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to be unknowable. Matthew mists," and yet make his account as Arnold's phrase, "Others abide our picturesque as a Waverley Novel. Yet question, thou art free!" is used, he feels keenly the limitations of rightly or wrongly, to justify a theory Macaulay's mind; the incapacity ever which Bagehot holds-and I confess to develop his early opinions; the that I agree with him—to involve a "bookishness" which made him the complete fallacy. It is this interest in slave of accepted Whig formulæ; the character, the comparative indifference "chill nature" (perhaps the word is to the technical qualities of books, and hardly fair) which made him prefer the their value as bringing us into relations prosaic and respectable to the “passionwith living human beings, that gives a ate eras of our history." Yet he also special interest to Bagebot's work. It recognized what is perhaps too much implies no want of enthusiasm. Bage- overlooked, Macaulay's solid commonhot admires some men who had a per- sense, obscured as it may be by the desonal interest for him, Clough and fects which give so antiquated and Hartley Coleridge, even more warmly wooden an aspect to his political docthan most authorities would sanction. trine. Bagehot, on one side, had strong He shows at any rate—and that is the affinities with the old-fashioned Libervital point-how they affected one of alism in which he had been educated. their ablest contemporaries.
Macaulay showed its merits as well as Bagehot's strong point, indeed, is in- its defects. He represents that kind of sight into character; what one of his "stupidity" which Bagehot so thorcritics has called his “Shakespearean" oughly appreciated – the stupidity power of perceiving the working of which is a safeguard against abstract men's minds. To possess that power a theories. Macaulay, as Emerson obman must be a bit of what is harshly serves, praised Baconian philosophy called a cynic. He must be able to precisely because it meant by "good," check the sentimentalist tendency to good to eat or good to wear; and lose all characterization in a blaze of thought that its merit was “to avoid light. His hero-worship must be re- ideas and avoid morals." Bagebot strained by humor and common-sense. could agree with Macaulay that “ideas” Carlyle, the great prophet of that were dangerous things. He shows in creed, could draw most admirable por- one essay how Bolingbroke was too traits because there was a Diogenes be- clever by half. He complains in an. hind the enthusiast; and an underlying other that Lowe "cannot help being shrewdness was always asserting itself brilliant.” He cannot talk “the monotbehind the didactic panegyric. In onous humdrum" which sends men to Bagehot's case, again, this quality sleep, and which they suppose must be shows itself in the curious attractive- “all right." He has not the "invaluable ness for him of the more prosaic type faculty" of diffusing the “oppressive of intellect. His article, for example, atmosphere of business-like dulness" upon Macaulay, shows the struggle in which is “invaluable to a Parliamenhis mind. He accepts the contem- tary statesman.” Lord Althorp was the porary estimate of that “marvellous" ideal leader of the Reform Bill time bebook-the History-as was natural to cause he was so intellectually clumsy. a man whose youth coincided with His mind “had not an epigram in the Macaulay's culmination. He especially whole of it; everything was solid and esteems a writer who can describe a ordinary.” So Bagehot criticized Glad. commercial panic as accurately as Mc- stone in
very interesting article Culloch, the “driest of political econo- (1860), complaining of his “incessant
use of ingenious and unqualified prin. ciples," combined with a "scholastic" skill which enables him to prove that any two principles may be consistent. In an earlier article he had analyzed with singular acuteness the character of Sir Robert Peel, to illustrate the truth that a "constitutional statesman is a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities." He has to represent public opinion-the opinion, that is, of the average man; and it will come naturally to him to be converted quite honestly and yet just at the right tiine, that is just when other men of business are converted. Originality and Byronic force and fervor would make that impossible. Byron's mind was volcanic, and flung out thoughts which crystallized into indestructible forms like lava. Peel's was one in which opinions resembled the “daily accumulating insensible deposits of a rich alluvial soil.”
Articles in this vein, full of brilliant flashes of insight, show Bagehot's peculiar power. It is quaint enough to observe the audacious, rapid theorist devoting his brightest insight to a serious "encomium moriæ" and becoming paradoxical in praise of the commonplace. He was quite in earnest. He admired no more than Sir G. Cornewall Lewis, the very type of the thoroughly prosaic, solid, utilitarian mind; and not the less that he was himself imaginative and, if not a poet, had marked poetical sensibility. The explanation may be suggested by the doctrine which he applied in his most valuable works. A scientific enquirer must accumulate knowledge of facts, for the whole fabric of science is based upon experience. But he must also be always speculating, co-ordinating and combining his experience; his mind must be incessantly suggesting the theories till he hits upon the one clue that leads through the chaotic labyrinth which experience presents to puzzle us. Bagehot denounced and ridiculed the
theorists who asked for no base of experience, and placidly assumed that the fact would conform to the theory. So long as such theories prevail, there can be no stability and therefore no progress. "Stupidity” is invaluable just so far as it involves a tacit demand that theories should be checked by plain practical application. But stupidity absolute -- sheer impenetrability to ideas-was so little to his taste that a main purpose of his writing is to consider how it can be effectually kept under. As a dumb instinctive force, it
a guide, and he is terribly afraid that it will become refractory and end by being master. There is the problem which he has to solve.
First of all, we must see the facts before our eyes. Bagehot's greatest merit is that he perceives and complies with this necessary condition of useful inquiry. He illustrates a maxim which he is fond of quoting from Paley. It is much harder to make men
see that there is a difficulty than to make them understand the explanation when once they see the difficulty. We build up elaborate
of words and formulæ which effectively hide the facts, and make us content with sham explanations. “The reason," he says, "why so few good books are written is that so few people that can write know anything." An author “has always lived in a room,” he has read books and knows the best authors, but he does not learn the use of his own ears and eyes.
That is terribly true, as every author must sorrowfully admit; and probably it is nowhere truer than of English political philosophers. Eng. lish statesmen had made any number of acute remarks behind which, one supposes, there ought to lie some general theory; but when they tried to say what it was, they fell into grievous platitudes and the conventional twaddle which is a weariness to the flesh. They took their general principles
from Aristotle, and their precedents from the days of John or Queen Anne; and something surely must have been learnt in the interval. Aristotle's remarks have become platitudes-perhaps because they were so wise; but they surely require a little fresh testing. Bagehot's book upon the British Constitution came like a revelation; simply because he had opened his eyes and looked at the facts. They were known to everybody; they had been known to everybody for generations; and yet, somehow or other, nobody had put them together. Every cog and wheel in the machinery had been described to its minutest details, but the theory supposed to be embodied in its working was hopelessly unreal. It was a kind of fossil erudition; and led to singular misconceptions, and, moreover, to misconceptions of grave practical importance.
Bagehot's main point may illustrate his method. When the Constitution of the United States was framed, the philosophy was supplied by authors of the famous "Federalist.” They had read Montesquieu who was a man of genius, but also a Frenchman. He had naturally taken for granted that the conventional maxims of English politicians corresponded to the vital principles of the British Constitution. His disciples supposed that one such principle was the separation of the legislative from the executive power. This, says Bagehot, was the "literary” and therefore the utterly wrong theory. The Americans naturally had George III on the brain. George III represented the executive in England, and had interfered unduly with the legislative. If the American President was the true analogue of the English monarch, the essential point was to provide security against this abuse. Carry out the principle of the division of powers more thoroughly; separate the President from the Congress; and there
would be no danger of a Washington or a Jefferson becoming a George III. or a Cromwell. This involved a thorough misconception. The President was really analogous, not to the King, but to the Prime Minister. To divide his functions from the functions of Congress would, therefore, be like removing the English Prime Minister from the House of Commons. That would clearly involve a complete dislocation of the whole English system. The fact-obscured for time by George III's personal influence-was that the Minister had really become the centre of the executive power and the organ of the legislative power. The "efficient secret of the British Constitution” was, therefore, not the division, but “the nearly complete fusion" of the two powers. A vital change had been unnoticed, because it had taken place by a tacit and gradual process.
The Cabinet has no recognized position in our Constitution; its powers are defined by no definite law; and yet its development implies a profound constitutional change. The Cabinet is, says Bagehot, the "hyphen” which joins the legislative to the executive power. Because the hyphen had not been forged by any legal process, the "fusion" of powers which it indicated had been ig. nored. The two powers had coalesced by slow, insensible, and unavowed methods, and the coalescence therefore supposed not to have taken place at all. The "literary” theory not only failed to recognize, but implicitly denied, the essential fact. The radical change had been carried out under a mask of uniformity. The Constitution had come to embody a principle which was the very reverse of the ostensible principle; and as we had only looked at the external forms, we had spoken as though the prerogative of the Crown still represented the same facts as in the days of the Tudors.
When Bagehot pointed out that the
Cabinet was virtually a Committee of the House of Commons, and the real Executive elected by and responsible to the Legislature, he was simply putting together notorious facts. They had, no doubt, been more or less recognized. Yet he was not only clearing away a mass of useless formulæ, but almost making a discovery, and the rarest kind of discovery, that of the already known. He was exposing an error which had misled the ablest founders of the most remarkable of modern Constitutions. They were, without knowing it, exchanging the “Cabinet" for the “Presidential” system. Whether the Presidential system had or had not the disadvantages ascribed to it by Bagehot is a different question. At any rate, it was true, as he said, that its founders, while intending to develop a system by accepting its ostensible principle, were really inverting it and acting upon a contradictory principle. To have disengaged the facts so clearly from the mass of conventional fictions was a remarkable achievement. Bage. hot revealed a plain fact hidden from more pretentious philosophers who had been blinded by traditional formulæ.
Bagehot proceeded to draw conclu. sions which seemed scandalously cynical to the young reformers who, when his articles first appeared in The Fortnightly Review, were proposing to “shoot Niagara.” He admitted that the British Constitution was a whole mass of fictions; its ostensible principles were a mere cover for totally inconsistent practice; and yet that was one of its chief merits.
a vast make-believe, involving an “organized hypocrisy," and for that reason the best of all possible Constitutions. We deify a king in sentiment as we once deified him in doctrine. "This illusion has been, and still is, of incalculable benefit to the human race." The “theatrical show of society" impresses the popular imagination; and the "cli
max of the play is the Queen." “Philosophers may deride the superstition, but the results are inestimable." A Cabinet Government is only possible for "deferential nations:" men who can delegate power to "superior persons." Public opinion is supreme, and public opinion is the opinion of “the baldheaded man at the back of the omnibus"-wbom, in modern slang, we call “the man in the street.” He is totally incapable of forming any rational opinion upon any political question whatever; but he can be impressed by his betters. He will choose a "select few" to rule him. They, too, will be heavy, respectable men, “the last people in the world to whom, if drawn up in a row, an immense nation would ever give an exclusive preference;" but they will have sense enough to elect in their turn an Executive of capable statesmen. Carlyle and Bagebot agreedwhat few people can deny-that men are “mostly fools." Carlyle inferred that they should be ruled by heavensent heroes; Bagehot, that they should be impressed by the "shams," Carlyle would have called them, appropriate to sluggish imaginations. Bagehot delighted in his Somersetshire clown, who regarded the Crimean War as a personal
between Queen Victoria and the Emperor Nicholas, and he did not see how it could be ended till the Queen had caught the Emperor and locked him
up. The clown, that is, can only understand loyalty to a person. To reach him you must represent general principles by concrete symbols.
The cynic's merit is to see facts; and these facts are undeniable. I have al. ways wondered how some political theories can survive a walk through the Strand. People argue gravely, and as if it were obviously true, that the sovereign power should simply sum np the opinions of its multitudinous component atoms.
How many people
would you meet between Temple Bar rary problems. The methods which and Charing Cross who have any real show how men grew out of monkeys opinion whatever, if "opinion” implies might show how early societies grew any process of reasoning? They have out of savage hordes; and, then, as blind instincts, no doubt, and strong most of us are still, not in the sav. feelings; but by what chemistry can age, in the infantile stage, how modern the vague mass of ignorance and pre- societies are actually held together. He judice be transmuted into political wis- invented the now proverbial phrase, dom? If "stupidity" were enough, we "the cake of custom," to express one should be in no difficulty. We have essential condition.
Men can stupidity-massive, stolid stupidity-in emerge from pure barbarism till they superabundance. That is a great are capable of forming a body of sacred fact. But if stupidity is to be harmless, inviolable laws to hold them together. it must be a stupidity conscious of its But, then, if the "cake" be too solid, own defects. Bagehot's pert French they will never get any farther. They journalist was an adept in using the will crystallize into solid shapes which phrases to take the place of thought, make progress impossible. How does and enable fools to think themselves the "age of discussion" ever succeed to philosophers. They took phrases for the age of custom? How does “conideas; and cast aside not only the tra- tract” succeed "status;" or, in other ditional maxims, but the practical wis. words, how do men gain the right to dom really embodied in the tradition. settle their own lives instead of being English “stupidity" went with docility, wedged from birth into a rigid frame"deferential" habits of mind, and there- work? “One of the greatest pains to fore willingness to trust a select few. human nature, he says characteristiBagehot argued in a very able article cally, “is the pain of a new idea;" it is upon the “unreformed Parliament" "so upsetting." How does so tender a how, with all its abuses, it had more shoot manage to pierce the soil hardor less encouraged this invaluable ened by sacred traditions? His answer tendency.
The whole system had suggests a doctrine which has been trained us to act as became well-mean- elaborately worked out (quite indeing stupid people, with just enough pendently, I believe) in the singularly brains to recognize their betters. The ingenious and suggestive writing of M. doctrine takes fresh shape in his most Tarde. Bagehot remarks that a force popular book, the “Physics and Poli- is at work in all times, which shows tics." Bagehot had been profoundly itself in savages and civilized races, in interested in the discussions started by the greatest and smallest affairs, in Darwin, and their bearing upon politi- making nations and starting fashions. cal questions. He was not, and did not That is the force of "imitation." He il. in the least affect to be, an original lustrates it by a literary instance, inquirer. He followed the teaching of What, he asks, caused the rise of the Mr. Herbert Spencer and Mr. Tylor- Queen Anne literature? Steele-a though with his own intellect always vigorous, forward man"-struck out the keenly at work. The book, therefore, essay; Addison elaborated it and gave is hardly an original contribution to the it permanent value. Troops of other history of primitive societies, and his writers followed and followed, in the dogmas would, I suppose, require to be main not of set purpose, but by unconoften stated as more or less plausible scious imitation. The doctrine is, of conjectures. What especially interests course, Darwinian. The patronage of him is their application to contempo- favored forms corresponds to the pres