Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/22

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18
THE IDEA

If a reactionary is any one who will not float with the stream, and a progressive anyone who has the flowing tide with him, we must classify the Christian Fathers and the French Encyclopaedists as belonging to the same type, the progressive; while the Roman Stoics under the Empire and the Russian bureaucrats under Nicholas II will be placed together under the opposite title, as reactionaries. Or is the progressive not the supporter of the winning cause for the time being, but the man who thinks, with a distinguished Head of a College who, as I remember, affirmed his Convocation, that 'any leap in the dark is better than standing still'; and is the reactionary the man whose constitutional timidity would deter him from performing this act of faith when caught by a mist on the Matterhorn? Machiavelli recognizes fixed types of human character, such as the cautious Fabius and the impetuous Julius II, and observes that these qualities lead sometimes to success and sometimes to failure. If a reactionary only means an adherent of political opinions which we happen to dislike, there is no reason why a bureaucrat should not call a republican a reactionary, Maecenas may have applied the name to Brutus and Cassius. Such examples of evolution as that which turned the Roman Republic into a principate and then into an empire of the Asiatic type, are inconvenient for those who say 'It is coming', and think that they have vindicated the superiority of their own theories of government.

We have next to consider the influence of the superstition of progress on the philosophy of the last century. To attempt such a task in this place is a little rash, to prove the charge in a few minutes would be impossible even for one much better equipped than I am.