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to say, which his philosophy has, not merely as a stage in the discovery of truth, but as the reflection in the world of abstractions of a great and critical period of human history. •Il faut réfléchir,' says Montesquieu, sur la Politique d'Aristote et sur les deux Républiques de Platon, si l'on veut avoir une juste idée des lois et des mæurs des anciens Grecs. And the peculiar vividness and sympathy with Greek life which distinguishes the work of the latest historian of Greece (Dr. Ernst Curtius) is due in great measure to the appreciative study of these ideals.
In many ways, too, the lessons are of universal application. The Platonic formulas are broad aspects, presented to the distant view of the philosopher, of relations which belong to all known periods, as well as of those which especially characterised the Greece of Plato's own time. The fundamental contrast so constantly dwelt upon between 'reality' and 'appearance' is an expression of the struggle carried on at all times by the progressive element of true ideas against the vast slough of common opinion which ever threatens to engulf the better thoughts and strivings of men. The power which this opinion has of becoming embodied in sham ideas or generalisations of its own, and of raising up its own prophets with their cheap wisdom; the contest between popularity and higher things, fought out in the minds of those to whom the capacity has been given of directing the course of human affairs; the causes by which the possible statesman or teacher is perverted into the demagogue or the solitary enthusiast; the hopes of a new order of things by the reception, among men at large, of ideas which are to be first worked out by great thinkers :—these are the materials of which Plato has formed the warp and woof of his philosophy; and they are still full of meaning. In other respects, the attitude and tendencies of Plato must be judged with more exclusive reference to contemporary politics, and we may have to admit that he himself needs the help of some of the pleas which he urges, in the Republic, on behalf of his order. He was not only opposed to the popular government and the wide political toleration which prevailed at Athens, but he hardly recognises the merit even of statesmen who, like Pericles, certainly did not err by too great submission to the fancies of the multitude. He would have trusted rather to a strict and all-embracing discipline, administered by a small number of rulers, such as that which had powerfully impressed the Greek imagination through the great part in history played by Sparta. The same bias prevailed widely among speculative politicians, and perhaps was justified by the unhappy circumstances of the time. In an age of unsettlement and fierce passion, when the Greek States were tossing about and like ships foundering at sea,' it was natural to look upon all movement either as the fitful ebb and flow of unreasoning impulses or as part of a ceaseless and inevitable change for the worse. It is characteristic, too, of those who have dwelt too exclusively upon the abstract notions of science to be absolutist,' confident in the value of their ideal, and impatient of the limitations of practice. The doctrine of development or progress has taught the world two great lessons -not indeed of knowledge, but of Socratic wisdom in ignorance : faith in the future, and toleration of the present. We have learned to hope, though we cannot demonstrate, that we live in a world which grows better, as Plato would say, “under the hands of time,' through the ceaseless working of infinite and silent agencies. Such a reflection should not lead to a spirit of fatalism, but rather to the feeling that, in judging of the efforts and tendencies around us, we should tolerate where we cannot dogmatise. We may learn from what Plato bas done, and from what he hoped to do, that the genuine pursuit of truth may be most fruitful in the direction least suspected by the inquirer himself, and that the errors which he condemns and would wish to destroy may contain the germs of still greater but more distant truth.
ART. VIII.-1. Battle of Dorking. London, 1871.
meeting of Parliament with feelings of greater anxiety than in former times. The happy confidence which a Session of even tenour and a temperate administration of public affairs, such as on the whole, it must be admitted, was inspired by Lord Palmerston, exists no longer. Those halcyon days of public calm and substantial progress have been succeeded by cyclones of political violence which strain to the utmost the strength of the Constitution. But never within the memory of this generation did the British Parliament meet under more serious and sobering conditions than in February, 1871 ; and never also, it may be added, were those conditions more favourable in a party and personal point of view to a Government in which patriotism and good sense might be assumed active principles of conduct. The Ministry were entering upon their third session ; they had the prestige of past success; they had secured the consent of Parliament to the policy which, rightly or wrongly, they had pledged themselves to carry; and they had so annulled the
ascendency of the Protestant Church, so modified the land tenure in Ireland, that by the confession of the Prime Minister himself, it was now well that legislation on Irish subjects should cease. On the other hand, they had the opportunity of gathering in a very harvest of internal and social reforms, in which national happiness and well-being are far more deeply concerned than in the conventional controversies which have lost the salt and savour of reality and debated without faith or enthusiasm, are becoming the stock-in-trade of professional politicians. A comprehensive settlement of the merchant-shipping, of the licensing, and of the sanitary laws, though incapable of conferring party triumphs, might alone have redeemed a failing Government and have given honour to an otherwise barren session. The expediency of avoiding sensational legislation, which is fast becoming the necessity and the curse of our parliamentary system, rendered this desirable, whilst the lull which had succeeded to the large changes of previous sessions made it easy. As yet, too, the Cabinet, though modified in its composition, had not entirely lost the influence which the presence of men of undoubted capacity had conferred upon its origin. The failures which had up to this time occurred had been confined to particular departments of state and not become patent to the whole country; there lingered on a general impression of their political ability—their friends believing that after the legislative labours of the last two years they would find, alike in the requirements of the case and in their own special qualifications, a scope for sound and careful administration, and many of their opponents desiring, for a variety of reasons, that they should remain in office and be successful. It is true that our foreign policy had not been of a character to strengthen their position. During the gigantic war that was even then raging, England had played a part which was not very usual to her, which to the less sophisticated intelligences of former days would have seemed one of national feebleness, if not of humiliation, and which was all the more unsatisfactory and inexplicable to the great body of the people, that, being in an exceptionally strong moral position, we yet made no use of our power, except to indulge in assurances of a rather meaningless-and certainly unappreciated—sympathy with both belligerents; and that whilst knowing our real military weakness we yet persevered in a systematic reduction of all the main elements and conditions of military strength. On the other hand, the Colonial difficulties of 1870—far more formidable than the outside world understood them to be—had, partly by inevitable concessions, partly by the concurrence of fortunate circumstances, partly for reasons inde
pendent of all ministerial action, been lulled into temporary repose.
But one question there was which, from recent events, no less than from its own intrinsic claims, had risen into overwhelming importance, and on which, independently of a strong feeling out of doors, the great parties in the State were substantially united in a public and patriotic desire to give support to the Govern
It was the question of Army Reorganization. At first, indeed, it seemed as if the Government were not altogether unequal to the situation. The Queen's Speech acknowledged the urgency of military reform, and an early day was .named in the House of Commons for the Ministerial statement; and though that statement was, as regards breadth of plan and workmanlike fulness of detail, cruelly disappointing, yet so desirous were Parliament, the Press, and the general public to give all possible support to the Minister in his duty, that the most favourable construction was placed upon his shadowy assurances of reorganization; and the hope was even indulged that from them might be evolved some residuum of administrative reform. At all events, it was clear that, both by official word and act, the insufficiency of our defensive preparations was now acknowledged, and it was felt that one step had been made towards a sounder condition of affairs. We did not then conjecture that a so-called scheme, drawn out with some semblance of elaboration, would, growing beautifully less with each successive stage of Parliamentary discussion, be reduced by the end of July to a bill for the mere compensation of officers upon the abolition of Purchase ; still less could it be guessed that we should be gravely told that the Government were satisfied with this conclusion, and that they had from the first contemplated it.
In the earlier part of the Session such frankness would have been as imprudent as it would have been impossible; and even the present majority in the House of Commons would scarcely bave so construed the doctrine of a passive obedience to Mr. Gladstone as to accept the declaration. That they were ready to .accept much is true. In spite of Ministerial glosses, the nakedness of our military preparations was well known to all who looked below the surface; and even before Mr. Cardwell's explanations, questions were asked and notices given to call the attention of Parliament to the subject. Nor was this unnatural. The tremendous events which were passing in France, and which were fraught with the gravest lessons to every nation that had possessions to lose or independence to maintain, had created a painful and well-founded anxiety as to our own great deficiencies, and our confessed inability to move a single corps d'armée
for the support of treaty engagements abroad, perhaps even for the defence of the country itself, had, in spite of brave words and Ministerial professions, revealed itself beyond controversy. Pamphlets, speeches, newspaper articles were, for once, singularly unanimous; and the proofs of administrative unreadiness, which even the War Minister unintentionally brought to light, had contributed to deepen the general impression of insecurity. Not the least significant, perhaps, of these evidences was a statement made by Mr. Cardwell, doubtless in all good faith, but without sufficient verification on his part, at the end of the Session of 1870, and intended to reassure the then general anxiety, that there were 300,000 breech-loaders in store, which, though true to the letter, was found, on further inquiry, to convey a very misleading impression of the real facts. It was ascertained that not only did this number—after all a very inadequate provision for the English army—include carbines and breech-loading weapons of different types, sizes, and calibres, and therefore unsuitable for uniform distribution, but that a considerable proportion of these were no longer in England, and, being unavailable, had, like many other War-Office preparations, only an existence on paper. It was naturally asked why, if we had 300,000 breech-loaders in store, the Government had allowed the Volunteers to remain armed with the obsolete muzzle-loader, and uninstructed in the new drill; still more, why there were regiments of the line to whom no distribution of the new weapon had been made ? When this last inquiry was made at the commencement of the Session in the House of Lords, it was met with an indignant disclaimer that amounted almost to a denial; but the value of such rejoinders was made clear by a recent return, bearing date 22nd June, 1871, from which it appears that on the 1st October, 1870, there were, independently of some cavalry regiments, no less than thirty regiments of the line that were still armed with muzzle-loading rifles; whilst, as regards one of them, the marvellous comment was added that the rifles which they were using were condemned, that the Snider arms were ready for distribution, but that no ammunition was available !
That this astounding condition of things has, within the last few months, been in some slight degree rectified, may be presumed, both from the publicity which has been given to the particular fact, and from a short discussion on the subject at the close of the Session : but that it should be possible, and that it should be left to the criticisms and pressure of private members of Parliament to drag such details to light, are circumstances of the gravest significance, which throw a suspicion both on the Vol. 131.–No. 262.