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Sir Robert Peel, Bart. (the Late)
North British Review. November ...
By the Olympian powers (so Homer sung)
An Image was on Troy conferred of yore,
And named Palladium, because it bore
Fondly the race of Priam thought, that, while
That shape upon their city deigned to smile,
As guide and stay, adornment and defence,
Prized they that statue. Here, in humble sense,
Whose fate must rest on just experience.
CARLYLE'S LATTER-DAY PAMPHLETS:
THE PRESENT TIME; MODEL PRISONS; DOWNING STREET; THE NEW
DOWNING STREET; STUMP ORATOR; PARLIAMENTS. We are not party politicians; indeed, we are only politicians at all from taking an intense interest in whatever concerns social progress and national well-being. Such questions as those of how ignorance, pauperism, and crime are to be dealt with—how parliament can fully embody the tested wisdom and the purified will of the nation-how liberty and good order can be practically harmonised—and how sovereignty can duly ebb and flow, circulating freely between the people and their rulers, so that, on the one hand, the people shall never feel the pressure of despotism, nor, on the other, shall the rulers ever be swayed by a capricious and fierce democracy; in short, that the relationship on neither side shall be one of masters and slaves, but of noble, manifold, and thorough co-operation for the common weal, are of transcendent importance, to be discussed by those who are neither Whig nor Tory partisans. We take the earliest opportunity of attempting a brief but unbiassed review of the opinions formed on such questions by Thomas Carlyle, who is a perfect Ishmaelite among politicians—his hand being against every man and every man's hand against liim. We have neither triumph nor mortification when he puts forth his formidable strength against any government, or any men, or any measures; our concern is exclusively about the good or the evil which he may do to the cause of patriotism and humanity. Indeed, we cannot suppose that even keen partisans will care much about his movements; for he attacks alternately not only Whigs and Conservatives, Radicals and Tories, but also the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the democracy—thus summarily and contemptuously throwing away the very bones of contention from the mouths of the other dogs, and leaving these nothing to fight for, but to turn unanimously upon him and rend him if they can. He is a worshipper—not of what is called royalty, not of what is called nobility, not of what is called the people, nor even of all these three powers combined together and balancing each other and he must, therefore, alienate not only all party men, but all political creedmongers. He is a Hero-WORSHIPPER ; kings, according to his view, may be dethroned and put to death by one or more remarkable men, sprung either from the aristocracy or the democracy; the aristocracy may be supplanted, and even destroyed, either by one of the people or by the king; and the people may be trampled upon and trodden down into the most abject slavery either by a noble or a king. It does not matter to Mr Carlyle where his hero be found—whether in a palace, a mansion, a brewery, or the tent of a private soldier; he cares not by what means that hero seizes upon
the government; his birth, and the character of his usurpation are nothing -absolutely nothing—if he do really govern. Mr Carlyle's heroworship thus excludes him from the political ranks, and renders his views a matter of indifference to all partisans. We believe that it also makes those views radically erroneous, for it identifies might not only with conventional but also with real right. Carlyle's theory of heroworship explains the monstrously extravagant, impracticable, and even brutal and bloody suggestions which we shall have occasion to denounce in our notice of the “ Latter-Day Pamphlets."
Mr Carlyle's profound thinking never exercises itself upon abstract subjects. Man is always his theme. In his view humanity overlies all matter and spirit. His manhood ever asserts itself, and with the most imperious and constant instinct seeks brotherhood. Another characteristic is, that he never regards man as a mere phenomenon—a mere object to be described. To him, man is never isolated or solitary, but related to his species and to the eternal laws of the universe. He never looks at individuality, unless us denoting peculiar differences between one man and his brethren, or great anomalies in the system of things. Metaphysical speculation is his aversion. Hence he is emphatically a teacher—a vehement exciter to thought and action. For many years he has laboured, with prodigious force and earnestness, to improve men individually, and to turn each into a hero. Most solemnly has he expounded the awful grandeur of life—its relation to "the immensities and eternities"_and its duties to these. Occasionally he has tried to lecture nations as well as individuals, inculcating that governments and their people should work with insight and bravery. His "Chartism," and "Past and Present," took this wide range of teaching, but were totally unsuccessful. He has now, however, addressed himself more specially and formally to this important task.
We have no doubt that the “Life and Letters of Cromwell,” on which he was long engaged, along with the many serious political events which have occurred within the last few years—such as the revolutions on the Continent—have prompted him to write the “ Latter-Day Pamphlets.”
The unfortunate title which Mr Carlyle has given to his series of political tracts will sharpen and point the sneers that have often been directed against him as a prophet. We admire him as a bold and original thinker, as a keen-eyed spectator, and one gifted with and exercised in profound reflection; but we have no faith in him as a seer. Do the prophets live for ever? No; now they do not live at all, for the season of visions is gone, the race of seers is extinct, and the mantle of prophecy, instead of resting on human shoulders, is wrapped around the Bible that solitary and everlasting oracle. We get wisdom as we get food; the former is no longer direct inspiration any more than the latter is manna. Men of genius are our teachers, but their bright eye supernatural beam, and their words, however magical and potent, are not the articulated breath of God. We have as little converse with prophets as with angels. It is ridiculous phraseology which finds the latter in women and the former in sages. We expect no oracles from Mr Carlyle to be added to or substituted for the Bible. We have no more respect for him as a prophet than we have for those knaves and fools who call themselves " Latter-Day Saints”—nor do we entertain a very high regard for him, either as a political or a social reformer. He is a destructionist, most efficient in demolishing existing plans and theories; but seldom does he exhibit any which may succeed theseor, when he does, the statement is vague, incoherent, and self-contradictory. His sketch of the “Present Time” (No. 1 of the series), its humbugs and hypocrisies, is graphic and powerful, but what the future should be, and how it may be brought about, we cannot learn from him. He abuses kings, nobles, and people with equal good will; the present constitution of parliament, and "universal suffrage by ballot-box;" monarchies and republics. He is even doubtful whether parliament should not be altogether abolished. “It is possible," he says, “a parliament may not be the method! Possible the inveterate notions of the English people may have settled it as the method, and the everlasting laws of nature may have settled it as not the method.”
In this first pamphlet he proposes a remedy for the overgrown evils of pauperism, but it is one which the British nation will indignantly repudiate. An able-bodied pauper, says Mr Carlyle, has lost the rights of a freeman; he is to be treated as a slave, and compelled to work. If he do so heartily and perseveringly he is to obtain remuneration, and at length—emancipation! but if he refuse, he is to be lashed, or even shot! Such brutal views are announced in grim earnestness. Most of his readers have been shocked by the cold-blooded humour of his descriptions of the poor negro race, and by the absolute ferocity of his plans for their future treatment. He has borrowed all his jokes against the blacks from Charles Lamb, without the fine and tender humanity in which they lay in Lamb's soul.
The second pamphlet is on Punishments, and is entitled “Model Prisons." The question of how crime, and especially petty crime, is to be dealt with, has become one of weighty and urgent importance. Legislation will soon be compelled to take it up—and to do so will be no holiday work. The means of detecting and tracing to the proper parties the various offences that are committed against person and property, are nearly perfect, and offenders of every class and shade are almost certain of being brought to justice, for a numerous, vigilant, and efficient body of police watch both town and country, and scarcely a sparrow falleth to the ground without being noticed and reported; but the system of punishment confessedly requires many changes; what is to be done with offenders after they are apprehended and convicted, is an unspeakably greater difficulty than how to apprehend and convict them; and after the police, the prosecutor, and the jury have done their respective duties, what the sentence of the judge ought to be, and how it should be carried into effect, are the most serious and burdensome questions of all
. Imprisonment is the penalty that is inflicted upon petty criminals, both young and old. The person convicted of a brawl, or of an assault, or of theft, is sent to jail. A jail ought, therefore, when seen from without, to have a formidable aspect, and, when tried within, to have a no less formidable character. Freemen contemplating it, and captives knowing 'it by experience, should be strongly impressed with the evil consequences of crime. To the one it should not give, and to the other it should not promise, a refuge for poverty and starvation, and a home for idleness. As the term of confinement cannot be long, it is evident that it should be associated with circumstances which shall tend strongly to prevent the offender from repeating and all others from imitating his wickedness. The punishment should do more than simply give a brief
pause, a temporary check, in his bad career. Yet, at present, imprisonment merely provides, as it were, a pleasant and comfortable sleep, lasting a few days, or weeks, or months, after which the criminal comes forth without having suffered any severe privations to teach him a salutary lesson, or to render him an obvious example and warning to others. Jails are highly comfortable houses, with cells far superior in every respect to the hovels occupied by the industrious classes, with warm and clean apparel, and with good and abundant diet, which honest poverty may well envy. In short, were John Howard, the great philanthropist, living in our days, instead of going through prisons that he might behold and alleviate wretchedness, he would avoid these as he used to do the abodes of affluence and wealth—he would no more enter the cells of crime-he would step into the cottages of industry, honesty, and piety. Let a man steal, and this qualifies him to get airy, yet warm lodgings, clean clothes, wholesome diet, the attendance of servants, and the instructions of a chaplain; and the worse that the theft was, he would only get these blessings for a longer time. It is true that there is the disgrace of captivity, but it requires a better heart to appreciate and realise that disgrace than may fairly be assumed as belonging to the individuals who have broken the law. Far be it from us to wish to restore the execrable barbarities and horrors of the jails of a past century. But, surely, there is an immense difference between the damp and loathsome dungeons and the palace-like accommodations of our present handsome prisons. The first took brutal and inhuman vengeance upon criminals, the last nurses them tenderly. The first was almost burying them alive, the second is not even a house of correction for them.