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shoulders of its father, cry out, “ How much taller I am than Papa !”
This gentleman can never want matter for pride, if he finds it so easily. He may boast of an indisputable superiority to all the greatest men of all past ages. He can read and write: Homer probably did not know a letter. He has been taught that the earth goes round the sun: Archimedes held that the sun went round the earth. He is aware that there is a place called New Holland : Columbus and Gama went to their graves in ignorance of the fact. He has heard of the Georgium Sidus : Newton was ignorant of the existence of such a planet. He is acquainted with the use of gunpowder: Hannibal and Cæsar won their victories with sword and spear. We submit, however, that this is not the way in which men are to be estimated. We submit that a wooden spoon of our day would not be justified in calling Galileo and Napier blockheads, because they never heard of the differential calculus. We submit that Caxton's press in Westminster Abbey, rude as it is, ought to be looked at with quite as much respect as the best constructed machinery that ever, in our time, impressed the clearest type on the finest paper. Sydenham first discovered that the cool regimen succeeded best in cases of small-pox. By this discovery he saved the lives of hundreds of thousands; and we venerate his memory for it, though he never heard of inoculation. Lady Mary Montague brought inoculation into use; and we respect her for it, though she never heard of vaccination. Jenner introduced vaccination ; we admire him for it, and we shall continue to admire him for it, although some still safer and more agreeable preservative should be discovered. It is thus that we ought to judge of the events and the men of other times. They were behind us. It could not be otherwise. But the question with respect to them is not where they were, but which way they were going. Were their faces set in the right or in the wrong direction? Were they in the front or in the rear of their generation ? Did they exert themselves to help onward the great movement of the human race, or to stop it? This is not charity, but simple justice and common sense. It is the fundamental law of the world in which we live that truth shall grow, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. A person who complains of the men of 1688 for not having been men of 1835 might just as well complain of a projectile for describing a parabola, or of quicksilver for being heavier than water.
Undoubtedly we ought to look at ancient transactions by the light of modern knowledge. Undoubtedly it is among the first duties of a historian to point out the faults of the eminent men of former generations. There are no errors which are so likely to be drawn into precedent, and therefore none which it is so necessary to expose, as the errors of persons who have a just title to the gratitude and admiration of posterity. In politics, as in religion, there are devotees who show their reverence for a departed saint by converting his tomb into a sanctuary for crime. Receptacles of wickedness are suffered to remain undisturbed in the neighbourhood of the church which glories in the relics of some martyred apostle. Because he was merciful, his bones give security to assassins. Because he was chaste, the precinct of his temple is filled with licensed stews. Privileges of an equally absurd kind have been set up against the jurisdiction of political philosophy. Vile abuses cluster thick round every glorious event, round every venerable name; and this evil assuredly calls for vigorous measures of literary police. But the proper course is to abate the nuisance without defacing the shrine, to drive out the gangs of thieves and prostitutes without doing foul and cowardly wrong to the ashes of the illustrious dead.
In this respect, two historians of our own time may be proposed as models, Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Mill. Differing in most things, in this they closely resemble each other. Sir James is lenient. Mr. Mill is severe. But neither of them ever omits, in the apportioning of praise and of censure, to make ample allowance for the state of political science and political morality in former ages. In the work before us, Sir James Mackintosh speaks with just respect of the Whigs of the Revolution, while he never fails to condemn the conduct of that party towards the members of the Church of Rome. His doctrines are the liberal and benevolent doctrines of the nineteenth century. But he never forgets that the men whom he is describing were men of the seventeenth century.
From Mr. Mill this indulgence, or, to speak more properly, this justice, was less to be expected. That gentleman, in some of his works, appears to consider politics not as an experimental, and therefore a progressive science, but as a science of which all the difficulties may be resolved by short synthetical arguments drawn from truths of the most vulgar notoriety. Were this opinion well founded, the people of one generation would have little or no advantage over those of another generation. But though Mr. Mill, in some of his Essays, has been thus misled, as we conceive, by a fondness for neat and precise forms of demonstration, it would be gross injustice not to admit that, in his History, he has employed a very different method of investigation with eminent ability and success. We know no writer who takes so much pleasure in the truly useful, noble, and philosophical employment of tracing the progress of sound opinions from their embryo state to their full maturity. He eagerly culls from old despatches and minutes every expression in which he can discern the imperfect germ of any great truth which has since been fully developed. He never fails to bestow praise on those who, though far from coming up to his standard of perfection, yet rose in a small degree above the common level of their contemporaries. It is thus that the annals of past times ought to be written. It is thus, especially, that the annals of our own country ought to be written.
The history of England is emphatically the history of progress. It is the history of a constant movement of the public mind, of a constant change in the institutions of a great society. We see that society, at the beginning of the twelfth century, in a state more miserable than the state in which the most degraded nations of the East now are. We see it subjected to the tyranny of a handful of armed foreigners. We see a strong distinction of caste separating the victorious Norman from the vanquished Saxon. We see the great body of the population in a state of personal slavery. We see the most debasing and cruel superstition exercising boundless dominion over the most elevated and benevolent minds. We see the multitude sunk in brutal ignorance, and the studious few engaged in acquiring what did not deserve the name of knowledge. In the course of seven centuries the wretched and degraded race have become the greatest and most highly civilised people that ever the world saw, have spread their dominion over every quarter of the globe, have scattered the seeds of mighty empires and republics over vast continents of which no dim intimation had ever reached Ptolemy or Strabo, have created a maritime power which would annihilate in a quarter of an hour the navies of Tyre, Athens, Carthage, Venice, and Genoa together, have carried the science of healing, the means of locomotion and correspondence, every mechanical art, every manufacture, every thing that promotes the convenience of life, to a perfection which our ancestors would have thought magical, have produced a literature which may boast of works not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us, have discovered the laws which regulate the motions of the heavenly bodies, have speculated with exquisite subtilty on the operations of the human mind, have been the acknowledged leaders of the human race in the career of political improvement. The history of England is the history of this great change in the inoral, intellectual, and physical state of the inhabitants of our own island. There is much amusing and instructive episodical matter; but this is the main action. To us, we will own, nothing is so interesting and delightful as to contemplate the steps by which the England of Domesday Book, the England of the Curfew and the Forest Laws, the England of crusaders, monks, schoolmen, astrologers, serfs, outlaws, became the England which we know and love, the classic ground of liberty and philosophy, the school of all knowledge, the mart of all trade. The Charter of Henry Beauclerk, the Great Charter, the first assembling of the House of Commons, the extinction of personal slavery, the separation from the See of Rome, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Revolution, the establishment of the liberty of unlicensed printing, the abolition of religious disabilities, the reform of the representative system, all these seem to us to be the successive stages of one great revolution; nor can we fully comprehend any one of these memorable events unless we look at it in connexion with those which preceded, and with those which followed it. Each of those great and ever-memorable struggles, Saxon against Norman, Villein against Lord, Protestant against Papist, Roundhead against Cavalier, Dissenter against Churchman, Manchester against Old Sarum, was, in its own order and season, a struggle, on the result of which were staked the dearest interests of the human
race; and every man who, in the contest which, in his time, divided our country, distinguished himself on the right side, is entitled to our gratitude and respect.
Whatever the editor of this book may think, those persons who estimate most correctly the value of the improvements which have recently been made in our institutions are precisely the persons who are least disposed to speak slightingly of what was done in 1688. Such men consider the Revolution as a reform, imperfect indeed, but still most beneficial to the English people and to the human race, as a reform which has been the fruitful parent of reforms, as a reform, the happy effects of which are at this moment felt,
not only throughout our own country, but in half the monarchies of Europe, and in the depth of the forests of Ohio. We shall be pardoned, we hope, if we call the attention of our readers to the causes and to the consequences of that great event.
We said that the history of England is the history of progress; and, when we take a comprehensive view of it, it is so. But, when examined in small separate portions, it may with more propriety be called a history of actions and reactions. We have often thought that the motion of the public mind in our country resembles that of the sea when the tide is rising. Each successive wave rushes forward, breaks, and rolls back; but the great flood is steadily coming in. A person who looked on the waters only for a moment might fancy that they were retiring. A person who looked on them only for five minutes might fancy that they were rushing capriciously to and fro. But when he keeps his eye on them for a quarter of an hour, and sees one sea-mark disappear after another, it is impossible for him to doubt of the general direction in which the ocean is moved. Just such has been the course of events in England. In the history of the national mind, which is, in truth, the history of the nation, we must carefully distinguish between that recoil which regularly follows every advance and a great general ebb. If we take short intervals, if we compare 1640 and 1660, 1680 and 1685, 1708 and 1712, 1782 and 1794, we find a retrogression. But if we take centuries, if, for example, we compare 1794 with 1660 or with 1685, we cannot doubt in which direction society is proceeding.
The interval which elapsed between the Restoration and the Revolution naturally divides itself into three periods. The first extends from 1660 to 1678, the second from 1678 to 1681, the third from 1681 to 1688.
In 1660 the whole nation was mad with loyal excitement. If we had to choose a lot from among all the multitude of those which men have drawn since the beginning of the world, we would select that of Charles the Second on the day of his return. He was in a situation in which the dictates of ambition coincided with those of benevolence, in which it was easier to be virtuous than to be wicked, to be loved than to be hated, to earn pure and imperishable glory than to become infamous. For once the road of goodness was a smooth descent. He had done nothing to merit the affection of his people. But they had paid him in advance