J. M. (John Mackinnon) Robertson.

An introduction to English politics online

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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
AT LOS ANGELES



GIFT OF CAPT. AND MRS.
PAUL McBRIDE PERIGORD




,.,Mv;.i; ^ of CAUhuwN.

AT

LUS ANGiOfiS
LIBRARY



AN INTRODUCTION

TO

ENGLISH POLITICS



PUBLISHER'S
ANNOUNCEMENT



Third Edition. Cloth. Croivn Sto.
3J. 6d.

PATRIOTISM AND EMPIRE.

By John M. Robertson.



In Two yds. Large Crown %-vo.
6f. net each.

CHARACTERISTICS
or Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, etc.

By the Right Hon. Anthony,
Earl of Shaftesbury.

Edited, with an Introduction and Notes,
by John M. Robertson.

[Edition limited /<; 750 Copies.)



AN INTRODUCTION



TO



ENGLISH POLITICS



BY



JOHN M. ROBERTSON



. ' J ' . / •



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J J J



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t > ' it
• 1 » J '



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LONDON
GRANT RICHARDS



1900



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"The sociologist has three main quests — First, he must try to dis-
cover the conditions that determine mere aggregation and concourse.
Secondly, he must try to discover the law that governs social choices, the
law, that is, of the subjective process. Thirdly, he must try to discover
also the law that governs the natural selection and the survival of
choices, the law, that is, of the objective process." — Professor Giddings.






• • >



JC



CONTENTS



PREAMBLE



PACE

ix



PART L— POLITICAL EVOLUTION



CHAPTER I.— GENERAL PRINCIPLES

§ 1. Taine and Verbalist Formulas .

2. Professor Brycc and Idealist Synthesis .

3, The Realist Synthesis ....

CHAPTER II.— ROIVIAN POLITICAL
EVOLUTION



3
6

8



§ I, Early Class Strifes


I I


2. War and Democracy


1 +


3. Popular Degeneration


16


4. Effects of Environment .


19


5. Fatality of Militarism .


22



CHAPTER III.— GREEK POLITICAL
EVOLUTION

§ I. Early Class Strifes and Attempted Remedies . . 26

2. Democratic Degeneration . . . '33

CHAPTER IV.— THE LAWS OF SOCIOLOGICAL
DEVELOPMENT

§ 1. External Conditions . . . . ". 41

2. Analysis of Cases . . . . .52

3. General View of Political Forces . . -59



vi INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

PART II.— ECONOMIC FORCES IN
ANCIENT HISTORY

PACK

CHAPTER I.— ROME . . 67

CHAPTER II.— LATER GREECE AND THE
BYZANTINE EMPIRE

Survey of Literature , . . . .87

§ I. The Pre-Alexandrian Period . . . .89

2. Effects of the Macedonian and Roman Conquests . 97

3. The Imperial Period, to Constantine . . .101

4. The Byzantine Empire . . . . .105

PART III.— THE CONDITIONS OF
CULTURE-PROGRESS IN ANTIOUITY

CHAPTER I.— GREECE

§ I. The Creative Forces : Evocation of Art . .115

2. Literature: the Test-Case of Sparta . . . 121

3. The Conditions and Course of Decadence . . 127

CHAPTER II.— THE SARACENS . 141

CHAPTER III.— ROME . .156

PART IV.— THE CASE OF THE
ITALIAN REPUBLICS

Survey of Literature . . . . .173

CHAPTER I.— MEDIEVAL BEGINNINGS : THE

TEUTONIC FACTOR . .175



CONTENTS



Vll



CHAPTER II.— THE INTELLECTUAL
EVOLUTION

CHAPTER III.— THE POLITICAL COLLAPSE .



PACE



'99



PART v.— THE FORTUNES OF THE
LESSER EUROPEAN STATES



CHAPTER 1.— THE IDEAS OF NATIONALITY
AND NATIONAL GREATNESS .



251



CHAPTER II.— THE SCANDINAVIAN PEOPLES

§ I. Evolution to Monarchy and Empire . . .259

2. Arrest of Aggression ..... 265

3. Later Political Evolution .... 268

4. Culture Evolution ..... 276

5. The Population Problem . . . .281

CHAPTER III.— THE HANSA . . 286



CHAPTER IV.— HOLLAND

Survey of Literature .

§ I. The Rise of the Netherlands

2. The Revolt against Spain : Spanish Evolution

3. Supremacy of Dutch Commerce

4. Home and Foreign Policy

5. Decline of Commercial Supremacy

6. Culture Evolution

7. The Modern Situation .

CHAPTER v.— SWITZERLAND

§ 1. Beginnings of Union

2. Socio-Political Evolution

3. The Modern Renaissance

CHAPTER VI.— PORTUGAL

§ 1. Rise and Fall of Portuguese Empire
2. The Colonisation of Brazil



292
294

30+

3J +

325
328

.••:>4
33S

34'

3+3

351
363



.•»/.■»
381



VIU



INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS



PART VI.— ENGLISH HISTORY TILL THE
CONSTITUTIONAL PERIOD



§1

2

3
+

5



Anglo-Saxondom and the Conquest

Militarism and Feudalism

Plebeian Subjection in the Feudal Period

Effects of the Wars of the Roses

Rise of Personal Monarchy

6. Protestant Bibliolatry and Clericalism .

7. Elizabeth and Public Opinion .

8. Depression of the Peasantry

9. Abeyance of Class Politics : Shakspere : Chauvinism
10. The Intellectual Life : More : Puritanism



PAGE



CHAPTER I.— BEFORE THE GREAT REBELLION 393



394
406

410

415

417
420

423

428

431
435



CHAPTER II.— THE REBELLION AND THE
COMMONWEALTH

§ I. Materials of Disaffection

2. Charles ....

3. Cromwell's Evolution .

4. Moral Inadequacy of Puritanism

5. Political Failure of Cromwell

6. Cromwell's Tyranny : The Puritan Failure

7. Puritanism and Popular Life



439
442

443
448

451

454
460



CHAPTER III.— FROM THE RESTORATION

TO ANNE

§ I. The Royalist Reaction : Shaftesbury . . . 463

2. The Doctrine of "Divine Right" : Other Theories . 468

3. Scientific Developments .... 474

4. New Constitutionalism : National Debt : Ill-usage of

Ireland ...... 478

5. Scotland and the Union .... 485

6. Industrial Evolution : Wars of Commerce . . 487

7. Advent of the Modern Political System : Retrospect and

Prospect ...... 497



INDEX



505



PREAMBLE

The following treatise originated remotely in a lecture

delivered as preliminary to a course on " Modern

English Politicians " (from Bolingbroke to Gladstone),

the aim of the prefatory address being to trace in older

politics, home and foreign, general views which should

partly serve as guides to modern cases, or at least as

preparation for their scientific study ; while the main

course dealt with modern political problems as they

have arisen in the careers and been handled by the

measures of modern English statesmen. The opening

exposition, developed into an essay, and published as

a series of magazine articles, is now again expanded

into a treatise, by way of covering the ground more

usefully.

It makes no pretention, nevertheless, to a complete

or systematic treatment of political history, or of political

forms and theories. The object in view from the first

has been, not the technical anatomy or documentary

history of institutions, but the bringing into light of the

ruling forces in all political life, ancient and modern

alike. It seeks to help the reader to fulfil the precept

of Montaigne : " Ciuil ne luy afprenne -pas taut les

h



X INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

histoires qu a en jugey.'' Of learned political histories
there are many, and of expert treatises on political
theory there is no lack. While, however, I have pro-
fited by many such, I had long felt in my own studies
the need of a survey which should bring some of the
apparent lessons of past political history to bear on the
problems of the present in a way that the works known
to me have not ostensibly attempted, or at least have
not followed out as one could wish, Dr, Freeman laid
down the principle very fully, indeed exorbitantly, when
he insisted that we ought " freely to employ every part
of history to illustrate every other part ^ ; " but the mere
political history to which he limited himself is but one
side of the process of evolution, which is what it really
behoves us to understand. It would be unfair and un-
grateful to make light of the very real help given to all
students of our own history, for instance, by such works
as Green's, and the recent compilation entitled Social
England. With all its faults of hasty generalisation
and self-contradiction. Green's work remains one of the
most intelligent and most stimulating performances of
our time, and is to be credited with inspiring much that
has been done since. It is in the express treatment of
problems of social evolution that there is need for new
developments. Several members of the Marxian school
have dealt very acutely and instructively with the
element of economic causation in ancient and modern
life ; from a different political standpoint, the late
Professor Thorold Rogers, in his lectures on The
Economic Interpretation of History and the Industrial
and Commercial History of England^ has enlarged in a

' Hhtory of Federal Go-vernment, 2nd. e i. p. 274.



PREAMBLE xi

suggestive fashion on the same theme ; Professor Ashley
has treated the medieval period with much more
thoroughness in his Introduction to English Economic
History and Theory^ wherein he brings to English
knowledge much important German and other research ;
and Professor Cunningham in his Growth of English
Industry and Commerce has supplied a most learned and
illuminating study, which gives even more than it
promises. On the other hand, a number of writers
have studied periods of history and special societies with
an eye to their interpretation in terms of human
character as known to us in our experience.

Apart, however, from differences of opinion as to
some of the data and dicta of many of these writers, I
have found myself at times in need of a different
method, of other analyses, of another aim, and of further
colligations of phenomena, than they supply ; and the
following chapters are among the results of my inquiry.
Since the book was planned, and even since it was first
prepared for publication, there have appeared several
English works, such as the Western Civilisation of
Professor Cunningham (1898), and Professor A. J.
Grant's Greece in the Age of Pericles (1897), which
struck me as valuable and instructive performances of
a kind I had craved. Had I met them earlier my own
attempts would doubtless have been better guided. As
it is, their method gives me more confidence in the
rightness of my aim, whatever the failures of the
execution.

It is very obvious that the present undertaking runs
many risks. Touching on several fields of study which
have been explored by accomplished scholars and by



xii INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

experienced specialists, it cannot have escaped errors of
historical detail such as the specialists impute to each
other ; and after finding fault with a good many of the
inferences of experts from their special data I must needs
incur similar objection in rather large measure. As
regards such criticism my only anticipatory plea must
be that, while I have not spared pains to compare
authorities and check the primary sources at many
doubtful points, my essay, as aforesaid, does not at all
profess to be a manual of historical fact for the use of
specialists. Rather it is a process of reasoning that
seeks to bring home to the reader the nature of the
historical developments dealt with, in terms of human
life, of average happiness, of culture, of moral and social
science, with a view to qualifying him in some degree
for the great but little-regarded task of framing his
own political and sociological opinions. To this end it
has broken up the total problem into a variety of special
inquiries, taken up in different countries and different
ages, striving always, however, to indicate the organic
connection of all social processes, mental, moral, and
material, and to reach through analysis a synthesis.^
If such an attempt should but serve to mediate in some
degree between the schools which treat more or less
exclusively the different processes here glanced at, it
will perhaps sufficiently justify its existence.

At the risk even of failing: in such mediation in



^ when this was first written I had not read the definition of sociology by
Professor Giddings, to which I desire to declare my general adhesion : "Specifically,
sociology is an interpretation of social phenomena in terms of physical activity,
organic adjustment, natural selection, and the conservation of energy. ... It is
strictly an explanatory science, fortifying induction by deduction, and referring effects
to veritable causes '' (^Principles of Sociology, 3rd ed. p. 419).



PREAMBLE xiii

some cases, I am fain to suggest that (save for such
recent treatises as I have aUuded to, which give en-
couraging proof of a counter-tendency, and for some
which seem to me illaudable in their ideals and tendency),
the line of specialism in political science of late years
has been rather away from than towards a practical use
of the research accumulated. Scholarly study grows
more exact, more extensive, more burdensome to the
student ; but there is hardly a proportional advance in
the thinking brought to bear on the facts established.
One is at times almost driven to think that there has
been a relative retrogression. In the first quarter of
the century, Hallam prefaced his study of political
history with a severe comment on the Scotch sociologists,
in particular Millar, who had taken up his subject on
the impulse of Montesquieu and Voltaire. Hallam
made a much more minute research than Millar had
done ; and yet, though his generally robust judgment
yields us manifold instruction, he at times falls into
platitudes of comment and ineptitudes of reflection of
which Millar could not have been guilty. Some energy
of the speculative reason seems to have been lost, even
for the Whig, in the reaction following on the French
Revolution.

The documentary research of Hallam, in turn, is much
less exhaustive than that of Bishop Stubbs ; and Bishop
Stubbs in turn sets up a troubled wonder by some of
his moral and sociological generalisations. Behind the
admirable learning of the later scholar we find a vaccilla-
tion of judgment which seems to be almost in the ratio
of his research, and which can hardly be set down to
scientific caution, seeing that on the deepest issues ot



xiv INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

historical philosophy he habitually generalises with all the
confidence of the pulpit. And the phenomenon is com-
mon. The earlier writers investigate slightly, but reason
vigorously ; the later writers investigate many details,
but reason feebly or timidly on general principles.
Even in the abundant and valuable sociological historio-
graphy of France we seem to see the same tendency.
Guizot, like Hallam, was a more exact student than his
predecessors ; and, living in a less reactionary atmo-
sphere, he was much more energetic than Hallam in the
theoretic way. In our own day his history of French
civilisation is ostensibly superseded by that of M.
Rambaud ; but it can hardly be said that M. Rambaud,
with all his knowledge and good sense, is on the whole
more luminous than his more erratic precursor. So, in
Germany, Mommsen, erudition apart, is certainly not a
sounder or deeper historical thinker than Heeren, or
even than Niebuhr, both of whom, if they fell into
errors of apriorism, were incapable of the indulgence in
race prejudice which Mommsen so frequently permits
himself, to say nothing of the chaos of pragmatism into
which he falls when he would philosophise on such
phenomena as those of Roman religion. And while some
of the later German specialists have done much sound
and sober work, the historians proper, perhaps recoiling
from the verbalism of Hegel and his school, so entirely
shun theory — unless it be of the blatant patriotic sort
— that they hardly influence political philosophy at all.
Historiography is in itself a sociological phenomenon,
and the patriotic or racial bias just mentioned is to be
noted as a product of the special political conditions of
our age. One of the chief of them is the deliberate



PREAMBLE xv

development, under the auspices of Bismarck, of a
gospel of national egoism in terms of quasi-philosophy.
Hegel gave the lead when he constructed a political
philosophy in the interests of the reconstructed Prussian
system ; and since i 860 German historians have supplied
the demand for patriotic and racial doctrine in a fashion
not to be matched for naivete, not to say puerility, since
the Middle Ages, In Mommsen, though he has only
incidental opportunities for airing it, the tendency
becomes unpardonable. If we looked to the work of
the first quarter of the century, when Germany was still
cosmopolitan throughout, we should be inclined to say
that nothing is more un-German than this prejudice ;
but it is really a degeneration not merely from the older
German breadth of view, but from the temper ot the
whole historical science of Europe in the latter part of
last century. The change is seen in French writers of
the Restoration, and in some French and English writers
of yesterday ; the vitiating gospel of race, turned even
to Teutonic account, is seen in the two Thierrvs ;
again, with a difference, in Michelet ; yet again in
Taine ; and among ourselves in Carlyle, in Froude, with
special excess in Freeman, and in some degree even in
Green. It all represents a descent below the imperfect
science of Montesquieu and Voltaire.

Few students, I believe, have yet realised how com-
prehensive was the suspension of scientific thought on
social law after the French Revolution — how abundant
was sociological discussion before, how restricted and
short-sighted under the reaction, at least in England.
I have been at some pains to show at how many points
I have found my own generalisations had been antici-



xvi INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

pated by the Scotch and French sociologists of last
century. Such acknowledgments are seldom necessary
as regards the historians of the latter half of the present
century. They yield, as the old phrase goes, immense
information but little knowledge, either treating the
demand for generalising ideas as a dangerous taste or
supplying ideas which stand for no effort of thought at
all comparable to their pains in amassing facts. Had
Freeman's General Sketch of European History been
made as long as that of Koch (1790 and later) it would
still have been, as it actually is, inferior to that in
instructiveness, actuality, and real comprehension, how-
ever much it might make parade of the " comparative
method " and of exact scholarship.

It is true that even during the period of maximum
reaction against the French Revolution there was arising
in England a school of economists who, taking their
departure from the work of Adam Smith, really did
contribute to the foundation of a social science. At a
time when these thinkers are being obstinately dis-
paraged because they did not go further, because they
sought or were content only to elaborate a mercan-
tilist economics without reconstructing social ethics or
aiming at a complete humanistic economics, it becomes
necessary in the very interests of a comprehensive social
science to point out that they were substantially among
its promoters, and not among its frustrators, A me-
thodically restricted analysis is perfectly legitimate so
far as it goes, and may prove the best means towards
one more comprehensive. The criticism to which the
" orthodox " economists were and are justly open is
that their analysis was at some vital points unscientific



PREAMBLE xvii

and erroneous ; and that in particular they constantly
evaded or obscured the vitally important mercantilist
problem of the process of money-saving. With this
error they were charged in their own day, but without
any effect on their doctrine or its acceptance ; hence,
no doubt, a real retardation of social science. But on
other sides they were not frustrative or fallacious ; and
in connection with their school there were produced
many isolated works of unsystematic social science,
which compare very favourably with the whole output
of to-day.

Such works as those of the elder Samuel Laing (the
Notes of a Traveller, the Journal of a Residence in
Norway, and A Tour in Sweden), and Joseph Kay's
Social Condition and Education of the People in England
and Europe (i 850), are not easily to be matched in their
kind in our own time for constant breadth and sagacity
of reflection on social phenomena ; and even where they
maintain what would in their own day and now be
called Philistine positions they tend to do it with an
amount of critical energy not always exhibited by their
more ssthetically-minded antagonists. Laing, indeed,
illustrates very strikingly the relative tendencies of the
older speculative and the later narrative method. When
he reasons a priori as to the conditions and aspects of
early English rural life he naturally goes astray : we
have only to consult such specialists as Mr. Seebohm and
Professor Ashley to ascertain as much ; but despite the
blanks in his real knowledge he is a more philosophic
and instructive observer of social life wherever he goes
than almost any later traveller who can be mentioned.
Less brilliant and less literary than M. Taine, he is a



xviii INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

safer guide. And alongside of such observers, English
politics fifty years ago had in Richard Cobden a kind
of popular publicist who, for his combination of com-
prehensive principles with really relevant knowledge, is
not surpassed by his more literate successors on his own
side. These men had a clear and arguable philosophy
of conduct, national and individual ; and we may say
broadly of the Manchester school so-called that it was
much more rationally conscientious, and therefore more
truly humanistic, than the school now in the political
ascendant, which really develops and exaggerates all the
defects of the Manchester school under names which
nominally repudiate its ideals.

The accumulated knowledge of the last generation,
in short, has not been even partially assimilated in the
sphere of practice ; and there has been no steady
development, in that sphere, of either the general soci-
ology of last century or the best economic sociology of
the " Manchester " period. Professor Vinogradoff of
St. Petersburg, in the able introduction to his valuable
study of Villainage in England, dwells on the growing
superiority of the later historians of social conditions as
regards exactness of knowledge and caution in general-
isation. I am fain to urge that the process of
generalisation is passing altogether out of use, leaving
us mere masses of facts that do not instruct us. The
Professor's own work compares significantly, on this
head, with those of such of his predecessors as Palgrave
and Kemble. Mr. Seebohm, again, prefaced his excellent
treatise on The English Village Community with a plea
for the study of the past to the end of regulating the
present or guiding the fiiture. But are the students or



PREAMBLE xix

the citizens in any way acting upon that counsel ? My
fear is that they are not. The latest historian of
medieval London, expert in all matters of ancient
documents, incidentally comments on the modern Irish
problem in the language of ordinary English prejudice,^
even as did Mr. Pearson a generation ago. Such
students have gained no poHtical wisdom from their
research. Our students, roughly speaking, are appar-
ently ceasing to be practical, and our practical men are
apparently ceasing to be students.

Now, such lop-sided development cannot but be
harmful in practice. The practical problem grows more
pressing, more susceptible of hasty and incompetent
handling by those who proceed on their first impulses ;
and all the while the student of past development gets
further aloof from the issue which he ought to illuminate.
By the very fact of his attitude and spirit of specialism
he is in no expert attitude to the living problem, which
he too often faces in what Professor Mahaffy calls the
" elderly " temper.

The last-named writer has the high merit of
handling things ancient in a living and vivacious way,
feeling instinctively, one can see, the psychological con-
tinuity of politics, and carrying deeper, at times, than
did his predecessors, that process of penetration by
which Grote and other English historians, accustomed
to democratic politics, admittedly comprehended Greek
history more fully than did the Germans who lacked
such experience. But Professor Mahaffy at the same
time exemplifies the snares of such an undertaking.
To one of another way of thinking, he seems a partisan

^ J. H. Round, T/ie Commune of London, 1S99, pp. 138-40.



XX INTRODUCTION TO POLITICS

first and a sociologist afterwards ; and he is himself at
times an example of the " elderly " spirit, refusing to
submit his own predilections to scientific treatment, and
imposing them wilfully on his subject matter. In the
end, after leading us at times to hope for a truly



Online LibraryJ. M. (John Mackinnon) RobertsonAn introduction to English politics → online text (page 1 of 45)