BLAKEY'S HISTORY OF POLITICAL LITRRATITRE..
Tint title of this work does not imply what many will imagine, an account of political writings or party satires, such as the old come- dy of the Athenians, and the newspapers, pamphlets, and reviews of our day. Mr. Blakey's idea of political literature rather re- gards its philosophy as developed in the works of Plato, Aris- totle, and Locke, to take the highest examples. In practice, how- ever, he goes. much farther titan his title would seem to warrant. He opens his account of the political views prevalent among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, with an exposition of their institutions. said- laws; 'matters which to a great extent ori- • The History of Political Literature. from the Earliest Times. By Robert Blakey, Author of " Tiro History of the Philosophy of AHEM," &c. &c. Volumes I. and II. Published by Bentley. ginate in publio opinion and subsequently contribute to form it. Institutions and laws cannot, however, be called " political lite- rature," even in Mr. Blakey's use of the term,—which he chiefly uses to embrace treatises on the principles of government and the duties of rulers and citizens.
Compilation—the making of a book out of other books—is of two kinds. In one case we have the result of original thought, though not of original observation. The books have been read with a critical acumen, a learned spirit, and that knowledge of men which experience and observation give. This kind of com- piler is able to extract from his authorities all the spirit they con- tain, and to throw aside all the dross. Often, perhaps always, he brings some special philosophy to aid his task, which gives his work a distinct and novel character, in addition to its other merits. Of this class the two most eminent names are Hume and Guizot. The other and truer compiler occupies himself with a digest of his (often second-hand) authorities, ably abridged and well arranged. The reader is saved the trouble and expense of referring to many authors, and gets a clear and conscientious abstract of what they contain ; though most if not all of their peculiar spirit is apt to evaporate, the mind of the compiler being substituted in its stead. Independent judgment, where the conclusion is obvious, may be met with in this class of writers; generally speaking, they take things as they find them, or echo received opinions. In that portion of his " history " which consists of an account of writings on politics, Mr. Blakey is a compiler of the latter stamp. He does not exhibit the principles of an author, or show the ad- vance which he made on the ideas of politics entertained up to his age, but generally confines himself to a summary of the work, perhaps illustrated by extracts. These parts are clear, inform- ing, and not devoid of interest ; but they are too curt, though had they been made longer the work would have been unduly lengthened upon the plan Mr. Blakey has adopted. This plan consists of very largely mingling constitutional and legal sum- maries with the proper history of political literature, and en- tering into long disquisitions on the principles orpolitics general and particular. For this task the author shows no fitness. He seems deficient in the power of grasping his subjects comprehen- sively so as to present the whole question to the mind. He wants the intuitive perception or inventive logic which seizes the pith of a question and commands the assent of his reader less by reason- ing than by statement. Besides this fundamental defeat in the matter of the disquisition, there is weakness in the thoughts and the diction.
The work when completed will come down to our time. The last or fourth volume will treat " of the leading political systems of Europe from the year 1800 till the present day." The third volume will deal with the eighteenth century. The two volumes before us close with the year 1700 • the first volume embracing the political literature of the ancient, dark, and mediaeval periods ; the second beginning with the great social and intellectual movements consequent on the revival of learning, the invention of printing, and the religious contests that began to stir the fifteenth century. Throughout this long period, the subdivisions are well enough planned ; in the ancient times by nations; in the decline of the Empire and during the middle ages by subjects or classes—as the Fathers, the Sehoolmen. With the modern period Mr. Blakey again returns to nations ; treating of the political literature of England, (including newspapers, Fee.) France, Italy, Germany, Holland, and the Peninsula. In so wide a survey, much must of necessity rank in the lowest rank of second-class compilation—compilation at second- hand; since few men could read all the books of which Mr. Blakey gives an account, and still less the authors whom he deals with in classes. The extent of the subject, however, has not much affected the literary character of the work ; that is seated in the nature of the author-himself.
The best features of the book are the notices of so many writers on politics as Mr. Bradley has brought together, accompanied by illustrative extracts. These reviews, we have said, are too curt, but they furnish a coup &cell of a very extensive subject. The ex- tracts are often.curiou.s in various points of view ; not the least for the instances they furnish of the manner in which the ideal of the philosopher runs before the realization of his theories. The an- cient inquirers, with so many examples as it were at their door, of the evils of democracy and despotism, and in a less degree of aris- tocracy, turned their speculations at an early period to the advan- tages of a mixed government. Not only did Cicero in his newly- discovered treatise on the Republic favour that system, but Greek writers long before him. Yet even now there is only one specimen of a complete mixed government; for Sardinia is too young to de- termine the point ; and both Belgium and Spain are deficient in the aristocratical element. Here are the speculations of a prede-
cessor of Aristotle.
"Hippodamus is mentioned by Aristotle, in the second book of his Poli- tics, as a politician of considerable note and distinction, and who wrote a book on the best form of government. According to Aristotle, his notions of a model republic were these. There were to be ten thousand men, divided into three classes—soldiers, artificers. and huibandinen. The territory is divided into three portions likewise ; the sacred, set aside for the exigencies of public worship ; the common, for the soldiers; and the private, for the use of the husbandmen. His laws were divided into three parts! to correspond with his three species of injuries ; insults, damages, and death. There was a court of appeal of select senators. There was also a law to recompense those who conferred great benefits on the community by improve- ments in its civil and political constitution. Magistrates were all to be elected by the free and unfettered suffrages of the people—that is, by the three classes
of citizens already enumerated. "In a fragment reported by Stobmus, the ideas of this Grecian thinker on the nature of a mixed form of government are thus related. 'The laws sill
produce a durable empire if the state is of a character mixed and com- posed of all other political constitutions—I mean of all those conformable to the natural order of things. Tyranny, for instance, is of no utility to states, no more than oligarchy. What, therefore, we should lay down as the first foundation is royalty, and in the second place aristocracy. Royalty, in fact, is a sort of imitation of Divine Providence ' • but it is difficult for human weakness to maintain it in this similitude, for it apt to degenerate through luxury and violence. We therefore should not adopt it without limitations, but receive it in that degree of power and influence which is most serviceable to the state. It is of no less importance to establish aristocracy, because the existence of many great men results from it ; an emulous ambition among themselves, and a frequent substitution of power. The presence of demo- cracy is also necessary ; the citizen who forms an integral portion of the en- tire state has a right to his share in its honours : but this should be vouch- safed in moderation, for the multitude is always assuming and precipitous.' "
This is purely "political literature." In the following passage from Chrysostom on usury, if political economy is rooted in the subject, the idea present to the preacher's mind is that of morals, perhaps of religious superstition.
"Many of the Fathers of the Church inveighed against the office or pro- fession of a general merchant, as they thought his occupation was tainted by usury- and fraud. They considered him as the prime instrument for what they called forestalling or monopoly. They endeavoured to define a merchant so as to separate him from what is commonly denominated a ma- nufacturer. In fact, it was simply against what we in modern times call meddle men, that the Fathers directed their censure and reproach. St. Chrysostom, at Constantinople, in the year 400, says= I shall show you who is a merchant, that you may understand that the man who shall not be of this character is not a merchant. Whosoever procures an article not to sell the very same thing entire and unaltered, but that it may be unto him a material for some workmanship, he is not a merchant. But whosoever pro- cures a thing in order that he may gain profit by disposing of the very thing entire and unaltered, he is a merchant. And the man who procures an article to make profit by disposing of the very thing entire and unaltered, he is the merchant who is ejected from the temple of,, Some may say, 'The man who lets his land for rent, or a house for a•pension, is he not in the same state with the man who gives money at mittry ?' He is not : first, because money is not laid out for any other use, but for buying ; secondly, because a man possessing land gains Milts by tilling it ; having a house, he gets the benefit of dwelling in it. Therefore the man who lets ground, or a house, seems to cede his own advantage, and to receive money, and to com- mute somehow profit for profit. You get no utility from money hoarded up ; thirdly, a farm or a house wears in the use; but money when exchanged is neither diminished nor worn.'"
This passage on the estimate of trade in the ancient Grecian world has no relation to politics or morals, but is a mere exhibition of social opinion.
"The industry arising from the exercise of commerce and the mechanical arts was not held in such high esteem among the ancient Greeks as among the modern nations of Europe at the present day. This arose from several causes. But the most powerful was the state of slavery which prevailed among the Greeks. All household duties were committed to the manage- ment of menial servants ; and the mechanical trades, the working of the mines, the management of the public gallies, the carrying on of manufacturing esta- blishments, including even the early education of children, were entirely sup- ported by the labour of slaves. It was no uncommon branch of business to keep slaves, and let them out for hire to perform certain things ; and the riches of the leading ppeople in the states were estimated by the number of bondsmen they
fpossessed. The consequence of this was that there were very few trades elt to be followed by free citizens; and the public mind became deeply tainted with the notion that all industry and trade were degrading and mean. 'In well-regulated states,' says Aristotle, the lower order of me- chanics are not admitted to the rights of citizenship.' In some cities, how- ever, trading people and mechanics were held in more repute; for we find that during the democracy in Athens they were eligible to fill the offices of citizens and magistrates. At Thebes there was a law that no one who had been engaged in retail trades within the space of ten years could be elected as a magistrate. The consequence of all these regulations was, that they tended to check private enterprise and seriously diminish the amount of national wealth.
"Agriculture was held in high repute among the Greeks. In those dis- tricts where the cultivation of the ground formed the principal occupation of the people, almost all other trades were held in contempt. The best nation,' says Aristotle, is a nation of agriculturists.'"
It may be doubted whether the Greeks, or at least the Athe- nians, had a much lower estimate of trade than has prevailed in modern times, at all events till lately. When the Christian principle of the natural equality of all men is considered, as well as other modifications in opinion and circumstances, it may be a question whether the ancient estimate was not quite as high as the modern. Writers are too apt to look at nothing beyond their own place and generation, making their practice the test of every theory. The feudal noble of the middle ages, who robbed and im- prisoned all the traders he could lay hands on, the Highland chief- tain who " lifted" as much cattle as he could, had small regard for traders or agriculturists. The old noblesse of France, the " four- quarters " of Germany to this day, looked or look down upon com- merce. A considerable change has taken place in this country in the present generation. But the prejudice against small trade is not extinct even here—if it is altogether a prejudice. Cicero in the Offices lays it down as a rule that mechanical trades and small dealing are illiberal, but merchandise in very large way may be conceded : which is merely saying that a rich man is respectable. And the pith of the question is thereabouts. The manners and ideas of classes depend upon the education they receive and the company they keep, and these depend upon money and connexion.
Although Mr. Blakey has introduced topics that might have been omitted, he has omitted a whole class of political literature necessary to the complete treatment of his subject. Of the politics or philosophy of the ancient Egyptians we know little or nothing. Of the political literature of the Hindoos and Chinese, as well as of the Mahometans, a good deal may be learned ; and though it may not have had much direct influence on " European thought," it is essential to a complete view of human opinion. There are some things in the volume which argue insufficient preparation or revision. Mr. Blakey represents Fortescue, the author of "De
Landibus Legum Anglia;," as attainted by Edward the Fourth for his devotion to Henry IV.—which is probably a clerical or typo- graphical error for Henry VI. When he says that "Augustus fed his lampreys with slaves thrown alive into his fish-ponds," the affirmation cannot be explained in this way, while it seems the very reverse of the fact. When Augustus found that Vedius Pollio punished his slaves by cutting them into pieces and throw- ing them into his fish-ponds, the Emperor was so indignant that he compelled Polio not only to manumit the particular slave but all his other slaves.