Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/31

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27
The Imperial Peace

his decision, and call it right. The government of the state must go on; and this assumption is necessary. The modern ideal, however, claims to supersede the older ideal, as being better: it is not justified in making this assumption.

Moreover, there is, in practice, no case where all are agreed in their decision. There is always a majority and a minority. Is the minority always wrong? Ought not opinions to be weighed rather than counted? There are cases where we would, most of us, set more store by the opinion of one man whom we trust than by the voice of the crowd. Every true and great thought has begun by being the opinion of a minority, and has ended, or will end, by convincing the majority.

Such is necessarily the defect of seeking after an ideal. We are involved in a process of growth; and growth must at any single moment be illogical, uncertain, wavering between the past and the future, neither one thing nor the other. The minority, confident in its Tightness, must be content to wait: it must answer the poet's question, 'Wilt thou trust death, or not?' with an unhesitating 'Yes'. Many opinions have begun by being the opinion of a minority, and have ended by being the opinion of none. The minority that is right will become a majority, and must live for the future, acquiescing in the imperfect present. Faith is the power by which we live. The peace of conscious and quiet strength is our ideal. The struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, degradation and progress, is always going on; and an inert peace, which meant the abandoning of this struggle, would not be a good, but an evil. Yet war, as Dante says, is only the last means. 'When two peoples are at variance, they are bound to try in every possible way to arrange the quarrel by discussion.'