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- Lectures and Essays - 6/67 -

Orange. Even so, it might have gone hard with them if James's soldiers, and above all Churchill, had been true to their paymaster. Navies are not political; they do not overthrow constitutions; and in the time of Charles I. it appears that the leading seamen were Protestant, inclined to the side of the Parliament. Perhaps Protestantism had been rendered fashionable in the navy by the naval wars with Spain.

A third consequence of insular position, especially in early times, is isolation. An extreme case of isolation is presented by Egypt, which is in fact a great island in the desert. The extraordinary fertility of the valley of the Nile produced an early development, which was afterwards arrested by its isolation, the isolation being probably intensified by the jealous exclusiveness of a powerful priesthood which discouraged maritime pursuits. The isolation of England, though comparatively slight, has still been an important factor in her history. She underwent less than the Continental provinces the influence of Roman Conquest. Scotland and Ireland escaped it altogether, for the tide of invasion, having flowed to the foot of the Grampians, soon ebbed to the line between the Solway and the Tyne. Britain has no monuments of Roman power and civilization like those which have been left in Gaul and Spain, and of the British Christianity of the Roman period hardly a trace, monumental or historical, remains. By the Saxon conquest England was entirely severed for a time from the European system. The missionary of ecclesiastical Rome recovered what the legionary had lost. Of the main elements of English character political and general, five were brought together when Ethelbert and Augustine met on the coast of Kent. The king represented Teutonism; the missionary represented Judaism, Christianity, imperial and ecclesiastical Rome. We mention Judaism as a separate element, because, among other things, the image of the Hebrew monarchy has certainly entered largely into the political conceptions of Englishmen, perhaps at least as largely as the image of Imperial Rome. A sixth element, classical Republicanism, came in with the Reformation, while the political and social influence of science is only just beginning to be felt. Still, after the conversion of England by Augustine, the Church, which was the main organ of civilization, and almost identical with it in the early Middle Ages, remained national; and to make it thoroughly Roman and Papal, in other words to assimilate it completely to the Church of the Continent, was the object of Hildebrand in promoting the enterprise of William. Roman and Papal the English Church was made, yet not so thoroughly so as completely to destroy its insular and Teutonic character. The Archbishop of Canterbury was still _Papa alterius orbis_; and the struggle for national independence of the Papacy commenced in England long before the struggle for doctrinal reform. The Reformation broke up the confederated Christendom of the Middle Ages, and England was then thrown back into an isolation very marked, though tempered by her sympathy with the Protestant party on the Continent. In later times the growth of European interests, of commerce, of international law, of international intercourse, of the community of intellect and science, has been gradually building again, on a sounder foundation than that of the Latin Church, the federation of Europe, or rather the federation of mankind. The political sympathy of England with Continental nations, especially with France, has been increasing of late in a very marked manner, the French Revolution of 1830 told at once upon the fortunes of English Reform, and the victory of the Republic over the reactionary attempt of May was profoundly felt by both parties in England. Placed too close to the Continent not to be essentially a part of the European system, England has yet been a peculiar and semi-independent part of it. In European progress she has often acted as a balancing and moderating power. She has been the asylum of vanquished ideas and parties. In the seventeenth century, when absolutism and the Catholic reaction prevailed on the Continent, she was the chief refuge of Protestantism and political liberty. When the French Revolution swept Europe, she threw herself into the anti-revolutionary scale. The tricolor has gone nearly round the world, at least nearly round Europe; but on the flag of England still remains the religious symbol of the era before the Revolution.

The insular arrogance of the English character is a commonplace joke. It finds, perhaps, its strongest expression in the saying of Milton that the manner of God is to reveal things first to His Englishmen. It has made Englishmen odious even to those who, like the Spaniards, have received liberation or protection from English hands. It stimulated the desperate desire to see France rid of the "Goddams" which inspired Joan of Arc. For an imperial people it is a very unlucky peculiarity, since it precludes not only fusion but sympathy and almost intercourse with the subject races. The kind heart of Lord Elgin, when he was Governor- General of India, was shocked by the absolute want of sympathy or bond of any kind, except love of conquest, between the Anglo-Indian and the native, and the gulf apparently, instead of being filled up, now yawns wider than ever.

It is needless to dwell on anything so obvious as the effect of an insular position in giving birth to commerce and developing the corresponding elements of political character. The British Islands are singularly well placed for trade with both hemispheres; in them, more than in any other point, may be placed the commercial centre of the world. It may be said that the nation looked out unconsciously from its cradle to an immense heritage beyond the Atlantic. France and Spain looked the same way, and became competitors with England for ascendancy in the New World, but England was more maritime, and the most maritime was sure to prevail. Canada was conquered by the British fleet. To the commerce and the maritime enterprise of former days, which were mainly the results of geographical position, has been added within the last century the vast development of manufactures produced by coal and steam, the parents of manufactures, as well as the expansion of the iron trade in close connection with manufactures. Nothing can be more marked than the effect of industry on political character in the case of England. From being the chief seat of reaction, the North has been converted by manufactures into the chief seat of progress. The Wars of the Roses were not a struggle of political principle; hardly even a dynastic struggle; they had their origin partly in a patriotic antagonism to the foreign queen and to her foreign councils; but they were in the main a vast faction-fight between two sections of an armed and turbulent nobility turned into buccaneers by the French wars, and, like their compeers all over Europe, bereft, by the decay of Catholicism, of the religious restraints with which their morality was bound up. Yet the Lancastrian party, or rather the party of Margaret of Anjou and her favourites, was the more reactionary, and it had the centre of its strength in the North, whence Margaret drew the plundering and devastating host which gained for her the second battle of St. Albans and paid the penalty of its ravages in the merciless slaughter of Towton. The North had been kept back in the race of progress by agricultural inferiority, by the absence of commerce with the Continent, and by border wars with Scotland. In the South was the seat of prosperous industry, wealth, and comparative civilization, and the banners of the Southern cities were in the armies of the House of York. The South accepted the Reformation, while the North was the scene of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Coming down to the Civil War in the time of Charles I., we find the Parliament strong in the South and East, where are still the centres of commerce and manufactures, even the iron trade, which has its smelting works in Sussex. In the North the feudal tie between landlord and tenant, and the sentiment of the past, preserve much of their force, and the great power in those parts is the Marquis of Newcastle, at once great territorial lord of the Middle Ages and elegant _grand seigneur_ of the Renaissance, who brings into the field a famous regiment of his own retainers. In certain towns, such as Bradford and Manchester, there are germs of manufacturing industry, and these form the sinews of the Parliamentarian party in the district which is headed by the Fairfaxes. But in the Reform movement which extended through the first half of the present century, the geographical position of parties was reversed; the swarming cities of the North were then the great centres of Liberalism and the motive power of Reform; while the South, having by this time fallen into the hands of great landed proprietors, was Conservative. The stimulating effect of populous centres on opinion is a very familiar fact; even in the rural districts it is noticed by canvassers at elections that men who work in gangs are generally more inclined to the Liberal side than those who work separately.

In England, however, the agricultural element always has been and remains a full counterpoise to the manufacturing and commercial element. Agricultural England is not what Pericles called Attica, a mere suburban garden, the embellishment of a queenly city. It is a substantive interest and a political power. In the time of Charles I. it happened that, owing to the great quantity of land thrown into the market in consequence of the confiscation of the monastic estates, which had slipped through the fingers of the spendthrift courtiers to whom they were at first granted, small freeholders were very numerous in the South, and these men like the middle class in the towns, being strong Protestants, went with the Parliament against the Laudian reaction in religion. But land in the hands of great proprietors is Conservative, especially when it is held under entails and connected with hereditary nobility; and into the hands of great proprietors the land of England has now entirely passed. The last remnant of the old yeomen freeholders departed in the Cumberland Statesmen, and the yeoman freeholder in England is now about as rare as the other. Commerce has itself assisted the process by giving birth to great fortunes, the owners of which are led by social ambition to buy landed estates, because to land the odour of feudal superiority still clings, and it is almost the necessary qualification for a title. The land has also actually absorbed a large portion of the wealth produced by manufactures, and by the general development of industry; the estates of Northern landowners especially have enormously increased in value, through the increase of population, not to mention the not inconsiderable appropriation of commercial wealth by marriage. Thus the Conservative element retains its predominance, and it even seems as though the land of Milton, Vane, Cromwell, and the Reformers of 1832, might after all become, politically as well as territorially, the domain of a vast aristocracy of landowners, and the most reactionary instead of the most progressive country in Europe.

Before the repeal of the Corn Laws there was a strong antagonism of interest between the landowning aristocracy and the manufacturers of the North, but that antagonism is now at an end; the sympathy of wealth has taken its place; the old aristocracy has veiled its social pride and learned to conciliate the new men, who on their part are more than willing to enter the privileged circle. This junction is at present the great fact of English politics, and was the main cause of the overthrow of the Liberal Government in 1874. The growth of the great cities itself seems likely, as the number of poor householders increases, to furnish Reaction with auxiliaries in the shape of political Lazzaroni capable of being organized by wealth in opposition to the higher order of workmen and the middle class. In Harrington's "Oceana," there is much nonsense, but it rises at least to the level of Montesquieu in tracing the intimate connection of political power, even under elective institutions, with wealth in land.

Hitherto, the result of the balance between the landowning and commercial elements has been steadiness of political progress, in contrast on the one hand to the commercial republics of Italy, whose political progress was precocious and rapid but shortlived, and on the other hand to great feudal kingdoms where commerce was comparatively weak. England, as yet, has taken but few steps backwards. It remains to be seen what the future may bring under the changed conditions which we have just described. English commerce, moreover, may have passed its acme. Her insular position gave Great Britain during the Napoleonic wars, with immunity from invasion, a monopoly of manufactures and of the carrying trade. This element of her commercial supremacy is transitory, though others, such as the possession of coal, are not.

Let us now consider the effects of the division between the two islands

Lectures and Essays - 6/67

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