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expression has been cultivated to an extreme perfection ; but unfortunately the writers have neglected the further task of finding anything true and important to say. But M. Guizot's works are the reverse of all this: a work of more solid erudition than the “History of French Civilization” was never written by a German professor, and few Germans have ever written anything so accurately matured and so perfectly mastered. In this respect he contrasts admirably with his great rival: there used to be a story – a just story in the main, we believe- of a critic who betted that he would find five errors in any five pages of Thiers's great history of the Revolution. Even his warmest admirers indeed have never contended that M. Thiers had a scrupulous love of truth,- was a careful collector of evidence or a fine judge of it when collected ; but M. Guizot was all three. The labor expended on his books must have been very great, and much more than it would be now; for he has himself helped his successors, certainly to arrive at his own conclusions with greater ease, and perhaps also to arrive at improved conclusions.
From our peculiar view, as an economical statesman M. Guizot has, we are sorry to say, no title to respect: he and his fellow-ministers under Louis Philippe left it to the Empire to improve the material condition of the French people. He did little to promote railways; and he objected to the English treaty of 1860 because it was an approach to Free Trade, because it would enable “the English manufacturers, after an English commercial crisis, to export their goods to France and to swamp the French manufacturers." The real principles of Free Trade had never penetrated into his mind, any more than into the minds of Louis Philippe's other ministers ; and partly on that account, France now looks back to the time of the Empire as to the “golden age” of wealth and industry, and not to the time of the free monarchy.
We are sorry to have to write so much of blame of one whose character all Europe respected, and some of whose virtues were so valuable to France; but it is one perhaps painful consequence of prolonged old age, that a man's character at death is estimated with perfect [im]partiality, — those who most hated him and those who most loved him are mostly passed away or superseded in the scene of affairs. And if, as in M. Guizot's case, the good which he did was mostly one of temporary moral impression, and the evil which he caused one of lasting political result, there will be always more blame than praise
The impalpable virtues can hardly be described, and are mostly forgotten ; but the indelible consequences of the political errors are fixed on the face of the world, — they cannot be overlooked, and they must be spoken of.
(1875.) WE cannot attempt at this moment to give anything like a full estimate of Mr. Cairnes's character, either as a political economist or a political writer. The first few days after the death of one so eminent and so peculiar are never favorable to such a task; and the difficulty is always greater when, as in this case, he wrote much on topics on which public opinion is still divided. We can only attempt a few descriptive words.
The characteristic of Mr. Cairnes's mind was a tenacious grasp of abstract principle. He applied to the subjects of his life exactly the sort of mind with which a great judge applies the principles of law to the facts before him, and he applied it under more difficult circumstances; for in the principles of positive law a judge can absolutely be guided by previous precedent, whereas a thinker in the moral sciences has to make his principles as well as to apply them, —“to find” (at least often) “the dream as well as the interpretation.” This quality is not common in any age, but it is particularly uncommon now : the habit of popular writing - a habit which is apt to grow on all who deal with political and moral subjects, for it is only by being in some degree popular that you will be read or can be influential — has a contrary influence; it generates a habit of leaving out difficulties, of saying that which is easy rather than that which is true, that which is clear rather than that which is exact. There are a great many parts of political and economical truth which are in their
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nature very complex, just as many parts of science are so; and in these cases, extreme easiness of comprehension in a writer is a quality to be suspected, for probably it arises from his leaving out a partfrequently the most difficult part- of the subject. Mr. Cairnes never does this: he takes his readers through the subject, just as it seems * to him to be; he does not make it artificially easy, or attempt to please them by lessening its intricacies. And he showed himself even more careless of popularity in another way. The curiosity on such subjects is now far greater than the capacity for gratifying it; severe and abstract reasoning is necessary before they can be mastered, and there are many who dislike severe and abstract reasoning: accordingly, something else is often put forward as if it would do as well, ** figures” are used instead of reasoning. But as Mr. Cairnes always contended, the figures of an instance do not of themselves prove anything beyond that instance; they are most valuable in illustrating a distinct argument, but that argument must accompany them. But as the argument is often more difficult than the illustration, it is apt not to be used ; and “political economy” is in danger of dissolving into “statistics," which is much as if anecdotes of animals were substituted for the science of biology.
The constant rigor with which Mr. Cairnes withstood these temptations has given his writings a very peculiar character. There is a Euclidian precision about them which fits them for a tonic for the mind, and which makes much other writing seem but “soft stuff" after we have been reading them: at any rate, you feel that you have seen in all likelihood the worst of the subject; you hare been in company with one who did not spare himself anything, and who despised readers that wished to be spared anything Reading his works is like living on high ground; the “thin air of abstract truth” which they give you braces the mind just as fine material air does the body.
* Text, “seemed," an evident error.-- ED.
The wonder that this incessant intellectual vigor was displayed for years by a wasting invalid, hardly able to move, and often in the most intense pain, has long been familiar to his friends, and has now been published to the world. Much as those who read his writings valued his life, they felt almost forbidden to grieve when they heard of his death; for it seemed selfish to wish that their instruction should be purchased at the cost of such pain as his. Why a mind like his should have been created, and then the power to use it at all fully withheld, is one of the mysteries of which in this world we have no solution.
By far the most remarkable of Mr. Cairnes's writings, in our judgment, are his “Logic of Political Economy” and his essays on some of the “Unsettled Questions," recently published. In the first he defines better -- as we think — than any previous writer the exact sort of science which political economy is, the kind of reasoning which it uses, and the nature of the relation which it, as an abstract science, bears to the concrete world ; those who know how many different opinions have been held on this, and how difficult a part of the subject it is as a rule, prize, we think, most highly what Mr. Cairnes has said on it. In his recent essays on “Unsettled Questions” in political economy, Mr. Cairnes takes up the hardest parts of the subject, and discusses them with a consistent power – it might almost be said with an enjoyment -- which is scarcely given to any one who now remains to us. As the questions with which he deals are “unsettled,” it would be premature to assume the truth of his conclusions; but this may be said, – that all who hereafter write on these problems not only ought to study what he has said, but also to reply to it if they do not agree with it, -a process which (if we may speak from some experience) they will not find at all easy.