4 MARCH 1905, Page 8


the present aspect of the world which is most unusual, and that is the contrast between the magnitude of the events occurring all round us, and the smallness, or rather, if we may coin a word, the second-rateness, of the men supposed to guide them. From West to East, from North to South, we are witnessing the -birth of new states or the clattering down of old ones, wars on a scale beyond precedent, new groupings of ancient States, contests between classes which shake all ancient order to pieces, developments of ideas such as often precede, and sometimes cause, shattering convulsions. In the Far East an Asiatic State has suddenly become the seventh Great Power, and will yet affect the destiny of all the lands which are laved by the waters of the greatest of oceans. In the North the supremacy of the greatest military State has been shaken to its foundation, while the State itself is in the birth-throes, and none even pretend to know what it will bring forth. In the Centre of Europe an almost land-locked country is visibly preparing weapons to struggle for the empire of the seas; while further South the most quiescent of Empires, the only one without even a wish for a transmarine policy, is being put for the twentieth time in the crucible with objects which even the metal- lurgists do not profess to understand. In France the old contest between Church and State has reached the point of actual battle; each is bursting through the old "entangle- ments," and when in a few weeks they clash, one or the other must go down. In our own islands the two great parties, whose contest of centuries has taught us how to reconcile freedom and order, are visibly dissolving, partly, it may be, under pressure of old age, but chiefly because wealth and poverty are feeling out with hands guided by half-blind eyes for some new method of reconciliation. And there in the Far West a Power which for a hundred years has never ceased to grow, but which has remained as apart from the struggles of the world as if it were a separate planet, is announcing in a hundred ways that it intends in future to enter the great family, and to throw its vote, perhaps a casting vote, at the council-table of the world. The world, too, is watching these new occurrences with eyes which, if they are not keener, at least see more every day as science brings everything more clearly within the range of even feeble sight.

But what of the men who should be great to deal with this crushing multitude of events ? There is not one among them who belongs past all question to that small number of mankind who in history have really guided events, or who may be expected by patient observers to found as well as to contend. Two among them, no doubt, are big men in their way ; but both William II. of Germany and President Roosevelt are hampered by a disparity between their objects and their means which as yet appears in- curable. They are like men swimming in seas too thick with brine to allow them ever to move at speed. For the rest, can any one name a man of the absolute first grade, a Napoleon, a Bismarck, a Cavour, or even a Garibaldi, the single man of our age the stamp of whose foot produced armies from the ground ? Even the new State in the Far East, though it has produced men adequate to their great task—generals who can win battles with hundreds of thousands engaged, and statesmen who can finance a first-class war—has not produced a man of genius, or one who can, like Moltke, secure from victory its full results. The huge Empire of Russia, seething with political and military activity, does not evolve one man who is competent either to shatter the existing system, or to reconsolidate the ancient order. The Russians of this generation as yet visible to the world can scarcely be classed as third-rate. Emperor or General, statesman or Admiral, not one appears with the quality of success, or— which is much more remarkable—impresses mankind with the feeling that he may yet be successful. Russia has no Napoleon, no Mirabeau, scarcely even a Sieyes ; only a Witte for a Colbert, only a Count Lamsdorff for a Richelieu. In Germany no one is alive but the Emperor ; and in Austria the only great statesman, Count Tisza, has neither success nor popularity, and though in the Emperor adroitness rises to the mark of genius, he, like every other diplomatist except Cavour, fails to found. In those two great military Empires one cannot even name the man who in a great war would be chosen Generalissimo. In Italy a new generation of politicians is rising to the top, and as yet has included no one who can solve the social problem, or settle the eternal quarrel with the Church. In France so little are politicians great that it is admitted by all who record events that the fall of the greatest among them makes no difference, and that the war with the Church will go on just as well and just as badly though the protagonist of the Anti-Clerical side has disappeared. In our own country Conservatives frankly despise the leader for whom they vote, the Opposition are almost paralysed by the absence of any man even approaching greatness, while more than half the com- munity deny the capacity of the one man who stands out- side and offers himself as a ruling mind. In America, no politician except the President, and perhaps Mr. Hay, is visible above the surface, and the latter is forbidden by the Constitution to be a distinctive figure. That consensus of national admiration which is so rarely wrong attaches itself to no one, except in the case of America and Mr. Roosevelt, and the nations are left to .the guidance of men about whom even their flatterers can hardly say with grave faces that they are more than able.

What is the explanation ? The often-repeated one that democracy distrusts original minds and is impatient of supreme mental power, . besides not being true—for democracy will pardon almost anything to a great leader, as soldiers and sailors will pardon anything to the men who chain victory to the colours—is obviously inadequate. Over a large portion of the civilised world the democracy is not ruling, for the benefit of the absence of the greatest men has accreted mainly to the Kings. The calm may be simply one of those unexpected calms which used, before steam began, to arrest vessels sometimes for months, and bred such strange superstitions in the exasperated minds of sailors. But a calm in all seas at once would be a. new phenomenon, and there is no calm in external events. The law of history seems to be that when great events are in progress, or great changes at hand, great minds arrive at the top, as if Providence wished to protect passengers from the direst consequences of storm. At present there is nowhere even an Augustus Caesar, who, though without genius, had yet the capacity to pour a social system into a new mould which for centuries did not crack. The only explanation we can offer—and we feel that it is rather plausible than sufficient—is that the complexity of all modern interests baffles minds of the greatest force in their effort to attain power. Something of narrowness—or shall we say concentration ?—is essential to develop the greatest mental strength; and everything tends to produce, even in soldiers and statesmen, broad minds, which because they are broad cannot rush forward upon a defined course. The great see too much even to be consistently ambitious, and the small have too many thoughts to act upon any single line. So many are the channels open that even the sand-storm cannot rise to its old overwhelming force. Democracy, even when ruling, hesitates to issue final orders. The phenomena may all change, and that pretty quickly, but for the present the great are to a noticeable degree smaller than the subjects with which they have to deal.