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APPENDIX. - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 6 (Lombard Street, Essays on Guizot & Cairnes, The Depreciation of Silver) 
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. 6.
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Liabilities and Cash Reserve of the Chief Banking Systems.
The following is a comparison of the liabilities to the public, and of the cash reserve, of the banking systems of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States. For the United Kingdom the figures are the most defective, as they only include the deposits of the Bank of England, and of the London joint stock banks, and the banking reserve of the Bank of England, which is the only cash available against these liabilities, is also the only cash reserve against the similar liabilities of the London private banks, the provincial English banks, and the Scotch and Irish banks. In the case of England, therefore, the method of comparison exhibits a larger proportion of cash to liabilities that what really exists.
Making proportion of cash reserve to liabilities to the public about 11·2 per cent.
Making proportion of cash reserve to liabilities to the public about 25 per cent.
Making proportion of cash reserve to liabilities to the public about 47 per cent.
Making proportion of cash reserve to liabilities to the public about 12·3 per cent.
Extract from Evidence given by Mr. Alderman Salomons before House of Commons Select Committee in 1858.
1146.Chairman.] The effect upon yourselves of the pressure in November was, I presume, to induce you to increase your reserve in your own hands, and also to increase your deposits with the Bank of England?—Yes, that was so; but I wish to tell the Committee that that was done almost entirely by allowing the bills of exchange which we held to mature, and not by raising any money, or curtailing our accommodation to our customers. Perhaps it may be interesting to the Committee to know that on the 11th of November we held discounted bills for brokers to the amount of £5,623,000. Out of those bills, £2,800,000 matured between the 11th of November and the 4th of December, and £2,000,000 more between the 4th of December and the 31st. So that about £5,000,000 of bills matured between the 11th of November and the 31st of December; consequently we were prepared, merely by the maturing of our bills of exchange, for any demands that might possibly come upon us.
1147. I understand you to say that you did not withdraw your usual accommodation from your own customers, but that you ceased to have in deposit with the bill brokers so large a sum of money as you had before?—Not exactly that; the bills which we had discounted were allowed to mature, and we discounted less: we kept a large reserve of cash.
1148. That is to say you withdrew from the commercial world a part of that accommodation which you had previously given, and at the same time you increased your deposits with the Bank of England?—Yes, our deposits with the Bank of England were increased. We did not otherwise withdraw accommodation.
1149. Mr. Weguelin.] Had you any money at call with the bill brokers?—A small amount; perhaps about £500,000 or less, which we did not call in.
1150.Chairman.] What I understand you to say is, that the effect of the commercial pressure upon you was to induce you upon the whole to withdraw from commerce an amount of accommodation which in other times you had given, and at the same time to increase your deposits with the Bank of England?—So far only as ceasing to discount with strangers, persons not having current accounts with us.
1151. Or to give the same amount to the bill broker?—For a while, instead of discounting for brokers and strangers, we allowed our bills to mature, and remained quiescent with a view to enable us to meet any demand that might be made on ourselves.
1152. Except what you felt bound to your own customers to continue to give, you ceased to make advances?—Quite so; perhaps I might say at the same time, that besides a large balance which we kept at the Bank of England, which of course was as available as in our own tills, we increased our notes in our tills at the head office and at all the branches.
1153. I suppose at that time large sales of public securities were made by the London joint stock banks, which securities were purchased by the public?—It is understood that some joint stock and other banks sold, but I believe it is quite certain that the public purchased largely, because they always purchase when the funds fall.
1154. Are you prepared to give the Committee any opinion of your own as to the effect, one way or the other, which the system of the joint stock banks may have produced with regard to aggravating or diminishing the commercial pressure in the autumn of last year?—I should state, generally, that the joint stock banks, as well as all other banks in London, by collecting money from those who had it to spare, must of necessity have assisted, and could not do otherwise than assist commerce, both then and at all other times.
1155. You say that your discounts, either at your own counter or through the bill brokers, are ordinarily very large, but that at the time of severest pressure you contracted them so far as you thought was just to your own immediate customers?—Yes; but the capital was still there, because it was at the Bank of England, and it was capable of being used for short periods; if we did not want it, others might have used it.
1156. Mr. Weguelin.] In fact, it was used by the Bank of England?—Undoubtedly; I should suppose so; there is no question about it.
1157. You, of course, felt quite certain that your deposits in the Bank of England might be had upon demand?—We had no doubt about it.
1158. You did not take into consideration the effect of the law of 1844, which might have placed the Banking Department of the Bank of England in such a position as not to be able to meet the demands of its depositors?—I must say that that never gave us the smallest concern.
1159. You therefore considered that, if the time should arrive, the Government would interfere with some measure as they had previously done to enable the Bank to meet the demands upon it?—We should always have thought that if the Bank of England had stopped payment, all the machinery of Government would have stopped with it, and we never could have believed that so formidable a calamity would have arisen if the Government could have prevented it.
1160.Chairman.] The notion of the convertibility of the note being in danger never crossed your mind?—Never for a moment; nothing of the kind.
1161. Mr. Weguelin.] I refer not to the convertibility of the note, but to the state of the Banking Department of the Bank of England?—If we had thought that there was any doubt whatever about it, we should have taken the bank-notes and put them in our own strong chest. We could never for a moment believe an event of that kind as likely to happen.
1162. Therefore you think that the measure taken by the Government, of issuing a letter authorising the Bank of England to increase their issues of notes upon securities, was what was generally expected by the commercial world, and what in future the commercial world would look to in such a conjunction of circumstances?—We looked for some measure of that nature. That, no doubt, was the most obvious one. We had great doubts whether it would come when it did, until the very last moment.
1163. Have you ever contemplated the possibility of the Bank refusing to advance, under circumstances similar to those which existed in November 1857, upon good banking securities?—Of course I have, and it is a very difficult question to answer as to what its effect might be; but the notion appears to me to be so thoroughly ingrained in the minds of the commercial world, that whenever you have good security it ought to be convertible at the Bank in some shape or way, that I have very great doubt indeed whether the Bank can ever take a position to refuse to assist persons who have good commercial securities to offer.
1164. Mr. Cayley.] When you say that you have come to some fresh arrangement with regard to your allowance of interest upon deposits, do you speak of yourselves as the London and Westminster Bank, or of some of the other banks in combination with yourselves?—I think all the banks have come to an understanding that it is not desirable, either for their proprietors or for the public, to follow closely at all times the alterations of the Bank. I believe it is understood amongst them all that they do not intend following that course in future.
1165. Is that from a feeling that it is rather dangerous under particular circumstances?—I cannot admit as to its being dangerous, but there can be no doubt of this, that there is a notion in the public mind which we ought not to contend against, that when you offer a high rate of interest for money, you rather do it because you want the person’s money, than because you are obeying the market rate; and I think it is desirable that we should show that if persons wish to employ their money, and want an excessive rate, they may take it away and employ it themselves.
1166. You think that there is now a general understanding amongst the banks which you have mentioned, to act upon a different principle from that on which they acted during last October and November?—I think I may say that I know that to be the case.
1167. Was not it the fact that this system of giving so high a rate of interest upon money at call commenced very much with the establishment of some banks during the last year or two, which, instead of demanding ten days’ or a month’s notice, were willing to allow interest upon only three days’ notice; did not that system begin about two years ago?—I do not think it began with the new banks; I think it began with one of the older banks; I know that, as regards my own bank, we were forced into it; I forgot to say that, with regard to ourselves in taking money on deposit, the parties must leave the money a month, or they lose interest. We do not take money from any depositor at interest unless upon the understanding and condition that it remains a month with us; he may withdraw it within the month, but then he forfeits interest; it will not carry interest unless it is with us a month, and then it is removable on demand without notice.
1168. Is it or is it not a fact that some of the banks pay interest upon their current accounts?—Yes, I think most of the new banks do so; and the Union Bank of London does it.
1169. At a smaller rate than upon their deposits, I presume?—I think at a smaller rate, but I believe it is a fixed rate on the minimum balance for some period, either six months or one month, I do not exactly know the period. I think I ought to add (and I believe it is the case with all the banks) that the London and Westminster Bank, from the day of its first institution until the present day, has never re-discounted a bill. No bill has ever left our bank unless it has been for payment.
1170. Is not that generally the case with the London joint stock banks?—I believe it is the case.
1171. Mr. Weguelin.] But you sometimes lend money upon bills deposited with you by bill brokers?—Yes.
1172. And you occasionally call in that money and re-deliver those securities?—Yes; but that we do to a very small extent.
1173. Is not that equivalent to a re-discount of bills?—No; the discount of a bill and the lending money on bills are very different things. When we discount a bill, that bill becomes our property; it is in our control, and we keep it and lock it up until it falls due; but when brokers come to us and want to borrow, say £50,000 on a deposit of bills, and we let them have the money and afterwards return those bills to them and we get back our money, surely that is not a re-discount.
1174. When you want to employ your money for a short period, do you not frequently take bills of long date, and advance upon them?—But that is not a re-discount on our part. Very often brokers in borrowing money send in bills of long date, and afterwards we call in that loan; but that is no more a re-discount than lending money upon consols and calling in that money again. It is not an advance of ours; we do not seek it; they come to us and borrow our money, and give us a security; when we want our money we call for that money, and return their security. Surely that is not a re-discount.
1175. Mr. Hankey.] Is there not this clear distinction between returning a bill on which you have made an advance and discounting a bill, that if you have discounted a bill your liability continues upon the bill until that bill has come to maturity?—Yes.
1176. In the other case you have no further liability whatever?—Certainly.
1177. Should you not consider that a very important distinction?—I think it is an important distinction. Take this case: suppose a party comes to us and borrows £50,000, and we lend it him, and when the loan becomes due we take our money back again. Surely that is not a discount on our part.
1178. Is there not this distinction, that if you re-discount you may go on pledging the liability of your bank to an almost unlimited amount, whereas in the other case you only get back that money which you have lent?—Undoubtedly.
1179. Mr. Cayley.] The late Chancellor of the Exchequer stated before the adjournment, in a speech in the House of Commons, that during the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the panic, the Bank was almost, if not entirely, the only body that discounted commercial bills; how can you reconcile that with what you have said, that you gave as much accommodation as usual to your customers?—I am not responsible for what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said; I am responsible for what I am now stating as to the course of our bank, that our advances to our customers on the 31st of December were nearly £500,000 higher than they were on the 31st of October. With regard to our not discounting for other parties, it was in consequence of the discredit which prevailed that it was necessary we should hold a portion of our deposits in order that they should be available in case persons called for them; a certain number of persons did so; in the month of November we had a reduction of our deposits, and if we had gone on discounting for brokers we should have had to go into the market ourselves to raise money on our Government securities, but we avoided that by not discounting, and leaving our money at the Bank of England.
1180. Then you did not discount as much as usual for your customers during that period?—Yes, we did, and more.
1181. But not to strangers?—Not to strangers; I make a distinction between our transactions with our customers, who of course expect us to give accommodation, and discounts for brokers, which is entirely voluntary, depending upon our having money to employ.
1182. How would it have been if the letter had not issued at the last moment?—That is a question which I can hardly answer.
1183. What do you mean by that general expression of yours?—It is impossible to predicate what may happen in time of panic and alarm. A great alarm prevailed certainly amongst the commercial world, and it could never have been alleviated, except by some extraordinary means of relief. We might probably have been in the state in which Hamburg was, where they have no bank-notes in circulation.
1184. Mr. Spooner.] What did you mean by the expression, “the last moment”? You said that the letter came out at the last moment; the last moment of what?—It was late in the day; it was a day of great distress. For two days there was a great deal of anxiety, and everybody expected that there would be some relief; and it was when expectation, I suppose, was highly excited that the letter came, and it gave relief.
1185. Cannot you tell us what your opinion would have been if that last moment had happened to have elapsed, and the letter had not come?—It is very difficult to say; it is too much to say that it could not have been got over. There can be no doubt whatever that what created the difficulty existed out of London, and not in it; and therefore it is much more difficult for me to give an opinion. I believe that the banking interest, both private and joint stock, was in a perfectly sound condition, and able to bear any strain which might have been brought upon it in London.
1186. Mr. Hankey.] Can you give the Committee any idea as to what proportion of deposits you consider generally desirable to keep in reserve?—You must be very much guided by circumstances. In times of alarm when there are failures, of course all bankers strengthen their reserves; our reserve then is larger. In times of ordinary business we find, both as regards our deposits at interest as well as those which are not at interest, that there is a constant circulation; that the receipts of money very nearly meet the payments.
1187. You probably keep at all times a certain amount of your deposits totally unemployed; in reserve?—Yes.
1188. In a normal state of commercial affairs, is there any fixed proportion, or can you give the Committee any idea of what you would consider about a fair and desirable proportion which should be so kept unemployed?—I think the best idea which I can give upon that subject is to give our annual statement, or balance sheet, for the 31st of December.
1189. Does that show what amount of unemployed money you had on that day?—Yes. I will put in a statement, which perhaps will be the best means of meeting the question, showing the cash in hand on the 30th of June and the 31st of December in every year, as shown by our published accounts, together with our money at call and our Government securities; that will be perhaps the best and most convenient way of giving the information you desire to have. (See Table on next page.)
1190. Do you consider that when your deposits are materially on the increase it is necessary to keep a larger amount of money in reserve than you would keep at other times?—I may say that, as a general rule, our reserve would always bear some proportion to our deposits.
1191. Do you employ your money in the discounting of bills for other persons than your own customers?—Discount brokers.
1192. Only to discount brokers?—Yes.
1193. Not to strangers who are in the habit of bringing you in bills; commercial houses?—I should say generally not. We have one or two houses for whom we discount who have not accounts with us as bankers, but generally we do not discount except for our customers or for bill brokers.
1194. Do you consider that any advantage can arise to the
public by the Bank of England advancing to a greater extent than can be considered strictly prudent on the soundest principle of banking, under the idea of their affording aid to the commercial world?—As I said before, as long as there are good bills in circulation, that is, bills about which there would be no doubt of their being paid at maturity, there should be some means by which those bills could be discounted.
1195. And do you think that it is part of the functions of the Bank of England to discount a bill for anybody, merely because the party holding the bill wishes to convert it into cash?—As I said before, the Bank of England will have great difficulty in getting rid of that inconvenient idea which there is in the mind of the public, that the Bank of England is something more than an ordinary joint stock bank. I think it must depend very much upon circumstances whether you can or cannot refuse the discount of good bills which are offered to you.
Statement of Circulation and Deposits of the Bank of Dundee at Intervals of Ten Years between 1764 and 1864.
Meeting of the Proprietors of the Bank of England. 13th September, 1866.
(From “Economist,” 22nd September, 1866.)
A General Court of the Bank of England was held at the Bank at twelve o’clock on the 13th instant, for the purpose of declaring a dividend for the past half-year.
Mr. Launcelot Holland, the Governor of the Bank, who presided upon the occasion, addressed the proprietors as follows: This is one of the quarterly general courts appointed by our charter, and it is also one of our half-yearly general courts, held under our bye-laws, for the purpose of declaring a dividend. From a statement which I hold in my hand it appears that the net profits of the Bank for the half-year ending on the 31st of August last amounted to £970,014 17s. 10d., making the amount of the rest on that day £3,981,783 18s. 11d.; and after providing for a dividend at the rate of £6 10s. per cent., the rest will stand at £3,035,838 18s. 11d. The court of directors, therefore, propose that a half-yearly dividend of interest and profits, to the amount of £6 10s. per cent., without deduction on account of income tax, shall be made on the 10th of October next. That is the proposal I have now to lay before the general court; but as important events have occurred since we last met, I think it right I should briefly advert to them upon this occasion. A great strain has within the last few months been put upon the resources of this house, and of the whole banking community of London; and I think I am entitled to say that not only this house but the entire banking body acquitted themselves most honourably and creditably throughout that very trying period. Banking is a very peculiar business, and it depends so much upon credit that the least blast of suspicion is sufficient to sweep away, as it were, the harvest of a whole year. But the manner in which the banking establishments generally of London met the demands made upon them during the greater portion of the past half-year affords a most satisfactory proof of the soundness of the principles on which their business is conducted. This house exerted itself to the utmost—and exerted itself most successfully—to meet the crisis. We did not flinch from our post. When the storm came upon us, on the morning on which it became known that the house of Overend & Co. had failed, we were in as sound and healthy a position as any banking establishment could hold; and on that day and throughout the succeeding week we made advances which would hardly be credited. I do not believe that any one would have thought of predicting, even at the shortest period beforehand, the greatness of those advances. It was not unnatural that in this state of things a certain degree of alarm should have taken possession of the public mind, and that those who required accommodation from the Bank should have gone to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and requested the Government to empower us to issue notes beyond the statutory amount, if we should think that such a measure was desirable. But we had to act before we could receive any such power, and before the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perhaps out of his bed we had advanced one-half of our reserves, which were certainly thus reduced to an amount which we could not witness without regret. But we could not flinch from the duty which we conceived was imposed upon us of supporting the banking community, and I am not aware that any legitimate application for assistance made to this house was refused. Every gentleman who came here with adequate security was liberally dealt with, and, if accommodation could not be afforded to the full extent which was demanded, no one who offered proper security failed to obtain relief from this house. I have perhaps gone a little more into details than is customary upon these occasions, but the times have been unusually interesting, and I thought it desirable to say this much in justification of the course adopted by this house of running its balances down to a point which some gentlemen may consider dangerous. Looking back, however, upon recent events, I cannot take any blame to this court for not having been prepared for such a tornado as that which burst upon us on the 11th of May; and I hope the court of proprietors will feel that their directors acted properly upon that occasion, and that they did their best to meet a very extraordinary state of circumstances. I have now only to move that a dividend be declared at the rate of £6 10s. per cent. for the past half-year.
Mr. Hyam said that before the question was put he wished to offer a few observations to the court. He believed that the statement of accounts which had just been laid before them was perfectly satisfactory. He also thought that the directors had done their best to assist the commercial classes throughout the late monetary crisis; but it appeared to him at the same time that they were in fault in not having applied at an earlier period to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a suspension of the Bank Act. It was well known that the demand on the Bank was materially lessened in the earlier part of the day, in consequence of a rumour which had been extensively circulated that permission to overstep the limits laid down in the Act had been granted. That concession, however, had only been made after the most urgent representations had been addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at a late hour in the night, and if it had then been refused he felt persuaded that the state of affairs would have been much worse on the Saturday than it had been on the Friday. The fact was that the Act of 1844 was totally unsuited to the present requirements of the country, which since that period had tripled or quadrupled its commerce; and he was sorry to know that the measure seemed to meet with the approval of many of their directors. Anyone who read the speeches made in the course of the discussion on Mr. Watkins’ motion must see that the subject called for further inquiry; and he trusted that the demand for that inquiry would yet be conceded.
Mr. Jones said he entirely dissented from the views with respect to the Bank Act entertained by the hon. proprietor who had just addressed the court. In his opinion the main cause of the recent monetary crisis was that, while we had bought £275,000,000 worth of foreign produce in the year 1865, the value of our exports had only been £165,000,000, so that we had a balance against us to the amount of £110,000,000. He believed that the Bank acted wisely in resisting every attempt to increase the paper currency, and he felt convinced that the working classes would be the people least likely to benefit by the rise in prices which would take place under such a change.
Mr. Moxon said he should be glad to know what was the amount of bad debts made by the Bank during the past half-year. It was stated very confidently out of doors that during that period the directors had between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 of bills returned to them.
The Governor of the Bank—May I ask what is your authority for that statement? We are rather amused at hearing it, and we have never been able to trace any rumour of the kind to an authentic source.
Mr. Moxon continued—Whether the bad debts were large or small, he thought it was desirable that they should all know what was their actual amount. They had been told at their last meeting that the Bank held a great many railway debentures; and he should like to know whether any of those debentures came from railway companies that had since been unable to meet their obligations. He understood that a portion of their property was locked up in advances made on account of the Thames Embankment, and in other ways which did not leave the money available for general banking and commercial purposes; and if that were so, he should express his disapproval of such a policy. There was another important point to which he wished to advert. He was anxious to know what was the aggregate balance of the joint stock banks in the Bank of England. He feared that some time or other the joint stock banks would be in a position to command perhaps the stoppage of the Bank of England. If that were not so, the sooner the public were fully informed upon the point the better. But if ten or twelve joint stock banks had large balances in the Bank of England, and if the Bank balances were to run very low, people would naturally begin to suspect that the joint stock banks had more power over the Bank of England than they ought to have. He wished further to ask whether the directors had of late taken into consideration the expediency of paying interest on deposits. He believed that under their present mode of carrying on their business they were forgoing large profits which they might receive with advantage to themselves and to the public; and he would recommend that they should undertake the custody of securities after the system adopted by the Bank of France. In conclusion, he proposed to move three resolutions, for the purpose of providing, first, that a list of all the proprietors of Bank stock should be printed, with a separate entry of the names of all those persons not entitled to vote from the smallness of their stock or from the shortness of time during which they held it; secondly, that a copy of the charter of the Bank, with the rules, orders, and bye-laws passed for the good government of their corporation, should be printed for the use of the shareholders; and thirdly, that auditors should be appointed to make detailed audits of their accounts.
Mr. Gerstenberg recommended that the directors should take some step for the purpose of preventing the spread of such erroneous notions as that which lately prevailed on the Continent, that the Bank was about to suspend specie payments.
Mr. W. Botly said he wished to see the directors taking into their consideration the expediency of allowing interest on deposits.
Mr. Alderman Salomons said he wished to take that opportunity of stating that he believed nothing could be more satisfactory to the managers and shareholders of joint stock banks than the testimony which the Governor of the Bank of England had that day borne to the sound and honourable manner in which their business was conducted. It was manifestly desirable that the joint stock banks and the banking interest generally should work in harmony with the Bank of England; and he sincerely thanked the Governor of the Bank for the kindly manner in which he had alluded to the mode in which the joint stock banks had met the late monetary crisis.
The Governor of the Bank said—Before putting the question for the declaration of a dividend, I wish to refer to one or two points that have been raised by the gentlemen who have addressed the court on this occasion. The most prominent topic brought under our notice is the expediency of allowing interest on deposits; and upon that point I must say that I believe a more dangerous innovation could not be made in the practice of the Bank of England. The downfall of Overend & Gurney, and of many other houses, must be traced to the policy which they adopted of paying interest on deposits at call, while they were themselves tempted to invest the money so received in speculations in Ireland or in America, or at the bottom of the sea, where it was not available when a moment of pressure arrived.
Mr. Botly said he did not mean deposits on call.
The Governor of the Bank of England continued—That is only a matter of detail; the main question is whether we ought to pay interest on deposits, and of such policy I must express my entire disapproval. Mr. Moxon has referred to the amount of our debts, but, as I stated when I took the liberty of interrupting him, we could never trace the origin of any rumour which prevailed upon that subject. As far as it can be said to have ever existed, it had its origin most probably in the vast amount advanced by the Bank. It must, however, be remembered that we did not make our advances without ample security, and the best proof of that is the marvellously small amount of bad debts which we contracted. It has never been a feature of the Bank to state what was the precise amount of those debts; but I believe that if I were to mention it upon the present occasion, it would be found to be so inconsiderable that I should hardly obtain credence for the announcement I should have to make. I am convinced that our present dividend has been as honestly and as hardly earned as any that we have ever realised; but it has been obtained by means of great vigilance and great anxiety on the part of each and all of your directors; and I will add that I believe you would only diminish their sense of responsibility, and introduce confusion into the management of your business, if you were to transfer to auditors the making up of your accounts. If your directors deserve your confidence they are surely capable of performing that duty, and if they do not deserve it you ought not to continue them in their present office. With regard to the supposed lock-up of our capital, I must observe that, with £14,000,000 on our hands, we must necessarily invest it in a variety of securities; but there is no ground for imagining that our money is locked up and is not available for the purpose of making commercial advances. We advanced in the space of three months the sum of £45,000,000; and what more than that do you want? It has been recommended that we should take charge of securities: but we have found it necessary to refuse all securities except those of our customers; and I believe the custody of securities is becoming a growing evil. With regard to railway debentures, I do not believe we have one of a doubtful character. We have no debentures except those of first-class railway companies and companies which we know are acting within their Parliamentary limits. Having alluded to those subjects, I will now put the motion for the declaration of the dividend.
The motion was accordingly put and unanimously adopted.
The chairman then announced that that resolution should be confirmed by ballot on Tuesday next, inasmuch as the Bank could not, under the provisions of its Act of Parliament, declare otherwise than in that form a dividend higher than that which it had distributed during the preceding half-year.
The three resolutions proposed by Mr. Moxon were then read; but they were not put to the meeting, inasmuch as they found no seconders.
Mr. Alderman Salomons said that their Governor had observed that he thought the payment of interest on deposits was objectionable; and every one must see that such a practice ought not to be adopted by the Bank of England. But he took it for granted that the Governor did not mean that his statement should apply to joint stock banks which he had himself told them had conducted their business so creditably and so successfully.
The Governor of the Bank said that what he stated was that such a system would be dangerous for the Bank of England, and dangerous if carried into effect in the way contemplated by Mr. Moxon.
Mr. P. N. Laurie said he understood the Governor of the Bank to say that it would be dangerous to take deposits on call, and in that opinion he concurred.
Mr. Alderman Salomons said that he, too, was of the same opinion.
On the motion of Mr. Alderman Salomons, seconded by Mr. Botly, a vote of thanks was passed to the Governor and the directors for their able and successful management of the Bank during the past half-year, and the proceedings then terminated.
THE METAPHYSICAL BASIS OF TOLERATION.
One of the most marked peculiarities of recent times in England is the increased liberty in the expression of opinion. Things are now said constantly and without remark, which even ten years ago would have caused a hubbub, and have drawn upon those who said them much obloquy. But already I think there are signs of a reaction. In many quarters of orthodox opinion I observe a disposition to say, “Surely this is going too far; really we cannot allow such things to be said”. And what is more curious, some writers, whose pens are just set at liberty, and who would, not at all long ago, have been turned out of society for the things that they say, are setting themselves to explain the “weakness” of liberty, and to extol the advantages of persecution. As it appears to me that the new practice of this country is a great improvement on its old one, and as I conceive that the doctrine of toleration rests on what may be called a metaphysical basis, I wish shortly to describe what that basis is.
I should say that, except where it is explained to the contrary, I use the word “toleration” to mean toleration by law. Toleration by society of matters not subject to legal penalty is a kindred subject on which, if I have room, I will add a few words, but in the main I propose to deal with the simpler subject,—toleration by law. And by toleration, too, I mean, when it is not otherwise said, toleration in the public expression of opinions. Toleration of acts and practices is another allied subject on which I can, in a paper like this, but barely hope to indicate what seems to me to be the truth. And I should add, that I deal only with the discussion of impersonal doctrines. The law of libel, which deals with accusations of living persons, is a topic requiring consideration by itself.
Meaning this by “toleration,” I do not think we ought to be surprised at a reaction against it. What was said long ago of slavery seems to be equally true of persecution,—it “exists by the law of nature”. It is so congenial to human nature, that it has arisen everywhere in past times, as history shows; that the cessation of it is a matter of recent times in England; that even now, taking the world as a whole, the practice and the theory of it are in a triumphant majority. Most men have always much preferred persecution, and do so still; and it is therefore only natural that it should continually reappear in discussion and argument.
One mode in which it tempts human nature is very obvious. Persons of strong opinions wish, above all things, to propagate those opinions. They find close at hand what seems an immense engine for that propagation; they find the State, which has often in history interfered for and against opinions,—which has had a great and undeniable influence in helping some and hindering others,—and in their eagerness they can hardly understand why they should not make use of this great engine to crush the errors which they hate, and to replace them with the tenets they approve. So long as there are earnest believers in the world, they will always wish to punish opinions, even if their judgment tells them it is unwise, and their conscience that it is wrong. They may not gratify their inclination, but the inclination will not be the less real.
Since the time of Carlyle, “earnestness” has been a favourite virtue in literature, and it is customary to treat this wish to twist other people’s belief into ours as if it were a part of the love of truth. And in the highest minds so it may be. But the mass of mankind have, as I hold, no such fine motive. Independently of truth or falsehood, the spectacle of a different belief from ours is disagreeable to us, in the same way that the spectacle of a different form of dress and manners is disagreeable. A set of schoolboys will persecute a new boy with a new sort of jacket; they will hardly let him have a new-shaped penknife. Grown-up people are just as bad, except when culture has softened them. A mob will hoot a foreigner who looks very unlike themselves. Much of the feeling of “earnest believers” is, I believe, altogether the same. They wish others to think as they do, not only because they wish to diffuse doctrinal truth, but also and much more because they cannot bear to hear the words of a creed different from their own. At any rate, without further analysing the origin of the persecuting impulse, its deep root in human nature, and its great power over most men, are evident.
But this natural impulse was not the only motive—perhaps was not the principal one—of historical persecutions. The main one, or a main one, was a most ancient political idea which once ruled the world, and of which deep vestiges are still to be traced on many sides. The most ancient conception of a State is that of a “religious partnership,” in which any member may by his acts bring down the wrath of the gods on the other members, and, so to speak, on the whole company. This danger was, in the conception of the time, at once unlimited and inherited; in any generation, partners A, C, D, etc., might suffer loss of life, or health, or goods—the whole association even might perish, because in a past generation the ancestors of Z had somehow offended the gods. Thus the historian of Athens tells us that after a particular act of sacrilege—a breach of the local privileges of sanctuary—the perpetrators were compelled “to retire into banishment”; and that those who had died before the date he is speaking of were “disinterred and cast beyond the borders”. “Yet,” he adds, “their exile continuing, as it did, only for a time, was not held sufficient to expiate the impiety for which they have been condemned. The Alkmæonids, one of the most powerful families in Attica, long continued to be looked upon as a tainted race, and in cases of public calamity were liable to be singled out as having by their sacrilege drawn down the judgment of the gods upon their countrymen.”1 And as false opinions about the gods have almost always been thought to be peculiarly odious to them, the misbeliever, the “miscreant,” has been almost always thought to be likely not only to impair hereafter the salvation of himself and others in a future world, but also to bring on his neighbours and his nation grievous calamities immediately in this. He has been persecuted to stop political danger more than to arrest intellectual error.
But it will be said: Put history aside, and come to things now. Why should not those who are convinced that certain doctrines are errors, that they are most dangerous, that they may ruin man’s welfare here and his salvation hereafter, use the power of the State to extirpate those errors? Experience seems to show that the power of the State can be put forth in that way effectually. Why, then, should it not be put forth? If I had room, I should like for a moment to criticise the word “effectually”. I should say that the State, in the cases where it is most wanted, is not of the use which is thought. I admit that it extirpates error, but I doubt if it creates belief—at least, if it does so in cases where the persecuted error is suitable to the place and time. In such cases, I think the effect has often been to eradicate a heresy among the few, at the cost of creating a scepticism among the many; to kill the error no doubt, but also to ruin the general belief. And this is the cardinal point, for the propagation of the “truth” is the end of persecution; all else is only a means. But I have not space to discuss this, and will come to the main point.
I say that the State power should not be used to arrest discussion, because the State power may be used equally for truth or error, for Mohammedanism or Christianity, for belief or no-belief, but in discussion truth has an advantage. Arguments always tell for truth as such, and against error as such; if you let the human mind alone, it has a preference for good argument over bad; it oftener takes truth than not. But if you do not let it alone, you give truth no advantage at all; you substitute a game of force, where all doctrines are equal, for a game of logic, where the truer have the better chance.
The process by which truth wins in discussion is this,—certain strong and eager minds embrace original opinions, seldom all wrong, never quite true, but of a mixed sort, part truth, part error. These they inculcate on all occasions, and on every side, and gradually bring the cooler sort of men to a hearing of them. These cooler people serve as quasi-judges, while the more eager ones are a sort of advocates; a Court of Inquisition is sitting perpetually, investigating, informally and silently, but not ineffectually, what, on all great subjects of human interest, is truth and error. There is no sort of infallibility about the court; often it makes great mistakes, most of its decisions are incomplete in thought and imperfect in expression. Still, on the whole, the force of evidence keeps it right. The truth has the best of the proof, and therefore wins most of the judgments. The process is slow, far more tedious than the worst Chancery suit. Time in it is reckoned not by days, but by years, or rather by centuries. Yet, on the whole, it creeps along, if you do not stop it. But all is arrested, if persecution begins—if you have a coup d’état, and let loose soldiers on the court; for it is perfect chance which litigant turns them in, or what creed they are used to compel men to believe.
This argument, however, assumes two things. In the first place, it presupposes that we are speaking of a state of society in which discussion is possible. And such societies are not very common. Uncivilised man is not capable of discussion: savages have been justly described as having “the intellect of children with the passions and strength of men”.1 Before anything like speculative argument can be used with them, their intellect must be strengthened and their passions restrained. There was, as it seems to me, a long preliminary period before human nature, as we now see it, existed, and while it was being formed. During that preliminary period, persecution, like slavery, played a most considerable part. Nations mostly became nations by having a common religion. It was a necessary condition of the passage from a loose aggregate of savages to a united polity, that they should believe in the same gods and worship these gods in the same way. What was necessary was, that they should for a long period—for centuries, perhaps—lead the same life and conform to the same usages. They believed that the “gods of their fathers” had commanded these usages. Early law is hardly to be separated from religious ritual: it is more like the tradition of a Church than the enactments of a statute-book. It is a thing essentially immemorial and sacred. It is not conceived of as capable either of addition or diminution; it is a body of holy customs which no one is allowed either to break or to impugn. The use of these is to aid in creating a common national character, which in aftertimes may be tame enough to bear discussion, and which may suggest common axioms upon which discussion can be founded. Till that common character has been formed, discussion is impossible; it cannot be used to find out truth, for it cannot exist; it is not that we have to forgo its efficacy on purpose, we have not the choice of it, for its prerequisites cannot be found. The case of civil liberty is, as I conceive, much the same. Early ages need a coercive despotism more than they need anything else. The age of debate comes later. An omnipotent power to enforce the sacred law is that which is then most required. A constitutional opposition would be born before its time. It would be dragging the wheel before the horses were harnessed. The strongest advocates both of liberty and toleration may consistently hold that there were unhappy ages before either became possible, and when attempts at either would have been pernicious.
The case is analogous to that of education. Every parent wisely teaches his child his own creed, and till the child has attained a certain age, it is better that he should not hear too much of any other. His mind will in the end be better able to weigh arguments, because it does not begin to weigh them so early. He will hardly comprehend any creed unless he has been taught some creed. But the restrictions of childhood must be relaxed in youth, and abandoned in manhood. One object of education is to train us for discussion, and as that training gradually approaches to completeness, we should gradually begin to enter into and to take part in discussion. The restrictions that are useful at nine years old are pernicious at nineteen.
This analogy would have seemed to me obvious, but there are many most able persons who turn the matter just the other way. They regard the discipline of education as a precedent for persecution. They say, “I would no sooner let the nation at large read that bad book than I would let my children read it”. They refuse to admit that the age of the children makes any difference. At heart they think that they are wiser than the mass of mankind, just as they are wiser than their children, and would regulate the studies of both unhesitatingly. But experience shows that no man is on all points so wise as the mass of men are after a good discussion, and that if the ideas of the very wisest were by miracle to be fixed on the race, the certain result would be to stereotype monstrous error. If we fixed the belief of Bacon, we should believe that the earth went round the sun; if we fixed that of Newton, we should believe “that the Argonautic expedition was a real event, and occurred bc 937; that Hercules was a real person, and delivered Theseus, another real person, bc 936; that in the year 1036 Ceres, a woman of Sicily, in seeking her daughter who was stolen, came into Attica, and there taught the Greeks to sow corn”. And the worst is, that the minds of most would-be persecutors are themselves unfixed: their opinions are in a perpetual flux; they would persecute all others for tenets which yesterday they had not heard of and which they will not believe to-morrow.
But it will be said, the theory of Toleration is not so easy as that of education. We know by a certain fact when a young man is grown up and can bear discussion. We judge by his age, as to which every one is agreed. But we cannot tell by any similar patent fact when a State is mature enough to bear discussion. There may be two opinions about it. And I quite agree that the matter of fact is more difficult to discover in one case than in the other; still it is a matter of fact which the rulers of the State must decide upon their responsibility, and as best they can. And the highest sort of rulers will decide it like the English in India—with no reference to their own belief. For years the English prohibited the preaching of Christianity in India, though it was their own religion, because they thought that it could not be tranquilly listened to. They now permit it, because they find that the population can bear the discussion. Of course, most Governments are wholly unequal to so high a morality and so severe a self-command. The Governments of most countries are composed of persons who wish everybody to believe as they do, merely because they do. Some here and there, from a higher motive, so eagerly wish to propagate their opinions, that they are unequal to consider the problem of toleration impartially. They persecute till the persecuted become strong enough to make them desist. But the delicacy of a rule and the unwillingness of Governments to adopt it, do not prove that it is not the best and the right one. There are already in inevitable jurisprudence many lines of vital importance just as difficult to draw. The line between sanity and insanity has necessarily to be drawn, and it is as nice as anything can be. The competency of people to bear discussion is not intrinsically more difficult than their competency to manage their own affairs, though perhaps a Government is less likely to be impartial and more likely to be biassed in questions of discussion than in pecuniary ones.
Secondly, the doctrine that rulers are to permit discussion, assumes not only, as we have seen, that discussion is possible, but also that discussion will not destroy the Government. No Government is bound to permit a controversy which will annihilate itself. It is a trustee for many duties, and if possible, it must retain the power to perform those duties. The controversies which may ruin it are very different in different countries. The Government of the day must determine in each case what those questions are. If the Roman Emperors who persecuted Christianity really did so because they imagined that Christianity would destroy the Roman Empire, I think they are to be blamed not for their misconception of duty, but for their mistake of fact. The existence of Christianity was not really more inconsistent with the existence of the Empire in the time of Diocletian than in that of Constantine; but if Diocletian thought that it was inconsistent, it was his duty to preserve the Empire.
It will be asked, “What do you mean by preserving a society? All societies are in a state of incipient change; the best of them are often the most changing; what is meant, then, by saying you will ‘preserve’ any? You admit that you cannot keep them unaltered, what then do you propose to do?” I answer that, in this respect, the life of societies is like the life of the individuals composing them. You cannot interfere so as to keep a man’s body unaltered; you can interfere so as to keep him alive. What changes in such cases will be fatal, is a question of fact. The Government must determine what will, so to say, “break up the whole thing” and what will not. No doubt it may decide wrong. In France, the country of experiments, General Cavaignac said, “A Government which allows its principle to be discussed, is a lost Government,” and therefore he persecuted on behalf of the Republic, thinking it was essential to society. Louis Napoleon similarly persecuted on behalf of the Second Empire; M. Thiers on behalf of the Republic again; the Duc de Broglie now persecutes on behalf of the existing nondescript. All these may be mistakes, or some of them, or none. Here, as before, the practical difficulties in the application of a rule do not disprove its being the true and the only one.
It will be objected that this principle is applicable only to truths which are gained by discussion. “We admit,” such objectors say, “that where discussion is the best or the only means of proving truth, it is unadvisable to prohibit that discussion, but there are other means besides discussion of arriving at truth, which are sometimes better than discussion even where discussion is applicable, and sometimes go beyond it and attain regions in which it is inapplicable; and where those more efficient means are applicable, it may be wise to prohibit discussion, for in these instances discussion may confuse the human mind and impede it in the use of those higher means. The case is analogous to that of the eyes. For the most part it is a sound rule to tell persons who want to see things, that they must necessarily use both their eyes, and rely on them. But there are cases in which that rule is wrong. If a man wants to see things too distant for the eyes, as the satellites of Jupiter and the ring of Saturn, you must tell him, on the contrary, to shut one eye and look through a telescope with the other. The ordinary mode of using the common instruments may, in exceptional cases, interfere with the right use of the supplementary instruments.” And I quite admit that there are such exceptional cases and such additional means; but I say that their existence introduces no new difficulty into the subject, and that it is no reason for prohibiting discussion except in the cases in which we have seen already that it was advisable to prohibit it.
Putting the matter in the most favourable way for these objectors, and making all possible concessions to them, I believe the exceptions which they contend for must come at last to three.
First, there are certain necessary propositions which the human mind will think, must think, and cannot help thinking. For example, we must believe that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other,—that a thing cannot both be and not be,—that it must either be or not be. These truths are not gained by discussion; on the contrary, discussion presupposes at least some of them, for you cannot argue without first principles any more than you can use a lever without a fulcrum. The prerequisites of reasoning must somehow be recognised by the human mind before we begin to reason. So much is obvious, but then it is obvious also that in such cases attempts at discussion cannot do any harm. If the human mind has in it certain first principles which it cannot help seeing, and which it accepts of itself, there is no harm in arguing against those first principles. You may contend as long as you like, that things which are equal to the same thing are not equal to each other, or that a thing can both exist and not exist at the same time, but you will not convince any one. If you could convince any one you would do him irreparable harm, for you would hurt the basis of his mind and destroy the use of his reason. But happily you cannot convince him. That which the human mind cannot help thinking it cannot help thinking, and discussion can no more remove the primary perceptions than it can produce them. The multiplication table will remain the multiplication table, neither more nor less, however much we may argue either for it or against it.
But, though the denial of the real necessary perceptions of the human mind cannot possibly do any harm, the denial of alleged necessary perceptions is often essential to the discovery of truth. The human mind, as experience shows, is apt to manufacture sham self-evidences. The most obvious case is, that men perpetually “do sums” wrong. If we dwell long enough and intently enough on the truths of arithmetic they are in each case self-evident; but, if we are too quick, or let our minds get dull, we may make any number of mistakes. A certain deliberation and a certain intensity are both essential to correctness in the matter. Fictitious necessities of thought will be imposed on us without end unless we are careful. The greatest minds are not exempt from the risk of such mistakes even in matters most familiar to them. On the contrary, the history of science is full of cases in which the ablest men and the most experienced assumed that it was impossible to think things which are in matter of fact true, and which it has since been found possible to think quite easily. The mode in which these sham self-evidences are distinguished from the real ones is by setting as many minds as possible to try as often as possible whether they can help thinking the thing or not. But such trials will never exist without discussion. So far, therefore, the existence of self-evidences in the human mind is not a reason for discouraging discussion, but a reason for encouraging it.
Next, it is certainly true that many conclusions which are by no means self-evident and which are gradually obtained, nevertheless, are not the result of discussion. For example, the opinion of a man as to the characters of his friends and acquaintances is not the result of distinct argument, but the aggregate of distinct impressions: it is not the result of an investigation consciously pursued, but the effect of a multiplicity of facts involuntarily presented; it is a definite thing and has a most definite influence on the mind, but its origin is indefinite and not to be traced; it is like a great fund raised in very small subscriptions and of which the subscribers’ names are lost. But here again, though these opinions too were not gained by discussion, their existence is a reason for promoting discussion, not for preventing it. Every-day experience shows that these opinions as to character are often mistaken in the last degree. Human character is a most complex thing, and the impressions which different people form of it are as various as the impressions which the inhabitants of an impassable mountain have of its shape and size. Each observer has an aggregate idea derived from certain actions and certain sayings, but the real man has always or almost always said a thousand sayings of a kind quite different and in a connection quite different; he has done a vast variety of actions among “other men” and “other minds”; a mobile person will often seem hardly the same if you meet him in very different societies. And how, except by discussion, is the true character of such a person to be decided? Each observer must bring his contingent to the list of data; those data must be arranged and made use of. The certain and positive facts as to which every one is agreed must have their due weight; they must be combined and compared with the various impressions as to which no two people exactly coincide. A rough summary must be made of the whole. In no other way is it possible to arrive at the truth of the matter. Without discussion each mind is dependent on its own partial observation. A great man is one image—one thing, so to speak—to his valet, another to his son, another to his wife, another to his greatest friend. None of these must be stereotyped; all must be compared. To prohibit discussion is to prohibit the corrective process.
Lastly, I hold that there are first principles or first perceptions which are neither the result of constant though forgotten trials like those last spoken of, nor common to all the race like the first. The most obvious seem to me to be the principles of taste. The primary perceptions of beauty vary much in different persons, and for different persons at different times, but no one can say that they are not most real and most influential parts of human nature. There is hardly a thing made by human hands which is not affected more or less by the conception of beauty felt by the maker; and there is hardly a human life which would not have been different if the idea of beauty in the mind of the man who lived it had been different.
But certainly it would not answer to exclude subjects of taste from discussion, and to allow one school of taste-teachers to reign alone, and to prohibit the teaching of all rival schools. The effect would be to fix on all ages the particular ideas of one age on a matter which is beyond most others obscure and difficult to reduce to a satisfactory theory. The human mind evidently differs at various times immensely in its conclusions upon it, and there is nothing to show that the era of the persecutor is wiser than any other era, or that his opinion is better than any one else’s.
The case of these variable first principles is much like that of the “personal equation,” as it is called in the theory of observations. Some observers, it is found, habitually see a given phenomenon, say the star coming to the meridian, a little sooner than most others; some later; no two persons exactly coincide. The first thing done when a new man comes into an observatory for practical work is to determine whether he sees quick or slow; and this is called the “personal equation”. But, according to the theory of persecution, the national astronomer in each country would set up his own mind as the standard; in one country he would be a quick man, and would not let the slow people contest what he said; in another he would be a slow man, and would not tolerate the quick people, or let men speak their minds; and so the astronomical observations—the astronomical creeds if I may say so—of different countries would radically differ. But as toleration and discussion are allowed, no such absurd result follows. The observations of different minds are compared with those of others, and truth is assumed to lie in the mean between the errors of the quick people and the errors of the slow ones.
No such accurate result can be expected in more complex matters. The phenomena of astronomical observation relate only to very simple events, and to a very simple fact about these events. But perceptions of beauty have an infinite complexity: they are all subtle aggregates of countless details, and about each of these details probably every mind in some degree differs from every other one. But in a rough way the same sort of agreement is possible. Discussion is only an organised mode by which various minds compare their conclusions with those of various others. Bold and strong minds describe graphic and definite impressions: at first sight these impressions seem wholly different. Writers of the last century thought classical architecture altogether superior to Gothic; many writers now put it just the other way, and maintain a mediæval cathedral to be a thing altogether superior in kind and nature to anything classical. For years the world thought Claude’s landscapes perfect. Then came Mr. Ruskin, and by his ability and eloquence he has made a whole generation depreciate them, and think Turner’s altogether superior. The extrication of truth by such discussions is very slow; it is often retarded; it is often thrown back; it often seems to pause for ages. But upon the whole it makes progress, and the principle of that progress is this: Each mind which is true to itself, and which draws its own impressions carefully, and which compares those impressions with the impressions of others, arrives at certain conclusions, which as far as that mind is concerned are ultimate, and are its highest conclusions. These it sets down as expressively as it can on paper, or communicates by word of mouth, and these again form data which other minds can contrast with their own. In this incessant comparison eccentric minds fall off on every side; some like Milton, some Wordsworth, some can see nothing in Dryden, some find Racine intolerably dull, some think Shakespeare barbarous, others consider the contents of the Iliad “battles and schoolboy stuff”. With history it is the same; some despise one great epoch, some another. Each epoch has its violent partisans, who will listen to nothing else, and who think every other epoch in comparison mean and wretched. These violent minds are always faulty and sometimes absurd, but they are almost always useful to mankind. They compel men to hear neglected truth. They uniformly exaggerate their gospel; but it generally is a gospel. Carlyle said many years since of the old Poor-law in England: “It being admitted then that outdoor relief should at once cease, what means did great Nature take to make it cease? She created various men who thought the cessation of outdoor relief the one thing needful.” In the same way, it being desirable that the taste of men should be improved on some point, Nature’s instrument on that point is some man of genius, of attractive voice and limited mind, who declaims and insists, not only that the special improvement is a good thing in itself, but the best of all things, and the root of all other good things. Most useful, too, are others less apparent; shrinking, sensitive, testing minds, of whom often the world knows nothing, but each of whom is in the circle just near him an authority on taste, and communicates by personal influence the opinions he has formed. The human mind of a certain maturity, if left alone, prefers real beauty to sham beauty, and prefers it the sooner if original men suggest new charms, and quiet men criticise and judge of them.
But an æsthetical persecution would derange all this, for generally the compulsive power would be in the hands of the believers in some tradition. The State represents “the rough force of society,” and is little likely to be amenable to new charms or new ideas; and therefore the first victim of the persecution would be the original man who was proposing that which in the end would most improve mankind; and the next would be the testing and discerning critic who was examining these ideas and separating the chaff from the wheat in them. Neither would conform to the old tradition. The inventor would be too eager; the critic too scrupulous; and so a heavy code of ancient errors would be chained upon mankind. Nor would the case be at all the better if by some freak of events the propounder of the new doctrine were to gain full control, and were to prohibit all he did not like. He would try, and try in vain, to make the inert mass of men accept or care for his new theory, and his particular enemy would be the careful critic who went with him a little way and then refused to go any further. If you allow persecution, the partisans of the new sort of beauty will, if they can, attack those of the old sort; and the partisans of the old sort will attack those of the new sort; while both will turn on the quiet and discriminating person who is trying to select what is good from each. Some chance taste will be fixed for ages.
But it will be said, “Who ever heard of such nonsense as an æsthetical persecution? Everybody knows such matters of taste must be left to take care of themselves; as far as they are concerned, nobody wants to persecute or prohibit.” But I have spoken of matters of taste because it is sometimes best to speak in parables. The case of morals and religion, in which people have always persecuted and still wish to persecute, is the very same. If there are (as I myself think there are) ultimate truths of morals and religion which more or less vary for each mind, some sort of standard and some kind of agreement can only be arrived at about it in the very same way. The same comparison of one mind with another is necessary; the same discussion; the same use of criticising minds; the same use of original ones. The mode of arriving at truth is the same, and also the mode of stopping it.
We now see the reason why, as I said before, religious persecution often extirpates new doctrines, but commonly fails to maintain the belief in old tenets. You can prevent whole classes of men from hearing of the religion which is congenial to them, but you cannot make men believe a religion which is uncongenial. You can prevent the natural admirers of Gothic architecture from hearing anything of it, or from seeing it; but you cannot make them admire classical architecture. You may prevent the admirers of Claude from seeing his pictures, or from praising them; but you cannot make them admirers of Turner. Just so, you may by persecution prevent minds prone to be Protestant from being Protestant; but you will not make men real Catholics: you may prevent naturally Catholic minds from being Catholic; but you will not make them genuine Protestants. You will not make those believe your religion who are predisposed by nature in favour of a different kind of religion; you will make of them, instead, more or less conscious sceptics. Being denied the sort of religion of which the roots are in their minds and which they could believe, they will for ever be conscious of an indefinite want. They will constantly feel after something which they are never able to attain; they will never be able to settle upon anything; they will feel an instinctive repulsion from everything; they will be sceptics at heart, because they were denied the creed for which their heart craves; they will live as indifferentists, because they were withheld by force from the only creed to which they would not be indifferent. Persecution in intellectual countries produces a superficial conformity, but also underneath an intense, incessant, implacable doubt.
Upon examination, therefore, the admission that certain truths are not gained by discussion introduces no new element into the subject. The discussion of such truths is as necessary as of all other truths. The only limitations are that men’s minds shall in the particular society be mature enough to bear the discussion, and that the discussion shall not destroy the society.
I acknowledge these two limitations to the doctrine that discussion should be free, but I do not admit another which is often urged. It is said that those who write against toleration should not be tolerated; that discussion should not aid the enemies of discussion. But why not? If there is a strong Government and a people fit for discussion, why should not the cause be heard? We must not assume that the liberty of discussion has no case of exception. We have just seen that there are, in fact, several such. In each instance, let the people decide whether the particular discussion shall go on or not. Very likely, in some cases, they may decide wrong; but it is better that they should so decide, than that we should venture to anticipate all experience, and to make sure that they cannot possibly be right.
It is plain, too, that the argument here applied to the toleration of opinion has no application to that of actions. The human mind in the cases supposed, learns by freely hearing all arguments, but in no case does it learn by trying freely all practices. Society, as we now have it, cannot exist at all unless certain acts are prohibited. It goes on much better because many other acts are prohibited also. The Government must take the responsibility of saying what actions it will allow; that is its first business, and the allowance of all would be the end of civilisation. But it must, under the conditions specified, hear all opinions, for the tranquil discussion of all more than anything else promotes the progressive knowledge of truth, which is the mainspring of civilisation.
Nor does the argument that the law should not impose a penalty on the expression of any opinion equally prove that society should not in many cases apply a penalty to that expression. Society can deal much more severely than the law with many kinds of acts, because it need be far less strict in the evidence it requires. It can take cognisance of matters of common repute and of things of which every one is sure, but which nobody can prove. Particularly, it can fairly well compare the character of the doctrine with the character of the agent, which law can do but imperfectly, if at all. And it is certain that opinions are evidence of the character of those who hold them—not conclusive evidence, but still presumptive. Experience shows that every opinion is compatible with what every one would admit to be a life fairly approvable, a life far higher than that of the mass of men. Great scepticism and great belief have both been found in characters whom both sceptics and believers must admire. Still, on the whole, there is a certain kinship between belief and character; those who disagree with a man’s fundamental creed will generally disapprove of his habitual character. If, therefore, society sees a man maintaining opinions which by experience it has been led to connect with actions such as it discountenances, it is justified in provisionally discountenancing the man who holds those opinions. Such a man should be put to the proof to show by his life that the opinions which he holds are not connected with really pernicious actions, as society thinks they are. If he is visibly leading a high life, society should discountenance him no longer; it is then clear that he did not lead a bad life, and the idea that he did or might lead such a life was the only reason for so doing. A doubt was suggested, but it also has been removed. This habit of suspicion does not, on the whole, impair free discussion; perhaps even it improves it. It keeps out the worst disputants, men of really bad character, whose opinions are the results of that character, and who refrain from publishing them, because they fear what society may say. If the law could similarily distinguish between good disputants and bad, it might usefully impose penalties on the bad. But, of course, this is impossible. Law cannot distinguish between the niceties of character; it must punish the publication of an opinion, if it punishes at all, no matter whether the publisher is a good man or whether he is a bad one. In such a matter, society is a discriminating agent: the law is but a blind one.
To most people I may seem to be slaying the slain, and proving what no one doubts. People, it will be said, no longer wish to persecute. But I say, they do wish to persecute. In fact, from their writings, and still better from their conversation, it is easy to see that very many believers would persecute sceptics, and that very many sceptics would persecute believers. Society may be wiser; but most earnest believers and most earnest unbelievers are not at all wiser.
The announcement of the death of M. Guizot will take the minds of many back to the cold February evenings in 1848, when London, long used to political calm, was convulsed by a new excitement, when we heard cried in rapid succession, “Resignation of Guizot,” “Flight of Louis Philippe,” “Proclamation of the Republic,” and when the present chapter of European politics began. M. Guizot lived to see many events and many changes, but none which restored him to pre-eminence, or which made him once more a European personage. His name was never cried in the London streets again. M. Guizot was in most respects exactly the opposite of the common English notion of a Frenchman. There floats in this country an idea that a Frenchman is a light, changeable, sceptical being, who is fond of amusement, who is taken with childish shows, who always wants some new thing, who is incapable of fixed belief on any subject, and on religion especially. But Guizot was, on the contrary, a man of fixed and intense belief in religion, who was wholly devoted to serious study, who probably cared as little for the frivolous side of life as any human being who ever lived, who was stiff in manner and sedate in politics to a fault. A Puritan born in France by mistake, is the description which will most nearly describe him to an ordinary Englishman; for he had all the solidity, the solemnity, and the energy of Puritanism, as well as some of its shortcomings. And it is very natural that such should be his character, for he came of a Huguenot family, who really were French Puritans. The French national character is much more various than it is supposed to be according to common English ideas, and the stern variety which M. Guizot represents is one of the most remarkable.
Indeed, in the special peculiarity which coloured his political life, he was a most characteristic Frenchman. He represented their excessive propensity to political fear. As we all know, a principal obstacle to good government in France is a deficiency in political courage. At the present moment a very considerable part of the nation are inclined to return to the Empire—not that they are attached to the Empire, not that they do not see its defects, not that they are not ashamed of its end, but because they are so impressed by the difficulties of making any other strong government that their heart fails them. They want something which will save them from the Commune, and they are disposed to run back to what saved them from the Commune before, without any sufficient inquiry whether a better safeguard cannot be found, or whether this one will be effectual. The excess of their apprehension dims their eyes and distorts their judgment. Guizot had no partiality for the Empire, or for anything like the Empire, but nevertheless his whole political life rested on a similar feeling and aimed at a similar end. He, too, was frightened at revolutionary excess; his father perished in the first revolution. He was born in 1787, and consequently began his intellectual life about 1800, just when the reaction against the revolution was the strongest, when its evil was most exaggerated, and when its good was most depreciated. A strong, serious, unoriginal mind—and such was M. Guizot’s—which receives such penetrating impressions early in life, generally holds them on, in one shape or another, till the end. And so it was in this case. Guizot was devoted through life to what he called the “Conservative” policy; he was always endeavouring to avert revolution; he was incessantly in dread of tumult; he saw attack and commotion everywhere. But he had no notion what was the real counterforce in France to the revolutionary force. We now know from experience that that force, though it calls itself the force of numbers, can be controlled by appealing to numbers; that the peasant proprietors, who are the majority in France, hate nothing so much and fear nothing so much; that they think revolution may take from them their property, their speck of land, their “all”; and, therefore, they will resist revolution at any time and on any pretence, and will support any power which they think can prevail against it. But Guizot did not perceive this great force. His great recipe for preventing revolution was not by extending the suffrage, but by restricting it. He did not see that the masses in France, having property of their own, were only too likely to be timid about property. His scheme was to resist revolution by keeping the suffrage so high that it included only a few in the towns, that it scarcely included any of the masses in the country. He proposed to found the throne of constitutional liberty on a select bourgeoisie—few in number, moderate in disposition, easily conciliated by their interests. The revolution of 1848 might have been avoided if he had been willing a little to extend the suffrage, but he would not extend it. The proposals then made for so doing seem now trivial and unimportant, but Guizot sincerely believed that they would ruin the country; sooner than grant them he incurred a revolution. He was so perturbed by the excessive dread of revolution that he could not see what was the true power with which to oppose it—that he threw away a mighty power—that he relied solely on a weak one—that he caused the calamity he was always fearing.
It is this great misfortune which will always colour any retrospect of M. Guizot’s career, and render it a melancholy one. In many minor ways he accomplished much good. As a minister of public instruction he did much—much, perhaps, which no other man at that time could have done—for education in France. When ambassador in England he did much to prevent a war which was then imminent, and which M. Thiers would have hurried on; through his whole career, by a lofty scrupulosity, he did much to raise the low level of morality in French public life. As an orator he had great triumphs at the tribune, though his eloquence is too little business-like and too academical for our English taste. But notwithstanding these triumphs and these services, his political career must ever be held to be a complete failure, for he failed in the work of his life—in the aim he had specially chosen as his own. His mission—he would have accepted the word—was to avert revolution, and he caused revolution. Nor is the failure one which was slight in its effects, or which history can forget. On the contrary, every page of present French politics bears witness to its importance. No French Republic and no French Monarchy can now have nearly as much strength or nearly as much chance of living as the Monarchy of July which Guizot destroyed.
Of his literary productions, this is not the place to speak. Nothing can be more unlike ordinary Parisian literature than they are. That literature generally reminds its readers of the old saying, “that the French would be the best cooks in Europe if they had got any butcher’s meat”. Of French cookery nothing can be more libellous; but of much French literature it would be quite true to say that the writers would be the first in Europe if they only knew anything about their subject. The power of expression has been cultivated to an extreme perfection, but unfortunately the writers have neglected the further task of finding anything true and important to say. But M. Guizot’s works are the reverse of all this. A work of more solid erudition than the History of French Civilisation was never written by a German professor, and few Germans have ever written anything so accurately matured, and so perfectly mastered. In this respect he contrasts admirably with his great rival. There used to be a story—a just story in the main, we believe—of a critic who betted that he would find five errors in any five pages of Thiers’ great history of the Revolution. Even his warmest admirers indeed have never contended that M. Thiers had a scrupulous love of truth, was a careful collector of evidence, or a fine judge of it when collected. But M. Guizot was all three. The labour expended on his books must have been very great, and much more than it would be now, for he has himself helped his successors—certainly to arrive at his own conclusions with greater ease, and perhaps also to arrive at improved conclusions.
From our peculiar view, as an economic statesman M. Guizot has, we are sorry to say, no title to respect. He and his fellow-ministers under Louis Philippe left it to the Empire to improve the material condition of the French people. He did little to promote railways, and he objected to the English treaty of 1860 because it was an approach to Free Trade, because it would enable “the English manufacturers, after an English commercial crisis, to export their goods to France and to swamp the French manufacturers”. The real principles of Free Trade had never penetrated into his mind, any more than into the minds of Louis Philippe’s other ministers; and partly on that account France now looks back to the time of the Empire as to the “golden age” of wealth and industry, and not to the time of the free monarchy.
We are sorry to have to write so much of blame of one whose character all Europe respected, and some of whose virtues were so valuable to France. But it is one perhaps painful consequence of prolonged old age that a man’s character at death is estimated with perfect partiality. Those who most hated him and those who most loved him are mostly passed away or superseded in the scene of affairs. And if, as in M. Guizot’s case, the good which he did was mostly one of temporary moral impression, and the evil which he caused one of lasting political result, there will be always more blame than praise to say. The impalpable virtues can hardly be described and are mostly forgotten, but the indelible consequences of the political errors are fixed on the face of the world; they cannot be overlooked, and they must be spoken of.
We cannot attempt at this moment to give anything like a full estimate of Mr. Cairnes’s character, either as a political economist or a political writer. The first few days after the death of one so eminent and so peculiar, are never favourable to such a task; and the difficulty is always greater when, as in this case, he wrote much on topics on which public opinion is still divided. We can only attempt a few descriptive words.
The characteristic of Mr. Cairnes’s mind was a tenacious grasp of abstract principle. He applied to the subjects of his life exactly the sort of mind with which a great judge applies the principles of law to the facts before him; and he applied it under more difficult circumstances, for, in the principles of positive law, a judge can absolutely be guided by previous precedent, whereas a thinker in the moral sciences has to make his principles, as well as to apply them—“to find,” at least often, “the dream as well as the interpretation”. This quality is not common in any age, but it is particularly uncommon now. The habit of popular writing—a habit which is apt to grow on all who deal with political and moral subjects, for it is only by being in some degree popular that you will be read or can be influential—has a contrary influence. It generates a habit of leaving out difficulties, of saying that which is easy rather than that which is true, that which is clear rather than that which is exact. There are a great many parts of political and economical truth which are in their nature very complex, just as many parts of science are so, and, in these cases, extreme easiness of comprehension in a writer is a quality to be suspected; for probably it arises from his leaving out a part—frequently the most difficult part—of the subject. Mr. Cairnes never does this; he takes his readers through the subject, just as it seems to him to be. He did not make it artificially easy, or attempt to please them by lessening its intricacies. And he showed himself even more careless of popularity in another way. The curiosity on such subjects is now far greater than the capacity for gratifying it; severe and abstract reasoning is necessary before they can be mastered, and there are many who dislike severe and abstract reasoning. Accordingly, something else is often put forward, as if it would do as well. “Figures” are used instead of reasoning. But, as Mr. Cairnes always contended, the figures of an instance do not of themselves prove anything beyond that instance. They are most valuable in illustrating a distinct argument, but that argument must accompany them. But, as the argument is often more difficult than the illustration, it is apt not to be used, and “political economy” is in danger of dissolving into “statistics,” which is much as if anecdotes of animals were substituted for the science of biology.
The constant rigour with which Mr. Cairnes withstood these temptations has given his writings a very peculiar character. There is a Euclidian precision about them which fits them for a tonic for the mind, and which makes much other writing seem but “soft stuff” after we have been reading them;—at any rate, you feel that you have seen, in all likelihood, the worst of the subject. You have been in company with one who did not spare himself anything, and who despised readers that wished to be spared anything. Reading his works is like living on high ground; the “thin air of abstract truth” which they give you, braces the mind just as fine material air does the body.
The wonder that this incessant intellectual vigour was displayed for years by a wasting invalid, hardly able to move, and often in the most intense pain, has long been familiar to his friends, and has now been published to the world. Much as those who read his writings valued his life, they felt almost forbidden to grieve when they heard of his death; for it seemed selfish to wish that their instruction should be purchased at the cost of such pain as his. Why a mind like his should have been created, and then the power to use it at all fully withheld, is one of the mysteries of which in this world we have no solution.
By far the most remarkable of Mr. Cairnes’s writings, in our judgment, are his Logic of Political Economy and his essays on some of the Unsettled Questions, recently published. In the first he defines better, as we think, than any previous writer, the exact sort of science which political economy is, the kind of reasoning which it uses, and the nature of the relation which it, as an abstract science, bears to the concrete world. Those who know how many different opinions have been held on this, and how difficult a part of the subject it is as a rule, prize, we think, most highly what Mr. Cairnes has said on it. In his recent essays on Unsettled Questions in political economy, Mr. Cairnes takes up the hardest parts of the subject and discusses them with a consistent power—it might almost be said with an enjoyment—which is scarcely given to any one who now remains to us. As the questions with which he deals are “unsettled,” it would be premature to assume the truth of his conclusions; but this may be said, that all who hereafter write on these problems, not only ought to study what he has said, but also to reply to it, if they do not agree with it, a process which—if we may speak from some experience—they will not find at all easy.
We do not mean that Mr. Cairnes has conclusively solved these problems; there are several on which our opinions are not his. And all will agree that the recluse life which his health compelled him to lead, deprived him of information, and especially of a sort of easy familiarity with the course of business, which the greatest ability could not wholly make up for. But under such circumstances the wonder is, not that what he did was sometimes imperfect, but that he was able to do anything.
We have spoken of Mr. Cairnes principally as an economist, partly because that is more especially our own province, but partly also because we think that was the capacity in which his powers were best fitted to work, and by which he will be most remembered. But his other writings have much and characteristic merit, though this is not the time to attempt an estimate of them. In the presence of great difficulties, silence is “better than many words”; and there are few greater difficulties than that a mind so strong and pure should have been so thrust aside from life and subjected to so much pain.
THE PUBLIC WORSHIP REGULATION BILL.1
If the “Public Worship Regulation Bill” dealt only with subjects theological or religious, we should not interfere in the discussion; but it deals also with political questions on which we do not think it right to be silent, especially as many whom we much respect have, we think, selected a policy of which the effect will be the reverse of what they expect, and the success of which they may hereafter much regret.
All changes in England should be made slowly and after long discussion. Public opinion should be permitted to ripen upon them. And the reason is, that all the important English institutions are the relics of a long past; that they have undergone many transformations; that, like old houses which have been altered many times, they are full both of conveniences and inconveniences which at first sight would not be imagined. Very often a rash alterer would pull down the very part which makes them habitable, to cure a minor evil or improve a defective outline.
The English Church is one of those among our institutions which, if it is to be preserved at all, should be touched most anxiously. It is one of our oldest institutions. Every part of it has a history, which few of us thoroughly understand, but which we all know to be long and important. In its political relations it has been altered many times, and each time under circumstances of considerable complexity. The last settlement was made more than two hundred years ago, when men’s minds were in a very different state from what they are now: when Newton had not written, when Locke had not thought, when physical science, as we now have it, did not exist, when modern philosophy, for England at least, had not begun. The railways, the telegraphs, the very common-sense of these times, would have been unintelligible in the year 1660; they would have been still more unintelligible in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. To attempt to enforce on us now a settlement made in times so different, is a grave undertaking; it ought only to be made after the most ample discussion, and when every competent person has had time to consider the effect.
We have as yet felt little inconvenience from our old law, because we have dealt with it in a truly English manner. Always refusing to change it explicitly, always saying that we would never so change it, we were changing it silently all the while. Year by year this practice was omitted, or this habit insensibly changed. Each generation differed from its fathers; and though they might in part utter the same words, they did not mean the same things; their intellectual life was different. Incessant changes in science, in literature, in art, and in politics—in all that forms thinking minds—have made it impossible that really and in fact we should think the same things in 1874 as our ancestors in 1674 or 1774. Just as in legal theory Queen Victoria has pretty much the same prerogative as Queen Elizabeth, so too in legal theory the English Church may be identical with that of two hundred years ago; but the Church is not a legal theory, it is “a congregation of faithful men”;1 and no one of these is in a state of mind identical, or nearly identical, with those of two hundred years ago.
Many Continental statesmen would be much puzzled at this insensible alteration; they would have a difficulty in imagining a law which was a law in theory but not a law in practice, which no one would alter in word and no one enforce in reality. But the English are very practised in this sort of arrangement—they have a kind of genius for the compensation of errors. For many years we had probably the worst and most bloody penal law in Europe; it is awful to read the old statutes which fix death as the penalty for minor acts altogether undeserving of it. But these statutes did not work nearly so much evil as might have been expected. There was besides a complex system of indictments which let off very many culprits upon trifling flaws, and there was also an absurd system of incessant remissions and pardons; the worst evils of an excessively bad law were exceedingly mitigated by a very bad mode of applying it. Speaking roughly, and subject to minor criticism, the history has been the same in the Church; in it, too, an imperfect law has been remedied by an imperfect mode of procedure. The Church has been allowed to change in this and that because it has been exceedingly difficult to interfere with it. The legal penalty against change has been distant, costly, and uncertain; and therefore it has not been applied. Change has been possible because the punishment of change was difficult. But the essence of the “Public Worship Regulation Bill” is to make that punishment easy. “If the Rubric says so,” say its supporters, “the Rubric ought to be enforced.” This is as if Sir Samuel Romilly had attacked, not our bad penal code, but our bad penal procedure. If, by the historical growth of approximate equivalents, A mitigates B, you will deteriorate, not improve the world, if you change A without changing B, though both may be evils.
The analogy, indeed, very imperfectly expresses the truth. In the recent history of the Church, the English have conspicuously shown another of their predominant peculiarities—indifference to abstract truth. When a quarter of a century ago English lawyers in the Court of Privy Council were first required to decide theological questions, they did so in a way which astonished theologians. They declined to supply any abstract proposition. If the enacted formularies contained such and such words, no clergyman of the Church could, according to them, contradict those words, but they allowed the clergy to say anything else. We cannot use theological terms here; but suppose, by an economical analogy, the formulary had said that “Free Trade was beneficial to mankind,” the lawyers would have decided that no clergyman could say that Free Trade was not beneficial; but they would have allowed him to say that “Commercial liberty was inexpressibly disastrous to mankind,” because as lawyers they would not undertake to say that “Free Trade” and “commercial liberty” meant the same thing, or that in an abstract subject the two phrases might not in some way and to some minds seem consistent. In mere description this kind of decision may not seem very sensible, and it is utterly contrary to any which a theologian would ever have adopted; but in practice it preserved the Church Establishment. It was first applied in the Gorham case, and retained the Evangelical clergy in the Church; then, in the Essays and Reviews case, it retained the Broad Church; and lastly, in Mr. Bennett’s case, it retained the High Church. If the Establishment was to be maintained, it was necessary that all these parties should be kept side by side within it, and by this system of interpretation they were thus kept.
Unfortunately, the courts of law have not been able to apply the same sort of judicial decision to the practical directions for the public worship of the Church which they applied to her theoretical teachings. There is inevitably something more distinct and clear about acts which are required to be done at a given time and place, than in statements of abstract doctrine. When the courts have been appealed to, it has not been possible to apply to ritual the same comprehensiveness which has had such excellent political effects in the case of doctrine. But, nevertheless, there is exactly the same necessity for it. Almost every party in the Church is harassed by some of her rules, just as it is hampered by some of her words. The Broad Church dislikes the Athanasian creed, and avoids the use of it. The Low Church and the High Church are in vital and necessary opposition as to the mode of conducting the Sacramental services. In every characteristic Church every party thinks probably something is done which the strict Rubric would forbid, or something omitted which it would prescribe. Until now this difficulty has not been very acutely felt. As we have explained, the imperfection of the law was cured by the imperfection of the procedure. No doubt the Rubrics were framed in other days; no doubt they took no notice of the wants of the present day; no doubt a strict adherence to them would expel from the Church very many whose doctrines had been decided to be consistent with hers. And then, to enforce the observance of the Rubric was difficult, costly, and dubious, and so the natural evil did not happen. The wants of various minds were variously met by various deviations from the law, which in theory were liable to penalties, but which in practice were unpunished.
The scope of the “Public Worship Regulation Bill” is to destroy this variety. It is a new Act of Uniformity as far as “public worship” is concerned. A short and simple process—which has been so often stated that we need not here describe it—is prescribed which will enable objectors to enforce any Rubric, and which no doubt will cause them to be so enforced. The proposers of the bill have not enough considered the applicability of this primary assumption: no Church can have only a single form of public worship unless it has also a single creed. An apparent uniformity may be maintained in specified details; but in spirit, in feeling, in its deepest consequences on those who habitually hear and see, the effect will be different. A service conducted by a Broad Churchman, explained in his sermon, and commented upon in his manner, will be very unlike what it would be if that service is conducted by a bonâ fide dogmatic believer. No mere Act of Uniformity can prevent this. Still less can it efface the inevitable difference between a Sacramental service in the hands of a High Church clergyman and in those of a Low Church one. The two belong to separate and unlike species. The one believes that the service contains a supernatural act, the other that it is an edifying rite; the one regards it as an invisible miracle, the other as a conspicuous exhortation. Make what laws you like, how can the two perform these services with the same tone of mind, the same kind of thought, the same effect on the congregation? You may dress two men up in the same clothes, but they will be two men for all that. If once you permit two or more faiths in a Church, you in truth permit two or more Rituals. The various feelings and the various creeds will somehow find a means of bringing themselves into contact with the minds with which they wish to be in contact. You have “swallowed the camel” when you permitted the creed, and it is useless to “strain at the gnat” and forbid the expression of it.
This is to be especially borne in mind by those who think that there is a party in the Church that desires to introduce Romanism, and who approve of this bill because they think it will counteract that party. The essence of Romanism is not in its ceremonies, but in its doctrines. As was explained to the House of Commons on Wednesday, nothing could be simpler than the mode in which Mr. Newman used to conduct his services at Oxford; and yet he then held “Roman” doctrine, and penetrated half the young men about him with a deep faith in the highest sacramental principle. Unless you reverse the decision in the Bennett case, a doctrine which no common person will distinguish from Romanism will continue to be, and must be, taught in the Church of England. We do not believe it will lose in strength by being denied this or that form of Ritual. It will attract in any case the minds to whom it is congenial, and it will rather gain than lose in éclat by seeming to be persecuted.
We shall be told that this argument proves too much; for that it proves that this bill will do nothing at all, and that therefore at least it will do no harm. But it will, we think, do great harm—at least, if it be good to keep the Establishment, and if it does harm to weaken it. The real danger of the Establishment is from within, not from without. The manner in which its sections have been retained within its limits has in part developed, and as time goes on is still developing more largely, a great evil. Specially the Low Church, specially the Broad Church, and specially the High Church, have all been kept in her communion because the judges refused to draw certain logical inferences from her formularies; as lawyers they declined to draw them. But intellectual young men who are thinking of becoming clergymen, do not like this reasoning. They say: “The courts of law may not like to draw these inferences, but I must. I have spent my youth in a mental training which has prepared me to draw them, and which compels me to do so. Educated as I have been, I cannot take half an argument and leave it; I must work it out to the end. That end seems to me inconsistent with this or that of the formularies of the Church. Others say it is not, but I am not sure that it is not; at any rate, I do not like to risk the happiness of my life upon its being consistent. If in after-years my investigation should run counter to a vast collection of assertions framed by various men, in various ages, of various minds, what will be my fate? I must either sacrifice the profession by which I live, or the creed in which I believe. The lawyers probably might not turn me out indeed; but my conscience was not made by lawyers—I shall have to turn myself out.” This is the sort of thought which more and more prevents intellectual young men from taking orders, and we are beginning to see the effect. The moral excellence and the practical piety of the clergy are as good as ever; but they want individuality of thought and originality of mind. They have too universal a conformity to commonplace opinion. They are not only conscientious, but indecisive; more and more they belong to the most puzzling class to argue with, for more and more they “candidly confess” that they must admit your premises, but, on “account of the obscurity of the subject,” must decline to draw the inevitable inference. Already this intellectual poorness is beginning to be felt; and if it should augment, it will destroy the Establishment. She will not have in her ranks arguers who can maintain her position either against those who believe more or against those who believe less. Scepticism sends trained and logical minds to the intellectual conflict; Romanism does so also; but the Established Church refuses them—refuses them silently and indirectly, but still effectually. The Public Worship Bill will, we conceive, augment this difficulty almost at the very point at which its being augmented will be most calamitous. Many young men who are acutely conscious of the restraints of the Establishment in speculation, are attracted by its freedom in practice. “I may be cramped in metaphysics,” they think at heart, “but I shall be free in action.” But this bill will be a measure—for aught young men can tell, the first of a series—which will limit the freedom of their lives, and cramp them on the side of practice as they already are on the side of thought. The most malevolent enemy of the Established Church could deal her no acuter wound.
Upon the whole, we can conceive nothing clearer than that this bill should not pass this year. We are certain that members of Parliament have not considered the necessary arguments, and that the nation has not done so either.
THE DEPRECIATION OF SILVER.
[1 ] Grote’s History of Greece, part ii., chap. x.
[1 ] Sir John Lubbock’s Prehistoric Times, p. 465.
[1 ] [This paper originally appeared in the Economist on the occasion of the adoption by the Government of the late Mr. Russell Gurney’s Public Worship Regulation Bill. It is here included as a telling practical illustration of the teaching of the essay on “The Metaphysical Basis of Toleration,” pp. 219-237.—Editor.]
[1 ] No. XIX. of the Articles.