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LECTURES AND ESSAYS

BY

GOLDWIN SMITH




PREFATORY NOTE.

These papers have been reprinted for friends who sometimes ask for the
back numbers of periodicals in which they appeared. The great public is
sick of reprints, and with good reason.

The volume might almost have been called Contributions to Canadian
Literature, for of the papers not originally published in Canada several
were reproduced in Canadian journals. Political subjects have been
excluded both to keep a volume intended for friends free from anything
of a party character and because the writer looks forward to putting the
thoughts scattered over his political essays and reviews into a more
connected form.

The papers on 'The Early Years of the Conqueror of Quebec,' 'A
Wirepuller of Kings,' 'A True Captain of Industry' and 'Early Years of
Abraham Lincoln' can hardly pretend to be more than accounts of books to
which they relate, but they interested some of their readers at the time
and there are probably not many copies of the books in Canada. All the
papers have been revised, so that they do not appear here exactly as
they were in the periodicals from which they are reprinted.

TORONTO, Feb. 16, 1881




CONTENTS.


THE GREATNESS OF THE ROMANS (_Contemporary Review_)

THE GREATNESS OF ENGLAND (_Contemporary Review._)

THE GREAT DUEL OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY (_Canadian Monthly_)

THE LAMPS OF FICTION (_A Speech on the Centenary of the Birth of Sir
Walter Scott_)

AN ADDRESS TO THE OXFORD SCHOOL OF SCIENCE AND ART

THE ASCENT OF MAN (_Macmillan's Magazine._)

THE PROPOSED SUBSTITUTES FOR RELIGION (_Macmillan's Magazine._)

THE LABOUR MOVEMENT (_Canadian Monthly._)

WHAT IS CULPABLE LUXURY? (_Canadian Monthly._)

A TRUE CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY (_Canadian Monthly._)

A WIREPULLER OF KINGS (_Canadian Monthly._)

THE EARLY YEARS OF THE CONQUEROR OF QUEBEC (_Toronto Nation._)

FALKLAND AND THE PURITANS (_Contemporary Review._)

THE EARLY YEARS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN (_Toronto Mail_)

ALFREDUS REX FUNDATOR (_Canadian Monthly_)

THE LAST REPUBLICANS OF ROME (_MacMillan's Magazine_)

AUSTEN LEIGH'S MEMOIR OF JANE AUSTEN (_New York Nation_)

PATTISON'S MILTON (_New York Nation_)

CLERIDGE'S LIFE OF KEBLE (_New York Nation_)




THE GREATNESS OF THE ROMANS


Rome was great in arms, in government, in law. This combination was the
talisman of her august fortunes. But the three things, though blended in
her, are distinct from each other, and the political analyst is called
upon to give a separate account of each. By what agency was this State,
out of all the States of Italy, out of all the States of the world,
elected to a triple pre-eminence, and to the imperial supremacy of
which, it was the foundation? By what agency was Rome chosen as the
foundress of an empire which we regard almost as a necessary step in
human development, and which formed the material, and to no small extent
the political matrix of modern Europe, though the spiritual life of our
civilization is derived from another source? We are not aware that this
question has ever been distinctly answered, or even distinctly
propounded. The writer once put it to a very eminent Roman antiquarian,
and the answer was a quotation from Virgil -

"Hoc nemus, hunc, inquit, frondoso vertice clivum
Quis deus incertum est, habitat Deus; Arcades ipsum
Credunt se vidisae Jovem cum saepe nigrantem
AEgida concuteret dextra nimbosque cieret."

This perhaps was the best answer that Roman patriotism, ancient or
modern, could give; and it certainly was given in the best form. The
political passages of Virgil, like some in Lucan and Juvenal, had a
grandeur entirely Roman with which neither Homer nor any other Greek has
anything to do. But historical criticism, without doing injustice to the
poetical aspect of the mystery, is bound to seek a rational solution.
Perhaps in seeking the solution we may in some measure supply, or at
least suggest the mode of supplying, a deficiency which we venture to
think is generally found in the first chapters of histories. A national
history, as it seems to us, ought to commence with a survey of the
country or locality, its geographical position, climate, productions,
and other physical circumstances as they bear on the character of the
people. We ought to be presented, in short, with a complete description
of the scene of the historic drama, as well as with an account of the
race to which the actors belong. In the early stages of his development,
at all events, man is mainly the creature of physical circumstances; and
by a systematic examination of physical circumstances we may to some
extent cast the horoscope of the infant nation as it lies in the arms of
Nature.

That the central position of Rome, in the long and narrow peninsula of
Italy, was highly favourable to her Italian dominion, and that the
situation of Italy was favourable to her dominion over the countries
surrounding the Mediterranean, has been often pointed out. But we have
yet to ask what launched Rome in her career of conquest, and still more,
what rendered that career so different from those of ordinary
conquerors? What caused the Empire of Rome to be so durable? What gives
it so high an organization? What made it so tolerable, and even in some
cases beneficent to her subjects? What enabled it to perform services so
important in preparing the way for a higher civilization?

About the only answer that we get to these questions is _race_. The
Romans, we are told, were by nature a peculiarly warlike race. "They
were the wolves of Italy," says Mr. Merivale, who may be taken to
represent fairly the state of opinion on this subject. We are presented
in short with the old fable of the Twins suckled by the She-wolf in a
slightly rationalized form. It was more likely to be true, if anything,
in its original form, for in mythology nothing is so irrational as
rationalization. That unfortunate She-wolf with her Twins has now been
long discarded by criticism as a historical figure; but she still
obtrudes herself as a symbolical legend into the first chapter of Roman
history, and continues to affect the historian's imagination and to give
him a wrong bias at the outset. Who knows whether the statue which we
possess is a real counterpart of the original? Who knows what the
meaning of the original statue was? If the group was of great antiquity,
we may be pretty sure that it was not political or historic, but
religious; for primaeval art is the handmaid of religion; historic
representation and political portraiture belong generally to a later
age. We cannot tell with certainty even that the original statue was
Roman: it may have been brought to Rome among the spoils of some
conquered city, in which case it would have no reference to Roman
history at all. We must banish it entirely from our minds, with all the
associations and impressions which cling to it, and we must do the same
with regard to the whole of that circle of legends woven out of
misinterpreted monuments or customs, with the embellishments of pure
fancy, which grouped itself round the apocryphal statues of the seven
kings in the Capitol, aptly compared by Arnold to the apocryphal
portraits of the early kings of Scotland in Holyrood and those of the
mediaeval founders of Oxford in the Bodleian. We must clear our minds
altogether of these fictions; they are not even ancient: they came into
existence at a time when the early history of Rome was viewed in the
deceptive light of her later achievements; when, under the influence of
altered circumstances, Roman sentiment had probably undergone a
considerable change; and when, consequently, the national imagination no
longer pointed true to anything primaeval.

Race, when tribal peculiarities are once formed, is a most important
feature in history; those who deny this and who seek to resolve
everything, even in advanced humanity, into the influence of external
circumstances or of some particular external circumstance, such as food,
are not less one-sided or less wide of the truth than those who employ
race as the universal solution. Who can doubt that between the English
and the French, between the Scotch and the Irish, there are differences
of character which have profoundly affected and still affect the course
of history? The case is still stronger if we take races more remote from
each other, such as the English and the Hindoo. But the further we
inquire, the more reason there appears to be for believing that
peculiarities of race are themselves originally formed by the influence
of external circumstances on the primitive tribe; that, however marked
and ingrained they may be, they are not congenital and perhaps not
indelible. Englishmen and Frenchmen are closely assimilated by
education; and the weaknesses of character supposed to be inherent in
the Irish gradually disappear under the more benign influences of the
New World. Thus, by ascribing the achievements of the Romans to the
special qualities of their race, we should not be solving the problem,
but only stating it again in other terms.

But besides this, the wolf theory halts in a still more evident manner.
The foster-children of the she-wolf, let them have never so much of
their foster-mother's milk in them, do not do what the Romans did, and
they do precisely what the Romans did not. They kill, ravage, plunder -
perhaps they conquer and even for a time retain their conquests - but
they do not found highly organized empires, they do not civilize, much
less do they give birth to law. The brutal and desolating domination of
the Turk, which after being long artificially upheld by diplomacy, is at
last falling into final ruin, is the type of an empire founded by the
foster-children of the she-wolf. Plunder, in the animal lust of which
alone it originated, remains its law, and its only notion of imperial
administration is a coarse division, imposed by the extent of its
territory, into satrapies, which, as the central dynasty, enervated by
sensuality, loses its force, revolt, and break up the empire. Even the
Macedonian, pupil of Aristotle though he was, did not create an empire
at all comparable to that created by the Romans. He overran an immense
extent of territory, and scattered over a portion of it the seed of an
inferior species of Hellenic civilization, but he did not organize it
politically, much less did he give it, and through it the world, a code
of law. It at once fell apart into a number of separate kingdoms, the
despotic rulers of which were Sultans with a tinge of Hellenism, and
which went for nothing in the political development of mankind.

What if the very opposite theory to that of the she-wolf and her foster-
children should be true? What if the Romans should have owed their
peculiar and unparalleled success to their having been at first not more
warlike, but less warlike than their neighbours? It may seem a paradox,
but we suspect in their imperial ascendency is seen one of the earliest
and not least important steps in that gradual triumph of intellect over
force, even in war, which has been an essential part of the progress of
civilization. The happy day may come when Science in the form of a
benign old gentleman with a bald head and spectacles on nose, holding
some beneficent compound in his hand, will confront a standing army and
the standing army will cease to exist. That will be the final victory of
intellect. But in the meantime, our acknowledgments are due to the
primitive inventors of military organization and military discipline.
They shivered Goliath's spear. A mass of comparatively unwarlike
burghers, unorganized and undisciplined, though they may be the hope of
civilization from their mental and industrial qualities, have as little
of collective as they have of individual strength in war; they only get
in each other's way, and fall singly victims to the prowess of a
gigantic barbarian. He who first thought of combining their force by
organization, so as to make their numbers tell, and who taught them to
obey officers, to form regularly for action, and to execute united
movements at the word of command, was, perhaps, as great a benefactor of
the species as he who grew the first corn, or built the first canoe.

What is the special character of the Roman legends, so far as they
relate to war? Their special character is, that they are legends not of
personal prowess but of discipline. Rome has no Achilles. The great
national heroes, Camillus, Cincinnatus, Papirius, Cursor, Fabius
Maximus, Manlius are not prodigies of personal strength and valour, but
commanders and disciplinarians. The most striking incidents are
incidents of discipline. The most striking incident of all is the
execution by a commander of his own son for having gained a victory
against orders. "_Disciplinam militarem_," Manlius is made to say,
"_qua stetit ad hanc diem Romana res._" Discipline was the great
secret of Roman ascendency in war. It is the great secret of all
ascendency in war. Victories of the undisciplined over the disciplined,
such as Killiecrankie and Preston Pans, are rare exceptions which only
prove the rule. The rule is that in anything like a parity of personal
prowess and of generalship discipline is victory. Thrice Rome
encountered discipline equal or superior to her own. Pyrrhus at first
beat her, but there was no nation behind him, Hannibal beat her, but his
nation did not support him; she beat the army of Alexander, but the army
of Alexander when it encountered her, like that of Frederic at Jena, was
an old machine, and it was commanded by a man who was more like Tippoo
Sahib than the conqueror of Darius.

But how came military discipline to be so specially cultivated by the
Romans? We can see how it came to be specially cultivated by the Greeks:
it was the necessity of civic armies, fighting perhaps against warlike
aristocracies; it was the necessity of Greeks in general fighting
against the invading hordes of the Persian. We can see how it came to be
cultivated among the mercenaries and professional soldiers of Pyrrhus
and Hannibal. But what was the motive power in the case of Rome?
Dismissing the notion of occult qualities of race, we look for a
rational explanation in the circumstances of the plain which was the
cradle of the Roman Empire.

It is evident that in the period designated as that of the kings, when
Rome commenced her career of conquest, she was, for that time and
country, a great and wealthy city. This is proved by the works of the
kings, the Capitoline Temple, the excavation for the Circus Maximus, the
Servian Wall, and above all the Cloaca Maxima. Historians have indeed
undertaken to give us a very disparaging picture of the ancient Rome,
which they confidently describe as nothing more than a great village of
shingle-roofed cottages thinly scattered over a large area. We ask in
vain what are the materials for this description. It is most probable
that the private buildings of Rome under the kings were roofed with
nothing better than shingle, and it is very likely that they were mean
and dirty, as the private buildings of Athens appear to have been, and
as those of most of the great cities of the Middle Ages unquestionably
were. But the Cloaca Maxima is in itself conclusive evidence of a large
population, of wealth, and of a not inconsiderable degree of
civilization. Taking our stand upon this monument, and clearing our
vision entirely of Romulus and his asylum, we seem dimly to perceive the
existence of a deep prehistoric background, richer than is commonly
supposed in the germs of civilization, - a remark which may in all
likelihood be extended to the background of history in general. Nothing
surely can be more grotesque than the idea of a set of wolves, like the
Norse pirates before their conversion to Christianity, constructing in
their den the Cloaca Maxima.

That Rome was comparatively great and wealthy is certain. We can hardly
doubt that she was a seat of industry and commerce, and that the theory
which represents her industry and commerce as having been developed
subsequently to her conquests is the reverse of the fact. Whence, but
from industry and commerce, could the population and the wealth have
come? Peasant farmers do not live in cities, and plunderers do not
accumulate. Rome had around her what was then a rich and peopled plain;
she stood at a meeting-place of nationalities; she was on a navigable
river, yet out of the reach of pirates; the sea near her was full of
commerce, Etruscan, Greek, and Carthaginian. Her first colony was Ostia,
evidently commercial and connected with salt-works, which may well have
supplied the staple of her trade. Her patricians were financiers and
money-lenders. We are aware that a different turn has been given to this
part of the story, and that the indebtedness has been represented as
incurred not by loans of money, but by advances of farm stock. This,
however, completely contradicts the whole tenor of the narrative, and
especially what is said about the measures for relieving the debtor by
reducing the rate of interest and by deducting from the principal debt
the interest already paid. The narrative as it stands, moreover, is
supported by analogy. It has a parallel in the economical history of
ancient Athens, and in the "scaling of debts," to use the American
equivalent for _Seisachtheia_, by the legislation of Solon. What
prevents our supposing that usury, when it first made its appearance on
the scene, before people had learned to draw the distinction between
crimes and defaults, presented itself in a very coarse and cruel form?
True, the currency was clumsy, and retained philological traces of a
system of barter; but without commerce there could have been no currency
at all.

Even more decisive is the proof afforded by the early political history
of Rome. In that wonderful first decade of Livy there is no doubt enough
of Livy himself to give him a high place among the masters of fiction.
It is the epic of a nation of politicians, and admirably adapted for the
purposes of education as the grand picture of Roman character and the
richest treasury of Roman sentiment. But we can hardly doubt that in the
political portion there is a foundation of fact; it is too
circumstantial, too consistent in itself, and at the same time too much
borne out by analogy, to be altogether fiction. The institutions which
we find existing in historic times must have been evolved by some such
struggle between the orders of patricians and plebeians as that which
Livy presents to us. And these politics, with their parties and sections
of parties, their shades of political character, the sustained interest
which they imply in political objects, their various devices and
compromises, are not the politics of a community of peasant farmers,
living apart each on his own farm and thinking of his own crops: they
are the politics of the quick-witted and gregarious population of an
industrial and commercial city. They are politics of the same sort as
those upon which the Palazzo Vecchio looked down in Florence. That
ancient Rome was a republic there can be no doubt. Even the so-called
monarchy appears clearly to have been elective; and republicanism may be
described broadly with reference to its origin, as the government of the
city and of the artisan, while monarchy and aristocracy are the
governments of the country and of farmers.

The legend which ascribes the assembly of centuries to the legislation
of Servius probably belongs to the same class as the legend which
ascribes trial by jury and the division of England into shires to the
legislation of Alfred. Still the assembly of centuries existed; it was
evidently ancient, belonging apparently to a stratum of institutions
anterior to the assembly of tribes; and it was a constitution
distributing political power and duties according to a property
qualification which, in the upper grades, must, for the period, have
been high, though measured by a primitive currency. The existence of
such qualifications, and the social ascendency of wealth which the
constitution implies, are inconsistent with the theory of a merely
agricultural and military Rome. Who would think of framing such a
constitution, say, for one of the rural districts of France?

Other indications of the real character of the prehistoric Rome might be
mentioned. The preponderance of the infantry and the comparative
weakness of the cavalry is an almost certain sign of democracy, and of
the social state in which democracy takes its birth - at least in the
case of a country which did not, like Arcadia or Switzerland, preclude
by its nature the growth of a cavalry force, but on the contrary was
rather favourable to it. Nor would it be easy to account for the strong
feeling of attachment to the city which led to its restoration when it
had been destroyed by the Gauls, and defeated the project of a migration
to Veii, if Rome was nothing but a collection of miserable huts, the
abodes of a tribe of marauders. We have, moreover, the actual traces of
an industrial organization in the existence of certain guilds of
artisans, which may have been more important at first than they were
when the military spirit had become thoroughly ascendant.

Of course when Rome had once been drawn into the career of conquest, the
ascendency of the military spirit would be complete; war, and the
organization of territories acquired in war, would then become the great
occupation of her leading citizens; industry and commerce would fall
into disesteem, and be deemed unworthy of the members of the imperial
race. Carthage would no doubt have undergone a similar change of
character, had the policy which was carried to its greatest height by
the aspiring house of Barcas succeeded in converting her from a trading
city into the capital of a great military empire. So would Venice, had
she been able to carry on her system of conquest in the Levant and of
territorial aggrandisement on the Italian mainland. The career of Venice
was arrested by the League of Cambray. On Carthage the policy of
military aggrandisement, which was apparently resisted by the sage
instinct of the great merchants while it was supported by the
professional soldiers and the populace, brought utter ruin; while Rome
paid the inevitable penalty of military despotism. Even when the Roman
nobles had become a caste of conquerors and proconsuls, they retained
certain mercantile habits; unlike the French aristocracy, and
aristocracies generally, they were careful keepers of their accounts,
and they showed a mercantile talent for business, as well as a more than
mercantile hardness, in their financial exploitation of the conquered
world. Brutus and his contemporaries were usurers like the patricians of
the early times. No one, we venture to think, who has been accustomed to
study national character, will believe that the Roman character was
formed by war alone: it was manifestly formed by war combined with
business.

To what an extent the later character of Rome affected national
tradition, or rather fiction, as to her original character, we see from
the fable which tells us that she had no navy before the first Punic
war, and that when compelled to build a fleet by the exigencies of that
war, she had to copy a Carthaginian war galley which had been cast
ashore, and to train her rowers by exercising them on dry land. She had
a fleet before the war with Pyrrhus, probably from the time at which she
took possession of Antium, if not before; and her first treaty with
Carthage even if it is to be assigned to the date to which Mommsen, and
not to that which Polybius assigns it, shows that before 348 B.C. she
had an interest in a wide sea-board, which must have carried with it
some amount of maritime power.

Now this wealthy, and, as we suppose, industrial and commercial city was
the chief place, and in course of time became the mistress and
protectress, of a plain large for that part of Italy, and then in such a
condition as to be tempting to the spoiler. Over this plain on two sides
hung ranges of mountains inhabited by hill tribes, Sabines, AEquians,
Volscians, Hernicans, with the fierce and restless Samnite in the rear.
No doubt these hill tribes raided on the plain as hill tribes always do;
probably they were continually being pressed down upon it by the



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