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The “ Topic" has been sustained in its useful form-concise, pithy, clear, and vigorous notes and thoughts forming the staple of it; the “Reviewer” has been diligent in his vocation, and has made important contributions to the value of our pages; the “ Essayist” has been unwillingly curtailed in our eagerness to give “The Greek Days and Roman Nights" fair play as a new comer, and to afford to our “Poetic Critique” sufficient space for illustrative quotation. Our“ Inquirer” has been indefatigable in seeking replies to the queries put, writing often here and there in the hope of getting answers -sometimes, we are sorry to say, in vain; but not seldom bringing out special bits of informing interest. “ The Societies? Section” has not attained a satisfactory condition. But we hope soon to improve permanently this portion of our serial. “Our Collegiate Course” has given good help in study, and shown how full of suggestion and scholarship the masterpieces of English literature are. The Literary Notes” contain a condensed record of books and their authors, carefully selected and often original. In “Toiling Upward,” besides a finely written notice of one of the old strivers after poetical renown, we have in this volume added to the biography of our age a carefully composed account of the achievings, mental, moral, and literary, of one of the choice spirits of our own times; thus adding another to the numerous life histories which have been given, full of original matter and research, in this serial for the thoughtful and the effortful. And—though spoken of last, certainly not the least esteemed by ourselves or our readers we note that of two distinguished contemporary thinkers and friends-Bacon and Hobbes—our pages contain original estimates; of the former, Dr. Ingleby has contributed a finely toned intellectual criticism, at once discriminative and learned; of the latter, Mr. Neil has furnished a more complete biography than has hitherto been attainable in literature, while he has added to our obligations by a more thorough and condensed analysis of his notable works than is elsewhere procurable. The value of the facts and opinions brought together in the papers on Joseph Henry Green cannot be doubted by any one who can appreciate the amount of original research involved in them, and the clearness of the philosophic vision exercised upon them. On the “Philosophy of Politics,” scholarship, range of reading, singular suggestiveness, and a most rare conciseness of exposition are noticeable; and we greatly regret that we have not had space to include in this volume at least another of these luminous essays on the Science of Government. To the writers of these contributions we owe a set of papers which will bear comparison, we believe, with the highest and best additions made to recent literature, not only in narrative excellence and expository power, but grace of composition and suggestive originality of thought.
In closing our review of the labours of this year we cannot refrain from acknowledging the kindly appreciation which in many quarters our work has met. Year by year a sense of the importance of our task grows on us. Let our readers also weigh their responsibilities aright to us—the hewers of wood and drawers of water” for them; to our contributors, and to their age; and let them do their utmost to speed the cause of progress, in their own use of this Magazine of Self-culture, and in procuring for it extended usefulness by an extended circulation,
The Philosopby of Politics :
Tae study of the philosophy of politics has become now more than ever a necessity in our country. The extension of an interest in the government of England to a very large class of men who had formerly been held to be incompetent to the duty of rightly exercising the elective franchise has made it imperative on all hands to encourage among and to render accessible to the peoplepolitical education. Those who conferred the boon are honourably concerned to see such means employed as shall prove the wisdom of the measure by which power has been put into so many hands; those who opposed the enlargement and popularization of constituencies ought to be eager, as far as possible, to increase the likeli. hood of the proper employment of the franchise now granted; and, most of those to whom a share in the guardianship of the nation has been granted should be earnest to show that the fears of the latter were baseless, that the trust of the former was wellfounded, and that they are resolved, with intelligent virtue, to endeavour to comprehend and perform the duties implied in their new status as citizens having a practical responsibility laid upon them in regard to the progress and welfare of the state. Our desire to aid in the accomplishment of this great national task and duty has led us to consider with some care a few of the most vital elements in the science of politics, and to attempt a brief and handy exposition of the ideas which we have been induced to regard as most thorough and sound in speculative and practical politics.
Nothing is easier than to decry “political metaphysics” as not at all likely to be of much service in improving the arrangements of the complicated life of social communities which have arrived at a stage of civilization so advanced as that in which we live. Some regard politics as an abstruse, uninteresting, and difficult subject, and therefore unfitted for general study or ordinary comprehen. sion; others consider that there is no such profound mystery in it
after all; and that common sense, applied with but a little earnestness to the topics as they arise, would enable them to understand all that they require to know; and in contempt of the talk of the students of politics generally they exclaim-each in his own tone,
“I ask not proud philosophy to teach me what thou art.” They feel themselves competent to discuss and settle all the difficulties which suggest themselves to ordinary minds, extempore, as they occur in practical life or casual actuality, without the necessity of previous study or learning, and without reversion to first principles and speculative theories. Philosophy with them is usually a synonym for sophistry; and they affirm that “theoretical speculators easily perform in imagination feats which are found impossible by practical politicians ;" and hence they rashly, as we think, conclude that the philosophy of politics is little likely to be useful to us or to
On any subject within the scope of human reason we believe, but most of all on this, which touches at every point on the tests of experience, thoughtful, diligent, and methodical investigation will be more likely to lead to truth than to error ; and careful deliberate reasoning ought to bring us into the presence of at least the possibilities, if not the probabilities, of political safety. If philosophy cannot invent improvements, it can suggest them, and it can insist upon careful experiment, scrutinized observation, and the guarded acceptance of rough and ready assertions.
In fact, every political movement, endeavour, and proposal depends upon some theory, true or false ; and philosophy simply investigates the antecedent probability or improbability, evidence or disproof, allegeable against the theory, and determines the points on which the theory may be exposed to a crucial experiment; so that the unphilosophical or baphazard school of politicians, as distinguished from the scientific or philosophical students of civil and social life, differ only in this,—that the former employ experience only as a positive guide, wbile the latter admit it as a negative one as well. Experience can, it is true, affirm and confirm ; but what does it so assert and maintain ? Sarely only the preconceptions of the thinking mind; that is, the theories it has formed. Experience can also correct and modify, contradict and test; and philosophy employs experience in all its plenitude of power to suggest, test, affirm, and confirm; and to deny, decry, and disprove. Any idea to which experience excepts, Philosophy rejects ; only those which experience favours does she accept and regard.
Every man exerts in our day an influence, direct or indirect, on the formation of Public Opinion—that great power which in free countries ultimately sways the destinies of empires. Yet each man is a compound of instincts, impulses, interests, prejudices, opinions, and aims which have been formed by a vast concourse and aggregation of causes. Hence we find all around us extreme dif. ferences of character, remarkably opposite states of feeling, and great contrarieties of opinion. Men accept of statements which they have not examined, and assent to propositions wbich they bave not tested, instead of inquiring, reflecting, discussing, and investigating; and they too frequently content themselves with opinions when they ought to strive after the attainment of convic. tions. How important it is that man should be led or brought
"Rightly his complex knowledge to employ!"so that, instead of acting upon whims, impulses, notions, and mere opinions, he should be able to attain to truth and to act upon con. viction. As Professor Seeley recently remarked at the Royal Institution,-"For the Public to become a great ruler, and to accomplish great works, it needs much more enlightenment than a daily, half-hour's perusal of the most skilfully constructed leading article. Our present political education is of little value, because we want a thorough knowledge of the first principles of politics.".
There are, as we all know, no opinions which so eagerly seek to elaborate_themselves into practicality as those which relate to politics. In the contest between authority and right, submission and oppression, there has now arisen an arbiter in law. To law has been entrusted the settlement of conflicting opinions regarding duties and rights; and Parliament, as the organized wisdom of the nation, has had assigned to it the duty of determining, after due deliberation, what sball, by the will of the people, become law.
Of late years the speculations of theoretical politicians have been almost as much devoted to the consideration of the best means of securing safe and efficient Representative Government as practical politicians have been engaged in arranging the details of an extension of the franchise. For a long time, indeed, it seemed that the theorists were to be allowed to theorize as they chose, and that the practical politicians were bent on maintaining the impracticability of bringing the proposals of the speculative philosophers into working order. Ever and anon during a quarter of a century, under the influence of the zeal of the thinkers or the impatience of the people, the great parties in the State took up the question, while agitation stirred the hearts of men :
“So two cold limbs, touched by Galvani's wire,
Then turn to cold torpidity again.” On the withdrawal of the immediate excitement, Parliamentary Reform became a dropped question-given over to be dealt with by the thinkers again. A short time ago the needs of party effected what the creeds of party did not, except nominally, admit; namely, an extensive increase in the persons to be represented in the Commons House. The main end in view having been attained, it would serve little purpose to detail the progress of political strife. But though any attempt to condense the history of failures in Reform Bills would be considerably beyond our aim-not to say power.-ome brief notice of the progress of modern opinion on the philosophy of parliamentary representation may help us to clarify our views in regard to the objects and methods of the franchise reformers.
The Reform Bill of 1832 marks an epoch of great importance in constitutional history. “There is hardly a question which has exercised the wisdom of legislators and the talents of debaters since, of which the history does not begin from, or in some degree turn upon its treatment by, that astonishing Parliament” which met in 1833 under the extended franchise to which that Bill gave legal effect. It was felt then by advanced thinkers that the people to whom the Reform Bill had giren a corporate share in the duties and responsibilities of legislation required some political education to fit them for the proper exercise of tbeir electoral privileges.
In 1835 Samuel Bailey, author of " Essays on the Formation of Opinions," who bad offered himself in 1832 as a candidate for Sheffield on the Liberal platform, but was defeated, issned his “Rationale of Political Representation," a work which carried with it the greater portion of the advanced Liberalists, and very greatly affected the subsequent agitations for reform in Parliament, blossoning into Chartisin, the Suffrage movement, &c. In this work the author considered the principles on which representative government ought to be constructed, so that the greatest possible advantage might be derived from it in such a manner as to be at once popular, intelligible, and effective. In 1838 the agitation on representation assumed form by the adoption of a programme of political rights which was received with great enthusiasm under ibe title of "The People's Charter.” A large amount of political writing preceded and followed the issue of this document and the ten years of agitation which succeeded. For a time, after the repeal of the Corn Laws, representative reform was less thought of than it bad been; and the stimulation of the question fell again into the hands of the thinkers. The main port in the discussion of the question was, however, now taken by the organs of thought which supply the bulk of the English public with their opinionsreviews, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets. In these a fierce, formidable, and ably sustained skirmishing was kept up until the whole literature of the country was more or less implicated in the debate and the excitement. It was roundly declared that “the representation of the people was a fiction cunningly contrived and cleverly concealed by the brilliant rhetoric of false patriots and popular orators;" that “Parliament did not legislate for the benefit of the people as a whole," and that it should be so reformed as “ to carry out effectively the properly formed and lawfully expressed desires of the entire people of the country.”
Promises of parliamentary reform now became part of the political programme, and the consideration of the subject was again brought by the theorists back to first principles. This was