TOPICS OF THE DAY.
" GOD AND THE RIGHT."
MANY honest politicians are at a loss just now. Deprived of the ordinary card and compass by the confounding of party and the displacing of old standards, their rallying-points are missed, and they are perplexed. We believe that the perplexity will not last for long ; the red enduring standards are the same as ever, and we have only to lift our eyes high enough. No nation, no class, can abandon the assertion of its influence or the exercise of its power, without losing that power and that influence; but by a companion law, which is equally true, no class, and therefore no nation can use its power and influence for merely selfish purposes without degenerating and losing the resources it has ceased to deserve. A maxim almost oftener quoted than any other just at this day is that into which the great Englishman packed the sum and sub-. stance of sound policy—" Now, my lads, put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry " • but it is not only the latter half of the saying that is true. We must use our powder in what we believe with our hearts as well as heads to be a good cause—a cause good. for others as well as ourselves,—or our powder will turn to impotent dust. Do you swear by Liberal principles for the sake of the principles, or for the sake of some party, some persons, some joint-stock association claiming a patent in the same? If you believe the principles to be the key to a proper understanding of the vital interests of your country, then follow them' whatever persons you may meet on your way ; and you are sure to go right. Remember that in political sects there are "good Samaritans " ; also Pharisees political. Remember that the life of an order, or of a nation, consists not in principles pro- fessed but in principles applied. If we are alive, we are applying those principles now. The beating of your heart cannot be ME-. pended "till next session." If we are not in any public or na- tional function living out our principles, we are in that function dead, corrupt; we are tainted with political scrofula ; and, moan or tremble as we may, the tainted part will be eliminated. Action is essential to life healthy . action and noble aspiration, or we must give up our fife, and yield our little room in the universe to others fit for living—as orders have done before now, as nations have done. " Fuimus Trees "—" Ilium fuit."
An American contemporary notices that while the "foremost champion of Parliamentary Reform in England, Mr. Bright, takes the text of his arguments from what he considers the suc- cessful working of our free institutions' " Americans at home are seriously questioning l the stability of their own institutions. "While the very name of American has become typical for the most sturdy plebeian energy in Russia and Continental Europe, and almost all over the globe, here, in America, a marked pre- ference is shown in the most influential sections of society for the effete and superficial characteristics of high life abroad. Though we should agree with our contemporary most heartily on one point, we differ:from him in his explanation of these phenomena. The nation does not exist that has not panted to draw forth those finalities which, when they are completely developed, form an Aristocracy. But while the sons of an Aristocracy too often forget the conditions of their own existence, nations which aim to prevent the existence of an Aristocracy, or to pull it down do their work at the expense of crushing the qualities that ;lake national greatness. Turn the question how we will, plan politi- cal theories, new constitutions, schemes of levelling, or schemes of paternal Government,—for administration by a police, or for the culture of education,—we never can get rid of the simple fact, that every country is governed by conviction, affection, and force. The natural "governing class' in any country is that which is most cultivated, which can perform the hardest labour and the best, which has the most ability to wield force, the ability in- cluding energy, skill, courage, influence through example and affection, and nobleness. A natural aristocracy is, therefore, the order which is the most considerate of other orders, the most capable of hard work, the most generous, granting benefits for the sake of justice and of sympathy. The possession of these qua- lities is followed by another, the crowning quality of a real aris- tocracy,—the attribute of power ; a quality which cannot be taken away,—but it can be forfeited. The great American Republic illustrates for us these truths. Americans themselves know how their countrymen are con- tinually striving to get, by some short cut, at the display of those qualities which go to make an aristocracy; while the Order among them which possesses the opportunities of an Aristocracy —" the Upper Ten,' —stands aside, waives the exercise of its own power and influence, and, nationally, has ceased to be. God forbid that our Upper Ten should ever consummate for it- self that living death, or that it should neglect to follow the example afforded by the energetic minds and men who are really leading the old colonists of England, under the star spangled banner, in a path gloriously parallel to our own.
But in these principles we have the guide through all our pre- sent perplexities and difficulties, domestic and foreign. The In- stitutions of which we boast have been the work of oft-renewed reforms. There is not a statute, or usage at common law, now held to be a bulwark of our Constitution, which was not, in almost every case within the cognizance of history, a reform. Every such reform has been attained by the two conditions which we have already pointed out,—some order of the people or the whole body of the people stood forward' to assert its convictions,
winning to it the affections of as many as it could, and abiding even by the test of force, though not always in open conflict. But there is also scarcely a single reform enjoyed by us, in which other orders besides those directly benefited did not, with great labour, with peril of life and fortune, and with a hoble generosity, aid in accomplishing. The Barons who forced Magna Charta upon a King that had been scholared in no such school as that which has trained our own admirable Queen, demanded concessions for the Yeomen and Freemen of the land. We have now a Reform Bill before us ; we see a disposition here and there to treat it as a matter of routine,—here and there a fear and jealousy of this or that class ; a Bright desire to level, or a dull fear of democracy. Now' if there is a want in the circumstances of the present day, it is that every class in the country does not stand forward and assert its own honest convictions as sturdily as possible. If that were done by every order we should have no difficulty whatever. Meanwhile, what is our expedient ? It is, that those orders, who have the power and opportunity to carry out this national mea- sure should make it as beneficial as they can for all,—for those orders that are not moving as well as for the rest ; treating the whole subject in a broad national spirit. Of the measures that come before us, whatever the author, the one that most meets this des- cription is the one that we English should adopt. " Bills " are of little use compared to this living legislation, of which indeed the bills are but the record. "Slips of paper," says our American contemporary, in words that give voice to ;rue English feeling,— " Slips of paper thrown occasionally into ballot-boxes, are not the things to regenerate a country. It requires a daily vigilance, a heartfelt sympathy, with the interests of the race, which are involved in the stability and moral dignity of free institutions."
It is the same abroad. In order to back out from the compli- cations which have followed from so many "entangling alliances" with foreign Governments and systems little congenial to our own, it has been proposed that we should adopt the principle of non-intervention. As we have more than once explained, it would be a good principle, if it were adopted in an aggressive spirit—that is to say, if we were by degrees to retreat from posi- tions in which we stand as the national accomplice of policies repugnant to our own historical life, and so recovered freedom to act, on suitable occasion, with those other nations whose present life is congenial to our own ; whose objects are the same with those that we have at heart. This is peace, concord amongst those who are seeking to enlarge the freedom of mankind, in thought, in domestic life, and in the interchange of the world's wealth. It in no manner follows that we should alienate ourselves from the action of other peoples. The Emperor Napoleon's speech is peace ; but it is no surrender of the principle that there must still be an ef- fective comity of nations—" France is everywhere where there is a just and civilizing cause to promote." The same principle has been put with still greater force by Cromwell two hundred years ago, when, as we are opportunely reminded by the Westmmster _Review, he said to the Parliament of England.—" Look how the House of Austria is prepared to destroy the whole Protestant in- terest in Hungary. You may say, it is a great way off, what is it to us ? If it be nothing to you, let it be nothing to you ; but I tell you that it is something to you. It concerns all your religious and all the best interests of_England."