Wednesday, 28 May 2014

MORLEY'S MISCELLANIES. SOME THOUGHTS OF A LITERARY STATESMAN.

The fourth series of "Miscellanies" by Lord Morley, has reached us from Messrs. Macmillan and Co. The book is one which will be welcomed by all who admire both the literary style and the high public spirit of the present Secretary of State for India. The contents are familiar to those who read the current magazines, since there are included in this book "'Machiavelli" "Guicciardini," "A New Calendar of Great Men," "John Stuart Mill; An Anniversary," "Lecky on Democracy " "A Historical Romance," and "Democracy and Reaction," which have appeared in the periodicals during the last few years. All, who are familiar with the style, the clarity of thought, and the nobility of aim, of this author will be pleased with this re-appearance of these papers in permanent form. In this there is renewed evidence that after all these years Viscount Morley continues intolerant of all he regards as slipshod and of cant, and loyal to the friends of his youth and the ideals of his prime. Machiavelli, with whom the volume opens, has been often denounced and as frequently rehabilitated. But our author has a good deal that is of interest to say about the times, with which he deals.

Renaissance.
"Still Italy presents some peculiarities that shed over her civilisation" at this time a curious and deadly iridescence. Passions moved in strange orbits. Private depravity and political debasement went with one of the most brilliant intellectual awakenings in the history of the western world. Selfishness, violence craft, and corruption darkened and defiled the administration of sacred things. If politics were divorced from morals, so was theology. Modern conscience is shocked by the resort to hired crime and stealthy assassination, especially by poison. Mariana, the famous Spanish Jesuit, tells us (De Regei. 7) that when he was teaching theology in Sicily (1567), a certain young prince asked him whether it was lawful to slay a tyrant by poison. The theologian did not find it easy to draw a distinction between poison and steel, but at last he fell upon a reason (and a most absurd reason it was) for his decision that a poniard is permitted and white powder is forbidden. What distinguishes the Italian Renaissance from such epochs of luxury and corruption as the French Regency is this contempt of human life, the fury of private revenge, the spirit of atrocious faithlessness and crime."

Strong Government.
Of Machiavelli's whole teaching, Lord Morley says,: "What were the lessons? They were in fact only one, that the central secret of the ruin and distraction of Italy was weakness of will, want of fortitude, force, and resolution. The abstract question of the best form of government—perhaps the most barren of all the topics that have ever occupied speculative minds—was with Machiavelli strictly secondary. He saw small despotic states harried by their petty tyrants, he saw republics worn out by faction and hate. Machiavelli himself had faith in free republics as the highest type of government; but whether you have republic or tyranny matters less, he seems to say, than that the governing power should be strong in the force of its own arms, intelligent, concentrated, resolute."

Napoleon's Personal Domination.
After illustrating with some degree of acidity to what a degree Machiavelli's policy has been carried out by even the most cherished of national leaders, by William the Silent, by Henry of Navarre, by Elizabeth of England, by Frederick the Great, Lord Morley points out that one outdid all others. "The most imposing incarnation of the doctrine that reason of State covers all is Napoleon. Tacitus, said Napoleon, writes romances; Gibbon is no better than a man of sounding words; Machiavelli is the only one of them worth reading. No wonder that he thought so. All those maxims that have most scandalised mankind in the Italian writer of the sixteenth century were the daily bread of the Italian soldier who planted his iron heel on the neck of Europe in the nineteenth. Yet Machiavelli at least sets decent limits and conditions. The ruler may under compulsion be driven to set at nought pity, humanity, faith, religion, for the sake of the State; but though he should know how to enter upon evil when compelled, he should never turn from what is good when he can avoid it. Napoleon sacrificed pity, humanity, faith, and public law, less for the sake of the State than to satisfy an exorbitant passion for personal domination."
The companion paper "Guicciardini' is perhaps less brilliant, although in some respects more laden with scholarship. The copy sent us is marred by the omission of several pages. "A New Calendar of Great Men" deals with the Comte's work and with that great Comtist, Mr. Frederick Harrison, who is also the subject of a second essay. This is entitled "A Historical Romance," and in it Lord Morley does his best for Frederick Harrison's "Theophano; a Romance of the Tenth Century." For its erudition rather than for any romantic quality, the book attracted attention when it was issued, and in this notice the whole subject is made to scintillate before the reader.

Appreciation of Mill.
The appreciation of John Stuart Mill, on his centenary, in the face of a generation which has begun to doubt the genius as well as the infallibility of that remarkable man, is an admirable illustration of the new Viscount's capacity for devotion, not inconsistent with balanced judgment. At the worst, he claims for John Stuart Mill:— "Whether Mill tried to pass 'by a highway in the air' from psychological hedonism to utilitarianism; whether his explanation of the sentence. 'The Marshal Niel is a yellow rose' be right or wrong; whether the basis on which he founds induction be strong or weak; whether his denial of the accuracy of geometry has or has not a real foundation; whether his doctrine of 'inseparable association' exposes the radical defect in the laws of association—these, and the hundred other questions over which expert criticism has ranged ever since his time, are not for us to-day. Even those who do not place him highest, agree that at least he raised the true points, put the sharpest questions, and swept away the most tiresome cobwebs. If the metaphysical controversy has not always been good-natured perhaps it is because 'on ne se passionne que pour ce qui est obscur.' "

The Doctrines of Philosophical Radicalism.
"One of the objects that he (Mill) had most at heart, in his capacity as publicist, was to set democracy on its guard against itself. No object could be either more laudable or more needed. He was less successful in dealing with parliamentary machinery than in the infinitely more important task of moulding and elevating popular character, motives, ideals, and steady respect for truth, equity, and common sense— things that matter a vast deal more than machinery. Save the individual: cherish his freedom; respect his growth and leave room for it—this was ever the refrain. His book on Representative Government set up the case against Carlyle's glorification of men like Napoleon or Frederick. Within twenty years from Mill's death the tide had turned Carlyle's way, and now to day it has turned back again. Then in the ten years before his death Neo-machiavellianism rose to ascendency on the Continent of Europe, and a quarter of a century later we have had a short spell of Neo-machiavellianism in England—end justifying means country right or wrong, and all the rest of it. Here again the tide has now turned, and Millite sanity is for a new season restored. In the sovereign field of tolerance his victory has been complete. Only those who can recall the social odium that surrounded heretical opinions before Mill began to achieve popularity, are able rightly to appreciate the battle in which he was in so many respects the protagonist."

Scalping Mr. Lecky
Very different in tone is the lengthy article on "Lecky on Democracy." This is criticism gaunt and grim. The theme of democracy is one on which Lord Morley waxes enthusiastic, but as to Mr. Lecky and his capacity and spirit in the task, no doubt is left on the mind of the reader. Seldom is so sweeping a denunciation passed now-a-days on a writer of such standing and backed up with such ruthless appeals to unquestionable authority. Mr. Lecky's whole line of argument is declared to be simply a defence of property, most conservative and narrow. In the course of the article the interesting statement is made that, in adopting the policy of home rule, Mr. Gladstone did not, as Mr. Lecky believed, act without consultation with his colleagues.

Socialism.
"Democracy and Reaction" is a criticism of L. T. Hobhouse's book with that title, and deals with very up-to-date questions. After a consideration of Socialism and Liberalism, Viscount Morley states :—'"The more or less of State action is only one point in the contest. So far as that goes, what is curious is that England, where Socialism has as a body of doctrine been least in fashion, has in action carried Socialism in its protective or restrictive aspect further than most other countries. The real issue surely cuts far deeper than this. That issue is at its root the substitution of a new economic system for an old one that was long deemed entirely incontestable. It points to revolution in the relation of workman and capitalist. It tests the foundations of two such venerable pillars of our economic fabric as rent and interest. It suggests that the problem of to-day is not production but distribution—a specious form of words that hides a whole crop of fallacies. It involves vital changes in the institution of private property, and in all that enormous and absorbing volume of human thoughts, passions, habits, and aims in life, with which the institution of private property is, and has been for centuries, inextricably associated. It is unhistoric and even anti-historic, and hints that each generation is a law to itself—with some awkward implications for the fund-holder who makes the taxpayer of to-day ruefully provide money for the 'old unhappy far-off things and battles long ago.' All this stands equally good (or equally evil, if the reader chooses) whether the old view of property be invaded by the wild storm of social revolution, or more insidiously by the mailed fist of the tax-gatherer and the rate-collector. On this side, too, English democracy has gone, and is going, further in the Socialist direction than foreign communities armed in full panoply of universal suffrage."

Christianity and Socialism.
Coming from one who is the reverse of orthodox, the following estimate of Christianity and socialism is not with out interest :— "The share of the Christian religion, and its influence in this wide field of coming innovation, is obscure and doubtful. What is to be the working of the sublime moral revolution nineteen hundred years ago upon the material and mechanical revolution of to-day? The Sermon on the Mount has been reproved by bold critics as bad political economy, and it is unquestionably socialist. Poverty stood high among the early objects of the Christian scheme, but to-day poverty, like chastity (in the extreme sense of abstention from marriage) is one of the dead virtues, and the acquisition of property by labour and thrift, like the quiverful of family, is counted as an element of good citizenship. On the latter of these two points the last word has not been spoken, and the question of population dogs our projectors of social regeneration in stealthy ambush 'It would be possible for the State.' Mill said, 'to guarantee employment at ample wages to all who are born. But if it does this, it is bound, in self-protection and for the sake of every purpose for which government exists, to provide that no person shall be born without its consent.' Only one prominent man. I think, in our time has ventured to touch this dangerous question, and he was sentenced to prison for his pains."
The publishers are Messrs. Macmillan and Co. London.

 The West Australian 1 August 1908,

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