« ZurückWeiter »
could in erecting permanent institutions for society. She must bide her time for the rest.
In looking at England we are at once struck with the marvellous changes produced here by the indomitable energy of the Anglo-Saxon character. We see the same wonderful progress in England that we do in America. The way is in some places more encumbered because the material area is smaller. But there is a remarkable difference in this respect between the two countries. While in both of them the public works are steadily being finished, and the expected results, in given cases, are fully realized, there were some things finished in England before these. The construction and operation of these works have made no perceptible impression on certain English stabilities. In America everything in society, without a solitary exception, has been made to feel more or less the influence of the onward rush of events. In England the things to which we now refer remain untouched. They are what Washington Irving wished so much to see— finished things.
The first English stability to which we refer is the Bank of England. We do not say that England could not exist without this bank; but we do not see how she could exist without it in prosperity. The earnings of England, by land and sea, might be very advantageously made without the direct instrumentality of her National Bank; but it is perfectly clear that the permanent results of these earnings could not be secured without it. The greatest historical events of England, in modern times, have shown the stability of her Bank. The war with France, the suppression of the Indian mutiny, the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, the Crimean war, the change in the English. Corn Laws, the various Financial Panics, especially that of 1866, in Great Britain-all combine to prove the stability of the Bank of England.
During the progress of some of the events to which reference is here made, it would be futile to deny that the Bank of England was interested. She was not and could not be, from the very nature of her power, an idle or indifferent spectator; but her very activity in certain cases only proved her stability. The depreciation of her notes, in one of the periods to which we refer, only gave an opportunity for the English people to show how safe they considered their funds to be in her hands. Not that the Bank of England is above the people. It is in this fact more than any other that her stability consists. Her Board of Directors sees where the real income of the Bank is, and it is guarded accordingly. It is the combined industry of England that
makes her Bank what it is. No such public debt as that of this country could be controlled if it were not for the stability given by the earnings of the people to the Bank of England. The Consols of England stand well in the markets of the world, because it is known that the Bank of England endorses them. No one who was in the vicinity of the Bank during the height of the financial crisis of the spring of last year, but must have been deeply impressed by the scene around him with the ability of that institution. The eye passed along Threadneedle Street at the hour of high change, in the midst of the rush of assembled thousands, and rested on the fortress-like walls of the Bank as it would on a rock in the midst of a raging sea. The throng swept on like a cataract over a cliff. The mingled mass jostled itself in the streets, a pent-up human avalanche. Men of station and wealth, women of fashion and beauty, old and young, rich and poor, huddled together in the crowd, borne away in the resistless current that surged on to the doors and in to the counters of the falling and tottering banks. At this darkest moment of that memorable "Black Friday," when Mr. Gladstone drove up, in the name of the Government of England, as the representative of the people of England, to the portals of the Bank of England, and, after consulting in its private council-chamber with its Directors, announced that all was well, that the money really needed for the public necessities of the perilous hour would be forthcoming at the appointed time, no one who heard it will ever forget the cheer that then and there went up from the popular heart, attesting to the fact that the Bank of England is indeed among the first of English stabilities.
There is another institution of England, to the stability of which present and coming generations must attest. It is Saint Paul's Cathedral. No object so quickly attracts the attention of the visitor to the metropolis of the world. Its location in London, on the crest of a hill, in the very centre of the city, among crowded thoroughfares, while in some respects cramping its vast proportions, the better enables it by contrast to establish its permanence. Other cathedrals, standing out against the outlines of hills, remind you that they may decay while the hills remain; but the buildings around Saint Paul's, by their structure and occupation, suggest at once the permanent character of that great edifice. You see the warehouses of to-day torn down to-morrow; the wares, the signs, the occupants, are constantly liable to change; but there stands that grand and stately pile since the day of its completion-the same in every altered season, through all
the fluctuations of trade and the mutations of Government. In the respects to which reference is here had, there is no structure like Saint Paul's in the world. As you walk along its walls, on the inside as well as out, you feel as if you were treading the defiles of a quarry, laid on the foundations of the everlasting hills. The scaffolding has been so thoroughly removed, you see and can see no signs of material for decay. They who gaze upon the building a thousand years from now may be expected to find it just the same. Ornaments to inferior points may be added; but Saint Paul's, as a national structure, is finished an enduring monument of English stability. Should an earthquake overturn London to-morrow, the pile of ruins that would remain in Saint Paul's Churchyard, and on Ludgate Hill, would sufficiently attest the character of the structure.
There is something in the manner of the construction of Saint Paul's that must always endear it to the truc Englishman. It was more than a generation in being built-one architect and one master-mason having been engaged upon it for thirty-five years. For more than four centuries before the Norman Conquest the memorials of Saint Paul's have stood on Ludgate Hill. In the year sixteen hundred and ninetyseven it rose, with far more than its original splendour, from the ruins of the great fire of London. From that day to this its doors have stood open at its wonted hours; and he who passes beneath its inner dome during the assembly of Sunday evenings, will at once be made to feel how changing is that gathered crowd in contrast with the stable walls, and turrets, and towers of the ancient cathedral. There it stands-a monumental personification of English stability.
Passing by these striking memorials of our theme, another is presented for consideration in the present article-the London "Times." This powerful journal has been viewed in many aspects, and it will be well to look at it in its character of one of the stabilities of England. There are ample reasons to prove how it has attained this character. The whole of these may be summed up in one-the perfect reliability of its general news. It is this, more than everything else, that has given its stability to this great organ of English public opinion. For many years past this has been its controlling feature. Whatever may have been its expressed opinions on public matters, it has always sought and secured the earliest possible intelligence. The internal machinery in this world-wide paper in this respect is truly wonderful. If it is desirable to obtain information from the most distant part of our planet, for the benefit of the readers of "The Times," no expense
or labour is spared to secure it; and the striking peculiarity of this fact is, that it is always found to be correct. It may be adverse or favourable to certain views; but there stands the fact, obtained by every application necessary for the purpose, undisputed and indisputable. The speculations of "The Times," as to future events, its decisions with regard to men and principles, have nothing whatever to do with its matchless arrangements for obtaining and giving to the world the earliest news that is always reliable. No event worth recording can possibly escape it. Herein consists its stability. Each paper is a volume of itself: a book of facts, statistics, history, science, theology, politics, geography, travels, and correspondence. In all these respects it is exactly what it purports to be-a perfect compend of the times. The genuine Englishman likes his great paper on that account more than any other. He likes to hold and publish his own opinions. His self-possession and independence of thought make him always ready to announce and defend his ideas. But to do all this well he must have facts-plain facts-on whatever subject he has resolved to treat. Just here steps in the London "Times," with its tremendous appliances of intellectual and material force. With a frank and hearty recognition, it exclaims, "Respected Mr. BULL! you want facts. You shall have them, sir! They shall be yours as quickly as Puck put a girdle round the earth. Do you desire facts from Asia? they are at your service, sir-from Cairo to Assam. Is it from Africa, Mr. Bull? they are here-from Cape Coast Castle to the Mountains of the Moon. Would you have them from the more familiar haunts of Europe? we have the pleasure to introduce to you what you wish, from every European capital and watering-place; from every court and every camp; from all the brokers' boards of Europe, where all the languages of modern times are spoken. Are you looking for facts from America ?-Mr. Bull, Brother Jonathan; Brother Jonathan, Mr. Bull-the Atlantic cable is flashing at your command, sir, with authentic facts from North to South, from East to West, of the American Republic. The four quarters of the world at your breakfasttable in 'The Times,' Mr. Bull; and if there were any other places proper for us to report to you, it would not be our fault if it were not done."
Every word of this description announces a fact; and hence the stability of the London "Times"-hence we place it in "The Broadway" among “English Stabilities.”
Yet is it not of fixéd purpose: for
Your Christian scribes, good honest men, I grant ye,
The Alcayde, Act iii., sc. 4.
"What is the book? Sure 'tis in itself a digression. Nay, rather a Digression of Digressions." Baxter's Lament.
PREFACE OR INTRODUCTION.
Shall I, or shall I not? Not. On Second Thoughts I must, by way of explanation.
My father, the Rector of Chorlton-Double, was a theologian of the old high school; he was also a mild casuist, and what he was pleased to call a Christian Metaphysician.
He never compromised his reputation as a great thinker by writing a book, or even so much as a pamphlet.
He preached from notes illegible to any one but himself.
He was always taking notes, using as many pocket-books as fir Joshua Reynolds.
He had, I now find, conceived a stupendous idea, which was to have marked an era in literature and in the history of human thought. For thirty-five years, since the hour when first the Grand Notion had struck him, his notes had been accumulating.
It was not until he had a few moments' quiet, which, I regret to say, only happened during his last illness, that he decided upon a form and a title for his work.
In the first year of the Grand Notion he had noted down the future work thus (on reference to his pocket-book of that date)
May. Tuesday. Humanity: its phantasies, errors, how to (here a pencil mark obliterates the line). Title, "Man." In volumes. (Query, How many volumes?)
In June I find some progress made, and a new road marked out. June. Front. Rippling streams. Atmospheric effects on Man. Title for chapter, "Nature's Probabilities," or title for entire book. volumes or parts.