Page images

receive what he considered as a valuable equivalent, but which condition is afterwards totally abrogated by an ex post facto law, there is an end of all faith both in public and private transactions. No man can henceforth place his dependence on the faith of contracts; the lands must be occupied by yearly tenants, for no landlords, after so dreadful a lesson of legislative injustice, will resign his property for a fixed term to the chance of an uncertain value. There has already appeared a visible and general unwillingness to agree to new leases for long terms; and any suspicion of the possibility of interference with existing contracts will extend that unwillingness to make leases even for the shortest periods.'*

During the interval between the first and second readings, Lord Liverpool seems to have discovered that the government had been committed by its proceedings in the House of Commons, and that Lord Stanhope's bill was a necessary supplement to Mr Vansittart's resolutions. It is rarely that a Minister gives up consistency to truth or to policy; and Lord Liverpool was not a man from whom such a sacrifice was to be expected. He supported the bill, and it passed, and postponed for eight years longer the success of Lord King's efforts to give to the nation— which is more dependent than any other existing community on the use of money-a money of stable value.

The return to Cash Payments was the only one of the three great reforms, already mentioned as Lord King's favourite measures, of which he lived to see the success. The other two,

the Commutation of Tithes and a Free Trade in Corn, have been discussed in this Journal, with a frequency which would make it altogether superfluous to resume the consideration of them here. It is possible, though we hope not probable, that some attempt to disturb the present settlement may force us to consider one or both of them again. But unless a desperate faction should reanimate them, we shall leave the bones of our enemies undisturbed. We have dwelt on Lord King's services in the Currency Question, partly because the time at which they were perfomed is now so distant that many of our readers may have forgotten them, while some perhaps never knew them; partly because there are some appearances connected with the period of the restriction, which, admirably as the history of that period has been written by Mr Tooke, seemed to us still to deserve explanation; but principally, because this was the subject on which Lord King was pre-eminent both as a political philosopher and as a statesman. He laboured to release the producer of food from

* P. 231, et seq.

Tithe, and the consumer from Monopoly, with the same vigour and the same earnestness with which he had de voted himself to the restoration of the Currency; and it ought not to be forgotten, that this zealous impugner of the Corn Laws was himself a great landed proprietor, and that his Speeches, even in the meagre abstracts of them that have been preserved, disclose a familiar acquaintance with all those fundamental principles of commercial legislation that have been lately enforced, with such triumphant success, by the advocates of freedom. These great subjects, however, all-important as they were, afforded less room than that respecting the Currency for the exercise of his remarkable powers of analytical and inductive investigation. The part which he acted in regard to them, furnishes unquestionable proofs of his sagacity and his patriotism; but it is only by his Thoughts on the effects of the Bank restrictions,' that he has secured for himself a high and enduring place among the original thinkers in Political Science.

ART. III.-A History of Greece.-I. Legendary Greece.-II. Grecian History to the Reign of Peisistratus at Athens. By GEORGE GROTE, Esq. Two vols. 8vo. London : 1846.


HE interest of Grecian history is unexhausted and inexhaustible. As a mere story, hardly any other portion of authentic history can compete with it. Its characters, its situations, the very march of its incidents, are Epic. It is a heroic poem, of which the personages are peoples. It is also, of all histories of which we know so much, the most abounding in consequences to us who now live. The true ancestors of the European nations (it has been well said) are not those from whose blood they are sprung, but those from whom they derive the richest portion of their inheritance. The battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the battle of Hastings. If the issue of that day had been different, the Britons and the Saxons might still have been wandering in the woods.

The Greeks are also the most remarkable people who have yet existed. Not, indeed, if by this be meant those who have approached nearest (if such an expression may be used where all are at so immeasurable a distance) to the perfection of social arrangements or of human character. Their institutions, their way of life, even that which is their greatest distinction, the cast

of their sentiments and development of their faculties, were radically inferior to the best (we wish it could be said to the collective) products of modern civilization. It is not the results

achieved, but the powers and efforts required to make the achievement, that measure their greatness as a people. They were the beginners of nearly every thing, Christianity excepted, of which the modern world makes its boast. If in several things they were but few removes from barbarism, they alone among nations, so far as is known to us, emerged from barbarism by their own efforts, not following in the track of any more advanced people. If with them, as in all antiquity, slavery existed as an institution, they were not the less the originators of political freedom, and the grand exemplars and sources of it to modern Europe. If their discords, jealousies, and wars between city and city, caused the ruin of their national independence, yet the arts of war and government evolved in those intestine contests made them the first who united great empires under civilized rule-the first who broke down those barriers of petty nationality, which had been so fatal to themselves---and by making Greek ideas and language common to large regions of the earth, commenced that general fusion of races and nations, which, followed up by the Romans, prepared the way for the cosmopolitism of modern times.

They were the first people who had a historical literature; as perfect of its kind (though not the highest kind) as their oratory, their poetry, their sculpture, and their architecture. They were the founders of mathematics; of physics; of the inductive study of politics, so early exemplified in Aristotle; of the philosophy of human nature and life. In each they made the indispensable first steps, which are the foundation of all the rest-steps such as could only have been made by minds intrinsically capable of every thing which has since been accomplished. With a religious creed eminently unfavourable to speculation, because affording a ready supernatural solution of all natural phenomena, they yet originated freedom of thought. They, the first, questioned nature and the universe by their rational faculties, and brought forth answers not suggested by any established system of priesteraft; and their free and bold spirit of speculation it was, which, surviving in its results, broke the yoke of another enthralling system of popular religion, sixteen hundred years after they had ceased to exist as a people. These things were effected in two centuries of national existence-twenty and upwards have since elapsed, and it is sad to think how little comparatively has been accomplished.

To give a faithful and living portraiture of such a people-to

show what they were and did, and as much as possible of the means by which they did it-by what causes so meteor-like a manifestation of human nature was produced or aided, and by what faults or necessities it was arrested; to deduce from the qualities which the Greeks displayed collectively or individually, and from the modes in which those qualities were unconsciously generated or intentionally cultivated, the appropriate lessons for the guidance of our own world is an enterprise never yet attempted systematically, nor attempted successfully at all. Such is the declared object of the work of which the first two volumes lie before us. First, to embody in his own mind, and next to 'lay out before his readers, the general picture of the Grecian 'world,' is Mr Grote's description of his task. The historian,' he says, will especially study to exhibit the spontaneous movement of Grecian intellect, sometimes aided but never borrowed "from without, and lighting up a small portion of a world other'wise clouded and stationary; and to set forth the action of that 'social system, which, while ensuring to the mass of freemen a 'degree of protection elsewhere unknown, acted as a stimulus to the creative impulses of genius, and left the inferior minds suf'ficiently unshackled to soar above religious and political routine, 'to overshoot their own age, and to become the teachers of posterity.'

[ocr errors]



In this undertaking there is work for a succession of thinkers; nor will it be brought to completeness by any one historian or philosopher. But the qualifications of Mr Grote, and the contents of these two volumes, give assurance that he will be remembered not only as the first who has seriously undertaken the work, but as one who will have made great steps towards accomplishing it. In ascribing to him the first attempt at a philosophical history of Greece, we mean no disparagement to the very valuable labours of his predecessor and friend, Bishop Thirlwall. That distinguished scholar has done much for the facts of Grecian history. Before him, no one had applied to those facts, considered as a whole, the most ordinary canons of historical credibility. The only modern historian of Greece who attempted or even affected criticism on evidence, Mr Mitford, made almost no other use of it than to find reasons for rejecting all statements. discreditable to any despot or usurper. Dr Thirlwall has effectually destroyed Mitford as an historical authority; by substituting (though so unostentatiously as to give no sufficient idea. of the service rendered) a candid and impartial narrative, for

* Preface, pp. vii. viii,

the most prejudiced misrepresentation by which party passion has been known to pervert the history of a distant time and a foreign people. But Dr Thirlwall's, though highly and justly esteemed as a Critical, does not attempt to be a Philosophical history; nor was such an attempt to be expected from its original purpose. And though, in its progress, it has far outgrown in bulk, and still more in amplitude of scope and permanent value, its primitive design,* the plan has not been fundamentally altered; and the most important part of Mr Grote's undertaking has not been, in any respect, forestalled by it.

The portion which Mr Grote has completed, and which is now published, appears at some disadvantage, from its not including even the beginning of the part of Grecian history which is of chief interest either to the common or to the philosophical reader. Mr Grote, in his preface, laments that the religious and poetical attributes of the Greek mind appear thus far in disproportionate relief, as compared with its powers of acting, organizing, judging, and speculating.† He might have added, that the religion and

*Its first appearance was as a contribution to The Cabinet Cyclopædia; and it is now passing through the Press in the form of eight handsome octavo volumes.

† Mr Grote gives to the first two of these contrasted attributes the epithet of feminine,' and to the four latter that of masculine.' We regret that he should have unguardedly countenanced a commonplace notion which we do not believe that he would intentionally recommend, on a subject on which just opinions are extremely important; and we reply to him in the words of the Rev. Sydney Smith, originally printed in this Journal :

A great deal has been said of the original difference of capacity between men and women, as if women were more quick, and men more judicious-as if women were more remarkable for delicacy of association, and men for stronger powers of attention. All this, we confess, appears to us very fanciful. That there is a difference in the understandings of the men and the women we every day meet with, every body, we suppose, must perceive; but there is none surely which may not be accounted for by the difference of circumstances in which they have been placed, without referring to any conjectural difference of original conformation of mind. As long as boys and girls run about in the dirt, and trundle hoops together, they are both precisely alike. If you catch up one-half of these creatures, and train them to a particular set of actions and opinions, and the other half to a perfectly opposite set, of course their understandings will differ, as one or the other sort of occupations has called this or that talent into action. There is surely no occasion to go into any deeper or more abstruse reasoning, in order to explain so very simple a phenomenon.'

« PreviousContinue »