John Elliott Cairnes.

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live in a fool's paradise ? Look at the Continent.
The day

"When the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law,"

has quite certainly not yet dawned. Between us and
the promised land lie still, it is but too evident, some
weary lengths of rugged wilderness, which must even
be traversed as best we may. Facts are stubborn
things, and are not in this age to be conjured away
by acts of faith. The obvious truth is we must for
a while longer be prepared to struggle for our national
existence, or, as a nation, submit to be trampled under
foot. " Militarism," in some form, we must have ;
and, it seems to me, our wisdom will lie, not in hold-
ing up our hands and screaming against the inevi-
table, but in endeavouring to minimise, as far as may
be, the necessary evil, and in extracting from it, while
it lasts, whatever accidental element of good it may
contain. Now this, I contend, is what the scheme of
national armies does accomplish ; while the influence
of standing armies is distinctly in the opposite direc-
tion. Standing armies concentrate, and in the same
degree intensify, the military spirit, producing all the
evils and dangers of an armed caste, out of sympathy
with civil society, which is left unarmed and helpless


at its mercy. Our ancestors were surely not unwise
in their inextinguishable jealousy of standing armies ;
and, if their fears have not been realized, we have to
thank, it seems to me, certain fortunate accidents of
our political and social state, rather than any virtue in
the constitutional precautions taken against the danger.
What would avail the expiration of the Mutiny Act
and the parliamentary refusal of supplies, in presence
of an army leavened with the taint of military caste
feeling, heedless of civil liberty, and not too scrupulous
to help itself ? * On the other hand, the popular
principle by diffusing attenuates the evil, renders caste
impossible, and, making every man potentially a sol-
dier, places the liberties of the country on the only
sure foundation, the ability of all in the last resort to
defend them. These considerations seem to me, I
confess, to determine decisively the question as
regards its political aspect ; to determine it, that is
to say, for all who are in favour of popular govern-
ment and the supremacy of civil life. But it is sup-
posed that the features now most prominent in the
social state of Prussia, I mean the strongly pronounced
character of her military aspirations, furnishes an argu-
ment too strong on the other side to be shaken by any
mere general reasoning.

So much has been made of this phenomenon of
Prussian militarism, that it may be worth while to
consider for a moment how far the current allegations

* According to Macaulay, the power of the House of Commons over
the national purse is an absolute security against the danger of military
usurpation of our liberties. Does not this argue extraordinary faith in
Acts of Parliament ?


sustain the inferences built upon them. I concede,
for the purpose of argument, the question of fact.
Let it be granted that the militarism of Prussia is as
intense and all-pervading as the most violent anti-
Bismarckist would allege, what, after all, does it prove
against the principle of popular armies ? Where is
the evidence that the militarism of Prussia has been
produced by the Prussian military system ?

That system dates, as a legal institution, from 1814.
Down to 1806 the armies of Prussia were standing
armies, recruited on the voluntary plan ; yet will any
one say that the military tendencies of the Prussian
national character only showed themselves after those
years ? It is surely a -fact that the noxious plant
flourished with some vigour under Frederick II., not
to mention anterior and subsequent manifestations.
Why then are we to attribute to the reforms of
Scharnhorst a characteristic already in full bloom
long before those reforms were thought of? And
then, as to the present war, the shooting of Franc-
tireurs, the enormous requisitions levied on defenceless
towns, the burning of villages, and the other horrors,
all again adduced as the dire fruits of the ruthless
propensities engendered by the military training of
Prussians, where is the proof of the connection ?
One would think people had never heard of prisoners
being shot in cold blood before ; as if the rule had not
been formally promulgated and acted on, only a few
years ago, by Marshal Bazaine in Mexico ; and as if
people had forgotten the massacre of Fort Pillow
atrocities which somehow contrived to get perpetrated
without the authors having undergone any special


preparation in the form of popular training for military
service. Moreover, in judging the present conduct of
the Germans in France, and before attributing such
excesses as it presents to the peculiar institutions of
Germany, it is only fair to remember the aggravated
provocation they received, and the naturalness in a
people just escaping from so awful a danger as they
have surmounted a life and death struggle with the
greatest military power in Europe to confound the
passion of vengeance with the desire of security. I
disclaim all sympathy with the present aims of the
Germans. They seem to me to have missed a splendid
opportunity of placing international morality on a
higher level, and European peace on a surer footing,
than either has ever yet attained. But there is no
need that we should attribute what offends us in their
present conduct to a wrong source. The truth is,
those who argue against popular armies from the
example of Prussia, mistake the effect for the cause.
The Prussian military system is the fruit and practical
expression of Prussian military aspirations. It had
its origin in the national uprising that followed the
first Napoleonic conquests ; and the latest remodellings
of the system in 1861 and 1867 were undertaken with
a distinct view to the realization of the military aims
which are now being worked out. If we desire to
trace the phenomenon further back, and to seek
for the source of the military aspirations of Prussia,
we shall find it, I apprehend, in the conditions which
have made her position in Europe hitherto a mili-
tant one in the historical traditions and geographical
situation of the country. After all, the question is


not as to the introduction of the Prussian military
system into England. The model for us, with what-
ever modifications it may be adopted, is manifestly
the system of Switzerland ; and now I beg attention
to the language in which a Swiss citizen* sets forth
the social and political tendencies of this bugbear of
some of our advanced thinkers :

" We have confidence in our military organization ; but, were
it even proved that this institution had but small value as an
agency for defending the country, we should even so remain
attached to it. We see in it a republican institution of capital
importance, a school of equality, a means of union amongst
all citizens, and a powerful instrument of national life. It is
in the manoeuvres, in the life of the barrack and of the camp,
that the sons of the rich eat the same bread as the children
of the poor ; it is there that they are called to forget the plea-
sures of a luxurious existence ; they may make their bed
beside men accustomed to severe toil, and whom, were it not
for such opportunities, they would never perhaps have en-
countered. To those for whom such instruction may per-
chance be needed, the days passed in militia service teach
habits of cleanliness conducive to health, and ideas of good
order. It is there, moreover, that the Swiss, differing in
manners, language, and religion, live in common, form
ties of acquaintance and friendship, and feel the sentiments
of national unity germinate and grow within them. . . .
Such are the causes which make us feel for our system of
militia an attachment of which no one can form an idea
who is not himself a Swiss." t

And now a word, in conclusion, on what is certainly
not the least important aspect of this momentous sub-
ject the bearing of popular armies on the disposition

* M. Cdnfsole, Conseiller d'etat du Canton de Vaud, President du
Departement Militaire Vaudois.
Annales, &c., p. 689.


of nations towards war. The tendency of standing
armies to produce the evil against which they are sup-
posed to be the safeguard, if it were not obvious on
the face of the facts, is too well established by reiterated
experience to need argument here. The professional
soldier, if he have really the instinct of the soldier
within him, and be not a mere carpet knight or loafer
in taverns or clubs, cannot choose but chafe at the
inaction of peace, with its slow promotion, its monotony
and enforced idleness, and the waning importance to
which it inevitably consigns him ; and cannot but
welcome every chance which offers him a stage for
practice and the eclat of active service in the field.
When the class is a large one, its influence must work
powerfully in exacerbating every international differ-
ence into war ; and the peril will be at its height when
the Government itself is under the influence of military
traditions. On the other hand, where, as with us, the
Government is in the hands of the civil population, the
danger takes another form. The decision of peace
and war is now thrown upon persons who, under
ordinary circumstances (for actual invasion is too rare
an occurrence to be taken into calculation), are but
slightly and remotely identified with the event. War,
it is true, brings even to the citizen who remains
at home an increase of taxation ; a friend or relative
will now and then be found in the lists of killed and
wounded ; but, against this, there is the agreeable
excitement of reading of battle-fields, and the proud
consciousness of belonging to a nation that is winning
glory by martial deeds. Where those with whom rests
the momentous decision have only this sort of remote


and moderate interest in the awful results, what won-
der if nations should sometimes rush into war " with
a light heart " ? But note how all these conditions
are reversed, where the military force is the people
itself. The army now exists as a profession only for
an infinitesimal fraction of the nation ; and war for the
able-bodied masses means in the first place a vexatious
interruption of their proper pursuits, with loss and sore
anxiety for their families ; and then, for themselves,
the fiery ordeal of the actual campaign, almost wholly
uncompensated in their case by the eclat and the
rewards that await the professional soldier. To be
sure, while nations were merely hordes of warriors,
war would be their natural vocation, and perhaps
pastime ; but that a nation engaged in industrial
pursuits, and in full career of civil life, should turn
aside from its fields, its workshops, its desks and books,
to gird on its armour, and throw itself into war, for any
reason short of the gravest, for any reason not tanta-
mount to self-defence this is not easily conceivable.
It will be said that Prussia has done so, if not in the
present, at least in former wars. But, without entering
here into the morality of the Danish and Austrian
contests, it suffices to remark that Prussia is in truth
not a fair example of the influence of a national army.
Her army undoubtedly belongs to that type ; but,
owing to the immense active force kept on foot in time
of peace, it possesses also not a few of the attributes
of a standing force. And even of the army of Prussia,
M. de Laveleye testifies, referring to the war of 1866,
that " no warlike enthusiasm animated the Prussian
armies. The men, summoned to their flag, set out


with regret for a war generally condemned ; but, once
in the regiment, they desired to sustain the military
honour of the corps, and to do their duty bravely."
" I have had the opportunity," adds M. de Laveleye,
"of reading several letters written by soldiers cam-
paigning in the army of Bohemia before Sadowa.
' We will do our duty,' they wrote ; ' the better we
fight the sooner we shall have achieved our task,
and the sooner we shall return to our homes,'
reasoning characteristic of the labourer who desires
to accomplish his work, not of the soldier, for
whom war is a career." * Every newspaper teems
with evidence that this is at the present moment
the prevailing feeling in the rank and file of the
German armies.

If anything were wanting to complete the argument
for the pacific tendency of the principle of popular
armies, it is found in the fact, that the strength of the
system lies in defence. This is universally recognized
by those who have studied those organizations, and is

* It cannot be denied that the words of M. de Laveleye, while re-
assuring as regards the influence of the popular principle in the Prussian
army, suggest uncomfortable thoughts. This people, so little prone to
war, may, it seems, be made the powerful instrument in waging a war
of which it does not approve. Here, no doubt, is a real danger. But let
us not mistake its character. So far as it is incident to the military
system at all, it is not the wide popular basis of the army that favours it
on the contrary, this acts as a hindrance and check but the aristo-
cratic organization of the higher ranks, which keeps the officers in
intimate accord with the aims of the dynasty, and with the classes
on whose support the dynasty rests. But in truth, the source of the
danger is less in the military system than in the political constitution
of Prussia ; and the remedy lies, not in abandoning the popular
organization of the army, but in bringing the government under par-
liamentary control not in curtailing, but in developing the democratic


indeed very obvious. It follows that, were civilized
countries generally organized upon this principle,
aggressive wars would be unsuccessful wars. Here is
surely a weighty plea, thrown by the policy for which
I am contending into the scale of peace one which,
we may hope, would have its influence even where
better reasons might not prevail.



A MOTION, made by an Irish Member at the close
of the last Parliamentary session, which received little
and rather slighting notice at the time, has raised some
issues, both practical and theoretical, in the province
of education, of very grave importance. The motion
was a demand for a charter for a Roman Catholic
College established some twelve years ago in Dublin,
and commonly known as " The Catholic University,"
though hitherto without the power of granting degrees.
It was met on the part of the Government by a
counter proposal, to the effect, that, instead of con-
stituting a new university in Ireland by the grant of
a charter, the Catholic establishment should be affi-
liated as a distinct college to one of the universities
which now exist ; to wit, the Queen's. This com-
promise was eagerly embraced by the mover, and in
general by the representatives of the Catholic party
in Parliament, Mr. Hennessy being the single disscn-

* Theological Review, January 1866.


tient. The precise form which the Government
scheme is destined to take is not yet known ; but it
has been shadowed forth in a series of announcements
which purport to be authoritative, and which as they
proceed from the section of Catholics whom the con-
cession is designed to conciliate, and who have cer-
tainly through their leaders been in communication
with the Government may be assumed to embody,
with more or less exactness, the principal features
of the pending arrangement ; and the prospect has
elicited a discussion which at all events exhibits very
clearly the hopes and the fears of the supporters and
the opponents of the proposed change. These hopes
and fears alike point to the same result a re-
modelling of the liberal and "mixed" system of
State education hitherto maintained in Ireland in a
denominational, which in the present instance means
an ultramontane, sense to a direct reversal therefore
of the policy pursued in that country for the last
thirty years. When we add that the controversy
has brought up, in a practical shape, some of the
nicest and most perplexing problem^ regarding the
relations of the State to education, it will be seen
that the occurrence is highly deserving of attentive
study, whether we regard its bearing on the welfare
of Ireland or on the prospects of educational progress.
I shall perhaps best introduce the reader to this
controversy by a brief narrative of what has been
done in recent years in promoting that department
of education in Ireland which is the subject of the
present discussion. Down to 1845, Trinity College,
with the University which it includes, formed the only
P. s


provision made for the higher secular learning in
Ireland. Founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth
for the purpose of promoting the Protestant religion,
its constitution and character were suitable to the
circumstances of its origin. I shall perhaps convey
a sufficiently precise notion of this establishment for
my present purpose, if I say that it belongs, with
many differences in detail, to the same order of
educational bodies of which Oxford and Cambridge
are the type in this country. It was of course
inevitable that, as originally constituted, its basis
should be rigidly sectarian : every religious denomi-
nation, save that established by law, was excluded
alike from its degrees and its emoluments. But
towards the end of the last century, under the influ-
ence of the more liberal ideas which then began to
prevail, Trinity College opened its doors to Roman
Catholics for admission to degrees ; and a succession
of measures, introduced at intervals from that period,
and conceived in a spirit of consistent liberality, has
placed it now in a position very decidedly in advance,
in point of comprehensiveness and national character,
of either of our ancient universities ; Roman Catholics
and Dissenters being now freely admitted to all its
degrees, except those of divinity, to its senate and
parliamentary constituency, and to a large share of
its emoluments. In spite, however, of these substan-
tial reforms, it would scarcely, I should imagine, be
maintained by any candid Churchman, that Trinity
College retaining, as it did, its essentially Protestant
character and traditions, and still excluding all but
Protestants from its higher distinctions formed an


adequate provision for -the higher education in a
country of which three-fourths of the population were
Roman Catholics. This was the view taken by a
Select Committee of the House of Commons ap-
pointed in 1835, f which the late Sir Thomas Wyse
was chairman. Among other recommendations of
this Committee was one for the establishment of four
colleges, one in each of the provinces of Ireland,
which should extend to that portion of the people
not already provided for in the National Schools the
opportunity of an education, to borrow the language
of the Report, " of the most improved character,"
" general, comm>n to all, without distinction of class
or creed." The policy advocated in the Report was
adopted by the Government of Sir Robert Peel.
It was determined to supplement the Elizabethan
university by institutions conceived in the spirit of
modern times, and directed to promote the interests
of all classes of the community. In 1845 two
measures were introduced : one for the re-constitu-
tion of Maynooth on an independent footing, and
with a liberal endowment, as a seminary for the
Roman Catholic priesthood ; and the other for the
establishment, in the interest of the laity, of three
provincial colleges in Belfast, Cork, and Galway,
constituted on the principle of strict religious equality,
and designed to attract the various religious deno-
minations to receive there an education in common :
in the words of Sir James Graham, in the speech
in which he introduced the measure, " The new-
Collegiate system was avowedly an extension, and
nothing more than an extension, of the present system

S 2


of National Education * from the children of the
humblest to the children of the upper and middle

Such was the origin of the Queen's Colleges : they
were opened in 1849 ; and in 1850, in conformity with
the original conception of the scheme, the Charter was
granted by which the Queen's University was founded.
In the words of the Charter, its object was " to rend'er
complete and satisfactory the courses of education to
be followed by students in the said Colleges," and,
with a view to this, it was invested with the power
." of granting all such degrees as are granted by other
universities or colleges to students who shall have
completed in any one or other of the Colleges the
courses of education prescribed and directed for the
several degrees:" -the University was thus the
natural completion and crown of the collegiate edifice.
It needs only further be said, as regards this part
of the case, that, while considerable powers were
assigned to the local Colleges, the general govern-
ment of the central institution, including the fixing
of the courses of study for degrees and the appoint-
ment of university examiners, was placed with the
Chancellor and Senate of the Queen's University.

And now I would ask the reader's attention to an
important part of this story the attitude assumed
by the Roman Catholic community towards the new
institutions. It was the expectation of the Govern-
ment of that day surely not an unreasonable one,

* Established in 1831 on the basis of "combined secular and separate
religious instruction," and which had already, in 1845, achieved a remark-
able success.


considering the essential fairness, and, account being
taken of the grant to Maynooth, even liberality, of
the arrangement, and further that the scheme was
but an extension to the higher education of that plan
which had already in the primary schools of the
National System been received amongst Roman
Catholics with all but universal favour that the
Queen's Colleges and their University would have
been accepted by priest and people in the spirit in
which they were offered. And for a brief moment
there was every prospect that this expectation would
be realized in the fullest sense. Doctors Murray
and Croly occupied then, as Archbishop of Dublin
and Primate, the highest places in the Irish Roman
Catholic Church ; they had both from the first ac-
cepted with cordial loyalty the principle of the National
System, which they had aided in working, and the
success of which was largely due to their enlightened
efforts. They were now, with other leading members
of the hierarchy, in communication with the Govern-
ment on the subject of the Queen's Colleges. With
such negotiators the Government had no difficulty
in coming to an understanding. The statutes were
drawn up, submitted to their inspection, and ap-
proved. It was admitted that the securities provided
for the protection of " faith and morals " were ample.
It will probably sound strange to many people now
that amongst the names of the original members of
the Queen's University Senate the third in order is
that of Daniel Murray, Roman Catholic Archbishop
of Dublin. The priesthood, indeed, were not unani-
mous : there was an active dissentient minority ; but


looking to the influence then exercised by Doctors
Murray and Croly, one can hardly doubt that a few
more years of their gentle and enlightened rule would
have carried with them in support of the Colleges, as
it had already carried with them in support of the
National Schools, the great body of the priesthood.
Most unfortunately for peace and educational progress
in Ireland, just at this time the same year in which
the Queen's Colleges were opened Dr. Croly died ;
and he was followed, two years later, by his abler
coadjutor. The successor to each was Dr. Cullen.
who, appointed in the first instance to the See of
Armagh through a stretch of papal authority exer-

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Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 19 of 27)