18 JANUARY 1873, Page 19


BY far the best paper in this month's Magazines—and by best paper we mean the paper which excites most thought on impor- tant subjects—is Mr. F. Harrison's essay on the "Revival of Authority." We shall have to object to its conclusions directly, and Ur. Harrison always writes rhetorically, as if his brain were a little hot—which it is not—but we do not know that we have ever seen the necessity of government by the capable better stated, or the value of government by opinion more tersely or more convincingly demonstrated in print, and we are quite certain we have never seen a greater number of suggestive political epi- grams in a single paper. The only defect in the article is that, especially when we have read it, we all agree with it, and that when we have agreed with it, we are not an inch nearer to the object, which is to find a mode of selecting a Government which shall rest on public opinion so completely that it shall not need military force to produce internal obedience, yet shall have authority sufficient to dispense with long discussion, Parliamentary or otherwise. Nobody denies that the wise government of men is a difficult art, that competent men will exert it better than incom- petent, or that the main condition of competence in a sound state of society is accordance with the best public opinion, which may or may not be the opinion of the numerical majority. No possible statement of those conditions, however eloquent—and Mr. Har- rison is very eloquent—or however terse—and Mr. Harrison is terse to mannerism—can increase the public conviction that they are necessary, and on the whole, right conditions. The difficulty upon which the public want light is the mode of reconciling them, and upon this Mr. Harrison gives them no light whatever, except the flashes we may derive from a few epigrams, which help us about as much as coal-sparks help us to read. You can see a stroke or two by them with painful bright- ness, but you cannot read a word or be quite certain of a letter.

To say that a " heroic King" of the Carlyle type " could not pro- duce a Times newspaper by slave labour," is no doubt to state a most suggestive fact in wonderfully few words, but it does not tell us in the least how to make a Times newspaper and a ruling man co-existent, which, we take it, is the want of Mr. Harrison and of our modern society. This, too, is a fine description of the ideal Premiership, but it does not in the least show us how to get our ideal Premier :—

" The business of the statesman is to be the servant of the people, in the sense in which the Pope is servus servorum, as working in their service, but not as the instrument of their orders. The statesman who. is worth his salt has to be continually initiating, devising, suggesting. He has often to create a public opinion, to modify it, never to be its tool. Thedemocratic fallacy and the heroic king fallacy proceed from the same root, error. The democratic fallacy assumes that the people will always best know what is good for them ; and the heroic king fallacy assumes that all that is wanted is to whack rascaldom into order and quiet. Both alike forget that in the subtle organism of modern societies the only sound methods of treatment are methods of extraordinary com- plication and delicacy. When the old democratic doctrines grew up, what was wanted, or at least wanted immediately, was the redress of grievances, and the removal of glaring abuses. On the other hand, the great task of government was to suppress crimes of violence, and enforce the regular course of justice. We have long left both behind. Societies, like generations of men, throw up their own special maladies; and old States necessarily breed diseases of a deep-seated kind. Abuses in them are neither glaring nor obvious, but infinitely insidious, con- cealed, and complicated. Grievances are not found on the surface, irritating the skin, but they wear away the marrow of the bones, and linger in the joints, blighting and deranging each organ in turn. They may be diagnosed and even cured by infinite patience and skill ; but the tracing their secret causes and consequences requires consummate sagacity, and their healing is a task of prolonged and refined artifice. It is as false to regard them as incapable of cure as to think them curable by drastic remedies. With diseases of this sort to deal with, the modern statesman needs to be perpetually watching, calculating, and acting. It would be preposterous to leave these difficult tasks to popular initiative ; and yet when the remedy is found it can only be applied by popular support. Thus the statesman has to be for ever modifying public opinion, and to be for ever modified by it. He must strain every nerve to carry the right measure to completion, short of the point where it meets with fixed and invincible opposition. He must never force, and never be forced. He must create the opinion on which alone he rests for strength—create it by honestly forcing the convic- tion that he is right, not by manipulating electoral strings. The body upon which he works is as changeful as the sea ; yet it has currents as irresistible as the tide."

Mr. Harrison himself confesses that he cannot see his way to his own end, but thinks his ideal was once realised in part when. Lincoln in his second Presidency wielded a power vaster than that. of King or Emperor, yet rested his authority solely on free- opinion. Well, we could yield to that illustration, and say that if Mr. Harrison could show us the way to secure a succession of Lincolns, a succession rising in refinement with the refinement of the people, he would have done much to solve his problem ; but how does he propose to get them? He says he does not believe im the choice of the numerical majority, nor do we, except when the- circumstances are terrible enough, or lofty enough, or impressive- enough in any way to hurl the majority out of themselves, and com-

pel them to rely upon their instincts instead of their reason ; and we- cannot have cataclysms every day, or every four years either, even if they lead to Lincolns or Cavours. The man must be chosen, and, chosen either by the people or a selected body, and either of them will usually choose wrong. Mr. Harrison hints that if the people- invest the object of their choice with high functions and no material power, they can disobey or dismiss, or limit him at will ; but-

what is the good of that ? If a man of the best kind, he would be the better of the material power, as Mr. Lincoln was of his power of arrest and absolute legal irremovability ; and if a man of the lower kind, he would always be wanting to attract opinion, that is,. votes—that is, would be a man of the demagogic class everybody distrusts. It seems to no that "authority," such as Mr. Harrison, desires, is best confided to an Assembly which can be trusted: not to use soldiers, and can do anything, and neverthe- less bases its whole power on opinion ; yet this is what we- have, and he dislikes. Parliament has any lumber of functions, is more absolute than any man could be, yet has no material, means whatever of oppression. And we all know that contempt-

of Parliamentary action is the very cause of discussions like those which Mr. Harrison seeks to raise. The despotic ruler whom the-

public trusts is possible, we believe, in high emergencies, but not in ordinary times, and even in emergencies he will lack the educating force that Parliaments possess.

The most important paper, if not the beet, in the Contemporary is Mr. W. Knight's on the "Function of Prayer," for which it is said the Presbytery of Dundee intend to bring him before the

General Assembly of the Free Church. We regret the resolution, but we do not wonder at it. Mr. Knight believes a great cleat more than the worthy Presbyters imagine, accepting, as we under-

stand him, the possibility of miracle for adequate end, but deny- ing that the Creator will interfere with the general course of Nature in response to prayer. His general idea is perhaps most fully explained in the following extract :—

"But we are repeatedly told by theologians that an answer to prayer within the physical realm is a sign of the Divine Presence, helpful to ' the suppliant's faith. Is this a worthy conception of God's relation to the universe, that He every now and then interferes with his estab- lished order to prove His own supremacy? That he interrupts the working of his machine, to prove that he is there behind it, and has power to alter Nature, or to grant the requests of his creatures ? Is not such a notion the offspring of the very rudest anthropomorphism ? It is difficult to imagine a poorer idea of Divine revelation than is implied in such arbitrariness. To those who think it gracious conde- scension, it may be replied that it would bs quite as significant of caprice. It is supposed that having created a tiny creature, and brought him into the midst of the universal Order (a creature that scarcely ever comprehends the meaning of that order), the Supreme Artificer finds it expedient continually to announce Himself by an alteration of the course and destination of phenomena at the unen- lightened (it may be the selfish) call of that creature ; and that He does so while at the same time His presence is ceaselessly revealed within every pulse and movement of the universe. But the very purport of revelation (which is merely the withdrawing of a veil) is not to show -the creature that primeval order ran be violated, or that 'the material is subordinate to the spiritual: It is to announce the fact that the spiritual lies abidingly within the material, as its underlying essence. And while this is the philosophical notion, is it not also tho Biblical idea of the relation which God sustains to the cosmos? We have no evidence that the writers of our Sacred Books regarded the power, which manifested itself to them in unusual ways, as different from that of which we see a daily apocalypse in the material world. So far from this, these writers uniformly speak of all natural phenomena as the direct outcome of divine agency. God • walks on the wings of the winds,' the clouds are 'His chariot;' ' His voice' is heard when it thundereth, and so forth. To the Hebrew prophets and psalmists, at least, the Supernatural was the power which works through the natural order, of which all the forces of the universe are manifestations to men."

That is to say, while God, as Mr. Knight elsewhere says, can and will answer prayer by impression on the wills of men, or by affect- ing that spiritual existence which abides within the material, He will not reverse or suspend His material laws either for the sake of petitioners or for that of His own glory. This is at least one of the orthodox views ; but Mr. Knight, in his eagerness to give the physicists their due, has once or twice so overstated his own argument as to make it read as if he denied the possibility of miracle, or indeed of creation. He says, "We can scarcely doubt that the amount of physical force within the universe is incapable 'either of increase or diminution, but only of endless modifica- tion," which so blankly stated, is equivalent to saying that this reservoir of physical force never was created at all. If God created it, He can create more, or intensify the energy of that which exists at His own will. Indeed, apart even from God, Mr. Knight is a 'little too absolute, for the ablest men of science by no means assert themselves to be sure of the absolute conservation of force, but only of its probability from experience,—a very different thing. When, too, Mr. Knight, speaking of the infinite chew 'of cause and effect, says," Catastrophe, the breaking of the chain, is simply inconceivable," he certainly in the bareness of his asser- tion seems to deny not perhaps all miracle, but some at least of the miracles in the Gospels. Nothing but catastrophe, a sovereign and novel act of creation, can make the story of the loaves and Ashes intelligible, and he should have explained the qualifications to his opinion which exist in his own mind. His great concession, which was also Mr. Maurice's, that disease and pain may not be part of the order of the universe, but disturbances in its order, which God can remove in answer to prayer, does not meet the case of that particular miracle, even if it is in itself a reasonable theory, as the physicist who traces the cause of disease would probably deny. It is most unreason- able that such speculations should be tried by clerical assemblies, and much to be regretted that Churches should wish to try them, but we can scarcely wonder that Scotch orthodoxy should feel suspicious of Mr. Knight. We have spoken before -of Dr. Car- penter's essay on psychical heredity, and there is a very eloquent, 'though absurdly over-sanguine paper by Mr. Goldwin Smith on the -44 Labour Movement." Where in history does the Professor find justification for this? :— "Among other economies of labour, if this movement among the English peasantry succeed and spreads to other countries, then will come an economy of soldiers' blood. Pauperism has been the grand recruiting sergeant. Hodge 'listed and went to be shot or scourged within an inch of his life for sixpence a day, because he was starving ; but he will not leave five shillings for sixpence. Even in former days, the sailor, being somewhat better off than the peasant, could only be forced into the service by the press-gang, a name the recollection of which ought to mitigate our strictures on the encroaching tendencies of the working-class. There will be a strike, or a refusal of service equivalent to a strike, in this direction also. It will be requisite to raise the soldier's pay; the maintenance of standing armies will become a costly indulgence. I have little faith in international champagne, or

even in Geneva litigation as a permanent antidote of war: war will cease or be limited to necessary occasions when the burden of large standing armies becomes too great to be borne."

Which is best off, the Prussian peasant or the English labourer, or who under the Purchase System paid the English officer? Suppose huge armies impossible because costly, and nations would all have small armies, and fight harder and do more mischief even than they do now. Germany was desolated by the Thirty Years' War, though nobody but Wallenstein was rich enough to get 50,000 men together, and we spent 1600,000,000 between 1789 and 1815 without ever putting 50,000 men upon a pitched field.

We note in Blackwood the continuation of the "True Reformer," and a weird story called the "Lost Secret of the Cocos Group," reminding us in style of the "Cruise of the Midge," perhaps the best story Blackwood ever published ; but to us the beat paper is the exhaustive and most interesting account of the "Issues Raised by the Protestant Synod of France," which met so recently to discuss the very first principles of theology and ecclesiastical organisation, and debated them out with an eloquence, a force, and above all, an openness of speech almost without precedent in such gatherings. The grand subject of debate was "not the old ques- tion which has troubled the Christian Church during the long line of ages, whether any partMulai doctrine is essential either to Church association or to Christianity itself, —whether, as is debated in our own day, any ecclesiastical communion or party is too broad or too narrow ; but this rather, whether the Church has any doctrine whatever, whether it has a single religious tenet, without which it would cease to be a Christian society or church." M. Colani, for example, a Liberal leader, boldly denied that any tenet at all save belief in God was essential to a Christian, while the other side maintained that belief in Christ and a supernatural revelation was equally essential. The writer sketches the debate with great clearness and condensation ; but perhaps the newest fact to our readers will be the existence of a Left Centre, or moderately orthodox party, whose tenets are thus described :—" Upon this M. Jalabert distinguished the Left Centre from the Left. 'We recognise Christianity as a divine revelation, the product of an intervention of God in the history of humanity, and not merely as the highest effort of the human reason. Jesus Christ is for us more than a man. On the other hand, we do not believe in the Trinity, nor in atonement by blood. The Left Centre believes in the supernatural, though free to examine any particular miracle. We believe in the resurrection of Christ's body, nor do we admit that a minister is sub- ject to his own conscience alone. The Left believes in spiritual miracles wrought by the Spirit of Gad in souls. They are like the disciples before the Lard's death.'" The number of these French Unitarians is not given, but they voted on the whole with the orthodox, who carried a confession of faith by 61 to 45. This confession is to be signed by every pastor hereaftei ordained at the time of his ordination, and affirms that "the Protestant Church of France proclaims the sovereign autho- rity of Holy Scripture in matters of faith, and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who died for our offences and rose again for our justification. It preserves and maintains, as the basis of its teaching, its worship, and its discip- line, the great Christian facts 'which are expressed in its religious solemnities and in its liturgies, more especially in the confession of sins, the Apostles' Creed, and the Liturgy of the Holy Com- munion." No effort was made to obtain a common liturgy, and the writer, who is very orthodox, admits that the Liberals fought fairly, stating their ideas openly, and asking permission for every minister to teach as he thought best. This is the debate of which M. Thiers is reported to have said that "if all Frenchmen were Huguenots a Republic might be easily established in France ;" while M. (Idiot did say, "I have been present for more than sixty years at many parliamentary struggles, in which the first orators of France were engaged. I have never seen any which had a more elevated or a more dignified character, or which was more remarkable for form and substance."

Macmillan would be dull, but for a short paper by Mr. Ever- shed on the "Migrations of Useful Plants." Mr. Evershed tells us that the apple, hazel, elder, bullace, aloe, raspberry, and black- berry and its successors, introduced the vine, cherry, peach, pear, mulberry, fig, damson, medlar and walnut. Hops were intro- duced in 1523, and the laurel did not arrive till 1648. The fig was introduced by Cardinal Pole, but it is remarkable that market gardens were unknown till 1600, garden stuff having previously to that time been imported from Holland. The birch is probably the oldest tree in England, cedars, larches, and silver fire were introduced by Evelyn, or in his time, and to him

also was due the introduction of the Barbadoes pine, from which all our pineapples have been raised, and a fruit trade commenced which has, we fear, languished of late since the introduction of the cheap and nasty specimens now sold in our markets. There is no good uncultivated pine except the Singapore variety, though it is believed we shall speedily get splendid specimens from Jamaica grown in the open air. Mr. Evershed should give us another paper on the decline of certain descriptions of fruits, flowers, and even vegetables, which have from some unknown cause either died out, or become, like many varieties of the apple, little known and much prized varieties. He might, too, give us some reasons for the failure of gardeners to improve some fruits, as, for in- stance, the bullace and the blackberry, while so much has been accomplished for others, as the peach and the strawberry, the latter of which has become almost a new plant.

There is little in the Cornhill of interest, unless it be a paper on "Heroism," by Charles Kingsley, characteristically eloquent and characteristically weak, in which he offers "John Halifax, Gentle- man" and "Esmond" as examples of heroism, and says the "petti- ness anA dulness of our modern life is just what keeps alive our stage, to which people go to see something a little leas petty, a little less dull than they see at home,"—a criticism we scarcely understand. That the stage is amusing we will admit, though we do not feel it ourselves, but it is certainly not less petty than the life around us. Two theatres are now playing "The School for Scandal" to crowded London audiences, but the actors are surely not applauded because they represent a life less petty than that of our own day, so full, if not of action, at least of intellectual interest.

We have noticed the best article in Fraser, Mr Galton's essay on hereditary improvement, before ; but there is also an interesting aketch of Lord Shaftesbury, author of the "Characteristics," and as the Essayist declares, in mental culture the "Matthew Arnold of Queen Anne's reign," a Deist who did not mind Christianity well tempered by philosophy, a Church of England man who held the Establishment to be mainly useful because it chained up the priests. He believed in God because not to believe in Him " is to believe that we are living in a distracted universe," and a sense of the harmony of all things is necessary to virtue ; and he believed in immortality, but held that this belief is no foundation for morals :—" He labours energetically to show that hopes and fears of a future state are so far from being the proper motive to virtue, that they are rather destructive of its essential character. Not only may such weapons be pressed into the service of an evil deity, but they are radically immoral. The man who obeys the law under threats is no better than the man who breaks it when at liberty. There is no more of rectitude, piety, or sanctity in a creature thus reformed than there is of meekness or gentleness in a tiger strongly chained, or innocence and sobriety in a monkey under the discipline of the whip.'" He was the first to employ the phrase "a moral sense," and one of the earliest to assert that morality was independent of revelation, and was an instinct implanted by God in man :— " The harmony of which he spoke had an objective reality, and did not reside in the ear of the hearer. The cultivation of the moral sense was necessary to enable us to catch its Divine notes; but the judgment of all cultivated observers would ultimately be the same. If a writer on music were to say that the rule of harmony was caprice, he would be ridiculous. 'Harmony is harmony by nature, let men judge ever so ridiculously of music.' Symmetry and proportion are equally founded in nature, 'let men's fancy prove ever so barbarous or their fashions ever so Gothic in their architecture, sculpture, or other designing art. 'Tis the same case where life and manners are concerned. Virtue has the same fixed standard. The same numbers, harmony, and proportion will have place in morals ; and are discoverable in the character and affections ot mankind ; in which are laid the just foundations of our art and science, superior to every other of human practice and compre- hension.' (Soliloquy, Pt. M. § 3.) Shaftesbury is in his own language, a 'realist ' in his Theism and his morality. Virtue is a reality, and can be discovered by all who will go through the necessary process of self-culture."

The grand defect of that statement, as of all Shaftesbury's theories, is that it presupposes a cultivated world, or, at all events, a world in which every man is seeking to attain the highest attainable, a condition we have certainly not yet reached.