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The pbilosopby of Politics.
THE philosophy of politics is a theme on which some of the mightiest thinkers of our race have expeuded the noblest efforts of their genius. One of the most earnest inquiries of the wise Pythagoras might be enunciated in these terms :- What are the capacities in man which lead him to civic association, national organization and the formation of states, which subordinate him to law, and which incline him to take part in the forms, arrangements, and responsibilities of society ? Socrates, in his search after the secret of the worthiest life, made citizenship one of the most frequent subjects of these discourses, in which he sought to prove the close union which exists between truth and progress, order and prosperity. Plato sought to discover the principles of life according to which civilized society was possible, developable, and might be healthily conditioned-and few monuments of ancient thought contain so much of important systematic discussion concerning practical and ideal politics as his “Laws” and “Republic." For keepness of reflective insight, vigorous comprehensiveness, and thorough investigation into the nature of the state as a living organic entirety providing for a sufficient and perfect individual life in the midst of the fluctuations of human events, the eight books of Aristotle's “ Politic” would be difficult to match and impossible to surpassin so far as the possibilities of state life in ancient times are concerned. The theoretical elevation to which the speculations of the meditative spirits of antiquity attained, concerning the nature, tendencies, characteristics, and modes of legally-constituted communities is very wonderful, when we remember that they looked upon these questions in the dim light of nature, and sought the grounds of their treatises in consciousness and in experience. No little of the spirit of the Greek philosophers passed into the thoughts of the Roman statesmen, and the names of Cato, Scipio, and Cicero -if not that of Seneca as well-may be quoted as among those whose opinions on the conditions of social order, attainable by civi government, possess a speculative as well as a historic value.
In modern times, many men of immense intellectual might and originality have endeavoured to discover the eternal principles of right and law, upon which the foundations of the State may be truly said to rest, and to which the orderly progress of society may be trusted. Tradition, experience, hypothesis, history, and reconstructive speculation, have all been tried as the sources of a trustworthy political science--a science of justice or of the rights of man-a knowledge of the means to be employed to promote and secure the safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness of the individuals who compose a nation, empire, or sovereign community.
Of these it would be impossible for us to name-and still more to characterize-a tithe. But it is of importance, as showing the intense interest the subject has had for the greatest intellects, to indicate the state of the question as it took hold of the thoughts of the successive master minds who have devoted their reflections to the consideration of those “laws by which human actions ought to be regulated, in so far as men [can, may, or do] interfere with each other." Of Machiavelli's “Prince"-inasmuch as its intent and aim is matter of dispute even yet-we need make no mention. Bacon, Buchanan, and Hooker, Poynet, Mariana, and Paruta are writers who helped to trace out the distinctions between morals and politics, and to excise the duties of citizens from the territories of modern casuistry. Bodin is perhaps the earliest witer on philosophical politics who deserves serious study. In his “Republic" the metaphysics of government and social life are intermingled with dissertations on the forms and law's most beneficial to states and subjects. In 1625 the celebrated Grotius produced the first great work on international relations, a work which, according to Sir G. C. Lewis, “constitutes an epoch in politics." His more celebrated and greater countryman Spinoza, (1632-77), in his" Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), and his posthumously published "Tractatus Politicus," sought to bring religion and politics into closer relationship, and to solve the interesting problem- What is the best government under which to pursue a true manly life. Shortly prior to this, Thomas Hobbes, first in his “ De Cive," 1642, then in his “ De Corpore Politico," 1650, and afterwards in an enlarged form in “ The Leviathian,” 1651, attempted to place the theory of government on a psychological basis, and to show that the state is a natural outgrowth of humanity. These works excited an extraordinary amount of controversial writing, and for nearly half a century after their publication, “every young churchman militant would try his arms in thundering on Hobbes' steel cap.” Among his opponents were Clarendon, Cudworth, Cumberland, Bramhall, Tenison, Eachard, and in a less direct manner Har. rington in his “ Oceana," and Henry More in his “ Psychozoia.”
After the stir of the Civil War and the brief glory of the Protectorate, which had called out the speculations of Algernon Sidney, the inquiries of Sir William Temple, and the magnificent defences and hortations of John Milton, uttered in
"A voice whose sound was like the sca ;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,” the Restoration and the Revolution came, and John Locke, in his "Treatises on Government," supplied a philosophy of the consti. tution of England in accordance with the principles of that party which settled the conditions and safeguards of the throne and the people at the incoming of William III. Montesquieu, in his *Spirit of Laws" (1748), made the study of the philosophy of politics popular by the fascination he threw around his enlightened and gystematic treatise on the relations between the laws and the cir. cumstances of different countries and the conditions on which civil liberty depends. Rousseau's “ Social Contract" (1754) furnished the groundwork of the sham philosophism and crazy metaphysics out of which, acting on the exasperated minds of an outraged people, the French Revolution flared. *To Filangieri's “ Science of Legislation (1780), “whose object was to facilitate to the sovereigns of his age the task of a new legislation,” we owe an attempt to prove the compatibility of the freedom of the citizen with the authority of the crown, wbich, though based on Rousseau's flimsy hypothesis of a social contract, possesses great value as a practical exposition of the rules of law which necessarily result from the acceptance of Montesquieu's system. Political philosophy is considerably indebted likewise to Beccaria in regard to the theory of administration, and the proper legal relations of “Crimes and Punishments.” Bentham's works on " Legislation" are distinguished for boldness, originality, intellectual power, invention, and thoroughness, and are a complete magazine of excellent thought on systems, principles, and methods of carrying on positive practical government adapted to the peculiar requirements and states of mankind in various stages of progress and different degrees of civilization.
In Kant's “ Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Right," we have an endeavour to find in Reason itself the fountain and origin of that freedom subjected to law in which the highest conditions of human life are attainable. In Fichte's “Principles of Natural Law," and in his “Contributions to the Correction of Public Opinion upon the French Revolution," we have a series of arguments against the possibility of closing for ever the question of-What is the best form of Government and an excellent advo. cacy of the principles that every truo corporate polity should hold within itself the power of well-considered change and carefully devised improvement, in order that there may be a genuine interac. tivity of freedom and right. The same topicis pursued even into the farther recesses of consciousness in Hegel's "Philosophy of Right" -a search for the elementary principles of that civilizing process which is observable in all history, and whicb seems everywhere to result in nearer though very gradual approaches to rational liberty, while it forms the very initial in which social life originates, and out of which society grows as a coherent unity. These German thinkers pursued their quarry far into the subtleties of metaphy. sics, and the farthest reaches of their investigations were found so remote from the ken of ordinary minds, that few could acquire a clear insight into the primal ideas and firstlings of their speculations. A similar objection has been taken to the metaphysical politic of that great English speculatist, whose aim it was “to reduce all knowledge into harmony” and to encyclopædize for mankind all thought, experience, phenomena and history-Cole. ridge — whose politico-theosophic expositions of the natural and essential organizations of society, wound so mellifluously from the lips of the Highgate seer. Far more influential upon the minds of men have been the treatises on Government, jurisprudence, the law of nations, &c., contributed by James Mill in the first instance to the“ Encyclopædia Britannica," but subsequently reissued separately. The papers exhibit great powers of reasoning, analysis, and exposition, contain much condensed and excellent thinking, and many of the principles of government are in them evolved into wise practical suggestions. Sir James Mackintosh, who had much of the scheming comprehensiveness of Coleridge, but little of the accurate, vigorous, and extensive research of Mill, won an early and brilliant reputation-scarcely sustained in his after career-by a splendid series of lectures on "The Law of Nature and Nations" -lectures in which, however, the qualities of the theorist were less displayed than those of the expositor and advocate.
The popularity given to inquiries relating to speculative politics in the early part of the present century, led many of the thinkers of England and France to seek an acquaintance with the theorists of Italy and Germany; and thus there was brought into its proper place in European literature the able politico-historical work of Vico—the “ Scienza Nuova," in which he strove to distinguish the accidental from the essential in social phenomena, to discover the laws which regulate the formation, growth and decay of social institutions, and to prove that the progress of society is the result of the free development of the human faculties under the special overruling designs of a providence divine. Among those who in France were touched into thought upon the great problems of political science, the names of Cousin, Guizot, Michelet, Jouffroy, occupy a high and honourable place. Cousin maintained that government draws its whole force from society, and ought to aim at making justice-as the guardian of the common freedom-reign ; Guizot analyses the phenomena of European civilization so as to extricate from amongst their complexities the order of the causation by which each successive condition of modern Europe grew out of that which immediately preceded it, and to find out what natural laws linked event to event and condition to state. Michelet, besides translating and expounding Vico, has written history as a compound web, of which Philosophy forms the warp, and Poetry the woof-issuing in brilliant pictorial evolutions of philosophic narration, and realizing to the soul a philosophy of politics. Jouffroy, unfortunately too early called away from his earth-career, did