« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the excess and corruption of their virtues, not something utterly different and contradictory. He fairly takes his place in the series of reactionary or reforming Emperors ; he became in truth as bad as Nero himself, yet his reign may be truly reckoned as part of the period of revulsion which the excesses of Nero called forth.
We have spoken throughout of the Flavian and Antonine Cæsars in that language of respect which, on the whole, they deserve. The men themselves deserve far nore praise than blame. Doubtless all had their faults ; those certainly had of whose actions we possess any detailed account. Few of them wholly escaped the degrading vices of the age. Few remained absolutely uncorrupted by the temptations of unrestrained power. But, on the whole, all, save Domitian, played their part well. Their faults, whether as men or as rulers, are altogether outshone by their merits. It would be easy to charge Vespasian with inflicting on his country the miseries of a civil war. But, in a moment of anarchy, when there was no legitimate or universally recognised Emperor, we cannot fairly blame the man best worthy to rule for obeying the call of his troops to put in his claims among others. For the special horrors of the war, for the fearful sack of Cremona, for the arbitrary and cruel acts of Mucianus and Antonius Primus, Vespasian can hardly be made personally responsible. And again, though the relinquishment of so many of Trajan's conquests by his successor is the best comment on their real value, we can hardly blame a Roman soldier and reformer for treading in the steps of all the most famous worthies of the commonwealth. And, transient as were his Eastern victories, one conquest of Trajan's had results which have lasted to this day, and which are not without influence on diplomatic questions that take their turn among the other difficulties which occupy the busy pens of ambassadors and foreign ministers. The Rouman provinces, attached to the Old Rome by their language, as they are to the New Rome by their creed, bear witness to the strong hand with which Trajan established his new dominion north of the Danube. The government of Hadrian was not free from faults; but the first prince who really cared for the provinces is entitled to lasting honour. Altogether, the Emperors of this period formed a succession of wise and good rulers, to which it would not be easy to find a parallel. We may well look with admiration on so long a period of comparative good government, when we think of what went before, and of what followed. But, while we do every justice to men who did all that could be done in their position, we must not be blinded to the utterly unrighteous nature of that position itself. We must not forget, in the splendours of the Empire, in the virtues of many of its rulers, the inherent wickedness of the Empire itself. On this head it is well, after the extravagant advocacy of Mr. Congreve, even after the more measured apology of Mr. Merivale, to turn to the voice of truth and justice speaking through the mouth of Mr. Goldwin Smith. His vigorous denunciation of the essential unrighteousness of the Roman Empire is one of those utterances where simple truth of itself produces the highest eloquence. The Roman Empire may have done its work in the scheme of Providence, it may have paved the way for the religion and civilisation of modern Europe ; but this is simply one of the countless cases in which good has been brought out of evil. The Empire may have been a necessary evil, it may have been the lesser evil in a choice of evils; but it was essentially a thing of evil all the same. It exhibited, with tenfold aggravation, all that we look upon with loathing in the modern empires of Austria and Russia. The worst of modern despots is placed under some restraint by the general public opinion of the world, by the religion which he professes, by the civilisation which all Europe shares, by the existence of powerful free states side by side with despotisms, by the very jealousies and rivalries of the despotic powers themselves. But the Roman Empire stood alone in the world; there was no influence or opinion external to it. Its subjects, even in the worst times, would hardly have gained by flying to the wilds of independent Germany, or in exchanging the civilised despotism of Rome for the barbaric despotism of Parthia. But, whatever its causes, whatever its results, however necessary it was in its own time, it was essentially a wicked thing, which, for so many ages, crushed all national, and nearly all intellectual life, in the fairest regions of three continents. There is life as long as old Greece retains the least relics of her freedom; there is life again as soon as we reach the first germ of the system of Teutonic Europe ; nay, life reappears even in the Empire itself, when its place and its object are changed, when it has assumed the championship of Christianity against fire-worship and Islam, and when it has finally become coextensive with that artificial nation-Greek in one aspect and Roman in another--which for so many ages boasted of the Roman name. But, from Mummius to Augustus, the Roman city stands as the living mistress of a dead world ; and, from Augustus to Theodoric, the mistress becomes as lifeless as her subjects. For the truest life of man, for the political life of Periklês and Aratos, of Licinius and the Gracchi, the world had now no scope ; the Empire allowed but one field for the exercise of man's higher faculties, when the righteous soul of a Tacitus or a Juvenal was stirred up to brand the evil deeds of the Empire itself. The bane did, in some slight degree, prove its own antidote, when such stern preachers of truth were called forth to take the place of the courtly elegance of the hired poets of Augustus. Of the great legacy of Rome to later times, the legacy of the Roman Law, the most valuable portions were simply inherited by the Empire from the days of the Republic. The Republic may indeed have ceased to be possible; but we may remember that, under the Republic, the virtues of Titus and Trajan would have found a field for their exercise, while there could have been no field for the crimes of Caius or Nero or Domitian. The Verres of a single province sank before the majesty of the law and the righteous eloquence of his accuser : against the Verres of the world there was no protection except in the dagger of the assassin. A chain is of the strength of its weakest link, and a system of this sort may fairly be judged by the worst princes that it produces. A system under which a Nero and a Commodus are possible, and not uncommon, is truly a system of Neros and Commodi, though they may be relieved by even a series of Trajans and Antonines. For the Trajans and the Antonines have their parallels elsewhere; their virtues were not the result of the imperial system, but simply existed in spite of it. But the crimes of Nero and Commodus are without parallels elsewhere; they are the direct and distinctive product of the system itself, when left to its own development. In a free state Caius would have found his way to Bedlam, and Nero to Tyburn; Domitian, under the checks of the republican system, might possibly have made as useful a Censor as Cato. We cannot close a view of even the best period of the Roman monarchy without echoing the fervent wish of the Oxford Professor, that the world may never see its
We have one more remark to make on Mr. Merivale's
of looking at the establishment of the Empire. He is fond of describing both the elder and the younger Cæsars as the chiefs of a popular party, who established their dominion on the ruins of an oligarchy. This is of course true in a sense; the mob of Rome were favourable to Cæsar, and his party historically represented the party of his uncle Marius. But we need not take long to show what is the real nature of a pseudo-democratic despotism. It is a device of which neither Cæsar had a monopoly. There Were Dionysii before their time, and there have been Buonapartes since. It is undoubtedly true that, in one sense, the party of Cæsar was a popular party, and the party of the Republic was an aristocratic party; but they were not popular and aristocratic parties in any sense which would make us sympathise with the popular, and against the aristocratic party. As long as
there was a real Roman people, capable and worthy of political rights, we go along with all its struggles against the domination of any exclusive caste. But sympathy with a people against an oligarchy does not carry us on to sympathise with a moh against a senate. Great as were the faults of the Roman Senate in its last stage, it was at least the only body left where free discussion was possible ; it was the only assembly where two opinions could be expressed, where the arguments for both of them were fairly hearkened to, and a free vote taken between them. As such it was the salt of the earth, the last abiding-place of freedom. And we must not carry on into those days ideas which belong only to the older struggle between the orders. Many of the most illustrious nobles were technically plebeians; every Licinius and Cæcilius and Lutetius, the Great Pompeius, the triumvir Antonius and the tyrannicide Brutus, Cato and Milo and Hortensius and the second Cæsar himself, — all belonged to the order which the old Appii had striven to exclude from the fasces and the senatehouse. And its doors were not open merely to those who were indeed formally plebeians, but who were as practically members of a noble class as any Cornelius or Æmilius in Rome. A new man at Rome, as every where else, laboured under disadvantages; but his disadvantages were not insuperable, and it rested wholly with the people themselves whether they should be overcome or not. That government cannot be called a perfect oligarchy where the Tribes still chose Prætors, Consuls, Censors, and High Pontiffs ; where the highest places in the commonwealth were not refused to Caius Marius or to Marcus Tullius Cicero. Any deliberative body where two sides can be fairly heard, whether it take the form of a democratic assembly or of an aristocratic senate, is essentially a safeguard of freedom, a check on the will either of a moh or a despot. Even in the days of the Empire, the Senate, the last shadow of the free state, retained life enough for the good Emperors to respect it, and for the bad Emperors to hate it. It is the Senate, then, with which the sympathies of the real lover of freedom lie in the last age of the Republic, rather than with the frantic mob which disgraced the once glorious name of the Roman commons. No assembly that ever was devised was less suited to undertake the championship of liberty than the old Parliament of Paris ; but when the Parliament of Paris was the sole representative of right against might left in all France, when the feeble opposition of the magistracy was the sole check upon a despot's arbitrary will, our sympathies lie wholly with the Parliament in all its struggles with the royal power. It is something when even a Sultan has to ask a Sheikh-ul-Islam whether his pur
poses are in agreement with the law of the Prophet. He may, indeed, like our James the Second, depose a too unbending expounder of the law, and supply his place with one who will know no law but the prince's will; but the mere formality is something, the mere delay is something; it is something to make a despot ask a question to which the answer may possibly run counter to his wish. And so, as the last check on the despotism both of the mob of the Forum, and of the Cæsar on the Palatine, we still hold that the Senate, where Cicero denounced Catilina and Antonius, where the last dying notes of freedom were heard from the lips of Thrasea and Helvidius, was an assembly which well deserves the grateful remembrance of mankind.
On many points, then, and those points the most important of all, we look on the history of the Cæsars with widely different eyes from those of their last historian. But, on the very ground which makes us differ from him, we can never regret a difference from an advocate at once so candid and so competent. Mr. Merivale is a real scholar, in an age when real scholars are not so common that we can afford to lose or to undervalue a single one of the order. In all the highest qualities of a historian, there are but few living men who surpass him. We look with regret on his seventh volume, when we hear that his seventh volume is to be his last. If our words can have any influence with him,-and he may receive them as the words, not of flatterers, but in some degree of antagonists,-he will even now change a determination which all scholars must have heard with sorrow, and will continue his great work down at least to the limit which he first set before him as its close.
ART. IX-LEARNING IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
Report of the Church Congress hell at Oxford, 1862. THE "Ecclesiastical Reaction,” or “ Church Movement" within
" the Established Church, has attained a spread and momentum which raise it to the rank of one of the new social phenomena of our age. Yet it obtains little or no recognition from the superior and philosophical part of the press. It meets us every where—in society, in public meetings, in books, and finally on the bench-as a diffused but invisible influence. Yet we hardly ever see any serious attempts to estimate its import, or analyse its true character. Mr. Mill has, indeed, once or twice sur