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ish Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica; and that it would be as reasonable to contend that California was in Central America, as that the settlement of Belize was in that region. But, secondly, we must observe, as to the mala fides of the Pierce Cabinet in this matter, that suppose the geographers reply that Belize and the Bay Islands are not within Central America, the answer will decide nothing; for the American Government will thereupon fall back upon its own interpretation of the treaty, and maintain that whether or not the Bay Islands are within Central America does not matter, for they adhere to the Monroe doctrine, and deny the right of England to have any settlement in any part of that region! What is the use of arguing with such men If our Government were to break off all negotiation on the subject, would they have any right to complain?
Last month, in our earnest desire to bind together in friendly relations the two great sections of the AngloSaxon race, we said that if the United States were to meet us frankly, and with no arrière pensée on this Central American affair, it would be worth our while to make concessions, even were it our whole rights on the mainland (though never the Bay Islands!) But such concessions are not now to be thought of. The recent conduct of the United States Government has made such a step impossible. They have chosen to fasten a quarrel upon us,-they have magnified a trifle, and put aside our apologies and explanations, in order that they might insult us. We have not chosen to resent that insult, but it will influence our future policy. Unkindly and ignobly the Americans have sought a quarrel with us about a trifle, and rather than fight them about a trifle, we have accepted the dismissal of our ambassador. At the cost of an insult that makes our blood tingle, we have closed the trumpery Enlistment quarrel. But not a hair's
breadth of concession more! If the braggart statesmen of the Union imagine that our succumbing in the Enlistment question is a symptom that we shall yield also, if they but press us sufficiently, in the Central American dispute, they will meet a terrible undeceiving. We have been insulted, and we know it; and woe betide brother Jonathan if his hand even seem again to approach our collar! We stood much contumely from Russia before we would accept the combat, and shame be on us if we would not stand an equal amount of provocation before going to war with our brethren in America. But that is past, and any further trespassing on our rights or dignity must be done at their peril. In any case, the best preventive of war is to be prepared for it. The better prepared we are, the more peaceful-minded will be our American brethren. Therefore we would say to our Government, Do not be in such a haste to reduce your armaments; you may need them sooner than you imagine. The United States, hopeless of France and Spain, still look to Russia for countenance and aid; and Russia has already been asking the Courts of Berlin and Vienna how they would regard the matter if she were to conclude an offensive and defensive alliance with the United States. We deplore such a war of fools-so fratricidal a strife as a contest between the two great Anglo-Saxon Powers. But we have already done our part to avoid it, and, painful as the alternative is, there must be no more concession. Time will explode the Monroe doctrine like an empty bubble. We have no objections to the territorial ascendancy of the AngloAmericans on the Isthmus,—but it cannot be an exclusive one. They must learn to respect the rights of England there, and, we suspect, to bear that other Powers too should have a say in the management of a region which will soon be one of the world's great highways.
Printed by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh.
FEW people have less right than ourselves to throw stones at our neighbours who may chance to entertain strong political opinions. Our own views upon these subjects are sufficiently well known. Let us thank Heaven, whatever may be the uncertainties of modern times, no one can entertain any doubt as to the principles of Maga. Our trumpet has never given forth an uncertain sound; and from our golden age, with its Ambrosial Nights, unto this ordinary to-day, which has only political articles, and knows not the inspiration either of Christopher or his Shepherd, our worst enemy cannot accuse us of indifference to the affairs of the State. Far be it from us to detract from the glory of political writers. Politics perhaps, of all other pursuits, has the greatest certainty of attracting minds of superior power and superior training. A great poet, a great philosopher, a great man of science, is, in most cases, the one man of his time; but in the political world-let us speak without partiality, forgetting for once both jobs and the discoverers of the sameevery age of English history has found a little circle of the best men of their generation. Her Majesty's Ministers and Her Majesty's Opposition, even when there happens to be no single man of genius amongst them, are still invariably good re
VOL. LXXX.-NO. CCCCXC.
presentatives of the highest intelligence of their time: so far from objecting to political writing, do we not give the sanction of our pages, the warmth of our applause, to the same? But to be a politician of high celebrity-to hold a special retainer for a special party, and to have an undenied and undeniable bias are not, in our opinion, first requisites, or even desirable qualifications for a historian.
And we love Art. That picturesque and vivid apprehension which represents the past to us, in its full glow of life and sunshine, bright, strange, and novel in its far antiquity, but as human and as busy as we, is, as we hold it, a very high endowment. Picture-making, one way or another, is about the most universally attractive of human accomplishments; and the man who, with no better instrument than a pen, can make suns shine and winds blowcan build old houses out of their ruins, populate old streets out of the graves that are forgotten-make horses prance, and soldiers charge, and colours wave before our very eyes-is a wonderful magician, and has in his possession a power scarcely to be exaggerated. But Art has its disadvantages like every other accomplishment belonging to man. The clear, cool light which falls alike upon everything, though it answers
very well for common uses, does not answer for a picture; and an admirable gift in "composition," and the ablest mastery of chiaroscuro, though they might be the making of an Academician, are not, to our thinking, any more than politics, first necessaries for the man who aspires to become the biographer of a nation. A painter may be pardoned who arranges his group of historical personages with a clearer eye for light and shadow than for bare reality, and fact which is not always picturesque; but the same license is certainly not to be granted to the historian who aspires to decide the character of our fathers, and to guide the judgment of our children.
No history, we suppose, ever written or published, pretending to be a history, and not a romance or a poem, has ever reached or approached the extent of popularity attained by Mr Macaulay. A book which has been read by almost every person in the three kingdoms pretending to intelligence, canvassed by almost every periodical which ever touches upon literature, and discussed in every circle where books are loved or known-must be something of different mettle from those histories which we have all read under pressure of conscience as a duty or a necessity. Without the possession of great and remarkable qualities, the ear of the public, let the superior classes abuse it ever so heartily, never is or can be gained to such an extent as this. It used to be told, with wonder and admiration, that Dr Chalmers's Astronomical Discourses, the most popular work of the most popular man in Scotland, kept pace in its sale with one of the best novels of our greatest novelist. That was marvellous enough; but Mr Macaulay's expensive volumes have, we understand, outnumbered the first monthly issue of the new story of the popular favourite, which scarcely any one is too poor to buy. That is a still more remarkable circumstancefor there is neither the overmastering fervour of religious feeling, nor the warmth of party spirit, to give fictitious interest to the volumes of Mr Macaulay. The Whigs, who occupy
so large a space in his History, are now only to be found in a few noble houses, where the name is hereditary, and in a few provincial towns, where the old politicians hold by their old factions, unmoved by the general motion of the world. Pure Whiggism is perhaps scarcely strong enough to keep a periodical afloat, or force a pamphlet into a second edition. It is not so feeble an influence as this which constrains all the world, the gay and the anxious, the learned and the unlearned, to devour the chronicles of the least agreeable period of English history more eagerly than ever a novel was devoured. And if it is not the prejudice of party, it is still less the irresistible and universally acknowledged force of Truth which carries this book to its unrivalled eminence. Everybody reads
everybody admires-but nobody believes in Mr Macaulay. This, which is perhaps the most brilliant of all histories, seems about the least reliable of any. We have not encountered a single courageous individual among the multitude of its admirers, bold enough to vouch for it; yet no one reads less eagerly because it is difficult to find any one who has genuine faith in what he reads. This is a remarkable fact enough among the many remarkable facts which are characteristic of this generation. We British people, who were wont to take a much greater cognisance of the thing said than of the manner of saying it, have greatly changed our practice in recent times. We give up style in poetry, the true and natural medium of melodious words, to worship style in prose. We are content to be heartily cuffed right and left, to receive with meekness torrents of ill names, to hear our common opinions ridiculed, and our common tastes despised; and so long as our castigator does it with a grace, or does it with force and quaintness as attractive as grace, not a word, except of admiration, says the longsuffering world. We read Mr Ruskin, though his arrogance offends us at every page, and we do not agree with one out of a hundred of his opinions; we read him with applause, wonder, and enthusiasm, painfully finding out as a reason for the same that he
"makes people think," whereas the truth is, he does not make people think, but only makes beautiful sentences, admirable pictures, pen-andink sketches not to be surpassed. On exactly the same principle we deal with Mr Macaulay. True, he utters a deliverance on the most inadequate grounds, accepts unworthy testimony, falls into serious errors, and makes no attempt to correct the same. True also that there is a general gloss of romance upon the surface of his work, and he gains no genuine belief from any one; but what of that? No one else has ever written history in a style so clear and luminous; no one before him has ever disclosed to us so brilliant and animated a panorama, so lifelike a presentation of the past. We sit at our ease in the elegant theatre, and the pictures unfold before us, group by group. We see the conspirators whispering apart; the vexed king musing in his closet; the statesmen, with jealous eyes upon each other, moving about the unhappy pawns and knights upon their magnificent chessboard; sometimes a woman or a child goes singing or weeping over the busy scene; sometimes the business pauses for a funeral procession or a public festival-sometimes a sudden gleam lights low upon some rural nook of country, where the peasants greet the unhappy Monmouth, or the smuggler receives the Prince in disguise. But wherever the scene may be, it is always full of animation, always picturesque, never troublesome to the mind of the spectator. The exhibitor has prescience afar of the incipient yawn-and before it has time to begin, lo! the bell ringsthe picture moves the music changes -from the squabbles of the English Commons we are off by a leap to the grand wars of the Grand Monarque, and from the paltry treason of the Jacobite plots to the lofty courage of Londonderry, or the forlorn heroism of here and there an ideal Cavalier. Hitherto, to most eyes, the time of the Revolution has been a time of principles, abstract and unattractive. Mr Macaulay has but to lay his finger upon it, and we find it crowded and picturesque with men.
But not such men as those of Eliza
beth, or as those of the Commonwealth-the historian here has no such privilege. The dullest writer in existence can scarcely withdraw the lustre from the name of a hero, or make a man of genius an uninteresting lay figure. Pages which have no attraction otherwise, warm and glow when we but see upon them such names as Raleigh and Essex, Bacon and Burleigh, Shakespeare and Spencer, and the dullest words around it fire with the name of Cromwell, the inspiration of an age. The slowest imagination kindles in the atmosphere of magnificence, that great burst of English affluence and abundance which distinguishes the first; and a deeper interest still, loves and animosities almost personal, keep the later period near and vivid to us all. Out of the very names of either time we can make romances for ourselves.
But who cares for Sunderland or Caermarthen, for Nottingham or Shrewsbury-whose heart burns within him even at thought of William of Orange, or John of Marlborough, though the one was a great king, and the other a great conqueror? The time was the turning-point of modern history, but the men were the least interesting, the least notable, of all who have ever conducted the affairs of this nation. If we grant that William was a hero, we are obliged to add that he was of the coldest and least demonstrative of hero-kind-a man who drowns all enthusiasm in his intense Dutchness, as in one of the canals of his beloved land; and Marlborough, though one of the greatest of conquerors, and by no means so black, we believe, as he is painted, did certainly lack that crowning touch of human sentiment
that half poetic, half chivalrous element, without which a great soldier never reaches to the heart of the spectators of his power. As for all the rest, though they worked for our welfare, wittingly and unwittingly, there is scarcely one among them who is more to us than a mere actor in a historic scene. Without a single poet to glorify its exploits-with no romance to keep it fresh in our memory-with an interest almost entirely abstract, and no personal grace to mark the time-a historian
No thanks to his heroes-no thanks to his politics-all honour and praise to the vast powers of a Great Writer an influence which we all acknowledge and do respectful homage to! We do not at all agree with Mr Macaulay-so far as we are aware, indeed, no one entirely agrees with the accomplished historian-we repeat that we have not met with a single individual among his many admirers bold enough to stand up for him and do battle for his veracity. Various private individuals, we are convinced, are belied, and many national acts and national opinions misinterpreted, in these seductive volumes. Yet, let us not refuse to do full justice to a pictorial power unparalleled-a representation of life more vivid and more impressive, perhaps, than anything of the same nature in our language. We are free to doubt whether Mr Macaulay has produced the History, or even a History which men may venture to depend upon; but there cannot well be two opinions on the subject that he has produced the most popular Book of this time.
It is seldom that a historical writer comes into the field with so great a previous reputation, and one of a nature so likely to raise high expectations. Before a page of the History was written, the brilliant papers on Warren Hastings and Frederick the Great had raised a prophetical fervour of popular admiration; and all the youth among us, not too philosophical for that stirring and martial strain of verse, had "charged for the golden lilies," and celebrated the hour when "brave Horatius kept the bridge." The thrill and ardour of such verse, the lifelike and dramatic brilliancy of such historic sketches, were beyond all cavil and question. We do not remember to have heard of any very original views propounded by Mr Macaulay, or of any work absolutely creative bearing his name. He is not a poet, in spite of the evidence of
these ballads; and neither by philosophy nor intuition has he access into that hidden heart of all things, where the grand joys and sorrows lie. But no man living, at least in our language, has made so sudden and great an illumination in the dull and hazy twilight of the past. It is not a sunshine in the shady place, but it is a light brilliant and clear and steady, throwing blacker shadows and fiercer reflections than the light of common day, yet securing beyond the reach of oblivion the scenes which it reveals. The effect is always admirable in an artistic point of view— and so long as we keep to one scene, the effect is perfect. But it would be strange, with all the wonderful advantages of this power of picturemaking, if there was not some attendant drawback. The nature of a picture is to present one time, one moment, with a more vivid and striking reality than any words can do; but to represent a moving current of human life, which is never still for a moment-a sky which clears with an instantaneous burst, and darkens to a thundery midnight in the twinkling of an eye-a man who is now in the light and now in the shadow, generous, ignoble, wretched, exultant, with a perpetual inconsistency which is only human, and neither epical nor artistic, is too much for a picture; consequently Mr Macaulay's sunbreaks are too bright, his shadows lie too heavily, his atmosphere is not sufficiently rapid in its variations. Perhaps it is from this reason that he is accused of dealing unjustly with so many individual actors in his great drama. The public is unreasonable. Pouring as it does through so many exhibitionrooms, the public is perfectly aware of the necessities of art; it knows, if it would but take time to think, that somebody must be in shadow, that the great lights of the picture must have something at once to intensify and to relieve them, and that some figures must turn their backs upon it, and some look dimly out of the background for the "composition's sake. Yet knowing all this, the public, most unreasonable of taskmasters, crazy for pictorial represertations, clamours at the same time