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readily even believes an absolutely new idea. As has been so often said, he typified the practical intelligence of his time.
He was prone, as has been explained, to receive the daily deposits of insensibly changing opinion : but he could bear nothing startling; nothing bold, original, single is to be found in his acts or his words. Nothing could be so suitable to such a mind as a conviction that an existing law was wrong: the successive gradations of opinion pointed to a clear and absolute result. When it was a question, as in the case of the Reform Bill, not of simple abolition but of extensive and difficult reconstruction, he “could not see his way.” He could be convinced that the anti-Catholic laws were wrong, that the currency laws were wrong, that the commercial laws were wrong; especially he could be convinced that the laissez-faire system was right, and the real thing was to do nothing: but he was incapable of the larger and higher political construction. A more imaginative genius is necessary to deal with the consequences of new creations and the structure of an unseen future.
This remark requires one limitation. A great deal of what is called legislation is really administrative regulation : it does not settle what is to be done, but how it is to be done; it does not prescribe what our institutions shall be, but directs in what manner existing institutions shall work and operate. Of this portion of legislation Sir Robert Peel was an admirable master: few men have fitted administrative regulations with so nice an adjustment to a prescribed end. The Currency Act of 1814 was an instance of this. If you consult the speeches by which that bill was introduced and explained to Parliament, you certainly will not find any very rigid demonstrations of political economy, or dry compactness of abstract principle. Whether the abstract theory of the supporters of that Act be sound or unsound, no exposition of it ever came from the lips of Peel, - he assumed the results of that theory; but no man saw more quickly
the nature of the administrative machinery which was required. The separation of the departments of the Bank of England, the limitation of the country issues, though neither of them original ideas of Sir Robert's own mind, yet were not, like most of his other important political acts, forced on him from without. There was a general agreement among the received authorities in favor of a certain currency theory; the administrative statesman saw a good deal before other men what was the most judicious and effectual way of setting it at work and regulating its action.
We have only spoken of Sir Robert Peel as a public man; and if you wish to write what is characteristic about him, that is the way to do so, - he was a man whom it requires an effort to think of as engaged in anything but political business. Disraeli tells us that some one said that Peel was never happy except in the House of Commons, or doing something which had some relation to something to be done there. In common life, we continually see men scarcely separable, as it were, from their pursuits: they are as good as others, but their visible nature seems almost all absorbed in a certain visible calling; when we speak of them we are led to speak of it, when we would speak of it we are led insensibly to speak of them. It is so with Sir Robert Peel. So long as constitutional statesmanship is what it is now, so long as its function consists in recording the views of a confused nation, so long as success in it is confined to minds plastic, changeful, administrative, we must hope for no better man. You have excluded the profound thinker; you must be content with what you can obtain,- the business gentleman.
It was a bold - perhaps a rash-idea, to collect the writings of Henry Brougham : they were written at such distant dates, their subjects are so various, they are often so wedged into the circumstances of an age, that they scarcely look natural in a series of volumes. Some men, doubtless, by a strong grasp of intellect, have compacted together subjects as various: the finger-marks of a few are on all human knowledge; others, by a rare illuminative power, have lit up as many with a light that seems peculiar to themselves ; “Franciscus Baconus sic cogitavit ”f may well illustrate an “Opera Omnia."
Opera Omnia.” But Lord Brougham has neither power: his restless genius has no claim to the still, illuminating imagination ; his many-handed, apprehensive intelligence is scarcely able to fuse and concentrate; variety is his taste, and versatility his power. His career has not been quiet : for many years rushing among the details of an age, he has written as he ran. There are not many undertakings bolder than to collect the works of such a life and such a man.
The edition itself seems a good one: the volumes are convenient in size, well printed, and fairly arranged; the various writings it contains have been revised, but not over-revised, by their author. It is not, however, of the collection that we wish to speak: we would endeavor, so far as a few hasty pages may serve, to delineate the career and character of the writer. The attempt is among the most difficult. He is still among us; we have not the materials, possibly not the impartiality, of posterity. Nor have we the familiar knowledge of contemporaries: the time when Lord Brougham exerted his greatest faculties is beyond the political memory of younger men. There are no sufficient books on the events of a quarter of a century ago, we have only traditions; and this must be our excuse if we fall or seem to fall into error and confusion.
* Works of Henry Lord Brougham, F. R. S., Member of the National Institute of France and the Royal Academy of Naples. London: Griffin.
+ "Franciscus de Verulamio sic cogitavit" (Francis of Verulam reflected thus), the opening words of the “proæmium” to the “Instauratio Magna."
The years immediately succeeding the great peace were years of sullenness and difficulty. The idea of the war had passed away; the thrill and excitement of the great struggle were no longer felt. We had maintained with the greatest potentate of modern times a successful contest for existence: we had our existence, but we had no more; our victory had been great, but it had no fruits. By the aid of pertinacity and capital we had vanquished genius and valor; but no visible increase of European influence followed. Napoleon said that Wellington had made peace as if he had been defeated. We had delivered the Continent, — such was our natural idea, — but the Continent went its own way. There was nothing in its state to please the every-day Englishman. There were kings and emperors; “which was very well for foreigners,
- they had always been like that; but it was not many kings could pay ten per cent. income tax.” Absolutism as such cannot be popular in a free country ; the Holy Alliance, which made a religion of despotism, was scarcely to be reconciled with the British Constitution. Altogether, we had vanquished Napoleon, but we had no pleasure in what came after him. The cause which agitated our hearts was gone; there was no longer a noise of victories in the air; Continental affairs were dead, despotic, dull, - we scarcely liked to think that we had made them so: with weary dissatisfaction we turned to our own condition.
This was profoundly unsatisfactory: trade was depressed, agriculture ruinous, the working class singularly disaffected. During the war our manufacturing industry had grown most rapidly; there was a not unnatural expectation that after a general peace the rate of increase would be accelerated. The whole Continent, it was considered, would be opened to us: Milan and Berlin decrees no longer excluded us ; Napoleon did not now interpose between the “nation of shopkeepers” and its customers, - now he was at St. Helena, surely those customers would buy? was half forgotten that they could not. The drain of capital for the war had been at times heavily felt in England; there had been years of poverty and discredit : still, our industry had gone on, our workshops had not stopped. We had never known what it was to be the seat of war as well as a power at war; we had never known our burdens enormously increased just when our industry was utterly stopped ; disarranged as trading credit sometimes was, it had not been destroyed; no conscription had drained us of our most efficient consumers. The Continent, south and north, had, though not everywhere alike, suffered all these evils: its populations were poor, harassed, depressed; they could not buy our manufactures, for they had no money. The large preparations for a Continental export lay on hand; our traders were angry and displeased. Nor was content to be found in the agricultural districts. During the war, the British farmer had inevitably a monopoly of this market; at the approach of peace, his natural antipathy to foreign corn influenced the legislature. The Home Secretary of the time had taken into consideration whether 76s. or 80s. was such a remunerating price as the agriculturist should obtain, and a Corn Law had passed accordingly; but no law could give the farmer famine prices, when there was scarcity here and plenty abroad. There were riots at the passing of the “bread tax," as it was; in 1813 the price of corn