MR. GRANT DUFF ON EUROPEAN POLITICS.
This is not a great book, but it is well worth reading and re- membering. Mr. Grant Duff, a man who has travelled far and read much, and writes a style of remarkable clearness, has recorded in a aeries of essays his impressions of the political position in most of the countries of Europe. Each essay contains a succinct, always lucid, but sometimes slight, narrative of the events of which it is so difficult to obtain trustworthy accounts—the events immediat ely preceding our own time, sketches of the statesmen who really rule, and judgments, sometimes very decisive, upon their characters. This judgment is usually a little depreciatory, Mr. Grant Duff being evidently no hero-worshipper, but they are otherwise fair, and absolutely free from that tendency to exaggerate either merits or defects which is the besetting sin of the litterateur who looks to pictorial effect. Their defect is over conciseness, conciseness of opinions as well as words, which makes them read rather like the rapid utterances of a man giving his view at the dinner-table than the deliberate judgment usually recorded in print. Of Count von Bismarck, for instance, he says :—" But who was this new Minister, then so little known, now so notorious ? M. von Bismarck-Schonhausen was born at Brandenburg in 1813. Already as a very young man he connected him- self closely with the Ultra-Conservative party in the District Assembly of the Saxon province of Prussia, in which he has pro- perty, and in 1848 he pursued the same course at Berlin, making himself particularly conspicuous, when the German national enthusiasm for the first Schleswig-Holstein war was at its height, by speaking of the Prussian intervention in that struggle as 'Em hochst ungerechtesfrivoles und verderblichesUnternehmen zur Un- terstiitzung einer ganz unmotivirten Revolution.' He was a member of the Assembly of the Conservative party to which the name of the Junker-Parliament was given, and was one of the founders of the Kreuz-Zeitung. He was present at Erfurt, and was a secretary of the Assembly, getting there also into a quarrel with the piles by way of prelude to more serious attacks upon it in after years. His good services to the reactionary party gained for him in 1851 the post of First Secretary of Legation at Frankfort, an appoint- ment which was all the more remarkable because he had never before been in the diplomatic service. Three months afterwards, however, he was promoted to the first place as Prussian repre- sentative to the Diet, and this post he occupied until he was succeeded by a much better man, Baron von Usedom. This was in the early days of the present King—before his failure to obtain the • Studies Gs Eurqsans Politica. By B. E. Grant Duff; ALP. London: Edmonston and Douglas. approval of the people for his scheme of army organization had driven him from the right path—the happy time which German Liberals too hastily called the Neue "Era. In that happy time. M. Bismarck was sent off to St. Petersburg, and it is indeed un- fortunate that he did not remain in a country for which he is far better suited than his own. The destinies, however, had other work in store for him ; for, after a short period of dray in Russia and France, he was summoned to Berlin, and in September, 1862, on the very day, as it happened, upon which Lord Russell's famous Gotha despatch began a new phase of the Schleswig- Holstein question, he became first Minister. The time has not yet come for attempting to pass judgment upon a man who is still in the midst of his career, but it is not too much to say that his action upon the affairs of Europe has hitherto been simply evil. His worst enemies do not deny that he has great readiness, a strong will, and audacity almost amounting to genius. The ground-tone of his character, it has been truly said, is i's3pg., but that iigpie, which takes in public life so offensive a form, does not seem incompatible in his case with much geniality in private life, and it would not be difficult to cite instances of the ease with which he obtains influence over persons who are brought across him. Many stories are current which show that his conservatism does not go really so deep as that of many men who make less parade of their anti-liberal views ; and we think it far from impossible that as the drama of German politics unfolds itself, we may be destined to see this unscrupulous politician in more than one unfamiliar character."
It would have been well to illustrate a little more carefully the hint here given as to a latent character in the Prussian Premier which may materially affect Europe. We believe the hint is correct, the Count, though originally a true Prussian Junker, that is, as nearly as may be, the Scotch country gentleman of a hundred years ago, has received a superficial impress from the ideas of the Bonapartists, and a deep impress from his four years' tenure of power. He has seen in Paris that "authority," i. e., the right to compel people, instead of persuading them, can be based upon other data than the right of birth, and in Berlin his horizon has widened till he almost doubts whether the power derived from popular support does not compensate for its inconveniences, whether an able plebeian is not as useful as an incompetent aristocrat, whether it matters much, provided he rules, whether he rules by the will of the people or of a King, whether, finally, the people may not be conciliated more easily than the King. He will always tend to a more military sharpness of command than English statesmen do, for the desire to be obeyed without resorting to persuasion is universal in Continental officials, but we should not be surprised yet to see him acknowledge that personal government among a very numerous and highly civilized people is usually wanting in force, requires in fact an amount of capacity which, if power is to be exercised by a King, is inconsistent with the hereditary principle, and if by a Premier, must be relieved of any interference from palace politics. So we should have liked a little more argument in favour of an idea, probably accurate, that the result of Austria's separation from Germany will be to make the union of her German and non-German nationalities easier, an idea which, if correct, may make the existing war ultimately beneficial to all the nationalities engaged, instead of injurious to all. Even in the descriptions there is sometimes an almost annoying thinness, Mr. Grant Duff forgetting that if it is worth while in such essays to describe a constitution at all, it is also worth while to do it completely. The description of the Confederation which has just broken up is, for instance, very imperfect. The following sentence shows how little foresight even the keenest men possess as to events :—" Still the Germans know what is best for themselves ; their hearts are set upon more real political life, and the hopes of nations, 'like all strongest hopes,' generally fulfil themselves. How they will be fulfilled no one can venture to prophesy ; but the most favourable conditions for their fulfilment. would, as it appears to us, be the coincidence of some sudden agitation, like that of 1859, with the occupation of the Prussian throne by a thoroughly constitutional, English-minded ruler, who, not desiring to injure his small brother potentates more than was necessary, nevertheless fully recognized the truth that kings and princes exist only for their people. All beyond this must, we think, be little better than guess-work." It is almost certain that the unity will be accomplished without a popular rising, mainly because of the occupation of the Prussian throne by a thoroughly unconstitutional military-minded ruler, who has swept his brother potentates out of North Germany.
Still, in spite of this defect, these papers are full of suggestive- ness, of statements which will at all events compel readers to
reconsider their impressions. Take this single paragraph on the social organization of Russia :—" No attempt to cast the horoscope of Russia will succeed, if we fail to remember that that great empire rests on a democratic basis. The middle class is altogether insignificant. We doubt whether there are half a million of peo- ple who could be with propriety included in it. The nobility is a body utterly different from our own, and just as different from that of Germany. Primogeniture is recognized neither by law, nor by custom, except in a very few families. The extraordinary wealth of certain great houses, and the recklessness which makes many Russians of moderate means appear very rich when they travel, because they are spending their capital, deceives the nations of the old civilization.' We suspect that out of St. Petersburg and Moscow 2,0001. a year is a large fortune for Russia. The attainment of a very low tchin or rank in the Go- vernment service gives personal nobility. The higher ranks give hereditary nobility, which before the emancipation carried with it the right of possessing serfs. The so-called Russian nobility, in the widest sense of the term, consists, according to Buddeus, of more than three million persons, but of these not much more than 100,000 were owners of serfs, and even in this class an enormous number were extremely poor. Very many, again, of the mem- bers of old families have hardly any property at all. Of the 120 Prince Galitzins, for example, a large proportion are princes only in name. It is unlucky indeed that the word Kniaz cannot be translated by some word leas hopelessly misleading to English ears." Or this on the religious condition of Spain, which is con- firmed by all the evidence we have been able to collect :—
"At present the legislation of Spain recognizes the liberty of religious opinions, but does not recognize the liberty of religious worship. The distinction is a pitiful one for these our days, but still it is very real, and represents the abolition of an enormous amount of tyranny and annoyance. Secondly, the territorial power of the priesthood, once so great, has ceased to exist ; monasteries are ii thing of the past, and in their place we find only a few scattered mission-houses, while the whole number of ecclesiastics has been diminished by many thousands. Thirdly, although it might be imagined that the sacrifice of so large a portion of its worldly advantages might have been repaid to the Spanish clergy by an increase of spiritual influence, this has certainly not been the case, and every traveller knows that neither they nor their office are respected by large sections of the community. Some curious evi- dence with regard to this point is supplied by a book published in 1851, and entitled The Practical Working of the Church in Spain. Its authors (for more than one hand contributed to its pages) belong or belonged to that section of English Churchmen who talk of Dr. Pusey as one whose words are priceless.' It may then readily be inferred that they went to the Peninsula expecting to see and hear much with which they could sympathize. They thought that they were entering a land of happy peasants, all holy monks, all holy priests, holy everybody ;' and great, accordingly, was their consternation when they found ceremonies pro- faned, confession laughed at, and the clergy despised. In Malaga and Cadiz, in Seville and Cordova, through all south-eastern Spain, they be- held the old religion sinking into contempt. The priests candidly con- fessed that they had lost their hold over the middle class ; or, to use their own peculiar diction, they said, 'If it was not for the poor, there would be no worship of God in the land.' Sometimes, when a sermon of an exceptionally startling kind woke up the slumbering consciences of the masses, the ancient fanaticism flared up agaiitin a ghastly way ; but it was a mere momentary revival, and things soon returned to their accustomed course. We strongly recommend those who are interested in Spain to read this little work, because the testimony which it gives
is evidently wrung from its authors with great reluctance." "Our own impression is, that the form of Romani= which prevails in Spain is lower, and retains less of the real spirit of Christianity, than that which exists in any other Catholic country with which we are acquainted. Over the lower classes it still has very considerable hold, but rather as a superstition than as a religion. On the other hand, the creed of the bulk of the men among the educated classes is pure indif- ferentism, and probably in their hearts the majority of those who are opposed to religious toleration oppose it in order that they may not have the trouble of settling what attitude they are to take up towards the religion of the State. At present they are Catholics as a matter of course, just as they are Spaniards. If they could be anything else, they would be ashamed to profess belief in a system which they utterly despise. This state of things need surprise nobody ; it is the natural result of the forcible suppression of- free thought, and is seen in a leas degree even in those countries—Pagan and other—where public opinion, and not penal legislation, is the supporter of the existing creeds. We cannot expect this miserable hypocrisy, injurious alike to morality, to literature, and to statesmanship, soon to pass away ; but a beginning is made. Any one who knows Spain could mention the names of Spaniards who are Its enlightened in these great matters, and as earnest, as the best amongst ourselves ; and just as Barely as the opinions of Luther and Melancthon would, through the Ermines family and many others, have taken root in Spain and converted a large minority of the nation, if the persecutions of Philip U. and his successors had not made it absolutely impossible, so one or other of the forms of pure Christianity which, under various names and with differences more or less marked, but not of vital importance, are becoming the creed of most thinking men in the countries of Europe generally recognized as progressive, will most certainly, before the end of this century, have great influence in rapidly reviving Spain."
To exercise real influence Mr. Grant Duff must make his essays more exhaustive, but they are even now thoughtful and enter- taining lectures on very considerable subjects.