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Appendix A: Guizot’s Lectures on European Civilization (1836) - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by John C. Cairns (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985).
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Guizot’s Lectures on European Civilization (1836)
London Review, II (equivalent to Westminster Review, XXXI) (Jan., 1836), 306-36. Headed. “Art. II Cours d’Histoire Moderne, par M. [François Pierre Guillaume] Guizot, Professeur d’Histoire à la Faculté des Lettres de Paris—(consisting of) Histoire Générale de la Civilisation en Europe, depuis la Chute de l’Empire Romain jusqu’à la Révolution Française, 1 vol. [Paris: Pichon and Didier, 1828.] Histoire de la Civilisation Française depuis la Chute de l’Empire Romain jusqu’en 1789, only 5 vols. published. [Paris: Pichon and Didier, 1829-32.]” Running titles as title. Signed “W. and E.”; i.e., Joseph Blanco White and Editor. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “Part of the article on Guizot’s Lectures on European Civilization, in the same number of the same work [as ‘State of Society in America’]” (MacMinn, 46). No copy in Mill’s library, Somerville College.
For comment, see lxxiv-lxxv and xcviii-xcix above.
it is not many years since an English nobleman, who long performed his duties of hereditary legislator, under no apprehension of unfitness, on his part, or distrust of his abilities, on that of the public, declared to a brother Peer that he knew no more of the history of England than what he had learnt in Shakspeare.[*] Since the period to which this fact belongs there has been a considerable improvement in the education of all classes. Yet if we could obtain equally unreserved confessions, it is probable that the increase of historical knowledge, in any valuable sense of the term, would be found still to be a rare acquirement among our public men. Few indeed, who have been at a tolerably good school, will not be able to repeat the list of English Sovereigns, with the dates of their accession, and the principal events of their reigns, as they are given in Goldsmith’s history,[†] or some more recent abridgment. Most of our legislators will, besides, be found to have, at some period, been moved by a certain degree of secret shame, to make their way through the pages of Hume.[‡] But the number of those who may have made a serious study of history, as an indispensable preparation for an enlightened discharge of their parliamentary duties, will, we fear, be found very small.
Statements of this kind are certainly difficult to be proved; but the present is one not likely to be questioned. When, as it happens with the regular branches of public education, the average of knowledge acquired by the mass of those who have been trained under the system is in value far below the expenditure of time and property which it occasions, though there may exist a strong general conviction of the fact, the assertion of that conviction is invidious, and exposed to a flat denial. It is obvious indeed, but, when denied, not easily substantiated, that, out of ten who have passed between twelve and thirteen years in the study of Latin and Greek, nine can make scarcely any use of those two languages for any purpose of utility or rational amusement. The case is, however, very different in regard to the knowledge of which we are now lamenting the scarcity. The difficulty here would be to prove the existence: for it will not easily be supposed that men will generally become well acquainted with any thing which is slightly thought of, if not totally neglected, in the system of public education; and so it unfortunately happens in regard to history.
The accidental connexion of ancient history with the study of Latin and Greek, which makes up the main literary department cultivated in our universities, gives an opportunity to some of the more zealous tutors to oblige a few of their pupils to become acquainted with the historical periods described by Herodotus and Thucydides. Roman history fares generally worse; for very few undergraduates can take up the whole of Livy for their examination, much less fill up the chasms of the narrative from other sources.* The second Decad is the portion most usually read. But even such an imperfect acquaintance with ancient history as this incidental study (for language is the immediate object) of two fragments of that history is likely to produce is by no means a necessary condition for taking a degree. From the circumstance that Herodotus presents little difficulty to the student, though a portion of his work is very frequently chosen for the examination required to obtain a common certificate from the examiners, he is not among the Greek writers preferred for the display of scholarship demanded from the young men who aim at honours. As the being able to translate Livy cannot be considered a great feat of scholarship—and as accurate knowledge of the historical narrative makes no remarkable show in the schools (the place of examination), the diligent and able students are disinclined to historical books, and take the poets in preference. It may therefore be truly said that, in general, ancient history forms no important part of the university education. Dr. Cardwell, the public professor of ancient history at Oxford, has for some years attracted a numerous audience to his terminal lectures,* by the transient interest produced by the taste and talent with which he treats detached subjects of classical antiquities. The professor of modern history,[*] after having several times attempted, in vain, to collect a class, was obliged to be silent. The truth is, that no kind of knowledge whatever will be attended to at any place of education, unless it is a means of distinction at the examinations; and no kind of knowledge will be made a subject of examination in which the examiners (who, during the time of our intimate acquaintance with Oxford, were frequently not much older or much higher in the ranks of literature than the examinees) cannot also distinguish themselves. Hence the almost impossibility of enlarging the circle of studies which limits the ground-work of education in a place which ought to compete with the first universities of Europe. Some men of higher standing have of late been appointed examiners at Oxford;[†] but though a few among these able and learned individuals have contributed to raise the standard of public honours, they have it not in their power to multiply the subjects of examination. That could only be done if the university professors were the regular instructors as well as examiners; enjoying, of course, the privilege of appointing, at the beginning of every scholastic year, a course of study for the whole body of undergraduates.
The general disregard of historical studies in English education becomes a melancholy topic of reflection in the presence of the work which is the subject of this article. But before we say a word on the book itself, we must endeavour to obviate a just prejudice which attaches itself to the name of M. Guizot. He is known in England chiefly as one of the principal instruments of the profoundly immoral, as well as despotic régime which France is now enduring. One of the detestable arts of that system, as of the system of Napoleon, of which it is an imitation, is to seek out, and place in stations of eminence, all the most distinguished abilities in the nation, provided they are willing to prostitute themselves to its service. In the capacity of a tool of this system, though we believe him to be greatly more sincere than most of the other tools, we have nothing to say for M. Guizot. But in the more honourable character which he had earned for himself as a professor and as a literary man, before practical politics assailed him with their temptations and their corrupting influences, he deserves to be regarded with very different feelings. He is among the first, if not the very first, of a school of writers on history, and the philosophy of history, which has arisen within the last twenty years, and which, though to the infinite discredit of our country it has scarcely been heard of here, is, in all the other countries of civilised Europe, known and estimated as it deserves.
The Histoire de la Civilisation en Europe (a work complete in itself), and the five volumes which have appeared of the Histoire de la Civilisation en France, may be cited as models of the manner in which history should be studied—its facts made to elucidate one another, and the workings of the great determining causes traced through the complication of their multifarious effects. The character of M. Guizot’s writings is besides so popular and attractive, that they may be said to be addressed to every one who, being previously acquainted with a mere outline of the history of Europe, from the decline of the Roman empire to the end of the sixteenth century, has also the still more necessary preparation of what might be called an ethical taste—that is, an interest in the workings of external events upon man, and the reaction of man’s mind upon the world that surrounds him. The applause with which the lectures, which make up these two works, were heard at Paris, proves that among the educated classes of that capital there exists far more of the taste just mentioned than in the corresponding ranks of society among us. Were any such taste alive in England, the works of M. Guizot—(nay, the works of a constellation of French historical writers, which may well excite the emulation of even the most advanced and refined nations)* —would not be generally unknown on this side of the Channel. Even a recent writer, who, though he began to print his work on the English Commonwealth one year before the publication of M. Guizot’s Civilization in Europe, seems to have kept it on the anvil till 1832, takes no further notice of his illustrious contemporary and fellow-labourer upon a much ampler scale, than a dry controversy with him in a note near the end of his first volume, and a “See Mably and Guizot” in the more interesting one, which contains his “Proofs and Documents.”[*] One can easily understand why a writer who chiefly cultivates the valuable but not very attractive erudition of the mere antiquarian, should turn away from the pages of a more philosophical historian. But that the mass of the reading public, among whom few persons would not be ashamed to be found ignorant of the French language, should remain unacquainted with Guizot’s historical Lectures, betrays an evident misdirection in the process of their instruction. It shows that French is cultivated as a mere accomplishment—for show; and that for any of the more essential purposes of a liberal education, it is not cultivated at all. Few, very few of the vast numbers who are taught French at school, acquire the habit of reading that language with ease; and this may account for the general ignorance of modern French literature in England.* Yet, if the young mind were properly trained, through English reading, so that among the multitude of purchasers in the book-market there were but one-fourth who either wished for instruction, or could derive amusement from anything requiring the slightest expense of intellect or thought, the English booksellers would not have omitted the publication of, at least, Guizot’s Civilization in Europe, in English. That volume by itself is not only invaluable to the philosopher, and most interesting to every reader of cultivated intelligence, but is admirably suited to be put into the hands of young people near the close of their pupillary instruction, immediately after they have read Koch’s Tableau des Révolutions de l’Europe.[*] Guizot’s lectures would unite and arrange in the mind the dry facts of the Tableau;—would not only fix them in the memory, but transform them into that practical wisdom which the ancients expected from history, and which, considering the increased experience of ages, and our greater wealth in historical documents, our own age has an infinitely higher right to demand. It would, lastly, perform what, in regard to Koch’s Abridgment,[†] as we have it, is of the highest importance—for it would help a sensible teacher, and still more a sensible learner, to correct the false and mischievous views which the French continuator,[‡] one of the conservative sages (if we do not mistake) of the restored Bourbons, has attached to the original work.
M. Guizot’s manner of treating history will be best exhibited by specimens. Could we venture to give extracts in the author’s own language, we should feel more sure of interesting our readers; but the conviction which we have already expressed, that the number of those who in this country can freely take in the meaning of philosophical French writing is comparatively very small, absolutely prevents our indulging ourselves in quotations. We cannot, on the other hand, feel satisfied that we are able to do full justice to our author in our translations of detached passages. He who, with a sufficient command of the two languages, should undertake a version of these works, would be able gradually to lead the English reader into a familiarity with a certain phraseology—with a peculiar set of figurative or allusive expressions, the philosophic significance of which is clear and determinate in the author’s mind, and is seized at once by all educated Frenchmen, but which imply combinations of ideas not equally familiar to the English reader. The national mind of no two countries advances in exactly the same track: every nation, which is rapidly progressive in intellect, has innumerable meanings to express, which have not yet arisen in the national mind of any other country; and possesses phrases which at once summon up those meanings, and which other countries can only gradually learn to understand. There is a way to translate, not words, but style, by means of which, without destroying individuality, the translator should render such works as have an European interest into an European style. We are quite opposed to the abolition of national forms of thought, which necessarily produce peculiar forms of expression; but, like national dress, these should be allowed to prevail at home, and when engaged in our domestic concerns. For the concerns of the human mind, for the great interests of European civilization, we should, by mutual consent, endeavour to modify such forms of thought and expression as produce a feeling of strangeness; and, whilst we carefully avoided all corruptions or distortions of individual languages, we should strive after a general assimilation of tone and manner. This may be done by means of able translations of eminent works—such as those with which we are at present concerned; but it is impracticable in the version of detached passages. A metaphor, a sentiment, for instance, too French (we might say, too Continental) to be verbally translated into English, must in such a case be omitted, or something so different be substituted as must destroy the character of the passage. In the translation of a long work, however, the outlandish phrase may be half suppressed the first time it occurs, in the hope that, by means of an imperfect version, the reader may on the next occasion be ready to approach nearer to the original: in fact, the translator of a long work has a constant opportunity to gain over the national ear by means of the universal understanding. For let it be observed, that what people object chiefly against are not words, but combinations, figures, forms of thought;—and that, whilst they imagine they dislike such expressions because they are not national, the true source of the objection is their not understanding the meaning—or even mistaking it.
In spite of the difficulty which we have attempted to describe, we will introduce detached passages in English, begging the indulgence of our readers, if in general we content ourselves with very imperfect imitations. We have also to apologize for not attempting to give a general abstract of the works before us, on the obvious ground that they themselves are a very compressed abstract. Our purpose is to invite readers to M. Guizot’s works, and encourage a taste for his manner of treating history.
The subject of M. Guizot’s Lectures, as the titles of the two collections express it, is Civilization. The course of 1828 comprehends the history of European Civilization in general. In the subsequent courses, the series of which was interrupted by the political events which in an evil hour engaged the Professor in the vulgar career of politics, he commenced filling up that general outline with facts and illustrations taken from the history of his own country. The sources of civilization being the same among the whole European family, the philosophical historian may choose any of the nations where the growth of civilization has been continuous and vigorous, as an example, applicable to all the rest, under certain modifications which must be learnt from the detailed history of each. It was natural that M. Guizot should prefer France: yet it must be acknowledged that his reasons for that choice justify it, independently of his national predilections, and the peculiar interest of the subject to the audience he was addressing. He considers the general progress of European civilization to be more faithfully imaged in the history of France than in that of any other country.
Two things (says M. Guizot) present themselves to the mind, when we assert that a country is highly civilized: an organization of the national body, which makes the advantages of union greatly preponderate over the inconveniences and necessary evils of social restraints; and a free and vigorous development of the mental powers and moral faculties in individuals.[*]
When we say that a country advances in civilization, we may mean that external life is becoming more secure and more agreeable—that mankind are improving their physical condition, subduing the powers of nature more and more to their use, and so improving their social arrangements, that all the conjunct operations which constitute social life are better performed than before: Or we may mean that the mental faculties of mankind are unfolding themselves—that a higher spiritual culture is introducing itself—that the individuals of whom society is made up, are advancing more and more towards the perfection of their nature—that the national mind is becoming wiser, nobler, more humane, or more refined, and that more numerous or more admirable individual examples of genius, talent, or heroism are manifesting themselves. When we use the word civilization in its largest sense, we, according to M. Guizot, include in it both these requisites: the improvement of society and outward life, and that of the inward nature of man. If either improves, and the other does not improve along with it, we have no confidence in the reality, or in the durability of the improvement; we do not consider it as a permanent advance in civilization. The two elements do not always keep pace with each other; but when either of them advances, it surely paves the way for the other. When either gets the start, it is soon arrested till the other has overtaken it; and for the healthy and rapid advancement of both, it is of great importance that their development should take place pari passu.
M. Guizot is of opinion, that though other countries may have for a time outstripped France in one or other of these two constituents of civilization, there is no country in which the two have accompanied each other so closely, and been developed so harmoniously together. This opinion he substantiates by a critical survey of the civilization of all the principal nations of Europe: the substance of which we will extract, because, though it does not exemplify M. Guizot’s historical method, it is a specimen of his general tone of thought, and is ingenious, and much of it eminently just and important.
He begins with England. English civilization (we adopt M. Guizot’s ideas, but do not bind ourselves by the laws of translation) has been mainly directed to the improvement of the social arrangements, and of everything relating to external life: its physical comfort—its freedom—and even its morality; but still, external well-being, and such inward culture only as has a direct and evident bearing on external well-being, have engaged the greatest part of the attention of the English national mind. Society, in England, has developed itself more nobly and more brilliantly than man: immediate and narrow applications have been more thought of than principles: the nation makes a greater figure in history, than the individuals who compose it. This eagerness for outward results—this comparative indifference to truth for itself, and to the development and exercise of the human faculties for themselves, M. Guizot considers to be perceptible even in our most purely speculative philosophers—for instance, our metaphysicians. With less questionable accuracy, he affirms the absence of interest in general and commanding views, to have been, at all periods, characteristic of the nation at large.
I turn my eyes to the period of the greatest intellectual activity of England; to the epochs when ideas, when the workings of the national intellect, have occupied the greatest place in her history—the political and religious convulsions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Every one knows what a prodigious commotion took place at that period in the English mind. Can any one tell me what great philosophical system, what general doctrines, that have since spread themselves over Europe, this commotion gave birth to? It produced immense and admirable consequences; it created new and better institutions and manners; nor did it act only upon the social life, but also upon the spiritual condition of man; it gave rise to sects, and enthusiasts; but it did little, directly at least, to enlarge the horizon of the human mind—it did not kindle one of those great intellectual torches which illuminate an epoch.[*]
The power of religion has been greater in England than in any country whatever. The earnestness and concentration of the convictions which have impelled the English religious parties have hardly a parallel in history; and their convictions have acted largely on their outward lives. But all their zeal has been spent practically. Leading and luminous views have seldom, if ever, issued from among them. The speculations of English divines have generally been confined by some political aim—have been limited to the removal of some definite and local evil, or to the mere refitting and patching up of old doctrines. The spirit of England is practical. The nation has had, and still possesses, great minds; but neither in number nor power (though the latter is unquestionably great) do they bear a due proportion to the colossal growth of the external, the social civilization of the country.
Germany presents a contrast to this picture. The social or external progress has there been difficult and slow: the coarseness of German manners has been proverbial till our own days. But how infinitely beyond this progress of the social body has been that of the individual intellect in that country! Compare the mental powers displayed by the German reformers, Luther, Melancthon, Bucer, with the semi-barbarous manners which they themselves betray, and which, considering their circumstances, may be taken as samples of those which prevailed in the nation. The existence of such minds, in such a state of society, appears a paradox. If we pass on to the seventeenth century, we find Leibnitz and the German Universities in the first rank among the leaders of the mental progress of mankind; while the Courts of Brandenburg and Bavaria, described as we find them in the memoirs of the same period,[*] present the most shocking picture of coarseness and sensuality. Even at this moment, when the good sense and personal virtues of some of the German despots have made external Germany advance, its social improvement bears only a very small proportion to the dimensions of its collective mind.
No one is ignorant how great has been, for the last fifty years, in Germany, the activity of the human mind: in all departments—in philosophy, in history, in elegant literature, in poetry—it has made great strides. The road which it has followed may not always have been the best; some of the results which it has arrived at may be contested; but the energy and universality of the development itself are incontestable. Unquestionably, the arrangements of society, the improvement of the outward condition of the people, have not kept pace with it.[†]
Perhaps it is to this circumstance that we might trace the peculiarites of German literature. The German mind appears to have grown without communication with things external. Unsatisfied with the social structure, which always confines, and not unfrequently galls it, if not sufficiently aloof from it, the German mind has created a world for itself, into which the possessors of power have generally had the good sense not to intrude.
The country to which Beauty was given as a curse* —Italy—wants the two characters just mentioned; its civilization is not essentially practical like the English, nor almost exclusively speculative like the German. It is most certain that individual Italians have reached to the highest eminence of pure intelligence, and that the nation has exhibited a degree of social activity and life not inferior in kind to that of any other people. Man and society have there displayed themselves with considerable lustre: the Italians have excelled, at once, in science, arts, philosophy, and in the practical concerns of government and life. Italy seems indeed to have now for a long time stood still: she advances on neither of the two paths of civilization; both her social energies and those of her individual minds seem to have become enervated and paralyzed. But if we observe Italy more closely, we shall find that this debility and faintness are not the effect of her own incapacity, but of a foreign yoke: she suffers like a flower struggling to expand its petals under the pressure of a callous, cold hand. The intellectual and political capabilities of Italy are undestroyed: what she wants, what she has ever wanted, is faith in truth. It is not enough to have intellect for speculation and talent for conduct; there must be a link to connect the two; there must be a deep conviction that they who know, can and ought to act according to what they know; that the truths which are known do not exist solely for speculation, but have the power and the right to prevail in the government of the outward world. To this faith Italy has always been a stranger. She has been fertile in great minds, and has opened grand and noble views to the intellect: she has also swarmed with practical statesmen of the most surprising talents: but the two classes, and the two pursuits, have always been strangers to each other. The philosophers, the men of general ideas, have never conceived themselves authorized to act; and strong as their conviction of the abstract truth of some great principles may have been, they could never persuade themselves that one atom of the external world might be moved out of its place by the power of such principles. The practical men, on the other hand, the arbiters of society, despised general notions, (the pen which reports M. Guizot’s thoughts is irresistibly moved to add—except generalized principles of deception,) and have never felt the least desire to regulate the facts under their control, in conformity with any great and comprehensive views. Both classes have acted as if truth was only fit to be known, but not to be acted upon. This, even in the fifteenth century, the principal period of Italian social activity, as well as in subsequent times, has smitten with a kind of sterility both the speculative genius and the practical talent of Italy, and must be assigned as the principal cause of her present hopeless condition.
There is still a great country [says M. Guizot, in a noble passage] which I certainly would not name, were it not out of respect for a generous but unhappy people; else, in connexion with our subject, there would be no necessity to make mention of Spain. Neither great minds, nor great events, are wanting in her history; human intelligence and human society show themselves now and then, in that history, in noble and striking shapes. But they appear scattered and single, like the tall palms of a sandy desert. That chief character of civilization—general, continuous progress, has been denied in Spain, both to intellect and society. If the solemn stillness is ever broken, our roused attention is sure to be disappointed. In Spain nothing has a result. In vain should we look for some great idea, some social improvement, some philosophical system, some actively benevolent institution, for which Europe has to thank Spain. She seems quite detached from Europe; she has accepted little at its hands, and has returned still less. I should have reproached myself [concludes M. Guizot] if I had passed the name of Spain in silence; but she is certainly of little consequence in the history of European civilization.[*]
From these facts, compared with the general progress of civilization in France, our author concludes in favour of that country as the best suited to illustrate the general character and growth of European civilization. In justice to M. Guizot, we are bound to repeat that this preference is not the effect of national vanity. Highly as he estimates French civilization (and who that is himself free from national partialities will not agree with him?) he does not choose France on account of absolute superiority above the three nations which might illustrate the subject in hand; but because, in that remarkable country, the advance of the two elements of civilization—the internal and the external development—has always been more parallel and harmonious than either in England, Germany, or Italy. Though inferior to England in every thing relating to the organization, activity, and freedom of action of the social body; though unable, in the development of the individual mind, to contend with Germany or Italy, the combination and mutual support of theory and practice is better seen in the progress of French civilization, than in the more irregular, though partially more vigorous and extensive growth of other countries.
Man, and Society, in France, have always moved forward, I will not say simultaneously, but separated by a short interval. Side by side with every great event, every revolution, every public improvement, we always find in our history some idea, some general doctrine, corresponding to them. No change has taken place in outward life, which intellect has not promptly seized upon and converted into a source of new riches for her own use; nor has any thing happened in the world of intellect which has not made its influence felt, and generally very speedily, in the world without. For the most part, indeed, the improvements in the social order have been preceded, and in some degree caused, by general ideas; they have been prepared in theory before they have been accomplished in practice, and the intellectual progress has been a-head of the social one. This twofold character, compounded of intellectual activity and practical ability, of meditation and of application, is impressed upon all the great events of French history, upon all the leading classes in French society, and gives them a character and aspect which is found nowhere else.[*]
This description, which, as applied to the present French character, is strikingly just, M. Guizot proves to have been true in all former periods, by a most able general view of his country’s history. The historical sketch to which we allude cannot be further reduced than it is in the original, and in that state it is too long for insertion: it is contained in the first lecture on the civilization of France. The whole course of lectures affords ample confirmation of M. Guizot’s conclusion.
But whatever may have been the amount of benefit obtained by France herself from the co-ordinate growth of the two civilizations within her territory—the impulse which, evidently from the same cause, she has imparted during the last two centuries to the rest of the European family, both in the old and the new world, is too manifest to be questioned. The spread of French speculations on government, and on moral questions intimately connected with the organization of society, was quite prodigious during the last century. It is common to attribute the diffusive power of French ideas to a peculiar power of the language. But whoever examines the subject with a competent knowledge, will easily perceive that the charm of the French writings does not belong to the language itself, but to the mental habits which have fashioned it into its highly attractive forms. German stands higher above French, as a language, than Greek above Latin. Yet the great master of German poetry and eloquence was, in spite of his anti-Gallican prejudices, obliged to confess that every educated mind must owe a great and most important portion of its education to the instrumentality of the French language.* This peculiar power has, in our opinion, its source in the circumstance, that all French writers above mediocrity have the peculiar art of imparting their speculative principles in a manner which makes the reader feel that by means of them he has acquired a command over a multitude of scattered details, and increased not only his theoretical knowledge but his practical power. They bring the speculative reader into contact with the external world, and accustom the practical one to look to the light of principle for guidance in the concerns of life. They, in fact, unite the two characters which, according to M. Guizot, have always been equally balanced in French civilization: their theory has a constant reference to practice, and their practical maxims are the realization of their theories. It is a common observation that French is a clear language, though, as a language, its structure is by no means superior to its sister-languages, Italian and Spanish, which are by no means celebrated for clearness. But the clearness wrongly attributed to the French language, belongs to the French habits of thinking: it arises from the happy combination of theory and detail, which has existed in France as a national habit. Thus, while the wants and concerns of life have, as they must in all countries, moulded the language to express easily and clearly the conceptions which relate to material objects, the taste for generalization upon every subject has established and popularized modes of expression well suited to convey the most abstract notions. Such is the real foundation of that perspicuity, which has already established French as the common language of the civilized world.
That the decided tendency of the present period of mankind is to establish a similar alliance, and mutual interchange of beneficial influence, between pure reason and experience, among the leading nations of the world, must be evident to every unclouded mind. The natural right of principles to direct human affairs is already perceived by such a majority, even in this practical country, that its universal recognition cannot be distant among us; and the blemish which M. Guizot notices in our national habits of mind has, we venture to hope, a tendency rapidly to disappear.
Modern civilization, (according to M. Guizot,) as compared with the various civilization of antiquity, is distinguished by one remarkable characteristic,—the multiplicity of the elements of which it is compounded.[*] The European family of nations have grown up to their present condition amidst the conflict of several influences struggling for ascendency, none of which was ever able completely to subdue the others. These warring elements, from which European society has been moulded into shape, may be classed under three heads:—1st. Notions, habits, and institutions, derived from the imperial sway of Rome: 2nd. The sentiments and customs which the northern nations brought with them when they overran the Roman empire: 3rd. The teaching and influence of the Christian clergy—of the hierarchical association called the Church. From each of these three sources some important feature of our modern civilization has been derived; and that civilization would have been wanting in some valuable quality which distinguishes it, if any one of these three sets of influences had been completely put down and annihilated.
All other civilizations, on the contrary, have been comparatively one-sided. The various nations of antiquity, especially in the East, grew up to maturity under the predominant influence of some one civilizing principle, which opposed all tendencies, mental and social, except such as might be made subservient to its exclusive end.
This unity must strike every philosophical reader of ancient history. In Egypt, for instance, every thing proceeded from the notion of a theocracy. A priesthood enjoyed supreme power in the name of the deity; the king himself was a priest, and the extent of his power, supported by the hierarchy, cannot be better expressed than in the words of one of the Pharaohs, at the moment of appointing Joseph his vizier. “I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis, 41 [:44].) Not the smallest fraction of Egyptian knowledge, or Egyptian polity, could be traced to any other source but its priesthood. When that body of men had imparted as much civilization as, in their opinion, might be given to the people with safety to their hereditary power, Egyptian civilization stood still, and acquired a permanency which might well be compared to that of the mummies. The still older civilization of India may, at this moment, be observed as possessing the same unity of character. In other cases, the principle which was in the ascendant was the dominion of a conquering race; and the sole end of society and education was to enable that race to maintain its superiority. In other and most memorable instances, every thing yielded to the democratic principle; or, in other words, (for that was the meaning and purpose of the ancient democracies,) the passion for political equality among the free citizens of the state, was the influence which shaped all things after its own guise. M. Guizot does not overlook the fact that, in periods previous to that in which the civilization of these various countries began regularly to advance, fierce struggles took place for mastery, between the powers which represented the various principles, theocracy, military aristocracy, and democracy. The warrior-race, for instance, contended for ascendency with the priesthood among the Egyptians, the Etruscans, and the Greeks: the clan or family system had also its contests with that of purely democratical union. But when these contests were decided, the conquering principle became completely preponderant, if not entirely exclusive. This simplicity in the civilizing principle naturally produced, in favourable circumstances, a much more rapid progress than is observable in modern Europe. In Greece, the democratic principle produced the most astonishing growth of civilization which was ever recorded, or even conceived. But the unity and simplicity of the animating force, which caused the rapid development of Greece, seems to have been the cause of its quick exhaustion. When the only source of Greek social life happened to be dried up, the moral and civil death of that wonderful people was inevitable. The unity of the civilizing principle had an opposite result in Egypt and India. The civilizing influence spent itself; it did all that its nature admitted, and then civilization stood still. To use our author’s expressive language, in those two countries “unity produced monotony: society continued to exist, but motionless, and, as it were, frozen.”[*] Another result of this ancient unity was the intolerant and jealous tyranny of each of the exclusive principles which happened to gain the ascendency. The whole of every society of that kind was under the sway of an active principle which could not endure the least approach of any other. This exclusiveness and intolerance extended itself to literature and the arts, especially among the Indian nations. The monuments of Indian genius which, within a few years, have become known among us, present the most surprising uniformity of spirit, of views, of taste.
Let us compare with this unity the almost bewildering variety which appears in our modern civilization. The history of Europe is the picture of a stormy chaos, where the most opposite elements have been for ages fermenting into a life ever new and varied.
All forms, all principles of social organization co-exist: spiritual power and temporal power, theocracy, monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, all contend for mastery. The classes and conditions of men are infinitely varied, and every one is seen pressing upon the next: there is an infinite number of degrees of liberty, of wealth, of influence, and while all these various forces are in a constant struggle with one another, no one of them has been able to establish its ascendency by the complete suppression of the rest. Modern Europe offers examples of every system—of every attempt at social organization, monarchies pure and mixed, theocracies, republics more or less aristocratic, have existed simultaneously side by side; and in spite of their diversity all of them have a certain resemblance, a kind of family likeness which it is impossible to mistake.
The same variety is apparent in ideas and sentiments. Theocratic, monarchical, aristocratic, and popular opinions have constantly co-existed, in a state of mutual conflict, and of mutual limitation and modification. Even in the boldest writings of the middle ages, you never find an idea followed out to its ultimate consequences. The partisans of absolute power unconsciously shrink from the conclusions to which their doctrine properly leads; we see that they were surrounded by ideas and influences which overawed them, and would not let them carry out their opinions consistently. Democratic writers are forced to be equally guarded. No where do we see that imperturbable hardihood, that reckless consistency, which are so striking in ancient times. The same variety and the same contrasts offer themselves in feelings and characters: a most energetic passion for independence, along with great readiness of submission; a rare fidelity between man and man, and at the same time an imperious self-will—a besoin of shaking off all control, and having no guide but one’s own breast. The minds of mankind are as various and as unsettled as the state of society.[*]
A civilization produced by the mutual action of so many principles in a state of constant warfare, both in society and in the human breast, must necessarily be of slow growth: it can only emerge very gradually from chaos. Each of the contending powers is long and greatly counteracted in the good which it has a tendency to produce, as well as in the evil. A great part of the strength of each is exhausted in warring with the others; and hence the slow progress of the modern, compared with the best of the ancient civilizations. Long indeed was the period during which the strongest faith in perfectibility might be shaken at the view of the events which were daily taking place over the face of our portion of the globe. The progress which Europe was making resembled that of a ship in a storm, that threatens destruction at every movement. But the same cause which made the development of our civilization slower, has made it also richer—has introduced into it a great number and variety of beneficent principles, and promises a grander and better ultimate result.
If space permitted, we would transfer to our pages, in nearly its original extent, that portion of the second lecture on the Civilization of Europe, in which M. Guizot assigns to each of the three sets of causes which were at work when modern European society issued from chaos, the portion of influence which has actually belonged to it.[†]
The degenerate and perishing civilization of Rome, left, according to him, three legacies to modern Europe. The first was, municipal institutions, and the spirit of local association and local self-government. The Roman empire was originally compounded of city-communities, managing their own affairs: Rome itself was such a community; and again in its decay the empire gradually resolved itself into such communities—the municipalities being the only portion of Roman institutions and Roman society which had any vitality left, when the northern nations overran the western world.
The second gift of ancient Rome to modern Europe was her written laws. These laws had great imperfections; but they were a system, and therefore could not have been formed by mere barbarians; they were fashioned by a series of cultivated minds, with the assistance of the experience of ages; they presented to the northern invaders an image of a much higher state of civilization than existed among themselves—of a state of established order and regular government, in which rights were recognised and protected, and much consideration paid to the dictates of justice and the feelings of humanity.
Finally, one great idea, originating in the Roman empire, survived its dissolution, and exercised, as M. Guizot shows, a great influence in modern history, by the aid it afforded to the consolidation of the regal power. This was, the idea of unity in the sovereign authority;—that notion of the majesty of the empire, round which such a host of associations clustered in the mind of a Roman, and which alone could have kept the empire together for ages after the imperial dignity had become the prize of the most able or fortunate military leader of a province.
To the Church, Europe is indebted for whatever it owes to Christianity, and all its moral and religious convictions have bodied themselves forth under that influence. M. Guizot is persuaded that, humanly speaking, Christianity could not have maintained itself against the inroad of Pagan barbarians merely by its intrinsic merits, and by the energy of individual convictions. But its interests were under the special care of a body of men, the most cultivated whom the age afforded, and the only body who, in the general dissolution of all things round them, remained compactly knit together, powerfully organized for a common object. The influence which this body acquired over the barbarian invaders, and which was so early manifested in their outward conversion to Christianity, introduced among them the belief in an authority superior to that of the sword, and in a law binding on the conscience, even in the absence of any temporal sanction. The power of the Church—a power exerted through men’s convictions, and by their voluntary concurrence—was for ages the only counterpoise to the mere law of the strongest. From this peculiar position arose the separation of spiritual and temporal power: a fact peculiar to modern Europe, and to which M. Guizot attributes a most salutary influence upon her civilization. It is certain that wherever spiritual and temporal authority have been concentrated in the same hands, civilization has stopped at an early stage. And it is difficult to estimate in how much worse a condition we should now have been, if the great struggle of the middle ages, between the feudal monarchy and aristocracy, and the Romish hierarchy, had terminated in the complete victory of either.
Lastly, to the northern invaders we are indebted for one of our greatest peculiarities—the spirit of liberty, in the peculiar sense attached to the term in modern times: the spirit of personal independence, which repels the interference of the state with the private concerns of the individual: as distinguished from the spirit of liberty as understood in the ancient republics, which may be characterized as the successive sacrifice of each to all. Greek and Roman liberty did not mean that the power exercised by the community over the persons composing it, should be no greater than was conducive to their well-being; it meant that each of those persons should have an equal chance with any other person, of exercising a share of that power. The love of liberty, in the modern sense of the phrase, was repudiated by the notions prevalent in those commonwealths respecting the duties of a citizen. The imaginary being, the civitas, the πόλις, demanded the annihilation of every individuality. Every citizen was a perfect slave of the domineering principle, and of those who, for the time being, were its living representatives.
It is manifestly impossible, in an article like the present, to convey any but a most imperfect notion of the general character of M. Guizot’s historical speculations. We cannot follow him through the various periods of European history. At each period, his method is one and the same—the only method which a philosopher will ever use. He begins by familiarizing himself with the literature of the period, and any other evidences which it has left of its state of society. From these, when he has sufficiently imbued himself with their spirit, he learns what were at each period the causes actually at work, and within what limits each of those causes was operating. This being known, the general laws of human nature suffice to show of what kind must have been the influence exercised by each; and the conclusion is then tested by the history of the succeeding ages. Unless studied in this way, history is indeed nothing but an “old almanac,” and has neither any meaning of its own, nor throws light upon anything else.
We shall extract one specimen—a part of the observations on the feudal times, in the fourth lecture on the Civilization of Europe. Even when abridged, those observations exceed the ordinary dimensions of an extract; but the great interest of the subject, and the striking and original manner in which it is treated, are an ample justification for the space which our quotation occupies:
Sufficient importance has seldom been attached to the changes which a new historical fact, a revolution, a change in the state of society, occasion in the material condition of mankind—the physical state, and outward mode of living, of the people. This class of considerations have more influence than is commonly supposed over the general state of civilization. Every one is aware of the notice that has been taken of the influence of climate, and the importance attached to it by Montesquieu.[*] If we confine ourselves to the direct influence of diversity of climate upon mankind, it is perhaps less than has been supposed; the appreciation of it is, at all events, difficult and vague. But the indirect effects of climate—those, for instance, which result from the fact, that in a warm climate mankind live in the open air, while in cold countries they shut themselves up in their houses—that they subsist upon different kinds of food, and the like—are facts of great importance, and which, merely by their influence on the details of material existence, act powerfully on civilization. Every great revolution produces in the state of society some changes of this sort, and these ought to be carefully attended to.
The introduction of the feudal régime occasioned one such change, of which the importance cannot be overlooked: it altered the distribution of the population over the face of the country. Till that time, the masters of the country, the sovereign class, lived collected in masses more or less numerous—either sedentary in the towns, or wandering in bands over the country. In the feudal state, these same persons lived insulated, each in his own habitation, at great distances from one another. You perceive at once what an influence this change must have exercised over the character and the progress of civilization. Social preponderance and political power passed at once from the towns to the country; private property, and private life, assumed the pre-eminence over public. This first effect of the triumph of the feudal principle appears more fruitful in consequences, the more we consider it.
Let us examine feudal society as it is in its own nature, looking at it first of all in its simple and fundamental element. Let us figure to ourselves a single possessor of a fief in his own domain, and consider what will be the character of the little association which forms itself round him.
He establishes himself in a retired and defensible place, which he takes care to render safe and strong, he erects there what he terms his castle. With whom does he establish himself there? With his wife and his children, perhaps, too, some few freemen, who have not become landed proprietors, have attached themselves to his person, and continue domesticated with him. These are all the inmates of the castle itself. Around it, and under its protection, collects a small population of labourers—of serfs, who cultivate the domain of the seigneur. Amidst this inferior population, Religion comes, builds a church, and establishes a priest. In the early times of feudality, this priest is at once the chaplain of the castle and the parish clergyman of the village at a later period, the two characters are separated. Here then is the elementary particle—the unit, if I may so speak, of feudal society. We have now to call this element before us, and put the two questions to it which should be addressed to every historical fact. What was it calculated to do towards the development—first, of man; and next, of society?
The first circumstance which strikes us, is the prodigious importance which the possessor of the fief could not but asssume, in his own eyes, and in those of all who surround him. The sentiment of personality and individual independence was the predominant feeling in savage life, but the feeling now generated goes beyond this, it is not merely the liberty of the man and of the warrior, but the importance of the landed proprietor, the head of a family, the master. From this position must arise a sentiment of immense superiority—a superiority quite peculiar, and unlike that which is found in any other civilization. Take, for instance, in the ancient world, the position of a great aristocrat—a Roman patrician, for example. Like the feudal lord, the Roman patrician was the head of a family—was a master, a superior, he was, besides, a religious magistrate, a pontiff in the interior of his family. But the importance of a religious magistrate comes to him from without, it is not an importance purely personal and individual; he receives it from above, he is the delegate of the Divinity—the interpreter of the religious belief which is connected with his office. In civil life, again, the patrician was a member of the senate—of a corporation, which lived united together in one place. This, again, was an importance derived from without, borrowed and reflected from that of his corporation. The grandeur of the ancient aristocrats was associated with religious and political functions: it belonged to the situation, to the corporation at large, more than to the individual. That of the possessor of a fief is, on the contrary, purely individual. He receives nothing from any one: all his rights, all his powers, come from himself alone. He is not a religious magistrate; he is not a member of a senate; his importance is all in his own person; whatever he is, he is by his own right, and in his own name. With what force must not such a situation act upon the mind of him who holds it! What personal pride, what haughtiness—to speak plainly, what insolence—must arise in his soul! Above him no superior of whom he is the representative and the interpreter; around him no equals, no vigorous, universal law to curb him; no external force habitually controlling his will; he knows no restraint but the limits of his strength, or the presence of an immediate danger. Such is the moral result of the situation upon the character of the individual.
I pass to a second consequence, also important, and too little remarked, the peculiar turn given to the family-spirit, by the feudal state of society.
History exhibits to us the family in several distinct shapes. First, the patriarchal family, as seen in the Bible, and the various monuments of the East. The family, there, is numerous, and amounts to a tribe. The chief, the patriarch, lives in a state of community with his children, his kindred (all the various generations of whom are grouped round him), and his servants. Not only does he live with them, but he has the same interests and occupations with them, he leads the same life. Is not this the situation of Abraham, of the patriarchs, of the chiefs of Arab tribes, who are in our own days a faithful image of patriarchal life?
Another form of the family is the clan, that little association, the type of which must be sought in Scotland and Ireland, and through which, probably, a great part of the European world has passed. This is no longer the patriarchal family. There is now a great difference of condition between the chief and the rest of the population, he does not lead the same life with his followers; they mostly cultivate and serve: he takes his ease, and has no occupation but that of a warrior. But he and they have a common origin; they bear the same name; their relationship, their ancient traditions, and their community of affections and of recollections, establish among all the members of the clan a moral union, a kind of equality.
Does the feudal family resemble either of these types? Evidently not. At first sight it has some apparent resemblance to the clan; but the difference is immense. The population which surrounds the possessor of the fief are perfect strangers to him, they do not bear his name; they have no relationship to him, are connected with him by no tie, historical or moral. Neither does he, as in the patriarchal family, lead the same life, and carry on the same labours as those about him; he has no occupation but war, they are tillers of the ground. The feudal family is not numerous, it does not constitute a tribe; it is confined to the family in the narrowest sense, the wife and children, it lives separated from the rest of the people, in the interior of the castle. The labourers, the serfs, are no part of it; their origin is different, their inferiority of condition is profound. Five or six persons, in a position at once alien from, and superior to, all others, constitute the feudal family. Its character must therefore become peculiar. It lives retired, concentrated within itself, constantly obliged to defend itself, to distrust, or at least to keep aloof from all, even its servants. Internal life, domestic society, are therefore certain to acquire a great preponderance. I know that the rudeness and violence of the chief’s passions, and his habit of passing his time in war or in the chase, must obstruct and retard the formation of domestic habits. But that obstacle will be overcome. It must necessarily happen that the chief will return habitually to his own home: there he will always find his wife, his children, and them alone, or nearly alone; they only will compose his permanent society; they only will always partake his interests, his destiny. It is impossible that domestic life should not acquire a great ascendency. The proofs are abundant. Was it not in the feudal family that the importance of women at length arose? In all the societies of antiquity, not only where no family-spirit existed, but where that spirit was powerful, for instance in the patriarchal societies, women did not occupy any thing like the place which they acquired in Europe under the feudal régime. The cause of this has been looked for in the peculiar manners of the ancient Germans, in a characteristic respect which it is affirmed that in the midst of their forests they paid to women. German patriotism has built upon a single sentence of Tacitus[*] a fancied superiority, a primitive and ineffaceable purity of German manners in the relations of the sexes to one another. Mere chimeras! Expressions similar to those of Tacitus, sentiments and usages analogous to those of the ancient Germans, are found in the recitals of many observers of barbarous tribes. There is nothing peculiar in the matter, nothing characteristic of a particular race. The importance of women in Europe arose from the progress and preponderance of domestic manners; and that preponderance became, at an early period, an essential character of feudal life.
A second fact, and another proof of the increased importance of domestic life, is the spirit of hereditary succession, of perpetuity, which evidently predominates in the feudal society. The hereditary spirit is inherent in the spirit of family; but it has nowhere been so largely developed as in feudal life. This arises from the nature of the property with which the family was bound up. A fief was not like any other property it perpetually needed a possessor to defend it, to fulfil the obligations inherent in it, and maintain its rank in the general association of the rulers of the country. Hence a kind of identification of the actual possessor of the fief with the fief itself, and with the whole series of its future possessors. This circumstance did much to strengthen and draw closer the family ties, already so powerful from the nature of the feudal family.
Let us now quit the seignorial abode, and descend amongst the little population surrounding it. Here all things present a different aspect. Human nature is so fertile in good, that in any social situation which lasts a certain length of time, there inevitably arises between those whom it brings into contact, under whatever conditions, a certain moral tie—certain feelings of protection, of benevolence, of affection. It was thus in the feudal society, one cannot doubt that, after some time, there were formed between the cultivators and their seigneur, some moral relations, some habits of sympathy. But this happened in spite of their relative position, and nowise from its influence. Considered in itself, the situation was radically vicious. There was nothing morally in common between the feudal superior and the cultivators, they were part of his domain, they were his property; and in that word property were included all the rights now deemed to appertain to political sovereignty, as well as those of private property, the right to give laws, to tax, to punish, as well as to use and to sell. Between the seigneur and those who tilled the ground which belonged to him, there were (as far as that can ever be said, when human beings are brought together) no laws, no protection, no society.
Hence, I conceive, that truly prodigious and invincible detestation which the rural population have entertained in all ages for the feudal régime, for its very name, and for every remembrance of it. Mankind have endured and been reconciled to oppressive despotisms; they have even voluntarily submitted to them. Theocratic and monarchical despotism have more than once obtained the acquiescence, and almost the affection, of the population subjected to them. Feudal despotism, on the contrary, was always rejected, always odious: it weighed upon men’s destinies without ever reigning over their souls. The reason is, that theocracy and monarchy exercise their dominion in virtue of some belief, common to the master with his subjects, he is the representative and minister of another power, superior to all human powers; he speaks and acts in the name of the Deity, or of some general idea, not in the name of the man himself, of a mere man. Feudal despotism is quite different: it is the power of one individual over another, the domination of the personal and capricious will of a human being. This is perhaps the only tyranny, which (to his honour be it said) man never voluntarily resigns himself to. Wherever, in his master, he sees nothing but a man—wherever the hand which presses him down is but a human hand like his own, he is indignant, and if he bears the yoke, bears it with resentment. Such was the real, the distinctive character of the feudal dominion, and such the origin of the antipathy it never ceased to inspire.
The religious element which was joined with it had little power to alleviate its weight. I do not believe that the influence of the priest, in the little society which I have described, was considerable, nor that it had much success in infusing a moral character into the relations between the subject population and their lord. The church has exercised over European civilization a very great influence, but it was by proceeding on a large scale, by changing the general dispositions of mankind. In the details of the little feudal societies, properly so called, the influence of the priest, as between the seigneur and the cultivators, was next to nothing. He was generally himself rudely and meanly educated, like a serf, and neither inclined nor in a condition to contend against the arrogance of the lord. No doubt, being the only person called upon to keep up and develop in the subject population something of moral vitality, he was valuable and dear to them on that account, he diffused among them some consolation, and some little instruction; but he neither did, nor could do, I conceive, any thing considerable to improve their condition.[*]
M. Guizot then examines the situation of the feudal landholders, relatively to one another. He observes, that from their mutual relations to each other, and to their liege lord, there naturally grew up in their minds some notions of mutual obligation, of fidelity, of adherence to engagements, of devotion to a common interest; but that the attempt to convert these moral sentiments into legal obligations, and to create national institutions and a regular government, always failed; and failed inevitably: for it was an attempt to establish, in a rude state of society, that kind of government, the existence of which is only possible in high civilization,—a federal government. He then sums up the general results of the feudal system as follows:
Feudality must have exercised a considerable, and, take it for all in all, a salutary influence on the internal development of the individual: it raised up in the human mind some moral notions and moral wants, some energetic sentiments: it produced some noble developments of character and of passion. Considered in the social point of view, it was not capable of establishing legal order or political securities; but it was indispensable as a recommencement of European society, which had been so broken up by barbarism, that it was unable to assume any more enlarged or more regular forms. But the feudal form, radically bad in itself, admitted neither of being enlarged nor regularized. The only political right which feudality has implanted strongly in European society, is the right of resistance. I do not mean legal resistance; that was out of the question in a society so little advanced. The right of resistance which the feudal society asserted and exercised is the right of personal resistance; a fearful, an unsocial right, since it is an appeal to force, to war, the direct antithesis of society; but a right which ought never to perish from the heart of man, since its abrogation is simply submission to slavery. The sentiment of a right of resistance had perished in the degeneracy of Roman societies, from the ruins of which it could not again rise: as little, in my opinion, was it a natural emanation from the principles of Christian society. Feudality re-introduced it into European manners. It is the glory of civilization to render this right for ever useless and inactive, it is the glory of the feudal society to have constantly maintained it and stood up for it.[*]
This is followed by further remarks, showing that the history of the times confirms the view here taken of the influences of feudality.
Every one who reads these quotations must, if we mistake not, experience the twofold sentiment most complimentary to a philosophic writer, conviction that here is at length the true and commanding view of a great subject; and astonishment that truths so simple and apparently obvious should not have been as distinctly perceived and as prominently brought forward by former writers. It is scarcely exaggeration to say that M. Guizot’s work excites these feelings continually.
It ought not, however, to be suppressed, that while the work abounds in such luminous views as those which we have been following up with delight, the attentive reader will nevertheless perceive here and there something like a half-suppressed or gently-breathed sigh of the author for that very unity of society which he himself has so ably demonstrated to be both injurious to the true interests of civilization in general, and particularly opposed to the essential character of our own.
In the masterly picture which M. Guizot draws of the Church and its civilizing influence, from the fourth to the thirteenth century, he dwells with particular pleasure on the unity of that body. He calls that unity a glorious and powerful fact.* The unity of the Church alone (he proceeds) was the bond which kept together the various nations, which lay like unconnected fragments of the fallen Roman empire. The notion of this union contained the rudiments (though confused and greatly distorted) not only of a vast and comprehensive sympathy, but (he says) of the grandest and most enlarged conception which ever rallied human beings round it—that of a spiritual human society: i.e., mankind reduced to one vast family, united by means of the moral and intellectual faculties. From the fifth to the thirteenth century (says M. Guizot) this idea of the Church rendered great services to mankind:
What sense did the men of that period attach to the expression unity of the church? How was it conceived and practised? Community of sentiment, community of belief—whatsoever the sentiment or belief may be—constitute the basis of a social state. It is only upon the truth, or what men conceive to be the truth, that they can ground a society. It has been truly said, that there is no society but between minds, in other words, that an intellectual union is the only true society, and the basis of all others; or, what is the same thing, men cannot act together unless they have a clearly understood end in view; and they cannot live together unless they all partake of one and the same feeling, arising from one or more facts, so that the single fact, or if there be many, each of them, may be agreed upon as truth by all. As there is but one universal truth, so a society which has that truth for its basis must be one. There cannot be two true spiritual societies. This is the abstract notion of Church Unity. But how can men’s minds be united in the truth, unless they themselves recognise it as truth? This was sadly overlooked by Christians at all times.[*]
Were it not for a few of the concluding lines, the passage just quoted might be supposed to be from the pen of the most mystical and puzzle-headed divine on this side of the Channel. What could M. Guizot mean by the assertion that “an intellectual union is the only true society;” that “men cannot live together unless they all partake of one and the same feeling, arising from one or more facts, so that the single fact, or if there be many, each of them may be agreed upon as truth by all?” Of what facts does he assert all this? Are they physical, political, or historical facts? Does he maintain the notion of the Church of Rome, and indeed of the Protestant churches which still cherish an essential part of its spirit—the notion that Christianity, as an historical belief, is the basis of true society? Does he forget the testimony of universal history to the fact that the social nature of man will avail itself of the merest trifles to form and maintain associations for power and defence? There is an inaccuracy of language, a confusion of ideas in all this, which betrays a mind under a paroxysm of that weakness which is often occasioned by a temporary ascendency of early habits and feelings over the convictions of the mind. It is a curious fact, that our author was here inspired—will our readers believe it?—by M. de la Mennais, from whom he borrows one of the mystical principles asserted in the passage.* This was certainly not accidental. There are other portions of M. Guizot’s lectures which have not a little perplexed us during the considerable period which we have devoted to the study of that excellent work; but which his political conduct, and, above all, his share in the recent attempt to put down the freedom of the press, has painfully explained.[†] M. Guizot is evidently one of those men who, to a clear view of the soundest principles, join an unconquerable attachment to institutions and practices which militate against them. No writer ever pleaded the cause of intellectual freedom with more power of argument; and yet, having done this, he can turn a wistful eye to some of those nebulous spots which float in the full light that surrounds us at the present day: he can speak of the “limits and rights of authority in the intellectual and spiritual world” . . . “a purely moral authority, whose whole power lies in persuasion and example.” He complains that “in almost all Protestant countries there is something wanting—something imperfect in the organization of the intellectual society, so that the regular action of the established and ancient opinions is impeded. The rights of tradition have not been reconciled with those of liberty.”* What, in the name of wonder, are the Rights of Tradition? How is the regular action of established and ancient, opinions to be encouraged by any organization, without encouraging the mischievous activity of established errors? Such indeed are the contradictory wishes of men who see the truth, but cannot make it part and parcel of their souls. This is what some men call moderation—namely, the assertion of a principle, combined with practical views and conduct in direct opposition to it. In this manner are the people lulled from year to year, and made to wait for a period when there shall be a constant succession of virtuous despots—a wealthy and pampered hierarchy, exempt from intolerance and pride—and perhaps a series of popes who will publish a jubilee with plenary indulgence, to encourage the philosophers of Europe to hold a public meeting in the Capitol. M. Guizot’s inconsistencies, admiring his works as we do, raise more of regret than anger in our heart. He seems to have been fully aware of the temptations to which he was exposed. We remember a passage, which we shall lay before our readers in the original language, lest it should lose part of its force in a translation: it is to be found at the very opening of his first course of published lectures. In a most eloquent conclusion to the first lecture he observes, that people indulge an unlimited ambition in thought, demanding instantaneous wonders, and nevertheless, when it comes to practice, content themselves with the most imperfect means: fluctuating between the most exaggerated sense of existing evils, and the most easy acquiescence in any supposed remedy which first occurs.[*] Then he adds:
Nous nous rebutons avec une facilité qui égale presque l’impatience avec laquelle nous désirons. . . . Nous semblons quelquefois tentés de nous rattacher à des principes que nous attaquons, que nous méprisons, aux principes et aux moyens de l’Europe barbare, la force, la violence, le mensonge, pratiques habituelles il y a quatre ou cinq siècles.†
How lamentable that a man who has this clear view of his mental danger should forget to apply this wise caution to himself when he most wanted it! How unfortunate that he did not stumble on this passage when the practice of stopping men’s mouths—when the laws for the suppression of free thought on public concerns—when the principles of the deposed Bourbons—when the policy of the most abominable tyrants, were courting his support and official sanction! Alas! we must say of M. Guizot, what he so feelingly and truly has declared of Italy—“Il lui manque la foi, la foi dans la vérité!”*
We had prepared not a few observations on the civilizing power of the Church, to which so large a part of M. Guizot’s lectures relate; but we are obliged to put them aside until a better opportunity. In the present state of things, when not only history, but facts which are taking place before our eyes, are constantly distorted to serve the interest of the hierarchy—a call to rectify the many false notions which the pious fraud of some, and the pious ignorance of others, industriously propagate and keep alive, for the honour of that imaginary being the Church, and the substantial benefit of the party which the law makes its representative, cannot fail to come upon us at no great distance of time. We shall conclude, therefore, by the mere statement of one or two remarks, with the truth of which we have been forcibly struck, in surveying, under the guidance of M. Guizot, European civilization in the successive stages of its development.
One truth, of which M. Guizot manifests a strong sense, and which cannot be too often enforced, is, that civilization (in the extended meaning in which he uses the word, to denote all kinds of improvement) is at present almost in its infancy. “I am persuaded,” says M. Guizot in his very first lecture,
that when we shall have fairly entered into this study, we shall soon perceive that civilization is still very young—that the world as yet is far from seeing the end and limits of it. Most certainly, the conceptions of the human mind are not yet all that they are capable of becoming; our imagination is far from being able to embrace all that human, nature may attain to; and yet, let each of us interrogate his own mind—let him place before himself all the good which he sees to be possible, and which he hopes for; let him then compare this conception with what now exists in the world, and he will be convinced that society and civilization are yet in a very early stage of their progress, and that, after all they have done, they have incomparably more remaining to do.[*]
Imperfect, however, as is our present state, a comparison of it with all those which have preceded leaves in M. Guizot’s mind no doubt of its superiority to them on the whole; and proves, too, that during all the time which has succeeded the destruction of the Roman empire, both society and human nature have been steadily, though slowly advancing. This progressive improvement has been attended with two circumstances sufficiently remarkable to deserve notice.
One is, that those changes which have proved most salutary in the end,—which, when we now look back to them, seem to have been the only means by which some great good could have been achieved, or some insuperable obstacle to further progress removed,—were mostly, in their origin, viewed with the utmost alarm and aversion; and were often considered even by the wisest and best men of the time, as pregnant with the most direful results. Thus, the feudal régime, the first step out of anarchy on the only road which could possibly lead to the reconstruction of a regular government, was looked upon by the most enlightened contemporaries with a kind of horror, as a breaking-up of society into fragments,[*] and the final blow to that unity of the empire with which all their notions of security and of the social union were associated, and which even the vigorous hand of Charlemagne had vainly attempted to revive.[†] So slow are mankind to perceive when the traditional ideas of their forefathers have ceased to be applicable, and when the time has come for pursuing old ends by new means.
The other remark is of a more encouraging kind: That no sincere and honestly intended effort for the good of mankind, aiming at right objects in the right spirit, even when it entirely failed of its meditated purpose, was ever entirely thrown away. Though the benefits which were intended were not at the time realized, every such attempt is fruitful in unforeseen good tendencies, which often meet with better fortune.[‡] What, for example, could have appeared more utterly lost, than the efforts and sufferings of the heroic men who at various periods, from the commencement of the dark ages, asserted, even to the death, the independence of individual intellect against the pretended infallibility of popes and priesthoods? They perished—their bodies were torn limb from limb—the car of the idol to whom they were immolated passed over them, all voices which responded to them or bewailed them were reduced to silence, and the tyranny which they had made war upon, waxed in compactness and intensity for generations after their names had passed from the minds of all save those who remembered them to abhor them. Yet, even these men, who suffered so cruelly for what they had hoped and ventured in behalf of injured humanity, did not labour and suffer in vain. For though they could not avert from mankind the bondage they were not strong enough to break, they at least recorded on the archives of the human race their solemn and indignant protest against it. That protest did not perish, though they did. For in the lapse of ages, when more favourable times had at length arrived, and human nature was now ripe to free itself from its shackles, new and more fortunate inquirers searched into theological antiquity to verify the pretensions of spiritual despotism, and found there these men, and the memory of what they had done. That discovery broke the spell of the pretended universality on which the Romish hierarchy rested the very foundation of their empire. And no small share in the honour of the ultimate emancipation of the human mind belongs to those who perished obscurely, and as it seemed for ages afterwards, altogether unavailingly, in its cause.
[[*] ]John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. For the story, see Mark Noble, A Biographical History of England from the Revolution to the End of George I’s Reign, 2 vols. (London: Richardson, et al., 1806), Vol. II, p. 189.
[[†] ]Oliver Goldsmith, The History of England, from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II, 4 vols. (London: Davies, et al., 1771).
[[‡] ]David Hume, The History of England (1756-62).
[* ]Two class-books have been for some years published in Germany, which might be used with advantage at the universities, if (what we cannot help calling) an affectation of extreme classical purity, besides other objections arising from want of uniformity in the studies carried on privately by the different colleges, did not preclude the use of such books. The titles of these works are Antiqua Historia ex ipsis veterum Scriptorum Latinorum narrationibus contexta, 2 vols., 8vo. [(Leipzig: Hahn, 1811)]—Antiqua Historia ex ipsis veterum Scriptorum Graecorum narrationibus contexta, 4 vols., 8vo. [(Leipzig: Weidmann, 1811-12).] Both are compiled by Jo. Godofr. Eichhorn. The latter work is printed on very bad paper, and abounds in typographical errors. But if ancient history should, at any future period, be made a regular and serious study, under a public professor, we conceive that no better text-books than these could be adopted. It is true that, as the various portions of the narrative are taken from different writers, the style is very unequal. But the passages from each writer are commonly very long, and all with references to the originals; so that this very circumstance might give occasion to appropriate remarks on the authors themselves, the periods to which they belong, and the peculiarities of their styles.—These observations are made in reference to the system of education at Oxford; but we have reason to believe that they are substantially applicable to Cambridge.
[* ]By terminal lectures those are understood which the public professors are, in some cases, expected, in others obliged (according to the foundation statute), to deliver every term.
[[*] ]Edward Nares.
[[†] ]The reference presumably is to such scholars as William Hayward Cox, Edmund Walker Head, Richard Michell, George Moberly, Frederick Oakeley, and Travers Twiss.
[* ]We need only allude to Thierry, Barante, Cousin, Villemain, and their numerous pupils and successors—together with the many writers who, without participating in its extravagances, have issued from the St. Simonian school. We confine our examples to those writers who may be considered to represent the new historical method of the present age in France: omitting those, however eminent, who might have been produced at any other period in the development of the national intellect.
[[*] ]Francis Palgrave, The Rise and Progress of the English Commonwealth, Anglo-Saxon Period, 2 pts. (London: Murray, 1832), Pt. I, p. 519n (presumably), and Pt. II (“Proofs and Illustrations”), p. ccclxxxix n. But there is a full acknowledgment to Guizot’s Essais, Pt. I, pp. 528n-9n, and other references to Guizot in the text and notes (usually finding slight fault), e.g., Pt. I, pp. 514n, 542-3 (and note), and 545-6 (and note). Palgrave’s reference is to Gabriel Bonnot de Mably, Observations sur l’histoire de France (1765), new ed., rev. Guizot, 3 vols. (Paris: Brière, 1823), with which was published the 1st ed. of Guizot’s Essais.
[* ]Of the universality and density of this ignorance, striking instances are continually offering themselves. In the present year, 1835, a new Review, calling itself the British and Foreign, and professing to devote peculiar attention to foreign literature and philosophy—in an introductory address, written generally in a liberal spirit, speaks of the obligations of the human mind to France in the present era as limited to “what we owe to the modern chemists, natural historians, mathematicians, and astronomers of France.” [Christopher Bird, “Introduction,” British and Foreign Review, I (July-Oct., 1835), 9.] The writer was evidently unaware that France had, since the Revolution, produced a single distinguished name in any other department. And it is our firm conviction, that most of the literary men of celebrity in Great Britain at the present time are ignorant of the very existence of any French writers of eminence (except, indeed, Madame de Staël) posterior to Voltaire and Rousseau: although it is a fact, recognised by all the rest of Europe, that the last twenty years are the most brilliant period in the literary history of France—a period in which she has not only produced her very greatest writer (Paul-Louis Courier), and a host of first-rate works in the most various departments, but in which the tone and character of French intellect has undergone a complete transformation.
[[*] ]Christophe Guillaume de Koch, Tableau des révolutions de l’Europe, depuis le bouleversement de l’empire d’occident jusqu’à nos jours (Lausanne and Strasbourg: Bauer, 1771).
[[†] ]Abrégé de l’histoire des traités de paix entre les puissances de l’Europe depuis la paix de Westphalie, 4 vols. (Basle: Decker, 1796-97).
[[‡] ]Maximilian Samson Friedrich Schoell, who reissued Koch’s work as Histoire abrégée des traités de paix. . . . Ouvrage entièrement refondu, augmenté et continué jusqu’au Congrès de Vienne et aux Traités de Paris de 1815, 15 vols. (Paris: Gide, 1817-18).
[[*] ]Civilisation en Europe, pp. 15-19.
[[*] ]Translated from Civilisation en France, Vol. I, p. 12.
[[*] ]See, e.g., Pierre Philippe Emmanuel, marquis de Coulanges, “Extrait d’un manuscrit de M. de Coulanges, intitulé: Relation de mon voyage d’Allemagne et d’Italie ez années 1657 et 1658,” in Mémoires (Paris: Blaise, 1820), pp. 13-16, and Antoine, duc de Gramont, Mémoires du maréchal de Gramont, in Collections des mémoires relatifs à l’histoire de France, ed. Claude Bernard Petitot, 2nd ser., 78 vols., (Paris: Foucault, 1820-29), Vol. LVI, pp. 463-4, 477, Vol. LVII, pp. 4-5.
[[†] ]Translated from Civilisation en France, Vol. I, p. 15.
[* ]“Dono infelice di bellezza.” [Vincenzio da] Filicaja [“All Italia, Sonnetto I,” Poesie toscane (Florence: Matini, 1707), p. 320 (l. 2)].
[[*] ]Translated from Civilisation en France, Vol. I, pp. 18-19.
[[*] ]Translated from ibid., pp. 20-1.
[* ]See Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, [in Werke, 55 vols.] (Stuttgart and Tübingen [. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung, 1828-33]), Vol. XIX, p. 239.
[[*] ]Civilisation en Europe, pp. 6-8.
[[*] ]Translated from ibid., Lecture 2, p. 5.
[[*] ]Translated from ibid., pp. 6-8.
[[†] ]Ibid., pp. 12-39.
[[*] ]De l’esprit des loix, Vol. I, pp. 360-443 (Bks. XIV-XVII).
[[*] ]See p. 284 above.
[[*] ]Translated from Civilisation en Europe, Lecture 4, pp. 9-21.
[[*] ]Translated from ibid., pp. 30-2.
[* ][Translated from] Civilisation en France, Lecture 12 [Vol. I, p. 424].
[[*] ]Translated from ibid., pp. 424-7.
[* ]Ibid., p. 425. [See Hugues Félicité Robert de La Mennais, Essai sur l’indifférence en matière de religion, 4 vols. (Paris: Tournach-Molin, et al., 1817-23), Vol. I, pp. 321-4.]
[[†] ]Loi sur les crimes, délits et contraventions de la presse et des autres moyens de publication, Bulletin 155, No. 356 (9 Sept., 1835), Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, 9th ser., Pt. I, VII, 247-56; Loi sur les cours d’assises, Bulletin 155, No. 357, ibid., pp. 256-9; and Loi qui rectifie les articles 341, 345, 346, 347 et 352 du code d’instruction criminelle, et l’article 17 du code pénal, Bulletin 155, No. 358, ibid., pp. 259-62.
[* ][Translated from] Civilisation en Europe, Lecture 12 [pp. 29-30].
[[*] ]Ibid., Lecture 1, pp. 32-3.
[† ]Ibid., p. 33.
[* ]Civilisation en France, Vol. I, p. 17.
[[*] ]Translated from Civilisation en Europe, Lecture 1, pp. 30-1.
[[*] ]Ibid., Lecture 4, p. 7.
[[†] ]Ibid., Lecture 3, pp. 27-9.
[[‡] ]Ibid., Lecture 6, pp. 7-9.