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all the author's wealth of illustration, the extent to which he
had dabbled in learning of various kinds, and they are by no
means deficient in rhetorical point and cleverness. But
there is nothing more to be said for them. They are wholly
uncritical, wholly one-sided, wholly unhistorical. They
abound in repetitions, contradictions, vehement and un-
bridled invective. They are actuated throughout by the
strongest possible bias, and, as we said above, they are
valueless from the point of view of the history of philosophy
or theology. It has been remarked by Lechler {Gesch. d. Eng.
Deisnms, p. 369) that there is a certain similarity between
Bolingbroke and Chubb. Both are Deists, and both stand
outside the learned classes of their day. Both, therefore,
represent the influence of the speculations of the learned
upon the outer world : Chubb upon the industrial section,
Bolingbroke, upon the aristocratic section of it. Hence we
shall be disappointed if we expect anything in Bolingbroke's
writings but a tolerably able presentation of the current
Deistic thought.

It is not easy to give a connected account of the opmions
embodied in these incoherent and ill - arranged Essays.
Perhaps the clearest and best plan will be to illustrate from
them the principles which were most widely operative in the
Deistic writers at the time. It will be remembered that
Deism was one result of the effort to substitute Reason for
Authority as the ultimate source of truth. The Church had
claimed to define not only matters of faith, but also, to a
certain extent, questions of philosophy also. But the Refor-
mation had shattered its authority in England. There
remained, therefore, two possibilities open : pure Individual-
ism, according to which each would determine his faith and



200 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

his philosophy for himself, without reference to any one ;
and Rationalism, which, while retaining the right of private
judgment, fell back upon the faculty of reason for justifica-
tion, presumably the same in all men. There was, therefore,
a strong bias against all those positive additions to religion
or to law which were not universal, but prevailed at par-
ticular times and places. Dogmas which went beyond
what was called the Religion of Nature, and enactments
which were superadded to the Law of Nature, came alike
into disfavour. On all sides there was a clamour to return
to primitive simplicity, to throw off the outgrowths upon
the old faith and policy, and live again upon primeval lines.
The appearance of dogmatic and metaphysical theology,
and the promulgation of positive law were largely attributed
to priestcraft and the cunning of the civil ruler. In defiance
of the actual facts, it was maintained by many, by Boling-
broke among the number, that all the dogmatic theologians,
from St. Paul downwards, were either madmen or knaves.
The claims of theology were thus easily settled. But there
was this modification in the case of law. Some positive
enactments were absolutely necessary, though many might
be assigned to the same motives as dogmatic Christianity.
The State, therefore, and the State alone, was to fix these,
their number and their import. To this function of defining
the limits of positive law was naturally added that of fixing
any positive form of religion, if it should be thought desir-
|/ able. It might appear that it was to the advantage of a
given State to make some uniform profession of religion :
and so religion, like law, obtained from the State a pre-
carious privilege to define itself, to a greater extent than
would have been possible, if the point of view of Reason
had been strictly maintained. These general principles
seem to determine the thought of the time in its various
stages. Let us see how they appear in BoHngbroke.

First, then, reason — the reason of the individual — is the



BOLINGBROKE'S OPINIONS 201

final judge in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as civil. It is
" a gift of God, which is common to the whole species "
(vol. V. p. 72). " He who examines on such principles as
these, which are conformable to truth and reason, may lay
aside at once the immense volumes of fathers and councils ;
of schoolmen, casuists, and controversial writers, which
have perplexed the world so long" {ibid., p. 106). " I rely
on the authority of my cook when I eat my soup ; on the
authority of my apothecary when I take a dose of rhubarb ;
on that of Graham when I buy my watch ; on that of Sir
Isaac Newton when I believe in the doctrine of gravitation,
because I am neither cook, apothecary, watchmaker, nor
mathematician. But I am a rational creature, and am
therefore obliged to judge for myself in all those cases where
reason alone is the judge ; the judge of the thing itself; for,
even in the others, reason is the judge of the authority "
(vol vi. p. 272). Many other passages might be quoted,
but these will probably be enough to show the primary
position adopted by Bolingbroke.

If we ask for a further definition of the characteristics of
rational knowledge, we find ourselves involved in some con-
fusion. All human knowledge is a posteriori. " Human
knowledge is not only posterior to the human system, but
the very first elements of it are ideas which we perceive im-
pressed by outward objects on our minds" (vol. v. p. 124).
" It is such knowledge as we are fitted, by the organization
of our bodies and the constitution of our minds to acquire.
. . . It is knowledge for us. It is, in one word, human»
and, relatively to us, when it is rightly pursued, real know-
ledge " (//j^<^., pp. 126-7). "The first ideas with which the
mind is furnished are received from without, and are caused
by such sensations as the pressure of external objects excites
in us, according to laws of passion and action which the
Creator has established" (ibid., p. 123). What these laws
are, and how they work, we do not and cannot know. Per-



202 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

ception is passive, and is common to us with the animal
kind. When excited by the operation of external objects,
" the activity of the soul commences, and another source of
original ideas is opened ; for then we acquire ideas from,
and by the operation of, our minds" (ibid., p. 135). At the
same time knowledge is closely limited. "Since simple
ideas are the foundation of human knowledge, this know-
ledge can neither be extended wider, nor elevated higher,
than in a certain proportion to them " {ibid., p. 137). This
knowledge "goes no further than particular experiment,
and, as we attempt to make it general, we make it pre-
carious. The reason is plain. It is a knowledge of par-
ticular effects, that have no connection nor dependency one
on another, even when they, or, more properly, the powers
that produce them, are united in the same substance ; and
of these powers, considered as causes, and not in their
effects, we have no means of attaining any knowledge at
all" (ibid., p. 171). "General ideas are framed by the
' innate powers ' of the mind, but are not ' taken with exact-
ness from the nature of things on many occasions.'" . . .
" Ideas or notions are ill abstracted first, and ill compared
afterwards " (ibid., p. 127). The method of science is induc-
tive (ibid., p. 168), and leads only to insecure results. Hy-
potheses may be used sparingly, but it is hopeless to make
them, in all cases of real ignorance. "Is it reasonable,
when we cannot draw, from observation and experiment,
such conclusions as may be safe foundations on which to
proceed by the synthetic method in the pursuit of truth, to
assume certain principles . . . which have been never
proved, nor perhaps suggested by the phenomena, in hopes
that they may be so afterwards" (ibid., p. 171). To secure
the acquisition of this precarious knowledge, the mind is
furnished with the two faculties of memory and association.
As to memory, Bolingbroke offers no explanation. He
rejects that offered by Descartes, and maintains that " the



BOLINGBROKE'S OPINIONS 203

only reasonable method we can take is to be content to
know intuitively, and by inward observation, not the cause,
but the effects of memory, and the use of it in the intellec-
tual system" {ibid., p. 139). The faculty of composition
and of comparison of our ideas comes next, and is the result
of the operation of Nature upon us. " Nature has united in
distinct substances, as we commonly speak, various com-
binations of those qualities, each of which causes in us the
sensation it is appropriated to cause, and our organs are
fitted to receive ; so that several, being thus combined and
making their impression together, may be said to cause a
complex sensation" (ibid., p. 142). "The complex idea we
have of every substance is nothing more than a combination
of several sensible ideas, which determine the apparent
nature of it to us" {ibid., p. 144). Of all the ideas w^hich
the mind is capable of forming, its whole system of know-
ledge is composed : " and in the process of it, from first to
last, we are assisted, directly or indirectly, by the lessons of
nature " {ibid., p. 145).

The influence of the rationalistic point of view upon
psychology is very strongly marked here. Reason is para-
mount, but at the same time would seem to be the roughest
and most uninstructed form of commonsense. The utter-
ances of the sensational faculties are just taken as they are ;
no criticism is applied to them, and they are run together
under various heads, without any attempt at explanation.
This is Bolingbroke's own view of rational procedure. In
virtue of it he dissents from Locke, whom he, for the most
part, follows implicitly. The difference arises over the use
of the word abstraction. " There is," says Bolingbroke, " a
very practicable operation of the mind, by which we are
said to abstract ideas, and by which we do in effect generalize
them in a certain manner, and to a certain degree, by substi-
tuting one as representation of many. There is another —
by which some philosophers have made themselves and



204 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

others believe that they abstract, from a multitude of
particular ideas, the idea of one general nature or essence,
which is all of them, and none of them " (vol. vii. p. 298).
This general idea of a thing Locke had called its nominal
essence. " To talk of nominal essences and the abstraction
of such comes too near the gibberish of the schools about
genera and species ; the former method of abstracting or
generalizing our ideas is the universal practice of mankind,
the latter is purely imaginary " (vol. vii. p. 299). Such
violent limitation of the operation of reason to the mental
furniture with which every man, however ignorant or
uneducated, is necessarily supplied, makes him entirely
independent of, and incapable of entering into, any of the
questions which have exercised philosophers in the past.
They are survivals from the school of Plato, " who poisoned
the very source of all real knowledge," of the " pompous
jargon " of Aristotle, and others like him. They are main-
tained by men like Leibnitz, " one of the vainest and most
chimerical men that ever got a name in philosophy." It
would be interesting to collect the various abusive expres-
sions bestowed by our author on philosophers ; but it would
be quite impossible in a short notice, they would cover far
too many pages.

As Bolingbroke has treated psychology " rationally," so
he proceeds to treat ethics and theology. " The great
principles of moral truth are as much founded in the nature
of things as those of mathematical truth " (vol. vii. p. 340).
Man is so constituted as to possess selfish and benevolent
impulses from the first. The study of morality next to that
of natural philosophy is, of all pursuits, that one which
most deserves the application of the human mind. For
" the will of God, in the constitution of our moral system,
is the object of one ; His infinite wisdom and power, that
are manifested in the natural system of the universe, are
the object of the other" (vol. v. p. 187). At the same time,



BOLINGBROKE'S OPINIONS 205

here is no such thing as moral science properly so called.
" Moral ideas and notions, of which no ' sensuous ' copies
can be made, which are held together in the mind, with the
names assigned to them, by nothing but the retentive
powers of the mind, and which can be signified by nothing
but sounds that bear no resemblance to them, must fluctuate
and vary, beget all the confusion, spread all the obscurity,
and give occasion to all the fraud that I have mentioned "
(vol. V. p. 217). As before, we were told that all our
knowledge is closely limited to particulars, so here we are
forbidden to attempt anything like a connected system of
ethical principles. We shall know a posteriori, by experience
of moral facts, what are the moral principles of our own
age and country. Throughout the index of right and wrong,
actions will be the advantage and disadvantage accruing
from them (cf. Fragments and Minutes, No. II.).

On the subjects of religion and politics we may be very
brief. Religion seems to have arisen (according to Boling-
broke) out of the curiosity of men to know the causes of
phenomena which met their senses. They explain them as
the actions of various beings very like themselves in nature,
only much more powerful. Being wholly without the idea
of secondary causes, they invent as many gods as they
require. The first great principle of natural religion, though
probably not the primitive faith of mankind (vol. vi. 38),
" could not fail to be discovered as soon as some men
began to contemplate themselves and all the objects that
surrounded them " (vol. vi. p. 37). Not only is it so dis-
coverable, it is actually demonstrable. The " demons-
tration " is given (vol. v. p. 123): "Since there must have
been something from eternity, because there is something
now, the eternal Being must be an intelligent Being,
because there is intelligence now ; and such a Being must
exist necessarily, whether things have been always as they
are or whether they have been made in time, because it is



206 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

no more possible to conceive an infinite than a finite pro-
gression of effects without a cause. Thus the existence of
God is demonstrated, and cavil against demonstration is
impertinent." For the strenuous assertor of the a posteriori
character of human knowledge this seems a very remark-
able piece of argument. Of God, as thus demonstrated into
existence, we know nothing whatever, save that He exists
and has created the world (vol. v. p. 60). Still it is " both
profane and injurious to true theism to assume the imme-
diate presence and action of the supreme Being in all the
operations of corporal nature " (vol. vi. p. 91). He created
the world, but in what sense or how, nobody knows. The
knowledge of God is immediate and original in each of us,
reason being the instrument by which we obtain it ; and he
who " boasts a revelation superadded to reason to supply
the defects of it, is no less than mad " (vol. vi. pp. 170-1).
Miracles are obviously impossible. If they had ever
occurred, they must have carried the world into belief in
Christ and His revelation ; " and yet, in fact, a universal
submission of all those, who were witnesses of the signs
and wonders that accompanied the publication of the
Gospel, did not follow " (vol. vi. p. 284). The miracles
are, therefore, false.

The causes of the growth of sects between the apostolical
age and this, are " to be found in the metaphysical madness
of philosophers mixing with the enthusiasm of the first
Christians, in the cabalistical practice of giving different
senses to the same passages of Holy Writ, in the uncertainty
of tradition, and in the use that a distinct order of men has
made, in every Christian state, of these and other circum-
stances to acquire a dominion over private consciences "
(vol. vi. p. 432). Christ republished natural religion to-
gether with the sanction of eternal punishment, and theo-
logians since the days of Paul have been occupied in
falsifying Christ's message. It is worth noticing that in



BOLINGBROKE'S OPINIONS 207

his opinions about Saint Paul (vol. vi. p. 259, etc.) Boling-
broke anticipated in a way the views of Baur and his
school. He represents Saint Paul as preaching a com-
pletely new gospel, different from that of our Lord who
was sent to the Jews only (vol. vi. p. 369, etc.) and of the
earlier apostles, but he differs from the Tubingen school in
that he describes it as a fatal deflection from the truth.

It now remains only to indicate Bolingbroke's political
theory. " All societies," he writes, " were begun by instinct
and improved by experience " (vol. vii. p. 408). They take
their origin in those natural social conditions which are first
seen in the family. "We are led to civil through natural
society, and are fitted to be members of the one by having
been members of the other. This is the case of every one
in particular, and has been that of mankind collectively
considered" (vol. vii. p. 413).

The family, therefore, was the origin of the state. This
point of view, of course, makes Bolingbroke look with dis-
favour upon the speculations of Hobbes and Locke as to
the state of nature. Such theories, he says, represent
" mankind to themselves like a number of savage indi-
viduals out of all society in their natural state " (vol. vii.
p. 433), and this is not historical or philosophically
sound. So far the state is based on the law of nature.
" Nature begets natural law, natural law sociability,
sociability union of societies by consent, and this union by
consent the obligation of civil laws " (voL vii. p. 376).
Under this civil obligation, definite forms of religion are
included : Erasmus, Plato, Varro, and some others, dis-
tinguished very rightly, " between the regard due to
religions already established, and the conduct to be held in
the establishment of them." They " thought that things
evidently false might deserve an outward respect, when
they are interwoven into a system of government." This
outward respect every good citizen will show them in such



208 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

a case, and they can claim no more in any. He will not
propagate these errors, but he will be cautious how he
propagates even truth in opposition to them (vol. v. p. 97).
Such, very briefly, is the philosophy of Lord Bolingbroke.
In the short space allotted to this aspect of his life, it is
entirely impossible to deal fully with his opinions. It might
be interesting, if indeed it were worth while, to criticize
elaborately the historical accounts of the progress of Chris-
tianity, etc., which are here passed by almost without
mention, or it might be interesting to lay bare by means of
analysis the sources from which he drew, and to trace the
history of his philosophical terminology. But, after all,
this would be treating him an grand s6rienx — treatment
which he scarcely deserves ; philosophy and theology owe
him nothing. He simply presents rationalism in its crudest
form as it had filtered into his mind from without. We
cannot wonder that publication of his works caused no stir
in the learned world. We should have every reason to
wonder if it had.



CHAPTER XI

CONCLUSION.

Bolingbroke seldom judged fairly — Why this is so — Hatred of Whigs —
Attacks on his private life — Severe criticism of his public career — The
Treaty of Utrecht a great work, and carried out by the Whigs —
Walpole's appreciation of Bolingbroke's foreign policy — The questions
of England's non-mtervention on the Continent, of the importance of
the navy, of the value of the Colonies, treated of by Bolingbroke —
Carries out Cromwell's policy — Unfair attitude of Johnson and Burke
- — The real value of Bolingbroke's writings — Popular view of his
character — Its absurdity — Summary of his work — The interest still
taken in his life — His claim to the title of " Great."

It is impossible to hope that the time has yet come when
either Bolingbroke's statesmanship or his own character
can be judged impartially. In the first place, the reigns of
Queen Anne and of the first two Georges are too near our
own times to allow us to regard without some party bias
the motives of men who guided or influenced England's
destinies less than two hundred years ago. When men
wax warm over the lives and characters of Charles I. and
Cromwell, it is too much to expect calm criticism of so
prominent a statesman as Bolingbroke. Then, again,
owing to the peculiar circumstances in which he was
placed, to the very unusual character of the political
problems with which he had to deal, he incurred the re-
sentment of a large number of his Tory followers. A party
suffering under a serious defeat not unfrequently finds fault
with its leaders, and during the reign of George I. and the
greater part of that of George II. a large section of the
Tories blamed Bolingbroke for their comparative power-
lessness, and altogether failed to appreciate at their proper

209 14



210 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

value the efforts he had made to place them in a position
safe from the vicissitudes of party struggles.

Much adverse criticism has, too, been levelled at his
memory in consequence of his adoption of the Deist
position and of the publication of his rationalistic views.
Probably his enemies, the Whigs, are mainly answerable
for the bitter tone which has generally characterized the
writings of historians and biographers of Bolingbroke. In
the heat of conflict, the Jacobitism of a comparatively few
Tories was magnified into a dangerous plot with wide
ramifications. Fortune favoured the Whigs after the ac-
cession of George, and party exigencies demanded that
they should continue to fasten on their opponents the
stigma of Jacobitism. We know the result. The Tories
remained hewers of wood and drawers of water for nearly
half a century, and it is to this day well-nigh impossible
to remove the general impression that Bolingbroke was
throughout his career a firm adherent to the Jacobite cause.
Bolingbroke himself declares that he expected as a matter
of course to be impeached and attainted by the Whigs :
what he did not expect was to be treated with ingratitude
by the Tories ; that ingratitude he characterized as " the
last burst of the cloud," which has " gone near to over-
whelm me."

" From our enemies," he says, *'we expect evil treatment of every sort.
We are prepared for it ; we are animated by it, and we sometimes triumph
in it ; but when our friends abandon us, when they wound us, and when
they take to do this an occasion when we stand the most in need of their
support, and have the best title to it, the firmest mind finds it hard to resist."

But, though he regretted in his own day the attitude
taken up towards him by a large section of that party in
whose service he had, as he assures us, endeavoured to
distinguish himself " under the immediate weight of great
discouragement, and with the no very distant prospect of
great danger," he was never careful to secure the favour-



CONCLUSION 211



able opinion of posterity. To stand well in the eyes of
future generations was no object of his. " As to the
opinion of mankind in general, and the judgment which
posterity will pass on these matters, 1 am under no great
concern — stmm cuique decus postevitas rependit.'"

His reputation as a statesman has been severely handled.
The Peace of Utrecht is often styled shameful and dis-
astrous. As that Treaty was Bolingbroke's masterpiece,
his enemies have certainly shown wisdom in their genera-
tion in attacking it. But the Peace of Utrecht was, in its
main features, an admirable settlement of the many diffi-
cult and complicated questions which had arisen during
the long war, and Stanhope, Walpole, and their fellow
Ministers, speedily showed a keen appreciation of the work
of their rival by completing the pacification of Europe on
the lines laid down by Bolingbroke. Walpole's system of
Government, in fact, his whole policy at home and abroad,
was based on the dynastic alliance between the Houses of
Hanover and Bourbon. The preservation of the Peace
of Utrecht became the aim of English, French, and Dutch
Ministers. The Quadruple Alliance, by which the House
of Austria relinquished its pretensions to Spain, the fall of
Alberoni, the Treaties of Nystadt, Seville, and the second
Treaty of Vienna (1731), were all brought about with the


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