Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/30

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The Imperial Peace

decisions, the modern ideal suffers from a serious fault—a fault which some would count fatal. There is no sufficient provision or means for reaching a right decision in any practical matter, and no guarantee that the decision is right. The general sense of the world is the only deciding tribunal. How is this sense to be taken, and who shall decide whether it is right? There is no recognized tribunal to appeal to: there is no agreement as to any form in which the appeal shall be made. In practice the old-fashioned English way of redress, to write to The Times, is as good as any other.

The monarchical idea, as it appears in Dante, suffered from the defect that there is no sure means of getting your monarch. Dante seems to hold that any, and every, monarch will be suitable, because he will go right in the absence of all temptation to go wrong. Let us grant, as I think we may, that the able and good monarch offers in practice the best means of reaching a right decision on the business of the moment; but we must add that the foolish, weak, and idle monarch offers probably the worst. Dante thinks there cannot ever be a monarch of that class; but this is a dream. To put the matter with the exaggeration of an epigrammatic balance: the monarchical Empire presents a supreme tribunal that is sometimes right and sometimes wrong, whereas the modern ideal presents a system that is never right, but always halting, uncertain, and, at the best, half right and half wrong.

There seems to be no way out of it. Rousseau would have it that the 'general will' must be right. The 'general will' is the sovereign power; and the sovereign can do no wrong. We can resign ourselves in a monarchy to the assumption that the monarch cannot do wrong. He is, so to say, the umpire; and we all agree to accept