Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/228

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dividuals cannot be pursued very far. Individuals are many; nations are few. Individuals are judged by their own actions; nations have a continuous character, and each generation is paying the penalty for the prejudices created by the actions of its predecessors. Moreover, in judging individuals, we adopt standards which vary according to the scale on which their life was lived; for instance, a statesman is not judged so much by his private life as by his public policy. When this method is extended to a nation, all appreciation of the finer forms of its activity tends to disappear, and only very broad characteristics are taken into account. Further, it must be remembered that at present nations stand towards one another in the relation of commercial firms. In the ordinary course of things they have no occasion to express an opinion about each other's methods of carrying on business; but when competition becomes brisk, and interests conflict, any old stories are useful which will damage their rival's credit. I remember when I was a junior fellow, being at dinner where conversation turned upon University business. In a pause, one who had been silent addressed the only stranger present: "I think you ought to know that in Oxford we are all so well acquainted with one another's good qualities that we only talk about those points which are capable of amendment". International criticism is undoubtedly framed on the same basis, a basis to which no exception can be taken, when it is once understood.

But I have a larger reason than one of temporary interest, which indeed I cannot undertake to satisfy,