Imágenes de páginas

composite character of the civilized races—the mingling in ourselves, for example, of Celt, Saxon, Norman, Dane, with sprinklings of other tribes; if we consider the complications of constitution that have arisen from the union of these, not in any uniform manner, but with utter irreg. ularity; and if we recollect that the incongruities thus produced pervade the whole nature, mental and bodilynervous tissue and other tissues; we shall see that there must exist in all of us an imperfect correspondence between parts of the organism that are really related; and that as one manifestation of this, there must be more or less of discrepancy between the features and those parts of the nervous system with which they have a physiological connection.

And if this be so, then the difficulties that stand in the way of the belief that beauty of character is related to beauty of face are considerably diminished. It becomes possible at once to admit that plainness may coexist with nobility of nature, and fine features with baseness; and yet to hold that mental and facial perfection are fundamentally connected, and will, when the present causes of incongruity have worked themselves out, be ever found united

[ocr errors][merged small]


HAKSPEARE'S simile for adversity

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head, might fitly be used also as a simile for a disagreeable truth. Repulsive as is its aspect, the hard fact which dissipates a cherished illusion, is presently found to contain the germ of a more salutary belief. The experience of every one furnishes instances in which an opinion long shrunk from as seemingly at variance with all that is good, but finally accepted as irresistible, turns out to be fraught with benefits. It is thus with self-knowledge: much as we dislike to admit our defects, we find it better to know and guard against, than to ignore them. It is thus with changes of creed: alarming as looks the reasoning by which superstitions are overthrown, the convictions to which it leads prove to be healthier ones than those they superseded. And it is thus with political enlightenment: men eventually see cause to thank those who pull to pieces their political air-castles; hateful as their antagonism once seemed. Moreover, not only is it always better to believe truth than error; but the repugnant-looking ficts are ever found to be parts of something far more perfect and beautiful than the ideal which they dispelled : the actuality always transcends the dream. To the many illustrations of this which might be cited, we shall presently add another.

It is a conviction almost universally entertained here in England, that our method of making and administering laws possesses every virtue. Prince Albert's unlucky saying that “Representative Government is on its trial,” is vehemently repudiated: we consider that the trial has long since ended in our favour on all the counts. Partly from ignorance, partly from the bias of education, partly from that patriotism which leads the men of each nation to pride themselves in their own institutions, we have an unhesitating belief in the entire superiority of our form of political organization. Yet there is evidence that it has not a few apparently serious defects. Unfriendly critics can point out vices that are manifestly inherent. And if we may believe the defenders of despotism, these vices are fatal to its efficiency.

Now instead of denying or blinking these allegations, it would be much wiser candidly to examine them—to inquire whether they are true; and if true, what they imply. If, as most of us are so confident, government by representatives is better than any other, we can afford patiently to listen to all adverse remarks: believing that they are either invalid, or that if valid they do not essentially tell against its merits. And we may be sure that if our political system is well founded, this crucial criticism will serve but to bring out its worth more clearly than ever; and to give us better conceptions of its nature, its meaning, its purpose. Let us, then, banishing for the nonce all prepossessions, and taking up a thoroughly antagonistic point of view, set down without mitigation its many vices, flaws, and absurdities.



Is it not manifest on the face of it, that a ruling body made up of many individuals, who differ in character, education, and aims, who belong to classes having more or less antagonistic ideas and feelings, and who are severally swayed by the special opinions of the districts deputing them-is it not manifest that such a body must be a cumbrous apparatus for the management of public affairs ? When we devise a machine to perform any operation, we take care that its parts are as few as possible; that they are adapted to their respective ends; that they are properly joined with one another; and that they work smoothly to their common purpose. Our political machine, however, is constructed upon directly opposite principles. Its parts are extremely numerous: multiplied, indeed, beyond all reason. They are not severally chosen as specially qualified for particular functions; but are mostly chosen without reference to particular functions. No care is taken that they shall fit well together : on the contrary, our arrangements are such that they are certain not to fit. And that, as a consequence, they do not and cannot act in harmony, is a fact nightly demonstrated to all the world. In truth, had the problem been to find an appliance for the slow and bungling transaction of business, it could scarcely have been better solved. Immense hindrance results from the mere multiplicity of parts; a further immense hindrance results from their incongruity; yet another immense hindrance results from the frequency with which they are changed; while the greatest hindrance of all results from the want of subordination of the parts to their functions—from the fact that the personal welfare of the legislator is not bound up with the efficient performance of his political duty, but is often totally at variance with the performance of his political duty.

These are defects of a kind that do not admit of remedy. They are inherent in the very nature of our institutions ; and they cannot fail to produce disastrous mismanagement. If proofs of this be needed, they may be furnished in abundance, both from the current history of our central representative government, and from that of local ones, public and private—from that of municipal corporations, boards of health, boards of guardians, mechanics' and literary institutions, and societies of all kinds: the universality of the evils showing that they are not accidental but intrinsic. Let us, before going on to contemplate these evils as displayed on a great scale in our legislature, glance at some of them in their simpler and smaller manifestations.

We will not dwell upon the comparative inefficiency of deputed administration in all mercantile affairs. The untrustworthiness of management by proxies, might be afresh illustrated by the many recent joint-stock-bank catastrophies: the recklessness and dishonesty of rulers whose interests are not one with those of the concern they control, being in these cases conspicuously displayed. Or we could enlarge on the same truth as exhibited in the doings of railway boards: instancing the frequent malversations proved against directors; the carelessness which has permitted Robson and Redpath frauds; the rashness perseveringly shown in making unprofitable branches and extensions. But facts of this kind are sufficiently familiar.

are convinced that for manufacturing and commercial ends, management by many partially-interested directors, is immensely inferior to management by a single wholly-interested owner.

Let us pass, then, to less notorious examples. Mechanics' institutions will supply our first. The theory of these is plausible enough. Artisans wanting knowledge, and benevolent middle-class people wishing to help them to it, constitute the raw material. By uniting their means they

All men

« AnteriorContinuar »