« PreviousContinue »
- to its own ruin, and when the govern- “ league to merit public gratitude. “ ment, supported by the mass of the “Cicero, on his part, mistook for a true “ people, becomes the organ of its in “ expression of opinion the clamours of “ terests and hopes."
“ a desperate faction. He was, moreGranted, then, this faith, that Cæsar "over, one of those who find that all ruled, or aspired to rule, by the right “goes well when they are themselves of popular choice—that, in fact, if not " in power, and that everything is enin name, he too was the “elect of " dangered when they are out.” And millions”—the apparent unfairness of the regret which Cæsar is represented many of the judgments passed by the to have felt, because he could not win Imperial chronicler is explained away. to himself the support of a “faction Even in a historical point of view, these which had at its head such illustrious judgments seem to me worth considering. names," has clearly been shared full Our knowledge of the life and times many a time by the creator of the of Cæsar comes to us chiefly through Second Empire, when he too found sources tinged with partizan sympathy himself constrained “to have dealings for the order of things which he over- “with those whose antecedents seemed threw. Long after the bitterness of "to devote them to contempt," and could the revolution had passed away, down only console himself for the employment perhaps to our own times, the memory of the St. Arnauds, and Fleurys, and of the great republic stood between De Mornys, by the reflection that “the Cæsar and the fulness of his fame. best architect can build only with the The traditions of an aristocracy are materials under his hand." always grand; and, while the recollec- Indeed, the occasional glimpses of a tion of its collective selfishness and sort of self-retrospect are to me among the oppression perishes with its existence, most curious features of this remarkable the memory of the high deeds which book. Every now and then the Emperor its individual members wrought sur- appears for a moment to drop the vindivives! for ages. Thus, the conclusion cation of his hero, or of the Napoleons that the party of Cicero and Cato was beneath the name of Cæsar, and to that of liberty and right and justice speculate philosophically on his own has been rather assumed as an axiom position and on the judgment that manthan demonstrated as a fact.
kind will pass on him. Balaam has set But, be the historical value of the himself to sound the praises of Balak; Emperor's criticism what it may, it is and yet, ever and anon, he utters pereasy to see that the men of his own force a blessing upon Israel.“ Absolute time—the Guizots, and Thiers, and La- “ power, whether it belongs to one man martines, and Cavaignacs-were in the " or to a class of individuals, finishes mind of the historian when he wrote of “ always by being equally dangerous to Cato, and Cicero, and Brutus. It is not “ him who exercises it”-an odd exso much against Bibulus, as against the pression, surely, in the mouth of the doctrinaires of the Orleanist school, that self-erected autocrat. Could insight the following words were written :- into the time to come have given utter
“ It is sad to see the accomplishment ance to the reflection that “ excesses in “ of great things often thwarted by the “ power always give birth to an im“ little passions of short-sighted men, « moderate desire for liberty”? or does " who only know the world in the small some dark memory of the days of “ circle to which their life is confined. December inspire the remark, when the “ By seconding Cæsar Bibulus might writer is dwelling on the excesses of “ have obtained an honourable reputa- Clodius, as the agent of Cæsar's will, “ tion. He preferred being the hero of " that such instruments, when em“ a coterie, and sought to obtain the “ployed, are two-edged swords, which “ interested applause of a few selfish “even the most skilful hands find it “senators, rather than with his col- “ difficult to direct”? If space would
allow me, I could pick out many more to prove, at any rate in this volume, of these passages, where the thought of nor—for that matter, in the “ Idées the writer's own fortunes appears to Napoleoniennes ”--that an autocracy is replace the recollection of the subject- the best abstract form of government, matter on which he is employed. One or the ideal after which nations should passage only I must quote as a strange strive. If I appreciate rightly the defence of that Villa Franca treaty, theory of the author, it is that there which is, perhaps, the most contested is no such thing in the world as a point in the career of Napoleon III. single form of polity that is best at all After describing the exultation of the times and for all nations. That governGreeks at the Roman attempt to restore ment is the best for each people which freedom to Hellas, the author proceeds: corresponds most closely to the genius “There was, however, a shadow on this of the nation, which carries out most “ picture. All Peloponnesus was not thoroughly the aspirations of the people, “ freed ; and Flaminius, after having and which secures most effectually the “ taken several of his possessions from reign of law, and order, and security. “ Nabis, king of Sparta, had concluded Now, according to the Napoleonic view “ peace with him without continuing of history, the constitutional institutions “ the siege of Lacedæmon, of which he of Rome-to apply a modern term to an “ dreaded the length. He feared also old fact—had become inadequate to “ the arrival of a more dangerous enemy, satisfy the desired conditions of govern“ Antiochus III. who had already ment. Peace was not preserved withiu “ reached Thrace, and threatened to go the State, law was not enforced, order “over into Greece with a considerable was not established. Italy required a “ army. For this the allied Greeks, single ruler, uncontrolled by Senate and “ occupied only with their own interests, consuls, in order to form her into one " reproached the Roman consul with homogeneous whole, in order to extend “ having concluded peace too hastily." the "Nomen Latinum-that is, the
Something of the same sort of desire "language, manners, and whole civilizato rehabilitate his own past influences, « tion of that race of which Rome was I think, the quasi-apology offered for “but the first representative.” The deCatiline. Between the unsuccessful mocratic tendency of the age, developed conspirator of Rome and the successful by the spread of Greek literature and conspirator of Paris there are not wanting philosophy, was thwarted and paralysed some features of resemblance ; and the by the rigid constraints of the Roman reflection, that whatever may have been constitution. The world, in fact, was Catiline's vices and crimes against the “out o' joint," and Cæsar, like Hamlet, State, he could not have won over sowas born to set it right; only, unlike many adherents or raised such enthu. the Prince of Denmark, he welcomed siasm throughout Italy, unless he had the task allotted to him. Whether been the champion of a grand and Cæsar was or was not actuated by amgenerous idea, is a statement due in all bitious motives, is an entirely secondary likelihood to other considerations than consideration. “Who doubts his am. a mere wish to do justice to an over- “bition? The important point to know abused character in history.
"is, whether it was legitimate or not, But the real defence of Cæsar, as the "and if it were to be exercised for the representative of Imperialism, is not "salvation or the ruin of the Roman based upon any personal considerations. “world.” Answer these interrogatives It is rested on the broad and intelligible in the affirmative, and then, in the ground, that the overthrow of the Re- opinion of his Imperial biographer, you public, and the concentration of the must recognise Cæsar as one of those powers of government within one hand, men whom “Providence raises up to were, at the time, the best thing for Rome “stamp a new era with the seal of thes and Italy. No attempt whatever is made “genius.”
Now, in discussing the justice of view, nobody doubts) would prove also that it we have before us two questions resting is the greatest of all evils—would show, on entirely different considerations, and with reference to the particular case in which yet are very apt to be confused. dispute, that the form of government Whether Cæsar's accession to power was inaugurated by Cæsar was not an ima benefit to the world is a totally distinct provement upon the order of things question from the question whether he which preceded it. After all, the achieved power by rightful and honour. Empire secured to Italy centuries of able means. Cæsarism may have tended internal peace, and of external greatto the good of mankind, and yet Cæsar's ness. It produced a degree of civilizacharacter may be tarnished for ever by tion, of progress, and material developthe method he adopted to consummate ment, such as the world had never his greatness. The latter issue is one witnessed before ; and, above all, it rather for his contemporaries than for gave to the bulk of its subjects an succeeding generations; the former is amount of happiness and security and one for all time. Happily for the world, order which was only reserved for a the influence of a man's private character few beneath the rule of the republic. extends far less widely, and operates for a I am not saying that these blessings far shorter period, than his public action were due to the Empire—I am only Brutus may have been right in consider asserting it must be shown they are not ing that Cæsar merited a traitor's death, due before we can fairly join in the cry and yet Cæsar may, through his rule, that Imperialism is an evil unredeemed have been a benefactor to his country by any compensating advantages. and his kind. According to the Na. Gibbon was certainly not an apologist poleonic faith, the justice of Cæsar's of despotism; and yet he avers that, sway depends, not on the personal quali- " If a man were called to fix a period ties of the man, but on the exigencies of " in the history of the world, during the period in which his lot was thrown. " which the condition of the human This faith has little resemblance to “race was most happy and prosperous, the harsh and unphilosophical doc- “ he would without hesitation name trine, if any one holds such a doctrine, " that which elapsed from the death of that the strong man has a right to “ Domitian to the accession of Comrules imply because he is stronger than “ modus.” And it is certain that, for cenhis neighbours—a doctrine justifying turies after the Empire had passed away, every description of tyranny which the its memory was still fondly cherished world has known. All that the Empe- as the great protecting power of law and ror endeavours to prove is that there are security and order, and that the dream certain conjunctions in the world's history of its possible revival was entertained when, in the interests of mankind, power by the most brilliant intellects of a far must be intrusted to a single hand, and later age when the principle of indi. that, when such a conjunction arises, the vidual freedom was again asserting its man who monopolizes power is a bene- supremacy. The evidence of history factor, not a malefactor. The doctrine seems to show that the cruelties of the is no doubt liable to fearful perversion. wicked Emperors did not affect the It is easy for any usurper to say that, masses to any great extent. The famous because he is able to become an autocrat, words therefore the tendency of events de- "Sed periit postquam cerdonibus esse timendus mands an autocracy. But the fact that Cæperat.Hoc nocuit, Lamiarum cæde the doctrine is dangerous if perverted does not prove that it is never true. imply clearly enough the limits within What one wishes is that the critics of the which the democratic sway of the Napoleonic theory, instead of contenting autocrat could be safely exercised. themselves with the assertion that Im- To hold such a faith as I conceive is perialism is always an evil (a fact which shadowed forth in this Imperial life of
Cæsar, need not involve disloyalty to the and that his success was nothing but principles of free government. The only the triumph of rascality, and intrigue, heresy likely to be held, if it be an and low cunning. We have denied him heresy, is whether there is any virtue in even that one quality of physical courage the forms of constitutional institutions which one would have thought beforewhen once they have ceased to secure hand was indispensable for a man who, that security and order whose mainte- single-handed, has raised himself to the nance is the object of all government height of power. And, thus, his chawhatever. Few people, I think, would racter has been throughout an impeneassert that the South American Retrable mystery to us. Refusing to judge publics derive any real advantage from of him as we judge of other men-by the circumstance of their having the his works, we have been perpetualy theories of ministerial responsibility and torturing ourselves to discover some of parliamentary taxation enrolled non-natural explanation for acts peramongst the principles of their political fectly intelligible on the hypothesis institutions. The real defect of an that their author was a man not devoid autocracy is, that it is of its nature of high inspirations, or of an unselfish transitory, and therefore cannot secure desire to fulfil what he, rightly or permanent order ; but, in a transition wrongly, believes to be his mission. I period, it may well be a less evil to a have no desire to see success worshipped, country than the perpetuation of a system as success; but the cause of success of constant revolution and factious always seems to me deserving of invesdisturbance.
tigation. It would be idle to deny that these It is said the only criticism passed reflections, if they have any value at all, by Napoleon III. on Mr. Kinglako's suggest the possibility of a similar de- book was “ C'est un livre ignoble.” Yet fence for the system of government it is hard to doubt that the recollection which the eulogist of Cæsar has esta of that bitter personal attack was preblished in France. The parallel may sent to his mind when he speaks of not hold good between the Cæsars and the scant measure of justice that Cæsar the Napoleons; and many years, if not received from the chroniclers of his generations, must pass away before the history. For a moment the cold imworld can judge whether the work of passive dignity of the style rises to the Second Empire has been evil or something like passion, as the author good. My only feeling in putting forward comments on those historians who asthese considerations is a hope that insumed that “all Cæsar's actions have a some small way they may tend to “ secret motive which they boast of suggest the necessity of adopting a more “having discerned after the event," and philosophic tone in criticising the rule speaks of the “strange inconsistency” of of the greatest of living sovereigns. those who impute“ to great men at the Surely we have had railing enough. “same time mean motives and superFor well-nigh fifteen years we have “ human forethought." But this tone gone on ridiculing, abusing, and attack of retort is soon dropped in order to ing the Second Empire. If fine writing, resume the wonted style of grave reand eloquent declamation, and burn- flection. The concluding words of the ing invective could have killed a man, book we quote in French, as the Engthe object of our abuse would have lish translation fails to convey their perished long ago. Yet, somehow, he purport :has lived down the storm of words. It “Ne cherchons pas sans cesse de has been with us a foregone conclusion; « petites passions dans de grands âmes. that every word he spoke was dishonest, « Le succès des hommes supérieurs, et that every act he did was done from “ c'est une pensée consolante, tient some base motive, that every virtue he “plutot à l'élévation de leurs sentiseemed to possess was in reality a vice; “ments qu'aux spéculations de Tego
“ ïsme et de la ruse ; ce succès dépend “ bien plus de leur habileté a profiter “ des circonstances que de cette pré" somption assez aveugle pour se croire “ capable de faire naître les événements " qui sont dans la main de Dieu seul,”
If this counsel were followed, if we could bring ourselves to hold the consoling faith that the success of great men is due not so much to petty passions, to sordid and selfish cunning, as to some moral elevation of mind, we should possibly understand more thoroughly than, as a nation, we ever yet have done the true secret of the success of the Napoleons.
It may be urged that any such impartial estimate of Imperialism is tantamount to an approval of those acts of
iolence which initiated the Empire, and of those arbitrary measures which have followed its establishment, and which still are maintained in operation. The argument is more ingenious than sound. It is not the purpose of those whose opinions I share to defend in any way the institutions of the French empire. Their merit or demerit is, in my judg
ment, a matter to be left entirely to the decision of the French people. My plea amounts solely to this, that there are epochs when democratic Imperialism suits a nation better than aristocratic or bureaucratic constitutionalism, and that the success which has attended the second empire is some prima facie evidence that such an epoch had arrived in France in the days when the sometime prisoner of Ham first began to attract the notice of men. If this plea be sound, it is childish to content ourselves with idle invectives against the “Coup d'État," or to consider that we have settled the whole question of the Napoleonic rule when we have stigmatized it with the name of Imperialism. It is possible that the experience of future years may confirm the truth of our popular distrust in the stability of the empire. But as long as the “ Life of Cæsar" survives it will remain as a testimony that its authorbe his faults or vices what they maywas not a man of low ambitions and vulgar ends. That justice, at least, must be done in future to the Third Napoleon.
SONG OF THE VOLUNTEERS.
ENGLAND, as of old, girdled round by ocean-foam,
Comrades can they trust us ever to be ?
When the “ line of red” springs up, at alarum of the drum,
Side by side, side by side, ever to be ?
Let us come, forming fast, to aid our brothers there,
For our Queen and our Country ever to be";