems to show that animation is not positively suspended.

He asks next the question whether an animal like a fish, frozen equally through all its structures, is to be regarded as actually dead in the strict sense of the word or not, seeing that if it be uniformly and equally thawed it may recover from this perfectly frozen state. "In like manner," he says, "it may be doubted whether a healthy warm-blooded animal suddenly and equally frozen through all its parts is dead, although it is not recoverable." If, as seems certainly to be the case, the animal dies because in the very act of trying to restore it some inequality in the process is almost sure to determine a fatal issue, some vital centre passing into the pectous state, the animal could not have been dead before restoration was attempted; for the dead cannot die again. Albeit, the outlook is not encouraging, at any rate so far as the use of cold alone for maintaining suspended animation in full-grown warm-blooded animals is concerned. Cold will, however, for a [Pg 516] long time maintain ready for motion active organs locally subject to it Even after death this effect of cold "may be locally demonstrated," Dr. Richardson tells us, "and has sometimes been so demonstrated to the wonder of the world." "For instance, on January 17, in the year 1803, Aldini, the nephew of Galvani, created the greatest astonishment in London by a series of experiments which he conducted on a malefactor, twenty-six years old, named John Forster, who was executed at Newgate, and whose body, an hour after execution, was delivered over to Mr. Keate, Master of the College of Surgeons, for research. The body had been exposed for an hour to an atmosphere two degrees below freezing-point,[75] and from that cause, though Aldini does not seem to have recognised the fact, the voluntary muscles retained their irritability to such a degree that when Aldini began to pass voltaic currents through the body, some of the bystanders seem to have concluded that the unfortunate malefactor had come again to life. It is significant also that Aldini in his report says that his object was not to produce reanimation, but to obtain a practical knowledge how far galvanism might be employed as an auxiliary to revive persons who were accidentally suffocated, as though he himself were in some doubt,"—that is, not in doubt only about the power of galvanism, but in doubt whether Forster had been restored to life for a while, or not! Dr. Richardson has himself repeated, on lower animals, these experiments of Aldini's, except that the animals on which he has experimented have passed into death under chloroform, not through suffocation. His object, in fact, was to determine the best treatment for human beings who sink under chloroform and other anæsthetics. He finds that in warm weather he fails to get the same results. Noticing this, he says, "I experimented at and below the freezing-point, and then found that both by the electrical discharge, and by injection of water heated to 130 degrees" (again this terrible inexactness of expression) "into the muscles through the arteries, active muscular movements could be produced in warm-blooded animals many hours after death. Thus, for lecture experiment, I have removed one muscle from the body of an animal that had slept to death from chloroform, and putting the muscle in a glass tube surrounded with ice and salt, I have kept it for several days in a condition for its making a final muscular contraction, and, by gently thawing it, have made it, in the act of final contraction, do some mechanical work, such as moving a long needle on the face of a dial, or discharging a pistol. In muscles so removed from the body and preserved ready for motion there is, however, only one final act. For as [Pg 517] the blood and nervous supply are both cut off from it, there is nothing left in it but the reserved something that was fixed by the cold. But I do not see any reason why this should not be maintained in reservation for weeks or months, as easily as for days, in a fixed cold atmosphere."

Cold being, however, obviously insufficient of itself for the suspension of active life in warm-blooded animals, at least if such life is eventually to be restored, let us next consider some of the agencies which either alone or aided by cold may suspend without destroying life.

The first known of all such agencies was mandragora. Dioscorides describes a wine, called morion, which was made from the leaves and the root of mandragora, and possessed properties resembling those of chloral hydrate. That it must have been an effective narcotic is shown by the circumstance that painful operations were performed on patients subjected to its influence, without their suffering the least pain, or even feeling. The sleep thus produced lasted several hours. Dr. Richardson considers that the use of this agent was probably continued until the twelfth or thirteenth century. "From the use of it doubtless came," he says, "the Shaksperian legend of Juliet." He strangely omits to notice that Shakspeare elsewhere speaks of this narcotic by name, where Iago says of Othello:

"Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever med'cine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou own'dst yesterday."

Probably the use of mandragora as a narcotic may have continued much later than the thirteenth century. In earlier times it was certainly used as opium is now used, not for medicinal purposes, but to produce for a while an agreeable sensation of dreamy drowsiness. "There were those," says Dr. Richardson, in his interesting article on Narcotics in the Contemporary Review for July last, "who drank of it for taste or pleasure, and who were spoken of as 'mandragorites,' as we might speak of 'alcoholists' or 'chloralists.' They passed into the land of sleep and dream, and waking up in scare and alarm were the screaming mandrakes of an ancient civilization." He has himself made the "morion" of the ancients, dispensing the prescription of Dioscorides and Pliny. "The same chemist, Mr. Hanbury," he says, "who first put chloral into my hands for experiment, also procured for me the root of the true mandragora. From that root I made the morion, tested it on myself, tried its effects, and re-proved, after a lapse perhaps of four or five centuries, that it had all the properties originally ascribed to it."

The "deadly nightshade" has similar properties. (In fact, morion was originally made from the Atropa belladonna, not from its ally the Atropa mandragora.) In 1851, Dr. Richardson attended two children who were poisoned for a time from eating the berries and chewing the leaves of the nightshade, which they had gathered near [Pg 518] Richmond. They were brought home insensible, he says, "and they lay in a condition of suspended life for seven hours, the greatest care being required to detect either the respiration or the movements of the heart; they nevertheless recovered."

With the nitrite of amyl, Dr. Richardson has suspended the life of a frog for nine days, yet the creature was then restored to full and vigorous life. He has shown also that the same power of suspension, though in less degree, "could be produced in warm-blooded animals, and that the heart of a warm-blooded animal would contract for a period of eighteen hours after apparent death." The action of nitrite of amyl seems to resemble that of cold. In the pleasing language of the doctors, "it prevents the pectous change of colloidal matter, and so prevents rigor mortis, coagulation of blood, and solidification of nervous centres and cords." So long as this change is prevented, active life can be restored. But when in these experiments "the pectous change occurred, all was over, and resolution into new forms of matter by putrefaction was the result." From the analogy of some of the symptoms resulting from the use of nitrite of amyl with the symptoms of catalepsy, Dr. Richardson has "ventured to suggest that under some abnormal conditions the human body itself, in its own chemistry, may produce an agent which causes the suspended life observed during the cataleptic condition." The suggestion has an interest apart from the question of the possibility of safely suspending animation for considerable periods of time: it might be possible to detect the nature of the agent thus produced by the chemistry of the human body (if the theory is correct), and thus to learn how its power might be counteracted.

Chloral hydrate seems singularly efficient in producing the semblance of death,—so completely, indeed, as to deceive even the elect. Dr. Richardson states that at the meeting of the British Association at Exeter, some pigeons which had been put to sleep by the needle injection of a large dose of chloral, "fell into such complete resemblance of death that they passed for dead among an audience containing many physiologists and other men of science. For my own part," he proceeds, "I could detect no sign of life in them, and they were laid in one of the out-offices of the museum of the infirmary as dead. In this condition they were left late at night, but in the following morning they were found alive, and as well as if nothing hurtful had happened to them." Similar effects seem to be produced by the deadly poisons cyanogen gas and hydrocyanic acid, though in the following case, narrated by Dr. Richardson, the animal experimented upon (not with the idea of eventually restoring it to life) belonged to a race so specially tenacious of life that some may consider only one of its proverbial nine lives to have been affected. In the laboratory of a large drug establishment a cat, "by request of its owner, was killed, as was assumed, instantaneously and painlessly by a large dose of Scheele's acid. The animal appeared to die without a pang, and, presenting every [Pg 519] appearance of death, was laid in a sink to be removed on the next morning. At night the animal was lying still in form of death in the tank beneath a tap. In the morning it was found alive and well, but with the fur wet from the dropping of water from the tap." This fact was communicated to Dr. Richardson by an eminent chemist under whose direct observation it occurred, in corroboration of an observation of his own similar in character.

Our old friend alcohol (if friend it can be called) possesses the power of suspending active vitality without destroying life, or at any rate without depriving the muscles of their excitability. Dr. Richardson records the case of a drunken man who, while on the ice at the Welsh Harp lake, fell into the water through an opening in the ice, and was for more than fifteen minutes completely immersed. He was extricated to all appearance dead, but under artificial respiration was restored to consciousness, though he did not survive for many hours. On the whole, alcoholic suspension of life does not appear to be the best method available. To test it, the patient must first get "very, very drunk," and even then, like the soldiers in the old song, must go on drinking, lest the experiment should terminate simply in the fiasco of a drunken sleep.

The last agent for suspending life referred to by Dr. Richardson is pure oxygen. But he has not yet obtained such information on the power of oxygen in this respect as he hopes to do.

Summing up the results of the various experiments made with narcotics and other agents for suspending life, Dr. Richardson remarks that much is already known in the world of science in respect to the suspension of animal life by artificial means: "cold as well as various chemical agents has this power, and it is worthy of note that cold, together with the agents named, is antiseptic, as though whatever suspended living action, suspended also by some necessary and correlative influence the process of putrefactive change." He points out that if the news from Brisbane were reliable, it would be clear that what had been done had been effected by the combination of one of the chemical agents above named, or of a similar agent, with cold. The only question which would remain as of moment is, not whether a new principle has been developed, but whether in matter of detail a new product has been discovered which, better than any of the agents we already possess, destroys and suspends animation. "In organic chemistry," he proceeds, "there are, I doubt not, hundreds of substances which, like mandragora and nitrite of amyl, would suspend the vital process, and it may be a new experimenter has met with such an agent. It is not incredible, indeed, that the Indian Fakirs possess a vegetable extract or essence which possesses the same power, and by means of which they perform their as yet unexplained feat of prolonged living burial." But he is careful to note the weak points of the Australian story—viz., first, the statement that the method used is a secret, "for men of true science [Pg 520] know no such word;" secondly, that the experimenter has himself to go to America to procure more supplies of his agents; and, thirdly, that he requires two agents, one of which is an antidote to the other. As respects this third point, he asks very pertinently how an antidote can be absorbed and enter into the circulation in a body practically dead.

It is, of course, now well known that the whole story was a hoax, and a mischievous one. Several Australian farmers travelled long distances to Sydney to make inquiries about a method which promised such important results, only to find that there was not a particle of truth in the story.

Richard A. Proctor.


[70] Many fail to see a joke when it is gravely propounded in print, who would at once recognise it as such, were it uttered verbally, with however serious a countenance. Possibly this is due to the necessary absence in the printed account of the indications by which we recognise that a speaker is jesting—as a certain expression of countenance, or a certain intonation of voice, by which the grave utterer of a spoken jest conveys his real meaning. In a paper which recently appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, Mr. Foster (Thomas of that ilk) propounded very gravely the theory that our Nursery Rhymes have in reality had their origin in Nature Myths. He explained, for instance, that the rhymes relating to Little Jack Horner were originally descriptive of sunrise in winter: Little Jack is the sun in winter, the Christmas pie is the cloud-covered sky; the thumb represents the sun's first ray piercing through the clouds; and Jack's rejoicing means the brightness of full sunlight. So also the rhymes beginning Hey Diddle Diddle are shown to be of deep and solemn import, all in manifest burlesque of some recent extravagant interpretations of certain ancient stories by Goldziher, Steinthal, and others. Yet this fun was seriously criticized by more than half the critics, by some approvingly, by some otherwise.

[71] For a full account of this clever hoax the reader is referred to my "Myths and Marvels of Astronomy."

[72] The most curious are given in the ninth essay of my work referred to in the preceding note.

[73] Few probably are aware how long some animals may remain without breathing and yet survive. Kittens and puppies have been brought to life after being immersed in water for nearly three-quarters of an hour.

[74] Objection has been taken to the italicized words in the following passage from "No Thoroughfare" (one of the parts certainly written by Dickens and not by Wilkie Collins): "The cry came up: 'His heart still beats against mine. I warm him in my arms. I have cast off the rope, for the ice melts under us, and the rope would separate me from him; but I am not afraid.' ... The cry came up, 'We are sinking lower, but his heart still beats against mine.' ... The cry came up, 'We are sinking still, and we are deadly cold. His heart no longer beats against mine. Let no one come down to add to our weight. Lower the rope only.' ... The cry came up with a deathly silence, 'Raise! softly!' ... She broke from them all and sank over him on his litter, with both her loving hands upon the heart that stood still." It has been supposed that Dickens wilfully departed here from truth, in order to leave the impression on the reader that Vendale was assuredly dead. That he wished to convey this impression is obvious. He often showed similar care to remove, if possible, all hope from the anxious reader's mind (markedly so in his latest and unfinished work, where nevertheless any one well acquainted with Dickens's manner knows not only that Drood is alive, but that disguised as Datchery he was to have watched Jasper to the end). But in reality, it has happened more than once that persons have been restored to life who have been found in snow-drifts not merely reduced to complete insensibility, but without any recognisable heart-beat. Dickens had probably heard of such cases when in Switzerland.

[75] Dr. Richardson will certainly excite the contempt of the northern professor who rebuked me recently for speaking of heat when I should have said temperature. "An atmosphere two degrees below freezing-point" is an expression as inadmissible, if we must be punctilious in such matters, as the expressions "blood-heat," "a heat of ten degrees," and so forth. Possibly, however, it is not desirable to be punctilious when there is no possibility of being misunderstood, especially as it may be noticed (the Edinburgh professor has often afforded striking illustrations of the fact by errors of his own) that too great an effort to be punctilious often results in very remarkable incorrectness of expression.

[Pg 521]



In some respects Mill's Essays, published under the title "Utilitarianism," are among his best writings. They have, in the first place, the excellence of brevity. Ninety-six pages, printed in handsome type, make but a light task for the student who wishes to enter into the intricacies of moral doctrine. Moreover, the last Essay consists of a digression concerning the nature and origin of the idea of Justice, and it occupies nearly one-third of the whole book. Thus Mill managed to compress his discussion of so important a subject as the foundations of Moral Right and Wrong into some sixty pleasant pages.

And pleasant pages they certainly are, for they are written in Mill's very best style. Now Mill, even when he is most prolix, when he is pursuing the intricacies of the most involved points of logic and philosophy, can seldom or never be charged with dulness and heaviness. His language is too easy, polished, and apparently lucid. In these Essays on Utilitarianism, he reaches his own highest standard of style. There is hardly any other book in the range of philosophy, so far as my reading has gone, which can be read with less effort. There is something enticing in the easy flow of sentences and ideas, and without apparent difficulty the reader finds himself agreeably borne into the midst of the most profound questions of ethical philosophy, questions which have been the battle-ground of the human intellect for two thousand five hundred years.

Partly to this excellence of style, partly to Mill's immense reputation, acquired by other works and in other ways, must we attribute the importance which has been generally attached to these ninety-six pages. Probably no other modern work of the same small typographical extent has been equally discussed, criticized, and admired, unless, indeed, it be the Essay on Liberty of the same author. The result is, that Mill has [Pg 522] been generally regarded as the latest and best expounder of the great Utilitarian Doctrine—that doctrine which is, by one and no doubt the preponderating school, regarded as the foundation of all moral and legislative progress. Many there are who think that, what Hume and Paley and Jeremy Bentham began, Mill has carried nearly to perfection in these agreeable Essays.

Nothing can be more plain, too, than that Mill himself believed he was dutifully expounding the doctrines of his father, of his father's friend, the great Bentham, and of the other unquestionable Utilitarians among whom he grew up. Mill seems to pride himself upon having been the first, not indeed to invent, but to bring into general acceptance the name of the school to which he supposed himself to belong. He says:[76] "The author of this essay has reason for believing himself to be the first person who brought the word utilitarian into use. He did not invent it, but adopted it from a passing expression in Mr. Galt's 'Annals of the Parish.' After using it as a designation for several years, he and others abandoned it from a growing dislike to anything resembling a badge or watchword of sectarian distinction. But as a name for one single opinion, not a set of opinions—to denote the recognition of utility as a standard, not any particular way of applying it—the term supplies a want in the language, and offers, in many cases, a convenient mode of avoiding tiresome circumlocution."

In the Autobiography (p. 79), Mill makes a statement to the same effect, saying—

"I did not invent the word, but found it in one of Galt's novels, the 'Annals of the Parish,' in which the Scotch clergyman, of whom the book is a supposed autobiography, is represented as warning his parishioners not to leave the Gospel and become utilitarians. With a boy's fondness for a name and a banner I seized on the word, and for some years called myself and others by it as a sectarian appellation; and it came to be occasionally used by some others holding the opinions it was intended to designate. As those opinions attracted more notice, the term was repeated by strangers and opponents, and got into rather common use just about the time when those who had originally assumed it, laid down that along with other sectarian characteristics."

It is pointed out, however, by Mr. Sidgwick in his article on Benthamism,[77] that Bentham himself suggested the name "Utilitarian," in a letter to Dumont, as far back as June, 1802.

Mill explicitly states that it was his purpose in these Essays on Utilitarianism to expound a previously received doctrine of utility. Towards the close of his first chapter, containing General Remarks, he says (p. 6): "On the present occasion, I shall, without further discussion of the other theories, attempt to contribute something towards the understanding and appreciation of the Utilitarian or Happiness theory, and towards such proof as it is susceptible of." He proceeds to explain that a preliminary condition of the rational acceptance or rejection [Pg 523] of a doctrine is that its formula should be correctly understood. The very imperfect notion ordinarily formed of the Utilitarian formula was the chief obstacle which impeded its reception; the main work to be done, therefore, by a Utilitarian writer was to clear the doctrine from the grosser misconceptions. Thus the question would be greatly simplified, and a large proportion of its difficulties removed. His Essays purport throughout to be a defence and exposition of the Utilitarian doctrine.

But one characteristic of Mill's writings is that there is often a wide gulf between what he intends and what he achieves. There is even a want of security that what he is at any moment urging may not be the logical contrary of what he thinks he is urging. This happens to be palpably the case with the celebrated Essays before us. Mill explains and defends his favourite doctrine with so much affection and so much candour that he finally explains himself into the opposite doctrine. Yet with that simplicity which is a pleasing feature of his personal character, Mill continues to regard himself as a Utilitarian long after he has left the grounds of Paley and Bentham. Lines of logical distinction and questions of logical consistency are of little account to one who cannot distinguish between fact and feeling, between sense and sentiment. It is possible that no small part of the favour with which these Essays have always been received by the general public is due to the happy way in which Mill has combined the bitter and the sweet. The uncompromising rigidity of the Benthamist formulas is softened and toned down. An apparently scientific treatment is combined with so many noble sentiments and high aspirations, that almost any one except a logician may be disarmed.

But nothing can endure if it be not logical. These Essays may be very agreeable reading; they may make readers congratulate themselves on so easily becoming moral philosophers; but they cannot really advance moral science if they represent one thing as being another thing. I make it my business therefore in this article to show that Mill was intellectually unfitted to decide what was utilitarian and what was not. In removing the obstacles to the reception of his favourite doctrine he removed its landmarks too, and confused everything. It is true that I come rather late in the day to show this. Some scores, if not hundreds, of critics have shown the same fact more or less clearly. Eminent men of the most different schools and tones of thought—such as the Rev. Dr. Martineau, Mr. Sidgwick, Dr. Ward, Professor Birks, the late Professor Grote—have criticized and refuted Mill time after time.

Since commencing my analysis of Mill's Philosophy, I have been surprised to find, too, that some who were supposed to support Mill's school through thick and thin, have long since discovered the inconsistencies which I would now expose, at such wearisome length as if they were new discoveries. Such is the ground which my friend, Professor [Pg 524] Croom Robertson, takes in his quarterly review, Mind, which must be considered our best authority on philosophical questions. As to this matter of Utilitarianism, a very eminent author, formerly a friend of Mill himself, assures me that the subject is quite threshed out, and implies that there is no need for me to trouble the public any more about it. In fact, it would seem to be allowed within philosophical circles that Mill's works are often wrongheaded and unphilosophical. Yet these works are supposed to have done so much good that obloquy attaches to any one who would seek to diminish the respect paid to them by the public at large. Philosophers, and teachers of the last generation at least, have done their best to give Mill's groundless philosophy a hold upon all the schools and all the press, and yet we of this generation are to wait calmly until this influence dissolves of its own accord. We are to do nothing to lessen the natural respect paid to the memory of the dead, especially of the dead who have unquestionably laboured with single-minded purpose for what they considered the good of their fellow-creatures. But in nothing is it more true than in philosophy, that "the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Words and false arguments cannot be recalled. Throw a stone into the surface of the still sea, and you are powerless to prevent the circle of disturbance from spreading more and more widely. True it is, that one disturbance may be overcome and apparently obliterated by other deeper disturbances; but Mill's works and opinions were disseminated by the immense former influence of the united band of Benthamist philosophers. He is criticized and discussed and repeated, in almost every philosophical work of the last thirty or forty years. He is taken throughout the world as the representative of British philosophy, and it is not sufficient for a few eminent thinkers in Oxford, or Cambridge, or London, or Edinburgh, or Aberdeen, to acknowledge in a tacit sort of way that this doctrine and that doctrine is wrong. Eventually, no doubt, the opinion of the Lecture Halls and Combination Rooms will guide the public opinion; but it may take a generation for tacit opinions to permeate society. We must have them distinctly and boldly expressed. It is especially to be remembered that the public press throughout the English-speaking countries is mostly conducted by men educated in the time when Mill's works were entirely predominant. These men are now for the most part cut off, by geographical or professional obstacles, from the direct influence of Oxford or Cambridge. The circle of disturbance has spread beyond the immediate reach of those centres of thought. To be brief, I do not believe that Mill's immense philosophical influence, founded as it is on confusion of thought, will readily collapse. I fear that it may remain as a permanent obstacle in the way of sound thinking. Citius emergit veritas ex errore, quam ex confusione. Had Mill simply erred as did Hobbes about elementary geometry, and Berkeley about infinitesimals, it would be necessary merely to point out the errors and consign them [Pg 525] to merciful oblivion. But it is not so easy to consign to oblivion ponderous works so full of confusion of thought that every inexperienced and unwarned reader is sure to lose his way in them, and to take for profound philosophy that which is really a kind of kaleidoscopic presentation of philosophic ideas and phrases, in a succession of various but usually inconsistent combinations. To the public at large, Mill's works still undoubtedly remain as the standard of accurate thinking, and the most esteemed repertory of philosophy. I cannot therefore consider my criticism superfluous, and at the risk of repeating much that has been said by the eminent critics already mentioned, or by others, I must show that Mill has thrown ethical philosophy into confusion as far as could well be done in ninety-six pages.

The nature of the Utilitarian doctrine is explained by Mill with sufficient accuracy in pp. 9 and 10, where he says—

"The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure; and to what extent this is left an open question. But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded—namely, that pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as any other scheme) are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain."

Mill proceeds to say that such a theory of life excites inveterate dislike in many minds, and among them some of the most estimable in feeling and purpose. To hold forth no better end than pleasure is felt to be utterly mean and grovelling—a doctrine worthy only of swine. Mill accordingly proceeds to inquire whether there is anything really grovelling in the doctrine—whether, on the contrary, we may not include under pleasure, feelings and motives which are in the highest degree noble and elevating. The whole inquiry turns upon this question—Do pleasures differ in quality as well as in quantity? Can a small amount of pleasure of very elevated character outweigh a large amount of pleasure of low quality? We should never think of estimating pictures by their size and number. The productions of West and Fuseli, which were the wonder and admiration of our grandparents, can now be bought by the square yard, to cover the bare walls of eating-houses and music-halls. Sic transit gloria mundi. But a choice sketch by Turner sometimes sells for many pounds per square inch. It is clear, then, that in the opinion of connoisseurs, which must, for our present purpose, be considered final, high art is almost wholly a matter of quality. Two great pictures by West may be nearly twice as valuable as one; and two equally choice sketches by Turner are twice as good as one; but it would seem [Pg 526] hardly possible in the present day for the disciple of "high art" to bring West and Turner into the same category of thought. I suppose that even Turner will presently begin to wane before "the higher criticism."

A corresponding difficulty lies at the very basis of the Utilitarian theory of ethics. The tippler may esteem two pints of beer doubly as much as one; the hero may feel double satisfaction in saving two lives instead of one; but who shall weigh the pleasure of a pint of beer against the pleasure of saving a fellow-creature's life.

Paley, indeed, cut the Gordian knot of this difficulty in a summary manner; he denied altogether that there is any difference between pleasures, except in continuance and intensity. It must have required some moral courage to write the paragraph to be next quoted; yet Paley, however much he may be said to have temporized and equivocated about oaths and subscription to Articles, cannot be accused of want of explicitness in this passage. There is a directness and clear-hitting of the point in Paley's writings which always charms me.

"In strictness, any condition may be denominated happy, in which the amount or aggregate of pleasure exceeds that of pain; and the degree of happiness depends upon the quantity of this excess. And the greatest quantity of it ordinarily attainable in human life, is what we mean by happiness, when we inquire or pronounce what human happiness consists in. In which inquiry I will omit much usual declamation on the dignity and capacity of our nature; the superiority of the soul to the body, of the rational to the animal part of our constitution; upon the worthiness, refinement, and delicacy of some satisfactions, or the meanness, grossness, and sensuality of others; because I hold that pleasures differ in nothing, but in continuance and intensity: from a just computation of which, confirmed by what we observe of the apparent cheerfulness, tranquillity, and contentment, of men of different tastes, tempers, stations, and pursuits, every question concerning human happiness must receive its decision."[78]

Bentham, it need hardly be said, adopted the same idea as the basis of his ethical and legislative theories. In his uncompromising style he tells us[79] that

"Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. In words a man may pretend to abjure their empire: but in reality he will remain subject to it all the while. The principle of utility recognises this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation of that system, the object of which is to rear the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law. Systems which attempt to question it, deal in sounds instead of sense, in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light."

Elsewhere Bentham proceeds to show how we may estimate the values of pleasures and pains, meaning obviously by values the quantities or forces. As these feelings are both the ends and the instruments of the [Pg 527] moralist and legislator, it especially behoves us to learn how to estimate these values aright, and Bentham tells us most distinctly.[80]

To a person, he says, considered by himself, the value of a pleasure or pain considered by itself, will be greater or less, according to the four following circumstances. 1. Its intensity. 2. Its duration. 3. Its certainty or uncertainty. 4. Its propinquity or remoteness. But when the value of any pleasure or pain is to be considered for the purpose of estimating the general tendency of the act, we have to take into account also, 5. The fecundity, or the chance it has of being followed by sensations of the same kind, that is, pleasures, if it be a pleasure; pains, if it be a pain. 6. Its purity, or the chance it has of not being followed by sensations of the opposite kind: that is, pains, if it be a pleasure; pleasures, if it be a pain. Finally, when we consider the interests of a number of persons, we must also estimate a pleasure or pain with reference to, 7. Its extent; that is the number of persons to whom it extends, or who are affected by it.

Thus did Bentham clearly and explicitly lay the foundations of the moral and political sciences, and to impress these fundamental propositions on the memory he framed the following curious mnemonic lines, which may be quoted for the sake of their quaintness:—

"Intense, long, certain, speedy, fruitful, pure——
Such marks in pleasures and in pains endure.
Such pleasures seek, if private be thy end:
If it be public, wide let them extend.
Such pains avoid, whichever be thy view:
If pains must come, let them extend to few."

In all that Bentham says about pleasure and pain, there is not a word about the intrinsic superiority of one pleasure to another. He advocates our seeking pure pleasures; but with him a pure pleasure was clearly defined as one not likely to be followed by feelings of the opposite kind; the pleasure of opium-eating, for instance, would be called impure, simply because it is likely to lead to bad health and consequent pain; if not so followed by evil consequences, the pleasure would be as pure as any other pleasure. With Bentham morality became, as it were, a question of the ledger and the balance-sheet; all feelings were reduced to the same denomination of value, and whenever we indulge in a little enjoyment, or endure a pain, the consequences in regard to subsequent enjoyment or suffering are to be inexorably scored for or against us, as the case may be. Our conduct must be judged wise or foolish according as, in the long-run, we find a favourable "hedonic" balance-sheet.

What Mill in his earlier life thought about these foundations of the utilitarian doctrine, and the elaborate structure reared therefrom by Bentham, he has told us in his Autobiography, pp. 64 to 70. Subsequently Mill revolted, as we all know, against the narrowness of the Benthamist creed. While wishing to retain[81] the precision of expression, the definiteness of meaning, the contempt of declamatory phrases and vague generalities, which were so honourably characteristic both of [Pg 528] Bentham and of his own father, James Mill, John Stuart decided to give a wider basis and a more free and "genial" character to the utilitarian speculations.

Let us consider how Mill proceeded to give this "genial" character to the utilitarian philosophy. It must be admitted, he says,[82] that utilitarian writers in general have placed the superiority of mental over bodily pleasures chiefly in the greater permanency, safety, uncostliness, &c., of the former—that is, in their circumstantial advantages rather than in their intrinsic nature. As regards Bentham, at least, Mill might have omitted the word chiefly. But according to Mill, there is no need why they should have taken such a ground.

"They might have taken the other, and, as it may be called, higher ground, with entire consistency. It is quite compatible with the principle of utility to recognise the fact, that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd, that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone."

Then Mill proceeds to point out, with all the persuasiveness of his best style, that there are higher feelings which we would not sacrifice for any quantity of a lower feeling. Few human creatures, he holds, would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast's pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, and so forth. Mill, in fact, treats us to a good deal of what Paley so cynically called the "usual declamation," on the dignity and capacity of our nature, and the worthiness of some satisfactions compared with the grossness and sensuality of others. It must be allowed that Mill has the best of it, at least with the majority of readers. Paley is simply brutal as to the way in which he depresses everything to the same level of apparent sensuality. Mill overflows with genial and noble aspirations; he hardly deigns to count the lower pleasures as worth putting in the scale; it is better, he thinks, to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. If the pig or the fool is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides. In the pages which follow there is much nobleness and elevation of thought. But where is the logic? We are nothing if we are not logical. But does Mill, in the fervour of his revolt against the cold, narrow restraints of the Benthamist formulas, consider the consistency and stability of his position? Let us examine in some detail the position to which he has brought himself.

It is plain, in the first place, that pleasure is with Mill the ultimate purpose of existence; for the philosophy is that of utilitarianism, and Mill distinctly assures us (Autobiography, p. 178) that he "never [Pg 529] ceased to be a utilitarian." We must, of course, distinguish between the pleasure of the individual and the pleasure of other individuals of the race, between Egoistic and Universalistic Hedonism, as Mr. Sidgwick calls these very different doctrines. But the happiness of the race is, of course, made up of the happiness of its units, so that unless most of the individuals pursue a course ensuring happiness, the race cannot be happy in the aggregate. Now, to acquire happiness the individual must, of course, select that line of conduct which is likely to—that is, will in the majority of cases—bring happiness. He must aim at something which is capable of being reached. Mill tells us (p. 18) that if by happiness be meant a continuity of highly pleasurable excitement, it is evident enough that this is impossible to attain.

"A state of exalted pleasure lasts only moments, or in some cases, and with some intermissions, hours or days, and is the occasional brilliant flash of enjoyment, not its permanent and steady flame. Of this the philosophers who have taught that happiness is the end of life were as fully aware as those who taunt them. The happiness which they meant was not a life of rapture; but moments of such, in an existence made up of few and transitory pains, many and various pleasures, with a decided predominance of the actual over the passive, and having as the foundation of the whole, not to expect more from life than it is capable of bestowing.[83] A life thus composed, to those who have been fortunate enough to obtain it, has always appeared worthy of the name of happiness."

Then Mill goes on to point out what he considers has been sufficient to satisfy great numbers of mankind (p. 19):

"The main constituents of a satisfied life appear to be two, either of which by itself is often found sufficient for the purpose: tranquillity, and excitement. With much tranquillity, many find that they can be content with very little pleasure: with much excitement, many can reconcile themselves to a considerable quantity of pain. There is assuredly no inherent impossibility in enabling even the mass of mankind to unite both."

From these passages we must gather that at any rate the mass of mankind will attain happiness if they are satisfied with these main constituents, and we are especially told that the foundation of the whole utilitarian philosophy (Mill does not specify the substantive to which the adjective whole applies in the above quotation, but it must from the context be either "utilitarian philosophy," "search for happiness," or some closely equivalent idea) is not to expect from life more than it is capable of bestowing.

The question, then, may fairly arise whether upon a fair calculation of probabilities they are not wise, upon Mill's own showing, who aim at moderate achievements in life, so that in accomplishing these they may insure a satisfied life. This seems the more reasonable, if, as Mill elsewhere tells us, the nobler feelings are very apt to be killed off by the chilly realities of life.

"Many," he says (p. 14), "who begin with youthful enthusiasm for everything noble, as they advance in years sink into indolence and selfishness. But I do not believe that those who undergo this very common change, voluntarily [Pg 530] choose the lower description of pleasure in preference to the higher, I believe that before they devote themselves exclusively to the one, they have already become incapable of the other. Capacity for the nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has thrown them, are not favourable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise. Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access, or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying. It may be questioned whether any one who has remained equally susceptible to both classes of pleasure, ever knowingly and calmly preferred the lower; though many, in all ages, have broken down in an ineffectual attempt to combine both."

It would seem, then, that for the mass of mankind there is small prospect indeed of achieving happiness through high aspirations. They will not have time nor opportunity for indulging them. If they look for happiness solely to such aspirations they must be disappointed, and cannot have a satisfied life; if they attempt to combine the higher and lower lives they are likely to "break down in the ineffectual attempt." Now, I submit that, under these circumstances, it is folly, according to Mill's scheme of morality, to aim high; it is equivalent to going into a life-lottery, in which there are no doubt high prizes to be gained, but few and far between. It is simply gambling with hedonic stakes; preferring a small chance of high enjoyment to comparative certainty of moderate pleasures. Mill clearly admits this when he says (p. 14), "It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect."

Although, then, "the foundation of the whole" is not to expect from life more than it is capable of bestowing, we are actually to prefer becoming highly endowed, although we cannot expect life to satisfy the corresponding aspirations. That is to say, although seeking for happiness, we are to prefer the course in which we are approximately certain of not obtaining it.

But Mill goes on to give some explanations. He says that the highly endowed being can learn to bear the imperfections of his happiness, "if they are at all bearable" (p. 14). This is small comfort if they happen to be not at all bearable, an alternative which is not further pursued by Mill. And will not this intolerable fate be most likely to befall those whose aspirations have been pitched most highly? But Mill goes on:

"They (that is, the imperfections of life or happiness?) will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied, than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is [Pg 531] because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides."

Concerning this position of affairs the most apposite remark I can make is contained in the somewhat trite and vulgar saying, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." If Socrates is pretty sure to be dissatisfied, and yet, owing to his wisdom, cannot help wishing to be Socrates, he seems to have no chance of that individual happiness which depends on being satisfied, and not expecting from life more than it is capable of bestowing. The great majority of people who do not know what it is like to be Socrates, are surely to be congratulated that they can, without scruple or remorse, seek a prize of happiness which there is a fair prospect of securing. But Mill tells us that those who choose the lower life do so "because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides." Then Mill introduces a paragraph, already partially quoted, in which he allows that men often do, from infirmity of character, make their selection for the nearer good, though they know it to be the less valuable. Many who begin with youthful enthusiasm for everything noble, sink in later years into indolence and selfishness. The capacity for the nobler feelings is easily killed, and men lose their high aspirations because they have not time and opportunity for indulging them. I submit that, from Mill's point of view, these are all valid reasons why they should not choose the higher life. We are considering here, not those who have always been devoid of the nobler feelings, but those who have in earlier life been full of enthusiasm and high aspirations. If such men, with few exceptions, decide eventually in favour of the lower life, they are parties who do know both sides of the comparison, and deliberately choose not to be Socrates, with the prospect of the very imperfect happiness (probably involving short rations) which is incident to the life of Socrates.

Mill, indeed, calmly assumes that the vote goes in his own and Socrates' favour. He says (p. 15):

"From this verdict of the only competent judges, I apprehend there can be no appeal. On a question which is the best worth having of two pleasures, or which of two modes of existence is the most grateful to the feelings, apart from its moral attributes and from its consequences, the judgment of those who are qualified by knowledge of both, or, if they differ, that of the majority among them, must be admitted as final. And there need be the less hesitation to accept this judgment respecting the quality of pleasures, since there is no other tribunal to be referred to, even on the question of quantity. What means are there of determining which is the acutest of two pains, or the intensest of two pleasurable sensations, except the general suffrage of those who are familiar with both?"

Now, were we dealing with a writer of average logical accuracy there would be considerable presumption that when he adduces evidence and claims a result in his own favour in this confident way, there would be some ground for the claim. But my scrutiny of Mill's "System of Logic" has taught me caution in admitting such presumptions in [Pg 532] respect of his writings, and here is a case in point. He claims that the suffrage of the majority is in favour of Socrates' life, although he has admitted that the vast majority of men somehow or other elect not to be Socrates. He assumes, indeed, that this is because their aspirations have been first killed off by unfavourable circumstances; his only residuum of fact is contained in this somewhat hesitating conclusion already quoted:—

"It may be questioned whether any one who has remained equally susceptible to both classes of pleasures, ever knowingly and calmly preferred the lower; though many, in all ages, have broken down in an ineffectual attempt to combine both."

Although, then, millions and millions are continually deciding against Socrates' life, for one reason or another (and many in all ages who make the ineffectual attempt at a combination break down), Mill gratuitously assumes that they are none of them competent witnesses, because they must have lost their higher feelings before they could have descended to the lower level; then the comparatively few who do choose the higher life and succeed in attaining it are adduced as giving a large majority, or even a unanimous vote in favour of their own choice. I submit that this is a fallacy probably to be best classed as a petitio principii; Mill entirely begs the question when he assumes that every witness against him is an incapacitated witness, because he must have lost his capacity for the nobler feelings before he could have decided in favour of the lower.

The verdict which Mill takes in favour of his high-quality pleasures is entirely that of a packed jury. It is on a par with the verdict which would be given by vegetarians in favour of a vegetable diet. No doubt, those who call themselves vegetarians would almost unanimously say that it is the best and highest diet; but then, all those who have tried such diet and found it impracticable have disappeared from the jury, together with all those whose common sense, or scientific knowledge, or weak state of health, or other circumstances, have prevented them from attempting the experiment. By the same method of decision, we might all be required to get up at five o'clock in the morning and do four hours of head-work before breakfast, because the few hard-headed and hard-bodied individuals who do this sort of thing are unanimously of opinion that it is a healthly and profitable way of beginning the day.

Of course, it will be understood that I am not denying the moral superiority of some pleasures and courses of life over others. I am only showing that Mill's attempt to reconcile his ideas on the subject with the Utilitarian theory hopelessly fails. The few pleasant pages in which he makes this attempt (Utilitarianism, pp. 8-28), form, in fact, a most notable piece of sophistical reasoning. Much of the interest of these undoubtedly interesting passages arises from the kaleidoscopic way in which the standing difficulties of ethical science are woven together, as if they were logically coherent in Mill's mode of presentation. [Pg 533] The ideas involved are as old as Plato and Aristotle. The high aspirations correspond to τὸ καλὸν of Plato. The superior man who can judge both sides of the question is the βέλτιστος ἀνήρ of Aristotle. The Utilitarian doctrine is that of Epicurus. Now, Mill managed to persuade himself that he could in twenty pages reconcile the controversies of ages.

Nor is it to be supposed that Bentham, in making his analysis of the conditions of pleasure, overlooked the difference of high and low; he did not overlook it at all—he analyzed it. A pleasure to be high must have the marks of intensity, length, certainty, fruitfulness, and purity, or of some of these at least; and when we take Altruism into account, the feelings must be of wide extent—that is, fruitful of pleasure and devoid of evil to great numbers of people. It is a higher pleasure to build a Free Library than to establish a new Race Course; not because there is a Free-Library-building emotion, which is essentially better than a Race-Course-establishing emotion, each being a simple unanalyzable feeling; but because we may, after the model of inquiry given by Bentham, resolve into its elements the effect of one action and the other upon the happiness of the community. Thus, we should find that Mill proposed to give "geniality" to the Utilitarian philosophy by throwing into confusion what it was the very merit of Bentham to have distinguished and arranged scientifically. We must hold to the dry old Jeremy, if we are to have any chance of progress in Ethics. Mill, at some "crisis in his mental history," decided in favour of a genial instead of a logical and scientific Ethics, and the result is the mixture of sentiment and sophistry contained in the attractive pages under review.

In order to treat adequately of Mill's ethical doctrines it would no doubt be necessary to go on to other parts of the Essays, and to inquire how he treats other moral elements, such as the Social or Altruistic Feelings. The existence of such feelings is admitted on p. 46, and, indeed, insisted on as a basis of powerful natural sentiment, constituting the strength of the Utilitarian morality. But it would be an endless work to examine all phases of Mill's doctrines, and to show whether or not they are logically consistent inter se. They are really not worth the trouble. Just let us notice, however, how he treats the question whether moral feelings are innate or not. On this point Mill gives (p. 45) the following characteristic deliverance:—"If, as is my own belief, the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that reason the less natural. It is natural to man to speak, to reason, to build cities, to cultivate the ground, though these are acquired faculties. The moral feelings are not indeed a part of our nature, in the sense of being in any perceptible degree present in all of us; but this, unhappily, is a fact admitted by those who believe the most strenuously in their transcendental origin. Like the other acquired capacities above referred to, the moral faculty, if not a part of [Pg 534] our nature, is a natural outgrowth from it; capable, like them, in a certain small degree, of springing up spontaneously; and susceptible of being brought by cultivation to a high degree of development." If life were long enough, I should like, with the assistance of the "Methods of Ethics," to analyze the ideas involved in this passage. I can merely suggest the following questions:—If acquired capacities are equally natural with those not acquired, what is the use of introducing a distinction without a difference? If moral feelings can spring up spontaneously, even in the smallest degree, and then be developed by "natural outgrowths," how do any of our feelings differ from natural ones? What does Mill mean, at the top of the next page, by speaking of "moral associations which are wholly of artificial creation?" Are these also not the less natural because they are of artificial creation? If not, we should like to know how to draw the line between acquired and artificial capacities. How, again, are we to interpret the use of the word natural, on p. 50, where, speaking of the deeply-rooted conception which every individual even now has of himself as a social being, he says—

"This feeling in most individuals is much inferior in strength to their selfish feelings, and is often wanting altogether. But to those who have it, it possesses all the characters of a natural feeling. It does not present itself to their minds as a superstition of education," &c.

Here a natural feeling is contrasted to the product of education, although we were before told that acquired capacities, like speaking, building, cultivating, were none the less natural. But I must candidly confess that when Mill introduces the words nature and natural, I am completely baffled. I give it up. I can no longer find any logical marks to assist me in tracking out his course of thought. The word nature may be Mill's key to a profound philosophy; but I rather think it is the key to many of his fallacies.

I often amuse myself by trying to imagine what Bentham would have said of Benthamism expounded by Mill. Especially would it be interesting to hear Bentham on Mill's use of the word "natural." No passage in which Bentham analyzes the meaning of "nature," or "natural," occurs to me, but the following is his treatment of the word "unnatural," as employed in Ethics:—

"Unnatural, when it means anything, means unfrequent: and there it means something; although nothing to the present purpose. But here it means no such thing: for the frequency of such acts is perhaps the great complaint. It therefore means nothing; nothing, I mean, which there is in the act itself. All it can serve to express is, the disposition of the person who is talking of it: the disposition he is in to be angry at the thoughts of it."[84]

Would that the grand old man, as he still sits benignly pondering in his own proper bones and clothes, in the upper regions of a well-known institution, could be got to deliver himself in like style about feelings which are not the less natural because they are acquired.

[Pg 535] Before passing on, however, I must point out, in the extract from p. 45, the characteristic habit which Mill has of minimizing things which he is obliged to admit. Instead of denying straightforwardly that we have moral feelings, he says they are not present in all of us in any "perceptible degree." The moral faculty is capable of springing up spontaneously "in a certain small degree." This will remind every reader of the way in which, in his "Essays on Religion," instead of flatly adopting Atheism or Theism, which are clear logical negatives each of the other, he concludes that though God is almost proved not to exist, He may possibly exist, and we must "imagine" this chance to be as large as we can, though it belongs only "to one of the lower degrees of probability." Exactly the same manner of meeting a weighty question will be discovered again in his demonstration of the non-existence of necessary truths. I shall hope to examine carefully his treatment of this important part of philosophy on a future occasion. We shall then find, I believe, that his argument proves non-existence of such things as necessary truths, because those truths which cannot be explained on the association principle are very few indeed. I beg pardon for introducing an incongruous illustration, but Mill's manner of minimizing an all-important admission often irresistibly reminds me of the young woman who, being taxed with having borne a child, replied that it was only a very small one.

Such are the intricacies and wide extent of ethical questions, that it is not practicable to pursue the analysis of Mill's doctrine in at all a full manner. We cannot detect the fallacious reasoning with the same precision as in matters of geometric and logical science. This analysis is the less needful too, because, since Mill's Essays appeared, Moral Philosophy has undergone a revolution. I do not so much allude to the reform effected by Mr. Sidgwick's "Methods of Ethics," though that is a great one, introducing as it does a precision of thought and nomenclature which was previously wanting. I allude, of course, to the establishment of the Spencerian Theory of Morals, which has made a new era in philosophy.[85] Mill has been singularly unfortunate from this point of view. He might be defined as the last great philosophic writer conspicuous for his ignorance of the principles of evolution. He brought to confusion the philosophy of his master, Bentham; he ignored that which was partly to replace, partly to complete it.

I am aware that, in her Introductory Notice to the Essays on Religion (p. viii.), Miss Helen Taylor apologizes for Mill having omitted any references to the works of Mr. Darwin and Sir Henry Maine "in passages where there is coincidence of thought with those writers, or [Pg 536] where subjects are treated which they have since discussed in a manner to which the Author of these Essays would certainly have referred had their works been published before these were written."[86] Here it is implied that Mill anticipated the authors of the Evolution philosophy in some of their thoughts, and it is a most amiable and pardonable bias which leads Miss Taylor to find in the works of one so dear to her that which is not there. The fact is that the whole tone of Mill's moral and political writings is totally opposed to the teaching of Darwin and Spencer, Taylor and Maine. Mill's idea of human nature was that we came into the world like lumps of soft clay, to be shaped by the accidents of life, or the care of those who educate us. Austin insisted on the evidence which history and daily experience afford of "the extraordinary pliability of human nature," and Mill borrowed the phrase from him.[87] No phrase could better express the misapprehensions of human nature which, it is to be hoped, will cease for ever with the last generation of writers. Human nature is one of the last things which can be called "pliable." Granite rocks can be more easily moulded than the poor savages that hide among them. We are all of us full of deep springs of unconquerable character, which education may in some degree soften or develop, but can neither create nor destroy. The mind can be shaped about as much as the body; it may be starved into feebleness, or fed and exercised into vigour and fulness; but we start always with inherent hereditary powers of growth. The non-recognition of this fact is the great defect in the moral system of Bentham. The great Jeremy was accustomed to make short work with the things which he did not understand, and it is thus he disposes of "the pretended system" of a moral sense:[88]

"One man says he has a thing made on purpose to tell him what is right and what is wrong, and that it is called a moral sense; and then he goes to his work at his ease, and says such a thing is right and such a thing is wrong—Why? because my moral sense tells me it is."

Bentham then bluntly ignored the validity of innate feelings, but this omission, though a great defect, did not much diminish the value of his analysis of the good and bad effects of actions. Mill discarded the admirable Benthamist analysis, but failed to introduce the true Evolutionist principles; thus he falls between the two. It is to Herbert Spencer we must look for a more truthful philosophy of morals than was possible before his time.

The publication of the first part of his Principles of Morality, under the title "The Data of Ethics," gives us, in a definite form, and in his form, what we could previously only infer from the general course of his philosophy and from his brief letter on Utilitarianism addressed to Mill. Although but fragments, these writings enable us to see that a [Pg 537] definite step has been made in a matter debated since the dawn of intellect. The moral sense doctrine, so rudely treated by Bentham, is no longer incapable of reconciliation with the greatest happiness principle, only it now becomes a moving and developable moral sense. An absolute and unalterable moral standard was opposed to the palpable fact that customs and feelings differ widely, and Paley, on this ground, was induced to reject it. Now we perceive that we all have a moral sense; but the moral sense of one individual, and still more of one race, may differ from that of another individual or race. Each is more or less fitted to its circumstances, and the best is ascertained by eventual success.

At the tail end of an article it is, of course, impossible to discuss the grounds or results of the Spencerian philosophy. To me it presents itself, in its main features, as unquestionably true; indeed, it is already difficult to look back and imagine how philosophers could have denied of the human mind and actions what is so obviously true of the animal races generally. As a reaction from the old views about innate ideas, the philosophers of the eighteenth century wished to believe that the human mind was a kind of tabula rasa, or carte blanche, upon which education could impress any character. But if so, why not harness the lion, and teach the sheep to drive away the wolf? If the moral, not to speak of the physical characteristics of the lower animals, are so distinct, why should there not be moral and mental differences among ourselves, descending, as we obviously do, from different stocks with different physical characteristics? Notice what Mr. Darwin says on this point:—

"Mr. J. S. Mill speaks, in his celebrated work, 'Utilitarianism' (1864, p. 46), of the social feelings as a 'powerful natural sentiment,' and as 'the natural basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality;' but on the previous page he says, 'if, as is my own belief, the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that reason less natural.' It is with hesitation that I venture to differ from so profound a thinker, but it can hardly be disputed that the social feelings are instinctive or innate in the lower animals; and why should they not be so in man? Mr. Bain and others believe that the moral sense is acquired by each individual during his lifetime. On the general theory of evolution this is at least extremely improbable."[89]

Many persons may be inclined to like the philosophy of Spencer no better than that of Mill. But, if the one be true and the other false, liking and disliking have no place in the matter. There may be many things which we cannot possibly like; but if they are, they are. It is possible that the Principles of Evolution, as expounded by Mr. Herbert Spencer, may seem as wanting in "geniality" as the formulas of Bentham. There is nothing genial, it must be confessed, about the mollusca and other cold-blooded organisms with which Mr. Spencer perpetually illustrates his principles. Heaven forbid that any one [Pg 538] should try to give geniality to Mr. Spencer's views of ethics by any operation comparable to that which Mill performed upon Benthamism.

Nevertheless, I fully believe that all which is sinister and ungenial in the Philosophy of Evolution is either the expression of unquestionable facts, or else it is the outcome of misinterpretation. It is impossible to see how Mr. Spencer, any more than other people, can explain away the existence of pain and evil. Nobody has done this; perhaps nobody ever shall do it; certainly systems of Theology will not do it. A true philosopher will not expect to solve everything. But if we admit the patent fact that pain exists, let us observe also the tendency which Spencer and Darwin establish towards its minimization. Evolution is a striving ever towards the better and the happier. There may be almost infinite powers against us, but at least there is a deep-laid scheme working towards goodness and happiness. So profound and wide-spread is this confederacy of the powers of good, that no failure and no series of failures can disconcert it. Let mankind be thrown back a hundred times, and a hundred times the better tendencies of evolution will re-assert themselves. Paley pointed out how many beautiful contrivances there are in the human form, tending to our benefit. Spencer has pointed out that the Universe is one deep-laid framework for the production of such beneficent contrivances. Paley called upon us to admire such exquisite inventions as a hand or an eye. Spencer calls upon us to admire a machine which is the most comprehensive of all machines, because it is ever engaged in inventing beneficial inventions ad infinitum. Such at least is my way of regarding his Philosophy.

Darwin, indeed, cautions us against supposing that natural selection always leads towards the production of higher and happier types of life. Retrogression may result as well as progression. But I apprehend that retrogression can only occur where the environment of a living species is altered to its detriment. Mankind degenerates when forced, like the Esquimaux, to inhabit the Arctic regions. Still in retrograding, in a sense, the being becomes more suited to its circumstances—more capable therefore of happiness. The inventing machine of Evolution would be working badly if it worked otherwise. But, however this may be, we must accept the philosophy if it be true, and, for my part, I do so without reluctance.

According to Mill, we are little self-dependent gods, fighting with a malignant and murderous power called Nature, sure, one would think, to be worsted in the struggle. According to Spencer, as I venture to interpret his theory, we are the latest manifestation of an all-prevailing tendency towards the good—the happy. Creation is not yet concluded, and there is no one of us who may not become conscious in his heart that he is no Automaton, no mere lump of Protoplasm, but the Creature of a Creator.

W. Stanley Jevons.


[76] "Utilitarianism," fifth edition, p. 9, foot-note. Except where otherwise specified, the references throughout this article will be to the pages of the fifth edition of "Utilitarianism."

[77] Fortnightly Review, May, 1877, vol. xxi. p. 648.

[78] "The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy," Book I. chap. vi. 2nd paragraph.

[79] "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation," p. 1.

[80] "Principles," &c. chap. iv. sect. 2-5. The statement is not a verbatim extract but an abridgment of the sections named.

[81] "Autobiography," p. 214.

[82] "Utilitarianism," p. 11.

[83] Italicised by the present writer.

[84] "Principles of Morals and Legislation," ed. 1823, vol. i. p. 31.

[85] A very important article by Dr. E. L. Youmans upon Mr. Spencer's philosophy has just appeared in the North American Review for October, 1879. Dr. Youmans traces the history of the Evolution doctrines, and proves the originality and independence of Mr. Spencer as regards the closely related views of Mr. Darwin, Mr. Wallace, and Professor Huxley. The eminent men in question are no doubt in perfect agreement; but Dr. Youmans seems to think that readers in general do not properly understand the singular originality and boldness of Mr. Spencer's vast and partially accomplished enterprise in philosophy.

[86] Mr. Morley does not seem to countenance any such claims. On the contrary, he remarks in his "Critical Miscellanies," p. 324, that Mill's Essays lose in interest by not dealing with the Darwinian hypothesis.

[87] "Autobiography," p. 187.

[88] "Principles of Morals," &c., p. 29.

[89] "The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex," 1871, vol. i. p. 71. I cannot help thinking that Mr. Darwin felt the inconsistency and confusion of ideas in the passages quoted, although he does not so express himself. Otherwise, why does he quote from two pages?

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Contemporary Review, Volume 36,
November 1879, by Various


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