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estimate of that 'village lawyer' Lincoln's Unionist policy. If there ever were overhaste or a touch of passion in either Sir George Lewis or his critic, it was apt to be shown in their condemnation of political measures recommended by deep popular emotions and convictions. But the reader of these pages will find, I think, a great deal more to surprise him in the shrewdness of the forecasts than in their occasional miscarriage.
I have added to the longer studies some pages consisting of a few shorter papers of the same kind taken from the · Economist' newspaper, which may be found, I hope, not the least interesting in this volume.
R. H. H.
ENGLEFIELD Green, Dec. 20, 1880.
THE CHARACTER OF SIR ROBERT PEEL.1
(1856.) f Most people have looked orer old letters. They have been struck with the change of life, with the doubt on things now certain, the belief in things now incredible, the oblivion of what now seems most important, the strained attention to departed detail, which characterise the mouldering leaves. Something like this is the feeling with which we read Sir Robert Peel's Memoirs. Who now doubts on the Catholic Question? It is no longer a question. A younger generation has come into vigorous, perhaps into insolent life, who regard the doubts that were formerly entertained as absurd, pernicious, delusive. To revive the controversy was an error.
The accusations which are brought against a public man in his own age are rarely those echoed in after times. Posterity sees less or sees more. A few points stand forth in distinct rigidity; there is no idea of the countless accumulation, the collision of action, the web of human feeling, with which, in the day of their life, they were encompassed. Time changes much. The points of controversy seem clear; the assumed premises uncertain. The difficulty is to comprehend the difficulty.' Sir Robert Peel will have to answer to posterity, not for having passed Catholic emancipation when he did, but for having opposed it before; not for having
1 Memoirs, by the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart., M.P., &c. Published by the Trustees of his Papers, Lorl Mahon (now Lord Stanhope) and the Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, M.P. Part I, “The Roman Catholic Question,' 1923-9.
been precipitate, but for having been slow; not for having taken 'insufficient securities' for the Irish Protestant Church, but for having endeavoured to take security for an institution too unjust to be secured by laws or lawgivers.
This memoir has, however, a deeper aim. Its end is rather personal than national. It is designed to show, not that Sir Robert did what was externally expedient—this was probably too plain—but that he himself really believed what he did to be right. The scene is laid not in Ireland, not in the county of Clare, not amid the gross triumphs of O'Connell, or the outrageous bogs of Tipperary, but in the Home Office, among files of papers, among the most correctly-docketed memoranda, beside the minute which shows that Justice A. should be dismissed, that Malefactor 0. ought not to be reprieved. It is labelled
My Conscience, and is designed to show that my conscience' was sincere.
Seriously, and apart from jesting, this is no light matter. Not only does the great space which Sir Robert Peel occupied during many years in the history of the country entitle his character to the anxious attention of historical critics, but the very nature of that character itself, its traits, its deficiencies, its merits, are so congenial to the tendencies of our time and government, that to be unjust to him is to be unjust to all probable statesmen. We design to show concisely how this is.
A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities. The reason is obvious. When we speak of a free government, we mean a government in which the sovereign power is divided, in which a single decision is not absolute, where argument has an office. The essence of the gouvernement des avocats, as the Emperor Nicholas called it, is that you must persuade so many persons. The appeal is not to the solitary decision of a single statesman ; not to Richelieu or Nesselrode alone in his closet; but to the jangled mass of men, with a thousand pursuits, a thousand interests, a thousand various habits. Public opinion, as it is