« PreviousContinue »
sonment in Newgate for six months, under circumstances not disgraceful, give Mr. Gladstone the pain which he would feel, if he were to be told that he was to be dealt with in the way in which he would himself deal with more than one half of his countrymen ?
We are not at all surprised to find such inconsistency even in a man of Mr. Gladstone's talents. The truth is, that every man is, to a great extent, the creature of the age. It is to no purpose that he resists the influence which the vast mass, in which he is but an atom, must exercise on him. He may try to be a man of the tenth century: but he cannot. Whether he will or not, he must be a man of the nineteenth century. He shares in the motion of the moral as well as in that of the physical world. He can no more be as intolerant as he would have been in the days of the Tudors than he can stand in the evening exactly where he stood in the morning. The globe goes round from west to east ; and he must go round with it. When he says that he is where he was, he means only that he has moved at the same rate with all around him. When he says that he has gone a good way to the westward, he means only that he has not gone to the eastward quite so rapidly as his neighbours. Mr. Gladstone's book is, in this respect, a very gratifying performance. It is the measure of what a man can do to be left behind by the world. It is the strenuous effort of a very vigorous mind to keep as far in the rear of the general progress as possible. And yet, with the most intense exertion, Mr. Gladstone cannot help being, on some important points, greatiy in advance of Locke himself; and, with whatever admiration he may regard Laud, it is well for him, we can tell him, that he did not write in the days of that zealous primate, who would certainly have refuted the expositions of Scripture which we have quoted, by one of the keenest arguments that can be addressed to human ears.
This is not the only instance in which Mr. Gladstone has shrunk in a very remarkable manner from the consequences of his own theory. If there be in the whole world a state to which this theory is applicable, that state is the British Empire in India. Even we, who detest paternal governments in general, shall admit that the duties of the government of India are, to a considerable extent, paternal. There, the superiority of the governors to the governed in moral science is unquestionable. The conversion of the whole people to the worst form that Christianity ever wore in the darkest ages would be a most happy event. It is not necessary that a man should VOL. VI.
be a Christian to wish for the propagation of Christianity in India. It is sufficient that he should be an European not much below the ordinary European level of good sense and humanity. Compared with the importance of the interests at stake, all those Scotch and Irish questions which occupy so large a portion of Mr. Gladstone's book, sink into insignificance. In no part of the world since the days of Theodosius has so large a heathen population been subject to a Christian government. In no part of the world is heathenism more cruel, more licentious, more fruitful of absurd rites and pernicious laws. Surely, if it be the duty of government to use its power and its revenue in order to bring seven millions of Irish Catholics over to the Protestant Church, it is à fortiori the duty of the government to use its power and its revenue in order to make seventy millions of idolaters Christians. If it be a sin to suffer John Howard or William Penn to hold any office in England because they are not in communion with the Established Church, it must be a crying sin indeed to admit to high situations men who bow down, in temples covered with emblems of vice, to the hideous images of sensual or malevolent gods.
But no. Orthodoxy, it seems, is more shocked by the priests of Rome than by the priests of Kalee. The plain red brick building, the Cave of Adullam, or Ebenezer Chapel, where uneducated men hear a half-educated man talk of the Christian law of love and the Christian hope of glory, is unworthy of the indulgence which is reserved for the shrine where the Thug suspends a portion of the spoils of murdered travellers, and for the car which grinds its way through the bones of self-immolated pilgrims. “It would be,” says Mr. Gladstone, “an absurd exaggeration to maintain it as the part of such a government as that of the British in India to bring home to the door of every subject at once the ministrations of a new and totally unknown religion.” The government ought indeed to desire to propagate Christianity. But the extent to which they must do so must be “limited by the degree in which the people are found willing to receive it.” He proposes no such limitation in the case of Ireland. He would give the Irish a Protestant Church whether they like it or not. “We believe,” says he, “that that which we place before them is, whether they know it or not, calculated to be beneficial to them; and that, if they know it not now, they will know it when it is presented to them fairly. Shall we, then, purchase their applause at the expense of their substantial, nay, their spiritual interests ?”
And why does Mr. Gladstone allow to the Hindoo a privilege which he denies to the Irishman? Why does he reserve his greatest liberality for the most monstrous errors? Why does he pay most respect to the opinion of the least enlightened people? Why does he withhold the right to exercise paternal authority from that one government which is fitter to exercise paternal authority than any government that ever existed in the world? We will give the reason in his own words.
“In British India,” he says, “a small number of persons advanced to a higher grade of civilisation, exercise the powers of goverument over an immensely greater number of less cultivated persons, not by coercion, but under free stipulation with the governed. Now, the rights of a government, in circumstances thus peculiar, obviously depend neither upon the unrestricted theory of paternal principles, nor upon any primordial or fictitious contract of indefinite powers, but upon an express and known treaty, matter of positive agreement, not of natural ordinance.”
Where Mr. Gladstone has seen this treaty we cannot guess; for, though he calls it a “known treaty,” we will stake our credit that it is quite unknown both at Calcutta and Madras, both in Leadenhall Street and Cannon Row, that it is not to be found in any of the enormous folios of papers relating to India which fill the book-cases of members of Parliament, that it has utterly escaped the researches of all the historians of our Eastern empire, that, in the long and interesting debates of 1813 on the admission of missionaries to India, debates of which the most valuable part has been excellently preserved by the care of the speakers, no allusion to this important instrument is to be found. The truth is that this treaty is a nonentity. It is by coercion, it is by the sword, and not by free stipulation with the governed, that England rules India; nor is England bound by any contract whatever not to deal with Bengal as she deals with Ireland. She may set up a Bishop of Patna, and a Dean of Hoogley ; she may grant away the public revenue for the maintenance of prebendaries of Benares and canons of Moorshedabad; she may divide the country into parishes, and place a rector with a stipend in every one of them; and all this without infringing any positive agreement. If there be such a treaty, Mr. Gladstone can have no difficulty in making known its date, its terms, and, above all, the precise extent of the territory within which we have sinfully bound ourselves to be guilty of practical atheism. The last point is of great importance. For, as the provinces of our Indian empire were acquired at
different times, and in very different ways, no single treaty, indeed no ten treaties, will justify the system pursued by our government there.
The plain state of the case is this. No man in his senses would dream of applying Mr. Gladstone's theory to India ; because, if so applied, it would inevitably destroy our empire, and with our empire the best chance of spreading Christianity among the natives. This Mr. Gladstone felt. In some way or other his theory was to be saved, and the monstrous conseqences avoided. Of intentional misrepresentation we are quite sure that he is incapable. But we cannot acquit him of that unconscious disingenuousness from which the most upright man, when strongly attached to an opinion, is seldom wholly free. We believe that he recoiled from the ruinous consequences which his system would produce, if tried in India; but that he did not like to say so, lest he should lay himself open to the charge of sacrificing principle to expediency, a word which is held in the utmost abhorrence by all his school. Accordingly, he caught at the notion of a treaty, a notion which must, we think, have originated in some rhetorical expression which he has imperfectly understood. There is one excellent way of avoiding the drawing of a false conclusion from a false major ; and that is by having a false minor. Inaccurate history is an admirable corrective of unreasonable theory. And thus it is in the present case. A bad general rule is laid down, and obstinately maintained, wherever the consequences are not too monstrous for human bigotry. But when they become so horrible that even Christ Church shrinks, that even Oriel stands aghast, the rule is evaded by means of a fictitious contract. One imaginary obligation is set up against another. Mr. Gladstone first preaches to governments the duty of undertaking an enterprise just as rational as the Crusades, and then dispenses them from it on the ground of a treaty which is just as authentic as the donation of Constantine to Pope Sylvester. His system resembles nothing so much as a forged bond with a forged release indorsed on the back of it.
With more show of reason he rests the claims of the Scotch Church on a contract. He considers that contract, however, as most unjustifiable, and speaks of the setting up of the Kirk as a disgraceful blot on the reign of William the Third. Surely it would be amusing, if it were not melancholy, to see a man of virtue and abilities unsatisfied with the calamities which one Church, constituted on false principles, has brought upon the empire, and repining that Scotland is not in the same state with Ireland, that no Scottish agitator is raising rent and putting county members in and out, that no Presbyterian association is dividing supreme power with the government, that no meetings of precursors and repealers are covering the side of the Calton Hill, that twenty-five thousand troops are not required to maintain order on the north of the Tweed, that the anniversary of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge is not regularly celebrated by insult, riot, and murder. We could hardly find a stronger argument against Mr. Gladstone's system than that which Scotland furnishes. The policy which has been followed in that country has been directly opposed to the policy which he recommends. And the consequence is that Scotland having been one of the rudest, one of the poorest, one of the most turbulent countries in Europe, has become one of the most highly civilised, one of the most flourishing, one of the most tranquil. The atrocities which were of common occurrence while an unpopular church was dominant are unknown. In spite of a mutual aversion as bitter as ever separated one people from another, the two kingdoms which compose our island have been indissolubly joined together. Of the ancient national feeling there remains just enough to be ornamental and useful; just enough to inspire the poet, and to kindle a generous and friendly emulation in the bosom of the soldier. But for all the ends of government the nations are one. And why are they so ? The answer is simple. The nations are one for all the ends of government, because in their union the true ends of government alone were kept in sight. The nations are one, because the Churches are two.
Such is the union of England with Scotland, an union which resembles the union of the limbs of one healthful and vigorous body, all moved by one will, all cooperating for common ends. The system of Mr. Gladstone would have produced an union which can be compared only to that which is the subject of a wild Persian fable. King Zohakwe tell the story as Mr. Southey tells it to us-gave the devil leave to kiss his shoulders. Instantly two serpents sprang out, who, in the fury of hunger, attacked his head, and attempted to get at his brain. Zohak pulled them away, and tore them with his nails. But he found that they were inseparable parts of himself, and that what he was lacerating was his own flesh. Perhaps we might be able to find, if we looked round the world, some political union like this, some