Page:History of Freedom.djvu/24

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

his closest associates. It was a matter to him not of taste but of principle. What mainly marked him out among men was the intense reality of his faith. This gave to all his studies their practical tone. He had none of the pedant's contempt for ordinary life, none of the æsthete's contempt for action as a "little vulgar," and no desire to make of intellectual pursuits an end in themselves. His scholarship was to him as practical as his politics, and his politics as ethical as his faith. Thus his whole life was a unity. All his various interests were inspired by one unconquered resolve, the aim of securing universally, alike in Church and in State, the recognition of the paramountcy of principles over interests, of liberty over tyranny, of truth over all forms of evasion or equivocation. His ideal in the political world was, as he said, that of securing suum cuique to every individual or association of human life, and to prevent any institution, however holy its aims, acquiring more.

To understand the ardour of his efforts it is necessary to bear in mind the world into which he was born, and the crises intellectual, religious, and political which he lived to witness and sometimes to influence. Born in the early days of the July monarchy, when reform in England was a novelty, and Catholic freedom a late-won boon, Acton as he grew to manhood in Munich and in England had presented to his regard a series of scenes well calculated to arouse a thoughtful mind to consideration of the deepest problems, both of politics and religion. What must have been the "long, long thoughts" of a youth, naturally reflective and acutely observant, as he witnessed the break-up of the old order in '48 and the years that followed. In the most impressionable age of life he was driven to contemplate a Europe in solution; the crash of the kingdoms; the Pope a Liberal, an exile, and a reactionary; the principle of nationality claiming to