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humblest toilers. Those companies of religious men, following the rule of St. Benedict, who cleared the forests, drained the morasses, reclaimed the desolate places of Germany, France, Spain, England, were doing a work of which they little dreamed. "We owe the agricultural restoration of a great part of Europe to the monks," writes Mr. Hallam. Yes; and we owe to them what is of far more importancethat sentiment of the dignity of labour without which the mere legal emancipation of the labourer would have been of little worth. All that is great in those Middle Ages-and how much does that mean!-springs from the same transcendental root. The gradual vindication of a man's right to be himself, to live out his own life, was wrought by men who felt the ineffable greatness of man, and the infinite value of life.
Such were our mediæval forefathers, to whom we Englishmen directly owe "the ancient and immemorial rights and liberties of the subject," as we proudly call them, and the venerable institutions which are their guarantees and sacred shrines. The constitutional history of England is the history of the slow, oft-thwarted but continuous development, by a process of organic growth, upon the one hand, of that individual freedom which means complexity, differentiation, inequality; and upon the other hand, of that closer unity resulting from the harmonious working of diverse forces, freely constituted under the sway of great religious and
THE GROWTH OF CONSTITUTIONS.
ethical principles regulating both public and private life. Nothing is more certain than that the English constitution, and the other constitutions which arose throughout Europe in the fourteenth century, were not due to any preconceived theory. We may apply here certain words of Aristotle: "As men went on, the nature of things was their guide, and conducted them from one point to another." A true instinct taught them that the intervention of the subject in public affairs is a necessary guarantee of individual liberty. And the best way of securing such intervention appeared to them, the assignment to each constituent element of the body politic, or estate of the realm, of such share in the government as it seemed fitted to exercise. The political enfranchisement of the various classes of the community, and their association in the work of legislation, was the ideal to which, probably with very small consciousness of it, Europe tended from the beginning of the thirteenth century to the end of the fifteenth. Then, in well-nigh every Continental country, this bulwark of personal freedom is sapped by Renaissance Absolutism, and gradually disap pears. With us, the Parliamentary system of Henry II. and Simon de Montfort, perverted, but not destroyed, by Tudor despotism, maintained itself against the usurpations of the Stuarts, until the great event of 1688 finally vindicated "the undoubted rights and liberties of the subject," and secured that preponderant influence of the House of
Commons, as the representative and mouthpiece of the nation, which is the great safeguard of English freedom.
I need not dwell upon the progress of that freedom since 1688, nor show how, as it has "broadened down," the constitutional institutions, which are its pledges and instruments, have gathered ever fresh strength and security. Who can deny that we Englishmen now enjoy the plenitude of all the liberties which the full exercise of personality implies? Liberty of person, liberty of property, of which testamentary freedom is no small part, liberty of worship, liberty of public meeting, liberty of the press, educational liberty; we have them all. And what better guarantees of these liberties are possible than such as we possess: a Government, not the mandatory of any one class, but broad-based upon the will of the whole people, an independent judiciary, trial by jury, the writ of habeas corpus-without which all our other liberties would be but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal-the absence of all exceptional jurisdictions, of ali class or official privileges before the law. "The whole freedom of man," wrote Milton in noble words, cited in the last chapter, and well worth citing again, "consists either in spiritual or civil liberty. As for spiritual, who can be at rest, who can enjoy anything in this world with contentment, who hath not liberty to serve God and to save his own soul? The other part of our freedom consists in the civil
11.] A FREE CAREER TO PERSONALITY.
rights and advancements of every person according to his merit." Spiritual liberty has been realised in ampler measure than even Milton, in his age and environment, could understand. His principle has been developed, and his limitation discarded, that "popery, and open superstition, no law can possibly allow that intends not to unlaw itself." And the principle of "the advancements of every person according to his merit," that, too, has received a wider extension than Milton could have dreamed of. Not only is merit-or what gets itself accepted as such-the consideration that regulates the trust of public authority, but competition is the very law of our highly complex civilisation; a competition not merely of material force, but of intelligence, of morality-yes, and we may say of self-sacrifice. And the office of competition is to elicit fitness; in other words, to afford a free career to personality, by allowing to each the unfettered employment of his individual powers for his own advantage, and for the advantage of the organism of which he is a member. To permit each to be fully himself, to find his own proper level-this is liberty. Hence, it is not too much to say, that liberty is rooted and grounded in inequality. Uniformity is fatal to it. And when once equality before the law and an open career for talent are assured, all the factors of inequality-such as quasi-independent bodies in the State, corporations, guilds, great fortunes, great families are so many factors of liberty. The free
play of indefinitely varying personalities is of the very essence of national vitality; without it a people may have a name to live, but is dead. The only legitimate limit to the freedom of each is that which is necessary for the equal freedom of all. It is a limit which, as a matter of fact, is fixed not so much by positive law as by the innate good sense and right feeling, born of that respect for our own personality as most inward and most sacred to us, which leads us to respect the personality of others. Hence that recognition of liberty as something above parties, something of a higher order than the shibboleths of public life-always petty, usually contemptible-which supplies the true bond of national cohesion, and "keeps our Britain whole within herself." The scientific student then, as he traces through history the progress of society, may fully adopt the words of Spinosa: "The end of the State, is not to transform men from reasonable beings into animals or automata; its end is so to act, that the citizens may develop in security body and soul, and make free use of their reason; the end of the State is, in truth, liberty." This is no à priori abstract idea, such as that wherewith the maker of paper constitutions starts, when he sets himself to build up his house of cards. It is a principle, which is the most concrete thing in the world; the quintessence of the facts from which it is deduced; the very law of their succession and connection as manifested in their working.