Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/61

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He said that, three weeks ago all England was startled by the news that the man[1] whom she had looked upon as her most deadly enemy was dead; that whatever hopes statesmen or merchants might entertain of the result, had proved wrong; that many people said there must be a purpose in this event; that however sinful it might be to rejoice over it, they could not but believe that it was working towards some good end. To such people, he continued, I would answer, "assuredly not an emperor falls (because not a sparrow falls) without our Father in Heaven; and to Him who wills it every event will bring a blessing." And what should we learn from this? In the first place, we have all of us fancied that we were fighting against a man; whereas the fact is we are fighting against a principle, which is represented, perhaps in a nobler form than usual, in this man. People objecting to this say, "no, we are fighting against flesh and blood; we leave all abstractions to philosophers." I agree with them thus far. We are engaged with realities; if a principle be a mere theory, to be disputed about in books, it is nothing to living men; but, if it be that which gives energy and motive to action, then it has everything to do with them. We are fighting against that arbitrary power, which treats men as mere machines or tools, and is utterly indifferent to national life. There is great danger connected with the belief that our enemies are men, not principles. We are likely, we are almost sure, not to see the same enemy at home. We are all too much inclined to think that we live only to carry on our separate trades and professions. We happen, indeed, to carry them on together in a certain geographical position, which has been for some years called the island of Great Britain.

  1. The Czar Nicholas.