POLITICAL TERMS.* SIR GEORGE CORNEWALL LEWIS, of all the statesmen
of our century, enjoyed the least public fame in proportion to his knowledge and intellectual power. Even in the House of Commons itself, where that knowledge and power had ample room for display, he had not, according to Mr.
White, the reputation he deserved; while, among the people outside, his name and personality suggested nothing. Yet, with the exception of Mill, no more highly trained, logical, well-equipped political thinker has sat in the House of Commons during the memory of living men. Mr. Raleigh, in an introduction to the present edition of the work on Political Terms, has perhaps given us an explanation of the slender popular fame attained by Lewis. He was essentially an aristocrat in the proper sense of that word. He would not flatter Neptune for his trident nor Jove for his power to thunder. He belonged to that class of Whig-Liberal thinkers who are equally removed from the bigotry and pre- judices of Toryism on the one hand, and the commonplaces and parrot-cries of the " masses " on the other. His mind was probably too acute not to see that democracy was inevit- able,—democracy with its genial vices, its good nature, its slipshod thinking combined with its true instincts, its reckless sensationalism, and its preference for creature comforts over personal liberty. But the democratic ideal had no attractions for Lewis. He could not play to the gallery. His mind was formed by the liberal and cosmopolitan culture of the last century, and we relate him to Targot, to Adam Smith, to the younger Pitt while he was still a reformer, rather than to the majority of his actual contemporaries. He was, Mr. Raleigh
tells us, a believer in the old Liberal maxim, " Do not govern too much." He would have had no sympathy whatever with the present tendency to State Socialism. He believed with all his mind in perfect intellectual and religious freedom. He leaned towards Erastianism in ecclesiastical matters, his abhorrence of the power of a corporation of priests being as keen as that of any of the French plalosophes. He believed with equal fervour of conviction in Free-trade. While interested in the Colonies, he was no Imperialist. While believing in liberty, he had no confidence in the theory that men are born "free and equal." In short, Lewis was perhaps the very best representative we have ever had in the House of Commons of a vanished, or at least vanishing, type,—the type of a cultivated, dignified, unemotional, perhaps un- sympathetic. moderate Liberalism which conceived of itself as a self-sufficing, consistent whole. We of to-day may con- sider it an imperfect political creed ; but at least it was a -creed,—a very sincere and elaborately constructed credo, involving a much higher political conscience and intellect than is connoted by the hand-to-mouth Opportunism of the present day.
The work on the Use and Abuse of some Political Terms is just such a book as we should expect from this clear, logical mind, with its abundance of dry light. It is, in effect, a plea for accurate speech and clear thinking in politics. Now that is what the crowd does not take very kindly to, which is perhaps the reason why men like Lewis do not take very kindly to the crowd. Watch a popular audience, and you mill find that what call forth loud plaudits are large, vague, swelling words like "humanity," "liberty," and "justice." They sound well, like the "blessed word Mesopotamia," and the orator who uses them, while he may be propounding a policy which will be very unjust and very detrimental to the liberty of his audience, seems so deeply imbued with a high moral purpose that the auditors cannot but cheer such brave words. But, on the other hand, what a prolific crop of moral clap- tral. has been engendered in the rich soil of a corrupt old Toryism! What nonsense has been covered over by the blessed word "unconstitutional "! What nonsense, as Free- man has shown, is even to-day connoted by educated people an the use of such a word as " disloyal," when the old feudal feeling towards a lord to whom one stands in a personal relationship is confounded with quite impersonal rela- • Remarks on the Use and Abuse of Some Political Terms. By Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Bart. A New Edition, with Notes and Introduction. by Skims Basis); D.O.L. Oxford : Clarendon Prom tionship to the laws of one's country. Such a clear, dry, powerful mind as that of Lewis, " bottomed," as Dr. John- son would have said, in solid English practical sense, yet with more than a touch of French exactness and precision, laboured at ridding our political life of all this vague and cloudy illusive verbalism which, in his judgment, produced such a serious effect on our politics. The task was really an impossible one; for it is only here and there that a political student will be found able to appreciate this almost Aristo- telian method and form of political reasoning. But while Lewis is not for the crowd, his work will remain as a most important contribution to a political philosophy based on sound and consistent definitions.
As Lewis himself declared in his introduction, this work relates, " not to the truth of any particular propositions, but to the meaning of certain terms used in political reasoning ; which, being often employed with different senses in the pre- mises and conclusion, have often given rise to countless inconclusive arguments, and have thus caused fallacies of argument in the proper meaning of the word." Hence we are not invited to take part in a mere barren logomachy, but in a kind of system of political logic which braces the mind and compels us to think accurately and to stick closely to the definitions we have laid down. Perhaps the time may come when every would-be Member of Parliament will have to undergo an examination in such a work as this, and when, therefore, the "decline of Legislatures" which Mr. Godkin laments may be arrested by the process of imparting a firmer tissue to the Parliamentary brain. Lewis takes up such much- abused terms as " government," " constitution," " sovereign nature," " state of nature," " right and wrong," "liberty," "authority," and other ambiguous terms constantly in use, provides us with a definition, and tracks down the erroneous and contradictory inferences drawn from loose and undefined premises. Especially elaborate is the discussion on that most ambiguous of terms,—Nature. We are not quite sure that Rousseau and his followers had in their mind the unhis- torical conception of an actually living free society of equals as in existence in some remote past which Lewis, in conjunction with many other critics, supposes them to have had. But whether that is so or not, the discussion of the subject in this work is most lucid and masterly. There is one definition here, however, which we can scarcely accept,—that of sovereignty. "Some person or persons in a State are said to be sovereign," writes Lewis, "or to possess the sovereign power, when they yield no obedience to any person on earth, and when they receive obedience from the community which they govern." Is this an exact description of the political condition of the United States ? The President has no sovereign power, for his acts are liable to be reviewed by a Court, as are the acts of Congress ; and that Court itself is not sovereign, its juris- diction being subject to provisions in a legal document. Is
it that document, then, that is sovereign? But it, in its turn, is subject to a constitutional Convention. We should like to see a complete analysis of sovereignty in so complex an organism as that of the United States ; for in our judgment Austin's analysis, adopted by Lewis, scarcely meets the facts. Generally speaking, however, we can feel nothing but admiration for this masterly attempt to compel poli- ticians to define their terms and to stick to their definitions.