Front Page Titles (by Subject) APPENDIX. - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 7 (Economic Studies and Essays)
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APPENDIX. - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 7 (Economic Studies and Essays) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 7.
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The account of the market price given in the text, though long, and though, I trust, complete enough for its purpose, is not complete, and I should like to add to it a little. Political Economy tends to become unreal if it stands aloof from even the minutiæ of trading transactions.
First,—It is assumed in the text that the person who proposes to sell an article is possessed of it, is a “holder,” as we say in market language; but nothing can be more untrue than to imagine that this is always so in markets. Many persons perpetually sell what they do not possess, and this great change, as is natural, makes other changes. The buyer’s position is not, indeed, altered; very probably he neither cares nor knows whether the person proposing to deal with him does, or does not, possess the article; he thinks only whether the dealer will, or will not, be able to deliver it; if he gets it in time to satisfy the contract that is all which he cares for. But the seller has a new point to think of; not holding the article himself he must consider at what price he will be able to obtain it. This is by no means in all cases an easy matter. The Americans have invented a cant word for an organised mode of obstructing it. A “corner,” in their language, is a gang of persons who, having heard that some one has need of a particular article, obtain possession of the whole supply of it in the market, and will only sell it to him at an excessive price. With the great articles of consumption this attempt is futile, the supply of them is too large, and too much divided; but with articles held by few dealers in small quantities—like many securities of minor importance on the Stock Exchange—such a plan is always possible and often profitable; and a person who sells what he has not got must reckon on the risk of it. This is one considerable change from the circumstances of ordinary bargains, and another is that no one makes a sale of this sort to obtain the means of meeting a liability. In common business it often happens that a man must sell at a loss, because he has an “acceptance” to pay next day, and no other means of paying it. But selling that which you do not possess, and which you must at once buy and pay for elsewhere, is of little use in such a strait. It may bring a percentage of profit, but the corpus of the capital will not be available for the discharge of pre-existing liabilities; it will be immediately paid out as part of the transaction which brought it in.
In this case, therefore, the first condition of the formula must be modified, and the early part of it will run:—
“A bargain will be struck when the seller thinks he cannot obtain more from the buyer with whom he is dealing, or from any other;
“When he thinks he can himself obtain the article at a less price, and is willing to take the trouble and incur the risk of attempting to do so.”
And the rest will stand as in the text.
Secondly,—There is a corresponding case in which the buyer has not the money, at least not nearly the whole of it, at the time he makes the bargain. In Stock Exchange transactions this is exceedingly common. Many buyers cannot pay for the securities they purchase except by mortgaging those securities; many banks lend on them, taking a ten or a twenty per cent. margin, as it may be. In the cotton and other produce markets there are similar loans. The buyer has only a fraction of the purchase-money himself, he borrows the rest on the goods which are the subject-matter of the transaction in order to complete it. In this case, naturally, there are the two contrary peculiarities to the last; the buyer has to consider whether he thinks he will be able to borrow the money, and whether the terms on which he will borrow it are good enough to make the transaction worth his while. There is, in this case, no fear of his being “cornered,” at least not in a large money market like the English; the voluntary operations of no gang, however powerful, would ever prevent the holder of good securities from obtaining money. But the involuntary circumstances of all dealers may prevent him. In a panic there may be no money to be obtained, and he may be ruined by being unable to complete his contract. And at a less excited moment scarcity of money may easily raise the rate of interest to a point so high as to turn the profit he expects on the transaction into a loss. In consequence, the second half of the first condition must be changed into this:—
“When the buyer thinks he can borrow the requisite money, and when he is sufficiently desirous of the article to make him take the trouble and incur the risk of attempting to do so.”
Till now, we have been speaking only of what are called “legitimate” transactions—bargains, that is, which are intended to be performed, and which mostly are performed. But there is another great class of contracts which are not intended to be performed according to their terms, and which are not so performed. These are “time bargains,” of which there are some in most markets, but of which the Stock Exchange is the great seat. It is as common as anything here that a man should buy £20,000, say, “Peruvians,” for a few days only, never intending to pay for them, and never intending to take them. The seller on his side understands that they are not meant either to be delivered, or to be paid for. The real contract is different from the verbal one; it is that on the day on which the bargain, according to its terms, is to be performed—the account day as it is called—the price of the bargain is to be compared with the price of the day, and that the buyer is to receive the difference, if the price of the day is the greater, and to pay the difference if the price of the bargain—the price at which he bought—is the greater. In plain English, if the price rises between the time of the purchase and the “settlement” the buyer is to have the difference; if it falls, the seller is to have it. The bargain is, in fact, a bet disguised as a sale. Each party is to win if the event he “backs” happens, and to lose if it does not. In this case the bargain will be struck:—
“When the buyer thinks he cannot induce the seller to fix a less price;
“When he thinks this price likely to be less than the price on the future day of settlement;
“When he thinks the chance of the difference he will receive, if his anticipation is right, worth the risk of that which he must pay, if his anticipation is wrong;
“When the seller cannot induce the buyer to name a greater price, and when he thinks just the contrary as to these comparative prices and their resulting difference.”
The “bulls” are speculators of this kind, who buy; and the “bears” speculators, who sell, but the object of both is to gain the “difference”: the former being sanguine, and thinking the price will rise; and the latter being gloomy, and expecting it to fall. It curiously happens, I believe, that the common outside public are almost always “bulls”—that is, take a cheerful view; and that it is the inside, or professional operator, who expects things to go down. And, of course, the sanguine people are those who lose; the cool inside speculator lives on the folly of the outside world.
Time bargains are, more than any others, influenced by preceding bargains. When a stock is rising, many people will rush to bet that it will rise more; when it is sinking, not so many people—but still many people—will be eager to bet that it will fall further. People who wish to bet on one side or the other naturally choose the side which is at the moment winning, unless they have a reason to the contrary—and many of these speculators seldom have much reason. In consequence, attempts to rig the market are more successful in this kind of business than in any other. A league of knowing speculators, which can make the market rise a little, will be sure to be imitated by a crowd of unknowing ones, and will be able to make money at their cost.
Of course it is possible to pursue these transactions upon a sound calculation. If a man has a real reason for thinking that a stock will ultimately rise very much, he may succeed by “time bargains” in it. But those who have a sound reason for what they do, and those who gain by it, are few in comparison with those who have only fancies, and who lose.
There is, too, an obvious defect in the formula of the text. It treats “money,” meaning all kinds of purchasing power, as if they were the same. But in reality they are different. “Cash” on delivery is better than a sale on credit, or than the best bill at a long rate. The ready-money price of a thing is, in consequence, always lower than the credit price;—at least it is so when the delivery of the article is equally immediate in the two cases. On the Stock Exchange, in the “Consol” market, for example, it is occasionally said that the “ready-money” price is greater than the price for the “account” (the account days are twice a month); but this only means that the stock is very scarce, and that in consequence it is much more convenient to deliver it a few days later than at once. The payment and the delivery are in both cases identical. Wherever there is a real sale on credit the price is always higher than in a sale for cash, because the buyer loses the use of the money for a time; and the credit price is sometimes much greater because the buyer may not be a man in much repute; and therefore, the seller may be disposed to ask a high premium for placing confidence in him, and he may be obliged to pay it.
The use of the formula given in the text will, however, lead to no mistake on this ground, when we know how to construe it. A credit price can at once be reduced to a cash price as soon as we know the time for which it was given, and the degree of trust reposed.
There are also two speculative difficulties which should be cleared away. It is often said that we ought to include in the term “supply,” or whatever equivalent word we use, not merely the supply which is really in the market, but that which is coming to it—as it is phrased, the “prospective” supply, as well as the “actual”. But I think that this would be a mistake. In the first place, it would be quite contrary to the ordinary phraseology of the markets; their language always distinguishes that which is on the spot as the supply par excellence. And it is always most unfortunate in an abstract theory to use a word in one sense which those who are most concerned with, and most practically skilled in, the subject of that theory use in a different sense. The consequent puzzles are incessant and important. And in this case the language of the market defines a vital distinction. There is a great difference between that part of the supply of a commodity which can, if its owners choose, be used to make good a contract, and that part which from distance or incompleteness of growth or make, cannot in physical possibility be so used. The actual supply for the purpose of any bargain is that with which the bargain can be performed; this is what ordinary dealers would say they dealt in. The coming supply, near or distant, certain or uncertain, complete or incomplete, influences the opinions of dealers and their wishes; it makes them more or less anxious to keep or to sell the actual supply, but both in practical effect and in scientific conception the two are distinct.
It is also asked whether, when we say that “supply” influences price, we mean estimated supply or real supply. In the formula of the text, I have not used the word supply for fear of ambiguity, but have been careful to say “that I speak of the actual quantity” of the article in the market. The effect of this is very great, independently of the estimate of it, because the dealers who hold it, especially those who hold most of it, are in general somewhat anxious to be rid of it. What each man holds, and what he has to sell, is a much more vital thing to him than that which others hold; a little addition to his own stock is apt to influence him much more than a great increase to the stock in the hands of others. It is the “actual supply” which is the first force in the market, because each bit of it acts on the holder of that bit, and mostly guides him more than anything else.
Of course, however, the “estimated” supply—the notion every dealer has about the amount held by every other dealer—also influences all transactions. It acts on the mental element,—on opinion and on desire. According as it is less or more, it makes the seller less or more likely to think the article is likely to fall, and less or more anxious to dispose of it. But the estimate of one man will differ from that of another, and the effect on one will be counteracted by the effect on the other,—and we must not confound the chance results of these varying opinions with the steady desire of each dealer to dispose of his own article. In the language of the market, “supply” means real supply, and in discussions about markets, it is much the best to speak in the same way.
After quoting Mr. Grote’s judgment that Mill was unrivalled in the power to compare opposite theories of the same general facts, Mr. Bagehot, in the article we are quoting from, which appeared in the Economist newspaper on the 17th May, 1873, thus proceeds: “In Political Economy there was an eminent field for John Stuart Mill’s peculiar powers of comparison. There is little which is absolutely original in his great work; and much of that little is not, we think, of the highest value. The subject had been discussed in detail by several minds of great acuteness and originality, but no writer before Mill had ever surveyed it as a whole with anything like equal ability; no one had shown with the same fulness the relation which the different parts of the science bore to each other; still less had any one so well explained the relation of this science to other sciences, and to knowledge in general. Since Mill wrote, there is no excuse for a Political Economist if his teaching is narrow-minded or pedantic; though, perhaps, from the isolated state of the science, there may have been some before. Mill had another power, which was almost of as much use to him for his special occupations, as his power of writing, he was a most acute and discerning reader. The world hardly gave him credit for this gift before the publication of his book on Sir William Hamilton. But those who have read that book will understand what Mr. Grote means when, in his essay on Mill in the Westminster Review, he speaks of Mill’s ‘unrivalled microscope which detects the minutest breach or incoherence in the tissue of his philosophical reasoning’. And Mill used this great faculty both good-naturedly and conscientiously—he never gave heedless pain to any writer, and never distorted any one’s meaning.
“In Political Economy the writer of these lines has long been in the habit of calling himself the last man of the ante-Mill period. He was just old enough to have acquired a certain knowledge of Ricardo and the other principal writers on Political Economy, before Mill’s work was published; and the effect of it has certainly been most remarkable. All students since, begin with Mill and go back to all previous writers fresh from the study of him. They see the whole subject with Mill’s eyes. They see in Ricardo and Adam Smith what he told them to see, and it is not easy to induce them to see anything else. Whether it has been altogether good for Political Economy that a single writer should have so monarchical an influence, may be argued, but no testimony can be greater to the ability of that writer and his pre-eminence over his contemporaries.”
MATTHEW ARNOLD ON THE LONDON UNIVERSITY.
Mr. Arnold is not only a very interesting writer, but a very bold writer. He has the courage to despise points of form, and to disregard the unconscious expectations which the title of a book naturally begets. In an official Report, presented to the School Commissioners upon “Schools and Universities on the Continent,” no one would have expected to find an able criticism of the “London University”. But whether in strictness this criticism be quite in place or not, everyone attached to that University will be most glad to have it, as it is one of the acutest which has ever appeared, and the most favourable perhaps that an Oxford man, and attached to Oxford, has ever written. Oxford breeds people who hate her, and these have been favourable to London; but Mr. Arnold loves Oxford, and when he praises a University utterly unlike it, it is an effect of conviction, not a freak of ill-temper. Yet I cannot say that I think Mr. Arnold understands the conditions under which the University of London acts; as is natural, he knows simply nothing of her internal history; he is altogether blind to the latent causes which stop her action. If I were to write on Oxford I should doubtless use what the great Oxford teacher calls “unreal words”—words which would show I had not in my mind a vivid image of the facts; I should not like to say so much of Mr. Arnold—he has studied the University of London far too well; still there are shades and touches which he does not know.
Mr. Arnold is bolder, too, than a mere critic ever can be; he proposes or imagines, at least, a scheme of reform. He sketches a great future of what the University of London might be, and seems half to wonder that those who rule it do not at once create that future. I have but a few pages before me, but I should like shortly to bring out—what is the great truth which Mr. Arnold so finely inculcates, and, on the other hand, what are the impediments to instant action which those who know the ground and have tried to move where he directs feel at every step.
The charm of Mr. Arnold’s language is so exquisite that it is always painful to translate his meaning into other words, and happily the following passage puts his conception of the University and his plan for it very plainly. After speaking of the defects of Oxford and Cambridge, after calling them hauts lycées (“finishing schools for the upper classes,” as poor Clough used to put it), he then continues:—
“The University of London labours under a yet graver defect as an organ of scientific or superior instruction. It is a mere collegium, or board, of examiners. It gives no instruction at all, but it examines in the different lines of study, and gives degrees in them. It has real University examinations, which Oxford and Cambridge have not; and these examinations are conducted by an independent board, and not by college tutors. This is excellent; but nevertheless it falls immensely short of what is needed. The idea of a University is, as I have already said, that of an institution not only offering to young men facilities for graduating in that line of study to which their aptitudes direct them, but offering to them, also, facilities for following that line of study systematically, under first-rate instruction. This second function is of incalculable importance; of far greater importance, even, than the first. It is impossible to overvalue the importance to a young man of being brought in contact with a first-rate teacher of his matter of study, and of getting from him a clear notion of what the systematic study of it means. Such instruction is so far from being yet organised in this country, that it even requires a gifted student to feel the want of it; and such a student must go to Paris, or Heidelberg, or Berlin, because England cannot give him what he wants. Some do go; an admirable English mathematician who did not, told me that he should never recover the loss of the two years which after his degree he wasted without fit instruction at an English University, when he ought to have been under superior instruction, for which the present University course in England makes no provision. I dare say he will recover it, for a man of genius counts no worthy effort too hard; but who can estimate the loss to the mental training and intellectual habits of the country, from an absence—so complete that it needs genius to be sensible of it, and costs genius an effort to repair it—of all regular public provision for the scientific study and teaching of any branch of knowledge?”
And again, a little further on:—“The University of London should be re-cast and faculties formed in connection with it, in order to give some public voice and place to superior instruction in the richest capital of the world; and for this purpose the strangely devised and anomalous organisations of King’s College and University College should be turned to account, and co-ordered, as the French say, with the University of London. Contributions from Oxford and Cambridge, and new appointments, might supply what was wanting to fill the faculties, which in London, the capital of the country, should, as at Paris or Berlin, be very strong. London would then really have, what it has not at present, a University.” No one can deny that this is a noble conception; if half of it only could be once accomplished, the University of London would be not only one of the first, but by far the first University in Great Britain. By virtue of its position it could effect more, and secure that what it did should be seen better than any other. London, skilfully picked, would yield a set of professors that no English city would rival; and their teaching would fall on an audience that cannot be equalled in the whole world for number, variety, and, if I may so say, curiously-invested intelligence. But yet I could find plenty of men, and those the best friends of the London University, and those to whom she is indebted most, who would discard at once this plan of Mr. Arnold’s as Utopian, visionary, and absurd; who would say “the University of London is only an examining body, can be only an examining body, shall be only an examining body.”
Every generation is unjust to the preceding generation; it respects its distant ancestors, but it thinks its fathers were “quite wrong”. And this revolt of nature is a principal propelling force, and a power in civilisation; for, without it, some set of strong men, consistently acting for a few generations, would soon stereotype the world. Yet this tendency is as unamiable as it is unfair, or even more unamiable. We enter into the fresh riches our fathers made for us, and at once we begin to say they are not the right sort; we enjoy and we grumble. We live in the house, and we say, “If I had been the builder, that corner would not have stood out; if I could have had my way, the stairs would have been of oak; and how very obstinate my father always was about the smoke in the kitchen!” But we forget very likely that we are of a weaker force and more inefficient mind, and that, if we had had to build, probably there would have been no house at all. Just so with the London University. We, who were educated at it, grumble at much of it. I at least have often done so, and have often heard others. But yet I know well how much the founders of the University have done; how difficult in their case was every sort of success; how easy every sort of failure. If some of us who criticise had had the founding of the University, I fear it would not have lasted till this time.
Thirty years ago it was a great step to establish an independent and examining University. That improvement was a purely English idea, but like so many English ideas, it existed only in solution; it was there, but it was hidden. Just as the English are the inventors of Cabinet government—of government by a committee of Parliament which can dissolve Parliament, and just as we have hidden away this masterpiece of polity under an historical growth of King, Lords, and Commons, and a pompous theory of three branches—just so we invented a testing University—a University distinct from the studies whose effects it verified. I fancy we came upon the idea by chance. The University of Oxford, for example, had ceased either to examine or instruct. Adam Smith, a Scotch Balliol scholar, tells us that when he was there the University had given up even “the pretence of teaching”. “The examination at Oxford,” said Lord Eldon, “was a farce in my time. I was only asked who founded University College, and I said—though, by the way, the fact is very doubtful—King Alfred.” Possibly the Tory Chancellor exaggerated a little, but still he is an excellent witness against Oxford. At the nadir of that University, it neither examined nor taught. Then some strong men revived the College teaching. When the Scotch reviewers attacked Oxford, Coppleston was able to show that Oriel College taught better than any school in Scotland. Then improvers tried to amend the University, but there was no longer any room for its tuition; there was better tuition already; so they revived the examining function, and suggested the new idea of a central verifying body surrounded and aided by many instructing bodies. Historical nations, I apprehend, mostly come upon their improvements in some such way as this. A miscellaneous débris of old things has come down to them, and, without much thinking, they pick out of the heap the particular bit that looks best for the particular matter in hand. The inestimable gain of historical nations is, that they inherit this mixed mass of materials; and their countervailing disadvantage is that the accumulation of old débris hides the shape of the work, and that they have no plain intelligible theory to bequeath to common nations which must build de novo.
At any rate, when the London University started, the notion of a University which did not teach those whom it tested, was very strange. Even when I was a Student, some years later, the outer world did not understand it; there are many to whom the knowledge has not penetrated yet. Even Mr. Arnold, though he recognises the full value of the idea—though he sees that the London University carries it into practice more thoroughly than Oxford or Cambridge, (where, though the colleges as such, do not regulate the examination, yet members of the colleges—college tutors—do regulate it, because they are the examiners);—even Mr. Arnold has a vestige of puzzle on the matter. He knows that the foreign Professors from whom he is fresh, do not understand a University without tuition, and he dares not tell them that a graduating machine, as Lord Brougham used to say, not preparing for degrees, and therefore conferring them without favour and without the suspicion of favour, is an English creation of the first magnitude.
I acknowledge that there is an excuse for him. He says that a University should “provide facilities for following that line of study systematically, and under first-rate instruction”. I should rather say a perfect University would possess an attendant apparatus for such instruction—would be surrounded by sufficient colleges. You cannot “have it both ways”; you cannot obtain an article without paying its price. If you want a University which is trusted without suspicion to decide on the results of tuition, because it has no share in tuition, you must not let it begin to interfere in tuition. But it might retain effectual satellites—those “anomalous bodies, University College and King’s College,” which give, and were affiliated because they give, appropriate instruction. Years ago many of us contended that no degree should be given by the University of London save to persons trained in, and so to say, vouched for by such colleges; and I still maintain that for “Plato’s Republic” such would be the ideal conception. There is no falser notion than Carlyle’s that the true University of the present day is a “great collection of books”. No University can be perfect which does not set a young man face to face with great teachers. Mathematics in part may teach themselves, may be learned at least by a person of great aptitude and at great cost of toil from written treatises; but true literature is still largely a tradition, it does not go straight on like mathematics, and if a learner is to find it for himself in a big library, he will be grey-headed before his work is nearly over. And besides “character forms itself in the stream of the world”—by the impact of mind on mind. There are few impacts so effectual as that of ardent student upon ardent student, or as that of mature teacher upon immature student. I concede to Mr. Arnold that a perfect University would be attended by appropriate colleges for teaching its students, and would grant its full degrees to no one not so educated. But in the London University we could not attain this, though we tried. Some of the very strongest among its founders thought the collegiate system an English superstition, and believed that examinations were enough alone. And also there was the great difficulty that good colleges cannot be found all over England; that it would have long retarded the work of the University to confine its examinations to the very few colleges that would be worthy the name; that almost at the outset many bodies that were only high schools had been affiliated—that many others quite equal were asking to be recognised, and could not be refused except by an invidious and unjust distinction. In the London University the collegiate system had not a chance, for there were far too few good colleges, much too many schools claiming to be colleges which were not, and a senate which did not believe in colleges.
But though Mr. Arnold would do harm if he persuaded the University of London to descend into the arena and become one of the trainers of the students it examines, though he could not find suitable colleges scattered over England to give effectual instruction, yet I think he has hold of a great idea, which ought to be separated from the less valuable elements with which he has mixed it. I believe that it is a misconception to regard a University as having but two possible duties—that of examining students, and that of instructing those students; I believe it has a third duty—a duty to the world. Mr. Arnold gives some outline of the history of the French Universities; he goes back to times when France was the metropolis of European learning in the same sense that Germany has been lately; he tells us of the great times of the University of Paris. “Hither,” he says, “repaired the students of other countries and other universities, as to the main centre of mediæval science, and the most authoritative school of mediæval teaching. It received names expressing the most enthusiastic devotion; the fountain of knowledge, the tree of life, the candlestick of the house of the Lord. ‘The most famous University of Paris, the place at this time and long before whither the English, and mostly the Oxonians, resorted,’ says Wood. Tandem fiat hic velut Parisiis . . . . . ad instar Parisiensis studii . . . . . quemadmodum in Parisiensi studio . . . . . says the rules of the University of Vienna, founded in 1365. Here came Roger Bacon, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Dante; here studied the founder of the first university of the Empire, Charles IV., Emperor of Germany and King of Bohemia, founder of the University of Prague; here Henry II. in the twelfth century proposed to refer his dispute with Backet; here, in the fourteenth, the schism in the papacy and the claims of the rival Popes were brought for judgment.” And this account implies what everything confirms, that Universities in their first age not only taught and examined young students, but influenced society at large, gave lectures which broke up adult thought, diffused ideas which interfered with fixed creeds, and which were felt as powers even by those who disagreed with them. The Universities in that age had a social function as well as a national function; they influenced the whole grown-up society besides teaching particular young students.
This is what I understand certain reformers to mean when they ask that the University of London should be made a seat of learning. Professor Seeley, one of the most skilful of living writers, says:—“With our present habits of thought, it is not very easy for us to conceive a real University. We understand competition; that means fighting. We understand trying for fellowships; that means money-making. But the University proper has no connection with either of these intelligible things; it is neither an almshouse of pensioners, nor a cockpit of competition, but a seat of learning.” If I interpret aright, Mr. Seeley means that a University ought to have about it a set of men who live in the still air of science and learning, who are to influence their age, who are to make, if they can, some kind of impression, not upon “the masses,” for that would be absurd, but the augmenting number of cultivated and half-cultivated people.
I believe that there never was a time in English history when there was such an appetite for knowledge. The visible success of physical science has awakened a sort of craving to know about nature which nothing before ever resembled. That sort of knowledge has been tested by “results,” and no one can impugn the answer which they give. Railways, telegraphs, steamships, are so many “marks,” which count for much in the perpetual examination of knowledge by the world. Years ago, when Lord Bacon wrote the Advancement of Learning, it was not very easy to find a sharp conclusive proof that any difficult knowledge was good. The obvious pursuits, as contemporary languages, reading, writing, speak for themselves, and want no advocate. But when the claim of any hard, settled study came to be set forth, the case was laboured, and the effect of its exposition, though conclusive to the best minds, was very dubious upon all others. But now there is, at least, one kind of very hard knowledge which works its own way, needs no pushing, makes every one admit that some one ought to know it, and makes most people wish that they themselves knew it. And the definite fame of this so to say advertised knowledge extends into other and distant regions. All other modern sciences, such as geology or ethnology, which have no plain influence on visible machines, nor palpable effect on indisputable results, share the repute of the more effectual sciences. The method is the same; the evidence, to those who know it, of like character. And to the world at large “science” is one entity; it is the force which sends quick messages, which makes fast trains, which helps ships to sail safely. All the world wants to know about science; there is an irritable accumulated curiosity in us and about us, such as history never saw equalled.
All branches of knowledge share in this curiosity more or less. There is a sort of feeling that we do not know where we stand in things, and that we ought to know; that the “modern spirit” rules or questions most things without knowing how far it denies them and how far it confirms them—at least without knowing it broadly. Modern science is indisputably developing a new temper of mind; something which as a diffused mental habit the ancients had not, the Middle Ages had not, till now modern times had not. An instinct of revision is felt to be abroad in human opinion, of which thinking men want to know the direction, and wish, if they could, to see the end. There is a dissatisfaction with old beliefs, a difficulty in finding satisfying new beliefs, which engenders a passion for true teaching.
There is another co-operating force. Now-a-days mankind are thrown into big cities where they have little to do; where they are loosely connected with, and see very little of each other; where they want something on which to employ their minds. Formerly people lived in country towns, where there was a sort of impact of mind on mind—a perpetual contention and reaction—a formative process, though often a violent and barbarous one. In a small town with a few streets and a common life, every one knew every one, and every one acted upon every one. But among the ninety families who live in the ninety similar houses in New Street, Hyde Park, not five know one another. And most of them know no one else well; a certain dull distance pervades everything; occupied men know that they have a “visiting list,” but they would come to grief if Mr. Lowe examined them on its contents. A new vacancy of mind is created by new habits which seeks for occupation, and would be very grateful for good occupation. The sort of success which such lectures as those of the Royal Institution at present have show the wonderful appetite there is for such teaching. If the London University could give anything like it, it would give it with greater prestige, greater authority, and, I think, greater attractiveness. People would be attracted by the very authority; they would come there because they knew that the teaching in its kind was first-rate, (whatever, which might often be arguable, was the intrinsic and ineradicable defect of that kind). And a University would be free from the sort of taint which every other lecturing body must have. It would have no wish, it need be thought to have no wish, to be overpopular; it would choose really learned professors, really sound professors, and would wish them to teach thorough thought.
I suppose the Oxford professoriat has now something like the function I mean. Its functions are not to the students before examination, but to grown-up men after examination. I apprehend that Mr. Arnold’s lectures on poetry had no part or share in the studies of Oxford undergraduates; they prepared men for no examinations; they competed with no college which did prepare them. They were careful “studies” addressed to thoughtful men already educated; they would have been fit for no other audience. I could not find an instance to describe my notion more exactly. I wish to see at the London University many accomplished men addressing high-class lectures to high-class hearers.
But though I have exceeded my limits, I must point out (or I should be unfair) two practical difficulties which Mr. Arnold cannot be expected to divine, but which those nearer well know. Several “movements” have in truth been made in this direction, though no substantial result has been attained—no actual lecture has ever been given; but by means of this experience the dangers in the path are known.
First. There is a great dread of losing the place which the University has gained. It is now admitted to be an impartial judge of teaching, because it does not itself teach,—but if it began to teach, even though the teaching were of a different species, and were addressed to the “after-degree” world, the University might begin to be suspected. On paper this danger may not seem so extreme as it is; but in practice the difficulty of distinguishing the teachings is great, and those who created the University dislike, as by an apprehensive instinct, everything which might undo their work or impair it. I doubt if the present Senate would be willing administrators of a professorial plan, and the conception is so delicate that it would fail if those who were entrusted with it did not believe in it.
Secondly. There is the most dangerous of all difficulties—a religious difficulty. The University of London is now supported by all religious bodies—by orthodox Dissenters, by Unitarians, by Roman Catholics, by English Churchmen. The dryness and limitation of its work is a great help in gaining that support; it lessens the number of disputable decisions—it precludes a theatrical prominence in any decision. But yet this combined support by antagonistic bodies has not been gained easily. Years of cautious and conscientious management have been necessary to gain it—so delicate is education, and so scrupulous men’s temper. But if impressive lectures were delivered at the University by conspicuous lecturers, the difficulty would be enhanced tenfold. There might be much in many lectures which many would object to; very often there would be something which some would object to. Gradually it might, and no doubt would, come to be comprehended that the contents of these lectures were not certified to be true by the University; that the University only put forward the lecturer as a man of eminence in science or learning who was worth attention. And in time it would be seen, too, that these superior lectures had nothing to do with the common University work; that the examination system went on apart from and independently of them; that all persons might derive exactly all the advantages they now derive from the examinations, after these lectures were established, and though they might disapprove of some of the lectures. But the task would be nice, success hard, failure easy, and infinite caution would be wanted in the beginning.
These brief remarks on a great subject will explain, I think, why I cannot accept for the London University Mr. Arnold’s plan exactly as he puts it and conceives it, but why, also, I believe there is an analogous work which some one must soon undertake in London, which ought at once to be undertaken, and which the University would have singular, and perhaps unequalled, advantages for doing well.
Mr. Gladstone—at least every one alleges it to be Mr. Gladstone—said in the Edinburgh Review, that unhappily we scarcely possessed in England the kind of writer who abroad is called a publicist. Indeed it is not very easy to give an Englishman only familiar with English discussions and English ways of thought, an exact idea of the word. But probably the late Mr. Senior, in the last years of his life, came very near to it. He lived among politicians; he spent the main stress of his speculative mind upon politics; he wrote largely upon them. But he had none of the ties to them usual in England. He was neither a practical politician, engaged in real affairs, nor the editor of a political periodical, nor even a stirring writer addressing a large audience. He devoted much of his time to temporary politics, but he always dealt with them in an abstract and philosophical manner. He always endeavoured to deal with the permanent aspects of them, he addressed only thoughtful men, he was a “didactic member” of the republic of letters; and this we suppose is the idea of a publicist.
Many persons may regret it as Mr. Gladstone did, but the fact certainly is that we have very few such writers in this country, and that the tendency of present times is rather to diminish than to increase their number. There is something artificial about the species. That a man of ability should spend a great part of his mind on political affairs, but that he should neither have a practical share in them nor an effective say to a large audience, is not natural. Such a type can exist only in periods of transition, as in despotic countries where the government though absolute will allow discussion, perhaps is moved by discussion, where there are many cultivated men who wish to read good and long reasonings on political subjects, but where there is as yet no people, no vast numerous class, who wish to read and who will only read short sharp arguments on present issues. As soon as “leading articles” come in, publicists and pamphlets die out. Those who could best write pamphlets are drawn off to the more lucrative trade of writing “leaders”. And readers, especially the most important readers whose time is valuable, have so many leaders to read, and are so sickened of the subject, that they will not read a word beside. Mr. Disraeli once compared the great Quarterly Reviews, whose political articles are pamphlets in disguise, to the old mail coaches, which were capital things in their way, but when they tried to start in the present day found that all the travellers had gone on by the train. A quicker mode of travelling has come in, a hastier mode of reading, and a scrappier mode of writing. Fifty years ago, when Mr. Senior began to write, all this had not happened. The English Government was then predominantly ruled by aristocratic politicians, some of whom were reading men, more of whom respected reading though they did not practise it, and beneath whom there was a still larger body of educated men who cared for political discussion, who already possessed some public power, and who were eagerly desirous of more. At that time the grave political essayist could speak to the few, without being shouted down by the many.
That political writing has in consequence declined in this country is certain, at least it has been minced. No practical subject can be discussed thoroughly at sufficient length, and with all the arguments set in one view. No observant person could write such things on a pressing practical point, and think they would have any influence on events. On the politics of the hour the great penny papers of the North have infinitely more effect that all the reviews in London. These rule the constituencies, and on great pressing issues rule Parliament too. In time to come they will prevent the existence of publicists, or at least take care that they shall be few, and those few not powerful.
At first it might seem that the change was bad, but I am not sure that it is so. On the contrary it has one good effect. It prevents the highest class of philosophical minds from worrying themselves with momentary affairs. This is not their characteristic function. They have by nature in a rare degree that in which most men are most deficient—the faculty of abstraction. It is given them steadily to see not only a particular instance, or a few instances, but that which all such instances have in common. They can keep their attention fixed on this common element, and so fashion a doctrine common to all like cases. But when they have made their doctrine, their work is done: when that doctrine comes to be applied in real life a different class of faculties are wanted, and a most opposite set of powers become necessary. A philosopher having a particularly fine vision of the common elements in all cases is apt to be particularly blind to the uncommon qualities of individual instances. As objectors say, he is doctrinaire—that is, his doctrine telling him, that “C will happen, because A and B are present, if A and B are unresisted”—he is apt to be very fond of his theory, and some time or other to overlook some unknown and uncatalogued resisting agency, and which modifies or overpowers. A and B changes C altogether. We need for practice a more pliable class of mind, which though not able perhaps to invent a good abstract doctrine, is able to use it when made; and is able, too, to see the resisting agencies or modifying media, which the originator of the theory neither could nor would. The best applier is seldom the real discoverer, and still more seldom is the man who discovers the best man, or at all a good man to persuade others to use his discoveries. The difference between the patentee of an invention, and the capitalist who uses it, is not greater than that between the discoverer of an abstract political doctrine, and the practical politicians, active or rhetorical, who use it.
Mr. Mill is, of course, the standing instance of a philosopher spoiled by sending him into Parliament, and the world. But in a very different way I think Mr. Senior, our last “publicist,” was in some sense a spoiled philosopher. And I hope none of his friends will be offended at my saying so, for I intend it in no bad sense. What I mean is, that he scattered and wasted in a semi-abstract discussion of practical topics, powers which were fit to have produced a lasting and considerable work of philosophy. And I cannot think the practical discussion, as a discussion, very good. Take, for instance, the essay on Ireland, which is republished as a preface to his Irish Conversations. It is certainly very dull, and dull in the most teasing way, for you feel that the subject is most interesting, and that the writer is a man of ability, but there is no corresponding result. Your mind is not engrossed as it ought to be, or instructed as it ought to be. In truth, the essay is too abstract for a work on a living subject like Ireland. You always feel that you are reading about an economic island in the air; you are always pausing to think whether something that is not said may not affect and overthrow that which is said. You are never presented, as a writer on real politics should present you, with a living image which impresses itself rightly or wrongly on your imagination as a picture of the subject, and interests and persuades you even more by what it suggests to your own imagination than by the bare words on the paper. If, on the other hand, any one wishes to see what Mr. Senior was really capable of, I should refer him to the collection of Mr. Senior’s philosophical essays lately published—say to the review of Sir George Lewis’s essay on “Authority in Matters of Opinion”—and unless I am much mistaken, he will find there clear proofs of a speculative intellect of singular clearness and of high force, which it is a pity should have left no equal memory of itself, and which for the want of such is even already fading as time passes and the generations change.
One reason why Mr. Senior’s name is sooner passing away than it ought is that he was best known as a political economist, and that it must be owned that of late years abstract political economy—and it was with the abstract part that Mr. Senior dealt—has fallen somehow in public confidence, and that people’s minds are a little in doubt about it. One principal cause of this is the set—the most mischievous set in my judgment—which is being made against abstract reasoning in general. This is due to the rise of an immense class of readers who find, as everybody ought to find, abstractions difficult, and who being incessantly told that they are the great reading public, and the judge of everything, instantly begin to judge that what is unpleasant to them cannot be very valuable. The great rise of “Physics” ought, of course, to have prevented this. Our railways were made, so to say, out of abstract geometry, abstract algebra, abstract mechanics. Even in the kinds of science now most talked of those who can pass a good examination in Darwin’s Origin of Species must have had some practice in gaining a familiarity with abstract knowledge. But, in fact, “Physics” have had a contrary effect. The thousands of popular students only know the results at secondhand; they have no conception of the processes by which they were discovered. They see brilliant experiments on optics, and because there is so much to see they think there is nothing hard or abstract in the subject; yet if they would try and master the undulatory theory of light which very likely is the basis of these experiments, and that for which they were tried, they would find many and great difficulties—exactly the same sort of difficulties which there are in mastering abstract political economy and applying it to the moving facts of trade and life. A very rapid diffusion of popular knowledge necessarily brings with it a certain dislike and distrust of that abstract reasoning which never can be popular, and which people are only too glad to think unnecessary. And, besides this, political economy has fallen into some difficulty from causes peculiar to itself, and heresies, or what Mr. Senior and other economists of the old school would have thought to be especially such, are daily propounded. I was myself examined by him years ago, in the time of the strict school, at the London University, and I am sure he would have plucked various present examiners and professors. If it could have been revealed to him that persons of authority would dare to teach that profit had no tendency to become equal in different trades,—that the Ricardo theory of rent was a blunder and a misconception,—that it was unnecessary for bankers to keep a stock of gold or silver to meet their liabilities, but that they should buy the gold in the market when they wanted it, I think Mr. Senior would have been aghast. Yet such is the present state of the science, and naturally the rise of the heresiarchs has diminished the dignity of the orthodox heads. Now that the fame of Ricardo (one of the greatest and most consecutive of English thinkers) is a little dimmed, no wonder that the fame of an able follower of his, and such was Mr. Senior in the main, is much diminished. Secondary fame of that sort, if once lost, is scarcely to be recovered; and, therefore, I fear Mr. Senior’s economic writings, or his philosophical essays (very able as several of the latter seem to me to be), will not long keep alive in the world the recollection of what in his own generation was justly thought to be his ability.
Possibly Mr. Senior, who was a shrewd observer of the world, had no confidence in the endurance of his philosophical fame; at all events, he took singular and sedulous pains to provide himself with a substitute in case of a failure. There has been, as we all know, a great deal of discussion, modern and ancient, about posthumous fame, and some species of it have been catalogued. The “immortality of quotation” is one of these. There are many writers really known by some few sentences or some half-dozen stanzas, which every one knows, but all the rest of their works are dead, and no one knows anything about them. And it has been argued whether this kind of immortality of “extract” is or is not desirable or worth having. I believe the better opinion to be that it is worth having; always assuming that any posthumous fame is so. After all, your best words—your most characteristic words—are quoted continually, and have the chance of making a good impression of you year after year if anything of yours can make a good impression. But Mr. Senior has invented, or almost invented, a new and different sort of immortality. He aspired to immortality as a referee. He went about Europe, indeed beyond Europe, for he visited Egypt, talking carefully to the best known, the best informed, the most influential people on the affairs of each country, and on general intellectual affairs, and he wrote down the answers. There was no breach of confidence in this, for he told everybody—at least, everybody of importance—what he was doing; and if they liked, and if there were opportunity, he submitted that part of his journal which concerned them to their revision. His idea, of course, was that by preserving valuable thoughts, setting down on the instant fresh and characteristic remarks, he should earn permanent repute for himself. And if that sort of repute be desirable he will earn it. He will appear at the bottom of pages in many books for many years, as, “See Senior’s Journals, vol. ii. p. 293”. And occasionally, according to the convenience of writers, his name will creep into the text, “according to a good observation reported by Mr. Senior,” X Y was true; or, “if we may rely on an assertion made to Mr. Senior, A B was not true”. And this will be the reward for years of endless pains and labour. It will not be like the common “immortality of quotation,” in which your characteristic words are kept alive; it will be in the slightest sense a name only that will live; no image of Mr. Senior will then be preserved. The reader of after years will know only that a person called Mr. Senior, and about whom he has no other knowledge, was told so and so, true or false, by a Pasha of Egypt, or by such and such a French statesman, and this is all the immortality.
A certain peculiar power of asking questions is necessary in this mode. M. Léon Faucher was Prime Minister of France, and Mr. Senior steps up to him with—“Now that I have you for ten minutes, will you tell me what is your plan for a campaign?”—that is, for the policy of his government. No doubt it is a weakness, but there are many men thick-skinned enough in most ways, who could not ask such a question for any money or any fame. And the notoriety that Mr. Senior, as a professed journalist, might ask such questions, led people to be prepared to answer them. As years went on, it used to be said that the value of his journal was impaired, because persons of eminence prepared for their interviews, and corrected (as he was kind enough to let them) their sayings into what they would wish to have said rather than that which they did really say. The conversations thus became minor manifestoes, not unguarded utterances, and so lost their greatest interest.
And independently of having to ask as a habit questions too direct to be pleasant, most people would rather go to the galleys than be bound to put down at the end of a party what was said in the course of it. The pang of the coming task would poison most men’s social pleasure. And Mr. Senior often looked as if it spoiled his pleasure. His face had a care down it, as if he was keeping up the recollection of what had been said, rather than enjoying what was being said. And, at times, not quite gratifying to the speaker, the interest for what you were saying seemed to cease on a sudden (as does that of a reporter when he puts down his pen), as if he thought what was being said was no way remarkable, and that he would rest himself by not attending to it. To gain an immortality of referential citation, Mr. Senior certainly sacrificed much social enjoyment and some social popularity.
It should be seen, however, that most people could not gain that immortality by any sacrifice. First of all you must be something or somebody before the first people in foreign countries will speak to you freely, or indeed at all. Mr. Senior went abroad as a celebrated English economist, and with strenuous introductions from the most powerful and best people in England whom he had the gift of knowing. And what is more, he had the rarer gift of being able to use those introductions well. There was nothing in his daily pursuits to give him that knowledge; on the contrary, by profession he was an equity barrister, and he has himself described how difficult, how almost impossible it is, to get any foreigner to comprehend what “equity” in England means; and with much exaggeration, yet not without some truth, Political Economy, as Mr. Senior understood it, has been called an “insular science,” of which the authors were Englishmen, which assumed in the beings so treated of conditions and qualities hardly to be met with out of England. But Mr. Senior was an “International Man,” well able, as many volumes of “conversations” prove, to enter into the thoughts and report the words, not only of one sort of foreigners, but of various sorts. And the number of Masters in Chancery of whom this can be said is very small indeed.
Certainly, however, as was perhaps inevitable, the conversations are reported a little drily, and scarcely at all dramatically. Everybody speaks the same language—a French lady, a Pyrenean peasant, an Italian statesman, all use the same grave and cultivated words; all shape their sentences in the same clear, but rather formal, fashion. Nor is there much play of dialogue. In the best cases Mr. Senior’s object was to get at the thoughts of some one eminent man, and that he has given us, but he left inferior speakers to shift for themselves. And in all cases the thoughts appear in their driest—we might say in their most algebraic form, it might be all about A, B, C, S, and E, F for any life there is. Mr. Senior gives us what a man said, but not how he said it; he does not make us know them better for having said it; and this because he either did not notice, or disdained to set down, the little traits and intricacies which distinguish one man’s conversation from another. He rarely tells us whether a great statesman is tall or short; never mentions what sort of a coat any one wore; he shows no man “in his habit as he was”.
In the substance of the two volumes of Journals now before us, Mr. Senior was very fortunate, for they turn on the two most prominent parts of foreign politics—the condition of the Pope, who, if he be not restored to temporal sovereignty, is sure to be in “continual claim” for that sovereignty much longer than the lives of any of us; and the state of France, which is “always with us,” an unequalled source of care, and an everlasting subject for excellent writing. At this instant almost every one will turn to the French journals, but this extract from the Roman journal of 1851 is worth reading:—
“Dr. T. came to take leave of us. He is going to England, and describes the formalities which attend the grant of a passport to a Roman. First, he must have the consent of his wife; secondly, of the curate of his parish; and, thirdly, a certificate from two persons in the confidence of the Government that he behaved well during the Revolution. ‘But,’ I said, ‘if the wife or the curate refuse to consent, what is the remedy?’ ‘In respect of the curate,’ he said, ‘there is none. He is the sole judge of what is favourable or unfavourable to the spiritual health of his parishioners: and if he thinks that foreign travel is likely to disagree with your soul, you must stay at home. As to your wife, you may summon her before the tribunal to give her reasons, and if the Court thinks them insufficient you are allowed to go; but there is no saying how long the suit may last.”
And this observation from the Duc de Sermoneta, “considered then as now,” the editor tells us, “the cleverest man in Rome,” is not ungratifying to English vanity:—
“ ‘Assassination,’ he added, ‘is almost the only classical custom which we have preserved; in other things we are more Turkish than European. Our system of government is eminently Turkish. It consists of a central despotism and provincial despots, whom they call pashas and cadis, and we call cardinals and prelates, in the provinces. The real successors of the ancient Romans are the English. You have inherited the Roman respect for law and authority, the Roman love for what is established, the Roman fidelity to engagements, the Roman pertinacity of purpose, and the Roman contempt or foreigners. When you commit follies they are all of your own invention. We add to our own absurdities those of every other country. Like the Romans, wherever you go you take all your immunities. An Englishman, or even a Jew who calls himself an Englishman, is civis Romanus. He is not bound to put up with the institutions of other countries. He carries abroad with him his amusements, his comforts, his habits, and even his hours. Wherever you go to the Galignani follows you. No foreign post-office ventures to intercept it. When I read Cicero’s “Letters” I fancy myself reading the correspondence of one of your statesmen. All the thoughts, all the feelings, almost all the expressions are English.’ ”
I cannot help thinking that this saying of the “cleverest man in Rome” might he coupled with Professor Huxley’s dictum that the “English and the Italian are the best brains now extant,” and that Mr. Arnold might fitly append both to the next reprint of My Countrymen.
The conversations of Mr. Senior on France in 1848, 1850, and 1851, in several parts, are very curious, and would afford easy matter for an article if it were desirable to add another to the innumerable ones already written in England on French politics. But at present I need not do this, nor is there room. I will only take two salient points which these conversations illustrate, make a quotation from them, and then stop.
First, and this is the greatest point of all, no one of Mr. Senior’s interlocutors seems to have had the secret gift of correct anticipation. In May, 1848, Michel Chevalier predicted the days of June of the same year; but this, though a very sensible remark, was no miraculous prophecy. It was certain to everybody that the struggle between the rouge party and the party of order had not yet been fought out, and that it must be fought out, and few close judges probably could doubt that at last the party of order would win, at last they always have won. But this is almost the only instance in these volumes of tolerable prediction. One instance of bad prophecy is very curious. Naturally very many if not most of Mr. Senior’s friends were, if not professed economists, at least men of an economic and financial turn. After the coup d’état of the late Emperor, the question continually is not so much what is coming to the French nation, as what will happen to French trade—the French exchequer. And it is very remarkable that though these experienced and close observers might and did in some degree differ as to the intensity of the economic disaster which was impending in 1851, every one expected economic disaster more or less severe. The following from an unknown converser, V., is a fair specimen:—
“ ‘What do you mean,’ I asked, ‘by ruin? How can such a country as France be ruined?’
“ ‘By ruin,’ he answered, ‘I mean progressive decline. I mean deterioration of agriculture, of manufactures, and of commerce. I mean capital exported, railroads unfinished, rents unpaid, increasing pauperism, a growing deficit; in short, the continuance of our present state of insecurity, and therefore of semi-paralysis.’ ”
But neither V. nor any other “authority” dreamed that the next twenty years would be years of incomparably the greatest economic prosperity which France had ever seen; that the railway system would be developed with a rapidity far greater than in the time of Louis Philippe; that commerce would grow with unknown celerity; that agriculture would thrive; that the deficit in the finances would be caused not by the deficiency of the revenue, for that augmented faster than ever, but by the prodigality of the Government; and that this prodigality, though there seemed no end to it, and though financiers were always exposing it, would in no way exhaust France, but leave her able at her need to raise suddenly an immense sum of ready money far greater than she ever raised before, than former Governments would have dreamed of demanding, or than in 1851 would have been thought possible. At this moment, when so many predictions are in the air as to future France, it is useful to see how wrong the most sure predictions, and those of the best authorities, have been as to past France.
And in addition to this general difficulty of prediction, there are also the clearest warnings in these volumes, how difficult the French then found it (and now find it, for the circumstances are not really altered) to establish what to a common Englishman seems the most obvious form of government in their case: parliamentary government and constitutional royalty. “France,” says one of Mr. Senior’s interlocutors, an Imperialist, it is fair to say,—
“Is unfit for Parliamentary government. It wants two things, both elements of that form of government. One is moderation. Every French party, if it gets the upper hand, pushes its victory to the utmost, alters the policy and displaces the administration of its predecessors, and carries out its own views to the utmost extreme, until it disgusts the country, and the Opposition comes in, and acts with equal intemperance. Another deficiency is an aristocracy. We have indeed an aristocracy of birth and an aristocracy of wealth; but the former is poor, ignorant, and presumptuous, the latter ignoble and servile. The great object of our rich roturiers is to connect themselves with noble families. They succeed more easily for their daughters, but even that success is a miserable one. An Englishman can scarcely conceive the stupidity, ignorance, and frivolity of the young men of our ancient families. They disdain the learned professions and trade, there is room for only a portion of them in the army, and what is the army in a long peace? Then we have no political bodies with any inherent strength or traditionary influence. In short, there is nothing powerful but the Government and the army.”
And a much higher authority, Gustave de Beaumont, the friend and the biographer of Tocqueville, spoke still more clearly and still more strongly on the incompatibility to France of our English constitutional king.
“ ‘I objected,’ said Mr. Senior, ‘to his calling the government of Louis-Philippe constitutional, since Louis-Philippe was his own prime minister—a most unconstitutional proceeding, according to our notions.’
“ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘according to your notions, but not according to ours. We have not yet adopted the true faith, the faith of the cochon à l’engrais. To preserve our respect our sovereign must act. And this, perhaps, makes us incapable at present of your constitutional government. If our sovereign, whether you call him president or king, merely takes the members whom the Assembly points out to him, keeps them so long as they can keep their majority, follows their advice implicitly, and dismisses them as soon as they lose their majority, he becomes King Log, and we despise him. If he acts he must sometimes make mistakes, and still oftener be thought to do so. He will sometimes offend the good sense of the nation, and oftener its susceptibilities, and we shall hate him. This is the objection to a President for life; he would inevitably in time become hated or despised, or both, and then we should go into the streets and depose him. For in France,’ he added, ‘we are not good balancers of inconveniences. “Nous sommes trop logiques.” As soon as we see the faults of an institution, nous la brisons. In England you calculate; we act on impulse. We should never have tolerated your Hanoverian kings, with their German favourites and their German policy. We should have turned them out in a year. You kept them until they were acclimatised, and gradually became the best royal stock in Europe. Unless we greatly improve, we never shall have any permanent institutions; for as we destroy every institution as soon as we discover its faults, and no one is free from them, nothing can last.’ ”
Enough has been quoted to show the amount of curious information in these volumes. But it ought to be added that there is a great difficulty in using them. Archbishop Whately used to say that he had often heard the words of Eliphaz, the Temanite, quoted in good pulpits as “on conclusive authority”; the preacher found them in the Book of Job in the very centre of the Bible, and did not see why he should not quote them. The fact that they were dramatically put in the mouth of an ill-natured and mistaken friend did not occur to him. Just so in Mr. Senior’s journals, there are interlocutors of every sort, and any one who seeks a text on any side or anything for France or Italy may find it here. This will contribute much to their “immortality of reference,” but it will also make a wise critic suspicious of their authority. He will want to see not only what was said, but who said it, lest the words may be those of some nameless fool or grave charlatan, instead of those of Faucher or Tocqueville.
END OF VOL. VII.
aberdeen: the university press