Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

of an antagonist, whose pure and lofty charity of soul deprived his tenets, if erroneous they be, of all the danger which commonly attends such error; and yet it is well to recollect that even Dr Arnold, with a spirit to which all religious despotism was abhorrent, was driven, by the force of his theory, to refuse to all avowed unbelievers in Christ,' a share in the legislature of a Christian country. Our object is much more to notice the peculiarities of the man, the eager, although tolerant, spirit with which he rushed into this as into other controversies; and the tendency of his mind to rapid generalization.

Now, one fruitful parent of theories is, the use of words (to employ a trite comparison) not as current coin, but as counters, to which the reasoner may affix his own imaginary value. The word • Church,' is a very favourite counter with theorists; the word • State,' is another, of which the meaning is quite as arbitrary. Before we can ascertain the truth of the moral theory' of the State, we must understand what the State is. Now, Dr Arnold's argument seems to rest entirely on the assumption, that Government, State, and Nation may be used as synonymous terms. Grant him this, and undoubtedly one great difficulty in the way of his theory is removed. When I speak of the Government,' he says, 'I am speaking of it as expressing the mind and will of • the nation; and though a government may not impose its own • law, human or divine, upon an adverse people, yet a nation, act

ing through its government, may certainly choose for itself such a law as it deems most for its good.'- In a corrupt State, • the government and people are wholly at variance; in a per

fect State, they would be wholly one ; in ordinary States, they - are one more or less imperfectly.'— For the right of a nation • over its own territory must be at least as absolute as that of any individual over his own house and land; and it surely is not an absurdity to suppose that the voice of government can ' ever be the voice of the nation ; although they unhappily too

often differ, yet surely they may conceivably, and very often do * in practice, completely agree. --(P. 55.) Here the right of a government to legislate circà sacra is rested, where all men of reasonable views must rest it, on its expressing the will of the

nation.' Suppose the objector to take the ground, that the government, in point of fact, never does express the will of the nation except by accident; for that nine-tenths of mankind are governed by rulers who rest their authority on the principle, that they are not placed there to express, but to control, the will of the nation ; while in those countries which are most democratically governed, the government can represent, at best, only the numerical majority of the nation ;--a majority which may, or may not,

6

comprehend the religious or the intelligent portion of it; how is he to be answered on these premises ? If the idea of a State could be realized with any reasonable probability, we can easily understand the value of a theory founded upon it—although actual States might be but imperfect agents to carry it out; but if the idea is one which history and common sense alike show us can never be realized at all, we do not understand how the theory can stand alone. In fact, Dr Arnold seems elsewhere to admit that his principle goes no further than this—that the favourite objec

tions against the State's concerning itself with religion, apply no • less to the theory of a Church ..... The moral theory of a • State is not open to the objection commonly brought against

our actual constitution, namely, that Parliament is not a fit ·body to legislate on matters of religion ; for the council of a ' really Christian State would consist of Christians at once good

and sensible, quite as much as the council of a really Christian • Church.'-(P.63.) Now, since we may very safely assume, that since Christendom began there has never been any thing approaching to a ' really Christian State'-since we may safely foretell that there never will be, until the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord—this comparison seems to reduce the whole to a question of expediency; whether, upon the whole, it is best that the spiritual government of mankind should be left to those authorities whom we commonly term the Church, unarmed with coercive power, or to the temporal government which possesses it. Dr Arnold preferred the latter ; and he had a perfect right to do so; but not to erect his own preference into an axiom. He considered the Church 'a society far worse go

verned than most States.' It may be so; but other political philosophers may think that most States are, upon the whole, worse governed than the Church; and who is to decide between them?

And some may be disposed to think, that it was the weakness of the position which he had undertaken to maintain, which drove him to put forward such paradoxes as that excommunication is a temporal punishment, (p. 57 ;) or, still more unworthy of himself, such vulgar arguments as that of the almost unanimous consent * of all writers on government, whether heathen or Christian, • down to the 18th century.' Dr Arnold, of all men, ought to have been best aware, that on the great questions which concern the government of mankind, so long as the consent of all writers is nearly unanimous, it is worthless. Consent is worthless, until people begin to think ; and thought is only provoked by opposition. Quot homines tot sententia, as he elsewhere says, "holds 'good only where there is any thinking at all: otherwise there

[ocr errors]

may be an hundred millions of men, and only una sententia, if

the minds of the 99,999,999 are wholly quiescent. He might also have remembered, that if nearly unanimous consent' is conclusive for his views of a State, it is quite as conclusive against his views of a Church. We willingly quit so barren a subject ; and could only wish that all who maintain similar views, whether on Dr Arnold's or any other premises, would represent to themselves and their readers their main position in its literal sense; namely, that it is the chief duty of the existing governor of every existing State, whether King or Majority, to take care of the spiritual welfare of every citizen. We by no means assert that they would change their opinions, but merely that they would see the subject in a very different light, if it were once freed from the endless fallacies of general words. When it was represented to the Emperor Ferdinand II., that the course which he was pursuing towards the Protestants of Bohemia, would render that kingdom a desert, his answer was, "molumus regnum vastatum quùm damnatum.' All we contend is, that on Dr Arnold's principles it is impossible to prove that the Emperor was wrong:

As a more interesting specimen of his style of writing and turn of thought, we would select his views on certain points of military morality, in which he runs as boldly into opposition to a host of commonly received and current notions, as he does, at other times, in questions of more ordinary controversy. Nothing is more customary than to speak in tones of praise of the conduct of citizens in assuming arms as volunteers, and rising en masse ; or enrolling in guerilla-parties, to repel foreign invasion. And it seems to be rather a prevalent idea, that in proportion as nations approach more nearly to the idea of free civil government, they acquire an organization for the purpose of self-defence, which will eventually render military strength of no avail, and abolish standing armies. Not a few visionaries of our time have foretold the euthanasia of the modern military system, in this general arming of all classes ;—the advent of the day, in the language of the clever dreamer De Vigny, when uniforms will be ridiculous, and regular war obsolete. And, whether they consider such anticipations fanciful or not, most politicians seem to assume that their realization would be a step in the social progress of the world. Dr Arnold's views were widely different. And, as his manner was, his imagination being strongly impressed with certain evils inherent in the system of irregular warfare, he could not stop short of wholesale and absolute condemnation of it.

• The truth is, that if war, carried on by regular armies under the strictest discipline, is yet a great evil, an irregular partizan warfare is an evil ten times more intolerable; it is in fact no other than to give a license to a whole population to commit all sorts of treachery, rapine, and cruelty, without any restraint; letting loose a multitude of armed men, with none of the obedience and none of the honourable feelings of a soldier ; cowardly because they are undisciplined, and cruel because they are cowardly. It seems, then, the bounden duty of every government, not only not to encourage such irregular warfare on the part of its population, but carefully to repress it; and to oppose its enemy only with its regular troops, or with men regularly organized, and acting under authorized officers, who shall observe the ordinary humanities of civilized war. And what are called patriotic insurrections, or irregular risings of the whole population to annoy an invading army by all means, ought impartially to be condemned, by whomsoever and against whomsoever practised, as a resource of small and doubtful efficacy, but full of certain atrocity, and a most terrible aggravation of the evils of war. Of course, if an invading army sets the example of such irregular warfare ; if they proceed, after the manner of the ancients, to lay waste the country in mere wantonness—to burn houses, and to be guilty of personal outrages on the inhabitants, then they themselves invite retaliation, and a guerilla warfare against such an invader becomes justifiable. But our censure in all cases should have reference, not to the justice of the original war, which is a point infinitely disputable, but to the simple question-which side first set the example of departing from the laws of civilized warfare, and of beginning a system of treachery and atrocity ?

• As this is a matter of some importance, I may be allowed to dwell a little longer upon a vague notion, not uncommonly, as I believe, entertained, that a people whose country is attacked, by which is meant, whose territory is the seat of war, are sustaining some intolerable wrong which they are justified in repelling by any and every means. But in the natural course of things, war must be carried on in the territory of one belligerent or of the other ; it is an accident merely, if their fighting ground happen to be the country of some third party. Now, it cannot be said that the party which acts on the offensive, war having been once declared, becomes in the wrong by doing so, or that the object of all invasion is conquest ; you invade your enemy in order to compel him to do you justice—that is, to force him to make peace on reasonable terms. This is your theory of the case, and it is one which must be allowed to be maintainable, just as much as that of your enemy; for all laws of war waive, and must waive, the question as to the original justice of the quarrel -- they assume that both parties are equally in the right. But suppose invasion for the sake of conquest, I do not say of the whole of your enemy's country, but of that portion of it which you are invading; as we have many times invaded French colonies with a view to their incorporation permanently with the British dominions. Conquests of such a sort are no violations neccessarily of the legitimate object of war; they may be considered as a secu. rity taken for the time to come. Yet, undoubtedly, the shock to the inhabitants of the particular countries so invaded is very great ; it was ' a light thing for the Canadian, or the inhabitant of Trinidad, or of

Cape of Good Hope, to be severed from the people of his own blood and language, from his own mother state, and to be subjected to the dominion of toreigners--men with a strange language, strange manners, a different church, and a different law. That the inhabitants of such countries should enlist verý zealously in the militia, and should place the resources of defence very readily in the hands of the government, is quite just and quite their duty. I am only deprecating the notion that they should rise in irregular warfare, each man or each village for itself, and assail the invaders as their personal enemies, killing them whenever and wherever they can find them. Or, again, suppose that the invasion is undertaken for the purpose of overthrowing the existing government of a country, as the attempted French descents to co-operate with the Jacobites, or the invasion of France by the coalescing powers in 1792 and 1793, and again in 1814 and 1815. When the English army advanced into France in 1814, respecting persons and property, and paying for every article of food which they took from the country, would it have been for the inhabitants to barricade every village, to have lurked in every thicket, and behind every wall, to shoot stragglers and sentinels, and keep up, night and day, a war of extermination ? If, indeed, the avowed object of the invader be the destruction, not of any particular government, but of the national existence altogether ; if he thus disclaims the usual object of legitimate war-a fair and lasting peace-and declares that he makes it a war of extermination, he doubtless cannot complain if the usual laws of war are departed from against him, when he himself sets the example. But, even then, when we consider what unspeakable atrocities a partizan warfare gives birth to, and that no nation attacked by an overwhelining force of disciplined armies was ever saved by such means, it may be doubted, even then, whether it be justifiable, unless the invader drives the inhabitants to it, by treating them from the beginning as enemies, and outraging their persons and property. If this judyment seem extreme to any one, I would only ask him to consider well, first, the cowardly, treacherous, and atrocious character of all guerilla warfare ; and in the next place the certain misery which it entails on the country which practises it, and its inefficacy, as a general rule to conquer or expel an enemy, however much it may annoy him.'-(P. 204.)

This is only one instance, among many, of the tendency of which we have spoken, to deduce general lessons from every class of facts which the writer is engaged in investigating. And it appears to form, according to his view, an essential part of the duties of an historian, that he should be ready at all moments to adapt his inferences from ancient experience to the particular questions which agitate his own age--to make the present and the past mutually illustrate each other. Such, at least, is the meaning we ascribe to the following remarkable passage, in which he lays down broadly the difference between the antiquary and the historian.

What is it that the mere antiquarian wants, and which the mere

« AnkstesnisTęsti »