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expresses it, to incorporate the domestic charities with the orders of the state, and to blend them together. He strove to establish an analogy between the compact that binds together the community at large, and that which binds together the several families which compose it. He knew that the rules that form the basis of private morality are not founded in reason; that is, in the abstract properties of those things which are the subjects of them, but in the nature of man, and his capacity of being affected by certain things from habit, from imagination, and sentiment, as well as from reason. Thus, the reason why a man ought to be attached to his wife and family is not, surely, that they are better than others (for in this case every one else ought to be of the same opinion), but because he must be chiefly interested in those things which are nearest to him, and with which he is best acquainted, since his understanding cannot reach equally to everything!; because he must be most attached to those objects which he has known the longest, and which by their situation have actually affected him the most, not those which are in themselves the most affecting, whether they have ever made any impression on him or no: that is, because he is by his nature the creature of habit and feeling, and because it is reasonable that he should act in conformity to his nature. He was therefore right in saying, that it is no objection to an institution, that it is founded on prejudice, but the contrary, if that principle is natural and right; that is, if it arises from those circumstances which are properly subjects of feeling and association, not from any defect or perversion of the understanding in those things which fall properly under its jurisdiction. On this profound maxim he took his stand. Thus he contended that the prejudice in favour of nobility was natural and proper, and fit to be encouraged by the positive institutions of society, not on account of the real or personal merit of the individual, but because such an institution has a tendency to enlarge and raise the mind, to keep alive the memory of past greatness, to connect the different ages of the world together, to carry back the imagination over a long tract of time, and feed it with the contemplation of remote events: because it is natural to think highly of that which inspires us with high thoughts, which has been connected for many generations with splendour, with power, and with permanence. He also conceived that by transferring the respect from the person to the thing, and thus rendering it steady and permanent, the mind would be habitually formed to habits of deference, attachment, and fealty, to whatever else demanded its respect: that it would be led to fix its views on what was elevated and lofty, and be weaned from the low and narrow jealousy which never willingly or heartily admits of
1 Hazlitt borrows his argument from Bishop Taylor's Discourse on Friendship.
any superiority in others, and is glad of any opportunity to bring down all excellence to a level with its own miserable standard. Nobility did not therefore exist to the prejudice of the other orders of the state, but by and for them. The inequality of the different orders of society did not destroy the unity and harmony of the whole. The health and well-being of the moral world was to be promoted by the same means as the beauty of the natural world; by contrast, by change, by light and shade, by variety of parts, by order and proportion. To think of reducing all mankind to the same insipid level, seemed to him the same absurdity as to destroy the inequalities of surface in a country for the benefit of agriculture and commerce. In short, he believed that the interests of men in society should be consulted, and their several stations and employments assigned with a view of their nature not as physical, but as moral beings, so as to nourish their hopes, to lift their imagination, to enliven their fancy, to rouse their activity, to strengthen their virtue, and to furnish the greatest number of objects of pursuit and means of employment, to beings constituted as man is, consistently with the order and stability of the whole.
The same reasoning might be extended further. I do not say that his arguments are conclusive : but they are profound and true as far as they go. There may be disadvantages and abuses necessarily interwoven with his scheme, or opposite advantages of infinitely more value, to be derived from another state of things and state of society. This, however, does not invalidate either the truth or importance of Burke's reasoning; since the advantages he points out as connected with the mixed form of government are really and necessarily inherent in it; since they are compatible in the same degree with no other; since the principle itself on which he rests his argument (whatever we may think of the application), is of the utmost weight and moment; and since on whatever side the truth lies, it is impossible to make a fair decision without having the opposite side of the question fully stated to us. This Burke has done in a masterly manner. He presents to you one view or face of society. Let him who thinks he can, give the reverse side with equal force, beauty, and clearness. It is said, I know, that truth is one ; but to this I cannot subscribe, for it appears to me truth is many. There are as many truths as there are things, and causes of action, and contradictory principles, at work in society. In making up the account of good and evil, indeed, the final result must be one way or the other; but the particulars on which that result depends are infinite and various?.'
1 Eloquence of the British Senate, vol. ii. The student is also recommended to the Section on the “Use and Abuse of General Principles in Politics,' in Dugald Stewart's Philosophy of the Human Mind, Part i. ch. iv.
The discovery of these things, these causes of action, these contradictory principles, is the first business of the statesman. No man can speculate properly on what things ought to be, who has not previously devoted his whole energies to the discovery of what they are. No man is entitled to criticise the abuse, who has not fully mastered the idea of the use of an institution. Here, indeed, we have arrived at the main point in Burke. Just as, in his Treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful, he did not aim at shewing the defects of these venerable ideas, or that people often judged by a false standard, but that the traditional ideas of the mass of mankind are sure, in the long run, to be correct, and to be confirmed by being explained and elucidated, so in dealing with social and political ideas, he always took his stand upon those in general currency, and sought to explain and confirm them. The best instructor is not he who describes the excellences of some wonderful thing which we cannot get, but he who explains and shows us how to use or to improve something which we have got. It is easy to imagine other states of society, but it is difficult to learn the true bearings of our own. The sense of political objects does not come by nature. A partial view, in politics, distorts the judgment, and destroys the mental balance; in no science is it so true that a little learning is a dangerous thing. Burke will always stand forth as a man whose political knowledge was complete. He was therefore, though a reformer, incapable of rash and inconsiderate action. The man who has arrived at a view of the whole plan of civil society, and taken in the mutual relations and dependencies of distant parts, is not in danger of being consumed by an irrational zeal for or against any established element in that society. “Sanguine and inconsiderate projects of reformation,' says Dugald Stewart, "are frequently the offspring of clear, and argumentative, and systematical understandings; but rarely of comprehensive minds. For checking them, nothing is so effectual as a general survey of the complicated structure of society. It is only to him who has attained this point, that everything fills its proper space, and no more, in the mind's eye. It is only then that a man gains what Burke calls that 'elevation of reason, which brings things to the true point of comparison. To the Englishman who wishes to gain this elevation, Burke will prove of valuable assistance. Burke will help him at once to comprehend the
plan of his national polity, and the materials with which it deals. A German philosopher thought that the vast combination of interests which constituted the British Empire demanded a whole lifetime to be adequately understood'. He recommended the learner to study the writings of Burke, in which this combination would be found concentrated and reflected, as in a mirror. The reader may be sure that he is following the track of a vigorous, acute, comprehensive intelligence; unsparing of fatigue, intent on and always arriving at some valuable result. It is this quality of solid bullion value which makes it impossible to distil Burke. Of the intellectual labour which prepared the way for this unlimited mastery over fact—which annihilates all obstacles between the group of facts and the intellect—it is not the place here to speak. It was commenced early, and carried on without intermission to the end. Once, in the vigour of his manhood, his constitution sank under his labours. It was with a just indignation that he said in defence of his pension, 'I did not come into Parliament to con my lesson. I had earned my pension before I set my foot in St. Stephen's Chapel.' These labours have made the works of Burke not only what Erskine termed them, an immense magazine of moral and political wisdom,'but an immense magazine of moral and political fact. They will be to future ages what the works of Cicero are to us—we can reconstruct from them alone, with certainty and ease, the social and political scene in which their author lived.
Burke knew very well that nothing could stand long which did not stand on its merits. He led the way in Reform while raising his voice against innovation. The spirit of Conservatism and the spirit of Reform are really the necessary complements of each other. No statesman ever pretends to separate them. "A state without the means of some change,' Burke wrote, 'is without the means of its conservation.' He was fond of tracing the operation of the two principles of correction and conservation' at different periods in English history. The way in which these two principles are blended in Burke's system, has been pointed out in a pamphlet by Professor Opzoomer? The student, however,
1 A. H. Müller, Verm. Schr. Th. i.
? It can be read in the German translation, Conservatismus und Reform, cine Abhandlung über E. Burke's Politik,’ Utrecht, 1852.
will probably prefer to seek Burke's doctrines of Reform, like those of Conservatism, in his own writings. Nowhere else, except in the Politics of Aristotle, shall we find these two principles so well harmonised. With Aristotle, he thinks the spirit of Conservatism the first requisite of the statesman, and its general diffusion the first condition of a well-ordered state. With Aristotle, he allows the fullest share of importance to the reform of existing institutions. In the older politician, indeed, we find a greater tendency, owing to the excessively analytical bent of the Greek mind, to regard the two principles as opposites; and the same distinction may be observed in the treatment of contrary elements in his moral philosophy. Burke traced the concurrent effect of these two principles everywhere; and he delighted to regard them in their concrete elements, as well as in the abstract form. He writes, for instance, of Parliaments :
"Nothing is more beautiful in the theory of Parliaments, than that principle of renovation and union of permanence and change, that are happily mixed in their constitution : that in all our changes we are never wholly old or wholly new: that there are enough of the old to preserve unbroken the traditionary chain of the maxims and policy of our ancestors, and the law and custom of parliament; and enough of the new to invigorate us, and bring us to our true character, by being taken from the mass of the people : and the whole, though mostly composed of the old members, have, notwithstanding, a new character, and may have the advantage of change without the imputation of inconstancy?'
It was chiefly in connexion with Irish and Indian questions, and on the economy of the Royal revenue, that his exertions in the cause of Reform were made 3. Burke had also his views of Parliamentary Reform 4; but his observations on the temper and tendencies of the age inclined him to postpone indefinitely all practical dealing with the question. The knowledge we possess of the times, and the history of the great battle in the succeeding generation, when the position of the Reformers was much strengthened, induces us to think that he was right. It may also be observed that there is in Burke a bona fide
1 Variously termed diópowors, étavópa wors, or Bondela. ? Notes for Speech on the Amendment on the Address, Nov. 30, 1774. 3 See the chapters in Mr. Morley's 'Edmund Burke, a Historical Study.' * See note to p. 51, l. 13, inf.