Edward Augustus Freeman.

Greater Greece and Greater Britain; and, George Washington, the expander of England online

. (page 1 of 7)
Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanGreater Greece and Greater Britain; and, George Washington, the expander of England → online text (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









to the





xins uuuk is l/ud on me last aate stamped below

MAR 2 3 192b

jvpj P87

• J

— rTrerter Greece
.and-GP-aatg r B rit a i n

4 "



Southern Branch
of the

University of California

Los Angeles

Form L I -r-v i\

Greater Greece and Greater Britain


George Washington
The Expander of England






* ■ 1

1 » ■»

,' . ■ ■
, ' ,


% it n




[ -4?Z rights reserved ]


« I «.

It * * 1

< (





These two lectures were given quite independently,
the former to the Students' Association at Edin-
burgh on December 22nd, 1885, and the latter as
a public lecture in the University of Oxford on
Washington's birthday, February 22nd, 1886. As
they were written for two different audiences, and as
one leading idea ran through both, there was natu-
rally a good deal of repetition, sometimes even to the
very words. This I have, in revising them for the
press, done my best to get rid of. They appear now
as two discourses, looking at the same general subject
from two somewhat different points of view, and
each putting different points more prominently for-
ward. To these I have added, as an Appendix, such
parts as were not immediately temporary of an
article which appeared in Macmillan's Magazine for
April, 1885, under the heading of " Imperial Federa-
tion." In this article, written only to be read and
not to be heard, some points which were treated
in a more rhetorical way in the lectures .are dealt
with in a style of more minute argument. It seemed
therefore to make a fitting commentary on the

April Jilt, 1886.



The name of Greater Britain is one which of
late years has become strangely familiar. It is
possible that a generation back the words might
have fallen harshly on patriotic ears. We were
then used to believe that the Britain in which
we lived was so great that there could be none
greater. The name of " Great Britain " was per-
haps used without any very clear notion of its
history ; but it was at least accepted as implying
greatness of some kind. Whatever may have been
the exact meaning with which the name of " Greater
Britain" was first brought in, it was, we may be
sure, suggested by the seemingly older phrase of
" Great Britain." Those who first spoke of " Greater
Britain" perhaps hardly knew that the name is
as old as that of " Great Britain," and, more than



this, that " Great Britain " and " Greater Britain"
are in truth phrases of exactly the same meaning.
I would not venture to say how much older the
name of " Magna Britannia" may be than its
somewhat irregular employment in the royal style
by James Sixth and First. But " Greater Britain,"
M Major Britannia," is undoubtedly as old as the
twelfth century. We perhaps sometimes forget
that, besides this our isle of Britain, there is
another Britain on the continent, no other than
the land which, by a slight change of ending, we
commonly call Britanny. But in Latin and in
French the two names are the same, Britannia
and Bretagne. The one land is Bretagne, the
other is Grande - Bretagne j the one is Britannia
minor, the other is Britannia major. In short,
the Britain of the island, the Great or Greater
Britain, was so called simply to distinguish it
from the Lesser Britain on the mainland.

Here, be it remarked, the Greater Britain is
the older, the Lesser is the younger; the Greater
is the mother-country, the Lesser is the colony.


The Lesser Britain of the mainland never took that
name till it was settled by men fleeing from the
Greater Britain in the island. Now in the sense in
which we have of late years heard the phrase
" Greater Britain," all this has been turned the other
way. "Great Britain" is not simply opposed to
a Lesser Britain ; it is opposed to a Britain which
is confessedly great, but, it would seem, not so
great as the Greater. And of these the one which
is simply Great is the elder; the Greater is the
younger; the Great is the mother-country, the
ruling country; the Lesser is the plantation, the
dependency, or rather an aggregate of plantations
and dependencies all over the world. The change,
the contrast, between the old use of " Major
Britannia" and the new use of "Greater Britain"
is so very singular that one is driven to ask
whether those who brought in the new use ever
had the old one in their thoughts at all.

But the question becomes more curious still
when we bear in mind that there was in a distant
age of the world an use of a kindred phrase which

' B a


is strikingly like, not the old, but the new use
of the phrase " Greater Britain." As there was a
Greater and a Lesser Britain, so there was, perhaps
not a Lesser, but assuredly a Greater Greece. And
the Greater Greece did not answer to the " Major
Britannia" of our older use, but to the "Greater
Britain " of our newer. The Greater Greece was
not an older Greece from which settlers went forth,
as they went forth from the Greater Britain of
old, to found a younger and a lesser. The Greater
Greece, like the Greater Britain of modern times,
was an assemblage of settlements from the elder
Greece which were deemed, or deemed themselves,
to have become greater than the mother-country.
The Great or the Greater Greece ( C H jueydArj 'EAAdy,
Magna Grcecia, Major Gr&cia) became the received
geographical name for the Greek colonies in
Southern Italy. And they may be thought to
have deserved the name in that short and brilliant
time when those colonies distinctly outstripped the
mother - country, when Sybaris and Tarentum
ranked among the greatest cities of the earth, more


brilliant and flourishing, beyond doubt, than
Athens or Sparta or Corinth or any other of the
cities of the older Hellenic land.

As in the former case the contrast, so in this
case the analogy, is so striking that we again
cannot help asking whether those who brought
in the modern phrase of " Greater Britain " ever
had it in their minds? One point of unlikeness
however must be mentioned. By " Greater Britain "
seems now to be commonly meant the whole aggre-
gate of the scattered colonies and dependencies
of the Great or Lesser Britain — those names have
in the new use become synonymous — all over the
world. But the name Greater Greece by no means
took in all the scattered Greek colonies all over
the world ; it was confined to a single group of
them. The name seems hardly to have spread
from Southern Italy even to the neighbouring
island of Sicily ; it was certainly never applied
to the Greek settlements in Asia or Libya or
any other part of the world. Indeed the name
had a peculiar fitness as applied to the Greek


settlements in Southern Italy which it could not
have had elsewhere. The geographical structure
of the land enabled Southern Italy to put on the
character of a second Greece in a way in which
none other among the lands in which Greeks
settled could put it on. Everywhere else out of
old Greece there was merely a Greek fringe along
the coast. For the Greek settlements were planted
mainly on islands and promontories, along the
coasts of solid continents the inland parts of
which remained barbarian. Even in Sicily the
Greek settlements strictly so called were little
more than a fringe ; the inland parts of the island
did indeed in the end become Greek ; but it was
not by real Greek settlement, but by the spread
of the Greek tongue and of Greek culture among
men of other nations who became Greek by adop-
tion. In Southern Italy alone, the shape of the
land, branching off into two narrow peninsulas,
enabled Greek settlement to become something:
more than a fringe on the eoast, and to spread, as
in the older Greek land, from sea to sea.


Thus then there were two lands, an older and
a newer, in which it might be said, at all events
at the first aspect, that the whole land was Greek.
No doubt there was this difference, that in the
older Greece all was, as far as we can see, Greek
in the strictest sense, while in the younger Greece
much was Greek only by assimilation and adop-
tion. In the older Greece, if any relics lived on
from times and people older than the first Hellenic
settlements, they had been assimilated to the Greek
mass before recorded history began. The existence
in old Greece of any people earlier than the Greeks
is matter of legend, of guess, of scientific inference,
not matter of direct evidence. In the younger
Greece of the Italian colonies, the existence of
earlier inhabitants whom the Greeks found in
possession, and who long lived on by the side of
the Greeks, is as certain as the existence of earlier
inhabitants in our own American and Australian
colonies. But the earlier inhabitants whom the
Greek settlers found in Southern Italy were in-
deed unlike those whom the English settlers found


in America and Australia. Not very far removed,
so some have thought, from the Greeks in blood,
in any case belonging to the same great branch
of the human family, the nations of the extreme
south of Italy, like their neighbours of Sicily,
had a special power of adapting themselves to
Greek ways, of adopting Greek culture, of making
themselves in short Greeks by adoption. They
did not die out before the new settlers, like the
savages of America or Australia ; they were able
to rise to the higher civilization of the strangers
who settled down among them, and to become
members of the same body. This is one of the
most marked differences between the old Greek
settlements and the settlements of modern Euro-
peans. The settlements of different European
nations have taken different courses, but there has
been nothing exactly answering to the process
by which so large a part of the barbarian neigh-
bours of the old Greek colonies became adopted
Hellenes. In the case of our own settlements,
the spread of British settlement or dominion has


meant either the gradual dying out of the native
races, as in America or Australia, or else, as in
India, their survival as a distinct and subject
people. In no case have English settlers mingled
to any important extent with the native races ;
in no case have the natives to any great extent
put on the outward seeming of Englishmen]/ Some-
thing more like this result has taken place in
the colonies of Spain. There the mingled race, the
natives of unmixed race who have adopted at
least the Spanish tongue, are important elements
which have nothing answering to them in the
colonies of England. The nearest approach to
these elements to be found in any English colony
must be looked for in the grotesque imitation
of English ways where real assimilation is im-
possible^ This we see, not on the part of the
barbarians whom the English settlers found
dwelling in the settled lands, but on the part of
another race of barbarians whom they afterwards
imported for their own ends. The negro of the
Western continent and islands has truly nothing


answering to him in any part of the Hellenic
world. And, in the other case, while the process
which made Sicily and Southern Italy Greek
was mainly the raising of the older inhabitants
to a higher level, the process which has made a
large part of America in some sort Spanish has
been largely the sinking of the European settler
to a lower level. In the Greek and in the English
case, it has been the higher civilization of the
time that has been extended, and that by milder
means in the Greek case than in the English.
In the Spanish case we can hardly say that the
highest civilization has been extended. If one
race has risen, the other has fallen. This result
nowhere took place in the Greek settlements, even
where the Greek settlers, while communicating so
much to the older inhabitants, did adopt something
from them back again. On the whole, the work
was a work of raising, not of sinking; but it is
needful to remember that, when we speak of the
narrow peninsulas of Southern Italy becoming
Greek from sea to sea, we mean that they largely


became Greek by the adoption of the earlier
inhabitants into the Greek body. When we
speak of the vast mainland of North America
becoming wholly European, mainly English, from
Ocean to Ocean, we mean that it has become
so, not by the adoption of the earlier people
by invaders who were also teachers, but by
the gradual vanishing of the earlier people be-
fore invaders who to them at least have been
destroyers. J[

Now this difference is one that follows
directly from the difference in scale between the
world in which the old Greek settlers lived and
the world in which modern European nations
live. This difference in scale is a thing which
we must remember at every step./^The Greek,
in planting his settlements round the coasts of
his own Mediterranean Sea, had nowhere to deal
with races of men so utterly unlike his own
as the races with whom modern Europeans have
had to deal in planting their settlements in the
islands and continents of the Ocean.^] Those


among whom the Greek settled were mainly men
of the same great family as himself, men capable
of being raised, by a swifter or slower process,
to his own level. His world did indeed take
in, as ours does, nations of ancient and rival
civilizations altogether distinct from his own, but
it was not among those nations that he planted
his colonies. Where the Egyptian had dwelled
from an immemorial antiquity, where the Phoenician
had planted his abiding colonies in the first dawn
of European history, there the Greek in his best
days never settled ; Egypt did in the end become in
some sort part of the Greek world ; but it was not
by settlement from free Greece, but by the con-
quests of the Macedonian kings. Egypt under the
Ptolemies was like India now, a land conquered
but not, strictly speaking, colonized, a land in
which the older nation kept on its own older life
alongside of the intruding life of the younger
settlers. But it marks the narrow area of the old
Greek world, that Egypt, in some sort its India,
in some sort its China, came within the physical


limits of that world ; it was a land whose shores
were washed by the same waters that washed the
shores of Hellas. This difference of scale must
never be forgotten while we are comparing or
contrasting the days of old Greece with our days.
But while we ever bear in mind the difference,
we must ever beware of being led away by
the misleading inferences which shallow talkers
have often drawn from that difference. The nature
of man is the same, whether he has a wider or
a narrower sphere for his work ; and the narrower
sphere has some advantages over the wider. It
is in small communities, in commonwealths of a
single city, where men are brought closer together
than in greater states, where every man has a
personal share in the political life of the community,
that the faculties of man are raised to the highest
level and sharpened to the finest point. It is, from
a political point of view, the great merit of modern
scientific discoveries that they have enabled the
people of a great community, of a kingdom or
commonwealth covering a great space, to have that


direct personal knowledge of the political life of
the community of which they are members, that
direct personal share in it, which once could not
be had save where the state was confined to the
territory of a single city. Instead of despising
earlier times because they had not printing and
railways and telegraphs, let us rather say that
printing and railways and telegraphs were needed
to raise large states to the level of small ones.
By means of those inventions the Englishman of
our day has become far more like an Athenian of
the age of Perikles than his forefathers were in
any earlier time. A hundred years ago, even
fifty years ago, the utmost the ordinary English-
man could do was now and then to give a vote,
if he chanced to have one, at a parliamentary
election, and to read or hear the most meagre
accounts of what was going on in Parliament and
elsewhere in public life. Very few Englishmen
ever saw or heard Walpole or Pulteney, Pitt or
Fox. Now the whole land has well-nigh become a
single city; we see and hear our leading men


almost daily ; they walk before us as the leaders
of the Athenian democracy walked before their
fellow-citizens ; they take us into their counsels ;
they appeal to us as their judges ; we have in short
a share in political life only less direct than the
share of the Athenian freeman, a share which our
forefathers, even two or three generations back,
never dreamed of. But without the help of modern
scientific discoveries, this active share in public
affairs on the part of the mass of the inhabitants
of a large country would have been simply a dream.
Or look at a matter which more directly concerns
the immediate subject of this discourse, look at the
vast developement of English political life in the
great English land beyond the Ocean ; can any
man believe that a hundred years back Maine,
Florida, and California could have been kept
together as a political whole by any power short
of a despotism 1 Could those distant lands have
acted as parts of one free political body, if they
had had no means of intercourse with one another
swifter than the speed of a horse 1 It is by the


help of modern discoveries that the federal systems
of old Greece can be reproduced on a gigantic
scale, that a single Union of states can embrace a
continent stretching from Ocean to Ocean instead of
a peninsula stretching from sea to sea. In short,
instead of despising those ancient communities
which were the earliest form of European political
life, we should rejoice that in many things we
have gone back to the earliest form of European
political life, that the discoveries of modern times
have enabled the free states of old times to arise
again, but to arise again, no longer on the scale
of cities but on the scale of nations.

When then we compare the colonial system of
modern times, like any other feature of modern
political life, with the thing answering to it in the
political life of the old Greek city-commonwealths,
we must never forget the difference of area on
which the political life of the two periods has been
acted ; but we must never allow ourselves to fancy
that difference of area, any more than distance of
time, wholly shuts us off from political fellowship


with those earlier times or makes their experience
of none effect for our political instruction. The
communities of those days were cities, the com-
munities of our days are nations ; but cities and
nations alike share in a common political life in
which many of the ages that went between their
days and ours had no share./_The Greek settle-
ments, like the Phoenician settlements before
them, were settlements of cities, not of nations,
not of kingdoms or of commonwealths on the
scale of kingdoms. Till the political needs of a
later age taught the Greek that several cities
might be combined in a federal union, his whole
political life had gathered round the single inde-
pendent city as its essential unit. Every Greek
city was not independent ; but every Greek city
deemed itself wronged if it was not independent ;
when its independence was lost, it was, within all
Hellenic lands, lost by the rule of city over
city. And the rule of city over city, if it took
away the independence of the subject city as
an equal power among other powers, did not




wipe out its essential character as a separate
city-commonwealth. The dependent city was not
incorporated like an annexed land ; it was not
held in bondage like a subject province ; it re-
mained a city, with more or less of freedom in
its local affairs, though bound, as against other
powers, to follow the lead of the ruling city.
The city was all in all ; the smallness of the
community, the narrowness of its area, brought
every citizen face to face with his fellows and his
leaders ; it brought with it a fulness of political
life, an extension of political power and political
interests to every citizen, to which larger states
have reached only by painful steps and by help
of the inventions which have in some sort made
time and distance cease to be. The Greek was
before all things a citizen ; his political life was
wholly local ; his powers and duties as a citizen
could be discharged only in his own city, on
some spot hallowed by old tradition, and hallowed
most commonly in the more formal sense by
the abiding presence and guardianship of the


patron deity. He felt in the strongest sense the
tie of membership of a community, the tie of
all the duties which spring from membership of
a community. For his city he would live and
toil and die, but he would live and toil and die
for it, because it was the whole of which he
was himself a part. He owed faith and loyalty
to his city — loyalty in its true and ancient
sense of obeying the law, the law which he
might be called on to help to administer, which
he might, in some rare case, be called on to
help to change. He might keep that faith and
loyalty far away from his own city by doing
all that he could in foreign lands for the interest
and honour of that city. But in no other sense
could he carry his citizenship with him beyond
the bounds of the territory of his city ; else-
where he might act as a soldier or as an envoy,
but hardly in the strictest sense as a citizen.
The tie was local ; the duty was local ; of a
personal tie of allegiance binding him to a
personal superior, bringing with it personal

c 2


duties which should everywhere dog his steps,
which could not be cast off in any corner of the
world — of loyalty in that sense, the old Greek,
the old Phoenician, had never any thought in
his mind.

The change in the meaning of the word "loyalty"
well marks that leading political characteristic of
modern Europe which stands out in the fullest
contrast to the political thoughts of the ancient
commonwealths. Loyalty, once simply legalitas,
obedience to the law, has for ages meant — when
it has not meant something far baser — no longer
obedience to the law, no longer duty to a com-
munity as a community, but faith and duty
owed by one man to another man. It may be
simply the personal duty of a man to his lord,
the tie of chosen or hereditary comradeship, the
tie known by the oldest Greek and by the
oldest German, an ennobling tie indeed as
regards the man himself, a tie which may lead
to lofty prowess or to pure self-sacrifice, the tie
of the true companions of Brihtnoth on the day


of Maldon, when on the place of slaughter each
man lay thegn-like, his lord hard by. Or it
may take the less poetic, the more political
shape, in which the thought of the common-
wealth does come in, but where the commonwealth
is perhaps overshadowed by its chief, perhaps
only embodied in him. The notion of personal
allegiance, a notion which could have been
hardly understood by either the aristocratic or
the democratic Greek, has been the essence of
the political system of Europe for many ages.
It is a notion which grows up as naturally in
a kingdom as the other notion, the notion of
duty to the community, grows up in a common-
wealth which knows no abiding personal head.
It by no means shuts out the notion of duty
to the community ; but, as has been just now
implied, it has a tendency to overshadow it.
In the higher types of the class, in the French
nobles, for instance, under the old monarchy, the
feeling of personal loyalty, of devotion to the
particular man who wore the crown, perhaps

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanGreater Greece and Greater Britain; and, George Washington, the expander of England → online text (page 1 of 7)