29 JULY 1893, Page 15


THE "SPECTATOR."] SIB, —Your description of that "signal instance of Radical perversity," whereby a group of Radicals " systematically decry their own country," as a determination to be "unjust to themselves," seems to me like describing the crime of Cain as suicide. Such, indeed, according to Philo, it was,—Cain slew himself when he slew his brother. In a similar spirit of interpretation, we may say that Englishmen decry what is best in themselves when they decry their country. But the fact we most need to remember is that those Radicals who are bent on finding their country in the wrong, aim at exalting, not abasing, that group which, in any intelligible sense of the word, we may identify with themselves. Their oneness is with their party, not with their country. If they point out mistakes or crimes iu French or German Radicals, they speak with the reluctance of corporate interest ; when they do the like by English Tories, it is with the eagerness with which men attack those furthest removed from them- selves. Their accusations in the latter case are just or unjust, as the case may be, to those whom they regard as foes. I believe, indeed, that this is much what the writer of that article meant, and that the sentence here criticised was almost a slip of the pen ; but it is worth noticing, for• this reason. The fact that we naturally describe an opinion about our country as an opinion about ourselves, is at once a dis- guise of, and a stimulus to, the temptation to decry our country. To suppose that a Radical feels any shame or humiliation in pointing out the errors of a Tory Government is absurd; yet it is possible, if we think of Radicals as Englishmen and Tories as Englishmen, to give a certain flavour of impartiality and candour to these accusations. No one ought for a moment to give-in to a tendency so directly subversive of the truth. If we can say that injustice to oneself is not impossible, that is as much as we can say; while injustice to those near to us, and falling from a distance into the same group with us, is the commonest form of injus- tice. We shall make it even commoner than it is, if we allow it to be confused with a temptation possible only to minds so elevated that in comparison with ordinary sins theirs is a virtue. It is quite as much in the interests of a true criticism of our country, as of a true love of our country, that I would protest against such a confusion. The two things, indeed, are to the eye of history indistinguishable. When we excuse the spirit which delights to find matter of blame in the conduct of the nation, we prepare the way for the spirit which refuses to see matter of blame in the conduct of the nation. The criti- cism of England by Englishmen will never be valuable if it is eager. The errors of a mighty nation, if the attack upon them be that of partisan vehemence, will be strengthened and embittered, not removed. For the majesty of a nation will always, in the long-run, overcome the self-assertion of a party, and the accusations originating in political antagonism, how- ever just, will associate themselves with something temporary and distorted, and lose their healing power.—I am, Sir, &o., A. W.