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CHAPTER II.

Ir has been my object in the last chapter to show that the triumph of the Whig policy, which was effected by the Revolution, and confirmed by the accession of the House of Brunswick, was the triumph of the party which was naturally the weakest in England. Several isolated political events contributed to the result, but the chief causes were the superiority of the smaller party in energy, intelligence, concentration, and organisation, and the division and partial paralysis of the larger party, arising from the accidental conflict between the cause of legitimacy and the cause of Protestantism. Before proceeding to relate the methods by which the Whig power was consolidated, and the manner in which it was used, it will be necessary to examine the chief elements of which it was composed, and the causes of its political bias. Its strength lay in three quarters-the aristocracy, the commercial classes, and the Nonconformists.

The eminently popular character of the English aristocracy is of a very early date, and it has probably done more than any other single cause to determine the type and ensure the permanence of English freedom. The position of the Norman nobility in England had always been widely different from that of the same nobility at home, William being able to withhold in the one case important privileges he was compelled to recognise in the other; and a long conflict, in which the nobles, in alliance with the Commons, were struggling against the power of the monarchy, contributed, with other causes, to give a popular bias to the former. The great charter had been won

by the barons, but, instead of being confined to a demand for new aristocratical privileges, it guaranteed the legal rights of all freemen, and the ancient customs and liberties of cities, prohibited every kind of arbitrary punishment, compelled the barons to grant their subvassals mitigations of feudal burdens similar to those which they themselves obtained from the King, and even accorded special protection to foreign merchants in England. Philip de Comines had noticed as a remarkable fact the singular humanity of the nobles to the people during the civil wars. In these wars the nobility were almost annihilated, and as they were but little increased during the reign of Henry VII., the revival of the order in numbers and wealth dates in a great measure from the innovating and liberal movement of the Reformation. The Puritan rebellion was chiefly democratic, but the Revolution of 1688 was chiefly aristocratic; and while the reforms of the former were soon swept away, and its excesses followed by a long reaction towards despotism, the latter founded on a secure basis the liberties of England. Although Stuart creations had raised the temporal peerage from 59 to about 150,-although the introduction of Scotch peers at the Union, and the simultaneous creation of twelve Tory peers by Harley, had impaired the liberalism of the Upper House, still from the time of the Revolution to the reign of George III. the Whig party almost always preponderated in it, and contained the families of the greatest influence and dignity. The House of Lords threw its shelter successively over Somers, and Walpole when the House of Commons was ready to sacrifice them. By its strenuous opposition to the encroachments of the House of Commons it secured for electors in 1704 the allimportant right of defending a disputed qualification before an impartial legal tribunal. It delayed or mitigated the persecuting legislation directed under Anne against the Dissenters. It steadily upheld the Protestant succession at the period of its greatest peril, and during the long Whig rule of Walpole and the Pelhams it not only gave the Government a secure majority in one House, but also, by the influence of the peers over the

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small boroughs, contributed very largely to the majority in the other.

The causes of the liberal tendencies that have so broadly distinguished the English nobility from those of most other countries are to be found not only in the traditions of its early history, but also in the constitution of the order. In most Con'tinental countries an aristocracy has a tendency to become an isolated and at length an enervated caste, removed from the sympathies and occupations, and opposed to the interests, of the community at large, despising, and, therefore, discrediting, all active occupations except those of a soldier, and thus connecting in the minds of men the idea of social rank with that of an idle and frivolous life. But in England the interests of the nobles, as a class, have been carefully and indissolubly interwoven with those of the people. They have never claimed for themselves any immunity from taxation. Their sons, except the eldest, have descended, after one or two generations, into the ranks of the commoners. Their eldest sons, before obtaining their titles, have usually made it a great object of their ambition to sit in the House of Commons, and have there acquired the tastes of popular politics. In the public school system the peers and the lower gentry are united in the closest ties. The intermarriage of peers and commoners has always been legal and common. A constant stream of lawyers of brilliant talents, but often of humble birth, has poured into the Upper House, which is presided over by one of them; and the purely hereditary character of the body has been still further qualified by the introduction of the bishops.

Not less distinctive and remarkable is the influence which the aristocracy in England has exercised on the estimate of labour. One of the chief ends of the whole social organisation is to develop to the highest point and apply to the greatest advantage the sum of talent existing in the community. In its first rudimentary stage Government accomplishes this end chiefly in a negative way, by discharging those police functions without which there can be no peaceful labour; but with the increased elaboration of

society it becomes apparent that the Legislature can in two distinct ways directly and very powerfully assist the development. The first of these ways is by supplying opportunities for, the exercise of talent which would otherwise be lost. There is at every period latent among poor men a large amount of special talent of the highest value which cannot be elicited without a long and expensive process of cultivation, or which, when elicited, is of a kind that would produce no pecuniary results at all commensurate with its importance, and which would, therefore, in the natural course of things, either remain wholly uncultivated, or be diverted to lower but more lucrative channels. It is one of the most useful functions of government to provide means by which poor men who exhibit some special aptitude may be brought within the reach of an appropriate education; and it is one of the most important advantages of many institutions that they supply requisite spheres for the expansion of certain casts of intellect, and adequate rewards for pursuits which are of great value to the community, but which if left to the unassisted operation of the law of supply and demand would remain wholly, or in a great degree, unremunerative.

The manner in which this function of government has been executed is a subject to which I shall hereafter revert. At present, however, my object is to notice a second way in which legislation may assist intellectual development. If much talent is wasted on account of want of opportunities, much also is unemployed for want of incentives. It is not a natural or in most countries a common thing for those large classes who possess all the means of enjoyment and luxury, who have the world before them to choose from, and who have never known the pressure of want or of necessity, to devote themselves to long, painful, and plodding drudgery, to incur all the responsibilities, anxiety, calumny, ingratitude, and bondage of public life. If in the case of men of extraordinary ability the path of ambition may be itself sufficiently attractive, it is not naturally so to rich men of little more than average talent. On the other hand, the forms of useful labour which are unre

munerative to the labourer are so numerous, the force of the example of the higher classes is so great, the advantages of independent circumstances for the prosecution of many kinds of labour are so inestimable, and in public life especially, such circumstances assist men so powerfully in resisting the most. fatal temptations, that the existence of laborious tastes and habits among the richer classes is of the utmost value to the community. The legislation which can produce them will not only add directly to the amount of active talent, but will also set the whole current of society aright, and generate in the higher classes a moral influence that sooner or later will permeate all.

The indissoluble connection of the enjoyment and the dignity of property with the discharge of public duties was the pre-eminent merit of feudalism, and it is one of the special excellences of English institutions that they have in a great measure preserved this connection, notwithstanding the necessary dissolution of the feudal system. This achievement has been the result of more than one agency, and of the accumulated traditions of many generations. The formation of an unpaid magistracy, and the great governing duties thrown upon the House of Lords, combined with the vast territorial possessions and the country tastes of the upper classes, have made the gratuitous discharge of judicial, legislative, and administrative functions the natural accompaniment of a considerable social position, while the retrospective habits which an aristocracy creates perpetuate and intensify the feelings of an honourable ambition. The memory of great ancestors, and the desire not to suffer a great name to fade, become an incentive of the most powerful kind. A point of honour conducive to exertion is created, and men learn to associate the idea of active patriotic labour with that of the social condition they deem most desirable. A body of men is thus formed who, with circumstances 'peculiarly favourable for the successful prosecution of important unremunerative labours, combine dispositions and habits eminently laborious, and who have at the same time an unrivalled

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