صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

obstructor and antagonist; if it be not allowed to strengthen the hands, to support the course, to prepare the measures of Government, it will take the initiative and drag the Government ignominiously in its train. This cannot be done without damage and without risk; it is a dangerous thing for a nation to feel itself abler and wiser than its rulers; reverence is impaired, obedience is undermined; the character of public men sinks and suffers; the language of public warfare becomes more bitter, more contemptuous, and more unmeasured; the national strength is diminished, and the national influence weakened, because the people grudge great means to men in whom they do not feel full confidence. There are many indications that we are at present tending towards such a state of things; perhaps the voice of warning may be heard in time.


The work by Mr. Roebuck which we have placed at the head of this Article, will not materially alter the estimate which the public has already formed of his abilities or of his character. It has evidently been composed with great care and diligence, and apparently with a sincere desire to give a faithful account of a most important era in our national history. The style, indeed, is rough and uncouth, and rather that of a ready speaker than of a practised writer, but it is almost always clear. The characters which he draws of the principal actors of the time, appear to be the parts of the book on which he has bestowed most thought and pains; they are skilful, discriminating, and generally, we think, correct, those of Mr. O'Connell and Sir Robert Peel especially Yet notwithstanding these merits, we have read the book with much disapproval and with sincere pain. It is not only deeply tinged, but is altogether coloured and pervaded by Mr. Roebuck's besetting sin-a disposition to think ill and to speak harshly of every one around him. This tendency, whether arising from infirmity of temper or distorted vision, has greatly impaired his usefulness in public life, and will equally detract from his merits as an historian. Ever ready to put the worst construction upon ambiguous conduct; to speak with sarcastic doubt of every reported instance of purity and generosity; of all possible motives which could have influenced public men in a given course of action to assign the lowest as most probably the true one; unable apparently to believe in the existence of lofty and conscientious patriotism among statesmen, or conceiving himself to have the entire monopoly of this virtue,―he is about the most unpleasant companion in a historical journey that can be imagined. No man with any respect for himself or any tenderness for his fellow-men, likes to walk through the marketplace, arm-in-arm, with Diogenes and his lantern. The whole

Temper of Mr. Roebuck's Work.


book is one continuous snarl, sarcasm, and sneer, delivered with the gravity and sternness of an ermined judge. It is a philippic delivered from the bench. In the guise of an elaborate history it is, in fact, a party pamphlet directed against the Whigs. Its object seems to be to shew-the opinion of the writer certainly is that the great Reform Bill brought forward by Lord Grey was a mere hasty and improvised party move; that a real regard either for the people or the welfare of the country had no share whatever in inducing its proposal; that it was decided upon, concocted, and arranged with no purpose or idea but that of transferring the reins of Government from the Tory to the Whig aristocracy; that all its details were planned for this end; and that none were more alarmed than the proposers of the measure, when they saw the earnestness of the great body of the nation in the matter.

"The Whigs have ever been an exclusive and aristocratic faction, though at times employing democratic principles and phrases as weapons of offence against their opponents. It is the fashion of the writers who advocate their cause and eulogize their party, to describe them as representing the principle of advance and change, in the hope of improvement, which must be ever acting with a people who are themselves continually improving; but this assumption is not justified by experience. The Whigs employ the phrases of liberality upon compulsion. They are liberal, because they need some means of exciting the nation. When out of office, they are demagogues; in power, they become exclusive oligarchs. In the one case and the other, they pursue without scruple what they believe to be their party interest.

[ocr errors]

"That the Whigs, as a party, sought more than their own party advantage, [in carrying the Reform Bill,] I see no reason to believe. That they both overrated and underrated the effects of their own measure, their subsequent conduct, I think, proves. They overrated it, in supposing that they had really annihilated the political power of their opponents, and firmly established their own supremacy; they overrated it also, in fancying that they had given a dangerous power to what they called alternately a republican and a democratic party. They underrated the effect of the new Act, and mistook its influence altogether, when they supposed that the coming contests in the House of Commons were to be between themselves-representing monarchy, aristocracy, wealth, and order, on the one hand, and a small but fierce and active body of republicans and anarchists on the other."Vol. ii. c. v.

Now, there is unquestionably much truth at the bottom of these representations; but it is a truth exaggerated and embittered. The Whigs have always been, it is true, an exclusive and aristocratic party; their basis has been narrow, and their views

rigid, pedantic, and confined, and these defects are now working their downfal. But it is not true that they have generally been either selfish, ungenerous, or corrupt,-they have been steady champions of constitutional freedom, the bold denouncers of injustice and opposition, and the energetic friends of religious liberty. To many of them we owe much gratitude and deep respect. Lord Grey in particular, though we cannot approve of much of his early political conduct, though much of it he regretted and condemned himself, was yet a pure patriot and a noble statesman. Through a long life he held aloof from place and power, because they would not have enabled him to further the objects for whose sake alone he valued them. He lived to see the day when place and power were offered to him, and the terms which he was enabled to make, were a people's emancipation. Nor, we confess, can we see the object to be gained by impressing on the minds of the nation the conviction that their rulers are selfish and cold-hearted intriguers; by sapping all reverence for public men, and encouraging the people to look upon them with enmity or with suspicion, or by inculcating as the spirit in which statesmen should be judged and watched, a temper that thinketh much evil, and that covereth no sins.

Phrenology: Its Place and Relations.


ART. II.-The Constitution of Man considered in Relation to External Objects. By GEORGE COMBE. Edinburgh, 1851.

THE work which we have placed at the head of this Article has by name, at least, been long familiar to the public. We say by name, not because its actual circulation has been small, but because we believe that the number of those who have read it, is at least small when compared with the number of those who have as decided an opinion of its character as if they had. It is often referred to as belonging to a set of works usually to be found on . the shelves of the chartist and the infidel: and under this general impression it is avoided by a large class of readers. This is hardly a safe state of matters in connexion with such a book. It has passed through seven or eight editions, and boasts of a circulation of some 90,000. If, therefore, it be true, as a matter of fact, that it is often associated with very doubtful company, the characteristics which make it acceptable there must be an important subject of inquiry. Is it from any direct attacks on revealed religion? If not, censures founded on this supposition will only tend to strengthen the influence of any errors it may really contain. Short of this, however, it may be from an indirect connexion between the principles it involves, and the opinions of the class referred to-a connexion possibly real, though not seen by the author-possibly erroneous, and such as would be repudiated by him. In this case reasoning and discussion cannot be too much directed to sift its views, and point out their real tendency. Again, it may be simply from the absence of any reference to the doctrines of religion, that the "Constitution of Man" is said to be so much read by those to whom that absence is agreeable. In this case the author may plead, as he actually does, that the nature of his subject justifies the omission, and that the vague idea of its hostility to the cause of religion has no other foundation, than that nervous jealousy which has beset every new branch of the natural sciences, before its bearing and results were thoroughly understood.

Now, in dealing with this book, we hold that one charge, and one plea in defence, must be both dismissed. It is certainly untrue, that this work contains any direct or wilful attack on the Christian Faith, which is always spoken of in general terms at least expressive of respect. There are no dishonest hints or malignant sneers. Christianity is frequently referred to as being true, and the Scriptures as possessing authority. When conclusions of the author are opposed to any given tenet commonly held by the Christian world, he uniformly represents himself as

disputing not the authority of Revelation, but the popular interpretation of its words: and as regards the "practical results" on conduct, he makes the anxious but somewhat negative declaration, that to the best of his knowledge there is not one of them, as the "result of the natural laws expounded in the subsequent pages, which does not harmonize precisely with the moral precepts of the New Testament."

But when Mr. Combe deprecates criticism as to the religious bearing of his work, on the general plea that he confines himself to the domain of natural science, or to quote his own words, "exclusively to man as he exists in the present world"we can only accept it with great reserve. We admit, indeed, the necessity of meeting the man of science on scientific ground; and the danger of committing the authority of the Bible to any conclusions, which researches in the physical world may be competent to overthrow. But it is one thing to admit the independence of the physical observer, and another to admit the total irrelevance of his subject or his reasonings, as regards the things which belong to faith. The truth is, that there is no branch of human inquiry, however purely physical, which is more than the word brunch implies; none which is not connected through endless ramifications with every other—and, especially, with that which is the root and centre of them all. If He, who formed the mind, be one with Him who is the orderer of all things about which that mind is occupied, there can be no end to the points of contact between our conceptions of them, of Him, and of ourselves. Whilst, therefore, it is folly to attempt to stop, by a religious interdict, the progress of the man of science in his own walk, it is both right and wise to follow his steps with a jealous and watchful care. Jealous-did we say? -yes, but a jealousy not of the subject, only of the inquirer. The very ground on which that jealousy is felt as regards the one, ought to be ground of sure hope in reference to the other. If the natural sciences, in certain stages of their progress, are apt to raise objections in the minds of some to the truth of revealed religion, let us never be tempted to escape from the difficulty, by denying that deep connexion which is undeniable, and whose existence is witnessed by the very misinterpretations it suggests. Let us rather look to that connexion as the highest source of interest in the physical sciences, and as promising through their endless analogies, and suggestive types, new and inexhaustible proofs of harmony between the word and works of God.

Certainly, if there is one subject of inquiry, which less than others, can be viewed as separate from the domain of religious faith, it is that to which this work of Mr. Combe refers. The CONSTITUTION OF MAN-was there ever so large a title-not a

« السابقةمتابعة »