Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects/On the Characteristic Differences between Medieval and Modern History (2)
ON THE CHARACTERISTIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MEDIEVAL AND MODERN HISTORY.
(April 17, 1880.)
IN the lecture which I gave the other day, and of which the present is a continuation, I made an attempt to show what I meant by a distinction which I had drawn between medieval and modern history in the two divisions into which it is separated by the gulf of the French revolution. I had begun by a little self-justification in the preference of medieval to modern history as an instrument of education, and, while treating the subject from a higher point of view than that of mere utility, had run off into a disquisition on the distinguishing characteristics of the divisions in question. On the remark which I have made elsewhere that the leading influence of early medieval history was the strong on law and right, I had founded a somewhat rambling examination of the main points of the history of the middle ages, the characters of their great men, the permanence of their institutions, and the peculiar character of their wars. I had marked the characteristics of the second division as power or force, and that of the third as the influence of ideas. I now proceed to explain what I meant by this and to illustrate it, leaving my hearers to infer, as I proceed, what my reasons have been for preferring the earlier portion as the subject of my own teaching. When I have said what will no doubt appear to you to be more than enough about that, I shall venture to make some remarks on the influence of the ideas by which at the present day politics and politicians seem or profess to be guided. In that division of the subject I may seem to become somewhat political myself; if I do, I shall not ask your pardon. I have never been ashamed to express my convictions where they happened to differ from those of my friends with whom on most other subjects I should be willing to agree. I shall not, therefore, I think, rightly be thought rash or disputatious if I venture to express difference from those modern political schools with which I feel that I cannot sympathise at all.
So now to the subject. Almost any student who has read, the usual books, if he were asked to mark what was the foremost idea of the three centuries that intervene between the 1 year 1500 and the year 1800, would reply that it was the idea of the balance of power. The balance of power, however it be defined, i.e. whatever the powers were between which it was necessary to maintain such equilibrium, that the weaker should not be crushed by the union of the stronger, is the principle which gives unity to the political plot of modern European history. "Whether the balance is to be maintained against the preponderance of the house of Hapsburg, or the preponderance of France, or the preponderance of Catholic powers as opposed to Protestant ones; this is the key to the plot.
But it is not the existence of the key or the character of the plot, but the existence of the drama of modern European politics, that is the first feature of our sketch: the existence of the powers by whom the drama is played and between whom the balance is maintained. Medieval history may, it is true, be read as a drama, but it is not one in which the plot is obvious; it is rather more a series of dramas which may be combined, like Greek trilogies, but have unities and plots of their own. The history of each great nation is a drama by itself; the blending of the several dramas may be so read as to show how the nations were severally being educated for work on a stage in which they should appear together: in the modern life of Europe they do appear together, and take each the part for which it has been educated in the earlier stage. But that early preparation had been carried on, to a great extent, separately. England and France had been no doubt training one another for centuries, but the balance of power between England and France never came into the great plot of later days; the discipline of Spain had been worked out within the walls of the peninsula; between France and Germany there had never been a great war; between Germany and Italy, as nationalities, no straggle had as yet been possible; and the border warfare of the border states had been carried on without any great amount of interest or interference from the greater or growing agglomerations of territory which under the name of nations, states or dynasties, now come to the front. The Crusades had been a common field of work and a common stage of action, but the nationalities which in the Crusades had fought side by side in union or in rivalry, had long retired from the uncongenial work, and all the zeal of the best popes and the most heroic kings had been unequal to the task of uniting Christendom again for the common emancipation.
There was, however, no great crash at the passing away of the old things and the coming in of the new. The new influences, many and various in character, quickly combine to produce the new actors and to clear the common stage. The concentration of power in the royal hands in France, under Charles VII and Lewis XI; the creation of a compact and solid kingdom out of a number of rival and hostile feudal provinces or dynastic appanages, a concentration for which, during the whole of the medieval period from Lewis VI onwards, the kings had been working, but which only became possible when the long struggle with England had made it necessary; a concentration of power which signified not only territorial union, but administrative autocracy; which reduced all powers except that of the crown, states general, parliament, clergy, feudatories, all to a shadow; a concentration in which, in the language of the time, France emerged from tutelage and attained to such maturity of manhood as might be expressed in the later formula 'The state, it is I myself.' This compactness, this concentration, equipped France for her part.
Just at the same moment England emerged from the terrible dynastic straggle in which, with the competing houses, the very bone and sinew of liberty seemed to have perished. The baronage, attenuated to a shadow of its former bulk, and with its power as attenuated as its numbers, the Commons wearied, exhausted with political struggles, turning their back on politics altogether to seek new and more profitable interests in new channels, and to leave the battle of rights and wrongs to settle itself; the clergy, on the one side left alone among the estates to continue the tradition of liberty, but on the other declining rapidly from their function of the national conscience and memory, to be mere officials, servants of the great monarchical administrative unity that towered so high over the prostrate estates; all three alike in isolation or in. pitiful sympathy left the national action at the disposal of a king, a king like Henry VII, who would be a tyrant only in self-defence, to be succeeded by a son who would be a tyrant in very self-will. England, growing rich in the peace which its politic king and its busy people alike left all else to cultivate, growing stronger in wealth and union and abeyance of liberty, was likewise ready to act as a force at the will of one man.
Spain had finished the seven centuries of her crusade, and the two rival kingdoms, rid at last of the enemy, met and were united in the Catholic couple. In Germany Maximilian had at last concentrated in his own hands the territorial acquisitions of his house, had united Austria and her outlying states, had obtained for his son the accumulation of Burgundian fiefs, and for his grandsons the crown of Spain and Sicily, the reversion of Hungary and Bohemia besides. The Hapsburg power is a union of many unions, ill compacted, heterogeneous, uncongenial, but of extremely great might, a power consolidated by legal titles, happy and unhappy marriages, legal windfalls, traditional pretensions, but yet the most important factor for many years to come in the welfare of Europe. The strength of France is in her compactness and concentration, that of Charles V, for in him the Austrian force is first impersonated, in its extent and universality. To that extent and universality the discovery and the rapid pouring in of the wealth of America gave still new weapons and greater opportunities. France and Austria were both equipped for their struggle.
The minor actors had somehow girt up their loins also: the popes, giving up their place as the overseers of a too wide dominion, had begun to accumulate the territorial aggregate of provinces in which they also could call themselves the state. Gustavus Vasa was reconstructing Sweden; although the attempt to unite the Scandinavian kingdoms had failed, the same influence that was knotting up the south into bundles was knotting up the north.
And so the struggle of powers begins. First comes the rivalry of Francis I and Charles V; with Henry VIII and the popes hovering round the combatants, aspiring to hold the balance between them, and made alternately their tools and scapegoats. The struggle is a curious one: the older idea of rights to be fought for has not altogether disappeared, but now the interest is not in the right, but in the battle. So it has been since Charles VIII, marching into Italy, had opened the new drama. Rights were sought out and put forward as the pretexts of the struggle, but the straggle was for superiority and the hold on power. The action of the house of Austria was in itself defensive action; on every side its spreading dominions were at the mercy of the strong enemy whom they seemed to hem in; the action of Francis and Henry II was necessarily aggressive; wherever they turned, except seawards, there were the forces of Austria watching them; over the Pyrenees, over the Alps, over the Rhone, over the Rhine, within the historic limits of France, northwards and eastwards, there was the rival power, and even on the sea-board there were the hostile fleets.
Next comes the Reformation, a struggle it may be said of ideas, as the Hapsburg struggle with France is a struggle of rights, but primarily a struggle of powers; the rights in the one case, the ideas in the other, being the occasion rather than the essential ingredients of the rivalry.
But setting the idea side of the Reformation for the moment in the background, follow the rivalry of the foremost powers. In this aspect the Reformation cuts curiously across the earlier dividing lines: it breaks up such unity of German action as has yet existed, and gives France its first great advantage: the strange alliance of Henry II with the Protestant powers, an alliance most distinctly of force, not of idea, strikes the first hard blow at the preponderance of Austria, and the irrecoverable loss of the three bishoprics is one of the mortal wounds of the empire. The next act is the rebellion of the Netherlands and the contemporary wars of the league in France; the Austrian heritage is broken in two, but the family interest and alliance for a time supplies the place of personal union. For a generation, however, Austria proper stands outside the struggle of the balance; she has to repress the movements towards religious reformation, and to ward off the attacks of the Turks on the side of Hungary. Where her weight is at all operative it is thrown on the side of Spain. Spain is the overshadowing, all-threatening force; France doing her best to produce the disruption of the Netherlands, Spain doing her best to produce the disruption of France; again the reformed party, acting as a force rather than a sentiment; for although on Philip's side the interests of Spain and religion are at one, France is persecuting at home the very ideas for which she intrigues abroad.
After a while the balance wavers: the strong hand of Philip II is taken off, the unworthy hand of the Valois lets fall the sceptre which it had held with so weak and vacillating grasp. Henry IV becomes the dominating influence. Henry IV is a man of ideas, a man of sentiment, a man of force; not of much sense of law and right. To his mind a reconstituted Europe was the ideal; not of course to accept as his the minute remodelling of the map which was once ascribed to him and his advisers, we can yet see enough of his design to know that he planned a forcible partition of the Hapsburg inheritances, the erection of a counterpoise to the empire in Germany itself, and the rearrangement of the minor states in a way which would have left France the civil and religious arbiter of Christendom. His day is but a short one, and the ideas which he or his counsellors conceived came to bearing in the struggle of forces which occupied the long reign of his grandson.
But the scene of the drama changes at the same time. The United Provinces have gained recognition; the action of Spain is becoming languid, and its energy bears no proportion to its still subsisting power and mass. The great act is now in Germany, the Thirty Years War: a war of two forces, two rights, two ideas: Austria against the princes, Catholic against Protestant, ancient territorial right as against new territorial force. Here too the religious influence produces cross division; the Lutheran and the Calvinist will not fight side by side; the Bavarian sets Catholicism before imperialism; Austria sets the family interest before either; yet Austria is as Catholic as the Jesuits and as imperial as the jurists can make her. But notwithstanding this cross influence of rights and ideas, the Thirty Years War is mainly a war of force, a war for determining the balance, not between ideas or rights, not between competing religions or competing liberties, but between armed sovereignties and territorial aggregations. Make the utmost of the idealism of Gustavus Adolphus, the legal pretexts of his interference are even worse founded than those under which Denmark in the earlier stage of the war had thrown in her lot as against the empire; and the idealism of Gustavus, his high and noble purpose of coming down as the saviour of religion, ends in the artificial aggrandisement of Sweden, as the luckless intriguing policy of Christian ends in the complete humiliation of Denmark. The interference of France, without sympathy of idea, without pretext of legality, is a simple intrusion of force. But I pass on.
The Thirty Years War exhausted Germany, even the victorious powers were worn out, much more the defeated ones: the stage is left clear for the glories of Lewis XIV. 'The state is myself.' 'The right is the glory of France.' Perhaps the lurid glare of the glories of this act, the act of the Great Monarch, throws a shade on minor actors and less prominent motives, but it can scarcely be misread; it is the triumph of force over both old rights and new ideas; a regime in which might is construed as right. The dominance of the idea of force in the aggression produces a corresponding influence in the resisting powers. They are bound not by sympathy but by necessity; the alliances that resist the great monarch are alliances of expediency, not of principle, and when the resistance is past they are ever ready for new combinations.
The struggle of the Spanish succession followed, a struggle in which ancestral right was matched against the doctrine of the balance, and the force of the stronger determined the verdict. The struggle of the Imperial succession next led on to the triumphant career of Frederick II, and that unmistakeably to the new forms of political combination and antagonism which emerged from the French Revolution. Lewis XIV and Frederick the Great impersonate the two principles, or aspects of the one principle, that might gives right; Frederick was far the greater man, of course; Frederick had rights; he had claims old and legal on Silesia, and the old question of the Cleves Juliers inheritance had been a burning question for a century before he began to fight; and he had ideas—who so many? Lewis XIV had scarcely any plea of right for his aggressions, and his sole idea, as his sole policy, was himself, his interest and glory and that of France in him. But it all came to the same thing. Frederick knew that he was strong, and revived old pleas that his father had let slumber. Lewis knew that he was strong: the rival powers at both conjunctures were exhausted; war, policy, money, philosophy, intrigue, rights and ideas, all gave way or led on to the triumph of force. The right, the idea, the balance of power, was on the side of the strongest battalions.
But now I must turn back to the Reformation, for there can be no question that, in the changes that brought about and resulted from that crisis, both rights and ideas were very strong within certain circles of their own, and to make the balance of power, the struggle of material forces, the sole lesson of this portion of history, would be a serious mistake. Yet I think even here we shall see that the principle of the idea was less operative than the principle of force, the policy of force more effective than the policy of idea. The crisis of the Reformation is not less remarkable for its results than for its causes. The throwing off of the Roman supremacy, in doctrine and ecclesiastical government, was, in those countries in which it was permanently effected, a most complex proceeding. No doubt there was throughout Em-ope much religious disaffection at the opening of the sixteenth century; but for a century before there had been even more prominent doctrinal disaffection, and only just a century before the Church had passed through a most dangerous schism, which threatened its substantial organisation as well as its doctrine. The desired reformation in head and members had been familiar all this time. But it did not come till now; till the stage had, as we have seen, been cleared for the new actors. We might conjecture that whilst the concentration of the new powers gave them in themselves greater vitality and more manageable force, it would exhaust the vitality of the older organisation, which had kept them together whilst the divisions were smaller and the common action less vivid. Whilst all the powers of Christendom were busy with their own internal rights and border quarrels, a languid acquiescence in the undivided supremacy of Rome was more a powerful influence than it could be when two or three new and well girt combatants were ready to assert their own αὐτάρκεια; still more, when the new combatants saw the truth that they must be lords in their own houses. As we saw, the concentration of power in Spain, France, and Germany meant more than the absorption of weaker states; it meant the absorption of inferior powers in the state. The strong actors in the new drama must be strong governors at home as well. as strong combatants abroad. Great designs, great rivalries, demanded concentrated energies, determined wills. Strong government came in with the sixteenth century, and strong government was a very strong element in reformation history, for it weakened the solidarity of the Catholic Church and prepared the way for the formida 'cujus regio ejus religio,' the disruption of national churches as well.
But neither these causes, religious disaffection and the disintegration of the weak church organisation by the growing strength of absolutism, nor the ideas of the new learning, nor the rivalries of political rulers fostering abroad forms of discontent which they persecuted at home, nor the lust of enlarged territory, nor the coveting of ecclesiastical wealth, nor the envy of unprivileged classes, nor the new power of the press, would alone have sufficed to do the work that was done. Who could have reckoned on the coincidence of the Indulgence agitation in Germany, the divorce agitation in England, the growth of Huguenotism in France, the rising up of men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Knox in such rapid succession, and with such marked differences, and such diverse contributions to such a complex result? There was unquestionably, in conjunction with the yearnings for spiritual change, a deep and, strong impulse for breaking with the past; breaking with national traditions and with religious traditions; a tendency which would, if it had been unchecked, unobstructed, or not diverted into other channels, almost of necessity have amounted to revolution.
Strong government had not come too soon; but for that, with all its oppressions, its repressions, and its persecutions, there would have been a period of anarchy in the breaking up of the deeps of old society. Well, however it was to be met, reformation came; the absorption of a great part of the lands of the churches followed or accompanied reformation; either, as in England, by the seizure and surrender of monastic estates, or in Germany by the adoption of transparent fictions which enabled Protestant princes to lay on ecclesiastical positions a hold which was never to be relaxed; or, as in Scotland, by sweeping away the old fabric altogether. The ancient right of territorial ownership was weakened, and the process of secularisation, which was in Germany completed at the peace of Westphalia, set the seal of legality on the status quo.
Protestantism had done its utmost to shift the balance of power. Yet, as I said before, it had really done little more than produce a cross division in the conflicting parties. Where Protestantism was an idea only, as in Spain and Italy, it was crushed out by the Inquisition; where, in conjunction with political power and sustained by ecclesiastical confiscation, it became a physical force, there it was lasting. It is^ not a pleasant view to take of the doctrinal change to see that, where the movement towards it was pure and unworldly, it failed; where it was seconded by territorial greed and political animosity, it succeeded. But so it has been with many of the changes by which in the long run both Church and world have been benefited. In the case of the English reformation, it is certain that without the redistribution of monastic estates the change must have been long delayed, and might have been suddenly and permanently reversed. Anarchy and confusion were imminent under the puritan rule of Edward VI, as well as under the papal reaction of Mary. If Elizabeth and her advisers had leaned to either, the flood must have poured in; unsympathetic as is the Elizabethan Church rule, little as we can find to love among the men whom she set up as Fathers to the Church, it was their strong rule that saved England from revolution far more dangerous, far more calamitous, than all the mistakes, the terrors, the persecutions, the reactions, of the so-called rebellion and revolution periods of the seventeenth century. But again the subject is one that tempts to too wide digression: only, after what I have said, whether you agree with me or no, you will see why I have thought it better to treat the Reformation under the aspect of force rather than idea.
We must not, however, imagine that in any but the extremest cases of change, political, territorial, or religious, the old landmarks were so entirely swept away that none of the earlier ideas of rights remained. No: it was the conflict between the old influence of right and the new influence of force, between old legality and new strong government that forced into existence the diplomacy of the sixteenth and following centuries,—diplomacy, in its beginning a sort of kriegspiel, in which threats and bribes on paper took the place of mobilisations and marches, sieges and invasions. Most curious are the beginnings of the diplomatic policy of Wolsey and his master; the restless attempts to make the political force felt without the cost of exerting it; how as soon as they have concluded an alliance, do they begin to work for a counter alliance; how they seem to conclude treaties with one high conflicting party that overlap the treaties they have just made with the other; what secrecy, what mystery, what bribery, what intimidation; and amid all, a little sour grain of conscience, that the old law-abiding, treaty-keeping faith and loyalty would have been better. A plea must be sought for every aggression; no compact must be broken without hesitation unless a flaw can be found. Whether it be true that Charles V justified the imprisonment of Philip the Magnanimous by the misreading of a single letter in the word which had induced him to surrender, I do not know; the story may be false, but the moral is true; men were loth to own themselves actuated by simple greed. And as diplomacy was in its beginnings, so it lasted for a long time; the ambassador was the man who was sent to lie abroad for the good of his country. Rights, pleas, grudges, were registered against the time when strength would accrue to make them real weapons of argument and instruments of aggression.
But as the old influence of right lingered on, the new influence of idea was from time to time giving distinct warnings of a further change. There was an idea of religion, there was an idea of liberty, struggles for the vindication of historical nationalities, although, as ideas, they were overborne or absorbed by the mightier forces which played around them. It could scarcely be but that strong government should force up premature longings for liberty, or that religious repression should compel a desire for tolerance. Yet we must not make too much of the first glimmerings of the changes that were coming. The revolt of the Netherlands was perhaps the most resolute attempt at liberty that had been seen since the middle ages opened; the idea of nationality was strong in the Spanish provinces of the Hapsburg inheritance and in the Bohemia of the Thirty Years War. But they never became ruling principles; nor were they likely to do so until they were emancipated from the mere selfish and localised interests with which they were bound up. Class liberties, isolated nationalities, local privileges, may keep up the memory, the tradition of liberty, nationality, and privilege, but they do not become leading ideas until they have been accepted as universally just and desireable, until they can command assent and inspire sympathy. The religions that demanded toleration but meant tyranny were no true exponents of religious liberty: the classes that would limit royal prerogative to lay their hand heavier on their own vassals, were no true exponents of constitutional government. The hand that cherishes nationality in Italy, and represses it in Greece, is no true defender of nationality.
But the clock and the limit of my paper warn me to proceed at once, imperfectly as I must have indicated or suggested my view, to the third portion of the subject. Later modern history, the history of the last hundred years, seems to me to differ from that of the two preceding divisions, by the prominence and real importance of ideas, as compared with the earlier reigns of right and force. I need not repeat that the prominence and real importance, the theoretical and practical weight of political ideas being admitted, we need not suppose either of the preceding principles to be extinguished; nor, on the other hand, need we suppose that the ideas which latterly come to the forefront were either unknown or unappreciated in the earlier periods. I have just said that liberty, nationality, and the like were strong agents before they became the strongest; we may freely admit that both force and right still exercise a strong influence, though not the strongest, in modern politics. Keeping this in mind, you will not expect me to discuss the origin and growth of the ideas in question; rather it will be enough to indicate the point at which they seem to take such hold on the political mind as to presage their future importance.
It seems to me that the partition of Poland, in the last century, was the event that forced the idea of nationality upon the world, and the revolt of the American provinces of the British empire forced the idea of self-government, not as a local British invention, but as a sort of political gospel, upon general belief. You will not suspect me of being a believer in the 'rights of man,' or in the legal position of the American revolutionists; you will not, I trust, suspect me of believing that territorial right can ever be made a justification of moral iniquity or of abandoned misgovernment and tyranny: and yet I may insist more strongly on territorial right and believe more strongly in the universality of true principles than others who talk politics more fluently than I can deliver public statutory lectures.
But to stick to facts: as the suppression of Poland, on, the one side, forced on the world the conscience that nationality is more than a geographical formula, on the other hand, it showed how easily force and fraud could remove the ancient landmarks of territorial right. It was, therefore, a two-edged experiment, and no doubt it cut the hands of all the intermeddling powers. As the vindication of American liberties made a precedent for the ideas of the French Revolution, the partition of Poland pointed to the reconstruction of the map of Europe; the destruction of that kingdom was a precedent for the destruction of any kingdom; the extinction of that nationality aroused a sympathy, awakened an idea of the importance of nationality as a reconstituting idea in reformed society.
Well, the French Revolution set at liberty all the disruptive influences that existed in the weakly governed states of the continent, and roused to a somewhat rash, hurried, and incautious hostility the instincts of the strongly governed but ill-prepared powers like Prussia, Austria, Russia, and England. And the first attempts at a propaganda of liberty, and the first attempts at a propaganda of nationality, were marked by great excesses and great mistakes: excesses and mistakes so potential that the propaganda of the two influences together determined in the Napoleonic empire, the tyranny and glory of France and the privilege of all nations to acknowledge and toil under the shadow of her supremacy. Liberties were enunciated in fulsome language, nationalities were carved out with amusing caprice; but glory and victory were the real aim; force exerted itself as strongly under Napoleon as under Peter the Great and Frederick the Great and Lewis the Great. By and by came the recoil, Napoleon was humbled; the map of Europe was reformed on' a plan which showed a respect for territorial rights, and a just recognition both of the earnings of force and of the growth of ideas. But the end was not yet; liberty, though recognised, was distrusted; nationality, though allowed some weight, was everywhere set beneath territorial right and material power: and self-government made very little way in the world for at least fifteen years after the battle of Waterloo.
When the world had rested, when politics began to move again, both these ideas came to the front: the nationality of Greece; the independence of Belgium, a distinct nationality as regarded the state with which it had been bound up: these were the first notes of the triumph of one idea: the second French Revolution cannot be said to have opened the campaign of self-government, for the revolt of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies had done that; but it was an important contribution to the cause among the old countries of Europe: the German principalities had to hasten the gift of constitutional governments which had been long deferred, and were, even when granted, to a great extent illusory.
An uneasy time of peace and repression were the seventeen years that followed: since 1848 the action of the drama has been exciting and unintermitting. France, dissatisfied with her government, threw Europe again into turmoil; again there was a cry of liberty and nationality, again force and legality were equal to the occasion, and society was saved. France sank under a military despotism which subsisted by keeping the world in arms. But the ideas were stronger at each revolution and each struggle. France went to war for the idea when she had nothing else to go to war for; and, having bound liberty hand and foot at home, proclaimed herself again the apostle of liberty. It was liberty for your friends, humiliation for your enemies, as usual: but the result far outran the intention.
After the Crimean War, of which I will not trust myself to speak further than to say that I believe it to have been a profound misunderstanding of the current of the world's progress, a mistake of legality, a miscalculation of force, a misconception of idea, but which had the sole merit of teaching the generation of soldiers to fight and of diplomatists to conjure; after the Crimean War we get, first, the reconstruction of Italy on the principles of nationality and with a free constitution; then the reconstruction of Germany, then the reconstruction of Austria; of Germany on a principle of nationality and self-government which has yet to find a balance for the preponderance of force, and in Austria on a principle of nationality and self-government that has yet to determine its relations to the older rules of legality on which historically the unity of Austria depends. And within the last two years the world has been kept alive by the struggle for nationality and freedom, between Russian force and Turkish tyranny.
Out of the crucible, out of the fiery furnace, against the will of the potent actors, as if by a law that may not be broken, the victory of the idea is rapidly being realised. There are, of course, other ideas, counter ideas, ideas which are only the old legality and the old material force disguised under new names. Such ideas may be Pansclavism, or Internationalism, or Nihilism, if it be anything but a negation of ideas. Such ideas may be that of Russia at Constantinople, of a restored Poland, of a free church in a free state, of universal voluntaryism, of scientific frontiers. I am not here to justify or to condemn, much less to prophesy; and whatever it is that is coming, I am sure we are only at the beginning of it. At present Russia stands before the world, really as representing force, in pretension,—pretension which I am far from believing to be insincere,—as the liberator of the Christian races of the East. Austria is far the most conspicuous defender of historic territorial right; and all those who are not afraid of the nickname of reactionists will be slow to condemn her for the maintenance of a principle on which she has grown into power, and which she is doing her best to reconcile with more potent ideas and influences more likely to be permanent. France to some extent represents democracy, to a far greater extent she still, as ever, represents the old claim to arbitrate in Europe. Prussia or Germany, in the same way, represents the force which, relying on the strength of nationality, has for the moment made her the leading power in Christendom. For the perishing remnants of Turkey a faint plea of territorial possession has gone forth, but the conscience of friend and the determination of foes have alike repudiated it as an excuse for misgovernment and palliation of tyranny. There is no idea, no such justification for that curse of Christendom. Turkey means nothing, represents nothing but butchery, barbarism, and the vilest slavery. What does England represent? What is she to represent in the future? What would we wish for her but clear-sighted justice and living sympathy with what is good and sound in the progress of the world?
Having achieved that sentiment, I must now slip into bathos. I have preferred medieval history to modern in my own teaching, partly because I believe the study of rights is more wholesome as an educational study than that of the balance of forces, partly because I think it a safer study altogether than the theoretical study of political ideas. Political ideas are apt to lay hold on the fancy and on the affections, and to make men partisans before they are at all competent to weigh the merits of parties, to adjust the balance between order and progress, between historical right and historical growth: and there is in the study of them very little training. Educationally, I prefer the first division. I may also be turned towards it by certain legal tendencies and documentary tastes of my own. I am only justifying myself, not laying down a law for others. There are other sorts of studies here besides law and history. I can conceive the man who has spent his terms here on philosophy taking more naturally to the examination and analysis of ideas, and the mathematician being more charmed by the thought of reading national complications as illustrations of the parallelogram of forces: the student of physical science will no doubt soon be able to infer the national idiosyncrasy of races from the shape of their skulls. With all this I am so far from finding fault that I rejoice and delight in the thought of so many minds and so many studies working towards my truth. But I plead for a toleration which I have done my best to justify.