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produced in the minds of many observers was well expressed in a work which appeared in 1757 and 1758. Browne's Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times' is now hardly remembered except by brief and disparaging notices in one of the later writings of Burke and in one of the Essays' of Macaulay; but it had once a wide popularity and a considerable influence on public opinion. Its author was a clergyman well known in the history of ethics by his answer to Shaftesbury, which contains one of the ablest defences in English literature of the utilitarian theory of morals. His object was to warn the country of the utter ruin that must ensue from a decadence of the national spirit, which he maintained was only too manifest, and which he attributed mainly to an excessive development of the commercial spirit. He fully admits that constitutional liberty had been considerably enlarged, that a spirit of growing humanity was exhibited both in manners and in laws; that the administration of justice was generally pure, and that the age was not characterised by gross or profligate vice. Its leading quality was a vain, luxurious, and selfish effeminacy,' which was rapidly corroding all the elements of the national strength. Love of our country,' he complained, is no longer felt, and except in a few minds of uncommon greatness, the principle of public spirit exists not.' He appealed to the disuse of manly occupations among the higher classes, to their general indifference to religious doctrines and neglect of religious practices, to the ever-widening circle of corruption which had now passed from the Parliament to the constituencies, and tainted all the approaches of public life; to the prevailing system of filling the most important offices in the most critical times by family interest, and without any regard to merit or to knowledge. The extent of this evil, he maintained, was but too plainly shown in the contrast between the splendid victories of Marlborough and the almost uniform failure of the British arms in the late war, in the want of fire, energy, and heroism manifested in all public affairs, and, above all, in the conduct of the nation during the rebellion, when those of

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every rank above a constable, instead of arming themselves and encouraging the people, generally fled before the rebels; while a mob of ragged Highlanders marched unmolested to the heart of a populous kingdom.' He argued with much acuteness that the essential qualities of national greatness are moral, and that no increase of material resources could compensate for the deterioration which had in this respect passed over the English people.

It is, perhaps, difficult for us, who judge these predictions in the light which is furnished by the Methodist revival, and by the splendours of the administration of Chatham, to do full justice to their author. He appears to have been constitutionally a very desponding man, and he ended his life by suicide. The shadows of his picture are undoubtedly overcharged, and the marked revival of public spirit in the succeeding reign, when commerce was far more extended than under George II., proves conclusively that he had formed a very erroneous estimate of the influence of the commercial spirit. Yet it is certain that the disease, though it might still be arrested, was a real one, and its causes, as we have seen, are not difficult to trace. There was, undoubtedly, less of gross and open profligacy than in the evil days of the Restoration, and less of deliberate and organised treachery among statesmen than in the years that immediately followed the Revolution. The fault of the time was not so much the amount of vice as the defect of virtue, the general depression of motives, the unusual absence of unselfish and disinterested action. At the same time, though there had been a certain suspension of the moral influences that had formerly acted upon English society, the conditions of that society were at bottom sound, and contrasted in most respects favourably with those of the greatest nations on the Continent. In the middle of the eighteenth century the peasants of Germany were uniformly serfs, and the peasantry of France, though freed from the most oppressive, were still subject to some of the most irritating of feudal burdens, while in both countries political liberty was unknown, and in France, at least, religious and intellectual freedom were perpetually violated. In France,

CH. III.

COMPARISON BETWEEN ENGLAND AND CONTINENT. 51 511

too, that fatal division of classes which has been the parent of most subsequent disasters, was already accomplished. The selfish infatuation of the Court which desired to attract to itself all that was splendid in the community, the growing centralisation of government, the want in the upper classes of all taste for country sports and duties, and the increasing attraction of town life, had led the richer classes almost invariably to abandon their estates for the pleasures of the capital, where, in the absence of healthy political life, they lost all sympathy with their fellow-countrymen, and speedily degenerated into hypocrites or profligates. Their tenants, on the other hand, deprived of the softening influence of contact with their superiors, reduced to penury by grinding and unequal taxation, and finding in the village priest their only type of civilisation, sank into that precise condition which transforms some men into the most implacable revolutionists, and others into the most superstitious of bigots. But in England nothing of this kind took place. The mixture of classes, on which English liberty and the perfection of the English type so largely depends, still continued. The country gentlemen were actively employed upon their estates, administering a rude justice, coming into constant and intimate connection with their tenants, and acquiring in the duties, associations, and even sports of a country life, elements of a practical political knowledge more valuable than any that can be acquired in books. Habits of hard and honest industry, a respect for domestic life, unflinching personal courage, were still general through the middle classes and among the poor, and if the last was suspected during the rebellion, it was at least abundantly displayed by the British infantry at Dettingen and Fontenoy. While all these subsisted, there remained elements of greatness which might easily, under favourable circumstances, be fanned into a flame.

It must be added, too, that the qualities most needed for the success of constitutional government, are not the highest, but what may be called the middle virtues of character and intellect. Heroic self-sacrifice, brilliant genius, a lofty level of generosity,

intelligence, or morality, a clear perception of the connection and logical tendency of principles, have all, no doubt, their places under this as under other forms of government; but it is upon the wide diffusion of quite a different category of qualities or attainments that the permanence of constitutional government mainly depends. Patience, moderation, persevering energy, the spirit of compromise, a tolerance of difference of opinions, a general interest in public affairs, sound sense, love of order, a disposition to judge measures by actual working and not by any ideal theory, a love of practical improvement, and a great distrust of speculative politics, a dislike to change as change, combined with a readiness to recognise necessities when they arise, are the qualities which must be generally diffused through a community before free institutions can take firm root among them. Judged by these tests the period we are considering exhibited, no doubt, in several respects a great decadence and deficiency, but not so great as if we measured it by a more ideal standard, and it may be safely asserted that in no other great nation were these qualities at this time so commonly exhibited.

A very similar judgment may be passed upon the system of government. It was corrupt, inefficient, and unheroic, but it was free from the gross vices of Continental administrations; it was moderate, tolerant, and economical; it was, with all its faults, a free government, and it contained in itself the elements of reformation.

I have examined in a former chapter the theory according to which the rival English parties have exchanged their principles since the early years of the eighteenth century, and I have endeavoured to show that it is substantially erroneous, that the historic identity of each party may be clearly established, whether we consider the classes of interests it represented, or the leading principles of its policy. We are now, however, in a position to see more clearly the facts which have given that theory its plausibility. The ministries of Walpole and Pelham represented especially the commercial classes and the Dissenters, aimed beyond all things at the maintenance of

the type of monarchy established by the Revolution, and leaned almost uniformly towards those principles of religious liberty which the Tory party detested; but undisputed power had made them corrupt, selfish, and apathetic, and they sought, both in their own interest and in that of the dynasty, to check every reform that could either abridge their power or arouse strong passions in the nation. They also made it a great end of their policy to humour and conciliate to the utmost the country gentry, who were the natural opponents of their party. Though not Tory, they were in the true sense of the word Conservative, Governments; that is to say, Governments of which the supreme object and preoccupation was not the realisation of any unattained political ideal, or the redressing of any political grievances, but merely the maintenance of existing institutions against all assailants. The lines of party division were blurred and confused, and while only those who called themselves Whigs were in general admitted to power, many were ranked in that category who, in a time of keener party struggles, would have been enrolled among the Tories. The characteristics of the two great parties have varied much with different circumstances. The idiosyncrasies of leaders whose attachment to their respective parties was often in the first instance due to the mere accident of birth or of position, the calm or louring aspect of foreign affairs, the dominant passion of the nation, the question whether a party is in office or in opposition, whether if in power its position is precarious or secure, and if in opposition it is likely soon to incur the responsibilities of office, have all their great influence on party politics. Still there is a real natural history of parties, and the division corresponds roughly to certain broad distinctions of mind and character that never can be effaced. The distinctions between content and hope, between caution and confidence, between the imagination that throws a halo of reverent association around the past and that which opens out brilliant vistas of improvement in the future, between the mind that perceives most clearly the advantages of existing institutions and the possible dangers of change and

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