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C.—: MISCELLANEOUS - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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To Lady Acton.
Lexington,March 1st, ’66.
I avail myself of the privilege afforded me; my dear Lady Acton; by your kind letter to tell you how much I was pleased to hear of the sympathy felt for us by at least some of the noble souls in our Mother Country.
Could you know all or even half of the wrongs we have endured, the eloquent pen of your husband might portray scenes that would astound his audience. It is better we should forget them if that was possible.
I enclose a few stanzas1 which have appeared since the surrender; the author is unknown; but they are very touching, and may be appreciated in a county where the name of Lee is valued, and where in truth the family did originate.
I venture to send you; in the hope it may prove acceptable; an autograph likeness of General Lee taken during the war, which we consider better than any which have appeared since. Should you ever be induced to visit our now unhappy country, we should be too glad to welcome you to our mountain home.—Most truly and respectfully yours,
Mary Curtis Lee.
Although your letter of the 4th ulto. has been before me some days unanswered, I hope you will not attribute it to a want of interest in the subject, but to my inability to keep pace with my correspondence. As a citizen of the South I feel deeply indebted to you for the sympathy you have evinced in its cause, and am conscious that I owe your kind consideration of myself to my connection with it. The influence of current opinion in Europe upon the current politics of America must always be salutary; and the importance of the questions now at issue in the United States, involving not only constitutional freedom and constitutional government in this country, but the progress of universal liberty and civilisation, invests your proposition with peculiar value, and will add to the obligation which every true American must owe you for your efforts to guide that opinion aright. Amid the conflicting statements and sentiments in both countries, it will be no easy task to discover the truth, or to relieve it from the mass of prejudice and passion, with which it has been covered by party spirit. I am conscious of the compliment conveyed in your request for my opinion as to the light in which American politics should be viewed, and had I the ability, I have not the time to enter upon a discussion, which was commenced by the founders of the constitution and has been continued to the present day. I can only say that while I have considered the preservation of the constitutional power of the General Government to be the foundation of our peace and safety at home and abroad, I yet believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it. I need not refer one so well acquainted as you are with American history, to the State papers of Washington and Jefferson, the representatives of the federal and democratic parties, denouncing consolidation and centralisation of power, as tending to the subversion of State Governments, and to despotism. The New England states, whose citizens are the fiercest opponents of the Southern states, did not always avow the opinions they now advocate. Upon the purchase of Louisiana by Mr. Jefferson, they virtually asserted the right of secession through their prominent men; and in the convention which assembled at Hartford in 1814, they threatened the disruption of the Union unless the war should be discontinued. The assertion of this right has been repeatedly made by their politicians when their party was weak, and Massachusetts, the leading state in hostility to the South, declares in the preamble to her constitution, that the people of that commonwealth “have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free sovereign and independent state, and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not, or may hereafter be by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.” Such has been in substance the language of other State governments, and such the doctrine advocated by the leading men of the country for the last seventy years. Judge Chase, the present Chief Justice of the U.S., as late as 1850, is reported to have stated in the Senate, of which he was a member, that he “knew of no remedy in case of the refusal of a state to perform its stipulations,” thereby acknowledging the sovereignty and independence of state action. But I will not weary you with this unprofitable discussion. Unprofitable because the judgment of reason has been displaced by the arbitrament of war, waged for the purpose as avowed of maintaining the union of the states. If, therefore, the result of the war is to be considered as having decided that the union of the states is inviolable and perpetual under the constitution, it naturally follows that it is as incompetent for the general government to impair its integrity by the exclusion of a state, as for the states to do so by secession; and that the existence and rights of a state by the constitution are as indestructible as the union itself. The legitimate consequence then must be the perfect equality of rights of all the states; the exclusive right of each to regulate its internal affairs under rules established by the Constitution, and the right of each state to prescribe for itself the qualifications of suffrage. The South has contended only for the supremacy of the constitution, and the just administration of the laws made in pursuance to it. Virginia to the last made great efforts to save the union, and urged harmony and compromise. Senator Douglass, in his remarks upon the compromise bill recommended by the committee of thirteen in 1861, stated that every member from the South, including Messrs. Toombs and Davis, expressed their willingness to accept the proposition of Senator Crittenden from Kentucky, as a final settlement of the controversy, if sustained by the republican party, and that the only difficulty in the way of an amicable adjustment was with the republican party. Who then is responsible for the war? Although the South would have preferred any honourable compromise to the fratricidal war which has taken place, she now accepts in good faith its constitutional results, and receives without reserve the amendment which has already been made to the constitution for the extinction of slavery. That is an event that has been long sought, though in a different way, and by none has it been more earnestly desired than by citizens of Virginia. In other respects I trust that the constitution may undergo no change, but that it may be handed down to succeeding generations in the form we received it from our forefathers. The desire I feel that the Southern states should possess the good opinion of one whom I esteem as highly as yourself, has caused me to extend my remarks farther than I intended, and I fear it has led me to exhaust your patience. If what I have said should serve to give any information as regards American politics, and enable you to enlighten public opinion as to the true interests of this distracted country, I hope you will pardon its prolixity.
In regard to your inquiry as to my being engaged in preparing a narrative of the campaigns in Virginia, I regret to state that I progress slowly in the collection of the necessary documents for its completion. I particularly feel the loss of the official returns showing the small numbers with which the battles were fought. I have not seen the work by the Prussian officer you mention and therefore cannot speak of his accuracy in this respect.—With sentiments of great respect, I remain your obt. servant,
R. E. Lee.
Sir John Dalberg Acton
From Dr. Mandell Creighton.
Embleton Vicarage, Chathill, Northumberland,
My Lord,1 —
You are so good that I am afraid if you encourage me I shall prove a nuisance. I have written my book so far practically without consulting any one, because I know no one who is at all interested in my subject. I live away from any literary friends, and I very seldom am able to consult libraries. I do not think that the entire time I spent in London and Oxford for the purposes of study for my two volumes reached the period of a month. I frequently have had to leave points unsolved till I could go, or get some friend to verify points for me—I am obliged to buy most of the books I want when they are possible to be bought, and I lose the opportunity of seeing stray articles that might help me, though I find the excellent abstracts of periodicals in the Revue Historique very useful. If at any time you hear of anything, it would be a great favour to me if you could let me know. I have my eye on Bayonne, though Gherardi2 is probably inaccessible as only twenty-five copies were printed. But I see that the Archivio Storico has given an abstract of him.
The great questions are, as you say, What made Luther? and what made him so strong? But they are very difficult to answer, and I thought that they could only be answered on a large scale. Perhaps you do not feel as strongly as I do how the answer, if it is to be found, is rendered difficult by the existence of claptrap and misrepresentation. The ordinary Protestant believes in a steady growth of evangelical theology from the time of Wyclif. One of my objects was to dispel that view, perhaps hardly worth dispelling. But I thought that it was worth while to try and lift the current history of that time to a more scientific level if I could do so. The absence of even any tolerable book in English dealing with that period led me to do it as thoroughly as I could. I did not write in a popular way, but I hoped that I had perhaps provided the material for more popular books afterwards. I think that the doctrinal reformation would never have taken place if a reformation of the ecclesiastical system had been possible without it.
One part of the strength of Luther lay in the belief that nothing could be got from the Papacy except by threats. I wanted to see what grounds there was for that belief. In dealing with the Councils I only credited them with such good intentions as I thought were at the bottom of all united action; I believed that I had admitted their self-seeking in details and their hopeless policy. About Hus I fully admit that the Papacy was always far more tolerant than the popular spirit, and that ecclesiastical judges were lenient to diversity of opinion, but I could not feel sure that John XXIII would have done differently from the Council, and I shall have enough to say on that point later on. It is, of course, a difficulty in publishing by instalments that one cannot do all things at once. The question of indulgences I reserved till I came to Luther, and the corruption of morals till I came to Charles VIII. Similarly about ideas—it seems to me difficult to record in chronological order indications as they occur. When the questions become part of practical politics, then I must do my best to enquire how they became so; but I think that the method of perpetually pointing out isolated occurrences, and drawing attention to presages is less effective than marshalling details in a mass at the right place, if one can find the place and have observed the details.
Of course the subject of my next volume is the secularisation of the Papacy, but in the hopeless secularisation of Europe it was impossible for the Papacy to avoid it. Europe would not combine for a Crusade. Paul II practically ended the Hussite question. The Papacy was surrounded by Italian powers who cared nothing for religion—self-preservation drove it to do its best, and I incline to think that it was a sound instinct that impelled Sixtus IV to attack the Medici. I am just busy with Leonelli’s Alessandro VI. It is a great pity that the end of Burchard1 has never been fully published.
About Hawkwood, by the way, it was not the omission of the aspirate that struck me: but the form Augud led me to think that the soldiers pronounced the last syllable wood, as a Southern Englishman would do now ’ud. He would say Hawk’ud, even if he kept his aspirate.
Please do not trouble to answer this letter,—Yours very sincerely,
My dear Lord Acton,—
You are most good; be it as you say. The question of form is a matter for your decision; but I do not think that there is much risk of an accusation of dilettantism in your case. The mere fact that you have not fallen into the vulgar error of writing a book gives you an additional claim to attention. Wegele,2 however, may stand as a text to a sermon. The article would appear in the first part, and not in the small type: it may be sufficiently differentiated from ordinary sermons. I understand your difficulties and also I see the scope of your article. I am daily more and more impressed by the exceeding insularity of our historical ideas. The ordinary Englishman seems to consider that anything can be barred from Europe as a whole. Brewer’s work, though it was the work of his lifetime, fails because he would not take the trouble to learn more than he could help about anything save England. I hope that the Review may tend to give greater breadth of view; for such a purpose your article would be most valuable. It would strike a keynote.
You see perhaps why I speak as I do about Stubbs. I have a hope that things may improve by a little organisation—Stubbs never had any. He had no care to form a school: he was a bad lecturer and lectured as little as he could. He resented all invasions of his time as hindrances to editing MSS. That was the work he really enjoyed. He wrote his Constitutional History more because something was expected of him than because he enjoyed doing it. But his career at Oxford was a strong proof of the power of a life devoted to study. He exerted a great influence by the mere fact of his existence. His example and not his precept was valuable.
You will send me your contributions for the first number as soon as you can, I dare say. I write not to hurry you: but by the middle of October I ought to see my first number in shape. It is, alas, very shapeless at present.
By the way, have you looked into the first three vols. of the Dictionary of National Biography? If so, and if anything has struck you I wish you would send me the result of your observations, merely headings and jottings if you will. I am gathering remarks with a view to piecing together something, a method of reviewing such a book which seems to me better than committing it to one man.—Again with many thanks, yours very sincerely,
Dear Lord Acton,—
It shall be as you will with the revise: also I send you Napoleon2 as you desire. But I did not mean to suggest that you should make any changes out of deference to my feelings. I only wished to make out to my own satisfaction my shortcomings that I might give an account of myself to those who asked me. I see that from your point of view, I am not made of stern enough stuff to write history. I have too much natural “pietas”—“mentem mortalia tangunt.” I have no love for heroes, and I rarely find them in my particular path: but I admit that I hesitate to find men so villainous as in your scales of moral judgment they would be. I like to stand aside as much as possible, and content myself with the humble part of a chorus in a Greek play. I try to put myself in the place of my personages. I judge them more severely for their own personal contribution to the world’s misdoings than for their acquiescence in existing systems. I think worse of Sixtus IV for his share in the Pazzi1 matter than for his authorising the Spanish Inquisition. I suppose my readers can draw morals for themselves. I think that in history, as in private life, I hope I try to find out men’s good qualities before their bad ones, their good intentions before their evil means. The statesman always seems to me in a non-moral position, because he has to consider what is possible as well as what is best, and the compromise is necessarily pitiable. The growth of a public conscience has been slow; I don’t wish to antedate its influence. It seems to me that the great charge against the Church after the thirteenth century is that it did not promote, but hindered its growth. Perhaps I have not made this clear.
The more I meditate the more grateful I am to you. I would not have you tone down any expression of dissent. Your standard is so high that I feel braced by its application. There is no one in England who knows much about my subject; very few who care to read my volumes. The only exhortations I get are to be more picturesque and more amusing; and these are not fruitful.
By the way I got a note from Dr. Immelmann2 asking if you are at Cannes, as his translation sticks for want of notes which he has not received.—Yours ever sincerely,
Asti (Piemont), 10 janvier 1892.
Cher Milord Acton,—
Votre lettre m’est arrivée au moment où la mort de mon frère m’a plongé dans la désolation. Il était le chef de ma famille et la perte a pour moi les conséquences les plus doloureuses. Je n’ai ni la tranquillité ni le temps nécessaires pour recueillir mes souvenirs et mes idées, consulter quelques documents et répondre aussi pertinemment que je le devrais aux questions que vous me faites l’honneur de m’adresser. Je ne veux cependant pas retarder trop longtemps à vous répondre. Veuillez donc me permettre de vous dire seulement en peu de mots toute ma pensée.
Je suis convaincu que Cavour était complètement de bonne foi lorsqu’il a émis la formule Libera Chiesa in libero Stato. Je puis me tromper, mais pour moi il n’y a pas de doute sur ce point. Ce n’était pas pour lui un expédient temporaire, ni un stratagème politique. C’était un dogme dans la famille-Cavour que l’Église avait droit à être complètement libre. L’origine de cette doctrine doit remonter au Lamennais de l’Essai sur l’indifférence en matière de religion, à Montalembert, à tout le mouvement d’idées dont le Globe a été l’organe. Cavour avait été élevé dans les idées de l’école libérale française modifiée cependant par son séjour et ses études en Angleterre. Il était convaincu que l’Eglise une fois en possession de toute sa liberté, serait devenue elle même libérale. C’est une conviction qu’on pouvait encore avoir en 1859, dix ans seulement après l’élection de Pie IX. On pouvait supposer que si les Mazziniens n’avait pas effrayé Pie IX, il aurait pu être ramené encore aux idées libérales. Pantaleoni, Tantucci, plusieurs prélats romains nourrissaient cette conviction. Pantaleoni surtout fit croire à Cavour qu’on aurait pu transférer la capitale à Rome d’accord avec la papauté d’accord avec tout le parti catholique et libéral. Cavour en effet voulait arriver à un véritable Concordat. Il n’a jamais envisagé la possibilité d’obtenir Rome par d’autres moyens que d’accord avec la France, et par des négociations diplomatiques. On ne doit donc pas juger de ses idées par ce qu’on a appelé la breccia di Porta Pia.
Les successeurs de Cavour ont dû suivre le sillon qu’il avait tracé. Mais Cavour, qui n’était pas doctrinaire, aurait été bien plus libre qu’eux. Nul ne peut dire si dans la situation toute nouvelle qui s’est formée en 1870, il aurait appliqué plus largement et plus franchement sa formule, ou bien si, réservant ses idées pour l’époque où la conciliation qu’il rêvait aurait été possible, il aurait eu recours pour le moment à d’autres expédients. Peut-être aussi aurait-il pu empêcher la guerre d’éclater en 1870. La formation d’un grand Etat allemand et protestant aurait pu modifier ses idées. Ce qu’il aurait fait dans une situation aussi imprévue est le secret du tombeau. J’ai toujours pensé que c’est une erreur de mettre sur les lèvres des grands qui sont morts des idées et des mots qu’ils n’auraient pas eu. Cavour n’était pas homme à cristalliser son intelligence dans une formule et son existence même aurait été un élément politique d’une très grande valeur en 1870.
Notre loi des garanties est loin d’être parfaite, mais elle répond grosso modo aux besoins et aux nécessités de la situation où l’Italie s’est trouvé placée après 1870. Du reste la formule Libera Chiesa in libero Stato n’est rien par elle-même. Tant dépend de son application. Or il est bien difficile d’appliquer une formule de paix à un état de choses qui est loin d’être la paix. Vous êtes du reste infiniment plus compétent que moi sur ces questions. Je me borne à affirmer la parfaite bonne foi de Cavour. C’est un devoir que je remplis vis-à-vis de sa mémoire qui m’est chère.
THE NORTH BRITISH REVIEW
July 1, 1869.
The North British Review completes its 100th number at a time when the principle in which it originated has won a signal victory. Founded in connection with a movement which will always be memorable in the history of religious liberty, it has gradually extended its scope over the domain of general politics and secular learning; and through a quarter of a century it has upheld the supremacy of principle and conscience in the various spheres of human activity. The idea with which it is primarily associated has now, in a conspicuous instance, been adopted and applied by the State. And the same event which marks a new epoch in the national policy opens a new career to the Review, and invites it to a wider range in the field of literature, and a closer connection with public affairs.
The great measure which has occupied the present session of Parliament is not an isolated fact. It is one indication of a change which is beginning to affect all the nations of Christendom in all the departments of their life. The vast progress of the age in wealth and comfort has been exceeded by its progress in knowledge; and its intellectual conquests are less significant than its advance in intellectual morality. Perceiving that theory must be tested by experience, and practice regulated by theory, it is beginning to combine the precision of inductive philosophy with the constancy, the patience, and the flexibility which are learned by historical research. The new spirit has already established its ascendancy over those branches of learning which have perfected their methods in the study of nature, and over those departments of government which are subject to the doctrines of political economy. Their example is producing an analogous revolution in historical and political literature. And the great act of legislative justice which is growing to completion before our eyes bears witness to the consciousness that political obligation is determined, not by arbitrary maxims of expediency, but by definite and consistent principles—principles which can establish the policy of the State on a sure foundation, beyond the antagonism of classes and the tumult of fluctuating opinion.
A literary organ which is to take part in the serious culture of the time, and to exert an influence on the progress of affairs, must frankly identify itself with the conquests and demands of the new epoch. Passing beyond the narrow formalism of schools and parties, it must appeal to a wider range of sympathies, and a higher integrity of conviction. It must welcome truth from whatever quarter, and pursue justice at whatever cost. Its aim must be the victory of scientific truth over ignorance and error, over passion and interest, over the irresponsible authority of tradition, and the blind force of numbers. Its instruments must be those impartial methods of inquiry in which the strength and discipline of the intellect are sustained by an unflinching sincerity. And it must be animated by that spirit of genial tolerance and various adaptiveness which is taught by the analysis of human nature, and the manifold permutations of history.
Such is the ideal to which this Review aspires, not in forgetfulness of the responsibility it assumes, nor of the difficulties over which its path will lie, but drawing confidence from the magnitude of its objects, and believing that in politics, and in religious as well as secular literature, the moment is opportune for its endeavour.
The political connection which, in spite of many errors and shortcomings, has been identified with the development of our constitutional liberties, and with the advance of science in our legislation, has entered on a new phase of its existence. It has come forth from its contact with the enlarged constituencies, purified from the ignoble terrors and the wayward vanity which had justly reduced it to impotence in the immediate past. And it follows a wise and resolute leader, at whose call the nation has risen, for the first time in history, to the full height of its imperial vocation. To the policy symbolised by his name the Review will give that hearty support which is due to the beginning and the promise of a salutary and momentous reform. It will pursue in the blended light of history and reason the solution of those problems which lie before us in the sphere of government, and which constitute the danger and the hope of our society. Maintaining a foreign policy based on the knowledge of foreign countries, it will recognise the obligations of international morality, and the mutual fellowship of civilised States. And, looking beyond the external form of institutions, and the superficial resemblance of party designations and watchwords, it will sympathise abroad with the struggle and the progress of the same principles which it proclaims at home.
The advance of religious knowledge is signalised by a successive transfer of questions from the region of denominational controversy to the sphere of scientific discussion; and so far as they occupy this sphere they can be adequately treated, like other metaphysical and historical subjects, without the necessity of assuming or denying the postulates of confessional theology. The Review will not enter the arena in which ecclesiastical systems contend; nor will it, either expressly or by implication, disparage the issues of their struggle. But it will labour in the field of that religious science which exists apart from the conflict of Churches, and can be studied and promoted without immediate reference to their claims.
In dealing with purely secular literature, it will exclude no branch of intellectual activity which it has space and opportunity to treat with effect. The desire of the age is for substantial knowledge, and the pursuit of truth has divested learning of its academic character, and freed it from the restrictions of nationality. Its advance can no longer be followed within the confines of this or that particular language; nor can a competent criticism now exist without the concurrence of scholars of every country in which the spiritual and material sciences are cultivated with originality and independence. The Review is justified by the extent of its foreign as well as home relations in addressing itself to the work it has chosen. A change which will be made in its form will enable it, quarter by quarter, to combine with its longer papers a series of notices of important books; and, by means of these notices, it will endeavour to provide, by degrees, a systematic critical survey of the higher contemporary literature of our own and other countries.
At the outset of its new career, the Review invites the literary assistance of scholars who appreciate the principle on which it rests. Those who are best qualified to give instruction to others best understand to how small a portion of the field of knowledge their own qualification extends; and a Review which dedicates itself to the advance of scientific learning can only attain its purpose by the constant accession of new contributors in all the departments of research. It cannot become the literary monopoly of any given body of men, however numerous or energetic they may be. The pages of this Review, therefore, will be always open to those who, whether eminent or obscure, have acquired a mastery of the methods by which the results of science are obtained. Without allowing actual controversy between its writers, it will admit that wide diversity of view which is inseparable from the process of honest investigation. And, while fully recognising the importance of literary form, it will assign a higher value to the fruits of patient study and the evidence of systematic thought.
The 101st number will be published in London in October 1869.
[Page 100, note,]for “Is Healthful Reunion Possible?” read “Is Healthful Reunion Impossible?”
[1 ] The stanzas are of no literary merit and have been omitted.
[1 ] This letter refers to the first two volumes of Creighton’s History of the Papacy during the Reformation, published in 1882.
[2 ]Gherardi, Alessandro, published in 1887 Nuovi documenti e studi intorno a Girolamo Savonarola; also Le Consulte della Repubblica Fiorentina.
[1 ]Burchard, Giovanni, papal secretary from 1483-1505, Bishop of Cività Castellano and Orte. The book referred to is his Diarium sive rerum urbanarum commentarii. The first complete edition was published, edited by L. Thuasne, 1883-86. He was secretary of Alexander VI.
[2 ]Wegele, Franz Xavier von (1823-97). The first article in the English Historical Review was that by Acton on “German Schools of History.” It took the form of a review of Dr. Wegele’s book Geschichte der deutschen Historiographie.
Wegele was Professor at Würzburg, and also editor of the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.
[1 ] This letter deals with Acton’s review of Creighton’s second two volumes. The review was published in the English Historical Review. On this topic cf. Life of Mandell Creighton, ii.; also Creighton’s letter printed in the Appendix to Acton’s History of Freedom.
[2 ]Napoleon. Acton contributed to the English Historical Review for July 1887 a notice of Seeley’s Short History of Napoleon the First, and J. C. Ropes’ Napoleon the First.
[1 ]The conspiracy of the Pazzi in 1478 was an attempt to get rid of Lorenzo dei Medici, to which Pope Sixtus IV was privy. The Pazzi were the Florentine family next in importance to the Medici. Cf. Creighton’s History of the Papacy, iv. 84 et seq.
[2 ]Immelmann, J., translated Acton’s article on “German Schools of History.”
[1 ]Artom, Isaaco, an Italian diplomat of Jewish origin, was private secretary to Cavour, and filled many other posts. He wrote books on Cavour and Victor Emmanuel.