תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

though perhaps from his position and his belief inevitable, that he should accept a view of human life and duty which makes of both an inexplicable mystery, and sets up an antagonism between religious and social virtues. According to this system the first duty of man is to save his soul. He does it most surely, who for this end severs himself completely from his fellows. In this life of merely personal interest he must have an incessant occupation to subdue every rising emotion of the flesh. He must pray and meditate as long as the weakness of his nature will endure; he must work with his hands to fill up all his remaining time. He must have a living faith, or his prayer will be of no avail. But if it be sincere, it wins a blessing not merely for himself, but for others with whom he has not the slightest social connexion; it turns away the Divine wrath,' it lightens the weight of the world's iniquity;' by it “the voice of 'the Church goes up incessantly to Heaven to draw down from

thence the dew of Divine benediction'(vol. i. p. lvii.). His life was to be one of mortification; but the sacrifice was to be shown in chastening his own desires, not in sharing another's burden or adding to another's happiness. If, from this naked idea of mere anchoritism, he passed into a conventual life, he still escaped not from the magic circle of virtues and duties concentrated upon self. He abandoned the exercise of his will, and his obedience became at once mechanical. The rule of Benedict aimed at filling up the whole time of the monks with prayer, ineditation, and manual labour. Every hour, and every fraction of each hour, had its allotted task mapped out with the most rigid precision. There was no choice, no spontaneous movement, to one occupation rather than another. ' Centered in himself, guided by the will of another, not his own, he became the passive yet reasoning instrument of a system which in place of a principle of law had consecrated a coercive discipline.

We are brought to the fundamental idea which lies at the root of Greek and Latin Christianity, and against which Teutonic Christianity arose as a protest, not the less determined because it was in great part unconscious. Between the two systems, there is the same contrast as between the constitutional freedom of England and the centralised despotisms of Europe, between the free and unfettered obedience of Athenian and the drilled mechanism of Spartan polity. It is here that the battle must be fought, it is here that the victory must be won for the one side or the other. On this point the clear statement of our convictions can never be superfluous. For it is not a question of choice between a monastic and a secular calling,-it is the question of all training, of all education, of every employment in life. It is a question whether we are to have a free and spontaneous growth from which external checks are successively to give way before a deliberate submission to the principle of law, or the rigid petrifaction which must be the result of a multiplication of arbitrary rules. It is the glory of English freedom that it leaves to its citizens the choice of their occupations, the direction of their thoughts, the indulgence of their tastes and whims. It is the pride of English education that it is more and more banishing the ideas of mere coercion, more and more enforcing the voluntary obedience of the young. The English clergyman receives no different training from the English layman; the same range of thought and study is open to both. In striking contrast to this stand out the theological seminaries of the Roman Church, in the vexatious minuteness of their tasks, in the fractional apportionments of their time, in the alternation of inconsistent and contradictory occupations. The system does not aim at producing free men ; it admirably serves its end of producing moral and intellectual machines. The human spirit rapidly passes through the stage in which this external manipulation is an irksome monotony, to that passionless state wherein the upholding of an institution or an order becomes the mainspring of all thought and action. Thus then the idea of English freedom is radically opposed, not merely to the idea of monasticism, but to the whole of that organisation, of which the grand result is the mighty fabric of Latin Christianity. The Teutonic idea, like the Athenian, refuses to regard men except as members of a society, as linked with others by manifold bonds, which it is a sin against nature to repudiate. It requires from a man a spontaneous obedience to law; it expects him to be prepared for the discharge of all duties which may be imposed on him as a citizen ; it believes that he will be not the worse, but the better prepared for them by the versatile freedom of the Athenian than by the laborious drill of the dull and narrow-minded Spartan. Our words have shaped themselves almost into the expressions of Pericles. can but insist on the universal truth involved in his comparison of the two little states of Athens and Sparta.

Yet to the æra of medieval monasticism M. de Montalembert looks back as to the time of a true faith, and a true liberty ; not indeed of a faith which possessed a power equal to its authority. or of a liberty of which the terms were acknowledged by all. It was the liberty which resulted from balanced powers conflicting with each other, from the struggle of ecclesiastical and royal supremacy, when neither form of despotism was everywhere acknowledged. From this transitional state, with its positive evils, and its promise of future preponderating good, M. de Montalembert turns with sadness and discouragement to the • abandoned license and abject servility which alternately characterise modern society.' He insists earnestly on the essential difference between the true middle age and that period on which modern France has fixed the name of the Ancien Régime. It is his pride to think that in the former, men knew nothing of that 'unlimited power of the state which is now so reagerly invoked, or so easily accepted;' of that strange and fickle mobility which leaves no hope for the legitimate growth of political freedom.

We can sympathise most deeply with the feelings of M. de Montalembert, and we appreciate the force of that contrast which he has so powerfully and so truthfully drawn. But it is a contrast which does not apply to England. It is not true that her citizens prostrate themselves before the idol of the day,

while they reserve the right of breaking, betraying, and forget*ting it on the morrow. It is not true that in England, the “absolute independence of the sovereign power has displaced

the sentiment and the guarantees of personal independence;' or that all local autonomy has been crushed, the better to break the bond which links us to ancient liberty. It is not true of England that 'a dead level is looked on as progress, and a * common slavery as the guarantee of that progress.' It is not true of England; but it is a terribly true picture and (as we believe) prophecy of the present state and future fortunes of French society. We cannot too' strongly express our concurrence with M. de Montalembert's abhorrence and dread of that centralised despotism' which never dies, and which parades its “ irresistible and pitiless level on a bed of human dust.' His words have the eloquent energy of truth; but the remedy for the evils over which he mourns is to be found, not in any recurrence to the ideas which underlie the system of western monasticism, but to those which have had their auspicious result in the civil and religious Constitution of England.

Art. III. – Economie Rurale de la France depuis 1789.

Par M. LEONCE DE LAVERGNE, Membre de l'Institut, &c.

Paris : 1860. THE 'HE most cursory traveller who is whirled by steam in less

than thirty hours from the coast of Picardy to the shores of Provence, can hardly fail to be struck with the diversified aspects of the soil and rural economy of France. He leaves in the Department of the Pas de Calais a soil and climate less favoured by nature than the southern coast of England; he finds in the Department of the Var a region vying in its products with the valley of the Arno or the huerta of Valencia. But throughout this vast and varied tract of country, he will, if he has known the condition of France for any considerable period of time, be not less struck by the astonishing marks of agricultural improvement which are everywhere visible. When we, whose lot it is to belong to what must now be called the elder generation, first visited France in the years which succeeded the peace of 1815, the aspect of the land was that of a country empoverished and devastated by a quarter of century of domestic convulsions and of war. The progress which had commenced under the enlightened ministers of Louis XVI., and the passion for improvement which took possession of the French nation in the eighteenth century, were rudely arrested by the Revolution. Landed property itself was violently transferred from its former owners to a class of men who had for many years neither the confidence, nor the capital, nor the

skill to improve the cultivation of the soil. Whatever was beneficial in the former relations of landlord and tenant had been destroyed; whatever is beneficial in the new order of things was as yet imperceptible. The Imperial conscription for the wars of Napoleon drained the rural population to an excess, from which it has not even now recovered in numbers or in physical strength. The appearance of a French village in those days was that of squalid discomfort, in which even the more wealthy of the peasant proprietors were content to live. Their dwellings mere cabins; their farm buildings mere hovels; the church dilapidated from neglect or defaced with whitewash. Carriageable by-roads were unknown: except on the great paved chaussées or royal routes constructed by Louis XIV., the country was intersected by mere tracks, which rendered it equally difficult for the farmer to obtain manure for his fields or to dispose of the produce of his harvests. Stock was extremely scarce and the breeds of animals wretched. The only relief afforded to the exhausted soil was by a frequent but unintelligent system of fallows— scientific agriculture, rural machinery, artificial manures, drainage and irrigation were alike unknown. Such was the state of agriculture in France about forty years ago, and if we go back another forty years, we must in fairness add that such was the state of agriculture in England also. Modern agriculture is almost the creation of the present century.

Arthur Young lived and travelled about eighty years ago, and he has recorded with admirable truth and sagacity the actual condition of both countries in his time. It was given him to foresee, but not to realise, the splendid profits and advantages to be reaped from the new era, when the science he professed would regenerate the soil of Europe, and enable it to support with increasing wealth and prosperity countless millions of human beings. * Few men now alive can be said to have witnessed this prodigious transformation in England, and the younger generation has a very inperfect conception of the agricultural operations of their grandfathers. A change has been wrought in the land somewhat more gradual, but certainly not less beneficial than those which have taken place in manufactures and in locomotion, though more than half the people of England are probably not aware of it. But in France a similar transformation is going on before our eyes. Owing to the causes we have adverted to it began much later; it has proceeded more slowly; but in these later years its progress is

* Arthur Young was sorely tempted in 1789 to purchase the estate of Riaux, within a few miles of Moulins, consisting of a châu teau, two mills, nine farms, &c., in all 3000 acres of good land. The price then asked for the whole estate was 300,000 livres, the gross rental being 12,500 livres, and the net rental about 8000. The Englishman saw and recorded his conviction that the price was low for 3000 acres of land capable of tripling and quadrupling its produce and value in the hands of a farmer who could handle it; but he shrewdly adds, 'the state of the government, and the fear of buying

my share in a civil war, prevented me from contracting this engage'ment at present.' At that time he was assured that there were six thousand estates for sale in different parts of France. M. de Lavergne has ascertained that this very estate of Riaux was sold in 1799 by its owner (who escaped the Revolution and did not emigrate) for 201,000 livres; in 1826 it was again sold for 315,000 livres ; and at the present time such an estate in the Department of the Allier is worth about 600,000 livres, or double what it was in 1826, and triple what it was in 1800. This is a fair example of the increase of the value of land in France in the present century.

« הקודםהמשך »