Page images
PDF
EPUB

same

For the rest, he made no renunciation of either his method or his doctrine; he rather accentuated both. Nowhere has he more constantly employed his habitual method of accumulating facts to establish a general idea; nowhere has he set forward a series of historical events as more strictly determined by the action of two or three very simple causes tending continuously in the direction, What may be objected against him is this—that he has too much simplified the problem, that he has neglected certain of its elements, that he has, with all his immense and sometimes wearisome accumulation of facts, omitted other facts which might have served to correct his deductions, and that he has needlessly blackened a picture which, in all conscience, was already dark enough. Such exaggeration as we find in the work is probably due to his love for France, combined with his lack of natural sympathy for her character and institutions. He was like a son tenderly attached to his mother, but separated from her by a cruel misunderstanding, or by a fundamental incompatibility of temper, and whose very affection seems to impose upon him a sorrowful severity of judgment. The seriousness of his nature, averse to all fashionable frivolity, his predilection for energetic individualities, his conviction that true liberty and steady progress are only to be had in conjunction with strong traditions, with the respect for acquired rights, and the spirit of co-operation allied with a sturdy individualism ---all these things conspired to make him a lover and admirer of England, and to render him severe towards his own capricious and enthusiastic people--towards a country where the force of social habits overpowers originality of character; where the ridiculous is more harshly dealt with than the vicious; where they neither know how to defend their own rights nor to respect those of others; where, instead of repairing one's house, one sets it on fire in order to rebuild it; and where the love of ease prefers the sterile security of a despotism to the fruitful efforts and agitations of liberty. For France he had the cruel satire of Graindorge ; for England the most genial and kindly of all his works, the “Notes sur l'Angleterre." The English poets were his poets by predilection ; and in philosophy he was of the family of Spencer, Mill, and Bain.

Such, I believe, are the reasons of the excessive severity of his judgments on France and the Revolution. To take them literally, one would be almost surprised that France is still in existence, after a hundred years of such a murderous system; and one marvels at a necessitarian like Taine reproaching France for not resembling England. Bat, after allowing for all that is exaggerated or incomplete in his representation and in his point of view, we must do homage, not only to the power and sincerity of his work, but also to its truthfulness. He has not said everything, but what he has said is true. It is true that the monarchy had itself prepared its fall by destroying everything that could limit, and therefore sustain, its power; it is true that the Revolution made way for anarchy by destroying traditional institutions, in order to replace them by rational institutions which had no root in history or in custom ; it is true that the Jacobin spirit was a spirit of envy, hatred, and malice, which paved the way to despotism ; it is true that the Napoleonic centralisation is a hothouse system, which may produce early and splendid fruit, but which exhausts the sap and drains the life; and these truths Taine has set forth with a redundance of proof and a force of reasoning which must carry conviction to all impartial minds. If a salutary reaction takes place in France against overcentralisation, the credit will be due in great part to him. And, come what may, we owe it to him that he has propounded the historical problem of the Revolution in new ' terms, and helped to bring it out of the domain of mystic legend or of common-place oratory into that of living reality. Here also, in spite of the passion he has thrown into his narrative and his portraits, he has done good service to science and to truth.

VII.

I have thought that I could render no better homage to this free, valiant, and sincere spirit, this soul impassioned for the truth, than by saying with all frankness wherein lay, to my eyes, the grandeur of his work, and wherein it fell short through narrowness or incompleteness. It seemed to me that I should be wanting in reverence for his memory, if I used towards him, any of those niceties of considerateness and reserve which mark the funeral oration, and which he took such care to banish from beside his grave. But I shall have ill represented what I think and what I feel, if in these pages I have failed to convey my grateful admiration for one of the men who in our time have, by their character and their genius, most honoured France and the human mind. I cannot better express what it was to me to see him pass away than by adopting the language used by a friend of mine in a letter to me, when he received the fatal tidings.

"His disappearance is the removal of a strong and clear light from the world. No one ever represented with greater vigour the scientific spirit ; he seemed an energetic incarnation of it. And he leaves us at the moment when sound methods--the only efficacious methods-of arriving at the truth are losing their hold on the conscience of the younger generations; so that his death seems to mark, at least for the time, the end of a great thing. And then, for him to die like this, just after Renan !—it seems too much emptiness all at once. There will be nothing left of the generation that formed us; these two great minds represented the whole of it; we owe to them the teaching that came home to us more than any other, and our deepest intellectual joys; our minds are orphaned of their fathers."

[merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

I

1

Yet its very

T is high time that the attention of Parliament and of the public

should be directed to the condition of our cable communication with the outlying portions of the Empire and more particularly India, our Ezstern settlements, and Australasia. Only a few Englishmen of ascertained sanity would willingly see this great dominion, raised stone on stone by English arms, and too often cemented with English blood, broken up into isolated and helpless fragments. magnitude should inspire us to take careful thought for its stability. We seem, one and all, to be bent on piling up the structure higher and higher, without troubling ourselves about the cohesion of the mass—perhaps supposing that it will stand by its own weight. No political association, however, has yet been known to stand the strain of divergent sympathies and interests, when these have been suffered to develop far enough unchecked. The zeal of the Prophet, the genius of the Corsican conqueror, alike failed to avert the catastrophe. And who will deny that there are already centrifugal forces at work within the British Empire, which need the gravest attention of our statesmen ?

Fortunately, we have within our reach, in the postal and cable services, the means of intensifying and perpetuating the sympathy that is the basis of union-means that would probably have enabled Mahomet or Napoleon to subjugate the world. In England men are now sharply divided into two great camps on a Constitutional question of prime importance. Yet we meet our opponents in the street and the market-place as cordially as ever; and whatever the result of the struggle, we shall not be worse friends when all is over. This is partly because we know that other Englishmen are very much the same as we are ; every one of them, whatever his political complexion,

[blocks in formation]

loving his country, in other words, his countrymen, with his whole heart; and partly because we know that, situated as we are, it would be suicidal folly to fall out. It is a similar sentiment of solidarity, a similar knowledge of, and liking for, one another, which we should cultivate among the several communities that are subject to Queen Victoria. And this can best be done by encouraging postal and telegraphic intercourse among them.

ADVANTAGES OF CHEAP CABLE RATES.

So large

Not only are low postal and cable rates essential to the existence of the Empire as a federation of 340,000,000 of men, but they are as urgently required in the interests of the commerce which supports this vast section of humanity. We have never sufficiently realised the importance of ample and cheap cable communication. are the transactions engaged in, so narrow is the margin of profit, so much depends on being early in the market, that the cable is simply indispensable in the case of imperial and international trade. Whatever the rates charged, the merchant must pay them, though he, of course, adds his expenditure on cabling to the price of his goods.

The analogy between the imperial cable system and the human nervous system must have struck every body. By means of electricity, it is as easy to command and concentrate on a given point the diffused strength of a dozen great nationalities as it is for a man to employ eye, foot, and hand together in delivering a crushing blow. Every moment orders, inquiries, reports, and advice are being flashed between Whitehall and British officials in all parts of the globe. multiplies the strength of our fleets and armies, and is an essential part of our governmental machinery.

The cable

SOCIAL OR FAMILY MESSAGES

When we consider the interest of the individual, however, the state of things is less satisfactory.

.

One may be pardoned for picturing to oneself the happiness that would result from a really low cable tariff—friend able to communicate instantaneously with friend half-way round the globe, parents receiving constant news from their adventurous children, joys and sorrows shared, as if no broad ocean rolled between. How different is the reality! It has been stated on good authority that out of 100 messages sent to England from the colonies, 99 are commercial telegrams, and only one relates to family or private affairs. As a matter of fact, the cable that girdles the earth is of no more use to the masses of the Queen's subjects than it would be if they resided on another planet, And the explanation is, that a prohibitive tariff is enforced

CABLE MONOPOLY AND MONOPOLISTS.

The cable system of the world is in English hands; but it is in the hands of a few monopolists. The Anglo-American Companies, the Eastern Telegraph Company, the Eastern Extension Company, the Indo-European Company, and the Northern Telegraph Company, own nearly every mile of the main lines of cables at present laid, These rich corporations have a common policy, and, most of them, a common purse; and the soul of the combination is Sir John Pender, a man of consummate ability. His rule may be described as despotism, tempered by the fear of competition. He holds the keys that might unlock the chained sympathies of our race; but he will not use them. He stands like a sinister angel between father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, and his one aim is to make as much profit for his shareholders as possible from his monopoly before Parliament intervenes. A few figures will make this plain.

HIGH RATES TO INDIA AND AUSTRALIA.

The tariff for cablegrams to Australia is 4s. 9d. per word. The mere statement of that fact speaks volumes. The tariff to India is 4s. per word, although it is not half so far away from us as Australia. This fact also is not without significance. For it shows that the rates are fixed without regard to distance, cost of construction, or cost of working and repairing. But to bring out its full significance it is only necessary to remember that a great part of Canada is nearly as far from us as India, and that the cable rate to Vancouver, 6000 miles distant, is only ls. 9d. a word, against 4s. to India.

Of course, such a heavy rate as 4s. 9d. for every word telegraphed yields a large profit, though it is derived almost exclusively from commercial messages. I calculate that our trade with India and the East and Australia is thus taxed to the extent of over a quarter of a million a year for the benefit of three private companies. And as that trade grows, these parasites grow with it.

COLONIAL GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES.

But this is not all. Not only do the companies reap a return monstrously out of proportion to their capital and working expenditure, but they have compelled the various Colonial Governments to pay them heavy subsidies. There is a normal subsidy of £32,000 from the Australian Governments (with one exception), and in return for the reduction of the rate to 4s. 9d., those Governments have now to pay an additional £27,520, besides a sum of £10,415 to South Australia for the land line. Altogether these Governments (not

« EelmineJätka »