Imatges de pàgina
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CHAP.
IX.

its side. The one great name, the name of Swift, which
was opposed to it, was opposed, so far as personal
considerations were not involved in the matter, rather
from opposition to its temporary aims than to its
permanent policy. Originally the Whigs had thrown
themselves on the side of toleration to the Dissenters,
whilst the Tories who accepted the Revolution only
assented to it as a political necessity. It was only
natural that the Whigs should have been ready to
grant more than toleration and to admit the Dissenters
to political equality, allowing them to hold offices under
the crown, and to occupy positions in the municipalities.
The Tories, on the other hand, wished, by passing the
Occasional Conformity Bill, to exclude from office even
those Dissenters who were ready to take the sacrament
in a church, though they afterwards returned to wor-
ship in their own chapels. The question was agitated
in the reign of Anne. In the reign of George I. it was
settled that the Toleration Act should be fully observed.
Occasional conformists were to be admitted to office,
whilst stubborn nonconformists remained excluded. Such
a settlement, which let in the lax and the hypocritical,
and shut out the honest and the sincere, would at the
present day be rejected with contempt. It exactly satis-
fied the ideas of the men of the opening years of the
eighteenth century. They were equally disinclined to
persecute, and to submit themselves to those who were
likely to persecute others. The apologue of Swift's 'Tale
of a Tub' fairly represents the central thought of the
time to which the moderate men of both parties, men like
Harley and men like Walpole, inclined. The readiness
to relieve Dissenters from persecution was perfectly
consistent with an aversion to zeal and enthusiasm as
a disturbing factor in human affairs. The seed sown by
Chillingworth and Hales had grown up till it had

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become a great tree. Christianity was nothing if it was not rational. Its life and vigour, its high enthusiasm, were all laid aside. The Church of the eighteenth century would have been a strange Church to St. Francis or to Oliver Cromwell. Men argued of the suitability of the scriptural promises to the needs of life, sometimes, like Bishop Butler, with a high idea of duty and lovingkindness before them; sometimes with the mere thought of skilfully adjusting formulas into a pleasant scheme. Others carried the argument further, and the Deists conceived the idea of a beneficent Creator who had ordained all things in a world in which no account need be taken of the disturbing elements of sorrow and sin. But whatever might be the special view arrived at, the characteristic of the age was the predominance of reason without active energy for the common good. The old tyrannies were gone, and the new effort after a better order had not yet come.

CHAP.
IX.

Life was not beautiful under this regimen. The § 10. Hostreets of London were as Hogarth painted them. Riot Fielding. garth and anarchy were there, controlled, so far as they were controlled at all, by practical common sense, and by something remaining of the Puritan morality without the Puritan enthusiasm. Hogarth's industrious apprentice going to church instead of gambling on the tombstones outside, taking care to attend to his master's accounts, and finally marrying his master's daughter, is the eighteenth century outcome of the religion of Baxter and Owen. Fielding's novels tell the same tale. There is no sense of natural or artistic beauty in them, no enthusiasm, no feeling for the nobleness of temperance. and chastity. But there is a certain level of morality. below which they never sink. If they lay stress on the unhealthy animalism of human nature, they do not depict that hot-bed of intrigue and corruption, that sty

CHAP.
IX.

of falsity and obscenity, in which the dramatists of the Restoration revelled. Such books serve to hold up the mirror to the time. They were days in which individual energies were strong, and the thought of devotion to public ends was weak. The Puritan ideal and the Royalist ideal had been alike trodden in the dust. The Englishman was proud of his constitution because it guarded the individual Englishman from interference; because he could not, like the Frenchman, be hurried off to the Bastille without warning or trial; because it enabled him to eat beef like the representative islander in Hogarth's picture of 'Calais Gate,' instead of eating nothing better than soup and frogs. To those who look back upon the scene, it does not appear so entirely lovely as it did to contemporaries. The rude energy with which the actors shouldered their way through the crowd, making full use of all the advantages that personal strength of body, or the possession of a purse full of guineas, or broad acres of landed estate might give them, must have fallen with terrible weight upon the weaker members of society. In such a world the rich. man took his pleasure, swearing and cursing and drinking himself into the gout as he went. The poor man swore and cursed too, with Gin Lane as a solace, and the misery of the gaol or a speedy exit from life at Tyburn before him. Yet unlovely as the spectacle was, it had its promise of better things. Rude and uncultivated as this life was, it was full of activity. The evils which men suffered from they brought on themselves. No tyranny of class over class handed down by the tradition of centuries, as in France, no servile yoke of injustice, presses upon the citizen or the cultivator of the soil. If the people can but make up their minds about their own wrongs, those wrongs will be redressed. Today it is a prosecution of Dr. Sacheverell or an un

popular Excise Bill or a rectification of the Almanac, which rouses the opposition. Some wiser cry for right and justice will be heard to-morrow, and men will learn that the struggles of the seventeenth century had not been in vain, and that a nation which has grasped the direction of its own destinies will not always be content to leave the helm in the hands of a place-loving aristocracy.

CHAP.
IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAP.
X.

THE RESTORATION OF AUTHORITY.

§ 1. Premonitions

It was certain that some day or other, the time would come when such an abnegation of the higher duties of government would be met by a demand for a developof Change. ment of authority which might discipline into obedience to the national will the factions which profited by the existing anarchy. In some sort, the situation was what it had been when a stronger, fiercer aristocracy treated England as its own in the days of Stephen, or in the days. of Henry VI. But as the evil was present in a milder form, the remedy was also likely to take a milder form. The king, as the representative of unity in government, would have a good chance of raising his own power, if he knew how to wield it for national purposes, but he would not this time have the mass of the nation looking on with dumb respect. It would claim to act with him or without him according to the way in which he exercised the authority which he claimed. Not, indeed, that the overthrow of the predominance of the aristocracy would come from a mere jealousy of their supremacy. It is not in this way that great constitutional changes are effected. There must be some actual sin of omission or of commission on the part of the rulers to stir up a desire for change, before a strong enough movement manifests itself in the minds of the multitudes by whose union alone the

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