ページの画像
PDF
ePub

alone to be relied upon in many points, which have been discussed in the preceding pages; but lawyers cannot stop in full career to give counsel to the rising generation. There are some, however, who have retired from the bar to learned leisure: such men cannot more usefully and more nobly employ their hours of retirement, and crown the honourable labours of their lives, than by writing on the education suited to their profession.

“ I hold every man a debtor to his profession,” says Lord Verulam, “ from the which, as men do seek to receive coun“ tenance and profit, so ought they of duty to endeavour “ themselves, by way of amends, to be a help and an orna“ ment thereunto. This is performed in some degree by the “ honest and liberal practice of a profession, when men de« scend not into any course that is corrupt and unworthy “ thereof, and preserve themselves free from the abuses where“ with the same profession is noted to be infected; but much more is this performed, if a man be able to visit and strengthen the roots and foundation of the science itself, thereby not only gracing it in dignity, but amplifying it in substance.

This passage is from the preface to those law maxims, which Bacon wrote when he was no longer attorney-general or chancellor, but when, without rank or power, he had leisure to philosophize. It is thus that great luminaries, after the time of their apparent setting, continue to enlighten the world from which they have retired.

.

CHAPTER VII.

ON THE EDUCATION OF MEN INTENDED FOR PUBLIC LIFE.

“ Go,” said the Swedish chancellor Oxenstiern to his son, who was to meet a congress of ambassadors, “ Go and see 6 with your own eyes how little wisdom those have who go“ vern the world.” This experienced statesman knew, that among the common race of negotiators, the left-handed wisdom of cunning is generally deemed the essential, indeed the sole requisite. There are diplomatists who seem to think, that states are to be saved, and kingdoms regained, by secret instructions, and secret service money, and spies, and bribes, and lemon-juice, and sympathetic inks, who, in seating themselves at a conference on the interests of Europe, think it a piece of great address to gain the light of those with whom they are treating; who would consider it as the sum of political wisdom, to take snuff at critical moments, or to practise some diplomatic contortion of face, which should prevent the deciphering by the countenance what passes in the mind. The fashion of these petty arts has now descended from ambassadors to their chargés d'affaires, and their secretaries, and secretaries of secretaries. All this pedantry and foppery might, in time of peace, or of mere paper warfare, have proved profitable to the actors and amusing to the spectators; but of late tragedy has left us no relish and no time for farce. These nations have reason to be convinced by the urgency of events, that there is now need of statesmen of another stamp, men of abilities, decision, vigour, and integrity. Such men are still more necessary to conduct the affairs of the nation than to negotiate abroad. The tricks and finesse of diplomacy can affect England but little in comparison with the negligence or party corruption of those, who appoint not only our ambassadors but our commanding officers in every foreign expedition ; who plan those expeditions, and who manage at home all the resources of the nation. There is no country perhaps in the world, in which the remark of Oxenstiern might be applied with more justice than in England; no country in which so much of the most important business of the state is left to the management of the clerks of office“, and so many varying circumstances trusted to routine. Go and see how the principal men in power are actually engaged; in contriving to keep their own places or to procure gratifications for their friends : and so much are they engrossed by these intrigues, that they absolutely cannot find time to attend to any question, which is not forced upon them by pressing and immediate necessity. Un

a M. d'Argenson, who was for many years the prime minister of Lewis XV, observes, from his own experience, that “ Ministers ought to be brought “ up to administration. The details committed to their care are lately be“ come immense: nothing is done without them, or by any body else. It “ is to be wished, that their knowledge were as great as their power; if it be " not, they are obliged to leave every thing to their clerks, who become masters “ of affairs, and consequently of the state. It is by a knowledge of forms, that “ subalterns are arrived at governing their principals, and, to make use of a “ vulgar expression, that journeymen are become masters.

less the case be so glaring as to afford the opposition an opportunity of raising a popular clamour, ministers with short sighted policy put off the examination of questions of the greatest importance to the nation, palliate every evil, gloss over every iniquity, and in every danger comfort themselves with the hope, that things will last their time.

“ Après nous le deluge”—was the favourite maxim of Madame de Pompadour, and of that profligate, weak government, which preceded, which probably prepared the calamities of France. Britain, beware! — A generation has almost passed away since the commencement of the French revolution: another race may rise into public life before our present contests and our consequent difficulties shall terminate: it is not for momentary palliatives that wise men should look; they should patiently search for remedies, that can act effectually, though perhaps slowly. The misfortunes that have befallen the countries of Europe must be attributed to the errours of their rulers, to their want of judgment, their party struggles, or their want of integrity. To prevent such disasters in future, one obvious remedy is, to train up statesmen, who shall not be liable to such errour, and who shall be superior to temptation. Integrity is the rare, the invaluable quality in public characters, for which there is the greatest necessity, and for which there ought to be the greatest demand in England. Wit, eloquence, knowledge, courage, are seen in abundance at the service of the public; but of that, which is erroneously called common honesty, there is a shameful deficiency. Competition has created talents of various sorts, has brought them to admirable perfection;

dv

and, by overstocking the market, has even lowered the demand for them. It is extraordinary, that the rarity of honesty in statesmen has not raised its value, and brought it into request. In fact, the public are deceived by false professions of disinterestedness; while behind the scenes, the political actors laugh at the characters they play on the stage, and amongst one another avow political profligacy, and seem to consider the avowal as a sort of gentlemanlike frankness, a pledge of good faith, which is accepted, and almost required; whilst any pretensions to integrity and patriotism, beyond steady adherence to a party, are considered as the flights of political Quixotes, or the artifices of knaves and hypocrites. The specious motives they profess, and the parliamentary harangues they make, are merely to enhance their price. It should however be observed, that these base principles, and mean arts, can raise a man in public life only to a certain point; with the assistance of these, he may rank with the common herd of intriguers, he may get a pension, he may have a riband, or a peerage, perhaps he may be of consequence to a leader, he may even head a party, and maneuvre it to his interests; but he will never become a really great man: he will never be adorned with true glory; and his name will pass away and be forgotten, like that of thousands who have preceded him in the same ignoble course.

Whoever aspires to be a great statesman, to obtain permanent celebrity, must have higher views, and nobler principles. The four greatest statesmen of modern times were superior in disinterestedness, even more than in abilities. However parties may differ as to the respective merits of their measures,

« 前へ次へ »