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—that they are not, according to the saying, 'lighting the streets with fireworks.'
"These defects would be felt in any new office; but besides these, Mr. Lowe has one-a physical one--to which he has often himself alluded, and which hampers him beyond expression. In our younger days he would have been cited in books of entertaining knowledge as a conspicuous instance of the
pursuit of knowledge under difficulties. Being almost unable to read books with his own eyes, he knows more about books than almost anyone who has eyes. A wonderful memory, and an intense wish to know the truth, have filled his head with knowledge; but though great powers may compensate for inherent defects, none, not even the greatest, can annihilate those defects. They are ineradicable, and the consequences of them will come back again to lessen every victory, and to enhance every disaster. It is so with Mr. Lowe in this case.
A man who cannot easily read figures for himself, who cannot manipulate them for himself, who cannot throw them into various shapes, as it were, on trial for himself, cannot be a great financier. Our greatest financiers, Pitt, Peel, and Gladstone, have all of them been men who did not take their figures from others, but who spent a great-almost an excessive-labour on the minutive of them for themselves. It is from no lack of labour, and no lack of mind, that Mr. Lowe does not do this. By physical constitution he is incapable of it.
Something of this is at the bottom of Mr. Lowe's occasionally defective dealing with small financial forms, which was the only point that Mr. Disraeli made against him in criticising his Budget. It is hardly possible that a man with such immense disadvantages for business can have his tackle quite as ready and quite as perfect as those who are more fortunate. And Mr. Disraeli is scarcely the man who ought to have made the taunt. No one regards these legal forms with more sublime indifference than he does when it suits his object. "Gentlemen of the long robe,' he used to say when in office, 'will attend to
these details;' and he would have deemed it absurd that a Minister, charged with the fate of Cabinets and the policy of measures, should even consider them. And perhaps he was right; perhaps it would have been absurd. But what is unnecessary for one Minister cannot be incumbent on another similar Minister. It was not for Mr. Disraeli, who has scarcely seemed to be able to see details and technicalities (so exclusively did he look on them from the most elevated heights of policy), to reproach Mr. Lowe with a few trivial, innocuous, and excusable deficiencies in them.
The result of all this is very plain. It is that Mr. Lowe is under peculiar difficulties in finance-that it is not a region in which his great powers can ever show to the best advantagethat, on the contrary, it is a region in which they will frequently be seen to the greatest disadvantage. But there is a profound truth in the saying that men of pre-eminent ability are always safe ;' not of course that so wide a phrase is to be taken exactly to the letter, but that there is a reserve fund' in the highest ability which will enable it to pull through scrapes, to remedy errors, to surmount disasters, which would ruin and bury common men. Mr. Lowe will certainly not have an unchequered reign at the Exchequer; but he may reign long, he may do much good, and notwithstanding many failures and defects, may leave the special stamp and impress of his mind on many great Budgets and important measures.
The announcement of the death of M. Guizot will take the minds of many back to the cold February evenings in 1848, when London, long used to political calm, was convulsed by a new excitement, when we heard cried in rapid succession, Resignation of Guizot,' Flight of Louis Philippe,' 'Proclamation of the Republic,' and when the present chapter of European politics began. M. Guizot lived to see many events and many changes, but none which restored him to pre-eminence, or which made him once more a European personage. His name was never cried in the London streets again. M. Guizot was in most respects exactly the opposite of the common English notion of a Frenchman. There floats in this country an idea that a Frenchman is a light, changeable, sceptical being, who is fond of amusement, who is taken with childish shows, who always wants some new thing, who is incapable of fixed belief on any subject, and on religion especially. But Guizot was, on the contrary, a man of fixed and intense belief in religion, who was wholly devoted to serious study, who probably cared as little for the frivolous side of life as any human being who ever lived, who was stiff in manner and sedate in politics to a fault. A Puritan born in France by mistake, is the description which will most nearly describe him to an ordinary Englishman, for he had all the solidity, the solemnity, and the energy of Puritanism, as well as some of its shortcomings. And it is very natural that such should be his character, for he came of a Huguenot family, who really were French Puritans. The French national character is much more various than it is supposed to be according to common English ideas, and the stern variety which M. Guizot represents is one of the most remarkable.
Indeed, in the special peculiarity which coloured his political life, he was a most characteristic Frenchman. He represented their excessive propensity to political fear. As we all know, a principal obstacle to good Government in France is a deficiency in political courage. At the present moment a very considerable part of the nation are inclined to return to the Empire—not that they are attached to the Empire, not that they do not see its defects, not that they are not ashamed of its end, but because they are so impressed by the difficulties of making any other strong Government that their heart fails them. They want something which will save them from the Commune, and they are disposed to run back to what saved them from the Commune before, without any sufficient inquiry whether a better safeguard cannot be found, or whether this one will be effectual. The excess of their apprehension dims their eyes and distorts their judgment. Guizot had no partiality for the Empire, or for anything like the Empire, but nevertheless his whole political life rested on a similar feeling and aimed at a similar end. He, too, was frightened at revolutionary excess; his father perished in the first revolution. He was born in 1787, and consequently began his intellectual life about 1800, just when the reaction against the revolution was the strongest, when its evil was most exaggerated, and when its good was most depreciated. A strong, serious, unoriginal mind--and such was M. Guizot's—which receives such penetrating impressions early in life generally holds them on, in one shape or another, till the end. And so it was in this case. Guizot was devoted through life to what he called the Conservative' policy; he was always endeavouring to avert revolution ; he was incessantly in dread of tumult: he saw attack and commotion everywhere. But he had no notion what was the real counterforce in France to the revolutionary force. Wə
now know from experience that that force, though it calls itself the force of numbers, can be controlled by appealing to numbers; that the peasant proprietors, who are the majority in France, hate nothing so much and fear nothing so much ; that they think revolution may take from them their property, their speck of land, their all ; ' and, therefore, they will resist revolution at any time and on any pretence, and will support any power which they think can prevail against it. But Guizot did not perceive this great force. His great recipe for preventing revolution was not by extending the suffrage, but by restricting it. He did not see that the masses in France, having property of their own, were only too likely to be timid about property. His scheme was to resist revolution by keeping the suffrage so high that it included only a few in the towns, that it scarcely included any of the masses in the country. He proposed to found the throne of constitutional liberty on a select bourgeoisie-few in number, moderate in disposition, easily conciliated by their interests. The revolution of 1848 might have been avoided if he had been willing a little to extend the suffrage, but he would not extend it. The proposals then made for so doing seem now trivial and unimportant, but Guizot sincerely believed that they would ruin the country; sooner than grant them he incurred a revolution. He was so perturbed by the excessive dread of revolution that he could not see what was the true power with which to oppose it—that he threw away a mighty power—that he relied solely on a weak one-that he caused the calamity he was always fearing.
It is this great misfortune which will always colour any retrospect of M. Guizot’s career, and render it a melancholy one. In many minor ways he accomplished much good. As a minister of public instruction he did much much, perhaps, which no other man at that time could have done--for education in France. When ambassador in England he did much to prevent a war which was then imminent, and which M Thiers would have hurried on; through his whole career, by