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rule them all. “ The whole system of this country, like the constitution we boast to inherit, and are glad to uphold, is made up of established facts, prescriptive authorities, existing usages, powers that be, persons in possession, and communities or classes that have won dominion for themselves, and will hold it against all comers.' Every force in the world, evidently, except the one reconciling force, right reason ! Sir Thomas Bateson here, the Rev. W. Cattle on this side, Mr. Bradlaugh on that !—pull devil, pull baker!
Really, presented with the mastery of style of our leading journal, the sad picture, as one gazes upon it, assumes the iron and inexorable solemnity of tragic Destiny.
After this, the milder doctrine of our other philosophical teacher, the Daily News, has, at first, something very attractive and assuaging. The Daily News begins, indeed, in appearance, to weave the iron web of necessity round us like The Times. “ The alternative is between a man's doing what he likes and his doing what some one else, probably not one whit wiser than himself, likes.” This points to the tacit compact, mentioned
between the Barbarians and the Philistines, and into which it is hoped that the Populace will one day enter ; the compact, so creditable to English honesty, that no class, if it exercise power, having only the ideas and aims of its ordinary self to give effect to, shall treat its ordinary self too seriously, or attempt to impose it on others ; but shall let these others,— the Rev. W. Cattle, for instance, in his Papist-baiting, and Mr. Bradlaugh in his Hyde Park anarchymongering,—have their fling. But then the Daily News suddenly lights up the gloom of necessitarianism with bright beams of hope. “No doubt,”
" the common reason of society ought to check the aberrations of individual eccentricity.” This common reason of society looks very like our best self or right reason, to which we want to give authority, by making the action of the State, or nation in its collective character, the expression of it.
But of this project of ours, the Daily News, with its subtle dialectics, makes havoc. “ Make the State the organ of the common reason ?” -it “You may make it the organ of something or other, but how can you be certain that
reason will be the quality which will be embodied in it?” You cannot be certain of it, undoubtedly, if you never try to bring the thing about; but the question is, the action of the State being the action of the collective nation, and the action of the collective nation carrying naturally great publicity, weight, and force of example with it, whether we should not try to put into the action of the State as much as possible of right reason, or our best self, which may, in this manner, come back to us with new force and authority, may have visibility, form, and influence, and help to confirm us, in the many moments when we are tempted to be our ordinary selves merely, in resisting our natural taste of the bathos rather than in giving way to it ?
But no! says our teacher : “it is better there should be an infinite variety of experiments in human action, because, as the explorers multiply, the true track is more likely to be discovered. The common reason of society can check the aberrations of individual eccentricity only by acting on the individual reason ; and it will do so in the main sufficiently, if left to this natural operation.” This is what I call the specially British form of
Quietism, or a devout, but excessive, reliance on an over-ruling Providence.
Providence, as the moralists are careful to tell us, generally works in human affairs by human means; so when we want to make right reason act on individual reason, our best self on our ordinary self, we seek to give it more power of doing so by giving it public recognition and authority, and embodying it, so far as we can, in the State. It seems too much to ask of Providence, that while we, on our part, leave our congenital taste for the bathos to its natural operation and its infinite variety of experiments, Providence should mysteriously guide it into the true track, and compel it to relish the sublime. At any rate, great men and great institutions have hitherto seemed necessary for producing any considerable effect of this kind. No doubt we have an infinite variety of experiments, and an ever-multiplying multitude of explorers ; even in this short paper I have enumerated many : the British Banner, Judge Edmonds, Newman Weeks, Deborah Butler, Elderess Polly, Brother Noyes, the Rev. W. Cattle, the Licensed Victuallers, the Commercial Travellers, and I know not how
many more; and the numbers of this noble army are swelling every day. But what a depth of Quietism, or rather, what an over-bold call on the direct interposition of Providence, to believe that these interesting explorers will discover the true track, or at any rate, “will do so in the main sufficiently” (whatever that may mean) if left to their natural operation; that is, by going on as they are! Philosophers say, indeed, that we learn virtue by performing acts of virtue ; but to say that we shall learn virtue by performing any acts to which our natural taste for the bathos carries us, that the Rev. W. Cattle comes at his best self by Papist-baiting, or Newman Weeks and Deborah Butler at right reason by following their noses, this certainly does appear over-sanguine.
It is true, what we want is to make right reason act on individual reason, the reason of individuals; all our search for authority has that for its end and aim. The Daily News says, I observe, that all my argument for authority “has a non-intellectual root;" and from what I know of my own mind and its inertness, I think this so probable, that I should be inclined easily to admit it, if it were not that, in