Page images

in the Types of Ethical Theory of Dr. Martineau, who says of his philosophy:

• Embodied as it is in unfinished books, and buried in massive erudition, it has been distantly respected rather than closely studied; and has left upon few readers an adequate impression of the depth of the author's penetration, the comprehensiveness of his grasp, the subtlety of his analysis, and the happy flashes of expression by which he flings light upon real though unsuspected relations.'

Joseph Glanvil, although an Oxford man, practically

belonged to the group of Cambridge PlatoJoseph Glanvil

nists, and was especially connected with (1636-1680).

Henry More. He is the author of two very dissimilar books, The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1660), and Saducismus Triumphatus (1681), published after his death with additions by More, Horneck, and others. The former book, though containing no evidence of original power of thought, is remarkable as an evidence of the influence of Bacon in overthrowing the authority of Aristotle ; for its idolatry of Descartes; for its many curious anticipations (not originating with Glanvil) of modern discoveries; above all, for its testimony of the ardent scientific curiosity then fermenting in England, and about to issue in the establishment of the Royal Society. “Methinks,' Glanvil says, “this age

, seems resolved to bequeath posterity something to remember it.' The following is a remarkable passage to have been written six years before Newton's great discovery: “That heavy bodies descend by gravity, is no better an account than we might expect from a rustic; and again, that gravity is a quality whereby a heavy body descends, is an impertinent circle, and teacheth nothing.' The other and much more celebrated work, on the other hand, is a most melancholy example of superstitious credulity, but full of striking stories of the supernatural. The contrast between the styles of the two books is instructive; the earlier might have been written in the days of James I.; the later, though still antiquated, is much nearer modern English prose.

[ocr errors]



THE hinge of the controversies on government which agitated England in the seventeenth century, and produced the great treatises of Locke and Algernon Sidney, was a feeble book by Sir Robert Filmer, a Cavalier, written about the end of the Civil War, but published at a period which brings it within the scope of this volume. Filmer, though not a man of conspicuous mental power, was able to discern that the right of the nation to resist the arbitrary encroachments of Charles I. could not well be disputed so long as it continued to be held that Mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please, and that the

any one man hath over others was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude.' This opinion, which he admits to be that generally held, he endeavours to overthrow by the argument that no man was ever born in a state of freedom, for everyone comes into the world subject to the authority of his parents. *Not only Adam, but the succeeding patriarchs had, by right of fatherhood, royal authority over their children.' How they came to have royal authority over the children of other patriarchs Filmer does not explain; and it seems obvious on his own showing that either this latter authority does not exist, in which case there must be as many

power which



monarchies as families, or that it exists in virtue of a mutual contract among individual families ; so that royal authority derives from the people after all. Illogical, however, as Filmer might be, his views were too agreeable to the Court and to the supporters of absolute power not to find much encouragement, and men of first-rate powers found it necessary to take the field against them. Seldom indeed has a writer of such slender abilities made so much stir, or unintentionally laid the cause of liberty and reason under such deep obligations. As a measure of his own qualifications, it is sufficient to state that he seriously takes Samuel's dissuasion of the Israelites from setting up a monarchy on the ground of the oppressions to which they would subject themselves, for a luminous exposition of the rights of the sovereign and the duties of the subject.

Filmer was answered by three writers of great distinction-Locke, Algernon Sidney, and the Rev. George Johnson, a memorable pamphleteer who scarcely vindicates a place for himself in literature. The merit of their polemic, and the obligation under which it has placed posterity, must of necessity be ill appreciated by an age which finds it difficult to believe that Filmer could ever be thought to require an answer. The propositions that the first man was invested by Heaven with monarchical privi. leges, and that these privileges had in some manner devolved on King Charles I., seem to us so palpably absurd that Locke himself appears chargeable with folly for having spent his time in refuting them. The steady intellectual upheaval which has been going on ever since the revival of letters has lifted us into a region where the conceptions of divine right and non-resistance cannot live ; and we are inclined to attribute to the improvement of our understandings what really proceeds from the alteration of our environment. Ideas as baseless as Filmer's are now daily advanced, and daily combated by opponents whose services will one day be requited by the neglect that has overtaken Locke. Had Locke been a wit, he might indeed have im. mortalized himself and his antagonist together; but although he can and does make the latter ridiculous, he cannot make him amusing. There is more vitality in the second of his two Tracts on Government, for this in part deals with speculative questions regarding the origin of civil society as yet unsettled, and therefore not as yet commonplace. Locke deduces the mutual relations and obligations of rulers and ruled from a contract which he supposes to have been entered into in the infancy of society. The theory was highly salutary for the age, abolishing all superstitious notions of divine right, and providing sufficient justification for popular resistance to evil rulers. It must be owned, however, that it lacked the only safe basis of theory, the historical; the constitutions of uncivilized man were little known in Locke's day, and the better known they have become the less affinity they have seemed to present to the parliament which his imagination transported back from Westminster to Shinar. His essay nevertheless represents a necessary phase in the development of opinion, and exerted the most beneficial influence in generating the enlightened political sentiment of the eighteenth century. It is amusing to remark that, in spite of the Israelites, Locke stoutly refuses his imaginary society the right to contract itself out of its freedom by establishing an absolute monarchy, the only form of government which, according to his opponents, could be legitimate in any


Algernon Sidney's Discourse on Government has attracted less attention than Locke's, mainly because it claims more. So elaborate and ambitious a work was not required to crush Filmer, who had in fact been crushed by Locke some

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »