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dealing with the question, which is wholly wanting in some later opponents of Parliamentary Reform, and notably in Canning.
In the beginning of the Speech on the East India Bill four canons of reform are laid down. They are indeed immediately applicable to a particular case, but they are substantially those which he applies generally. There must be abuses, he says, in all governments. But there are great abuses and small abuses. Small abuses ought indeed to be reformed, if possible, but if impossible, difficult, or dangerous to be reformed, they may be left alone. Great abuses stand on a different footing; and these are the conditions on which we are justified in violating standing rights (for this is the real point in all Reform) with a view to their correction :- ist. The object affected by the abuse should be great and important: 2nd. The abuse affecting this great object ought to be a great abuse: 3rd. It ought to be habitual, and not accidental: 4th. It ought to be utterly incurable in the body as it now stands constituted.' 'All this,' Burke proceeds, 'ought to be made as visible to me as the light of the sun, before I should strike off an atom of their charter. Conservative as he was, this alone would clearly entitle him to be considered the forerunner of the modern Reformers. In one of his latest works he proudly declared that it had been the business of his strength to reform abuses in government; and he classed his last efforts against the French Republic under the same head. His book on the Revolution, he said, spared no existing abuse. "Its very purpose is to make war with abuses; not indeed to make war with the dead, but with those which live, and flourish, and reign?'
Very widely removed from this harmonious contrast of Conservatism and Reform, stands a darker and less reconcileable antithesis. In the Introduction to the succeeding volume it will be our business to follow the footsteps of Burke around the "Serbonian bog' of certain speculations, which were supposed to be at the bottom of the vast convulsion of France which commenced in 1789 and continues unfinished to this day. With that convulsion those speculations had little enough to do. Revolutions are never produced by opinions, but by political facts, such as actual badness of government, or oppression of one class by another. The wildest political opinions usually thrive best under
· Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs.
the strongest governments. Burke in his earlier years had traced the germs of Rousseau's ideas in the writings of Bolingbroke, and exposed their tendency in his Vindication of Natural Society. Such ideas are not fraught with great danger, for they take fast hold only of crooked or ill-educated minds, and they rarely take so original a form as to rise to the level of an intellectual curiosity. Minds, however, once imbued with them do not soon relinquish them. It is the slow pressure of facts which imperceptibly modifies them. Fact is the best teacher in political science, and every man who has actually touched the political facts which surround him will recognise the soundness of the following emphatic words, addressed to the general public by one of the most memorable Reformers of our times. The necessity,' says Lord Brougham, of some considerable degree of restraint to the well-being of society-the impossibility of the supreme power being left in the hands of the whole people—the fatal effects of disregarding the right of property, the great corner-stone of all civil society—the interest which all classes, down to the humblest, have in the protection afforded by law to the accumulation of capital--the evils of resistance to established government, except in extreme, and therefore very rare cases—the particular interest which the whole people, low as well as high, must ever have in general obedience to the supreme power in the state-the almost uniform necessity of making all changes, even the most salutary, in any established institution, gradually and temperately -all these are the very first lessons which every political teacher must inculcate if he be fit for his office, and commonly honest.' Unequal distribution of power seems to be necessary for all government, and unequal distribution of property essential to its very existence. "Too much and too little,' says Burke, "are treason against property. When a man pretends to invent a form of society in which there shall be no superior power, no property, and no religion to give effect to moral obligations, we know him at once to be a presumptuous sophist. As Siéyès said of Rousseau, Croyant remonter aux principes, il s'arrête aux commencements.'
Burke was no democrat; but he thought that under certain circumstances a pure democracy might be a necessary and desirable form of government. This was consowant to the old Whiggism ; but it was going further than Cicero, who denies to democracy the very name of Republic. Burke's objections to it under ordinary circumstances are most clearly stated in the Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs; the chief one being that the very frame of a democracy excludes all restraints upon the depraved ambition which its spirit fosters. He was no friend to aristocracy properly so called; which in these pages he stigmatises as an austere and insolent domination 1. Monarchy Burke preferred upon principle, and he naturally preferred the limited monarchy of England, which general opinion then held up to the envy of Europe. Montesquieu had recently given an impetus to the study of politics by a work in which the English constitution received a full measure of praise, and which Burke had studied with much care. There are many works which, after being exceedingly useful to mankind in their day, appear after a certain time to lose their importance, and such has been in a remarkable degree the fate of the “Esprit des Lois.' But it has been justly remarked', that it is chiefly to that work itself that we owe its present comparative uselessness. It was foolish to force a work of so miscellaneous a nature into any semblance of system. But this mass of ill-authenticated facts, of opinions derived from ignorant antiquity, of the theories of a modern recluse--this imperfect cyclopaedia of a science which can never be perfectly understood, is also rich with sound reflection, and brilliant with true philosophical genius. It is best known to the present generation by the caricature of Macaulay, contained in an essay written when he was fresh from college, and which his maturer judgment must have almost wholly disapproved. Sir James Mackintosh thought highly of it, while Burke made use of its materials, and was decidedly influenced by its spirit.
There is much in the mode of thinking of Montesquieu that reminds us of Burke. There is a similar power of approximating to truth by a rapid and exact glance at the object, and a similar determination always to keep his theory, as Mackintosh expresses it, in the immediate neighbourhood of practice.' With Burke, Montesquieu thought that wisdom was often shown in leaving an evil uncorrected 3; that the evil of change might be greater than
2 Edinburgh Review, vol. xlviii. p. 519. 3 •[ne faut pas tout corriger.' So Erasmus : Scio quidvis esse ferendum potius quam ut publicus orbis status turbetur in pejus.'
1 Page 22.
the evil of sufferance; that conjunctures must be awaited, and can rarely or never be forced on; that political genius consisted in a great measure in knowing where uniformity was necessary, and where inequalities might be tolerated; that there was a difference between legislation and government, between parsimony and economy, between taxation and revenue. He did not think much of the inherent wisdom of the masses. He thought the people always had either too much of too little action. "Quelquefois avec cent mille bras il renverse tout; quelquefois avec cent mille pieds il ne va que comme les insectes1. He had equally small faith in appeals to the reason of mankind in the mass. He more than eulogised the English constitution; and said with equal wit and truth of Harrington, what might be said of all who plan new forms of government without understanding the excellences of the old, that he had built Chalcedon when he had the shore of Byzantium before his eyes. He has been accused, like Burke, of degenerating into a solemn and mysterious enunciation of truisms. But there are some truths which are considered unimportant, because they are undisputed; so true that they may be safely neglected, or even tossed into the limbo of the most exploded errors. When they are brought to light, they are called truisms. Such truisms neither Montesquieu nor Burke disdained.
The political essays of Hume exhibit an order of mind equally rare with that of Burke. Both had derived their stimulus in different ways from the restless intellect of Bolingbroke. But Hume's metaphysical studies, which had produced his marvellous power of contracting the mental eye to the subtleties of abstraction, had weakened the power of dilating it so as to take in the wide and complicated relations of fact. Hume, in dealing with contemporary topics, was an acute observer, but a bad reasoner: his mind played idly, and, as it were, in patches, on the surface of things which the less exquisite intellect of Burke penetrated in their depths and illuminated in their entirety. Burke stands apart from the metaphysical politics of Sidney and Locke, from whom the Whig writers of the early part of the century, and notably Hoadly and Tindal, had derived their tone, though he is occasionally indebted to them for an idea. He was familiar with Swift; but no trace is to be found in Swift's writings of the large way of thinking which
1 Liv. ii. C. 2.
pervades Burke's. The former is almost as remarkable for his reluctance to commit himself to broad and general views, as the latter for his eagerness to fortify his particular case by appealing to them. Swift indeed usually reasoned by a chain of minute particulars, and made his arguments turn in some form on personalities, which Burke, as far as was possible, avoided. Swift laboured, says Jeffrey, 'not to point out the wrongs of Ireland, in the depression of her Catholic population, her want of education, or the discouragement of her industry; but to raise an outcry against an amendment of the copper or the gold coin, or against a parliamentary proposition for remitting the tithe of agistment.' Burke, like Demosthenes, preferred to treat a variety of topics in such a way as to bear with irresistible force on a single argument. Gordon, the English Machiavelli, supplied him with some hints; and from Bolingbroke he learned a philosophical mode of treatment, and an easy and powerful style. The · Vindication of Natural Society' is a singular proof that genius is, if not the child, at least the fosterchild of imitation. But though Burke was never ashamed of borrowing a good idea, the sum of his obligations to the strictly political writers of this or any other country is small. He had the run of a wider field. The literature of England is remarkable for the extent in which it is pervaded by political ideas. Poets, divines, dramatists, and historians, alike illustrate the leading tendency of the English mind. In the two former of these classes Burke had an especial interest. Hooker and South, Milton and Dryden, were often to him a real fount of inspiration. His philosophical mind readily discerned any analogy which was convertible to his own purpose, and this faculty in him was rarely misused. Burke knew general English literature well; and he turned all his knowledge to such account that next to facts and reasonings upon facts, it became his chief resource. Burke moreover, like Cicero, had received the training, not of a politician, but of a man of letters. When Cicero first appeared in the character of a statesman, politicians used contemptuously to call him 'the Greek,' and 'the Scholar. Every one of Burke's productions exhibits a mind thoroughly tinctured with scholarship, in the widest sense of the word, and perfected in it by continuous practice. His scholarship is of the Roman rather than the Greek model. Cicero, Livy, and Tacitus were familiarised to