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CHAPTER V.: THE SECULARISATION OF POLITICS. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, vol. 2 
History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, vol. 2, Revised edition (New York: D. Appleton, 1919).
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THE SECULARISATION OF POLITICS.
The evidence I have collected in the preceding chapters will be sufficient to exhibit the nature of the rationalistic movement, and also the process by which it has been developed. To establish the first, I have reviewed a long series of theological conceptions which the movement has weakened or transformed. To establish the second, I have shown that the most important changes were much less the results of direct controversy than of the attraction of the prevailing modes of thought, which themselves represented the convergence of a great variety of theological influences. In the remainder of this work, I propose to trace more fully than I have yet had occasion to do, the relations of the rationalistic movement to the political and economical history of Europe; or, in other words, to show on the one hand how the theological development has modified political and economical theories; and, on the other hand, how the tendencies produced by these have reacted upon theology.
But, before entering upon this field, it will perhaps not be altogether unnecessary to remind the reader once more of the main principle upon which the relevance of this species of narrative depends. It is that the speculative opinions which are embraced by any large body of men are accepted not on account of the arguments upon which they rest, but on account of a predisposition to receive them. This predisposition depends with many persons entirely upon the circumstances of their position, that is to say, upon the associations of childhood, friendship, or interest, and is of such a nature as altogether to dispense with arguments. With others, it depends chiefly upon the character of their minds, which induces them to embrace one class of arguments rather than another. This intellectual character, again, results partly from natural and innate peculiarities, and partly from the totality of influences that act upon the mind. For the mind of man is no inert receptacle of knowledge, but absorbs and incorporates into its own constitution the ideas which it receives. In a healthy condition, increased knowledge implies an increased mental capacity, and each peculiar department of study not merely comprises a peculiar kind of information, but also produces a peculiar ply and tendency of judgment. All minds are more or less governed by what chemists term the laws of elective affinity. Like naturally tends to like. The predominating passion of every man colours the whole train of his reasoning, and in every subject he examines, he instinctively turns to that aspect which is most congruous to his favourite pursuit.
If this be so, we should naturally expect that polities, which occupy so large a place in the minds of men, should at all times have exercised a considerable influence on the tone of thought from which theological opinions arise, and that a general tendency to restrict the province of theology should have resulted in a secularisation of politics. In the present chapter, I shall examine the stages of that secularisation and the minor changes that are connected with it. The subject will naturally divide itself into two parts. We shall first see how theological interests gradually ceased to be a main object of political combinations; and afterwards, how, by the repudiation of the divine right of kings and the assertion of the social contract, the basis of authority was secularised.
If we take a broad view of the course of history, and examine the relations of great bodies of men, we find that religion and patriotism are the chief moral influences to which they have been subject, and that the separate modifications and mutual interaction of these two agents may almost be said to constitute the moral history of mankind. For some centuries before the introduction of Christianity, patriotism was in most countries the presiding moral principle, and religion occupied an entirely subordinate position. Almost all those examples of heroic self-sacrifice, of passionate devotion to an unselfish aim, which antiquity affords, were produced by the spirit of patriotism. Decius and Regulus, Leonidas and Harmodius, are the pagan parallels to Christian martyrs.1 Nor was it only in the great crises of national history that this spirit was evoked. The pride of patriotism, the sense of dignity which it inspires, the close bond of sympathy produced by a common aim, the energy and elasticity of character which are the parents of great enterprises, were manifested habitually in the leading nations of antiquity. The spirit of patriotism pervaded all classes. It formed a distinct type of character, and was the origin both of many virtues and of many vices.
If we attempt to estimate the moral condition of such a phase of society, we must in some respects place it extremely high. Patriotism has always proved the best cordial of humanity, and all the sterner and more robust virtues were developed to the highest degree by its power. No other influence diffuses abroad so much of that steady fortitude which is equally removed from languor and timidity on the one hand, and from feverish and morbid excitement upon the other. In nations that have been long pervaded by a strong and continuous political life, the pulse beats high and steadily; habits of self-reliance are formed which enable men to confront danger with a calm intrepidity, and to retain a certain sobriety of temperament amidst the most trying vicissitudes. A capacity for united action, for self-sacrifice, for long and persevering exertion, becomes general. A high, though sometimes rather capricious, standard of honour is formed, and a stern simplicity of habits encouraged. It is probable that in the best days of the old classic republics the passions of men were as habitually under control, national tastes as simple and chastened, and acts of heroism as frequent and as grand, as in the noblest periods of subsequent history. Never did men pass through life with a more majestic dignity, or meet death with a more unfaltering calm. The full sublimity of the old classic type has never been reproduced in its perfection, but the spirit that formed it has often breathed over the feverish struggles of modern life, and has infused into society a heroism and a fortitude that have proved the invariable precursors of regeneration.
All this was produced among nations that were notoriously deficient in religious feeling, and had, indeed, degraded their religion into a mere function of the State. The disinterested enthusiam of patriotism had pervaded and animated them, and had called into habitual action many of the noblest moral capacities of mankind.
To this picture there is, however, a melancholy reverse If the ancient civilisations exhibited to a very high degree the sterner virtues, they were preëminently deficient in the gentler ones. The pathos of life was habitually repressed. Suffering and weakness met with no sympathy and no assistance. The slave, the captive, the sick, the helpless, were treated with cold indifference, or with merciless ferocity. The hospital and the refuge for the afflicted were unknown. The spectacle of suffering and of death was the luxury of all classes. An almost absolute destruction of the finer sensibilities was the consequence of the universal worship of force. The sentiment of reverence was almost extinguished. The existence of the gods was, indeed, recognised, but the ideals of excellence were not sought on the heights of Olympus, but in the annals of Roman prowess. There was no sense of the superhuman, no conception of sin, no desire to rise above the things of earth; pride was deemed the greatest of virtues, and humility the most contemptible of weaknesses. The welfare of the State being the highest object of unselfish devotion, virtue and vice were often measured by that standard, and the individual was habitually sacrificed to the community.
But perhaps the greatest vice of the old form of patriotism was the narrowness of sympathy which it produced. Outside the circle of their own nation all men were regarded with contempt and indifference, if not with absolute hostility. Conquest was the one recognised form of national progress, and the interests of nations were, therefore, regarded as directly opposed. The intensity with which a man loved his country was a measure of the hatred which he bore to those who were without it. The enthusiasm which produced the noblest virtue in a narrow circle was the direct and powerful cause of the strongest international antipathies.
In Judæa the religious system occupied a more prominent position than among the Greeks or Romans, but it had been indissolubly connected with national interests, and the attachment to it was in reality only a form and aspect of patriotism. Whatever opinion may be held as to whether a future life was intended to be among the elements of the Levitical revelation, there can be no question that the primary incentives which that revelation offered were of a patriotic order. The devotion of the people to their religious system was to be the measure of their national prosperity. When their faith burnt with a strong and unsullied flame, every enemy succumbed beneath their arms; but whenever idolatry had corrupted their devotions, a hostile army encircled Mount Moriah. All the traditions of their religion were identified with splendid national triumphs. The rescue from Egypt, the conquest of Canaan and the massacre of its inhabitants, the long series of inspired warriors who had broken the chains of a foreign master, the destruction of the hosts of the Assyrian, the numerous vicissitudes of national fortune, had all contributed to interweave in the Jewish mind the association of the Church and of the State. The spirit of sect, or an attachment not to abstract principles but to a definite and organised ecclesiastical institution, is a spirit essentially similar to patriotism, but is directed to a different object, and is therefore in most cases hostile to it. In Judaea the spirit of patriotism and the spirit of sect were united; each intensified the other, and the exclusive intolerance which is the result of each existed with double virulence.
Such was the condition of the Pagan and Jewish world when the sublime doctrine of universal brotherhood was preached to mankind. After eighteen hundred years men are only beginning to realise it, and at the time when it was first proclaimed it was diametrically opposed to the most cherished prejudices of the age.
In Judaea the spirit of an exclusive patriotism not only pervaded the national mind, but was also at this period an intensely active moral principle. In the Roman Empire patriotism was little more than an intellectual conception; society was in a condition of moral dissolution, and a disin terested enthusiasm was unknown. The fortunes of the infant Church were, probably, in no slight measure determined by these circumstances. In Judæa it was rejected with indignant scorn. In the Roman Empire it obtained a marvellous triumph, but it triumphed only by transforming itself under the influence of the spirit of sect. The passion for the visible and material which in that age it was impossible to escape—which incrusted the teachings of the Church with an elaborated and superstitious ritualism, designed to appeal to and enthral the senses, and converted its simple moral principles into a complicated creed—acted with equal force upon its government, and transformed it into a highly centralised monarchy, pervaded by a spirit of exclusiveness very similar to that which had animated the old Roman republic. The spirit of sect was, indeed, far stronger and more virulent than the most envenomed spirit of nationality. The ancient patriot regarded nations that were beyond his border with indifference, or with a spirit of rivalry; but the priest declared every one who rejected his opinions to be a criminal.
From this period for many centuries Catholicism, considered as an ecclesiastical organisation, was the undisputed mistress of Europe; national feelings scarcely ever came into collision with its interests, and the whole current of affairs was directed by theology. When, however, the first breathings of the spirit of Rationalism were felt in Europe, when, under the influence of that spirit, dogmatic interests began to wane, and their paramount importance to be questioned, a new tendency was manifested. The interests of the Church were subordinated to those of the State. Theology was banished from department after department of politics, until the whole system of government was secularised.
The period in which political affairs were most completely governed by theological considerations was unquestionably the age of the Crusades. It was no political anxiety about the balance of power, but an intense religious enthusiasm, that impelled the inhabitants of Christendom towards the city which was at once the cradle and the symbol of their faith. All interests were then absorbed, all classes were governed, all passions subdued or coloured by religious fervour. National animosities that had raged for centuries were pacified by its power. The intrigues of statesmen and the jealousies of kings disappeared beneath its influence. Nearly two millions of lives are said to have been sacrificed in the cause. Neglected governments, exhausted finances, depopulated countries, were cheerfully accepted as the price of success. No wars the world had ever before seen were so popular as these, which were at the same time the most disastrous and the most unselfish.
Long before the Reformation such wars as the Crusades had become impossible, and the relative prominence of secular policy had materially increased. This was in part the result of the better organisation of the civil government, which rendered unnecessary some of the services the Church had previously rendered to the community. Thus, when the general tolerance of private wars had produced a condition of anarchy that rendered all the relations of life insecure, the Church interposed and proclaimed in the eleventh century the ‘Truce of God,’ which was the first effective barrier to the lawlessness of the barons. Her bishops became the arbitrators of every quarrel, and succeeded in a great measure in calming the ferocity of the age. But when this object was in part attained, and when the regal power was consolidated, the Truce of God, in spite of many attempts to revive it,1 fell rapidly into desuetude, and the preservation of tranquillity passed from the ecclesiastical to the civil government. This is but a single example of a process that was continually going on during the latter half of the middle ages. The Church had formerly exercised nearly every function of the civil government, on account of the inefficiency of the lay governors; and every development of secular administration, while it relieved the ecclesiastics of a duty, deprived them of a source of power.
But, besides the diminution of influence that resulted from this cause, the Church for many centuries found a strenuous antagonist in the regal power. The famous history of the investitures, and the equally remarkable, though less famous, ordinance by which in 1319 all bishops were expelled from the Parliament of Paris, are striking examples of the energy with which the conflict was sustained. Its issue depended mainly on the superstition of the people. In a profoundly superstitious age neither skill nor resolution could resist the effects of an excommunication or an interdict, and the most illustrious monarchs of the middle ages succumbed beneath their power. But some time before the Reformation their terror was in a great measure destroyed. The rapid growth of the industrial classes, which were at all times separated from theological tendencies, the revival of a spirit of bold and unshackled enquiry, and the discredit that had fallen upon the Church on account of the rival popes,1 and of the corruption of the monasteries, were the chief causes of the emancipation. The Reformation was only possible when the old superstitions had been enfeebled by the spirit of doubt, and diluted by the admixture of secular interests. Kings then availed themselves gladly of the opportunity of throwing off the restraints of the Papacy. Patriots rebelled against the supremacy of a foreign power. The lay classes welcomed a change by which the pressure of the clergy was lightened.
A comparison of the religious wars produced by the Reformation with the Crusades shows clearly the great change that had passed over the spirit of Europe. The Crusades had been purely religious. They represented solely the enthusiasm of the people for dogmatic interests, and they were maintained for more than two centuries by an effort of unexampled self-sacrifice. In the religious wars, on the other hand, the secular and the ecclesiastical elements were very evenly balanced. The object sought was political power, but difference of religious belief formed the lines of demarcation separating the hostile coalitions, and created the enthusi asm by which the struggle was maintained. The spirit of the theologian was sufficiently powerful to inundate Europe with blood, but only when united with the ambition of the politician. Yet dogmatic agreement still formed the principle of alliance, and all cooperation with heretics was deemed a sin.
This phase of opinions continued for more than a century after the Reformation. It passed away under the pressure of advancing civilisation, but not before the ministry of Richelieu; for although Francis I. had made an alliance with the Turks, and a few other sovereigns had exhibited a similar indifference to the prevailing distinctions, their policy was rarely successful. Even at the last, the change was only effected with considerable difficulty, and Italy, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands swarmed with writings denouncing the alliance of the French with the Swedes as little short of an apostasy from Christianity. A book entitled ‘Mars Gallicus,’ and published in 1635, under the pseudonyme of Alexander Patricius Armacanus, was especially singled out as the most conclusive demonstration of the sinfulness of alliances with heretics, and it marks the first dawn of the reputation of one who was destined to exercise a deep and lasting influence over the fortunes of the Church. It was written by Jansenius, who owed to it his promotion to the bishopric of Ypres.1 But the genius of Richelieu, seconded by the intellectual influences of the age, prevailed over every difficulty; and the Peace of Westphalia is justly regarded as closing the era of religious wars. The invasion of Holland by Louis XIV. was near becoming one, and religious fanaticism has more than once lent its aid to other modern struggles;2 but wars like those which once distracted Europe have become almost impossible. Among all the elements of affinity and repulsion that regulate the combinations of nations, dogmatic interests, which were once supreme, can scarcely be said to exist. Among all the possible dangers that cloud the horizon, none appears more improbable than a coalition formed upon by principle of a common belief, and designed to extend the sphere of its influence. Such coalitions were once the most serious occupations of statesmen. They now exist only in the speculations of the expounders of prophecy.
It was in this way that, in the course of a few centuries, the foreign policy of all civilised nations was completely and finally secularised. Wars that were once regarded as simple duties became absolutely impossible. Alliances that were once deemed atrocious sins became habitual and unchallenged. That which had long been the centre around which all other interests revolved, receded and disappeared, and a profound change in the actions of mankind indicated a profound change in their belief.
I have already noticed the decline of that religious persecution which was long the chief sign and measure of ecclesiastical influence over the internal policy of nations. There is, however, one aspect of the Inquisition which I have not referred to, for it belongs to the subject of the present chapter—I mean its frequent hostility to the civil power.
Before the thirteenth century, the cognisance of heresy was divided between the bishop and the civil magistrate. The Church proclaimed that it was a crime more deadly than any civil offence, and that it should be punished according to its enormity; the bishop accused the heretic, and the magistrate tried and condemned him. During the earlier part of the middle ages, this arrangement, which had been that of the Theodosian Code, was accepted without difficulty. The civil government was then very submissive, and heretics almost unknown, the few cases that appeared being usually resolved into magic. When, however, at the close of the twelfth century, a spirit of rebellion against the Church had been widely diffused, the Popes perceived that some more energetic system was required, and among the measures that were devised the principal was the Inquisition, which was intended not merely to suppress heresy, but also to enlarge the circle of ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
This new tribunal1 was placed in the hands of the two religious orders of St. Dominick and St. Francis, and its first object was to monopolise the trials of cases of heresy. The bishop of the diocese had a certain position in the local tribunal, but it was generally little more than honorary, and was entirely subordinate to that of the chief Inquisitor. The civil government was only represented by an ‘Assessor,’ and by some minor officers appointed by the Inquisitor himself, and its function was merely to execute those whom the ecclesiastics had condemned. A third of the confiscated goods was bestowed upon the district where the trial took place, which in its turn was to bear the expenses of the confinement of the prisoners. To crown all, the society was centralised by the appointment of an Inquisitor-General at Rome, with whom all the branches of the tribunal were to be in constant communication.
It is obvious that this organization, in addition to its religious importance, had a very great political importance. It transferred to ecclesiastics a branch of jurisdiction which had always been regarded as belonging to the civil power, and it introduced into every country where it was acknowledged, a corporation of extraordinary powers entirely dependent on a foreign potentate. The Inquisitors early found a powerful, though somewhat encroaching, friend in the Emperor Frederick II, who in 1224 issued four edicts at Padua, in which he declared himself their protector, commanded that all obstinate heretics should be burnt, and all penitent heretics imprisoned for life, and delegated the investigation of the crime to the ecclesiastics, though the power of pronouncing the condemnation was reserved to the secular judge. In the first half of the thirteenth century, the new tribunal was introduced into Lombardy, the Marches, Romagna, Tuscany, the Balearic Isles, Aragon, and some of the cities of France and Germany. In Naples, however, the hostility of the king to the Pope, and the spirit of the people, resisted it. In Venice, too, the magistrates long refused to admit it, and heretics were burnt on the designation of the bishop, and by sentence of the Doge and of the majority of the Supreme Council, until 1289, when the government yielded, and the Inquisition was introduced, though with some slight restrictions favourable to the civil power.1 In Spain, owing to the combination of a very strong Catholic and a very strong national feeling, it assumed a somewhat peculiar form. There, as elsewhere, it was an essentially ecclesiastical institution, created, extended, and modified under the express sanction of the Pope; but the Inquisitor-General and the Chief Council were appointed by the sovereign, subject to the papal confirmation; and the famous prosecution of Antonio Perez, which resulted in the destruction of the liberties of Aragon, furnishes an example, though perhaps a solitary one, of its employment merely as a political tool.2 At first its jurisdiation was confined to the land, and many sailors of different religions had enrolled themselves in the Spanish navy; but in 1571 Sixtus V., at the request of Philip II., appointed a special Inquisitor to preside over the navy,1 who speedily restored its orthodoxy. By Spanish influence the tribunal was extended to the Netherlands, to the New World, to Sicily, Sardinia, and Malta.
It is said in the legend of St. Dominick that his mother, when in the season of childbirth, dreamed that a dog was about to issue from her womb, bearing a lighted torch that would kindle the whole world; and certainly the success of the Inquisition well-nigh fulfilled the portent.2 For two or three centuries its extension was the main object of the papal policy; it was what the struggle of the investitures had been in the preceding age, the chief form which the spirit of eccle-sastical encroachment assumed; and during this long period there was probably not a single pope who did not expressly eulogise it. But although there can be no doubt that a powerful blow was thus given to heresy, it may well be questioned whether the papal policy was not, on the whole, shortsighed, for the Inquisition probably contributed largely to the ultimate secularisation of politics. Before its institution no one doubted that the investigation and punishment of heresy formed one of the first duties of the civil government, but by the Inquisition the two things were slightly separated. The cognisance of heresy was in a measure withdrawn from the lay rulers, and by a curious inversion that very doctrine of the religious incapacity of the latter, which was afterwards urged in favour of tolerance, was at this time urged in favour of the Inquisition.1 Nor was the new tribunal merely distinct from the civil government. It was also frequently opposed to it. Its very institution was an encroachment on the jurisdiction of the magistrate, and there were constant differences as to the exact limits of its authority. Wherever it was acknowledged it was the undisputed judge of heresy and of a large section of ecclesiastical offences; and one of these latter—the employment by priests of the confessional for the purpose of seducing the penitents—occupied a very prominent place in the writings it produced.2 Witchcraft, too, was usually, though by no means always, regarded as within its province, but the magistrates sometimes refused to execute its sentences. Usury was said by the ecclesiastics to be an ecclesiastical offence, but the legislators refused to allow the Inquisition to try it. Perjury, bigamy, and several other crimes gave rise to similar conflicts.
While the province of persecution was thus in some degree separated from the civil government, the extreme violence of the tribunal to which it had fallen aroused a very general popular indignation. Spain, it is true, was in this respect an exception. In that country the Inquisition was always cherished as the special expression of the national religion, and the burning of Jews and heretics was soon regarded in a double light, as a religious ceremony and also as a pageant or public amusement that was eminently congenial to the national taste.1 In other countries, however, but especially in Italy, it excited intense hostility. When the Spaniards tried to force it upon the Neapolitans, so general an insurrection ensued that even Spanish zeal recoiled from the undertaking. The north and centre of Italy writhed fiercely under the yoke. Terrific riots arising from this cause almost threatened the destruction of Milan in 1242, and of Parma in 1279, and minor disturbances took place in many other towns.1 Although the Popes had done every thing in their power to invest the office with a religious attraction—although they had granted the same indulgences to its officers as had formerly been granted to the Crusaders, and an indulgence of three years to all who, not being Inquisitors, assisted in bringing a heretic to condemnation—although, too, the sentence of excommunication was launched against all who impeded the Inquisitors in the discharge of their office—the opposition of the Italians was for centuries unextinguished. Thus we find in 1518 the district of Brescia in so wild a ferment of excitement on account of the condemnation of numerous persons on the charge of incantation, that the government could with difficulty pacify it by annulling the sentences. A similar outburst took place in Mantua in 1568, and even in Rome at the death of Paul IV. the prisons of the Inquisition were burst open, and their records burnt by an infuriated crowd.2
All these things have their place in the history of the secularisation of politics, for they all contributed to weaken the spirit of persecution, and to separate it from the civil government. As long, however, as dogmatic interests were supreme, persecution in some form or other must have continued. How that supremacy was weakened, and how, in consequence of the decline, men ceased to burn or imprison those who differed from their opinions, the last chapter will have shown.
But, important as was this stage of the secularisation of politics, a literary censorship was still directed against heretical writings, and the system of religious disqualifications still continued. The first of these had been a very ancient practice in religious controversy. Among the pagans we find Diocletian making it one of his special objects to burn the Christian writings, and Julian, without taking precisely the same step, endeavouring to attain the same end by withholding from the Christians the means of instruction that could enable them to propagate their opinions.1 In the same way the early councils continually condemned heretical books, and the civil power, acting upon their sentence, destroyed them. Thus Constantine ordered the destruction of the writings of the Arians when the Council of Nice had condemned them. Arcadius, following the decision of the Council of Constantinople, suppressed those of Eunomius. Theodosius, after the Council of Ephesus, prohibited the works of Nestorius, and after the Council of Chalcedon those of Eutyches.2 At first, though the condemnation belonged to the Church, the execution of the sentence was regarded as the prerogative of the civil ruler; but as early as 443 we find Pope St. Leo burning books of the Manichæans on his own authority.1 All through the middle ages, the practice was of course continued, and the Inquisition succeeded in destroying almost the entire heretical literature before the Reformation; but at the time of the revival of learning, these measures excited some opposition. Thus, when in 1510 the theologians of Cologne, represented especially by an Inquisitor named Hoestrat, and supported by the mendicant orders and after some hesitation by the University of Paris, desired to destroy the whole literature of the Jews with the exception of the Old Testament, Reuchlin, who was one of the chief Hebrew scholars of his age, protested against the measure; and having been on this account denounced in violent language by a converted Jew named Phefercorne, who had originally counselled the destruction, he rejoined in a work strongly asserting the philosophical and historical value of the Jewish literature, and urging the importance of its preservation. Nearly all the ablest pens of Germany were soon engaged on the same side; and the civil authority as well as many distinguished ecclesiastics having taken part in the controversy, it became for a time the most prominent in Europe, and resulted in the suspension of the intended measure.2 The rise of the Reformation served, however, to increase the severity of the censorship. The system of licenses followed almost immediately upon the invention of printing, and in 1559 Paul IV. originated the Index Expur-gatorius. In England, Convocation was accustomed to censure, and the Star Chamber to suppress, heretical works. In Holland a love of free discussion was early generated by the fact that, during the antagonism between France and Spain, it suited the interests of the latter country to make the Netherlands the asylum of the French refugees, who were accustomed to publish there innumerable seditious writings which were directed against the French Government, but which had a very strong and favourable influence upon the country in which they appeared. When the Spanish yoke was broken, Holland became equally famous for the freedom of its religious press. With the exception of this country and of some of the cities of Italy, there were scarcely any instances of perfect liberty of religious publications, till the Revolutions, first of all, of England, and afterwards of France, established that great principle which is rapidly becoming universal, that the judgment of theological works is altogether external to the province of legislators.
Among the earliest advocates of toleration most accepted as a truism the doctrine, that it is the duty of every nation in its national capacity to adopt some one form of religious belief, and to act upon its precepts with the consistency that is expected from an individual. This Church and State theory, which forms the last vestige of the old theocratic spirit that marks the earlier stages of civilisation, is still supreme in many countries; but in our own day it has been assailed or destroyed in all those nations that have yielded to the political tendencies of the age. Stating the theory in its most definite form, the upholders of this system of policy demanded that every nation should support and endow one form of religion and only one, that every other should be regarded as altogether outside the cognisance of the State, and that the rulers and representatives should belong exclusively to the established faith. This theory has sometimes been curtailed and modified in modern times after successive defeats, but any one who will trace it back to the days when it was triumphant, and follow the train of argument that has been pursued by the Tory party for more than a century, can satisfy himself that I have not exaggerated its purport.
The two European nations which represent most fully in their policy the intellectual tendencies of the age are unquestionably France and England, and it is precisely in these nations that the theory has been successfully assailed. After several slight oscillations, the French people in 1830 finally proclaimed, as a basis of their constitution, the principle, that no state religion is recognised by France; and as a comment upon this decision, we have seen a Protestant holding the reins of power under Louis Philippe, and a Jew sitting in the Provisional Government of 1848. A more complete abnegation of the old doctrine it would be impossible to conceive, and it places France, in at least this respect, at the head of modern liberalism.1
The progress of the movement in England has been much more gradual, and it represents the steady growth of rationalistic principles among statesmen. The first great step was taken during the depression of the clergy that followed the Revolution. The establishment of the Scotch Kirk, whether we consider the principle it involved or the vast amount of persecution it terminated, was undoubtedly one of the most signal defeats the English Church has ever undergone. For a considerable time, however, the clergy succeeded in arresting the movement, which at last received a fresh propulsion by the Irish Parliament, and attained its full triumph under the exigencies of Irish policy.
Whatever may be thought of the purity of the Irish Parliament during the brief period in which it exercised an independent authority, there are certainly few things more absurd than the charges of bigotry that are frequently directed against it. If we measure it by the standard of the present day, it will of course appear very defective; but if we compare it with contemporary legislatures, and above all if we estimate the peculiar temptations to which it was exposed, our verdict would be very different. It would be scarcely possible to conceive a legislature with greater inducement to adopt a sectarian policy. Before 1793 it was elected exclusively by Protestants. The government had created, and most sedulously maintained, that close-borough system which has always a tendency to make private interest the guiding motive of policy; and the extraordinary monopoly the Protestants possessed of almost all positions of wealth and dignity, rendered the strictest toryism their obvious interest. There was scarcely any public opinion existing in Ireland, and the Catholics were so torpid through continued oppression, that they could exercise scarcely any influence upon legislation. Under these circumstances, the Irish Parliament, having admitted them to the magistracy, to the jury box, and to several minor privileges, at last accorded them the elective franchise, which, in a country where they formed an immense majority of the nation, and where every reform of Parliament and every extension of education must have strengthened their interest, necessarily implied a complete emancipation. It is worthy, too, of notice that the liberalism of the Irish Parliament was always in direct proportion to its political independence. It was when the events of the American war had infused into it that strong national feeling which produced the declaration of independence in 1782, that the tendency towards toleration became manifest. Almost all those great orators who cast a halo of such immortal eloquence around its closing period, were the advocates of emancipation. Almost all who were the enemies of its legislative independence, were the enemies of toleration.
The Irish Parliament was, in truth, a body governed very constantly by corrupt motives, though probably not more so than the English Parliament in the time of Walpole. It was also distinguished by a recklessness of tone and policy that was all the more remarkable on account of the unusually large measure of genius it produced; but it was during the period of its independence probably more free from religious bigotry than any other representative body that had ever sat in the United Kingdom. That it would have completed the measure of 1793 by the admission of Catholics to Parliament, if the Government had supported or had even refrained from opposing that measure, is almost absolutely certain. The opposition of the ministers threw out the bill, and the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam damped the hopes of the Catholics, and was one of the chief proximate causes of the Rebellion of 1798. But although emancipation was not then conceded, the Irish Parliament directed a deadly blow against the Tory theory, by endowing the College of Maynooth, a distinctively Catholic institution designed for the education of the Catholic priesthood.1
The Union was, on the whole, very unfavourable to the movement. To exclude the Catholics from the Parliament of an empire in which they were a small minority, did not appear such a glaring anomaly as to exclude them from the Parliament of a nation of which they formed the great majority. The national feeling that made the Irish Protestants wish to emancipate their fellow-countrymen could not act with the same force on an English Parliament; and the evangelical movement which had originated with Wesley, and which was in general strongly adverse to the Catholic claims, had in a great measure pervaded English society, when it had scarcely penetrated to Ireland. Besides this, a profound change had passed over public opinion in Ireland. The purely national and secular spirit the Irish Parliament had fostered perished with its organ. Patriotism was replaced by sectarianism, and the evil continued till it made Ireland one of the most priest-ridden nations in Europe. These causes account sufficiently for the delay of more than a quarter of a century in according the boon which in 1796 appear ed almost attained.1 On the other hand, the Whig party, which had constituted itself the representative of the secular movement, and which contained an unusually large proportion of religious latitudinarians,2 steadily advanced, and its organ, the Edinburgh Review, was for some years one of the most powerful intellectual influences in England. At the same time the agitation of O'Connell gave a new and imperative tone to the demands of the Catholics, and O'Connell very judiciously maintained the claims of the dissenters as strongly as those of his coreligionists. At last the victory was achieved. The dissenters were admitted to Parliament, and the theological unity that had so long been maintained was broken. Still stage after stage of the emancipation was fiercely contested. The Catholics were avowedly admitted through fear of a revolution, and the act was performed in such a grudging and ungracious manner as to destroy all the gratitude, and many of the benefits, it would otherwise have conferred. Even then many years elapsed before the Jews were emancipated. The invasion and partial destruction of the sectarian character of the universities represents the last stage of the movement which the earliest advocates of toleration had begun.
A necessary consequence of this movement was that the clergy were, as a body, identified either with retrogression or with immobility in politics. During the middle ages they had been the initiators of almost every progressive movement; but in modern times, the current being directly opposed to their interests, they have naturally become the champions of the past. At the same time, and as a result of the same causes, their political influence has been steadily de clining. In England the first great blow to their power was the destruction of the monasteries. Fuller has reckoned at twenty-seven, Lord Herbert at twenty-eight, and Sir Edward Coke at twenty-nine, the number of mitred abbots and priors who by this measure lost their seats in the House of Lords.1 In the reign of Henry III, the spiritual peers had formed one-half of the upper house; in the beginning of the eighteenth century they formed only one-eighth, and in the middle of the nineteenth century only one-fourteenth.1 Since the beginning of the eighteenth century no clergyman has occupied any important office in the State,2 and the same change has passed over almost every other nation in Europe.
To those who have appreciated the great truth that a radical political change necessarily implies a corresponding change in the mental habits of society, the process which I have traced will furnish a decisive evidence of the declining influence of dogmatic theology. That vast department of thought and action which is comprised under the name of politics was once altogether guided by its power. It is now passing from its influence rapidly, universally, and completely. The classes that are most penetrated with the spirit of special dogmas were once the chief directors of the policy of Europe. They now form a baffled and desponding minority, whose most cherished political principles have been almost universally abandoned, who are struggling faintly and ineffectually against the ever-increasing spirit of the age, and whose ideal is not in the future but in the past. It is evident that a government never can be really like a railway company, or a literary society, which only exercises an influence over secular affairs. As long as it determines the system of education that exists among its subjects, as long as it can encourage or repress the teaching of particular doctrines, as long as its foreign policy brings it into collision with governments which still make the maintenance of certain religious systems a main object of their policy, it will necessarily exercise a gigantic influence upon belief. It cannot possibly be uninfluential, and it is difficult to assign limits to the influence that it may exercise. If the men who compose it (or the public opinion that governs them) be pervaded by an intensely-realised conviction that the promulgation of a certain system of doctrine is incomparably the highest of human interests, that to assist that promulgation is the main object for which they were placed in the world, and should be the dominant motive of their lives, it will be quite impossible for these men, as politicians, to avoid interfering with theology. Men who are inspired by an absorbing passion will inevitably gratify it if they have the power. Men who sincerely desire the happiness of mankind will certainly use to the uttermost the means they possess of promoting what they feel to be beyond all comparison the greatest of human interests. If by giving a certain direction to education they could avert fearful and general physical suffering, there can be no doubt that they would avail themselves of their power. If they were quite certain that the greatest possible suffering was the consequence of deviating from a particular class of opinions, they could not possibly neglect that consideration in their laws. This is the conclusion we should naturally draw from the nature of the human mind, and it is most abundantly corroborated by experience.1 In order to ascertain the tendencies of certain opinions, we should not confine ourselves to those exceptional intellects who, having perceived the character of their age, have spent their lives in endeavouring painfully and laboriously to wrest their opinions in conformity with them. We should rather observe the position which large bodies of men, governed by the same principles, but living under various circumstances and in different ages, naturally and almost unconsciously occupy. We have ample means of judging in the present case. We see the general tone which is adopted on political subjects by the clergy of the most various creeds, by the religious newspapers, and by the politicians who represent that section of the community which is most occupied with dogmatic theology. We see that it is a tendency distinct from and opposed to the tendencies of the age. History tells us that it was once dominant in politics, that it has been continuously and rapidly declining, and that it has declined most rapidly and most steadily in those countries in which the development of intellect has been most active. All over Europe the priesthood are now associated with a policy of toryism, of reaction, or of obstruction. All over Europe the organs that represent dogmatic interests are in permanent opposition to the progressive tendencies around them, and are rapidly sinking into contempt. In every country in which a strong political life is manifested, the secularisation of politics is the consequence. Each stage of that movement has been initiated and effected by those who are most indifferent to dogmatic theology, and each has been opposed by those who are most occupied with theology.1
And as I write these words, it is impossible to forget that one of the great problems on which the thoughts of politicians are even now concentrated is the hopeless decadence of the one theocracy of modern Europe, of the great type and representative of the alliance of politics and theology. That throne on which it seemed as though the changeless Church had stamped the impress of her own perpetuity—that throne which for so many centuries of anarchy and confusion had been the Sinai of a protecting and an avenging law—that throne which was once the centre and the archetype of the political system of Europe, the successor of Imperial Rome, the inheritor of a double portion of her spirit, the one power which seemed removed above all the vicissitudes of politics, the iris above the cataract, unshaken amid so much turmoil and so much change—that throne has in our day sunk into a condition of hopeless decrepitude, and has only prolonged its existence by the confession of its impotence. Supported by the bayonets of a foreign power, and avowedly incapable of self-existence, it is no longer a living organism, its significance is but the significance of death. There was a time when the voice that issued from the Vatican shook Europe to its foundations, and sent forth the proudest armies to the deserts of Syria. There was a time when all the valour and all the chivalry of Christendom would have followed the banner of the Church in any field and against any foe. Now a few hundred French, and Belgians, and Irish are all who would respond to its appeal. Its august antiquity, the reverence that centres around its chief, the memory of the unrivalled influence it has exercised, the genius that has consecrated its past, the undoubted virtues that have been displayed by its rulers, were all unable to save the papal government from a decadence the most irretrievable and the most hopeless. Reforms were boldly initiated, but they only served to accelerate its ruin. A repressive policy was attempted, but it could not arrest the progress of its decay. For nearly a century, under every ruler and under every system of policy, it has been hopelessly, steadily, and rapidly declining. At last the influences that had so long been corroding it attained their triumph. It fell before the Revolution, and has since been unable to exist, except by the support of a foreign army. The principle of its vitality has departed.
No human pen can write its epitaph, for no imagination can adequately realise its glories. In the eyes of those who estimate the greatness of a sovereignty, not by the extent of its territory, or by the valour of its soldiers, but by the influence which it has exercised over mankind, the papal government has had no rival, and can have no successor. But though we may not fully estimate the majesty of its past, we can at least trace the causes of its decline. It fell because it neglected the great truth that a government to be successful must adapt itself to the ever-changing mental condition of society; that a policy which in one century produces the utmost prosperity, in another leads only to ruin and to disaster. It fell because it represented the union of politics and theology, and because the intellect of Europe has rendered it an anachronism by pronouncing their divorce. It fell because its constitution was essentially and radically opposed to the spirit of an age in which the secularisation of politics is the measure and the condition of all political prosperity
The secularisation of politics is, as we have seen, the direct consequence of the declining influence of dogmatic theology. I have said that it also reacts upon and influences its cause. The creation of a strong and purely secular political feeling diffused through all classes of society, and producing an ardent patriotism, and a passionate and indomitable love of liberty, is sufficient in many respects to modify all the great departments of thought, and to contribute largely to the formation of a distinct type of intellectual character.
It is obvious, in the first place, that one important effect of a purely secular political feeling will be to weaken the intensity of sectarianism. Before its existence sectarianism was the measure by which all things and persons were contemplated. It exercised an undivided control over the minds and passions of men, absorbed all their interests, and presided over all their combinations. But when a purely political spirit is engendered, a new enthusiasm is introduced into the mind, which first divides the affections and at last replaces the passion that had formerly been supreme. Two different enthusiasms, each of which makes men regard events in a special point of view, cannot at the same time be absolute. The habits of thought that are formed by the one, will necessarily weaken or efface the habits of thought that are formed by the other. Men learn to classify their fellows by a new principle. They become in one capacity the cordial associates of those whom in another capacity they had long regarded with unmingled dislike. They learn to repress and oppose in one capacity those whom in another capacity they regard with unbounded reverence. Conflicting feelings are thus produced which neutralise each other; and if one of the two increases, the other is proportionately diminished. Every war that unites for secular objects nations of different creeds, every measure that extends political interests to classes that had formerly been excluded from their range, has therefore a tendency to assuage the virulence of sects.
Another consequence of the intellectual influence of political life is a tendency to sacrifice general principles to practical results. It has often been remarked that the English constitution, which is commonly regarded as the most perfect realisation of political freedom, is beyond all others the most illogical, and that a very large proportion of those measures which have proved most beneficial, have involved the grossest logical inconsistencies, the most partial and unequal applications of some general principle. The object of the politician is expediency, and his duty is to adapt his measures to the often crude, undeveloped, and vacillating conceptions of the nation. The object, on the other hand, of the philosopher is truth, and his duty is to push every principle which he believes to be true to its legitimate consequences, regardless of the results which may follow. Nothing can be more fatal in politics than a preponderance of the philosophical, or in philosophy than a preponderance of the political spirit. In the first case, the ruler will find himself totally incapable of adapting his measures to the exigencies of exceptional circumstances; he will become involved in inextricable difficulties by the complexity of the phenomena he endeavours to reduce to order; and he will be in perpetual collision with public opinion. In the second case, the thinker will be continually harassed by considerations of expediency which introduce the bias of the will into what should be a purely intellectual process, and mpart a timidity and a disingenuousness to the whole tone of his thoughts. There can, I think, be little doubt that this atter influence is at present acting most unfavourably upon speculative opinions in countries where political life is very powerful. A disinterested love of truth can hardly coexist with a strong political spirit. In all countries where the habits of thought have been mainly formed by political life, we may discover a disposition to make expediency the test of truth, to close the eyes and turn away the mind from any arguments that tend towards a radical change, and above all to make utilitarianism a kind of mental perspective according to which the different parts of belief are magnified or diminished. All that has a direct influence upon the wellbeing of society is brought into clear relief; all that has only an intellectual importance becomes unrealised and inoperative. It is probable that the capacity for pursuing abstract truth for its own sake, which has given German thinkers so great an ascendency in Europe, is in no slight degree to be attributed to the political languor of their nation.
This predisposition acts in different ways upon the progress of Rationalism. It is hostile to it on account of the intense conservatism it produces, and also on account of its opposition to that purely philosophical spirit to which Rationalism seeks to subordinate all departments of speculative belief. It is favourable to it, inasmuch as it withdraws the minds of men from the doctrinal aspect of their faith to concentrate them upon the moral aspect, which in the eyes of the politician as of the rationalist is infinitely the most important.
But probably the most important, and certainly the most beneficial, effect of political life is to habituate men to a true method of enquiry. Government in a constitutional country is carried on by debate, all the arguments on both sides are brought forward with unrestricted freedom, and every newspaper reports in full what has been said against the principles it advocates by the ablest men in the country. Men may study the debates of Parliament under the influence of a strong party bias, they may even pay more attention to the statements of one party than to those of the other, but they never imagine that they can form an opinion by an exclusive study of what has been written on one side. The two views of every question are placed in juxtaposition, and every one who is interested in the subject examines both. When a charge is brought against any politician, men naturally turn to his reply before forming an opinion, and they feel that any other course would be not only extremely foolish, but also extremely dishonest. This is the spirit of truth as opposed to the spirit of falsehood and imposture, which in all ages and in all departments of thought has discouraged men from studying opposing systems, lamented the circulation of adverse arguments, and denounced as criminal those who listen to them. Among the higher order of intellects, the first spirit is chiefly cultivated by those philosophical studies which discipline and strengthen the mind for research. But what philosophy does for a very few, political life does, less perfectly, indeed, but still in a great degree, for the many. It diffuses abroad not only habits of acute reasoning, but also, what is far more important, habits of impartiality and intellectual fairness, which will at last be carried into all forms of discussion, and will destroy every system that refuses to accept them. Year after year, as political life extends, we find each new attempt to stifle the expression of opinion received with an increased indignation, the sympathies of the people immediately enlisted on behalf of the oppressed teacher, and the work which is the object of condemnation elevated in public esteem often to a degree that is far greater than it deserves. Year after year the conviction becomes more general, that a provisional abnegation of the opinions of the past and a resolute and unflinching impartiality are among the highest duties of the enquirer, and that he who shrinks from such a research is at least morally bound to abstain from condemning the opinions of his neighbour.
If we may generalise the experience of modern constitutional governments, it would appear that this process must pass through three phases. When political life is introduced into a nation that is strongly imbued with sectarianism, this latter spirit will at first dominate over political interests, and the whole scope and tendency of government will be directed by theology. After a time the movement I have traced in the present chapter will appear. The secular element will emerge into light. It will at length obtain an absolute ascendency, and, expelling theology successively from all its political strongholds, will thus weaken its influence over the human mind. Yet in one remarkable way the spirit of sectarianism will still survive: it will change its name and object transmigrate into political discussion, and assume the form of an intense party-spirit. The increasing tendency, however, of political life seems to be to weaken or efface this spirit, and in the more advanced stages of free government it almost disappears. A judicial spirit is fostered which leadmen both in politics and theology to eclecticism, to judge all questions exclusively on the ground of their intrinsic merits, and not at all according to their position in theological or political systems. To increase the range and intensity of political interests is to strengthen this tendency; and every extension of the suffrage thus diffuses over a wider circle a habit of thought that must eventually modify theological belief. If the suffrage should ever be granted to women, it would probably, after two or three generations, effect a complete revolution in their habits of thought, which by acting upon the first period of education would influence the whole course of opinion.
Such then have been some of the leading tendencies produced by that purely secular political spirit which is itself a result of the declining influence of theology. It now remains for us to examine the second branch of our subject—the secularisation of the basis or principle of authority upon which all political structures rest.
In the course of the last few years a great many insurrections of nations against their sovereigns have taken place, which have been regarded with warm approval by the public opinion of the most advanced nations in Europe. Some countries have cast off their rulers in order by coalescing to form one powerful State, others because those rulers were tyrannical or incapable, others because the system of their government had grown antiquated, and others in order to realise some historical nationality. In many cases the deposed rulers had been bound to their people by no distinct stipulations, had violated no law, and had been guilty of no extraordinary harshness. The simple ground upon which these changes were justified was that the great majority of the nation desired them, and that ground has generally been acquiesced in as sufficient. To exhibit in the plainest form the change that has come over public opinion, it may be sufficient to say that for many centuries all such insurrections would have been regarded by theologians as mortal sins, and all who participated in them as in danger of perdition.
The teaching of the early Fathers on the subject is perfectly unanimous and unequivocal. Without a single exception, all who touched upon the subject pronounced active resistance to the established authorities to be under all circumstances sinful. If the law enjoined what was wrong, it should be disobeyed, but no vice and no tyranny could justify revolt.1 This doctrine was taught in the most emphatic terms, not as a counsel of expediency applicable to special circumstances, but as a moral principle universally binding upon the conscience. It was taught in the midst of the most horrible persecutions. It was taught when the Christians were already extremely numerous, and their forbearance, notwithstanding their numbers, was constantly claimed as a merit.2 So harmonious and so emphatic are the Patristic testimonies upon the subject, that the later theologians who adopted other views have been utterly unable to adduce any passages in their support, and have been reduced to the melancholy expedient of virtually accusing the early Christians of hypocrisy, by maintaining that, notwithstanding the high moral tone they assumed on the subject, the real cause of their submission was their impotence,3 or to the ludicrous expedient of basing a system of liberal politics on the invectives of Cyril and Gregory Nazianzen against the memory of Julian.4
It is manifest that such a doctrine is absolutely incompatible with political liberty. ‘A limited monarch,’ as even the Tory Hume admitted, ‘who is not to be resisted when he exceeds his limitations, is a contradiction in terms.’ Besides, in almost every case, the transition from an absolute to a limited monarchy has been the result of the resistance of the people; and the whole course of history abundantly proves that power, when once enjoyed, is scarcely ever voluntarily relinquished. From these considerations Grotius and many other writers have concluded that a Christian people, when oppressed by tyrants, is bound to sacrifice its hopes of liberty to its faith, while Shaftesbury and his followers have denounced Christianity as incompatible with freedom. But to those who regard the history of the Church not as one homogeneous whole, but as a series of distinct phases, the attitude of its early leaders will appear very different. For the first condition of liberty is the establishment of some higher principle of action than fear. A government that rests on material force alone must always be a tyranny, whatever may be the form it assumes; and at the time Christianity became supreme the Roman Empire was rapidly degenerating into that frightful condition. Increasing corruption had destroyed both the tie of religion and the tie of patriotism, and the army was the sole arbiter of the destinies of the State. After a time the invasion of the barbarians still further aggravated the situation. Hordes of savages, fresh from a life of unbounded freedom, half-frenzied by the sudden acquisition of immense wealth, and belonging to many different tribes, were struggling fiercely for the mastery. Society was almost resolved into its primitive elements; force had become the one measure of dignity. Alone amid these discordant interests the Christians taught by their precepts and their example the obligation of a moral law, and habituated men to that respect for authority and that exercise of self-restraint which form the basis of every lasting political structure. Had they followed the example of others, they might probably have more than once saved themselves from frightful persecutions, and would have certainly become a formidable power in the State long before the accession of Constantine. But, guided by a far nobler instinct, they chose instead to constitute themselves the champions of legality, they irradiated submission with a purer heroism than has ever glowed around the conqueror's path, and they kept alive the sacred flame at a time when it had almost vanished from the earth. We may say that they exaggerated their principle, but such exaggeration was absolutely essential to its efficacy. The temptations to anarchy and insubordination were so great, that had the doctrine of submission been stated with any qualifications, had it been stated in any but the most emphatic language, it would have proved inoperative. Indeed, what cause for resistance could possibly have been more just than the persecutions of a Nero or a Diocletian? Yet it was in the reign of Nero that St. Paul inculcated in unequivocal language the doctrine of passive obedience; and it was the boast of Tertullian and other of the Fathers, that at a time when Rome was swarming with Christians, the most horrible persecutions were endured without a murmur or a struggle. Such conduct, if adopted as a binding precedent, would arrest the whole development of society; but, considered in its own place in history, it is impossible to overvalue it.
Besides this, it should be remembered that the early Church had adopted a system of government that was based upon the most democratic principles. It can be no exaggeration to say, that if the practice of electing bishops by universal suffrage had continued, the habits of freedom would have been so diffused among the people, that the changes our own age has witnessed might have been anticipated by many centuries, and might have been effected under the direct patronage of Catholicism. This, however, was not to be. The system of episcopal election was far in advance of the age, and the disorders it produced were so great that it was soon found necessary to abolish it. At the same time many circumstances pointed out the Roman See as the natural centre of a new form of organisation. The position Rome occupied in the world, the increasing authority of the bishop resulting from the transfer of the civil ruler to Constantinople, the admirable administrative and organising genius the Roman ecclesiastics had inherited from the Empire, their sustained ambition, the splendour cast upon the see by the genius and virtues of St. Gregory and St. Leo, the conversion of the barbarians, the destruction of the rival sees of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, and the Greek schism—all tended to revive in another form the empire Rome had so long exercised over the destinies of mankind.
When the Papal power was fully organised, and during the whole of the period that elapsed between that time and the Reformation, the rights of nations against their sovereigns may be said to have been almost unnoticed. The great question concerning the principle of authority lay in the conflicting claims of temporal sovereigns and of popes. Although the power the latter claimed and often exercised over the former has produced some of the most fearful calamitics, although we owe to it in a great degree the Crusades and religious persecution, and many of the worst features of the semi-religious struggles that convulsed Italy during the middle ages, there can be no question that it was on the whole favourable to liberty. The simple fact that nations acknowledged two different masters was itself a barrier to despotism, and the Church had always to appeal to the subjects of a sovereign to enforce its decisions against him. There was therefore a certain bias among ecclesiastics in favour of the people, and it must be added that the mediæval popes almost always belonged to a far higher grade of civilisation than their opponents. Whatever may have been their faults, they represented the cause of moral restraint, of intelligence, and of humanity, in an age of physical force, ignorance, and barbarity.
It is not necessary to follow in detail the history of the encroachments of the spiritual upon the civil power, or to enter into the interminable controversies about the power of deposition. Such topics are only connected indirectly with the subject of the present chapter, and they have been treated with great ability by several well-known writers.1 There are, however, two points connected with them to which it may be advisable to refer. In the first place, in judging the question as to the right of the Pope to depose sovereigns, it is evident that the advantage must have always remained with the former, in an age in which he was himself regarded as the final arbiter of moral questions. Every conclusion was then arrived at not by way of reasoning but by way of authority, and, with the very doubtful exception of general councils, there was no higher authority than the Pope. General councils too were rare occurrences; they could only be convened by the Pope, and in the majority of cases they were the creatures of his will. When a bull of excommunication had been launched, the sovereign against whom it was directed might indeed assemble a council of the bishops of his own people, and they might condemn the excommunication; but, however strong might be their arguments, their authority was necessarily inferior to that which was opposed to them. They might appeal to the declarations of the Fathers, but the right of interpreting those declarations rested with the Church, of which the Pope was, in fact, the authoritative representative. Nor had he any difficulty in this respect. If it was said that the early bishops enjoined absolute submission to the pagan persecutors, it was answered that this was an irrelevant argument, for the Church only claimed the power of deposing those who by baptism were placed under her dominion. If it was rejoined that the same submission was shown under Constantius or Valens or Julian, the reply was that the weakness of the Christians was the cause of their resignation, and that the fact of the Church possessing the power of excommunication did not at all imply that she was bound on every legitimate occasion to exercise it. If, in fine, the passages in which the Fathers dilated upon the sinfulness of all rebellion against the sovereign were adduced, it was answered that the Pope exhorted no one to such rebellion, for by the sentence of deposition the sovereign had been deprived of his sovereignty.1 In this way the Patristic utterances were easily evaded, and the ecclesiastical authority of the Pope made it almost a heresy to question his claims.
In the next place, it should be observed that this doctrine of deposition was not so much an isolated assumption on the part of the Popes as a logical and necessary inference from other parts of the teaching of the Church. The point on which the controversies between Catholics on this subject have chiefly turned is the right of the Popes to condemn any notorious criminal to public penance, a sentence which involved the deprivation of all civil functions, and therefore in the case of a sovereign amounted to deposition.2 But whether or not this right was always acknowledged in the Church, there can be little doubt that the power which was generally conceded to the ecclesiastical authorities of relaxing or annulling the obligation of an oath necessarily led to their political ascendency, for it is not easy to see how those who acknowledged the existence of this power could make an exception in favour of the oath of allegiance.
When the rise of the scholastic philosophy had introduced into Christendom a general passion for minute definitions, and for the organisation and elaboration of all departments of theology, the attitude of hostility the Church had for some time exhibited towards the civil power was more or less reflected in the writings that were produced. St. Thomas Aquinas, indeed, the ablest of all these theologians, distinctly asserts the right of subjects to withhold their obedience from rulers who were usurpers of unjust;1 but this opinion, which was probably in advance of the age, does not appear to have been generally adopted, or at least generally promulgated. The right of popes to depose princes who had fallen into heresy was, however, at this time constantly asserted.2 To the schoolmen too we chiefly owe the definition of the doctrine of the mediate character of the Divine Right of Kings, which is very remarkable in the history of opinions as the embryo of the principles of Locke and Rousseau. It was universally admitted that both popes and kings derived their authority from the Deity, and from this fact the royal advocates inferred that a pope had no more power to depose a king than a king to depose a pope. But, according to some of the schoolmen, there was this distinction between the cases: a pope was directly and immediately the representative of the Almighty, but a king derived his power directly from the people. Authority, considered in the abstract, is of Divine origin; and when the people had raised a particular family to the throne, the sanction of the Deity rested upon its members, but still the direct and immediate source of regal power was the nation.1 Although this doctrine was not asserted in the popular but in the Papal interest, and although it was generally held that the people, having transferred their original authority to the sovereign, were incapable of recalling it, except perhaps in such extreme cases as when a sovereign had sought to betray to a foreign power the country he ruled, it is not the less certain that we have here the first link of a chain of principles that terminated in the French Revolution.
After all, however, it is rather a matter of curiosity than of importance to trace among the vast mass of speculations bequeathed to us by the schoolmen the faint outlines of a growing liberalism. Whatever may have been the opinions of a few monkish speculators, however splendid may have been the achievements of a few industrial half-sceptical republics,2 it was not till the Reformation that the rights of nationalist became a great question in Europe. The spirit of insubordination created by the struggle, and the numerous important questions which Protestantism submitted to the adjudication of the multitude, predisposed the people to enlarge the limits of their power; while the countless sects that were appealing to popular favour, and the frequent opposition of belief between the governors and the governed, ensured a full discussion of the subject. The result of this was the creation of a great variety of opinions, the views of each sect being determined mainly by its circumstances, or, in other words, by the predisposition resulting from its interests.
If we begin our review with the Ultramontane party in the Church of Rome, which especially represented the opinions of the Popes, we find that it was confronted with two great facts. In the first place, a multitude of sovereigns had embraced Protestantism simply to emancipate themselves from Papal control; and in the next place, the Catholic population in several countries was sufficiently numerous to resist with some chance of success their Protestant rulers. The points, therefore, which were most accentuated in the teaching of the writers of this school, were the power of the Pope to depose sovereigns, especially for heresy, and the right of the people to resist an heretical ruler. The vigour with which these propositions were maintained is sufficiently illustrated by the dealings of the Popes with the English Government; and the arguments in their support were embodied by Cardinal Bellarmine in his treatise ‘On the Supremacy of the Sovereign Pontiff over Temporal Affairs,’ and by the famous Jesuit Suarez in his ‘Defence of the Faith.’ The Parliament of Paris ordered the first of these works to be burnt in 1610, and the second in 1614.
The most ardent and by far the most able champions of Ultramontanism were the Jesuits, who, however, went so far beyond the other theologians in their principles that they may be justly regarded as a separate class. The marvellous flexibility of intellect and the profound knowledge of the world that then at least characterised their order, soon convinced them that the exigencies of the conflict were not to be met by following the old precedents of the Fathers, and that it was necessary to restrict in every way the overgrown power of the sovereigns. They saw, what no others in the Catholic Church seem to have perceived, that a great future was in store for the people, and they laboured with a zeal that will secure them everlasting honour to hasten and direct the emancipation. By a system of the boldest casuistry, by a fearless use of their private judgment in all matters which the Church had not strictly defined, and above all by a skilful employment and expansion of some of the maxims of the schoolmen, they succeeded in disentangling themselves from the traditions of the past, and in giving an impulse to liberalism wherever their influence extended. Suarez, in the book to which I have just referred, devoted himself especially to the question of the mediate or immediate nature of the Divine Right of Kings.1 It was a question, he acknowledged, tha could not be decided either by Scripture or the Fathers; but the schoolmen were on the whole favourable to the latter view, and the Popes had often asserted their own authority over sovereigns, which, according to Ultramontane principles, was almost decisive of the question. He elaborated the doctrine of the ‘social contract’ with such skill and emphasis as to place the sovereign altogether upon a lower level than the nation, while the Pope towered over all. According to these principles, the interests of the sovereign should be subordinated to those of the people. The king derived all his power immediately from the State; and in a case of extreme misgovernment, when the preservation of the State required it, the nation might depose its sovereign,2 and might, if necessary, depute any person to kill him.3 The case of an heretical prince was still plainer; for heresy being a revolt against that Divine authority to which the sovereign ultimately owed his power, it in a certain sense annulled his title to the throne. Still, as the Pope was the arbiter of these questions, a sentence of deposition should precede rebellion1 The Pope had the power of issuing this sentence on two grounds—because he was the superior of the temporal ruler, and also because heresy was a crime which fell under his cognisance, and which was worthy of temporal penalties. To deny that the Pope could inflict such penalties on heretics, no matter what may be their rank, is to fall under the suspicion of heresy;2 to deny that death is a natural punishment for heresy was to assail the whole system of persecution which the Church had organised. In defending this doctrine against the charges brought against it on the ground of its dangerous consequences, Suarez maintained that the deposed king could only be killed by those whom the Pope had expressly authorised;3 but there can be little doubt that the Jesuits looked with a very indulgent eye on all attempts at assassination that were directed against a deposed sovereign who was in opposition to the Church.
It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that the Jesuits advocated liberal principles only with a view to theological advantages, or in Protestant countries, or under the shelter of ecclesiastical authorities. More than once they maintained even their most extreme forms in the midst of Catholic nations, and, strange as the assertion may appear, it is in this order that we find some of the most rationalistic intellects of the age. Two of the leading characteristics of a rationalistic mind, as we have already seen, are a love of appealing to the general principles of natural religion rather than to dogmatic tenets, and a disposition to wrest the latter into conformity with the former; and of these two tendencies we find among the Jesuits some striking examples. The famous work of Mariana ‘Concerning the King and the Regal Institution’ will furnish us with an illustration of these truths.
This extremely remarkable book was published at Toledo in 1599, and it bears at its commencement the approbation of the leaders of the Jesuits.1 It was dedicated to Philip III., for whose benefit it was written; and it must be acknowledged that, among the countless works that have been dedicated to sovereigns, it would be impossible to find one more free from the taint of adulation. Its ostensible object was to collect a series of moral precepts for the benefit of sovereigns, but the really important part, and that with which we are alone concerned, is the examination of the rights of nations against their sovereigns. The cardinal point upon which this examination turns is a distinction which some of the schoolmen had derived from Aristotle, and which became very prominent in the beginning of the seventeenth century, between a king and a tyrant, as two things almost generically different. A ruler who belonged to the latter class had no right to the name of king, nor could he claim the privileges or the reverence attached to it; and to be a tyrant, as Mariana explained, it was not necessary to be a usurper.2 Every ruler, however legitimate, belongs to this category if the main principle of his government is selfishness, and if he habitually sacrifices the interests of his people to his lusts or to his pride. Such rulers are the worst of evils, the enemies of the human race. They had been figured by the ancients in the fables of Antæus, the Hydra, and the Chimera, and the greatest achievements of the heroes of antiquity had been their destruction.1
This being the case, the important question arose, whether it is now lawful to kill a tyrant?2 That there should be no equivocation as to the nature of the inquiry, Mariana takes for his text the recent assassination of Henry III. of France by Clément. He relates, in a tone of evident admiration, how this young Dominican, impelled by a religious enthusiasm, and having fortified his courage by the services of the Church, had contrived to obtain an interview with the king, had stabbed him to death with a poisoned knife, and had himself fallen beneath the swords of the attendants. ‘Thus,’ he says, ‘did Clément perish as many deem the eternal honour of France—a youth but four-and-twenty years of age, simple in mind and weak in body; but a higher might confirmed both his courage and his strength.’3
In examining the moral character of this act, there was a great division of opinion. Very many extolled it as worthy of immortality; others, however, whose learning and sagacity were not to be despised, severely condemned it. They said that it was not lawful for a single unauthorised individual to condemn and slaughter the consecrated ruler of a nation; that David did not dare to slay his bitterest enemy because that enemy was the Lord's Anointed; that amid all the persecutions the early Church underwent, no Christian hand was ever raised against the monsters who filled the throne, that political assassinations have, in the great majority of cases, injured the cause they were meant to serve, and that if their legitimacy were admitted, all respect for sovereigns would vanish and universal anarchy would ensue. ‘Such,’ added Mariana, ‘are the arguments of those who espouse the cause of the tyrant, but the champions of the people can urge others that are not less numerous or less powerful.’1 He then proceeds, in a strain that leaves no doubt as to his own opinion, to enumerate the arguments for tyrannicide. The people had conceded a certain measure of their power to their sovereign, but not in such a manner that they did not themselves retain a greater authority, and might not at any time recall what they had given if it was misused.2 The common voice of mankind had enrolled the great tyrannicides of the past among the noblest of their race. Who ever censured the acts or failed to admire the heroism of Harmodius or Aristogeiton or Brutus, or of those who freed their land from the tyranny of a Domitian, a Caracalla, or a Heliogabalus? And what was this common sentiment but the voice of nature that is within us, teaching us to distinguish what is right from what is wrong?3 If some ferocious beast had been let loose upon the land, and was devastating all around him, who would hesitate to applaud the man who, at the risk of his life, had ventured to slay it? Or what words would be deemed too strong to brand the coward who remained a passive spectator while his mother or the wife of his soul was torn and crushed? Yet the most savage animal is but an inadequate image of a tyrant, and neither wife nor mother has so high a claim upon our affections as our country.1
These were the chief arguments on either side, and it remained to draw the conclusion. The task, Mariana assures us, is not difficult, but it is necessary to distinguish between different cases. In the first place, the tyrant may be a conqueror who by force of arms, and without any appeal to the people, had obtained possession of the sovereign power. In this case there was no obscurity: the example of Ehud was a guide, and the tyrant might be justly slain by any of the people.2 The next case was that of a sovereign elected by the nation, or who had obtained his throne by hereditary right, but who sacrificed his people to his lusts, infringed the laws, despised true religion, and preyed upon the fortunes of his subjects. If there existed in the nation any authoritative assembly of the people, or if such an assembly could be convoked, it should warn the sovereign of the consequences of his acts, declare war against him if he continued obdurate, and, if no other resource remained, pronounce him to be a public enemy and authorise any individual to slay him.3 If in the last place the king who had degenerated into a tyrant had supressed the right of assembly, no steps should be taken unless the tyranny was flagrant, unquestionable, and intolerable; but if this were so, the individual who, interpreting the wishes of the people, slew the sovereign should be applauded. Nor was this doctrine likely to lead to as many tragedies as was supposed. ‘Happy indeed would it be for mankind were there many of such unflinching resolution as to sacrifice life and happiness for the liberty of their country; but the desire of safety withholds most men from great deeds, and this is why of the great multitude of tyrants so few have perished by the sword.’ ‘It is, however, a salutary thought for princes to dwell upon, that if they oppress their people and make themselves intolerable by their vices, to slay them is not only without guilt, but is an act of the highest merit.’2
There was, however, one aspect of the question of tyrannicide which presented to the mind of our author considerable difficulty, and to which he devoted a separate chapter. That to slay a tyrant with a dagger was a meritorious act he was perfectly convinced, but to mingle poison with his food was a somewhat different matter. This distinction, Mariana tells us incidentally, was first suggested to him, many years before the publication of the book, by one of his scholars, when, as a public instructor, he was impressing his doctrines upon the youth of Sicily.1 The way in which he resolves it is very remarkable, as exhibiting the modes of thought or reasoning from which these speculations sprang. He in the first place shows very clearly that nearly every argument that justifies the one mode of slaughter may be also urged in favour of the other; but notwithstanding this he concludes that poison should be prohibited, because he says it is prohibited by that common sentiment of mankind which is the voice of nature and the test of right.2
The doctrine of tyrannicide, of which Mariana may be regarded as the chief apostle, is one that is eminently fitted to fascinate men who are just emerging out of a protracted servitude, and who have not yet learned to calculate the ulterior consequences of political acts. To slay a royal criminal, who, for the gratification of his own insatiable vanity, is causing the deaths of thousands of the innocent, and blasting the prosperity of his nation, is an act that seems at first sight both laudable and useful, especially if that sovereign had violated the obligations by which he had bound himself. A man who has committed an act of treason, which the law would punish by death, has incurred a penalty and retained a privilege. The penalty is that he should be pat to death; the privilege is that he should only be put to death by the constituted authorities and in the legal way. But if in addition to his original crime he has paralysed the law that should avenge it, it may plausibly be argued that he has forfeited his privilege: he has placed himself above the law, and has therefore placed himself out of the law and become an outlaw. Besides this, the exceedingly prominent place tyrannicide occupies in the history both of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews, tells powerfully upon the imagination, and it is quite certain that none of these nations looked upon the act with the feelings of modern Englishmen.
But to those who take a wider view of the field of politics, the immense danger of encouraging individuals to make themselves the arbiters of the destinies of a nation will be far more than sufficient to counterbalance these arguments. The degree of favour that public opinion shows to political assassinations, though by no means the sole, is perhaps the principal regulator of their number; for although the conspirator may be prepared to encounter universal obloquy, the direction his enthusiasm has taken is, in the first instance, determined by the mental atmosphere he breathes. And if it be true, as Mariana asserts, that the number of those who possess sufficient resolution to engage in such enterprises is under all cases small, it is also true that those few would usually be men preëminently unfit to adjudicate upon the policy of nations. For the amount of heroism it evokes is no test or measure of the excellence of a cause. Indeed, nothing can be more certain than that the highest displays of courage, self-sacrifice, and enthusiasm are usually elicited not by those motives of general philanthropy which all men must applaud, but by attachment to some particular class of disputed questions or to the interests of some particular party. The excitement of controversy, the very fact that the opinions in question have but few adherents, the impossibility of triumphing by normal means, and the concentration of every thought upon a single aspect of a single subject, all stimulate fanaticism. The great majority of men will do far more for a cause they have espoused in spite of the opposition of those around them, than for one that is unquestion ably good. We accordingly find that among the many attempts that were made upon the lives of rulers in the sixteenth century, nearly all were produced by attachment to certain religious opinions which the conspirator desired to see predominate, and from which an immense proportion of the people dissented. Never was there a spirit of more complete and courageous self-sacrifice than instigated Ravaillac to slay perhaps the very best sovereign in modern Europe. And have we not, in our own day, seen the representatives of a sect of revolutionists whose principles are rejected by the great majority of educated men attempting, again and again, to further their views by the assassination of a monarch of a different nation from their own, whose throne is based upon universal suffrage, and who, in the judgment of at least a very large proportion of his contemporaries, has proved himself the chief pillar of order in Europe?
These considerations, which the old Jesuit writers completely omitted, serve to show that even in the best case—even in those instances in which the conspirator is seeking only what he firmly believes to be good—the practice of tyrannicide is almost always an evil. But we have to add to this the assassinations from corrupt motives that in societies favourable to tyrannicide have always been frequent; we have to add also the danger to the State resulting from that large class of men so prominent in all criminal records who verge upon the border of insanity, who, partly from an excess of vanity and partly from natural weakness of volition, and partly under the influence of a kind of monomania, are drawn by an irresistible fascination to the perpetration of any crime surrounded with circumstances of notoriety; and when we still further consider the perpetual insecurity and the distrust between sovereign and people that must necessarily exist when these conspiracies are frequent, we shall have little hesitation in pronouncing upon the question. Political assassination is denounced, in general terms, as an atrocious crime, simply because in the great majority of instances it is so; and even in the extremely few cases that are generally recognised as exceptions, we have to deduct from the immediate advantages that were obtained the evil of an example that has been misused.
It is arguments of this kind, drawn from expediency, that are now regarded as most decisive on this as on many other questions of political ethics; but they could have little weight in the early stages of political life, when the minds of men were still moulded by theological discussions, and were consequently predisposed to deduce all conclusions with an inflexible logic from general principles. Tyrannicide accordingly occupied an extremely prominent place in the revival of liberalism in Europe. The first instance in which it was formally supported by a theologian appears to have been in 1408, shortly after the Duke of Orleans had been murdered at the instigation of the Duke of Burgundy, when a priest, and, as is generally said, a Franciscan,1 named John Petit, who was then professor of theology in the University of Paris, justified the act, and delivered a public oration in defence of the thesis, ‘ That it is lawful, according to natural and divine law, for every subject to slay or cause to be slain a traitor and disloyal tyrant.’ This doctrine was afterwards energetically denounced by Gerson and condemned by the Council of Constance.1 After the Reformation, however, it was very widely diffused. Grévin, one of the immediate successors of Jodelle, and therefore one of the founders of the French Drama, brought it upon the stage in a play upon ‘The Death of Cæsar,’ which was first acted in 1560, and was reprinted with an anti-monarchical preface at the time of Ravaillac.2 A few years before the publication of the work of Mariana, no less than three Jesuits—Franciscus Toletus, Emmanuel Sa, and the famous Molina—had defended it.3 The first, who was made a cardinal in 1583, justified it chiefly in the case of tyrants who had usurped dominion;4 but intimated also, that the nation might depose a lawful sovereign, that it might condemn him to death, and that then any individual might slay him. Sa1 and Molina2 expressed the same opinion with still greater emphasis, and Balthazar Ayala, the most illustrious Spanish lawyer of the age, in his celebrated work on the ‘Rights of War,’ which was published in 1582, though utterly repudiating their doctrine concerning tyrants with a lawful title, cordially embraced it in the case of usurpers.3 The French Jesuits, it is true, appalled by the outcry that was raised against them on account of the work of Mariana, repudiated its principles; but, in 1611, Mariana found a defender in another Jesuit named Kellerus,4 who only made a single reservation—that a formal sentence was always necessary before tyrannicide was justifiable. When Henry III. was assassinated by Clément, the Catholics of the League received the news with a burst of undisguised exultation, and in many churches the image of the murderer was placed for reverence upon the altar of God. The Pope publicly pronounced the act to be worthy of ranking with that of Judith; he said that it could only have been accomplished by the special assistance of Providence, and he blasphemously compared it to the Incarnation and to the Resurrection.1 On the other hand, it would be unfair to forget the murder of the Duke of Guise in France and of Cardinal Beaton in Scotland, the justification of these instances of political assassination by the most eminent Protestants, and the many seditious works at least verging upon an approval of tyrannicide that issued from the Protestant press.
Still the main champions of tyrannicide were unquestionably the Jesuits, and it is not difficult to discover the reason. It has been said that the despotic character of their government has in these later times proved inimical to the growth of individuality among them, and that while the institution considered as a whole has flourished, it has failed remarkably to produce originality either in intellect or in character.2 But however this may be now, it is certain that it was not so in the early days of the society, when a few isolated Jesuits were scattered through a community of heretics waging a continued war against overwhelming numbers. All the resources of their minds were then taxed to the utmost, and they had every motive to encourage an opinion that enabled a single individual, by an act of self-devotion, to sway the destinies of a nation.
It may be said that the work of Mariana is an extreme in stance of Jesuitical principles, and in a certain sense this is undoubtedly true. Mariana stands almost alone among his brethren in the directness and absence of qualifications that characterise his teaching, and he is still more remarkably distinguished for the emphasis with which he dwells upon purely political rights. In his book the interests of the Church, though never forgotten, never eclipse or exclude the interests of the people, and all the barriers that are raised against heresy are equally raised against tyranny. But his doctrine of tyrannicide, extreme, exaggerated, and dangerous as it is, was but a rash conclusion from certain principles which were common to almost all the theologians of his order, and which are of the most vital importance in the history both of civil liberty and of Rationalism. In nearly every writing that issued from this school we find the same desire to restrict the power of the sovereign and to augment the power of the people, the same determination to base the political system on a doctrine derived from reason rather than from authority, the same tendency to enunciate principles the application of which would—whether their authors desired it or not—inevitably extend beyond the domain of theology. All or nearly all these writers urged in the interests of the Church that doctrine of a ‘social contract’ which was destined at a later period to become the cornerstone of the liberties of Europe. Nearly all drew a broad distinction between kings and tyrants; nearly all divided the latter into those who were tyrants, as it was said, in regimine (that is to say, legitimate rulers who misgoverned), and tyrants in titulo (that is to say, rulers with no original authority); and nearly all admitted that the Papal deposition, by annulling the title-deeds of regal power, transferred the sovereign from the former class to the latter. These were the really important points of their teaching, for they were those which deeply and permanently influenced the habits of political thought, and on these points the Jesuits were almost unanimous. In the application of them they differed. Usually tyrannicide, at least in the case of a tyrant in regimine, was condemned, though, as we have seen, there were not wanting those who maintained that the nation as well as the Pope might depose a sovereign, might condemn him to death and depute any individual to slay him. In the case of a tyrant in titulo the more violent opinion seems to have predominated. If he was a conqueror or a usurper, St. Thomas Aquinas had distinctly said that he might be slain.1 If he was a monarch deposed for heresy, it was remembered that heresy itself might justly be punished with death, and that every act of the deposed sovereign against Catholicity was a crime of the deepest die perpetrated by one who had no legitimate authority in the State. The cloud of subtle distinctions that were sometimes raised around these questions might give scope for the ingenuity of controversialists, but they could have but little influence over the passions of fanatics.2
If we now turn from the Jesuits to the Gallican section of the Catholic Church, the contrast is very remarkable. We find ourselves in presence of a new order of interests, and consequently of new principles. The great power of the French Church and of the monarchy with which it was connected had early induced its bishops to assume a tone of independence in their dealings with the Papal See that was elsewhere unknown, and a close alliance between Church and State was the manifest interest of both. But in order that such an alliance should be effectual, it was necessary that the Pope should be reduced as much as possible to the level of an ordinary bishop, while the sovereign was exalted as the immediate representative of the Deity. In this way the bishops were freed from the pressure of Papal ascendency, and the sovereign from the worst consequences of excommunication. The advocates of Gallican principles have been able to prove decisively that in nearly all attempts to prevent the encroachments of the Pope upon secular dominion, French theologians have been prominent, while their opponents have rejoined with equal truth that the Gallican authorities were by no means unanimous in their sentiments, and that the negation of the Papal claims was not usually thrown into a very dogmatic form.1 The case of an heretical prince before the Reformation was hardly discussed,2 and in other cases the rivalry between the two sections of the Church was rather implied in acts than expressed in formal statements. On the one side there was a steady tendency to exalt the spiritual power of the Popes above that of the Councils, and their temporal power above that of kings; on the other side there was a corresponding tendency in the opposite direction. As the power of deposition was in the middle ages the centre of the more liberal system of politics, and as everything that was taken from the popes was given to the kings, the Gallican system was always inimical to freedom. At the same time, as the interference of an Italian priest with French politics offended the national pride, it was eminently popular; and thus, as in many subsequent periods of French history, patriotism proved destructive to liberty.
It appeared for a short time as if the Reformation were about to give rise to new combinations. The invectives of the Protestants against the Papal Power produced a momentary reaction in its favour, which was remarkably shown in the States General assembled at Paris in 1615. The Third Estate, either because Protestant principles were diffused among its members or because it represented especially the secular feelings of the middle classes, then proposed, among other articles, one declaring that the Pope possessed no power of deposing sovereigns, or under any circumstances releasing subjects from the oath of allegiance; but the nobles and the clergy refused to ratify it, and Cardinal Perron, probably as the representative of the clergy, asserted the Ultramontane principles with the strongest emphasis.1
Very soon, however, a complete change passed over the minds of the French clergy. The Huguenots, in several of their synods, had dwelt with great emphasis upon their denial of the existence of a mediate power between the Deity and a king, and there was some danger that if they possessed the monopoly of this opinion the civil power might be attracted to their side. Besides this, the French Protestants made war against their rulers for the purpose of obtaining liberty of conscience, and the French Catholics naturally pronounced these wars to be sinful. In 1668 the Sorbonne asserted the absolute independence of the civil power, and the same thing was again declared in the famous Articles of 1682, which are the recognised bases of Gallicanism. In his Defence of these articles Bossuet soon afterwards systematised the whole theology of the school. The general result, as far as it regards civil liberty, may be briefly told. The king occupied his throne by the direct and immediate authority of the Deity, and is consequently, in his temporal capacity, altogether independent both of the Pope and of the wishes of the people. Every pope who had exercised or claimed a power of deposition had exceeded his functions and been guilty of usurpation; every subject who had raised his hand against the sovereign or his agents had committed a mortal sin. The sole duty of the nation is to obey, and from this obligation no tyranny and no injustice can release it. If the rulers of the people are as wolves, it is for the Christians to show themselves as sheep.1
Such was the teaching of the different sections of the Catholic Church. If we now turn to Protestanism, we find a diversity at least equally striking and not less manifestly due to the diversity of interests. At the same time, although the opinions advocated by any particular section at a particular time were mainly the result of the special circumstances under which it was placed, there were some general considerations that complicated the movement. In the first place, the fact that the Reformation was essentialy an act of spiritual rebellion—an appeal from those in authority to the judgments of the people—gave an impulse to the spirit of insubordination which was still further strengthened by the republican form that many of the new organisations assumed. In the Early Church the ecclesiastical government had combined in a very remarkable manner the principle of authority and the principle of liberty, by magnifying to the highest point the episcopal authority, while the bishops were themselves elected by universal suffrage. But a process of gradual centralisation soon destroyed this balance, and transformed the ecelesiastical organisation from a republic into a monarchy; and although the primitive elements were revived in Protestantism, they were revived in such a way that their original character was essentially falsified. For the system of popular election and the supreme and divine authority of the episcopacy, which in the Early Church formed the two compensatory parts of a single scheme, at the Reformation were violently dissevered and thrown into the strongest antagonism—the Calvinistic churches constituting themselves the leading champions of the one, while Anglicanism was the representative of the other.
Now it has often been observed, and is in itself sufficiently obvious, that when men have formed an ecclesiastical organisation which is intensely democratic, they will have a certain predisposition in favour of a political organisation of a kindred nature. If in Church government they are accustomed to restrict very jealously the influence of the ruler, to diffuse as much as possible the supreme power, and to regard the will of the majority as the basis of authority, they will scarcely submit without a murmur to a political system in which all power is centralised in a single man, and from which all popular influence has been carefully eliminated. Puritanism has therefore a natural bias towards democracy, and Episcopalianism, which dwells chiefly on the principle of authority, towards despotism. Special circumstances have occasionally modified but seldom or never altogether reversed these tendencies. Both forms have sometimes coalesced cordially with constitutional monarchy; but even in these cases it will usually be found that the Puritans have gravitated towards that party which verges most upon republicanism, and the Episcopalians to that which is most akin to despotism.
Another general tendency which has been much less frequently noticed than the preceding one results from the proportionate value attached by different Churches to the Old and New Testaments. To ascertain the true meaning of passages of Scripture is the business not of the historian but of the theologian, but it is at least an historical fact that in the great majority of instances the early Protestant defenders of civil liberty derived their political principles chiefly from the Old Testament, and the defenders of despotism from the New. The rebellions that were so frequent in Jewish history formed the favourite topic of the one—the unreserved submission inculcated by St. Paul, of the other. When, therefore, all the principles of right and wrong were derived from theology, and when by the rejection of tradition and ecclesiastical authority Scripture became the sole arbiter of theological difficulties, it was a matter of manifest importance in ascertaining the political tendencies of any sect to discover which Testament was most congenial to the tone and complexion of its theology.1
The favourable influence Protestantism was destined to exercise upon liberty was early shown. Among the accusations the Catholics brought against Huss and Wycliffe, none was more common than that they had proclaimed that mortal sin invalidated the title of the sovereign to his throne; and the last of these Reformers was also honourably distinguished for his strong assertion of the unchristian character of slavery.1 At the Reformation the different attitudes assumed by different sovereigns towards the new faith and the constant vicissitudes of the religious wars exercised their natural influence upon the opinions of the leaders; but on the whole, liberal views strongly predominated, although they were not often thrown into formal statements. Luther and Calvin both fluctuated a good deal upon the subject, and passages have been cited from each by the adherents of both views. It is probable, however, that Calvin ultimately inclined rather to the republican, and Luther—who had been greatly agitated by the war of the peasants—to the despotic theory. Zuinglius, without reasoning much on the subject,2 accepted the liberal principles of his countrymen, and he died bravely upon the battle-field. Ulrich von Hutten appears to have adopted the Reformed tenets mainly as a principle of liberty, emancipating men both from intellectual and from political tyranny. ‘From truth to liberty and from liberty to truth’ was the programme he proclaimed. The country, however, in which Protestantism assumed the most emphatically liberal character was unquestionably Scotland, and the man who most clearly represented its tendency was Knox.
A great writer, whose untimely death has been one of the most serious misfortunes that have ever befallen English literature, and whose splendid genius, matured by the most varied and extensive scholarship, has cast a flood of light upon many of the subjects I am endeavouring to elucidate—has lately traced with a master-hand the antecedents of the Scotch Reformation.1 He has shown that for a long period before it was accomplished there had been a fierce contest between the aristocracy on the one hand, and the sovereigns and Catholic clergy of Scotland upon the other; that this struggle at last terminated in the triumph of the aristocracy and the subversion of the Catholic establishment; that the new clergy, called into existence by a movement that was intensely hostile to the sovereign, were from the first the main promoters of sedition; and that being hated by the Crown, and having speedily quarrelled with the nobles, they cast themselves for support upon the people, and became the most courageous and energetic of the champions of democracy. The utter contempt for ecclesiastical traditions that characterised the Puritanical sects enabled them without much difficulty to mould their theology into conformity with their wishes; for Scripture was the only guide they acknowledged, and it has been most abundantly proved that from Scripture honest and able men have derived and do derive arguments in support of the most opposite opinions. In all the conflicts with the civil authorities Knox threw himself into the foreground, and constantly asserted, with the most emphatic clearness, that it was the right and even the duty of a nation to resist a persecuting sovereign. Speaking of the persecutions that Mary had directed against the English Protestants, he declared that when they began it was the duty of the English people not merely to have deposed their queen, but also to have put her to death; and he added, with characterstic ferocity, that they should have included in the same slaughter all her councillors and the whole body of the Catholic clergy.2
The opinions which Knox embodied chiefly in fierce declamations, and which he advocated mainly with a view to religious interests, were soon after systematised and at the same time secularised by Buchanan in a short dialogue entitled ‘De Jure Regni apud Scotos,’ which was published in 1579, and which bears in many respects a striking resein blance to some of the writings that afterwards issued from the Jesuits. In Buchanan, however, we find none of those countless subtleties and qualifications to which the Catholic theologians commonly resorted in order to evade the decisions of the Fathers or the schoolmen, nor do we find anything about the deposing power of the Pope. The principles that were enunciated were perfectly clear and decisive: they were derived exclusively from reason, and they were directed equally against every form of tyranny. The argument is based upon ‘the social contract.’ Men were naturally formed for society: in order to arrest the intestine discord that sprang up among them, they created kings; in order to restrain the power of their kings, they enacted laws. The nation being the source of regal power is greater than and may therefore judge the king; the laws being intended to restrain the king in case of collision, it is for the people and not for the ruler to interpret them. It is the duty of the king to identify himself with the law,1 and to govern exclusively according to its decisions. A king is one who governs by law, and according to the interests of the people; a tyrant is one who governs by his own will, and contrary to the interests of the people. An opinion had been spread abroad by some that a king being trammelled by recognised constitutional ties might be resisted if he violated them, but that a tyrant who reigns where no constitution exists must be always obeyed; but this opinion was altogether false. The people may make war against a tyrant, and may pursue that war until he is slain. Though Buchanan does not expressly defend the slaughter of a tyrant by a private individual, he recalls in language of unqualified praise the memories of the tyrannicides of antiquity.
This little tract, being in conformity with the spirit of the time, and especially with the spirit of the Scotch people, had a very great influence. Its main principles, as we have seen, differ but little from those of St. Thomas Aquinas and the schoolmen; but by disengaging them from the crowd of theological considerations that had previously rendered them almost inoperative except when religious interests were concerned, Buchanan opened a new stage in the history of liberty. The doctrines, however, which he for the first time systematised had been at a still earlier period diffused among his fellow-countrymen. When Queen Elizabeth, in 1571, put some questions to a Scotch deputation concerning the reasons that had induced the Scots to depose their queen, she was immediately favoured in reply with a long dissertation on the manifest superiority of nations to their sovereigns; which, as Camden assures us, and as we can readily believe, she received with extreme indignation.1 The same principles were no less general among the English Dissenters, and were exhibited alike in their writings and in their policy: Milton only translated into eloquent prose the no less eloquent acts of Cromwell.
It is difficult indeed to overrate the debt of gratitude that England owes both to her own Nonepiscopal Churches and to those of Scotland. In good report and in evil, amid persecution and ingratitude and horrible wrongs, in ages when all virtue seemed corroded and when apostasy had ceased to be a stain, they clung fearlessly and faithfully to the banner of her freedom. If the Great Rebellion was in England for the most part secular in its causes, it is no less true that its success was in a great measure due to the assistance of the Scotch, who were actuated mainly by religion, to the heroic courage infused into the troops by the English ministers, and to the spirit of enthusiasm created by the noble writings that were inspired by Puritanism. Neither the persecutions of Charles nor the promised toleration of James ever caused them to swerve. Without their assistance English liberty would no doubt have been attained, but no one can say how long its triumph would have been retarded, or what catastrophes would have resulted from the strife. For it is to Puritanism that we mainly owe the fact that in England religion and liberty were not dissevered: amid all the fluctuations of its fortune,1 it represented the alliance of these two principles, which the predominating Church invariably pronounced to be incompatible.
The attitude of this latter Church forms indeed a strange contrast to that of Puritanism. Created in the first instance by a court intrigue, pervaded in all its parts by a spirit of the most intense Erastianism, and aspiring at the same time to a spiritual authority scarcely less absolute than that of the Church which it had superseded, Anglicanism was from the beginning at once the most servile and the most efficient agent of tyranny. Endeavouring by the assistance of temporal authority and by the display of worldly pomp to realise in England the same position as Catholicism had occupied in Europe, she naturally flung herself on every occasion into the arms of the civil power. No other Church so uniformly betrayed and trampled on the liberties of her country.1 In all those fiery trials through which English liberty has passed since the Reformation, she invariably cast her influence into the scale of tyranny, supported and eulogised every attempt to violate the Constitution, and wrote the fearful sentence of eternal condemnation upon the tombs of the martyrs of freedom.2 That no tyranny however gross, that no violation of the constitution however flagrant, can justify resistance; that all those principles concerning the rights of nations on which constitutional government is based are false, and all those efforts of resistance by which constitutional government is achieved are deadly sins, was her emphatic and continual teaching. ‘A rebel,’ she declared, ‘is worse than the worst prince, and rebellion worse than the worst government of the worst prince hath hitherto been.’ ‘God placeth as well evil princes as good,’ and therefore ‘for subjects to deserve through their sins to have an evil prince and then to rebel against him were double and treble evil by provoking God more to plague them.’ St. Paul counselled passive obedience under Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, ‘who were not only no Christians but pagans, and also either foolish rulers or cruel tyrants;’ nay the Jews owed it even to Nebuchadnezzar, when ‘he had slain their king, nobles, parents, children, and kinsfolk, burned their country cities, yea Jerusalem itself, and the holy temple, and had carried the residue into captivity.’ Even the Blessed Virgin, ‘being of the royal blood of the ancient natural kings of Jewry, did not disdain to obey the commandment of an heathen and foreign prince;’ much more therefore should we ‘obey princes, though strangers, wicked, and wrongful, when God for our sins shall place such over us,’ unless, indeed, they enjoin anything contrary to the Divine command; but even ‘in that case we may not in anywise withstand violently or rebel against rulers, or make any insurrection, sedition, or tumults, either by force of arms or otherwise, against the anointed of the Lord or any of his officers, but we must in such case patiently suffer all wrongs.’1
‘If I should determine no cases,’ wrote Jeremy Taylor, when treating the question of resistance in the greatest work on Moral Philosophy that Anglicanism has produced, ‘but upon such mighty terms as can be afforded in this question, and are given and yet prevail not, I must never hope to do any service to any interest of wisdom or peace, of justice or religion; and therefore I am clearly of opinion that no man who can think it lawful to fight against the supreme power of his nation can be fit to read cases of conscience, for nothing can satisfy him whose conscience is armour of proof against the plain and easy demonstration of this question…. The matter of Scripture being so plain that it needs no interpretation, the practice and doctrine of the Church, which is usually the best commentary, is now but of little use in a case so plain; yet this also is as plain in itself, and without any variety, dissent, or interruption universally agreed upon, universally practised and taught, that, let the powers set over us be what they will, we must suffer it and never right ourselves.’1
The teaching of which these extracts are examples was constantly maintained by the overwhelming majority of the Anglican clergy for the space of more than 150 years, and during the most critical periods of the history of the English Constitution. When Charles I. attempted to convert the monarchy into a despotism, the English Church gave him its constant and enthusiastic support. When, in the gloomy period of vice and of reaction that followed the Restoration, the current of opinion set in against all liberal opinions, and the maxims of despotism were embodied even in the Oath of Allegiance,1 the Church of England directed the stream, allied herself in the closest union with a court whose vices were the scandal of Christendom, and exhausted her anathemas not upon the hideous corruption that surrounded her, but upon the principles of Hampden and of Milton. All through the long series of encroachments of the Stuarts she exhibited the same spirit. The very year when Russell died was selected by the University of Oxford to condemn the writings of Buchanan, Baxter, and Milton, and to proclaim the duty of passive obedience in a decree which the House of Lords soon afterwards committed to the flames.2 It was not till James had menaced her supremacy that the Church was aroused to resistance. Then indeed, for a brief but memorable period, she placed herself in opposition to the Crown, and contributed largely to one of the most glorious events in English history. But no sooner had William mounted the throne than her policy was reversed, her whole energies were directed to the subversion of the constitutional liberty that was then firmly established, and it is recorded by the great historian of the Revolution that at least nine-tenths of the clergy were opposed to the emancipator of England. All through the reaction under Queen Anne, all through the still worse reaction under George III., the same spirit was displayed. In the first period the clergy, in their hatred of liberty, followed cordially the leadership of the infidel Bolingbroke; in the second they were the most ardent supporters of the wars against America and against the French Revolution, which have been the most disastrous in which England has ever engaged. From first to last their conduct was the same, and every triumph of liberty was their defeat.
There are contrasts that meet us in the history of Rationalism which it is impossible to realise without positive amazement. When we remember for how long a period the Church of England maintained that resistance to the regal power was in all cases a deadly sin, and that such men as a Washington or a Garibaldi were doomed ‘to burn together in hell with Satan the first founder of rebellion,’ it is hard to say whether the present condition of English public opinion shows most clearly the impotence of the theologians who were unable to prevent so absolute a rejection of their principles, or the elasticity of the Church that has survived it.
Although, however, the general current of Anglican ecclesiastical opinion was on this subject extremely steady, there was one divine who forms a marked exception, and that divine was probably the ablest that Protestantism has ever produced. Hooker—not indeed the greatest but perhaps the most majestic of English writers—was not more distinguished for his splendid eloquence than for his tendency to elevate the principles of natural right, and for his desire to make the Church independent of the State. In his discussions of the nature of the civil power both of these characteristics are strikingly shown. In examining the true origin and functions of government he scarcely ever appeals to the decisions of the Fathers, and not often to the teachings of Scripture, but elaborates his theory from his own reason, aided by the great philosophers of antiquity. His doctrine in its essential parts differs little from that of Buchanan. Individuals joining together in societies created kings to govern them. The regal power was at first absolute, but soon ‘men saw that to live by one man's will became the cause of all men's misery, and this constrained them to come into laws wherein all men might see their duty.’1 Although the king received his authority from the people in the first instance, it was not on that account the less sacred, for ‘on whom the same is bestowed even at men's discretion they likewise do hold it of Divine right.’ At the same time the king was subject to the law, and as the power of enacting laws resides with the whole people, any attempt upon his part to enact laws contrary to the will of the people is a tyranny. Such laws are, in fact, a nullity.2
From these principles we should naturally have supposed that Hooker would have drawn the conclusion of Buchanan, and would have maintained that the will of the people is a sufficient reason for changing the government. It is, however, an extremely remarkable fact as showing the spirit of the class to which he belonged that this great writer, who had exhibited so clearly the fundamental propositions of modern liberalism, who had emancipated himself to so great a degree from the prejudices of his profession, and who wrote with the strongest and most manifest bias in favour of freedom, shrank to the last from this conclusion. He desired to see the power of the government greatly restricted; he eulogised constitutional government as immeasurably superior to despotism; he even thought that the violation of a constitutional tie was a just cause for resistance, but when he came to the last great question he dismissed it with these melancholy words:—‘May then a body-politick at all times withdraw, in whole or in part, that influence of dominion which passeth from it if inconvenience doth grow thereby? It must be presumed that supreme governors will not in such cases oppose themselves and be stiff in detaining that the use whereof is with public detriment, but surely without their consent I see not how the body should be able by any fresh means to help itself, saving when dominion doth escheat.’1
It is scarcely necessary, I think, to review in detail the other works which appeared in England upon this subject. A large proportion of them at least are well known: their arguments are little more than a repetition of those which I have described, and after all they were not the real causes of the development. A spirit of freedom, fostered in England by the long enjoyment of political and social institutions far superior to those of other nations, had produced both a capacity and an ambition for freedom which must inevitably have triumphed, and it is a matter of comparative insignificance what particular arguments were selected as the pretext. On the other hand, the genius and the circumstances of the Anglican Church predisposed its leaders towards despotism, and they naturally grasped at every argument in its support. I may observe, however, that there was a slight difference of opinion among the English supporters of despotic principles.2 The earliest school, which was represented chiefly by Barclay and Blackwood, appears to have acknowledged that men were born free, and to have admitted some possible circumstances under which resistance was lawful. The later school, which was led by Filmer, Heylin, Mainwaring, and Hobbes, entirely denied this original freedom. The ‘Patriarcha’ of Filmer, which was the principal exposition of the doctrines of the last class, rested, like some of the writings of the Gallican school, upon the supposition that the political government is derived from and is of the same nature as paternal government,1 and it concluded that resistance was in all cases sinful. This book was in the first instance answered by Sidney, who opposed to it ‘the social compact,’ but rested a considerable portion of his argument on the Old Testament. At the Revolution, however, the clergy having revived the principles of Filmer,2 Locke thought it necessary to publish another answer, and accordingly wrote his famous treatise of ‘Government,’ which differs from that of Sidney in being almost entirely based upon secular considerations, although a considerable space is devoted to the refutation of the theological arguments of his opponent. Locke adopts almost entirely the principles of Hooker, for whom he entertained feelings of deep and well-merited admiration, but he altogether discards the qualifications by which Hooker had sometimes neutralised his teaching. All government, he maintains, is the gift of the people for the people's advantage, and therefore no legislation is legitimate which is contrary to the people's interests, and no change of government wrong which is in accordance with them.1 Prerogative is that measure of power which the nation concedes to its ruler, and the nation may either extend or restrict it.2 To impose taxes on a people without their consent is simply robbery.3 Those who are appointed by the people to legislate have no power to transfer their authority to others,4 nor may they govern except by established laws.5 And as the sovereignty in the first instance emanates from the people, so the people may reclaim it at will. The ability with which these views were urged, and the favourable circumstances under which they appeared, gave them an easy triumph, and the Revolution made them the bases of the Constitution.
It is well worthy of remark that the triumph of toleration and the triumph of civil liberty should both have been definitively effected in England at the same time, and should both have found their chief champion in the same man. Both were achieved by laymen in direct opposition to the Church and in the moment of her extreme depression. Both too represented a movement of secularisation: for by the first theological questions were withdrawn from the sphere of politics, and by the second the principle of authority was removed from a theological to a secular basis. But what especially characterises the development of English liberty is that, although it was effected contrary to the Church and contrary to the clergy, it was not effected contrary to religion. This—which, when we consider the mournful history of Continental liberty, may perhaps be regarded as the happiest fact in English history—was no doubt due in a great measure to the success with which the Dissenters had associated religion and liberty; to the essential imperfection of the Anglican theory, which left undefined the question when allegiance may be transferred to a triumphant rebel,1 and also to the admirable moderation of Somers and Locke: but it was still more due to the genius of the Reformation. Never did Protestantism exhibit more clearly its admirable flexibility of doctrine, its capacity for modifying and recasting its principles to meet the wants of succeeding ages, than when, without any serious religious convulsion, the political system of England was based upon the direct negation of the unanimous teaching of the Early Church and of the almost unanimous teaching of the National one. And the contrast the history of English liberty bears to that of Continental liberty becomes still more remarkable when we remember the attitude exhibited by the avowed opponents of Christianity. In England, with the exception of Shaftesbury, the most eminent of these were either indifferent or opposed to the movement. Under the government of the Stuarts, Hobbes not only maintained the most extreme views of Taylor and Ussher, but carried them to a point from which even those divines would have recoiled: for the result of his philosophy was nothing less than to make the civil ruler the supreme arbiter of the moral law. During the reaction under Queen Anne the clerical party owed its chief strength to the genius of Bolingbroke, who consolidated its broken forces, and elaborated with an almost dazzling eloquence his ideal of ‘A Patriot King’ to counterbalance the ideal of liberty. And at a still later period, while Bishop Horsley was proclaiming that ‘subjects had nothing to say to the laws except to obey them,’ Hume was employing all his skill in investing with the most seductive colours the policy of the Stuarts, in rendering the great supporters of liberty in the seventeenth century either odious or ridiculous, and in throwing into the most plausible aspects the maxims of their opponents.1
It is remarkable that while England and France have been the two nations which have undoubtedly done most for the political emancipation of mankind, they have also been those in which the National Churches were most bitterly opposed to freedom. We have seen the manner in which the double movement of secularisation and of liberty was effected in the Protestant country; it remains to trace the corresponding development in the Catholic one.
It was upon the French Protestants that the office which in England was filled by the Puritans naturally devolved. The fact that they were a minority, and often a persecuted minority, gave them a bias in favour of liberty, while at the same time their numbers were sufficiently great to communicate a considerable impulse to public opinion. Unfortunately, however, the extreme arrogance and the persecuting spirit they manifested whenever they rose to power rendered them peculiarly unfit to be the champions of liberty; while at the same time their position as a minority of the nation, governed mainly by religious principles in an era of religious wars, rendered their prevailing spirit profoundly anti-national. Wherever sectarian feeling is keenly felt, it proves stronger than patriotism. The repulsion separating men as members of different religions becomes more powerful than the attraction uniting them as children of the same soil, and the maxim that a man's true country is not that in which he was born but that of his co-religionists being professed, or at least acted on, treason is easily justified. In the present day, when the fever of theology has happily subsided, Ireland forms an almost solitary example of a nation in which national interests and even national pride are habitually sacrificed to sectarianism; but in the sixteenth century such a sacrifice was general, and although in France at least it was made quite as much by the majority as by the minority, it naturally appeared in the latter case more conspicuous and repulsive. The atrocious persecutions the majority directed against the minority rendered the alienation of the latter from the national sympathies both natural and excusable, but it did not appear so to the persecutors. The majority have therefore usually been able to enlist the patriotic feelings of the multitude against the minority, and this has weakened the political influence of the latter.
In the political teaching of the French Protestants it is easy to detect two distinct currents. Whenever the Pope or the Ultramontane theologians put forward a claim to the power of deposition, the Protestants constituted themselves the champions of loyalty, and endeavoured in this manner to win the favour of the rulers. Thus we find their synods condemning with great solemnity the treatise of Suarez, protesting in the most emphatic language against the disloyalty of the Catholics, and assuring the sovereign in their petitions that they at least recognised no mediate power between the king and the Almighty.1 If we were to judge their opinions by the language of some of their petitions, we might imagine that they were no less favourable to despotism than the Anglicans. But such a judgment would do them great injustice. No body of men ever exhibited a greater alacrity in resisting persecution by force, and, with a few exceptions, the general tone of their theology as of their policy was eminently favourable to liberty. Opinions on these subjects have so completely changed since the seventeenth century, that the defence of the French Protestants is chiefly to be found in the writings of their adversaries; and, according to modern notions, it would be difficult to find a nobler eulogy than is implied in the accusation of one of the ablest of these, who declared that the general tendency of the Protestant writings was always to the effect that ‘kings and subjects were reciprocally bound by contract to the performance of certain things, in such a manner that if the sovereign failed to perform his promise the subjects were freed from their oath of allegiance, and might engage themselves to new masters.’2
The opinions of the French Protestants on these points may be more easily ascertained from their actions than from their writings; and the right of resisting religious persecution was naturally more considered than the right of resisting political tyranny. Jurieu strenuously asserted the first right and although Saurin is said to have taken the opposite view,1 the numerous rebellions of the Protestants leave no doubt as to their general sentiments. The two most remarkable works bearing upon the secular aspect of the question that issued from this quarter were the ‘Franco-Gallia’ of Hotman, and the ‘Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos’ of Junius Brutus.
The first of these was published in 1573. Its author (who had escaped from France to Geneva at the time of the massacre of St. Bartholomew) was one of the most learned lawyers of the day, and the chief advocate of the Protestant view of some of the legal questions that arose about the succession of the crown.2 The ‘Franco-Gallia’ is an elaborate attempt to prove that the Crown of France is, by right, not hereditary but elective. The arguments are drawn in part from general considerations about the origin of government, which Hotman attributed to the will of the people,3 but chiefly from facts in French history. The writer also attempts to show, in an argument that was evidently directed against Catharine de’ Medici, that the exclusion of women from the French throne implied, or at least strongly recommended, their exclusion from the regency, and that on every occasion in which they had exercised the supreme power disastrous consequences had ensued.4
A much more remarkable book was the ‘Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos,’ which was published about the same time as the Franco-Gallia,’ and translated into French in 1581, and which, being written with much ability, exercised a very considerable influence. Some have ascribed it, but appar ently without reason, to Hotman—others to Linguet or to Parquet. The author, whoever he may be, holds, like Hooker, that the regal authority is, in the first instance, derived from the people, but that notwithstanding this it is held by Divine right. From this consideration he argues that a king is bound by two pacts, on the observance of which his legitimacy depends—a pact to God that he will govern according to the Divine law, and a pact to the people that he will govern according to their interests.1 A nation may resist by arms a sovereign who has violated the Divine law, because the first of these pacts is then broken, and also because it is part of the Providential system that subjects should be punished for the crimes of their ruler, which implies that they are bound to prevent them.2 This last proposition the author maintains at length from the Old Testament. Whenever the king violated the Divine command, some fearful chastisement was inflicted upon the nation, and the chief office of the prophets was to signalise these violations, and to urge the people to resistance. Every page of Jewish history bears witness to this, and at the present day the Jews are dispersed because their ancestors did not snatch Christ from the hands of Pilate. But it is impossible to go so far without advancing a step further; for if the Jewish precedent is to be applied, it is manifest the Divine law is violated not merely by the persecution of truth, but also by the toleration of error. No crime was more constantly denounced or more fiercely punished under the old Dispensation than religious tolerance. No fact is more legibly stamped upon the Jewish writings than that, in the opinion of their authors, a Jewish sovereign who permitted his people to practise unmolested the rites of an idolatry which they preferred was committing a sin. Nor does the author of the book we are considering shrink from the consequence. He quotes, as an applicable precedent, the conduct of the people who at the instigation of Elijah massacred the whole priesthood of Baal, and he maintains that the toleration of an ‘impious sacred rite’ is a justifiable cause of rebellion.1
The question then arose in what manner this resistance was to be organised. And here the writer separates himself clearly from the school of Mariana, for he strongly denies the right of an individual to take the life of a persecutor by way of assassination, however favourable the people might be to the act. Resistance can only be authorised by a council representing the people. In all well-regulated countries a parliament or assembly of some kind exists which may be regarded as representative; and although each individual member is less than the king, the council, as a whole, is his superior, and the vote of the majority may depose him.2 When such a council does not exist it may be extemporised, but the elements should, if possible, be drawn from the aris tocracy and the magistrates. Nor is it simply a nation that may thus withdraw its allegiance. The author, evidently with a view to the position of the French Protestants, adds that particular districts or cities, if the inhabitants desire it and if their magistrates consent, may likewise withdraw themselves from their allegiance, and may insist upon the maintenance among them of the worship they believe to be right, and the suppression of that which they believe to be wrong.1 The principles which were thus urged in favour of rebellion on religious grounds apply, with very little change to rebellions that are purely political. A king who ruled in opposition to the will of his people had broken the pact that bound him, and had consequently become a tyrant. In the case of a tyrant who had occupied the throne by force against the manifest will of the people, but in this case alone, tyrannicide is lawful, and the examples of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, of Brutus and Cassius, are to be commended. In other cases, however, resistance must first be authorised by a council representing the nation, and consisting of its leading men. Like Hotman, the author contends that all monarchy was originally elective, and he adds that it still so retains its character, that the people may at any time reject the family they have raised to the throne, and that the heir apparent is no more than a candidate for office.2
There is one other question treated in this remarkable book to which I may advert for a moment, because, although not connected with the right of resistance, it throws some light upon the condition of feeling sectarian animosities had produced. This question is whether, when the majority of a nation is persecuting the minority, a foreign potentate may interpose by arms to succour his co-religionists. The reply is that it is his imperative duty to do so. If he does not, he is guilty of the blood of the martyrs: he is even worse than the persecutors; for they at least imagine that they are slaying the wicked, while he permits the slaughter of those whom he knows to be the just.
It is not probable that many of the French Protestants would have sanctioned all the propositions of this book, but the principles of which it may be regarded as the concentration were very widely diffused among the members of both creeds, and had no inconsiderable influence in preparing the way for the Revolution. The chief political importance, however, of the religious wars was not so much in the doctrines they produced as in the circumstances under which those doctrines were advocated. Few things contributed more powerfully to the secularisation of politics than the anarchy of opinions, the manifest subordination of principles to interests, that was exhibited on all sides among theologians. A single battle, a new alliance, a change in the policy of the rulers, a prospect of some future triumph, was sufficient to alter the whole tone and complexion of the teachings of a Church. Doctrines concerning the sinfulness of rebellion, which were urged with the most dogmatic certainty and supported by the most terrific threats, swayed to and fro with each vicissitude of fortune, were adopted or abandoned with the same celerity, curtailed or modified or expanded to meet the passing interests of the hour. They became, as Bayle said, like birds of passage, migrating with every change of climate. In no country and in no Church do we find anything resembling the conduct of those ancient Christians who never advocated passive obedience more strongly than when all their interests were against it. The apostasies were so flagrant, the fluctuations were so rapid, that it was impossible to overlook them, and they continued till the ascendency of theology over politics was destroyed. The keen eye of the great sceptic of the age soon marked the change, and foresaw the issue to which it was leading.1
It will probably have struck the reader in perusing the foregoing pages, and it will certainly have struck those who have examined the books that have been referred to, that, in addition to theological interests and traditions, there was a purely secular influence derived from the writings of paganism acting strongly in the direction of liberty. The names that recur most frequently in these writings are those of the great heroes of antiquity; and whether we examine the works of Mariana or Hooker, or of the author of the ‘Vindiciæ,’ we are transported into discussions concerning the origin of power that are drawn mainly from the pagan philosophers.2
This influence was, I think, of two kinds—the first being chiefly logical, and the second chiefly moral. At the close of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth century, two professors of the University of Bologna, named Irnerius and Accursius, devoted themselves to exploring manuscripts of some of the Laws of Justinian, which had for centuries been buried in the great library of Ravenna; and they not only revived the knowledge of a legislation that was supposed to have perished, but also formed a school of commentators who did good service in elucidating its character. For a very long period the labours that were thus instituted had but little influence outside the domain of jurisprudence; but at last, in the sixteenth century, a succession of great lawyers arose—of whom Bodin, Cujas, and Alciat were the most remarkable—who applied to the Roman law intellects of a far higher order, and, among other points, paid great attention to its historic development. The balance between the popular and the aristocratic rights and the gradual encroachment of the imperial power upon the liberties of Rome became for about a century favourite subjects of discussion, and naturally produced similar enquiries concerning modern States. From a philosophical investigation of these questions the lawyers passed by an inevitable transition to an examination of the origin of government, a subject which they pursued, from their own point of view, as energetically as the theologians. Bodin, who was probably the ablest of those who devoted themselves to these studies, cannot indeed be regarded as a representative of the democratic tendency; for he strenuously repudiated the notion of a social contract, maintaining the origin of monarchy to be usurpation; he denied that the ruler should be regarded simply as a chief magistrate, and he combated with great force the distinction which Aristotle and the schoolmen had drawn between a king and a tyrant.1 Hotman, however, in France, and, about a century later, Gronovius and Noodt, who were two of the most eminent Dutch advocates of liberty, based their teaching almost entirely upon these legal researches.1
But the principal influence which the pagan writings exercised upon liberty is to be found in the direction they gave to the enthusiasm of Europe. It has no doubt fallen to the lot of many who have come in contact with the great masterpieces of the Greek chisel to experience the sensation of a new perception of beauty which it is the prerogative of the highest works of genius to evoke. A statue we may have often seen with disappointment or indifference, or with a languid and critical admiration, assumes one day a new aspect in our eyes. It is not that we have discovered in it some features that had before escaped our notice; it is not that we have associated with it any definite ideas that can be expressed by words or defended by argument: it is rather a silent revelation of a beauty that had been hidden, the dawn of a new conception of grandeur, almost the creation of another sense. The judgment is raised to the level of the object it contemplates; it is moulded into its image; it is thrilled and penetrated by its power.
Something of this kind took place in Europe as a consequence of the revival of learning. In the middle ages the ascendency of the Church had been so absolute that the whole measure of moral grandeur had been derived from the ecclesiastical annals. The heroism, the self-sacrifice, the humility, the labours of the saints formed the ideal of perfection, and a greatness of a different order could scarcely be imagined. The names of the heroes of antiquity were indeed familiar, their principal achievements were related, and the original writings in which they were recorded were sometimes read, but they fell coldly and lifelessly upon the mind. The chasm that divided the two periods arose not so much from the fact that the heroes of antiquity were pagans, and therefore, according to the orthodox doctrine, doomed to eternal reprobation, or even from the different direction their heroism had taken, as from the type of character they displayed. The sense of human dignity and the sense of sin, as we have already noticed, are the two opposing sentiments one or other of which may be traced in almost every great moral movement mankind has undergone, and each, when very powerful, produces a moral type altogether different from that which is produced by the other. The first is a proud aspiring tendency, intolerant of every chain, eager in asserting its rights, resenting promptly the slightest wrong, self-confident, disdainful, and ambitious. The second produces a submissive and somewhat cowering tone; it looks habitually downwards, grasps fondly and eagerly at any support which is offered by authority, and in its deep self-distrust seeks, with a passionate earnestness, for some dogmatic system under which it may shelter its nakedness. The first is the almost invariable antecedent and one of the chief efficient causes of political liberty, and the second of theological change. It is true that as theological or political movements advance they often lose their first character, coalesce with other movements, and become the representatives of other tendencies; but in the first instance one of other of these two sentiments may almost always be detected. It was the sense of sin that taught the old Catholic saints to sound the lowest depths of mortification, of self-sacrifice, and of humiliation; that convulsed the mind of Luther in the monastery of Wittenberg, and persuaded him that neither his own good works nor the indulgences of the Pope could avert the anger of the Almighty; that impelled Wesley and Whitfield to revolt against the frigid moral teaching of their time, and raise once more the banner of Justification by Faith; that urged the first leaders of Tractarianism towards a Church which by authoritative teaching and multiplied absolutions could allay the paroxysms of a troubled conscience.1 On the other hand, almost every great political revolution that has been successfully achieved has been preceded by a tone of marked self-confidence and pride, manifested alike in philosophy, in general literature, and in religion. When a theological movement has coalesced with a struggle for liberty, it has usually been impregnated with the same spirit. The sense of privilege was much more prominent in the Puritanism of the seventeenth century than the sense of sin, and a fierce rebellion against superstition than humility.2
Now the sense of human dignity was the chief moral agent of antiquity, and the sense of sin of mediævalism; and although it is probable that the most splendid actions have been performed by men who were exclusively under the influence of one or other of these sentiments, the concurrence of both is obviously essential to the well-being of society, for the first is the especial source of the heroic, and the second of the religious, virtues. The first produces the qualities of a patriot, and the second the qualities of a saint. In the middle ages, the saintly type being the standard of perfection, the heroic type was almost entirely unappreciated. The nearest approach to it was exhibited by the Crusader, whose valour was nevertheless all subordinated to superstition, and whose whole career was of the nature of a penance. The want of sympathy between the two periods was so great that for the space of many centuries, during which Latin was the habitual language of literature, the great classical works scarcely exercised any appreciable influence. Sometimes men attempted to mould them into the image of the mediæval conceptions, and by the wildest and most fantastic allegories to impart to them an interest they did not otherwise possess. Thus Troy, according to one monkish commentator, signified Hell, Helen the human soul, Paris the Devil, Ulysses Christ, and Achilles the Holy Ghost. Actæon torn by his own dogs was an emblem of the sufferings of Christ; the Rubicon was an image of Baptism.1 It was not till the revival of learning had been considerably advanced that a perception of the nobility of the heroic character dawned upon men's minds. Then for the first time the ecclesiastical type was obscured, a new standard and aspiration was manifested; and popular enthusiasm, taking a new direction, achieved that political liberty which once created intensified the tendency that produced it.
We cannot have a better example of this passionate aspiration towards political liberty than is furnished by the treatise ‘On Voluntary Servitude,’ or, as it was afterwards called, the ‘Contre-un,’1 of La Boétie. This writer, who was one of the most industrious labourers in the classical field, never pauses to examine the origin of government, or to adjudicate between conflicting theologians; but he assumes at once, as a fact that is patent to the conscience, that the subordination of the interests of a nation to the caprices of a man is an abuse, and that the great heroes of antiquity are deserving of imitation. The ‘Contre-un’ is throughout one fiery appeal—so fiery indeed that Montaigne, who published all the other works of La Boétie, refused to publish this—to the people to cast off their oppressors. It reads like the declamations of the revolutionists of the eighteenth century. ‘Wretched and insensate people,’ writes the author, ‘enamoured of your misery and blind to your interests, you suffer your property to be pillaged, your fields devastated, your houses stripped of their goods, and all this by one whom you have yourselves raised to power, and whose dignity you maintain with your lives! He who crushes you has but two eyes, but two hands, but one body. All that he has more than you comes from you. Yours are the many eyes that spy your acts, the many hands that strike you, the many feet that trample you in the dust: all the power with which he injures you is your own. From indignities that the beasts themselves would not endure you can free yourselves by simply willing it. Resolve to serve no more, and you are free. Withdraw your support from the Colossus that crushes you, and it will crumble in the dust…. Think of the battles of Miltiades, of Leonidas, and of Themistocles, which, after two thousand years, are as fresh in the minds of men as though they were of yesterday; for they were the triumphs not so much of Greece as of liberty…. All other goods men will labour to obtain, but to liberty alone they are indifferent, though where it is not every evil follows, and every blessing loses its charm…. Yet we were all moulded in the same die, all born in freedom as brothers, born too with a love of liberty which nothing but our vices has effaced.’
During the last century language of this kind has by constant repetition lost so much of its force that we can scarcely realise the emotions it kindled when it possessed the freshness of novelty, and in a nation convulsed by the paroxysms of civil war. The French Protestants in 1578 adopted the ‘Contre-un’ as one of the most effectual means of arousing the people to resistance,1 and as late as 1836 Lamennais made its republication the first measure of his democratic crusade. In the history of literature it will always occupy a prominent place on account of the singular beauty of its language, while in the history of Rationalism it is remarkable as one of the clearest illustrations of the tendency of the classical writings to foster and at the same time secularise the spirit of liberty.
Owing to the influences I have endeavoured to trace, the ascendency theology had so long exercised over politics was during the religious wars materially weakened, while at the same time the aspiration towards liberty was greatly strengthened. During the comparative torpor that followed the Peace of Westphalia, and still more after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the struggle was for a time suspended; and it was not till near the close of the eighteenth century that the question of the rights of nations reappeared prominently in France—this time, however, not under the auspices of the theologians, but of the freethinkers. But, before reviewing the principles that were then urged, it is necessary to notice for a moment the chief causes that were preparing the people for liberty, and without which no arguments and no heroism could have triumphed.
The first of these was the increase of wealth. Whatever may be the case with small communities and under special circumstances, it is certain that, as a general rule, large masses of people can only enjoy political liberty when the riches of the country have considerably increased. In the early periods of civilisation, when capital is very scanty, and when, owing to the absence of machines and of commerce, the results of labour are extremely small, slavery in one form or another is the inevitable condition of the masses. The object poverty in which they live casts them helplessly upon the few who are wealthy; wages sink to a point that is barely sufficient for the sustenance of life, and social progress becomes impossible. ‘If the hammer and the shuttle could move themselves,’ said Aristotle, ‘slavery would be unnecessary;’ and machinery having virtually fulfilled the condition, the predicted result has followed.1 The worst and most to grading forms of labour being performed by machinery, production, and consequently capital, have been immensely increased, and, progress becoming possible, a middle class has been formed. Commerce not only gives an additional development to this class, but also forms a bond of union connecting the different parts of the country. The roads that are formed for the circulation of wealth become the channels of the circulation of ideas, and render possible that simultaneous action upon which all liberty depends.
The next great cause of liberty was the increase of knowledge. And here again we may discern the evidence of that inexorable fatality which for so many centuries doomed mankind alike to superstition and to slavery, until the great inventions of the human intellect broke the chain. When we hear men dilating upon the degrading superstitions of Catholicism, marvelling how a creed that is so full of gross and material conceptions could win belief, and denouncing it as an apostasy and an error, it is sufficient to say that for 1,500 years after the establishment of the Christian religion it was intellectually and morally impossible that any religion that was not material and superstitious could have reigned over Europe. Protestantism could not possibly have existed without a general diffusion of the Bible, and that diffusion was impossible until after the two inventions of paper and of printing. As long as the material of books was so expensive that it was deemed necessary to sacrifice thousands of the ancient manuscripts in order to cover the parchment with new writing, as long as the only way of covering those parchments was by the slow and laborious process of transcription, books, and therefore the knowledge of reading, were necessarily confined to an infinitesimal fraction of the community. Pictures and other material images, which a Council of Arras well called the ‘Book of the Ignorant,’ were then the chief means of religious instruction, not simply because oral instruction without the assistance of books was manifestly insufficient, but also because, in a period when the intellectual discipline of reading is unknown, the mind is incapable of grasping conceptions that are not clothed in a pictorial form. To those who will observe, on the one hand, how invariably the mediæval intellect materialised every department of knowledge it touched, and on the other hand how manifestly the peculiar tenets of Catholicism are formed either by the process of materialising the intellectual and moral conceptions of Christianity or else by legitimate deductions from those tenets when materialised—to those who still further observe how every great theological movement, either of progress or of retrogression, has been preceded by a corresponding change in the intellectual condition of society, it will appear evident that nothing short of a continued miracle could have produced a lasting triumph of Christian ideas except under some such form as Catholicism presents. It was no doubt possible that small communities like the Waldenses, shut out from the general movement of the age, in spired by very strong enthusiasm, and under the constant supervision of zealous pastors, might in some small degree rise above the prevailing materialism; but when we remember how readily nations, considered as wholes, always yield to the spirit of the time, and how extremely little the generality of men strive against the natural bias of their minds, it will easily be conceived that the great mass of men must have inevitably gravitated to materialism. When under such circumstances a spiritual faith exists, it exists only as the appanage of the few, and can exercise no influence or control over the people.
But while superstition is thus the inevitable, and therefore the legitimate condition of an early civilisation, the same causes that make it necessary render impossible the growth of political liberty. Neither the love of freedom nor the capacity of self-government can exist in a great nation that is plunged in ignorance. Political liberty was in ancient times almost restricted to cities like Athens and Rome, where public life, and art, and all the intellectual influences that were concentrated in a great metropolis, could raise the people to an exceptional elevation. In the middle ages, servitude was mitigated by numerous admirable institutions, most of which emanated from the Church; but the elements of self-government could only subsist in countries that were so small that the proceedings of the central government came under the immediate cognisance of the whole people. Elsewhere the chief idea that was attached to liberty was freedom from a foreign yoke. It was only by the slow and difficult penetration of knowledge to the masses that a movement like that of the eighteenth century became possible; and we may distinctly trace the steps of its evolution through a long series of preceding centuries. The almost simultaneous introduction into Europe from the East of cotton-paper by the Greeks and by the Moors, the invention of rag-paper at the end of the tenth century, the extension of the area of instruction by the substitution of universities for monasteries as the centres of education, the gradual formation of modern languages, the invention of printing in the middle of the fifteenth century, the stimulus given to education by the numerous controversies the Reformation forced upon the attention of all classes, the additional inducement to learn to read arising among Protestants from the position assigned to the Bible, and in a less degree among Catholics from the extraordinary popularity of the “Imitation” of Thomas à Kempis, the steady reduction in the price of books as the new art was perfected, the abandonment of a dead language as the vehicle of instruction, the simplification of style and arguments which brought knowledge down to the masses, the sceptical movement which diverted that knowledge from theological to political channels, were all among the antecedents of the Revolution. When knowledge becomes so general that a large proportion of the people take a lively and constant interest in the management of the State, the time is at hand when the bounds of the Constitution will be enlarged.
A third great revolution favourable to liberty is to be found in the history of the art of war. In the early stages of civilisation military achievements are, next to religion, the chief source of dignity, and the class which is most distinguished in battle is almost necessarily the object of the most profound respect. Before the invention of gunpowder, a horseman in armour being beyond all comparison superior to a foot-soldier, the whole stress of battle fell upon the cavalry, who belonged exclusively to the upper classes—in the first instance because the great expense of the equipment could only be met by the rich, and in the next place because express laws excluded plebeians from its ranks. It is, however, well worthy of notice that in this respect the position of the English was exceptional. Although St. George, who was the object of extreme reverence throughout the middle ages as the patron saint of cavalry, was also the patron saint of England, the skill of the English archers was so great that they rapidly rose to European fame, and obtained a position which in other countries belonged exclusively to the horsemen. In all the old battles the chivalry of France and the yeomen of England were the most prominent figures; and this distinction, trivial as it may now appear, had probably a considerable influence over the history of opinions.
With this exception, the ascendency of the cavalry in the middle ages was unquestionable, but it was not altogether undisputed; and it is curious to trace from a very distant period the slow rise of the infantry accompanying the progress of democracy. The Flemish burghers brought this force to considerable perfection, and in the battle of Courtray their infantry defeated the cavalry opposed to them. A similar achievement was performed by the Swiss infantry in the battle of Morgarten. The French had always treated their own foot-soldiers with extreme contempt; but Crecy and Poitiers having been mainly won by the English archers, a slight revulsion of feeling took place, and great though not very successful efforts were made to raise a rival corps. For some time after the battle of Poitiers all games except archery were prohibited in France. More than once, too, in their combats with the English, the French cavalry were compelled to dismount and endure what they conceived the degradation of fighting on foot, and the same practice was frequent among the free-lances of Italy under the leadership of Sir John Hawkwood and of Carmagnola.
The invention of gunpowder, as soon as firearms had acquired some degree of excellence, seriously shook the ascendency of the cavalry. The mounted soldier was no longer almost invulnerable by the foot-soldier, or his prowess decisive in battle. Yet, notwithstanding this change, the social distinction between the two branches of the army which chivalry1 had instituted continued; the cavalry still represented the upper and the infantry the lower classes, and in France the nobles alone had a right to enter the former. The comparative depression of the military importance of the cavalry had therefore the effect of transferring in a measure the military prestige from the nobles to the people. For some time the balance trembled very evenly between the two forces, until the invention of the bayonet by Vauban gave the infantry a decided superiority, revolutionised the art of war. and thereby influenced the direction of enthusiasm.1
The last general tendency I shall mention was produced by the discoveries of political economy. Liberty cannot be attained without a jealous restriction of the province of government, and indeed may be said in a great measure to consist of such a restriction. The process since the Reformation has passed through two distinct stages. The first, which was effected mainly by the diffusion of Rationalism, was the triumph of tolerance, by which the vast field of speculative opinions was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the civil power. The second, which was effected by political economy, was free-trade, by which the evil of the interference of government with commercial transactions was proved. This last proposition, which was one of the most important, was also one of the earliest of the achievements of political economists, for it was ardently professed by the French school nearly twenty years before the publication of the ‘Wealth of Nations;’ and as the catastrophe of Law and the ministerial position of Turgot directed public opinion in France very earnestly towards economical questions, it exercised an extensive influence. Many who were comparatively impervious to the more generous enthusiasm of liberty became by these enquiries keenly sensible of the evil of an all-directing government, and anxious to abridge its power.1
There were of course innumerable special circumstances, growing out of the policy of the French rulers, which accelerated or retarded the advance or influenced the character of the Revolution. The foregoing pages have no pretension to be a complete summary of its antecedents, but they may serve to show that a revolutionary movement of some kind was the normal result of the tendencies of the age, that its chief causes are to be sought entirely outside the discussions of political philosophers, and that the rise of great republican writers, the principles they enunciated, and the triumph of their arguments were all much more the consequences than the causes of the democratic spirit. In other words, these men were rather representative than creative. But for the preceding movement they would never have appeared, or, at least, would never have triumphed, although when they appeared they undoubtedly modified and in a measure directed the movement that produced them. The change must necessarily have taken place, but it was a question of great importance into whose hands its guidance was to fall.
If we take a broad view of the history of liberty since the establishment of Christianity, we find that the ground of conflict was at first personal and at a later period political liberty, and that in the earlier stage the Catholic Church was the special representative of progress. In the transition from slavery to serfdom, and in the transition from serfdom to liberty, she was the most zealous, the most unwearied, and the most efficient agent. The same thing may be said of the earliest period of the political evolution. As long as the condition of society was such that an enlarged political liberty was impossible, as long as the object was not so much to produce freedom as to mitigate servitude, the Church was still the champion of the people. The balance of power produced by the numerous corporations she created or sanctioned, the reverence for tradition resulting from her teaching, which perpetuated a network of unwritten customs with the force of public law, the dependence of the civil upon the ecclesiastical power, and the rights of excommunication and deposition, had all contributed to lighten the pressure of despotism. After a time, however, the intellectual progress of society destroyed the means which the Church possessed for mitigating servitude, and at the same time raised the popular demand for liberty to a point that was perfectly incompatible with her original teaching. The power of the Papal censure was so weakened that it could scarcely be reckoned upon as a political influence, and all the complicated checks and counter-checks of mediæval society were swept away. On the other hand, the struggle for political liberty in its widest sense—the desire to make the will of the people the basis of the government—the conviction that a nation has a right to alter a government that opposes its sentiments—has become the great characteristic of modern politics. Experience has shown that wherever intellectual life is active and unimpeded a political fermentation will ensue, and will issue in a movement having for its object the repudiation of the Divine right of kings, and the recognition of the will of the people as the basis of the government. The current has been flowing in this direction since the Reformation, but has advanced with peculiar celerity since the Peace of Westphalia, for since that event the desire of securing a political ascendency for any religious sect has never been a preponderating motive with politicians. With this new spirit the Catholic Church cannot possibly harmonise. It is contrary to her genius, to her traditions, and to her teaching. Resting upon the principle of authority, she instinctively assimilates with those forms of government that most foster the habits of mind she inculcates. Intensely dogmatic in her teaching, she naturally endeavours to arrest by the hand of power the circulation of what she believes to be error, and she therefore allies herself with the political system under which alone such suppression is possible. Asserting as the very basis of her teaching the binding authority of the past, she cannot assent to political doctrines which are, in fact, a direct negation of the uniform teaching of the ancient Church.1 In the midst of the fierce struggle of the sixteenth century isolated theologians might be permitted without censure to propound doctrines of a seditious nature, but it was impossible ultimately to overlook the fact that the modern secularisation of the basis of authority and the modern latitude given to a discontented people are directly contrary to the teaching of the Fathers, and extend far beyond the teaching of the mediæval theologians.1 The fact that modern opinions have been in a measure evolved from the speculations of the schoolmen, or that the schoolmen were the liberals of their time, though important in the judgment of the rationalist, is of no weight in the eyes of those who assert the finality of the teaching of the past.
The natural incapacity of Catholicism to guide the democratic movement had in the eighteenth century been aggravated by the extremely low ebb to which it had fallen, both intellectually and morally. Nearly all the greatest French intellects of the seventeenth century were warmly attached to Catholicism; all those of the eighteenth century were opposed to it. The Church, therefore, like every retrogressive institution in a progressive age, cast herself with more than common zeal into the arms of power, and on every occasion showed herself the implacable enemy of toleration. In 1780, but a few years before the explosion that shattered the ecclesiastical system of France, the assembly of the French clergy thought it necessary solemnly to deplore and condemn the partial tolerance that had been accorded to the French Protestants, and to petition the king that no further privileges might be granted them. Such a Church was manifestly identified with despotism, and having repeatedly asserted the evil of toleration she had no right to complain when the Revolutionists treated her according to her principles.1
Catholicism having thus become the representative of despotism, and French Protestantism having sunk into insignificance, the guidance of the democratic movement necessarily passed into the hands of the freethinkers. In the earlier stages of the movement, when liberty was evolved from the religious wars, they had usually stood aloof. Thus Faustus Socinus had predicted that the seditious doctrines by which the Protestants supported their cause would lead to the dissolution of society, and in denouncing them he especially singled out for condemnation the noble struggle of the Dutch against Spain.2 Montaigne, though Buchanan had been his tutor and La Boétie one of his most intimate friends, always leaned strongly towards political conservatism. His disciple Charron went still further, and distinctly asserted the doctrine of passive obedience.3 Bayle, too, exerted all his influence in discouraging the revolutionary tenets of Jurieu.4 Nor was there anything extraordinary in this, for the aspect Europe presented in their time might well have appalled any spectator who was exempt from the prevailing fanaticism. All the bonds of cohesion upon which the political organisation depended were weakened or destroyed. The spirit of private judgment had descended to those who by ignorance or long servitude were totally incapable of self-government, and it had lashed their passions to the wildest fury. Patriotism seemed to have almost vanished from Christendom. Neither Catholics nor Protestants deemed it the least disgraceful to call down a foreign invasion upon their land, to trample its interests in the dust, and to avow the warmest sympathy for its enemies. Religion, which had so long formed the basis of order, inspired the combatants with the fiercest hatred, and transformed every vice into a virtue. While a pope was causing medals to be struck in honour of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and enjoining Vasari to paint the scene upon the walls of the Vatican; while the murderer of Henry III. was extolled as a martyr, and writings defending his act were scattered broadcast among the people; while the conflagration spreading from land to land absorbed or eclipsed all other causes of dissension, blasted the material prosperity of Europe, and threatened a complete dissolution of almost all political structures, it was not surprising that the freethinkers, who stood apart from the conflict, should have sought at any risk to consoli date the few remaining elements of order. But in the eighteenth century their position and the circumstances that surrounded them were both changed; and the writings of Rousseau and of his disciples proved the trumpet-blast of that great revolution which shattered the political system of France, and the influence of which is even now vibrating to the furthest limits of civilisation.
It has been said1 that while the Revolution of England bore in its womb the liberty of England, the Revolution of France bore that of the world; and those who have traced the long series of political changes already effected will scarcely deem the boast an hyperbole. All around us the spirit of that Revolution is permeating the masses of the people with its regenerating power. Many ancient despotisms have already crumbled beneath its touch; others are even now convulsed by the agonies of transformation, or by the last paroxysms of a despairing resistance. Every form of government in which the nation does not actively participate is recognised as transitory, and every sagacious despot keeps the prospect of future liberty continually before his people. The resurrection of nations is the miracle of our age. All the power of standing armies and of protecting laws, all the treaties of diplomatists and the untiring vigilance of strong-willed despots, have been unable to arrest it. The treaties have been torn, the armies have been scattered, the spirit of liberty has survived. The doctrine of nationalities, by the confession of its keenest adversaries, has now ‘almost acquired the force of public law;’2 it has annulled the most solemn international obligations, and there is every reason to believe that before the century has closed it will be the recognised basis of politics.
Assuredly no part of this great change is due to any original discoveries of Rousseau, though his personal influence was very great, and his genius peculiarly fitted for the position he occupied. He was one of those writers who are eminently destitute of the judgment that enables men without exaggeration to discriminate between truth and falsehood, and yet eminently endowed with that logical faculty which enables them to defend the opinions they have embraced. No one plunged more recklessly into paradox, or supported those paradoxes with more consummate skill. At the same time the firmness with which he grasped and developed general principles, and that wonderful fusion of passion and argument which constitutes the preëminent beauty of his style, gave his eloquence a transcendent power in a revolutionary age. Nothing is more curious than to observe how the revolt against the empire of conventionalities of which he was the apostle penetrated into all parts of French society, revolutionising even those which seemed most remote from his influence. It was shown in fashionable assemblies in a disregard for social distinctions, for decorations, and for attire, that had for centuries been unknown in France. It was shown in the theatre, where Talma, at the instigation of the great revolutionary painter David, banished from the French stage the custom of representing the heroes of Greece and Rome with powdered wigs and in the garb of the courtiers of Versailles, and founded a school of acting which made an accurate imitation of nature the first condition of excellence.1 It was shown even in the country houses, where the mathematical figures, the long formal alleys arranged with architectural symmetry, and the trees dwarfed and trimmed into fantastic shapes, which Le Nôtre had made the essential elements of a French garden, were suddenly discarded and replaced by the wild and irregular beauties that Kent had made popular in England.1 But though the character and the original genius of Rousseau were stamped upon every feature of his time, the doctrines of the ‘Social Contract’ are in all essentials borrowed from Locke and from Sidney, and where they diverge from their models they fall speedily into absurdity.2 The true causes of their mighty influence are to be found in the condition of society. Formerly they had been advocated with a view to special political exigencies, or to a single country, or to a single section of society. For the first time, in the eighteenth century, they penetrated to the masses of the people, stirred them to their lowest depths, and produced an upheaving that was scarcely less general than that of the Reformation. The history of the movement was like that of the enchanted well in the Irish legend, which lay for centuries shrouded in darkness in the midst of a gorgeous city, till some careless hand left open the door that had enclosed it, and the morning sunlight flashed upon its waters. Immediately it arose responsive to the beam; it burst the barriers that had confined it; it submerged the city that had surrounded it; and its resistless waves, chanting wild music to heaven, rolled over the temples and over the palaces of the past.
There is no fact more remarkable in this movement than the manner in which it has in many countries risen to the position of a religion—that is to say, of an unselfish enthusiasm uniting vast bodies of men in aspiration towards an ideal, and proving the source of heroic virtues. It is always extremely important to trace the direction in which the spirit of self-sacrifice is moving, for upon the intensity of that spirit depends the moral elevation of an age, and upon its course the religious future of the world. It once impelled the warriors of Europe to carry ruin and desolation to the walls of Jerusalem, to inundate the plains of Palestine with the blood of slaughtered thousands, and to purchase by unparalleled calamities some relics for the devotion of the pilgrim. It once convulsed Europe with religious wars, suspended all pacific operations, and paralysed all secular interests in order to secure the ascendency of a church or of a creed. It once drove tens of thousands into the retirement of the monasteries; induced them to macerate their bodies, and to mortify their affections; to live in sackcloth and ashes, in cold and poverty and privations, that by such means they might attain their reward. These things have now passed away. The crusader's sword has long been shattered, and his achievements have been idealised by the poet and the novelist. The last wave of the religious wars that swept over so many lands has subsided into a calm that is broken only by the noisy recriminations of a few angry polemics. The monastic system and the conceptions from which it grew are fading rapidly before the increasing day. Celibacy, voluntary poverty, and voluntary subjection, were the three subjects which Giotto painted over the high altar of Assisi as the distinctive characteristics of the saint—the efforts of self-sacrifice that lead to the beatitude of heaven. All of them have now lost their power. Even that type of heroic grandeur which the ancient missionary exhibited, though eulogised and revered, is scarcely reproduced. The spirit of self sacrifice still exists, but it is to be sought in other fields—in a boundless philanthropy growing out of affections that are common to all religions, and above all in the sphere of politics. Liberty and not theology is the enthusiasm of the nineteenth century. The very men who would once have been conspicuous saints are now conspicuous revolutionists, for while their heroism and their disinterestedness are their own, the direction these qualities take is determined by the pressure of their age.
If we analyse the democratic ideal which is exercising so wide an influence, we find that it consists of two parts—a rearrangement of the map of Europe on the principle of the rights of nationalities, and a strong infusion of the democratic element into the government of each State. The recognition of some universal principle of political right powerful enough to form a bond of lasting concord has always been a favourite dream with statesmen and philosophers. Hildebrand sought it in the supremacy of the spiritual power, and in the consequent ascendency of the moral law; Dante in the fusion of all European States into one great empire, presided over in temporal matters by the Cæsars and in spiritual by the Popes; Grotius and Henry IV. of France, in a tribunal like the Amphictyonic assembly of ancient Greece, deciding with supreme authority international differences; diplomacy an artificial combinations, and especially in the system of the balance of power. The modern doctrine of the rights of nationalities could not possibly have attained any great importance till the present century—in the first place because it is only after the wide diffusion of education that the national sentiment acquires the necessary strength, concentration, and intelligence, and in the next place because the influence of the selfish side of human nature was hostile to it. The con ceptions that the interests of adjoining nations are diametrically opposed, that wealth can only be gamed by displacement, and that conquest is therefore the chief path to progress, were long universal; but during the last century political economy has been steadily subverting them, and has already effected so much that it scarcely seems unreasonable to conclude that the time will come when a policy of territorial aggrandisement will be impossible. At the same time the extension of free-trade has undoubtedly a tendency to effect the disintegration of great heterogeneous empires by destroying the peculiar advantages of colonies and of conquered territory; while railways and increasing knowledge weaken national antipathies and facilitate the political agglomeration of communities with a common race, language, and geographical position. The result of all this is that motives of self-interest do not oppose themselves as powerfully as of old to the recognition of territorial limits defined by the wishes of the people. And this is peculiarly important, because not only does interest, as distinguished from passion, gain a greater empire with advancing civilisation, but passion itself is mainly guided by its power. If, indeed, we examine only the proximate causes of European wars, they present the aspect of a perfect chaos, and the immense majority might be ascribed to isolated causes or to passing ebullitions of national jealousy. But if we examine more closely. we find that a deepseated aversion produced by general causes nad long preceded and prepared the explosion. The great majority of wars during the last 1,000 years may be classified under three heads—wars produced by opposition of religious belief, wars resulting from erroneous economical notions either concerning the balance of trade or the material advantages of conquest, and wars resulting from the collision of the two hostile doctrines of the Divine right of kings and the rights of nations. In the first instance knowledge has gained a decisive, and in the second almost a decisive, victory. Whether it will ever render equally impossible political combinations that outrage national sentiment is one of the great problems of the future. This much at least is certain, that the progress of the movement has profoundly and irrevocably impaired the force of treaties and of diplomatic arrangements as the regulating principles of Europe.
But whatever may be thought on these subjects, it is at least certain that the movement we have traced has become a great moral influence in Europe, and, like many others, exhibits a striking synthesis of the distinctive elements of two different civilisations. The spirit of patriotism has under its influence assumed a position scarcely less prominent than in antiquity, while at the same time, by a transformation to which almost all the influences of modern society have concurred, it has lost its old exclusiveness without altogether losing its identity, and has assimilated with a sentiment of universal fraternity. The sympathy between great bodies of men was never so strong, the stream of enthusiasm never flowed in so broad a current as at present; and in the democratic union of nations we find the last and highest expression of the Christian ideal of the brotherhood of mankind.
Nor is it simply in the international aspect of democracy that we trace this influence; it is found no less clearly in the changes that have been introduced into internal legislation and social life. The political merits of democracy I do not now discuss, but no one at least can question the extent to which legislation has of late years been modified in favour of the lower classes, the sympathy and even deference that has been shown to their wants, the rapid obliteration of the lines of class divisions, and the ever increasing tendency to amalgamation based upon political equality and upon enlarged sympathy.
It is thus that amid the transformation or dissolution of intellectual dogmas the great moral principles of Christianity continually reappear, acquiring new power in the lapse of ages, and influencing the type of each succeeding civilisation.
It is worthy of notice, that the first development of sculpture, which in almost all other nations was religious, in Rome appears to have been patriotic—the objects of representation being not the gods, but the true national ideals, the heroes of Rome. (See O. Muller, Manuel d'Archéologie, vol. i pp. 251, 252.)
It was confirmed as part of the general law of the Church by Alexander III. in 1179. See Ducellier, Hist. des Classes Laborieuses en Frances, pp. 87–89, 127, 128.
Mably Observatiors sur l'Historic de France, liv. iv. c. v.
Avis aux Refujiez, p. 56 (ed. 1692).
E. g. the recent invasion of Morocco by the Spaniards. On the religions character Louis XIV. tried to give the invasion of Holland, see Michelet, Louis XIV.
The relations of the Inquisition and the civil power have been admirably sketched by Sarpi in a short work called Discorso dell’ Offizis dell Inquisizione, which I have closely followed.
Sarpi, pp. 48–57 (ed. 1639).
This curious episode has been lately investigated by M. Mignet in an interesting work called Antonio Perez. One of the accusations brought against Perez was, that he had in a moment of passion exclaimed, that’ if God the Father had ventured to say to him what the King had said, he would have cut his nose off,’ which the Inquisitors said ‘partook of the heresy of the Anthro pomorphites and of the Vaudois, who maintain that the Father has bodily parts.’
Paramo, De Origine Inquisitionis, pp. 224–226. This was perhaps one cause of the decline of the Spanish navy.
The Inquisition was not, it is true, organised till after his death, but St. Dominick was the chief reviver of persecution. His Order represented the principle, and the Inquisition was, almos as a matter of course, placed mainly in its hands.
The following passage from Sarpi is very instructive:—‘Altre volte lisanti Vescovi niuna cosa piu predicavano e raccommandavano a prencipi che la cura della religione. Di niuna cosa piu li ammonivano e modestamente reprendevano che del trascurarla: ed adesso niuna cosa piu se predica e persude al prencipe, se non ch’ a lui non s’ aspetta la cura delle cose divine, con lutta che del contrario la scrittura sacra sia piena di luoghi dove la religione è raccommandata alla protezione del prencipe della Maestà Divina.’ (Pp. 89, 90.)
See, for example, the full discussion of the matter in Carena, De Officio S. Inquisitionis (Lugduni, 1649), pp. 135–161. Three popes—Paul IV., Pius, IV., and Gregory XV.—found it necessary to issue bulls on the subject, a fact which will surprise no one who has glanced over the pages of Sanchez or Dens.
This appears sufficiently from the seasons in which executions took place, and from all the descriptions of them. I may notice, however, that there is in existence one very remarkable contemporary painting of the scene. It represents the execution, or rather the procession to the stake, of a number of Jews and Jewesses who were burnt in 1680 at Madrid, during the fétes that followed the marriage of Charles II., and before the king, his bride, the court, and clergy of Madrid. The great square was arranged like a theatre, and thronged with ladies in court dress; the king sat on an elevated platform surrounded by the chief members of the aristocracy, and Bishop Valdares, the Inquisitor-General, presided over the scene. The painter of this very remarkable picture (which is in the gallery of Madrid) was Francesco Rizzi, who died in 1685. He has directed the sympathies of the spectator against the Jews by the usual plan of exaggerating the Jewish nose—a device which is common to all early painters except Juanes, who, in his pictures of New Testament scenes, honestly gives this peculiarity of feature to the good as well as the bad characters, and who, as an impartial distributor of noses, is deserving of the very highest respect. Llorente has noticed this auto da fé, but not the picture. (Hist. de l'Inquisition, tom. iii. pp. 3, 4.)
Sarpi, p. 60. Gregory IX. made the admission of the Inquisition an mdispensable condition of his alliances with the free towns. A monk called Friar John, of Vicenza, seems to have been the most successful in promoting the institution in Italy. He pronounced himself the apostle not of persecution, but of peace, reconciled many enemies, and burnt sixty Cathari on a single occasion in the great square of Verona. (Sismondi, Hist de la Liberté, tom. i. pp. 108, 109.)
Sarpi, p. 80. Llorente, Hist. de la Inquistion, tom ii. p. 272. This tendency of the Italian mind accounts for the small amount of blood shed at Rome by the Inquisition. I cannot, indeed, remember more than four instances of men having been burnt alive there—the pantheistic philosopher Bruno: a brother of Du Chesne, the historian of the persecutions in the Netherlands; a heretic who is spoken of by Scaliger; and the famous Arnold of Brescia, who was burnt on the pretext of ‘political heresies.’
Julian did not, as is sometimes said, forbid the Christians studying the classic writings, but he prohibited them from teaching them on the ground that it was absurd for those who despised and repudiated the ancient gods to expound the records of their acts. See his Epistle to Jamblichus.
Sarpi, pp. 192, 193. Milton gives a slight sketch of the history of censorships in his Areopagtica.
Giannone, Ist. di Napoli.
Sleidan, liv. ii.
For a clear view of the successive stages of the secularising movement in France, see the memorial on the subject drawn up by the Abbé Lacordaire, and reproduced by Lamennais. (Affaires de Rome, pp. 37–89.)
I may here notice that an Irishman and an ecclesiastic—Bishop Berkeley—was, as far as I know, the first Protestant who suggested the admission of Catholics into a Protestant university. He proposed that they should be admitted into that of Dublin without being compelled to attend chapel or any divinity lectures; and he observed that the Jesuits, in their colleges in Paris, ha I acted in this manner towards Protestants. (Querist, No. 291, published in 1735.) As early as 1725 a considerable amount of controversy took place on the subject of toleration in Ireland, occasioned by a sermon preached before the Irish Parliament by a clergyman named Synge, in which he advocated as a Christian duty the most complete toleration of the Catholics, and enunciated the principles of religious liberty with the strongest emphasis. The Parliament ordered the sermon to be published. It was answered by a writer named Radcliffe, and defended by a writer named Weaver. Synge himself rejoined. This whole controversy, which is utterly forgotten—buried in the great chaos of Irish pamphlets, and perhaps read of late years by no human being except the present writer—is well worthy of the attention of those who study the course of public opinion in Ireland. Perhaps the most eloquent defence of toleration written in English during the last century, was the answer of the Irish priest O'Leary to Wesley's Defence of the Penal Laws; but then O'Leary was defending his own cause.
I have examined all this more fully in The Leaders of Public Opinion is Ireland.
See, on this subject, a striking letter by Southey, in Blanco White's Life, vol. i. p. 310.
Joyce, Hist. of English Convocations, p. 449.
Buckle, Hist of Civ., vol. i. pp. 380, 381.
This has been very clearly noticed in one of the ablest modern books in defence of the Tory theory. ‘At the point where Protestantism becomes vicious, where it receives the first tinge of latitudinarianism, and begins to join hands with infidelity by superseding the belief of an objective truth in religion, necessary for salvation; at that very spot it likewise assumes an aspect of hostility to the union of Church and State.’ (Gladstone, on Church and State, p. 188.)
The evidence of the secularisation of politics furnished by the position of what is called ‘the religious press,’ is not confined to England and France. The following very remarkably passage was written by a most competent server in 1858, when Austria seemed the centre of religious despotism: ‘Tous les intérêts les plus chétifs ont des nombreux organes dans la presse périodique et font tous de bonnes affaires. La religion, le premier et le plus grand de tous les intérêts, n'en a qu'un nombre presque imperceptible et qui a bien de la peine à vivre. Dans la Catholique Autriche sur 135 journaux il n'y a qu'um seul consacré aux intérêts du Christianisme, et il laisse beaucoup à désirer sousle rapport de l'orthodoxie…. La vérité est que décidément l'opinion publique ainsi que l'intérêt publique ont cessé d'être Chrétiens en Europe.’ (Ventura, Le Pouvoir Chrétien Politique, p. 139.)
See Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis, lib. i. cap. 4; Taylor, Ductor Dubtantium, lib. iii. cap. 3, and also the list of authorities cited by Gregory XVL in his bull to the Bishops of Poland, ‘concerning the maxims of the Catholic Church on submission to the civil power’; Lamennais, Affaircs de Rome, pp 308–317. But perhaps the fullest exposition of the Patristic sentiments on the subject is in a very able book called Sacro-Sancta Regum Majestas, published at Oxford at the beginning of the Great Rebellion.
Striking instances of this are given by Grotius, De Jure, lib. i. c. iv. § 7.
This has been maintained among others by Milton and Gronovius among the l'rotestants, and by Bellarmine and (m more modern times) by Bianchi among the Catholics. See Bianchi, Traité de la Puissance Ecclésiastique (trad. Peltier, Paris, 1857), tom. i. pp. 639–642.
This appears to have been a favourite argument of the French Prosestants: Avis aux Refugiez sur ‘eur prochain Retour en France, p. 43. To these the Gallican Catholics replied that Julian was dead when the invectives were delivered. Hilary, however, inveighed vehemently against the Arian Emperor Constantius, in the lifetime of the latter; and Bianchi, in a very ingenious fashion, argues from this that Constantius must have been virtually deposed on account of his heresy, for respect to lawful sovereigns is among the plainest duties; and as St. Hilary called Constantius ‘a precursor of Antichrist,’ ‘a rascal,’ and ‘an object of malediction,’ &c., &c., it may be inferred that he did not regard him as his lawful sovereign. (Puissance Eccl., tom, i pp. 651, 652.)
A clear secular view of the subject is given by Mr Hallam, in the chapter on the ‘Increase of Ecclesiastical Authority,’ in his Hist. of the Middle Ages. It has also been examined very fully by Bossuet, from a Gallican point of view, in his Defence of the Articles of the Gallican Church, and from an Ultramontane point of view by Bianchi, On Ecclesiastical Power. This last book, which is a work of exceedingly extensive learning, but of undisguised and indeed dishonest partiality, was published originally in Italian in 1745, and directed especially against the opinions of Giannone. The French translation was made in 1857, and consists of two (in every sense of the word) most ponderous volumes. It is now the great standard work of the Ultramontane party.
As one of the leading supporters of the Papal party put it with amusing coolness: ‘Certe licet Paulus dixerit “omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit” nunquam addidit, etiam potestatibus excommunicatis vel deprivatis a papa.’ (Suarez, De Fide, lib. vi. cap. 4.)
Bianchi, Puissance Ecclésiastique, tom. i. pp. 550–571. Louis le Débou naire seems to have been deposed in this way.
‘Principibus sæcularibus in tantum homo obedire tenetur in quantum ordo justitiæ requirit. Et ideo si non habeant justum principatum sed usurpatum vel si injusta præcipiant, non tenentur eis subditi obedire, nisi forte per accidens propter vitandum scandalum vel periculum.’ (Summa, Pars II. Quæst. civ. art. 6.)
Bossuet simply remarks that for some centuries after St. Thomas the schoolmen seem to have been nearly unanimous on this point, but that it is manifest that they were mistaken! (See Bianchi, tom. i. pp. 135, 136.) The writer among the schoolmen who was most favourable to liberty was the Englishman William of Ockham. (Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity, vol vi. pp. 470–474.)
Suarez, De, Fide, lib. iii. cap. 2; Bianchi, ch. i. These theologians of course endeavour to trace back their distinction to the origin of Christianity, but its formal definition and systematic enforcement are due mainly to the schoolmen.
The political influence of the Italian republics upon English public opinion was very powerful in the seventeenth century, when the habit of travelling became general among the upper class of Englishmen, and when a large proportion of the highest intellects acquired in Italy a knowledge of the Italian writers on government, and an admiration for the Italian constitutions, and especially for that of Venice. The highest representative of this action of the Italian upon the English intellect was Harrington. His Oceana, though published under the Commonwealth and dedicated to Cromwell, was altogether uninfluenced by the inspiration of Puritanism; and it was only by the intercession of Cromwell's favourite daughter, Lady Claypole, that its publication was permitted. (Toland, Life of Harrington.) It is remarkable that while Harrington's writings were avowedly based in a very great degree upon those of Italians, they also represent more faithfully than any others of the seven teenth century what are regarded as the distinctive merits of English liberty. That a good government is an organism, not a mechanism—in other words, that it must grow naturally out of the condition of society, and cannot be imposed by theorists—that representative assemblies with full powers are the sole efficient guardians of liberty—that liberty of conscience must be allied with political liberty—that a certain balance should be preserved between the different powers of the State, and that property produces empire, are among the main propositions on which Harrington insists; and most of them are even now the main points of difference between English liberty and that which emanates from a French source. Harrington was also a warm advocate of the ballot. He was answered by Ferne, Bishop of Chester, in a book called Pian-Piano; by Matthew Wren, son of the Bishop of Ely; and in the Holy Commonwealth of Baxter.
Suarez, De Fide, lib. iii. cap. 2. This book of Suarez was written in reply to one by James I. of England.
He savs that ‘Potestatem hanc deponendi regem esse posse vel in ipsa republica vel in Summo Pontifice, diverso tamen modo. Nam in republica solum per modum defensionis necessariæ ad conservationem suam, … tum ex vi juris naturalis quo licet vim vi repellere, tum quia semper hic casus ad propriam reipublicæ conservationem necessarius, intelligitur exceptus in primo illo fœdere quo respublica potestatem suam in regem transtulit…. At vero in Summo Pontifice est hæc potestas tanquam in superiori habents jurisdictionem ad corripiendum reges’ (De Fide, lib. vi. cap. iv.)
‘Ergo quando respublica juste potest regem deponere, recte faciunt ministri ejus regem cogendo vel interficiendo si sit necesse.’ (Ibid.) Suarez adds, however, that before pronouncing a sentence of deposition against the sovereign, it is at least advisable and becoming (though not absolutely necessary) for the nation to apply to the Pope for his sanction. This notion has been developed at length by De Maistre, Le Pape.
Statim per hæresim rex ipso facto privatur aliquo modo domimo et proprietate sui regni, quia vel confiscatum manet vel ad legitimum successoren Oatholicum ipso jure transit, et nihilominus non potest statim regno privari, sed juste illud possidet et administrat donec per sententiam saltem declars toriam criminie condemnetur.’ (Lib. vi. cap iv.)
Bianchi has collected a striking chain of passages in defence of this proposition (tom. i. pp. 145–147).
‘Si Papa regem deponat, b illis tantum poterit expelli vel interfici quibus lpse id commiserit.’ (De Fide, lib. vi. c. iv.)
It is signed by Stephanus Hojeda, Visitor of the Jesuits in the province of Toledo.
De Rege a Regis Institutione, pp. 55–65. (1st ed.)
De Rege et Regis Institutione, p. 62.
Ibid. lib. i. ch. vi. ‘An tyrannum opprimere fas sit?’
P. 69. Mr. Hallam observes that the words ‘æternum Galliæ decus’ were omitted in the later editions, which, however, in other respects scarcely diflered from the first. (Hist. of Lit.)
‘Certe a republica unde ortum habet regia potestas, rebus exigentibus Regem in jus vocari posse et si sanitatem respuat principatu spoliari. Neque ita in principem jura potestatis transtulit ut non sibi majorem reservarit potestatem…. Populis volentibus tributa nova imperantur, leges constituuntur; et quod est amplius populi sacramento jura imperandi quanivis hæreditaria successori confirmantur’ (pp. 72, 73). Very remarkable words to have been written by a Spaniard and a priest nearly a century before Locke.
‘Et est communis sensus quasi quædam naturae vox mentibus nostris Irdita, auribus insonans lex, qua a turpi honestum secernimus.’ (p. 74.)
‘In eo consentire tum thilosophos tum theologos video eum principem qui vi et armis rempublicam occupavit nullo præterea jure, nullo publico civiuncor sensu, perimi a quocumque, vita et principatu spoliari posse.’ (pp. 74, 75.) A few lines lower comes the eulogy of Ehud. The ‘consenting theologians’ are not cited—and, indeed, Mariana scarcely ever quotes an ecclesiastical authority—but the reader may find a great many given in Suarez (De File, lib. vi. cap. iv.). St. Thomas justified Ehud on this general ground, and in this point seems to have differed little or not at all from Mariana.
‘Si medicinam respuat princeps, neque spes ulla sanitatis relinquatur, sententia pronunciata licebit reipublicæ ejus imperium detrectare primum, et quoniam bellum necessario concitabitur ejus defendendi consilia explicare…. Et si res feret neque aliter se respublica tueri possit, eodem defensionis jure as vero potiore auctoritate et propria, principem publicum hostem declaratum ferro perimere. Eademque facultas est cuicumque privato, qui spe imppunitatis abjecta, neglecta salute, in conatum juvandi rempublicam ingredi voluerit.’ (p. 76.)
Pp. 77, 78.
‘Nos tamen non quid facturi sint homines sed quid per naturæ leges concessum sit despicimus…. Et est naturæ vox corumunis hominum sensus vituperantium si quis in alios quantumvis hostes veneno grassetur.’ (pp 83–85.) It is said that Mariana, in his History, has treated kings with considerable deference; but his anti-monarchical opinions appear very strongly in a short work called ‘Discourse on the Defects of the Government of the Jesuits,’ which contains—what is extremely rare in the writings of the members of the order—a bitter attack on the general, and a fierce denunciation of the despotic principles on which the society is constituted. The following (which I quote from a French translation of 1625) is very characteristic:—‘Selon mon opinion la monarchie nous met par terre, non pour estre monarchie ains pour n'estre bien tempérée. C'est un furieux sanglier qui ravage tout par où il passe, et si on ne l'arreste tout court, nous ne devons espérer de repos.’ (ch. x.)
He is called so in, I think, every history of the occurrence I have met with; but a writer in the Journal des Sçavins of 1748 maintains (pp. 994– 996) that there is some doubt upon the point. It is worthy of remark that the duke who instigated the murder, and probably inspired the apology, died himself by the hand of an assassin. (Van Bruyssel, Hist. du Commerce Belge, tom. ii. pp. 48, 49.)
Mariana rejects this decree without hesitation, on Ultramontane principles, as not having been confirmed by the Pope (De Rege, p. 79). Suarez seems to think it binding, but argues (De Fide, lib. vi. c. 4) that it applies only to tyrants in regimine, because the Council condemns the opinion that ‘subjects’ may slay a tyrant, and a tyrant in titulo has, properly speaking, no ‘subjects.’
There is a full notice of this play in Charles, La Comédie en France au Seizième Siècle.
Sa was a Portuguese—the other two were Spaniards. The prominence this doctrine acquired in Spain in the reign of Philip II. is probably in part lue to the coutest of Spain with Elizabeth, who was regarded as a tyrant both in titulo and in regimine, and consequently naturally marked out for assassination. Mariana's book was probably written under Philip II., for the royal privilege to print it was granted only three months after the death of that king.
‘Adverte duplicem esse tyrannum unum potestate et dominio qui non habet titulum verum, sed tyrannice occupat rempublicain: et hunc licet occi dere, dum aliter non potest liberari respublica et dum spes est libertatis probabilis; aliter non licet privato cuilibet occidere Alterum administrationi qui habet quidem verum titulum sed tyrannice tractat subditos, et hunc non licet absque publica auctoritate occidere.’ (Summa Casuum Conscientiœ, lib. v. c. vi. p. 653.)
‘Tyrannice gubernans juste acquisitum dominium non potest spoliari sine publico judicio; lata vero sententia potest quisque fieri executor: potest autem deponi a populo etiam qui juravit ei obedientiam perpetuam si monitus non vult corrigi. At occupantem tyrannice potestatem quisque de populo potest occidere si aliud non sit remedium est enim publicus hostis.’ (Aphorism. Con fessariorum, verb. Tyrannus.)
‘Tyrannum primo modo nefas est privatis interficere; possit tamen respublica quoad capita convenire, eique resistere, lataque sententia deponere ab administratione atque illum depositum punire. Secundo modo tyrannum quivis de republica potest licite eum interficere.’ (Comment. Pars IV. tract. iii disp. 6.)
‘Tyrannum qui per vim et illegitime principatum occupavit, si tyrannis aliter tolli non possit, occidere cuilibet licitum sit.’ (De Jure et Officiis bellicis, lib. i.)
In a book called Tyrannicidium, seu Scitum Catholicorum de Tyranni Internecione. This book (which was written in reply to a Calvinistic attack) contains a great deal of information about the early literature of tyrannicide. It bears the approbation of Busæus, the head of the Jesuits in Northern Germany.
De Thou, liv. xcvi. The Pope was Sixtus V.
Lamennais, Affaires de Rome. Since the days of Lamennais the names of Ravignan and Félix have done much to rescue the order from the reproach.
See Suarez, De Fide, lib. vi. cap. iv.
On the inevitable tendency of the doctrine of deposition to tyrannicide there are some good remarks in Bossuet, Defensio, lib. i. c. 3. The doctrine of tyrannicide among the Jesuits seems to have died away after Suarez: the political condition of Europe no longer made it of great service to the Church, and the controversies of Jansenism diverted the energy of the Jesuits into new channels. Pascal, in his Provincial Letters, barely touches this aspect of the Jesuit teaching.
See on the one side Bianchi, Puissance Souveraine, and on the other the Defensio of Bossuet.
According to Bianchi, the first Catholic who maintained that the Pope had no power over the temporal possessions of princes who fell into heresy was an Englishman of the time of James I.—William Barclay, the father of the author of the Argenis. W. Barclay wrote against and was answered by Bellarmine. (Bianchi, tom. ii. pp. 768, 769)
Bianchi, tom. i. pp. 96–104.
Defensio, lib. i. c. 15, 16. Avertissements sur les Lettres de M. Jurieu, no. 5.
Hallam. Hist. of Lit
Barrington On the Statutes, p 280.
See, however, some rather strong passages quoted by Kellerus, Tyrannecidium, pp. 73, 74.
See Buckle's Hist, of Scottish Civilisation.
‘And therfor I fear not to affirm that it had bene the dutie of the nobil itie, judges, rulers, and people of England, not only to have resisted and again standed Marie, that Jesabel whome they call their queen, but also to have punished her to the death, with all the sort of her idolatrous preestes, together with all such as should have assisted her what tyme that shee and they openly began to suppresse Christes Evangil, to shed the blood of the saincts of God, and to erect that most devillish idolatrie, the Papistical abominations.’ (Knox, Appellation.)
As Buchanan tersely puts it, ‘Rex, lex loquens; lex, rex mutus.’
Camden, Annal., pars ii. (ad ann. 1571).
It is worthy of remark, as showing their persistence, that probably the ablest modern advocate of what may be termed the Biblical aspect of liberty was Robert Hall.
As Macaulay very truly and very eloquently wrote, ‘The Church of England continued to be for more than 150 years the servile handmaid of monarchy, the steady enemy of public liberty. The divine right of kings and the duty of passively obeying all their commands were her favourite tenets. She held those tenets firmly through times of oppression, persecution, and licentiousness, while law was trampled down, while judgment was perverted, while the people were eaten as though they were bread. Once, and but once—for a moment, and but for a moment—when her own dignity and property were touched, she forgot to practise the submission she had taught.’ (Essays, vol. i. p. 60, ed. 1861.) Hallam, however, has disinterred a curious book called A Short Treatise of Politique Power, published by Poynet, Protestant Bishop of Winchester, in 1558, advocating the most seditious doctrines, and among others tyrannicide. But the explanation is simple: Poynet wrote during the persecution of Mary. (Hist. of Lit., vol. ii. pp. 37–40.)
‘Eternal damnation is prepared for all impenitent rebels in hell with Satan the first founder of rebellion.’ ‘Heaven is the place of good obedient subjects, and hell the prison and dungeon of rebels against God and their prince. (Homily on Wilful Rebellion.)
Homilies or Wilful Rebellion and on Obedience. The same doctrines were laid down in the Canons of Convocation in 1606, and by the University of Oxford in 1622, when censuring a preacher named Knight, who had said that subjects oppressed on account of religion might sometimes resist. (Hal lam, Const. Hist., vol. i. p. 415.)
Ductor Dubitantium, lib. iii. cap. iii. Ussher, who was perhaps still more competent than Taylor to express the sentiments of the Fathers, was at least equally emphatic. See Elrington's Life of Ussher, vol. i. p. 239. Berkeley made an ingenious attempt to show that passive obedience was ordained by the law of nature: see his Discourse on Passive Obedience.
In the clause that it was not lawful ‘on any pretence whatever to take our arms against the king.’ This clause was expunged at the Revolution (Allen's Hist. of Royal Prerogative in England, p. 89). Magna Charta had declared that kings who violated it might be resisted.
This decree is given in full in Wodrow's Hist. of Church of Scotland, vol. iii. p. 506. See on this whole subject, Hallam, Const. Hist., vol ii. pp. 459–465 (ed. 1854).
Eccl. Pol., lib. i. sec. 10.
‘The lawful power of making laws to command whole political societies of men belonging so properly unto the same entire societies, that for any prince or potentate, of what kind soever, upon earth to exercise the same of himself and not by express commission immediately and personally received from God, or else from authority derived at the first from their consent upon whose persons they impose laws, it is no better than mere tyranny. Laws they are not therefore which public approbation hath not made so.’ (Eccl Pol., lib. sec. 10.)
Eccl. Pol., b. viii. ch. ii. At a later period Burnet threw himself into the liberal movement as cordially as Locke, but he was almost isolated in the Church.
This change is clearly shown in Sidney.
Bossuet maintained this, remarking that ‘Abimelech,’ which was a name originally common to all the kings of Palestine, signifies, ‘My father king.’ (Defensio, lib. i. c. 3.) In England the patriarchal theory of government seems to have become especially popular under James I (see Hallam's Hist of Lit, vol. iii. p. 439, ed. 1854), but there are many traces of it at an earlier period. Thus in the Institution of a Christian Man (1537), and in The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man (1543), passive obedience is unequivocally enforced as a deduction from the Fifth Commandment. ‘I die,’ said Lord Capel on the scaffold, in 1649, ‘for keeping the Fifth Commandment, given by God himself, and written with His own finger. It commands obedience to parents; and all divines, differ as they will on other points, agree in this, and acknowledge that it includes the magistrate’ (Marsden, History of the Later Puritans, from 1642 to 1662, p. 320). Milton, on the other hand, said: ‘Pater et rex diversissima sunt. Pater nos genuit; at non rex nos sed nos regem creavimus. Patrem natura dedit populo, regem ipse populus dedit sibi; non ergo propter regem populus, sed propter populum rex est.’ (Defensio Pop. Ang., cap. 1.)
As Locke says, ‘I should not speak so plainly of a gentleman long since past answering (Sir R. Filmer), had not the pulpit of late years publicly owned his doctrine, and made it the current divinity of the times.’ (Preface to Treatise on Government.)
‘The end of government being the good of the community, whatever alterations are made in it tending to that end cannot be an encroachment upon anybody, since nobody in government can have any right tending to any other end.’ (On Government, c. xiv.)
Ibid., c. xviii.
‘If any one shall claim a power to lay or levy taxes on the people without their consent, he thereby invades the fundamental law of property, and subverts the end of government.’ (Ibid., ch. xi.)
‘The legislature cannot transfer the power of making laws, for, it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others.’ (Ibid.) This doctrine was very justly regarded by Grattan and Plunket as decisive against the constitutional character of the Act of Union between England and Ireland.
The passages from Scripture which the Anglican divines cited as their political rules would seem to imply that allegiance should always be rendered to the sovereign de facto. This doctrine, however, was at the Revolution generally and indignantly repudiated by the clergy, who maintained that while King James held his court at St. Germains he alone was entitled to their allegiance. However, after the Revolution, Sancroft published a work called Bishop Overall's Convocation Book, which had been approved by both Houses of Convocation at the beginning of the reign of James I. This work (which had not before been published) asserted in the strongest terms the doctrine of passive obedience, based it on the patriarchal theory of government, and declared that in case of a change of government being effected by unrighteous means, allegiance should be transferred to the new power when it was ‘thoroughly settled.’ Thereupon Sherlock declared that he considered himself bound by the voice of the Church to take the oaths of allegiance to the government of William (which, to the world at large, seemed very far indeed from ‘thoroughly settled’), and he accordingly accepted the deanery of St. Paul's. The explosion that followed is admirably described by Macaulay (ch. xvii.). It is evident that the doubt hanging over this part of the theory of the Anglican divines, was favourable to liberty—in the first place by weakening the logical force of that theory, and in the second place by giving those who shrunk from absolutely rejecting it a pretext for joining the new government.
Among the less eminent freethinkers there were, indeed, some exceptions to this tendency. Thus Tindal wrote a tract against Passive Obedience in 1694, a defence of Toleration in 1697, and a defence of a Free Press in 1698. Toland too wrote, in 1702, a somewhat remarkable book called Anglica Libera, in which he advocated very eloquently the political principles of Locke, denounced strongly the doctrine of Hobbes that a sovereign has a right to dictate the religion of his subjects, and maintained that ‘the success of the Protestant religion, politically speaking, depends on the liberty of the several States of Europe’ (p. 185). Toland also edited the Oceana, and wrote the Lives of Harrington and Milton. But the most eminent avowed English freethinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are those mentioned in the text, with the exception of Gibbon, who sat in Parliament as a Tory.
Many instances of this are collected by Bianchi (tom. i. pp. 46–84), but the fullest account I have met with is in a very clever anonymous book (writter from a strong Catholic point of view, and ascribed by some to an author named Pellison, and by others to Bayle), called Avis aux Refugiez sur leur prochain retour en France, par M. C. L. A. A. P. D. P. The condemnation of the book of Suarez was by a Synod of Tonneins, in 1614. On the other hand, on the extremely liberal views of Jurieu, who preceded both Sidney and Locke, see Michelet, Hist. de Louis XIV., pp. 431–436. The book in which Jurieu especially expressed them is his Soupirs de la France Esclave.
Avis aux Refugez, pp. 64, 65 (ed. 1692)
Michelet, Hist. de Louis XIV. (1860), p. 432.
The works of Hotman were collected in three large volumes, in 1600. After the Franco-Gallia the best known are the Brutum Fulmen, which was written on the occasion of the excommunication of the King of Navarre and the Antitribonius, which was written in opposition to the revival of Roman legislation. Joseph Scaliger said he helped in the composition of the Franco-Gallia (Scaligerana, art. Hottomannus).
Franco-Gallia, lib. i. c. 9.
Lib. i. c. 24. So Knox: ‘To promote a woman to beare rule is repugnant to nature, contumelie to God, a thing most contrarious to his reveled will and approved ordinance; and finallie it is the subversion of good order of all equitie and justice.’ (Monstrous Regiment of Women.)
Vindiciœ contra Tyrannos, p. 45 (ed. 1610).
Vindioiœ, pp. 38–39, 60.
Vindiciœ, p. 60.
‘Voyez l'horrible impudence de quoi nous pelotons les raisons divines, et combien irreligieusement nous les avons rejettées et reprises selon que la fortune nous a changez de place en ces orages publics. Cette proposition si solennelle, s'il est permis au sujet de se rebeller et armer contre son prince pour la défense de la religion, souvienne-vous en quelles bouches cette année passée l'affirmative d'icelle étoit l'arcboutant d'un parti, la négative de quel autre parti c'étoit l'arcboutant, et oyez à présent de quelle quartier vient la voix et instruction de l'une et de l'autre si les armes bruyent moms pour cetts cause que pour celle-là.’—Montaigne, Essais, liv. ii. c. 12.
This tendency of the classical writings elicited a burst of extreme indignation from Hobbes: ‘Inter rebellionis causas maximas numerari potest librorum politicorum et historicorum quos scripserunt veteres Græci et Romani lectio…. Mihi ergo monarchiis nihil videtur esse damnosius posse, quam permittere ut hujusmodi libri publice doceantur, nisi simul a magistris sapientibus quibus venenum corrigi possit remedia applicentur. Morbum hunc comparari libet cum hydrophobia,’ &c. (Leviathan, cap. xxix.)
He tried, however, to establish a distinction of his own—that a king was one who governed according to the law of nature, and a tyrant one who autraged it.
See Noodt On the Power of Sovereigns, and Gronovius On the Royal Law, both of which were translated into French by Barbeyrac—the first in 1707, and the second in 1714. They were both in the form of lectures delivered near the end of the seventeenth century before the University of Leyden, and are both, I think, rather dismal performances. Noodt was a strenuous advocate of liberty of conscience, and also one of the principal assailants of the theological superstitions about usury. Gronovius is best remembered for his Annotations of Grotius, in which he strongly repudiated the servile political maxims of that writer
See some striking remarks on this in Froude's Nemesis of Faith, pp. 160, 161.
What, for example, could be more opposed to the spirit of the modern Evangelical party, which is supposed by some to represent the Puritanism of the 17th century, than those noble lines of the great poet of the latter?—
Cibrario, Economia Politica del Medio Evo, vol. ii. p. 247 (2d ed.). This tendency was turned to ridicule by Ulrich von Hutten in a very witty but very profane adaptation of the Fables of Ovid to the Christian history (Epistolœ Obscurorum Virorum [London, 1689], pp. 103–107), and also by Rabelais.
The name was given during the life of Montaigne, who praised it. (Essais, liv. i. c. 27.) La Boétie, unfortunately, died when only in his thirty second year, and nearly all his works appear to have been posthumous They have all been republished at Paris, by Léou Fougère, in 1846.
It appeared for the first time, together with the Franco-Gallia, in a seditious book called Mémoires de l'estat de France sous Charles IX. See Les Historiettes de Tallemant des Réaux (ed. 1834), tom. 1. p. 395.
See some very good remarks on this in Chevalier, Lettrs sur l'Organisation de Travail (1848), p. 17.
On the earlier part of the history of the comparative importance of cavalry and infantry, see the very clear account in a work of the present French Emperor, Du Passé et de l'Avenir de l'Artillerie; and on the later part, and especially on the influence of Vauban, the brilliant sketch of the revolutions in the art of war in the last volume of Thiers’ Hist. de l'Empire M. Thiers has made some striking remarks on the effects of the sceptica movement of the eighteenth century upon war—disturbing the old traditions of the art, and culminating in the innovations of Napoleon. The democratic importance of the ascendency of infantry has been noticed by Condorcet, Tableau de l'Esprit humain, p. 144. Condorcet, however, has ascribed that ascendency exclusively to gunpowder. See, too, Cibrario, Economia Publics del Medio Evo, tom. i. pp. 334, 335
This has been noticed by many political economists, but by no one more ably than by Mr. Buckle.
As a distinguished Anglican divine of our own day has put it, ‘It is idle, and worse than idle, to attempt to restrict and explain away this positive command (“Resist not evil”), and the Christian Church has always upheld it in its full extent With one uniform unhesitating voice it has proclaimed the duty of passive obedience.’ (Sewell, Christian Politics, ch. x.)
I have already referred to the bull of Gregory XVI. attesting this contradiction. I may add the following admission of a writer who may be regarded as one of the principal representatives of the Ultramontane party, which has always been the most liberal in politics:—‘Quoique nous tombions d'accord que la source ou l'origine de la puissance publique réside dans la multitude, nous nions cependant que la puissance publique étant une fois transférée au prince, le peuple conserve toujours sur lui un droit de souveraineté. Nous disons, au contraire, qu'il ne lui reste plus dès lors que le devoir d'obéir, et qu'il n'existe qu'un cas où il puisse se soustraire à cette obéissance, comme en conviennent les plus ardents défenseurs de la puissance royale, savoir, celui où le prince deviendrait l'ennemi public et déclaré de tout son peuple, et où il chercherait à détruire la société civile.’ (Bianchi com. i. p. 84.)
See, for some striking evidence of these sentiments, the Discours par un Ministre Patriot sur le projet d'accorder l'état civil aux Protestants, by the Abbé de L'Enfert (Paris, 1787).
Bayle, Dict., art. Faustus Socinus, Remarque c.
La Sagesse, p. iii.
Many have ascribed the Avis aux Refugiez to Bayle. The charge, however, seems (as far as I know) destitute of external evidence, and, considering the great zeal with which Bayle threw himself into the defence of the Calvinists when they were attacked by Maimbourg, is rather improbable. Arguments of style are very untrustworthy, because a great writer always produces many imitators, and Bayle's style was by no means difficult to imitate. However, Bayle's aversion to democratic theories pervades all his works, and Hallam says the presumption is strongly in favour of his having written the Avis, while Gibbon and Mackintosh speak of it as certainly his. Voltaire, as is well known, has a far deeper stain upon his memory—a dark damning stain which all his splendid services can never efface: he applauded the partition of Poland.
This was, if I remember right, the expression of Cardinal Artonelli is one of his despatches.
The first step, according to Madame Fusil (Souvenirs d'une Actriœ, pp. 27–54), in this direction was taken by an actress named Madame Saint-Hubert, who discarded powder and took the ancient sculptures as her model; but it was the genius of Talma, warmly seconded by the antiquarians, by the revolutionists, and especially by the Girondins, that finally vanquished the prevailing prejudice. The incongruity of the old costume has, I think, been exaggerated: it was well suited to the Greeks—of Racine.
See a singularly curious essay on the history of Gardens in Vitet, Études sur l'Histoire de l'Art. Le Nôtre laid out the gardens of Versailles for Louis XIV.
As, for example, when it is contended that a people with representative government are slaves, except during the period of the elections. (Contrat Social, liv. iii. ch. xv.)