John Stuart Mill's 1840 essay on Coleridge  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



John Stuart Mill's 1840 essay on Coleridge contrasts the Kantian-influenced thought of "Continental philosophy" and "Continental philosophers" with the English empiricism of Bentham and the 18th century generally.


“The name of Coleridge is one of the few English names of our time which are likely to be oftener pronounced and to become symbolic of more important things in proportion as the inward workings of the age manifest themselves more and more in outward fact. Bentham excepted, no Englishman of recent date has left his impress so deeply on the opinions and mental tendencies of those among us who attempt to enlighten their practice by philosophical meditation. If it be true, as Lord Bacon affirms, that a knowledge of the speculative opinions in the men between twenty and thirty years of age is the great source of political prophecy, the existence of Coleridge will show itself by no slight of ambiguous traces in the coming history of our country.”

Full text


The name of Coleridge is one of the few English names of our time which are likely to be oftener pro- nounced, and to become symbolical of more important things, in proportion as the inward workings of the age manifest themselves more and more in outward facts. Bentham excepted, no Enghshman of recent date has left his impress so deeply in the opinions and mental tendencies of those among us who attempt to enlighten their practice by philosophical meditation. If it be true, as Lord Bacon affirms, that a knowledge of the speculative opinions of the men between twenty and thirty years of age is the great source of political proph- ecy, the existence of Coleridge will show itself by no slight or ambiguous traces in the coming history of our country ; for no one has contributed more to shape the opinions of those among its younger men, who can be said to have opinions at all.

  • LouAuu and Westminster Review, March, 1840.


The influence of Coleridge, like that of Bentham, extends far beyond those who share in the peculiarities of his religious or philosophical creed. He has been the great awakener in this country of the spirit of phi- losophy, within the bounds of traditional opinions. "He has been, almost as truly as Bentham, " the great ques- tioner of things established;" for a questioner needs not necessarily be an enemy. By Bentham, beyond all others, men have been led to ask themselves, in regard to any ancient or received opinion, Is it true ? and by Coleridge, What is the meaning of it? The one took his stand outside the received opinion, and siu-veyed it as an entire stranger to it : the other looked at it from within, and endeavored to see it with the eyes of a believer in it ; to discover by what apparent facts it was at first suggested, and by what appearances it has ever since been rendered continually credible, — has seemed, to a succession of persons, to be a faithfid interpretation of their experience. Bentham judged a proposition true or false as it accorded or not with the result of his own inquiries ; and did not search very curiously into what might be meant by the proposition, when it obviously did not mean what he thought true. With Coleridge, on the contrary, the very feet that any doctrine had been believed by thoughtfiil men, and received by whole nations or generations of mankind, was part of the problem to be solved ; was one of the phenomena to be accounted for. And, as Bentham's short and easy method of referring all to the selfish interests of aristocracies or priests or lawyers, or some other species of impostors, could not sadsfy a man who saw so much ferther into the complexities of the


human intellect and feelings, he considered the long or extensive prevalence of any opinion as a presump- tion that it was not altogether a fallacy ; that, to its first authors at least, it was the result of a struo-o-le to express in words som'ething which had a reality to them, though perhaps not to many of those who have since received the doctrine by mere tradition. The long duration of a belief, he thought, is at least proof of an adaptation in it to some portion or other of the human mind : and if, on digging down to the root, we -do not find, as is generally the case, some truth, we shall find some natural want or requirement of human nature which the doctrine in question is fitted to satisfy ; among which wants the instincts of selfishness and of credulity have a place, but by no means an exclusive one. From this difference in the points of view of the two philosophers, and from the too rigid adherence of each to his own, it was to be expected that Benthajn should continually miss the truth which is in the tradi- tional opinions, and Coleridge that which is out of them and at variance with them. But it was also likely that each would find, or show the way to finding, much of what the other missed.

It is hardly possible to speak of Coleridge, and his position among his co temporaries, without reverting to Bentham : they are connected by two of the closest bonds of association, — resemblance and contrast. It would be difficult to find two persons of philosophic , eminence more exactly the contrary of one another. Compare their modes of treatment of any subject, and you might fancy them inhabitants of different worlds. They seem to have scarcely a principle or a premise in


common. Each of them sees scarcely any thmg but what the other does not see. Bentham would have regarded Coleridge \\-ith a peculiar measure of the good- himiored contempt with which he was accustomed to regard all modes of philosophizing different from his own. Coleridge would probably have made Bentham one of the exceptions to the enlarged and liberal appre- ciation which (to the credit of his mode of philosopliiz- ing) he extended to most thinkers of any eminence from whom he differed. But contraries, as logicians say, are but qucB in eodem genere maxime distant^ ■ — the things which are farthest from one another in the same kind. These two agreed in being the men, who, in their age and coimtry, did most to enforce, by precept and example, the necessity of a pliilosophy. They agreed in making it their occupation to recall opinions to first principles*; taking no proposition for granted without examining into the grounds of it, and ascertaining that it possessed the kind and degree of evidence suitable to its nature. They agreed in recog- nizing that sound theory is the only foundation for sound practice ; and that whoever despises theory, let him give himself what airs of wisdom he may, is self- con^-icted of being a quack. If a book were to be compiled containing all the best things ever said on the rule-of-thumb school of political craftsmansliip, and on the insufficiency for practical purposes of what the mere practical man calls experience, it is difficult to say whether the collection would be more indebted to the writings of Bentham or of Coleridge. They agreed, too, in perceiving that the groundwork of all other phi- losophy must be laid in the philosophy of the mind.


To lay this foundation deeply and strongly, and to raise a superstructure in accordance with it, were the objects to which their lives were devoted. They employed, indeed, for the most part, diiferent materials ; but as the materials of both were real observations, the genu- ine product of experience, the results will, in the end, be found, not hostile, but supplementary, to one an- other. Of their methods of philosophizing, the same thing may be said : they were different, yet both were legitimate logical processes. In every respect, the two men are each other's " completing counterpart : " the strong points of each correspond to the weak points of the other. Whoever could master the premises and combine the methods of both would possess the entire English philosophy of his age. Coleridge used to say that every one is bom either a Platonist or an Aristote- lian : it may be similarly affirmed, that every English- man of the present day is by implication either a Benthamite or a Coleridgian ; holds views of human affiiirs which can only be proved true on the principles either of Bentham or of Coleridge. In one respect, indeed, the parallel fails. Bentham so improved and added to the system of philosophy he adopted, that, for his successors, he may almost be accounted its founder ; while Coleridge, though he has left, on the system he inculcated, such traces of himself as cannot fail to be left by any mind of original powers, was anticipated in all the essentials of his doctrine by the great Germans of the latter half of the last century, and was accom- panied in it by the remarkable series of their French expositors and followers. Hence, although Coleridge is to Englishmen the type and the main source of that


doctrine, he is the creator rather of the shape in which it has appeared among us than of the doctrine itself.

The time is yet far distant, when, in the estimation of Coleridge, and of his influence upon the intellect of our time, any thing like unanimity can be looked for. As a poet, Coleridge has taken his place. The health- ier taste, and more intelUgent canons of poetic criti- cism, which he was himself mainly instrumental in difliising, have at length assigned to him his proper rank, as one among the great (and, if we look to the powers shown rather than to the amount of actual achievement, among the greatest) names in our Htera- ture. But, as a philosopher, the class of thinkers has scarcely yet arisen by whom he is to be judged. The limited philosophical public of this country is as yet too exclusively divided between those to whom Coleridge and the views which he promulgated or defended are every thing, and those to whom they are nothing. A true thinker can onlv be justlv estimated when his diooghts have worked their way into minds formed in a different school ; have been wrought and moulded into consistencv with all other true and relevant thouorhts ; when the noisy conflict of half-truths, angrily denying one another, has subsided, and ideas which seemed mutually incompatible have been found only to require mutual limitations. This time has not yet come for Coleridge. The spirit of philosophy in England, like that of religion, is still rootedly sectarian. Conserva- tive thinkers and Liberals, transcendentalists and ad- mirers of Hobbes and Locke, regard each other as out of the pale of philosophical intercourse ; look upon each other's speculations as vitiated by an original taint.


which makes all study of them, except for purposes of attack, useless, if not mischievous. An error much the same as if Kepler had refused to profit by Ptole- my's or Tycho's observations, because those astronomers believed that the sun moved round the earth ; or as if Priestley and Lavoisier, because they differed on the doctrine of phlogiston, had rejected each other's chemi- cal experiments. It is even a still greater error than either of these. For amono^ the truths lonof recooTiized by Continental philosophers, but which very few Eng- lishmen have yet arrived at, one is, the importance, in the present imperfect state of mental and social science, of antagonist modes of thought; which, it will one day be felt, are as necessary to one another in specula- tion, as mutually checking powers are in a political constitution. A clear insight, indeed, into this neces- sity, is the only rational or enduring basis of philosophi- cal tolerance ; the only condition under which liberality in matters of opinion can be any thing better than a polite synonjone for indifference between one opinion and another.

All students of man and society who possess that first requisite for so difficult a study, a due sense of its difficulties, are aware that the besetting danger is not so much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mis- taking part of the trath for the whole. It might be plausibly maintained, that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philoso- phy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though wrong in what they denied ; and that, if either could have been made to take the other's views in addi- tion to its own, little more would have been needed to


make its doctrine correct. Take, for instance, the ques- tion, how far mankind have gained by civilization. One observer is forcibly struck by the multiplication of physical comforts ; the advancement and diffusion of knowledge ; the decay of superstition ; the facilities of mutual intercourse ; the softening of manners ; the decline of war and personal conflict ; the progressive limitation of the tyranny of the strong over the weak ; the great works accomplished throughout the globe by the co-operation of multitudes : and he becomes that very common character, the worshipper of "our en- lightened age." Another fixes his attention, not upon the value of these advantages, but upon the high price which is paid for them ; the relaxation of indi^'idual energy and courage ; the loss of proud and self-relying independence ; the slavery of so large a portion of mankind to artificial wants ; their eifeminate shrinking from even the shadow of pain ; the dull, unexciting monotony of their lives, and the passionless insipidity, and absence of any marked individuality, in their char- acters ; the contrast between the narrow mechanical understanding, produced by a life spent in executing by fixed rules a fixed task, and the varied powers of the man of the woods, whose subsistence and safety depend at each instant upon his capacity of extemporarily adapting means to ends ; the demoralizing eflfect of great inequalities in wealth and social rank ; and the sufferings of the great mass of the people of civilized countries, whose wants are scarcely better provided for than those of the savage, while they are bound by i\ thousand fetters in lieu of the freedom and excitement which are his compensations. One who attends to


these things, and to these exclusively, will be apt to infer that savage life is preferable to civilized ; that the work of civilization should as far as possible be undone ; and, from the premises of Rousseau, he will not Im- probably be led to the practical conclusions of Rous- seau's disciple, Robespierre. No two thinkers can be more entirely at variance than the two we have sup- posed, — the worshippers of civilization and of inde- pendence, of the present and of the remote past. Yet all that Is positive in the opinions of either of them Is true : and we see how easy it would be to choose one's path, if either half of the truth M-^ere the whole of it ; and how great may be the difficulty of framing, as it is necessary to do, a set of practical maxims which com- bine both.

So, again, one person sees in a very strong light the need which the great mass of mankind have of beinor ruled over by a degree of intelligence and virtue superior to their own. He is deeply impressed with the mis- chief done to the uneducated and uncultivated by wean- ing them of all habits of reverence, appealing to them as a competent tribunal to decide the most intricate questions, and making them think themselves capable. Hot only of being a light to themselves, but of giving the law to their superiors in culture. He sees, further, that cultivation, to be carried beyond a certain point, requires leisure ; that leisure is the natural attribute of a hereditary aristocracy ; that such a body has all the means of acquiring intellectual and moral superiority : and he needs be at no loss to endow them with abun- dant motives to it. An aristocracy indeed, being hu- man, are, as he cannot but see, not exempt, any more


than their inferiors, from the common need of being controlled and enlightened by a still greater wisdom and goodness than their own. For this, however, his reliance is upon reverence for a Higher above them, sedulously inculcated and fostered by the course of their education. We thus see brought together all the elements of a conscientious zealot for an aristocratic government, supporting and supported by an established Christian church. There is truth, and important truth, in this thinker's premises. But there is a thinker of a very different description, in whose premises there is an equal portion of truth. This is he who says, that an average man, even an average member of an aristocracy, if he can postpone the interests of other people to his own calculations or instincts of self-interest, will do so ; that all governments in all ages have done so, as far as they were permitted, and generally to a ruinous extent ; and that the only possible remedy is a pure democracy, in which the people are their own governors, and can have no selfish interest in oppressing themselves.

Thus it is in regard to every important partial truth : there are alwavs two conflictingr modes of thought, — one tending to give to that truth too large, the other to give it too small, a place ; and the history of opinion is generally an oscillation between these extremes. From the imperfection of the human faculties, it seldom hap- pens, that, even in the minds of eminent thinkers, each partial ^-iew of their subject passes for its worth, and none for more than its worth. But, even if this just balance exist in the mind of the wiser teacher, it will not exist in his disciples, far less in the general mind. He cannot prevent that which is new in his doctrine,


and on which, being new, he is forced to insist the most strongly, from making a disproportionate impression. The impetus necessary to overcome the obstacles which resist all novelties of opinion seldom fails to carry the public mind almost as far on the contrary side of the perpendicular. Thus every excess in either direction determines a corresponding re-action ; improvement con- sisting only in this, — that the oscillation, each time, departs rather less widely from the centre, and an ever- increasing tendency is manifested to settle finally in it.

Now, the Germano-Coleridgian doctrine is, in our view of the matter, the result of such a re-action. It expresses the revolt of the human mind against the philosophy of the eighteenth century. It is onto- logical, because that was experimental ; conservative, because that was innovative ; religious, because so much of that was infidel ; concrete and historical, be- cause that was abstract and metaphysical ; poetical, because that was matter-of-fact and prosaic. In every respect, it flies off" in the contrary direction to its prede- cessor : yet, faithful to the general law of improvement last noticed, it is less extreme in its opposition, it denies less of what is true in the doctrine it wars against, than had been the case in any previous philosophic re-action ; and, in particular, far less than when the philosophy of the eighteenth century triumphed, and so memorably abused its victory, over that which pre- ceded it.

We may begin our consideration of the two systems either at one extreme or the other, — with their highest philosophical generalizations, or with their practical


conclusions. The former seems preferable, because it is in their highest generalities that the difference be- tween the two systems is most familiarly known.

Every consistent scheme of philosophy requires, as its starting-point, a theory respecting the sources of human knowledge, and the objects which the human feculties are capable of taking cognizance of. The pre- vailing theory in the eighteenth century, on this most comprehensive of questions, was that proclaimed by Locke, and commonly attributed to Aristotle, — that all knowledge consists of generalizations from experience. Of nature, or any thing whatever external to ourselves, we know, according to this theory, nothing, except the facts which present themselves to our senses, and such other facts as may, by analogy, be inferred from these. There is no knowledge a priori ; no truths cognizable by the mind's inward light, and groimded on intuitive evidence. Sensation, and the mind's consciousness of its own acts, are not only the exclusive sources, but the sole materials, of our knowledge. From this doctrine, Coleridge, with the German philosophers since Kant (not to go farther back) , and most of the 'English since Reid, strongly dissents. He claims for the human mind a capacity, within certain limits, of perceiving the nature and properties of ** things in themselves." He distinguishes in the human intellect two faculties, which, in the technical language comiAon to him with the Germans, he calls Understanding and Reason. The former faculty judges of phenomena, or the appear- ances of things, and forms generalizations from these : to the latter it belongs, by direct intuition, to perceive things, and recognize truths, not cognizable by our


senses. These perceptions are not indeed innate, nor could ever have been awakened in us without experi- ence ; but they are not copies of it : experience is not their prototype ; it is only the occasion by which they are irresistibly suggested. The appearances in nature excite in us, by an inherent law, ideas of those invisible things which are the causes of the visible appearances, and on whose laws those appearances depend ; and we then perceive that these things must have pre-existed to render the appearances possible ; just as (to use a fre- quent illustration of Coleridge's) we see, before we know that we have eyes : but, when once this is known to us, we perceive that eyes must have pre-existed to enable us to see. Among the truths which are thus known d priori, by occasion of experience, but not themselves the subjects of experience, Coleridge includes the fun- damental doctrines of religion and morals, the principles of mathematics, and the ultimate laws even of physical natui'e ; which he contends cannot be proved by ex- perience, though they must necessarily be consistent with it, and would, if we knew them perfectly, enable us to account for all observed facts, and to predict all those which are as yet unobserved.

It is not necessary to remind any one who concerns himself with such subjects, that between the partisan^ of these two opposite doctrines there reigns a bellum internecinum. Neither side is sparing in the imputa- tion of intellectual and moral obliquity to the percep- tions, and of pernicious consequences to the creed, of its antagonists. Sensualism is the common term of abuse for the one philosophy; mysticism, for the other. The one doctrine is accused of making men beasts ; the

VOL. II. 2


Other, lunatics. It is the unaffected belief of numbers on one side of the controversy, that their adversaries are actuated by a desire to break loose from moral and religious obligation ; and of numbers on the other, that their opponents are either men fit for Bedlam, or who cunningly pander to the interests of hierarchies and aristocracies by manufacturing superfine new argu- ments in favor of old prejudices. It is almost needless to say, that those who are freest with these mutual accu- sations are seldom those who are most at home in the real intricacies of the question, or who are best ac- quainted with the argumentative strength of the opposite side, or even of their own. But, without going to these extreme lengths, even sober men on both sides take no charitable view of the tendencies of each other's opinions.

It is affirmed that the doctrine of Locke and his followers, that all knowledge is experience generalized, leads by strict logical consequence to atheism ; that Hume and other sceptics were right when they con- tended that it is impossible to prove a God on grounds of experience ; and Coleridge (like Kant) maintains positively, that the ordinary argument for a Deity, from marks of design in the universe, or, in other words, from the resemblance of the order in nature to the effects of human skill and contrivance, is not tenable. It is further said, that the same doctrine annihilates moral obligation ; reducing morality either to the blind impulses of animal sensibility, or to a calculation of prudential consequences, both equally fatal to its essence. Even science, it is affirmed, loses the character of science in this view of it, and becomes


empiricism, — a mere enumeration and arrangement of facts, not explaining nor accounting for them : since a fact is only then accounted for, when we are made to see in it the manifestation of laws, which, as soon as they are perceived at all, are perceived to be necessary > These are the charges brought by the transcendental philosophers against the school of Locke, Hartley, and Bentham. They, in their turn, allege that the transcen- dentalists make imagination, and not observation, the criterion of truth ; that they lay down principles under which a man may enthrone his wildest dreams in the chair of philosophy, and impose them on mankind as intuitions of the pure reason : which has, in fact, been done in all ages, by all manner of mystical enthusiasts. And even if, with gross inconsistency, the private reve- lations of any individual Behmen or Swedeaborg be disowned, or, in other words, outvoted (the only means of discrimination, which, it is contended, the theory admits of), this is still only substituting, as the test of truth, the dreams of the majority for the dreams of each individual. Whoever form a strong enough party may at any time set up the immediate perceptions of their reason, that is to say, any reigning prejudice, as a truth independent of experience, — a truth not only requiring no proof, but to be believed in opposition to all that appears proof to the mere understanding ; nay, the more to be believed, because it cannot be put into words and into the logical form of a proposition without a contradiction in terms : for no less authority than this is claimed by some transcendentalists for their d-priori truths. And thus a ready mode is provided, by which whoever is on the strongest side may dogmatize at his


ease, and, instead of proving his propositions, may rail at all who deny them, as bereft of "the vision and the faculty divine," or blinded to its plainest revelations by a cornipt heart.

This is a very temperate statement of what is charged by these two classes of thinkers against each other. How much of either representation is correct cannot conveniently be discussed in this place. In truth, a system of consequences from an opinion, drawn by an adversary, is seldom of much worth. Disputants are rarely sufficiently masters of each other's doctrines to be good judges what is fairly deducible from them, or how a consequence which seems to flow from one part of the theory may or may not be defeated by another part. To combine the different parts of a doctrine with one another, and with all admitted truths, is not indeed a small trouble, nor one which a person is often inclined • to take for other people's opinions. Enough if each does it for his own, which he has a greater interest in, and is more disposed to be just to. Were we to search among men's recorded thoufjhts for the choicest manifestations of human imbecility and prejudice, our specimens would be mostly taken from their opinions of the opinions of one another. Impu- tations of horrid consequences ought not to bias the judgment of any person capable of independent thought. Coleridge himself says (in the twenty-fifth Aphorism of his " Aids to Reflection " ) , " He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all."

As to the fundamental difference of opinion respect-


ing the sources of our knowledge (apart from the corollaries which either party may have drawn from its own principle, or imputed to its opponent's) , the ques- tion lies far too deep in the recesses of psychology for us to discuss it here. The lists having been open ever since the dawn of philosophy, it is not wonderful that the two parties should have been forced to put on their strongest armor both of attack and of defence. The question would not so long have remained a question, if the more obvious arguments on either side had been unanswerable. Each party has been able to urge in its own favor numerous and striking facts, to reconcile which with the opposite theory has required all the metaphysical resources which that theory could com- mand. It will not be wondered at, then, that we here content ourselves with a bare statement of our opinion. It is, that the truth on this much-debated question lies with the school of Locke and of Bentham.. ' The nature and laws of things in themselves, or of the hidden causes of the phenomena which are the objects of experience, appear to us radically inaccessible to the human faculties. 'We see no ground for believinfj that any thing can be the object of our knowledge except our experience, and what can be inferred from our experi- ence by the analogies of experience itself; nor that there is any idea, feeling, or power, in the human mind, which, in order to account for it, requires that its origin should be referred to any other source. We are there- fore at issue with Coleridge on the central idea of his philosophy ; and we find no need of, and no use for, the peculiar technical terminology which he and his masters the Germans have introduced into philosophy

22 colerii3ge.

for the double purpose of giving logical precision to doctrines which we do not admit, and of marking a relation between those abstract doctrines and many concrete experimental truths, which this language, in our judgment, serves, not to elucidate, but to disguise and obscure. Indeed, but for these peculiarities of lansruajre, it would be difficult to understand how the reproach of mysticism (by which nothing is meant in common parlance but unintelligibleness) has been fixed upon Coleridge and the Germans in the minds of many, to whom doctrines substantially the same, when taught in a manner more superficial, and less fenced round against objections, by Reid and Dugald Stewart, have appeared the plain dictates of " common sense," success- fully asserted against the subtleties of metaphysics.

Yet, though we think the doctrines of Coleridge and the Germans, in the pure science of mind, erroneous, and have no taste for their peculiar terminology, we are far from thinking, that even in respect of this, the least valuable part of their intellectual exertions, those philosophers have lived in vain. The doctrines of the school of Locke stood in need of an entire renovation : to borrow a physiological illustration from Coleridge, they required, like certain secretions of the human body, to be re-absorbed into the system, and secreted afresh. In what form did that philosophy generally prevail throughout Europe? In that of the shallowest set of doctrines, which, perhaps, were ever passed off upon a cidtivated age as a complete psychological sys- tem, — the ideology of Condillac and his school; a system which affected to resolve all the phenomena of the human mind into sensation, by a process which


essentially consisted in merely calling all states of mind, however heterogeneous, by that name ; a philoso- phy now acknowledged to consist solely of a set of verbal generalizations, explaining nothing, distinguish- ing nothing, leading to nothing. That men should begin by sweeping this away was the first sign that the age of real psychology was about to commence. In England, the case, though different, was scarcely bet- ter. The philosophy of Locke, as a popular doctrine, had remained nearly as it stood in his crwn book ; which, as its title implies, did not pretend to give an account of any but the intellectual part of our nature ; which, even within that limited sphere, was but the commencement of a system ; and, though its errors and defects as such have been exaggerated beyond all just bounds, it did expose many vulnerable points to the searching criticism of the new school. The least imper- fect part of it, the purely logical part, had almost dropped out of sight. With respect to those of Locke's doc- trines which are properly metaphysical, — however the sceptical part of them may have been followed up by others, and carried beyond the point at which he stopped, — the only one of his successors who attempted and achieved any considerable improvement and exten- sion of the analytical part, and thereby added any thing to the explanation of the human mind on Locke's prin- ciples, was Hartley. But Hartley's doctrines, so far as they are true, were so much in advance of the age, and the way had been so little prepared for them by the general tone of thinking which yet prevailed, even under, the influence of Locke's writings, that the phi- losophic world did not deem them worthy of being


attended to. Reid and Stewart were allowed to run them down uncontradicted ; Brown, though a man of a kindred genius, had evadently never read them ; and but for the accident of their being taken up by Priest- lev, who transmitted them as a kind of heirloom to his Unitarian followers, the name of Hartley might have perished, or survived only as that of a visionary physi- cian, the author of an exploded physiological hypothe- sis. It perhaps required all the violence of the assaults made by Reid and the German school upon Locke's system to recall men's minds to Hartley's principles, as alone adequate to the solution, upon that system, of the peculiar difficulties which those assailants pressed upon men's attention as altogether insoluble by it. We may here notice, that Coleridge, before he adopted his later philosophical views, was an enthusiastic Hart- leian ; so that his abandonment of the philosophy of Locke cannot be imputed to unacquaintance with the highest form of that philosophy which had yet appeared. That he should pass through that highest form without stopping at it is itself a strong presumption that there were more difficulties in the question than Hartley had solved. That any thing has since been done to solve them, we probably owe to the revolution in opinion, of which Coleridge was one of the organs ; and, even in abstract metaphysics, his writings, and those of his school of thinkers, are the richest mine from whence the opposite school can draw the materials for what has yet to be done to perfect their own theory.

If we now pass from the purely abstract to the con- crete and practical doctrines of the two schools, we shall see still more clearly the necessity of the re-action,


and the great service rendered to philosophy by its authors. This will be best manifested by a survey of the state of practical philosophy in Europe, as Coleridge and his compeers found it, towards the close of the last century.

The state of opinion in the latter half of the eigh- teenth century was by no means the same on the Conti- nent of Europe and in our own island ; and the difference was stm greater in appearance than it \y^as in reality. In the more advanced nations of the Continent, the prevailing philosophy had done its work completely : it had spread itself over every department of human knowledge ; it had taken possession of the whole Con- tinental mind ; and scarcely one educated person was left who retained any allegiance to the opinions or the institutions of ancient times. In England, the native country of compromise, things had stopped far short of this ; the philosophical movement had been brought to a halt in an early stage ; and a peace had been patched up, by concessions on both sides, between the philosophy of the time and its traditional institutions and creeds. Hence the aberrations of the age were generally, on the Continent, at that period, the extravagances of new opinions ; in England, the corruptions of old ones.

To insist upon the deficiencies of the Continental philosophy of the last century, or, as it is commonly termed, the French philosophy, is almost superfluous. That philosophy is indeed as unpopular in this country as its bitterest enemy could desire. If its faults were as well understood as they are much railed at, criticism might be considered to have finished its work. But that this is not yet the case, the nature of the imputa-


tions currently made upon the French philosophers sufficiently proves ; many of these being as inconsistent with a just philosophic comprehension of their system of opinions as with charity towards the men them- selves. It is not true, for example, that any of them denied moral obligation, or sought to weaken its force. So far were they from meriting this accusation, that they coidd not even tolerate the writers, who, like Hel- vetius, ascribed a selfish origin to the feelings of moral- ity, resolving them into a sense of interest. Those writers were as much cried down among the phtlosophes themselves, and what was true and good in them (and there is much that is so) met with as little appreciation, then as now. The error of the philosophers was rather that they trusted too much to those feelings ; believed them to be more deeply rooted in human nature than they are ; to be not so dependent, as in fact they are, upon collateral influences. They thought them the natural and spontaneous growth of the human heart ; so firmly fixed in it, that they would subsist unimpaired, nay, invigorated, when the whole system of opinions and observances with which they were habitually inter- twined was violently torn away.

To tear away, was, indeed, all that these philosophers, for the most part, aimed at : they had no conception that any thing else was needful. At their millennium, superstition, priestcraft, error, and prejudice of every kind, were to be annihilated : some of them gradually added, that despotism and hereditary privileges must share the same fate ; and, this accomplished, they never for a moment suspected that all the virtues and graces of humanity could fail to flourish, or that, when the


noxious weeds were once rooted out, the soil would stand in any need of tillage.

In this they committed the very common error of mistaking the state of things with which they had always been familiar, for the universal and natural condition of mankind. They were accustomed to see the human race agglomerated in large nations, all (except here and there a madman or a malefactor) yielding obedience more or less strict to a set of laws prescribed by a few of their own number, and to a set of moral rules pre- scribed by each other's opinion ; renouncing the exercise of individual will and judgment, except within the limits imposed by these laws and rules ; and acquies- ciftg in the sacrifice of their individual wishes, when the point was decided against them by lawful authority ; or persevering only in hopes of altering the opinion of the ruling powers. Finding matters to be so gener- ally in this condition, the philosophers apparently con- cluded that they could not possibly be in any other ; and were ignorant by what a host of civilizing and restraining influences a state of things so repugnant to man's self-will, and love of independence, has been brought about, and how imperatively it demands the continuance of those influences as the condition of its own existence. The very first element of the social union, obedience to a government of some sort, has not been found so easy a thing to establish in the world. Among a timid and spiritless race, like the inhabitants of the vast plains of tropical countries, passive obedi- ence may be of natural growth ; though even there we doubt whether it has ever been found among any people with whom fatalism, or, in other words, submission to


the pressure of circumstances as the decree of God, did not prevail as a religious doctrine. But the diflficulty of inducing a brave and warlike race to submit their individual arhitrium to any common umpire has always been felt to be so great, that nothing short of supernat- ural power has been deemed adequate to overcome it ; and such tribes have always assigned to the first institu- tion of civil society a divine origin. So differently did those judge who knew savage man by actual experience from those who had no acquaintance with him except in the civilized state. In modern Europe itself, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to subdue the feudal anarchy, and bring the whole people of any European nation into subjection to government (although Qu-istianity in the most concentrated form of its influence was co-oper- ating in the work) , required thrice as many centuries as have elapsed since that time.

Now, if these philosophers had known human nature under any other type than that of their own age, and of the particular classes of society among whom they lived, it would have occurred to them, that wherever this habitual submission to law and government has been firmly and durably established, and yet the vigor and manliness of character which resisted its estab- lishment have been in any degree preserved, certain requisites have existed, certain conditions have been fulfilled, of which the following may be regarded as the principal.

First, There has existed, for all who were accounted citizens, — for all who were not slaves, kept down by brute force, — a system of education, beginning with infancy and continued through life, of which, whatever


else it might include, one main and incessant ingre- dient was restraining discipline. To train the human being in the habit, and thence the power, of subordi- nating his personal impulses and aims to what were considered the ends of society ; of adhering, against all temptation, to the course of conduct which those ends prescribed ; of controUing in himself all the feelings which were liable to militate against those ends, and encouraging all such as tended towards them, — this was the purpose, to which every outward motive that the authority directing the system could command, and every inward power or principle which its knowledge of human nature enabled it to evoke, were endeavored to be rendered instrumental. The entire civil and military policy of the ancient commonwealths was such a system of training : in modern nations, its place has been attempted to be supplied principally by religious teaching. And wlienever and in proportion as the strictness of the restraining discipline was relaxed, the natural tendency of mankind to anarchy re-asserted itself ; the State became disorganized from within ; mutual conflict for selfish ends neutralized the energies which were required to keep up the contest against natural causes of evil ; and the nation, after a longer or briefer interval of progressive decline, became either the slave of a despotism, or the prey of a foreign invader.

The second condition of permanent political society has been found to be, the existence, in some form or other, of the feeling of allegiance, or loyalty. This feeling may vary in its objects, and is not confined to any particular form of government : but, whether in a democracy or in a monarchy, its essence is always the


same; viz., that there be in the constitution of the State something which is settled, something permanent, and not to be called in question, — something which, by general agreement, has a right to be where it is, and to be secure against disturbance, whatever else may change. This. feeling may attach itself, as among the Jews (and, indeed, in most of the commonwealths of antiquity), to a common God or gods, the protectors and guardians of their State ; or it may attach itself to certain persons, who are deemed to be, whether by divine appointment, by long prescription, or by the general recognition of their superior capacity and worthiness, the rightful guides and guardians of the rest; or it may attach itself to laws, to ancient liber- ties, or ordinances ; or, finally (and this is the only shape in which the feeling is likely to exist hereafter) , it may attach itself to the principles of individual freedom and political and social equality, as realized in institu- tions which as yet exist nowhere, or exist only in a rudimentary state. But, in all political societies which have had a durable existence, there has been some fixed point ; something which men agreed in holding sacred ; which, wherever freedom of discussion was a recognized principle, it was of course lawful to contest in theory, but which no one could either fear or hope to see shaken in practice ; which, in short (except perhaps during some temporary crisis), was, in the common estimation, placed beyond discussion. And the necessity of this may easily be made evident. A State never is, nor, until mankind are vastly improved, can hope to be, for any long time, exempt from internal dissension ; for there neither is, nor has ever been, any state of society


in which collisions did not occur between the immediate interests and passions of powerful sections of the peo- ple. What, then, enables society to weather these storms, and pass through turbulent times without any permanent weakening of the securities for peaceabk existence? Precisely this, — that, however important the interests about which men fall out, the conflict did not affect the fundamental principles of the system of social union which happened to exist; nor threaten large portions of the community with the subversion of that on which they had built their calculations, and with which their hopes and aims had become identified. But when the questioning of these fundamental princi- ples is, not the occasional disease or salutary medicine, but the habitual condition of the body politic, and when all the violent animosities are called forth which spring naturally from such a situation, the State is virtually in a position of civil war, and can never long remain free from it in act and fact.

The third essential condition of stability in political society is a strong and active principle of. cohesion among the members of the same community or state. We need scarcely say that we do not mean nationality, in the vulgar sense of the term, — a senseless antipathy to foreigners ; an indifference to the general welfare of the human race, or an unjust preference of the sup- posed interests of our own country ; a cherishing of bad peculiarities because they are national ; or a refusal to adopt what has been found good by other countries. We mean a principle of sympathy, not of hostility ; of union, not of separation. We mean a feeling of com- mon interest among those who Hve under the same


government, and are contained within the same natural or historical boundaries. We mean, that one part of the community do not consider themselves as foreigners with regard to another part ; that they set a value on their connection; feel that they are one people; that their lot is cast together; that evil to any of their fellow-country- men is evil to themselves ; and do not desire selfishly to free themselves from their share of any common incon- venience by severing the connection. How strong this feelinsr was in those ancient commonwealths which attained any durable greatness, every one knows. How happily Rome, in spite of all her tyranny, succeeded in establishing the feeling of a common country among the provinces of her vast and divided empire, will appear when any one who has given due attention to the subject shall take the trouble to point it out.* In modern times, the coimtries which have had that feeling

  • We are glad to quote a striking passage from Coleridge on this verj

Bubject. He is speaking of the misdeeds of England in Ireland; toward, which misdeeds, this Torj', as he is called (for the Tories, who neglectei him in his lifetime, show no little eagerness to give themselves the credit ot his name after his death), entertained feelings scarcely surpassed by thos» which are excited by the masterly exposure for which we have recently been indebted to M. de Beaumont

" Let us discharge," he saj's, " what may well be deemed a debt of justice from every well-educated Englishman to his Roman-Catholic fellow-subjects of the Sister Island. At least, let us ourselves understand the true cause of the evil as it now exists. To what and to whom is the present state of Ire- land mainly to be attributed? This should be the question: and to this I answer aloud, that it is mainly attributable to those, who, during a period of little less than a whole century, used as a substitute what Providence had given into their hand as an opportunity; who chose to consider as supersed- ing the most sacred duty a code of law, which could be excused only on the plea that it enabled them to perform it ; to the sloth and improvidence, the weakness and wickedness, of the gentry, clergy, and governors of Ire- land, who persevered in preferring intrigue, violence, and selfish expatria- tion, to a system of preventive and remedial measures, the efficacy of which


in the strongest degree have been the most powerful countries, — England, France, and, in proportion to their territory and resources, Holland and Switzerland ; while England, in her connection with Ireland, is one of the most signal examples of the consequences of its absence. Every Italian knows why Italy is under a foreign yoke ; every German knows what maintains despotism in the Austrian Empire ; the evils of Spain flow as much from the absence of nationality among the Spaniards them- selves as from the presence of it in their relations with foreigners ; while the completest illustration of all is afforded by the republics of South America, where the

had been warranted for them alike by the whole provincial history of ancient Rome, cuipacare subactos summa erat sapientia, and by the happy results of the few exceptions to the contrary scheme unhappily pursued by their and our ancestors.

" I can imagine no work of genius that would more appropriately deco- rate the dome or wall of a senate-house than an abstract of Irish history from the landing of Strongbow to the battle of the Boyne, or to a yet later period, embodied in intelligible emblems, — an allegorical history-piece designed in the spirit of a Rubens or a Buonarotti, and with the wild lights, portentous shades, and saturated colors, of a Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Spagnoletti. To complete the great moral and political lesson by the his- toric contrast, nothing more would be requified than by some equally effective means to possess the mind of the spectator with the state and condition of ancient Spain at less than half a century from the final conclusion of an obstinate and almost unremitting conflict of two hundred years by Agrippa's subjugation of the Cantabrians, omnibus Hispanim populis devictis et pacatis. At the breaking-up of the empire, the West Goths conquered the country and made division of the lands. Then came eight centuries of Moorisl domination. Yet so deeply had Roman wisdom impressed the fairest char- acters of the Roman mind, that at this very hour, if we except a compara- tively insignificant portion of Arabic derivatives, the natives throughout the whole Peninsula speak a language less differing from the Romana mstica, or provincial Latin of the times of Lucan and Seneca, than any two of its dia- lects from each other. The time approaches, I trust, when our political economists may study the science of "the provincial policy of the ancients in detail, under the auspices of hope, for immediate and practical purposes." — Church and State, p. 161.

VOL. II. 8


parts of one and the same State adhere so slightly together, that no sooner does any province think itself aggrieved by the general government, than it proclaims itself a separate nation.

These essential requisites of civil society the French philosophers of the eighteenth century unfortunately overlooked. They found, indeed, all three — at least the first and second, and most of what nourishes and invigorates the third — already undermined by the vices of the institutions and of the men that were set up as the guardians and bulwarks of them. If innovators, in thdr theories, disregarded the elementary principles of the social union, conservatives, in their practice, had set the first example. The existing order of things had ceased to realize those first principles : from the force of circumstances, and from the short-sighted selfishness of its administrators, it had ceased to possess the essential conditions of permanent society, and was therefore tottering to its fall. But the philosophers did not see this. Bad as the existing system was in the days of its decrepitude, according to them it was still worse when it actually did what it now only pretended to do. Instead of feeling that the eflfect of a bad social order, in sapping the necessary foundations of society itself, is one of the worst of its many mischiefs, the philosophers saw only, and saw with joy, that it was sapping its own foundations. In the weakening of all government, they saw only the weakening of bad gov- ernment, and thought they could not better employ themselves than in finishing the task so well begun ; in discrediting all that still reraained of restraining disci- pline, because it rested on the ancient and decayed creeds


against which they made war ; in unsettling every thing which was still considered settled, making men doubtful of the few things of which they still felt certain ; and in uprooting what little remained in the people's minds of reverence for any thing above them, of respect to any of the limits which custom and prescription had set to the indulgence of each man's fancies or inclinations, or of attachment to any of the things which belonged to them as a nation, and which made them feel their unity as such.

Much of all this was, no doubt, unavoidable, and not justly matter of blame. When the vices of all constituted authorities, added to natural causes of decay, have eaten the heart out of old institutions and beliefs, while at the same time the growth of knowl- edge, and the altered circumstances of the age, would have required institutions and creeds different from these, even if they had remained uncorrupt, we are far from saying that any degree of wisdom on the part of speculative thinkers could avert the political catastro- phes, and the subsequent moral anarchy and unsettled- ness, which we have witnessed and are witnessing. Still less do we pretend that those principles and influ- ences which we have spoken of as the conditions of the permanent existence of the social union, once lost, can ever be, or should be attempted to be, revived in con- nection with the same institutions or the same doctrines as before. When society requires to be rebuilt, there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan. By the union of the enlarged views and analytic powers of speculative men with the observation and contriving sagacity of men of practice, better institutions and


better doctrines must be elaborated ; and, until this is done, we cannot hope for much improvement in our present condition. The effort to do it in the eighteenth century would have been premature, as the attempts of the Economistes (who, of all persons then living, came nearest to it, and who were the first to form clearly the idea of a social science) sufficiently testify. The time was not ripe for doing effectually any other work than that of destruction. But the work of the day should have been so performed as not to impede that of the morrow. No one can calculate what struggles, which the cause of improvement has yet to undergo, might have been spared, if the philosophers of the eighteenth century had done any thing like justice to the past. Their mistake was, that they did not acknowledge the historical value of much which had ceased to be useful, nor saw that institutions and creeds, now effete, had rendered essential services to civilization, and still filled a place in the human mind, and in the arrangements of society, which could not without great peril be left vacant. Their mistake w*as, that they did not recognize, in many of the errors which they assailed, corruptions of important truths, and, in many of the institutions most cankered with abuse, necessary elements of civil- ized society, though in a form and vesture no longer suited to the age ; and hence they involved, as far as in them lay, many great truths in a common discredit with the errors which had grown up around them. They threw away the shell, without preserving the kernel ; and, attempting to new-model society without the bind- ing forces which hold society together, met with such success as might have been anticipated.


Now, we claim, in behalf of the philosophers of the re-actionary school, — of the school to which Coleridge belongs, — that exactly what we blame the philoso- phers of the eighteenth century for not doing, they

have done. V .... . *

Every re-action in opinion, of course, brings into

view that portion of the truth which was overlooked before. It was natural that a philosophy which anathe- matized all that had been going on in Europe from Constantino to Luther, or even to Voltaire, should be •succeeded by another, at once a severe critic of the new tendencies of society, and an impassioned vindicator of what was good in the past. \ This is the easy merit of all Tory and Royalist writers. But the peculiarity of the German o-Coleridgian school is, that they saw beyond the immediate controversy, to the fundamental principles involved in all such controversies. They were the first (except a solitary thinker here and there) who inquired, with any comprehensiveness or depth, into the inductive laws of the existence and growth of human society. They were the first to bring promi- nently forward the three requisites which we have enu- merated as essential principles of all permanent forms of social existence ; as principles, we say, and not as mere accidental advantages, inherent in the particular polity or religion which the writer happened to patron- ize. They were the first who pursued, philosophically and in the spirit of Baconian investigation, not only this inquiry, but others ulterior and collateral to it. They thus produced, not a piece of party advocacy, but a philosophy of society, in the only form in which it is yet possible, — that of a philosophy of history; not a


defence of pardoilar ethical or religioiis doctrines, but a contribution, the largest made by any class of think- ers, towards the philosophy of human culture.

The brilliant light which has be«i thrown upon history during the last half -century has proceeded almost wholly firom this school. The disrespect in which history was held by the phtlosophes is notorious : one of the soberest of them (D'Alembert, we believe) was the author of the wish, that all record whatever of past events could be blotted out. And, indeed, the ordinary mode of writing history, and the ordinary^ mode of drawing lessons from it, were almost sofficiait to excuse this contempt. But the philosopher saw, aSs usual, what was not true, not what was. It is no wonder that they who looked on the greats part of what had been handed down firom the past as sheer hin- derances to man's attaining a well-being, which would otherwise be of easy attainment, should content them- selves with a very superficial study of history. But the case was otherwise with those who r^arded the maintenance of society at all, and especially its mainte- nance in a state of progressive advancement, as a very difficult task actually achieved, in however imperfect a manner, for a number of centuries, against the strong- est obstacles. It was natural that they should feel a deep interest in ascertaining how tins had been effected ; and should be led to inquire, both what were the requi- sites of the permanent existence of the body politic, and what were the conditions which had rendered the pres- ervation c^ these permanent requisites ooinpatiUe with perptetual and progressive improvement. And hoice that series of great writers and thinkers, from Herder


to Michelet, by whom history, which was till then " a tale told by an idiot, fuU of sound and fury, signifying nothing," has been made a science of causes and effects ; who, by making the facts and events of the past have a meaning and an intelligible place in the gradual evolu- tion of humanity, have at once given history, even to the imagination, an interest like romance, and afforded the only means of predicting and guiding the future, by imfolding the agencies which have produced, and still maintain, the present.*

The same causes have naturally led the same class of thinkers to do what their predecessors never could have done for the philosophy of human culture. For the tendency of their speculations compelled them to see, in the character of the national education existing in any political society, at once the principal cause of its permanence as a society, and the chief source of its

  • There is something at once ridiculous and discouraging in the signs

which daily meet us, of the Cimmerian darkness still prevailing in England (wherever recent foreign literature or the speculations of the Coleridgians have not penetrated) concerning the very existence of the views of general history which have been received throughout the continent of Europe for the last twenty or thirty years. A writer in "Blackwood's Magazine" — cer- tainly not the least able publication of our day, nor this the least able writer in it — lately announced, with all the pomp and heraldry of triumphant genius, a discovery which was to disabuse the world of an universal preju- dice, and create "the philosophy of Roman history." This is, that the Roman Empire perished, not from outward violence, but from inward decay ; and that the barbarian conquerors were the renovators, not the destroyers, of its civilization. Why, there is not a schoolboy in France or Germany who did not possess this writer's discovery before him : the contrary opinion has receded so far into the past, that it must be rather a learned Frenchman or German who remembers that it was ever held. If the writer in " Black- wood" had read a line of Guizot (to go no further than the most obvious sources), he would probably have abstained from making himself very ridic- ulous, and hie country', so far as depends upon him, the laughing-stock of Europe.


progressiveness ; the former by the extent to which that education operated as a system of restraining discipline, the latter by the degree in which it called forth and invigorated the active faculties. Besides, not to have looked upon the culture of the inward man as the problem of problems would have been incompatible with the belief which many of these philosophers enter- tained in Christianity, and the recognition by all of them of its historical value, and the prime part which it has acted in the progress of mankind. But here too, let us not fail to observe, they rose to principles, and did not stick in the particular case. The culture of the human being had been carried to no ordinary height, and human nature had exhibited many of its noblest manifestations, not in Christian countries only, but in the ancient world, — in Athens, Sparta, Rome: nay, even barbarians, as the Germans, or still more unmitigated savages, the wild Indians, and again the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Arabs, all had their own education, their own culture, — a culture which, whatever might be its tendency upon the whole, had been successful in some respect or other. Every form of polity, every con- dition of society, whatever else it had done, had formed its type of national character. What that type was, and how it had been made what it was, were questions which the metaphysician might overlook : the historical philosopher could not. Accordingly, the views respect- ing the various elements of human culture, and the causes influencing the formation of national character, which pervade the writings of the Germano-Coleridgian school, throw into the shade everything which had been effected before, or which has been attempted simultane-


ously by any other school. Such views are, more than any thing else, the characteristic feature of the Goethian period of German literature ; and are richly diffused through the historical and critical writings of the new French school, as well as of Coleridge and his followers.

In this long though most compressed dissertation on the Continental philosophy preceding the re-action, and on the nature of the re-action so far as directed against that philosophy, we have unavoidably been led to speak rather of the movement itself than of Coleridge's par- ticular share in it ; which, from his posteriority in date, was necessarily a subordinate one. And it would be useless, even did our limits permit, to bring together, from the scattered writings of a man who produced no systematic work, any of the fragments which he may have contributed to an edifice still incomplete, and even the general character of which we can have rendered very imperfectly intelligible to those who are not ac- quainted with the theory itself. Our object is to invite to the study of the original sources, not to supply the place of such a study. What was peculiar to Cole- ridge will be better manifested when we now proceed to review the state of popular philosophy immediately preceding him in our own island ; which was different, in some material respects, from the contemporaneous Continental philosophy.

In England, the philosophical speculations of the age had not, except in a few highly metaphysical minds (whose example rather served to deter than to invite others), taken so audacious a flight, nor achieved any thing like so complete a victory over the counteracting


influences, as on the Continent. There is in the English mind, both in speculation and in practice, a highly salu- tary shrinking from all extremes ; but, as this shrinking is rather an instinct of caution than a result of insight, it is too ready to satisfy itself with any medium merely because it is a medium, and to acquiesce in a union of the disadvantages of both extremes instead of their advantages. The circumstances of the age, too, were unfavorable to decided opinions. The repose wliich Yollowed the great struggles of the Reformation and the Commonwealth ; the final victory over Popery and Puri- tanism, Jacobitism and Republicanism, and the lulling of the controversies which kept speculation and spiritual consciousness alive ; the lethargy which came upon all governors and teachers, after their position in society became fixed ; and the growing absorption of all classes in material interests, — caused a state of mind to diffuse itself, with less of deep inward workings, and less capable of interpreting those it had, than had existed for centuries. The age seemed smitten with an inca- pacity of producing deep or strong feeling, such as at least could ally itself with meditative habits. There were few poets, and none of a high order ; and phi- losophy fell mostly into the hands of men of a dry prosaic nature, who had not enough of the materials of human feeling in them to be able to imagine any of its more complex and mysteiious manifestations ; all of which they either left out of their theories, or introduced them with such explanations as no one who had expe- rienced the feelings could receive as adequate. An age like this, an age without earnestness^ was the natural era of compromises and half-convictions.


To make out a case for the feudal and ecclesiastical institutions of modern Europe was by no means impos- sible : they had a meaning, had existed for honest ends, and an honest theory of them might be made. But the administration of those institutions had long ceased to accord with any honest theory. It was impossible to justify them in principle, except on grounds which con- demned them in practice ; and grounds of wnich thei^ was, at any rate, little or no recognition in the phi- losophy of the eighteenth century. The natural ten- dency, therefore, of that philosophy, everywhere but in England, was to seek the extinction of those institu- tions. In England, it would doubtless have done the same, had it been strong enough ; but, as this was be- yond its strength, an adjustment was come to between the rival powers. What neither party cared about, the ends of existing institutions, the work that was to be done by teachers and governors, was flung overboard. The wages of that work the teachers and governors did care about ; and those wages were secured to them. The existing institutions in Church and State were to be preserved inviolate, in outward semblance at least ; but were required to be, practically, as much a nullity as possible. The Church continued to "rear her mitred front in courts and palaces," but not, as in the days of Hildebrand or Becket, as the champion of arts against arms, of the serf against the seigneur, peace against war, or spiritual principles and powers against the domination of animal force ; nor even (as in the days of Latimer and John Knox) as a body divinely commissioned to train the nation in a knowledge of God, and obedience to his laws, whatever became of temporal principalities


and powers ; and whether this end might most effectu- ally be compassed by their assistance, or by trampling them under foot. No ; but the people of England liked old things, and nobody knew how the place might be filled which the doing-away with so conspicuous an institution would leave vacant, and quieta ne movere was the favorite doctrine of those times : therefore, on condition of not making too much noise about religion, or taking it too much in earnest, the Church was sup- ported, even by philosophers, — as a " bulwark against fanaticism," a sedative to the religious spirit, to prevent it from disturbing the harmony of society or the tran- quillity of states. The clergy of the Establishment thought they had a good bargain on these terms, and kept its conditions very faithfully.

The State, again, was no longer considered, accord- ing to the old ideal, as a concentration of the force of all the individuals of the nation in the hands of certain of its members, in order to the accomplishment of whatever could be best accomplished by systematic co- operation. It was found that the State was a bad judge of the wants of society ; that it in reality cared very little for them : and when it attempted any thing beyond that police against crime, and arbitration of disputes, which are indispensable to social existence, the private sinister interest of some class or individual was usually the prompter of its proceedings. The natural inference would have been, that the constitu- tion of the State was somehow not suited to the exist- ing wants of society ; having indeed descended, with scarcely any modifications that could be avoided, from a time when the most prominent exigencies of society


were quite different. This conclusion, however, was shrunk from ; and it required the peculiarities of very recent times, and the speculations of the Bentham school, to produce even any considerable tendency that way. The existing Constitution, and all the arrange- ments of existing society, continued to be applauded as the best possible. The celebrated theory of the three poM'ers was got up, which made the excellence of our Constitution consist in doing less harm than would be done by any other form of government. Government altogether was regarded as a necessary evil, and was required to hide itself, — to make itself as little felt as possible. The cry of the people was not, " Help us ; " " Guide us ; " " Do for us the things we cannot do ; and instruct us, that we may do well those which we can" (and truly such requirements from such rulers would have been a bitter jest) : the cry was, "Let us alone." Power to decide questions of meum and tuum, to pro- tect society from open violence, and from some of the most dangerous modes of fraud, could not be withheld : these functions the Government was left in possession of; and to these it became the expectation of the public that it should confine itself.

Such was the prevailing tone of English belief in temporals. What was it in spirituals? Here, too, a similar system of compromise had been at work. Those who pushed their philosophical speculations to the denial of the received religious belief, whether they went to the extent of infidelity or only of heterodoxy, met with little encouragement : neither religion itself, nor the received forms of it, were at all shaken by the few attacks which were made upon them from witHout.


The philosophy, however, of the time, made itself felt as effectually in another fashion : it pushed its way into religion. The d-priori arguments for a God were first dismissed. This was indeed inevitable. The internal evidences of Christianity shared nearly the same fate : if not absolutely thrown aside, they fell into the back- ground, and were littJi thought of. The doctrine of Locke, that we have no innate moral sense, perverted into the doctrine that we have no moral sense at all, made it appear that we had not any capacity of judging, from the doctrine itself, whether it was worthy to have come from a rijjhteous Beinor. In forffetfulness of the most solemn warnings of the Author of Christianity, as well as of the apostle who was the main difliiser of it through the world, belief in his religion was left to stand upon miracles, — ■ a species of evidence, which, according to the universal belief of the early Christians themselves, was by no means peculiar to true religion ; and it is melancholy to see on what frail reeds able defenders of Christianity preferred to rest, rather than upon that better evidence which alone gave to their so-called evidences any value as a collateral confirma- tion. In the interpretation of Christianity, the palpa- blest hibliolatry prevailed, — if (with Coleridge) we may so term that superstitious worship of particular texts, which persecuted Galileo, and, in our own day, anathematized the discoveries of geology. Men whose faith in Christianity rested on the literal infallibility of the sacred volume shrank in terror from the idea that it could have been included in the scheme of Providence, that the human opinions and mental habits of the par- ticular writers should be allowed to mix with and color


their mode of conceiving and of narrating the divine transactions. Yet this slavery to the letter has not only raised every difficulty which envelops the most unimportant passage in the Bible into an objection to revelation, but has paralyzed many a well-meant effort to bring Christianity home, as a consistent scheme, to human experience, and capacities of apprehension ; as if there was much of it which it was more prudent to leave in nuhibus, lest, in the attempt to make the mind seize hold of it as a»reaHty, some text might be found to stand in the way. It might have been expected that this idolatry of the words of Scripture would at least have saved its doctrines from being tampered with by human notions : but the contrary proved to be the effect ; for the vague and sophistical mode of inter- preting texts, which was necessary in order to reconcile what was manifestly irreconcilable, engendered a habit of playing fast and loose with Scripture, and finding in, or leaving out of it, whatever one pleased. Hence, while Christianity was, in theory and in intention, received and submitted to, with even prostration of the understanding " before it, much alacrity was in fact displayed in accommodating it to the received philoso- phy, and even to the popular notions of the time. To take only one example, but so signal a one as to be instar omnium. If there is any one requirement of Christianity less doubtful than another, it is that of being spiritually-minded ; of loving and practising good from a pure love, simply because it is good. But one of the crotchets of the philosophy of the age was, that all virtue is self-interest ; and accordingly, in the text-book adopted by the Church (in one of its


universities) for instruction in moral philosophy, the reason for doing good is declared to be, that God is stronorer than we are, and is able to damn us if we do not. This is no exaggeration of the sentiments of Paley, and hardly even of the crudity of his lan- guage.

Thus, on the whole, England had neither the bene- fits, such as they were, of the new ideas, nor of the old. We were just sufficiently under the influences of each to render the other powerless.* We had a Govern- ment, which we respected too much to attempt to change it, but not enough to trust it with any power, or look to it for any services that were not compelled. We had a Church, which had ceased to fulfil the honest purposes of a church, but which we made a great point of keeping up as the pretence or simulacrum of one. We had a highly spiritual religion (which we were instructed to obey from selfish motives) , and the most mechanical and worldly notions on every other subject ; and we were so much afraid of being wanting in reve- rence to each particular syllable of the book which contained our religion, that we let its most important meanings slip through our fingers, and entertained the most grovelling conceptions of its spirit and general purposes. This was not a state of things which could recommend itself to any earnest mind. It was sure, in no great length of time, to call forth two sorts of men : the one demanding the extinction of the institutions and creeds which had hitherto existed ; the other, that they be made a reality : the one pressing the new doctrines to their utmost consequences, the other re-asserting the best meaning and purposes of the old. The first type



attained its greatest height in Bentham ; the last, in Coleridge.

We hold that these two sorts of men, who seem to be, and believe themselves to be, enemies, are in reality- allies. The powers they wield are opposite poles of one great force of progression. What was really hateful and contemptible was the state which preceded them, and which each, in its way, has been striving now for many years to improve. Each ought to hail with rejoicing the advent of the other. But most of all ought an enhghtened Radical or Liberal to rejoice over such a Conservative as Coleridge. For such a Radical must know, that the Constitution and Church of England, and the religious opinions and political maxims professed by their supporters, are not mere frauds, nor sheer nonsense ; have not been got up originally, and all along maintained, for the sole pur- pose of picking people's pockets ; without aiming at, or being found conducive to, any honest end during the whole process. Nothing, of which this is a sufficient account, would have lasted a tithe of five, eight, or ten centuries, in the most improving period and (during much of that period) the most improving nation in the world. These things, we may depend upon it, were not always without much good in them, however little of it may now be left : and reformers ought to tail the man as a brother-reformer who points out what this good is ; what it is which we have a right to expect from things established ; which they are bound to do for us, as the justification of their being established ; so that they may be recalled to it, and compelled to do it, or the impossibility of their any longer doing it may be


conclusively manifested. What is any case for reform good for, until it has passed this test? What motle is there of determining whether a thing is fit to 6xist, without first considering what purposes it exists for, and whether it be still capable of fulfilling them?

We have not room here to consider Coleridge's Con- servative philosophy in all its aspects, or in relation to all the quarters from which objections might be raised against it. We shall consider it with relation to Re- formers, and especially to Benthamites. We would assist them to determine whether they would have to do with Conservative philosophers, or with Conserva- tive dunces ; and whether, since there are Tories, it be better that they should learn their Toryism from Lord Eldon, or even Sir Robert Peel, or from Cole- ridge.

Take, for instance, Coleridge's view of the grounds of a Church Establishment. His mode of treating any institution is to investigate what he terms the idea of it, or what in common parlance would be called the princi- ple involved in it. The idea or principle of a national church, and of the Church of England in that charac- ter, is, according to him, the reservation of a portion of the land, or of a right to a portion of its produce, as a fund, — for what purpose? For the worship of God? .For the performance of religious ceremonies? No ; for the advancement of knowledge, and the civili- •zation and cultivation of the community. This fund he does not term " church-property," but " the nationalty," or national property. He considers it as destined for " the support and maintenance of a permanent class or order, with the following duties : —


" A certain smaller number were to remain at the fountain- heads of the humanities, in cultivating and enlarging the knowledge already possessed, and in watching over the inter- ests of physical and moral science ; being likewise the in- structors of such as constituted, or were to constitute, the remaining more numerous classes of the order. The mem- bers of this latter and far more numerous body were to be distributed throughout the country, so as not to leave even the smallest integral part gr division without a resident guide, guardian, and instructor ; the objects and final intention of the whole order being these, — to preserve the stores and to guard the treasures of past civilization, and thus to bind the present with the past ; to perfect and add to the same, and thus to connect the present with the future ; but especially to diffuse through the whole community, and to every native entitled to its laws and rights, that quantity and quality of knowledge which was indispensable both for the understand- ing of those rights, and for the performance of the duties correspondent ; finally, to secure for the nation, if not ■a supe- riority over the neighboring States, yet an equality at least, in that character of general civilization, which, equally with, or rather more than, fleets, armies, and revenue, forms the ground of its defensive and offensive power."

This organized body, set ^part and endowed for the cultivation and diffusion of knowledge, is not, in Cole- ridge's view, necessarily a religious corporation.

"Religion may be an indispensable ally, but is not the essential constitutive end, of that national institute, which is unfortunately, at least improperly, styled the Church ; a name which, in its best sense, is exclusively appropriate to the Church of Christ. . . . The clerisy of the nation, or national church in its primary acceptation and original intention, com- prehended the learned of all denominations, the sages and professors of the law and jurisprudence, of medicine and physi-


ology, of music, of military and civil architecture, with the mathematical as the common organ of the preceding ; in short, all the so-called liberal arts and sciences, the possession and application of which constitute the civilization of a country, as well as the theological. The last was, indeed, placed at the head of all ; and of good right did it claim the precedence. But why ? Because under the name of theology or divinity were contained the interpretation of languages ; the conserva- tion and tradition of past events ; the momentous epochs and revolutions of the race and nation ; the continuation of the records, logic, ethics, and the determination of ethical science, in application to the rights and duties of men in all their vari- ous relations, social and civil ; and, lastly, the ground-knowl- edge, the prima scientia, as it was named, — philosophy, or the doctrine and discipline of ideas.

" Theology formed only a part of the objects, the theolo- gians formed only a portion of the clerks or clergy, of the national church. The theological order had precedency in- deed, and deservedly ; but not because its members were priests, whose oflSce was to conciliate the invisible powers, and to superintend the interests that survive the grave ; nor as being exclusively, or even principally, sacerdotal or tem- plar, which, when it did occur, is to be considered as an accident of the age, a misgrowth of ignorance and oppression, a falsification of the constitutive principle, not a constituent part of the same. No : the theologians took the lead, because the science of theology was the root and the trunk of the knowledge of civilized man ; because it gave unity and the circulating sap of life to all other sciences, by virtue of which alone they could be contemplated as forming collectively the living tree of knowledge. It had the precedency, because under the name Theology were comprised all the main aids, instruments, and materials of national education, the nistis formativus of the body politic, the shaping and informing spirit, which, educing or eliciting the latent man in all the


natives of the soil, trains them up to be citizens of the coun- try, free subjects of the realm. And, lastly, because to divinity belong those fundamental truths which are the com- mon groundwork of our civil and our religious duties, not less indispensable to a right view of our temporal concerns than to a rational faith respecting our immortal well-being. Not without celestial observations can even terrestrial charts be accurately constructed." — Church and State, chap. v.

The nationalty, or national property, according to Coleridge, " cannot rightfully be, and without foul wrong to the nation never has been, alienated from its ori- ginal purposes," from the promotion of " a continuing and progressive civilization," to the benefit of indivi- duals, or any public purpose of merely economical or material interest. But the State may withdraw the fund from its actual holders for the better execution of its purposes. There is no sanctity attached to the means, but only to the ends. The fund is not dedicated to any particular scheme of religion, nor even to re- ligion at all : religion has only to do with it in the character of an instrument of civilization, and in com- mon with all the other instruments.

"I do not assert that the proceeds firom the nationalty cannot be rightfully vested, except in what we now mean by clergymen and the established clergy. I have everywhere implied the contrary. ... In relation to the national church, Christianity, or the Church of Christ, is a blessed accidenti a providential boon, a grace of God. . . . As the olive-tree is said in its growth to fertilize the surrounding soil, to in- vigorate the roots of the vines in its immediate neighborhood, and to improve the strength and flavor of the wines ; such is the relation of the Christian and the national Church. But as the olive is not the same plant with the vine, or with the


elm or poplar (that is, the State) with which the vine is wedded ; and as the vine, with its prop, may exist, though in less perfection, without the olive, or previously to its im- plantation : even so is Christianity, and a fortiori any particu- lar scheme of theology derived, and supposed by its partisans to be deduced, from Christianity, no essential part of the being of the national Church, however conducive or even indispensable it may be to its well-being." — Chap. vi.

• What would Sir Robert Inglis, or Sir Robert Peel, or Mr. Spooner, say to such a doctrine as this ? Will they thank Coleridge for this advocacy of Toryism? What would become of the three-years' debates on the Appropriation Clause, which so disgraced this country before the face of Europe ? Will the ends of practical Toryism be much served by a theory under which the Royal Society might claim a part of the church-property with as good right as the bench of bishops, if, by en- dowing that body like the French Institute, science could be better promoted ? a theory by which the State, in the conscientious exercise of its judgment, having decided that the Church of England does not fulfil the object for which the nationalty was intended, might transfer its endowments to any other ecclesiastical body, or to any other body not ecclesiastical, which it deemed more competent to fulfil those objects ; might establish any other sect, or all sects, or no sect at all, if it should deem, that, in the divided condition of religious opinion in this country, the State can no longer with advantage attempt the complete religious instruction of its people, but must for the present content itself with providing secular instruction, and such religious teaching, if any, as all can take part in ; leaving each sect to apply to



its own communion that which they all agree in con- sidering as the keystone of the arch. We believe this to be the . true state of affairs in Great Britain at the present time. We are far from thinking it other than a serious evil. We entirely acknowledge, that, in any person fit to be a teacher, the view he takes of religion will be intimately connected with the view he will take of all the o-reatest thing-s which he has to teach. Un- less the same teachers who give instruction on those other subjects are at liberty to enter freely on religion, the scheme of education will be, to a certain degree, fragmentary and incoherent. But the State at present has only the option of such an imperfect scheme, or of intrusting the whole business to perhaps the most unfit body for the exclusive charge of it that could be found among persons of any intellectual attainments ; namely, the established clergy as at present trained and com- posed. Such a body would have no chance of being selected as the exclusive administrators of the liation- alty on any foundation but that of divine right ; the ground avowedly taken by the only other school of Conservative philosophy which is attempting to raise its head in this country, — that of the new Oxford theologians.

Coleridge's merit in this matter consists, as it seems to us, in two things. First, that by setting in a clear light what a national-church establishment ought to be, and what, by the very fact of its existence, it must be held to pretend to be, he has pronounced the severest satire upon what in fact it is. There is. some difference, truly, between Coleridge's church, in which the school- master forms the first step in the hierarchy, "who in


due time, and under condition of a faithful performance of his arduous duties, should succeed to the pastor- ate," * and the Church of England such as we now see. But to say the Church, and mean only the cler- gy, "constituted," according to Coleridge's conviction, "the first and fundamental apostasy." f He, and the thoughts which have proceeded from him, have done more than would have been effected in thrice the time by Dissenters and Radicals to make the Church ashamed of the evil of her ways, and to determine that move- ment of improvement from within, wliich has begun where it ought to begin, at the universities and among the younger clergy, and which, if this sect-ridden coun- try is ever to be really taught, must proceed, pari passu^ with the assault carried on from without.

Secondly, We honor Coleridge for having rescued from the discredit in which the corruptions of the Eng- lish Church had involved every thing connected with it, and fol- havinj? vindicated against Bentham and Adam Smith and the whole eighteenth century, th^ principle of an endowed class, for the cultivation of learning, and for diffusing its results among the community. That such a class is likely to be behind, instead of before, the progress of knowledge, is an induction erroneously drawn from the peculiar circumstances of the last two centuries, and in contradiction to all the rest of modem history. If we have seen much of the abuses of endowments, we have not seen what this country might be made by a proper administration of them, as we trust we shall not see what it would be without them. On this subject we are entirely at one

  • P. 57. t Literary Remains, iii. 886.


with Coleridge, and with the other great defender of endowed establishments, Dr. Chalmers ; and we con- sider the definitive establishment of this fundamental principle to be one of the permanent benefits which political science owes to the Conservative philosophers.

Coleridge's theory of the Constitution is not less worthy of notice than his theory of the Church. The Delolme and Blackstone doctrine, the balance of the three powers, he declares he never could elicit one ray of common sense from, no more than from the balance of trade.* There is, however, according to him, an Idea of the Constitution, of which he says, —

" Because our whole history, from Alfred onwards, demon- strates the continued influence of such an idea, or ultimate aim, in the minds of our foi-efathers, in their characters and functions as public men, alike in what they resisted and what they claimed ; in the institutions and forms of polity which they established, and with regard to those against which they more or less successfully contended ; and because the result has been a progi^essive, though not always a direct or equable, ad- vance in the gradual realization of the idea ; and because it is actually, though (even because it is an idea) not adequately, represented in a correspondent scheme of means really exist- ing, — we speak, and have a right to speak, of the idea itself as actually existing ; that is, as a principle existing in the only way in which a principle can exist, — in the minds and con- sciences of the persons whose duties it prescribes, and whose rights it determines." f This fundamental idea " is at the same time the final criterion by which all particular frames of government must be tried : for here only can we find the great constructive principles of our representative system, —

  • The Friend, first collected edition (1818), vol. ii. p. 75.

t Church and State, p. 18.


» those principles in the light of which it can alone be ascer- tained what are excrescences, symptoms of d i ste mp eratnre, and marks of d^eneration, and what are native growths, or dianges naturaUj attendant on the progressive devek^nnent of the original germ ; symptoms of immaturity, perhaps, bat not of disease ; or, at worst, jnodifications c^ the growth by the defective or feulty, but remediless, or only gradually reme- diaUe, qualities of the soil and surrounding elements."*

Of these principles he gives the following account : —

    • It is the diief of many blessings derived finom the insular

diaracter and drcnmstanoes of our country, that our social institntions have formed themselves out of our proper needs and interests ; that, l(Mig and fierce as the birth-stnig^ and growing pains have been, the antagonist powers have been iA our own system, and have been allowed to work oat their final balance with less disturbance from external forces than was possible in the Continental States. . . . Now, in every ooontry of civilized men, or acknowledging the rights k£ pn^rty, and by means of determined boundaries and common laws united into one pet^e or nation, the two antagonist powers CH* opposite interests of the State, under which aD other State interests are comprised, are those of permanemee and ai progre s aiomJ'

The interest of permanence, or the Conservative interest, he considers to be naturally connected \vith the land and with landed property, llus doctrine, ialse in our opinion as an universal principle, is true of Cng- land, and of all countries where landed property is accumulated in large masses.

" On the other hand," he says, " the progression of a State in the arts and comforts of life, in the diffusion

  • Clundi and State p^ !«.


of the information and knowledge useful or necessary for all ; in short, all advances in civilization, and the rights and privileges of citizens, — are especially connected with, and derived from, the four classes, — the mercan- tile, the manufacturing, the distributive, and the profes- sional."* (We must omit the interesting historical illustrations of this maxim.) "These four last-men- tioned classes I will designate by the name of the Personal Interest, as the exponent of all movable and personal possessions, including skill and acquired knowl- edge, the moral and intellectual stock in trade of the professional man and the artist, no less than the raw materials, and the means of elaborating, transporting", and distributing them."f

The interest of permanence, then, is provided for by a representation of the landed proprietors ; that of pro- gression, by a representation of personal property and of intellectual acquirement : and while one branch of the Legislature, the Peerage, is essentially given over to the former, he considers it a part both of the general theory, and of the actual English Constitution, that the representatives of the latter should form " the clear and effectual majority of the Lower House ; " or, if not, that at least, by the added Influence of public opinion, they should exercise an effective preponderance there. That " the very weight intended for the effectual counterpoise of the great landholders " has, " In the course of events, been shifted Into the opposite scale ; " that the members for the towns " now constitute a large proportion of the political power and Influence of the very class of men whose personal cupidity, and whose partial views of the

  • Church and State, pp. 23-4. f lb., p. 29.


landed interest at large, they were meant to keep in check," — these things he acknowledges ; and only sug- gests a xloubt, whether roads, canals, machinery, the press, and other influences favorable to the popular side, do not constitute an equivalent force to supply the deficiency.*

How much better a Parliamentary Reformer, then, is Coleridge, than Lord John Russell, or any "^Vhig who stickles for maintaining this unconstitutional omnipo- tence of the landed interest ! If these became the prin- ciples of Tories, we should not wait long for fiirther reform, even in our organic institutions. It is true, Coleridge disapproved of the Reform Bill, or rather of the principle, or the no-principle, on which it was sup- ported. He saw in it (as we may surmise) the dangers of a change amounting almost to a revolution, without any real tendency to remove those defects in the machine which alone could justify a change so exten- sive. And, that this is nearly a true view of the matter, all parties seem to be now agreed. The Reform Bill was not calculated materially to improve the general composition of the Legislature. The good it has done, ' which is considerable, consists chiefly in this, that, being so great a change, it has weakened the superstitious feeling against great changes. Any good, which is con- trary to the selfish interest of the dominant class, is still only to be effected by a long and arduous struggle ; but improvements, which threaten no powerful body in their social importance or in their pecuniary emoluments, are no longer resisted as they once were, because of their greatness, — because of the very benefit which they

  • Chorcfa and State, pp. 31-2.


promised., Witness the speedy passing of the Poor- law Amendment and the Penny-postage Acts.

Meanwhile, though Coleridge's theory is but a mere commencement, not amounting to the first lines of a political philosophy, has the age produced any other theory of government which can stand a comparison with it as to its first principles? Let us take, for example, the Benthamic theory. The principle of this may be said to be, that, since the general interest is the object of government, a complete control over the gov- ernment ought to be given to those whose interest is identical with the general interest. The authors and propounders of this theory were men of extraordinary intellectual powers, and the greater part of what they meant by it is true and important. But, when consid- ered as the foundation of a science, it would be difficult to find, among theories proceeding from philosophers, one less like a philosophical theory, or, in the works of analytical minds, any thing more entirely unanalytical. What can a philosopher make of such complex notions as " interest " and " general interest," without breaking them down into the elements of which they are com- posed? If by men's interest be meant what would appear such to a calculating bystander, judging what would be good for a man during his whole life, and making no account, or but little, of the gratification of his present passions, — his pride, his envy, his vanity, his cupidity, his love of pleasure, his love of ease, — it may be questioned, whether, in this sense, the interest of an aristocracy, and still more that of a monarch, would not be as accordant with the general interest as that of either the middle or the poorer classes ; and if


men's interest, in this understanding of it, usually gov- erned their conduct, absolute monarchy would probably be the best form of government. But since men usually do what they like, often being perfectly aware that it is not for their ultimate interest, still more often that it is not for the interest of their posterity ; and when they do believe that the object they are seeking is permanent- ly good for them, almost always overrating its value, — it is necessary to consider, not who are they whose per- manent interest, but who are they whose immediate interests and habitual feeKngs, are likely to be most in accordance with the end we seek to obtain. And, as that end (the general good) is a very complex state of things, — comprising as its component elements many requisites which are neither of one and the same nature, nor attainable by one and the same means, — political philosophy must begin by a classification of these elements, in order to distinguish those of them which go naturally together (so that the provision made for one will suffice for the rest) from those which are ordi- narily in a state of antagonism, or at least of separa- tion, and require to be provided for apart. This preliminary classification being supposed, things would, in a perfect government, be so ordered, that, correspond- ing to each of the great interests of society, there would be some branch or some integral part of the governing body so constituted that it should not be merely deemed by philosophers, but actually and constantly deem itself, to have its strongest interests involved in the main- tenance of that one of the ends of societv which it is intended to be the guardian of. This, we say, is the thing to be aimed at, — the type of perfection in a polit-


ical constitution. Not that there is a possibility of making more than a limited approach to it in practice : a government must be composed out of the elements already existing in society; and the distribution of power in the constitution cannot vary much or long from the distribution of it in society itself. But wherever the circumstances of society allow any choice, wherever wisdom and contrivance are at all available, this, we conceive, is the principle of guidance ; and whatever anywhere exists is imperfect and a failure, just so far as it recedes from this type.

Such a philosophy of government, we need hardly say, is in its infancy : the first step to it, the classifica- tion of the exigencies of society, has not been made. Bentham, in his " Principles of Civil Law," has given a specimen, very useful for many other purposes, but not available, nor intended to be so, for founding a theory of representation upon it. For that particular purpose we have seen nothing comparable, as far as it goes, not- withstanding its manifest insufficiency, to Coleridge's division of the interests of society into the two antago- nist interests of Permanence and Progression. The Con- tinental philosophers have, by a different path, arrived at the same division ; and this is about as far, probably, as the science of political institutions has yet reached.

In the details of Coleridge's political opinions there is much good, and much that is questionable, or worse. In political economy especially, he writes like an arrant driveller ; and it would have been well for his reputation, had he never meddled with the subject.* But this de-

  • Yet even on this subject he has occasionally a just thought, happily

expressed; as this: "Instead of the position that all things find, it would


partment of knowledge can now take care of itself. On other points we meet with far-reaching .remarks, and a tone of general feeling sufficient to make a Tory's hair stand on end. Thus, in the work from which we have most quoted, he calls the State policy of the last half- century " a Cyclops with one eye, and that in the back of the head ; " its measures " either a series of anachro- nisms, or a truckling to events instead of the science that should command them." * He styles the great Commonwealthsmen "the stars of that narrow inter- space of blue sky between the black clouds of the First and Second Charles's reigns." f The "Literary Re- mains " are full of disparaging remarks on many of the heroes of Toryism and Church-of-Englandism. He sees, for instance, no difference between Whitgift and Bancroft, and Bonner and Gardiner, except that the last were the most consistent ; that the former sinned against better knowledge : J and one of the most poig- nant of his writings is a character of Pitt, the very reverse of panegyrical. § As a specimen of his prac- tical views, we have mentioned «his recommendation that the parochial clergy should begin by being schoolmas- ters. He urges " a different division and subdivision of the kingdom," instead of "the present barbarism, which forms an obstacle to the improvement of the country, of much greater magnitude than men are generally

be less equivocal and far more descriptive of the fact to say, that things are always finding their level ; which might be taken as the paraphrase or ironi- cal definition of a storm." — Second Lay Sermon, p. 403.

  • Church and State, p. 69. f lb., p. 102.

t Literary Remains, ii. 388.

§ Written in the Morning Post, and now (as we rejoice to see) reprinted in Mr. Gillman's biographical memoir.


aware."* But we must confine ourselves to instances in which he has helped to bring forward great principles, either implied in the old English opinions and institu- tions, or at least opposed to the new tendencies.

For example : he is at issue with the let-alone doc- trine, or the theory that governments can do no *better than to do nothing, — a doctrine generated by the mani- fest selfishness and incompetence of modern European governments, but of which, as a general theory, we may now be permitted to say, that one half of it is true, and the other half false. All who are on a level with their age now readily admit that government ought not to interdict men from publishing their opinions, pur- suing their employments, or buying and selling their goods, in whatever place or manner they deem the most advantageous. Beyond suppressing force and fraud, governments can seldom, without doing more harm than good, attempt to chain up the free agency of individuals. But does it follow from this that government cannot exercise a free agency of its own? — that it cannot beneficially employ its powers, its means of informa- tion, and its pecuniary resources (so far surpassing those of any other association or of any individual), in promoting the public welfare by a thousand means which individuals would never think of, would have no suflficient motives to attempt, or no suflicient powers to accomplish? To confine ourselves to one, and that a limited, view of the subject : a State ought to be con- sidered as a great benefit-society, or mutual-insurance company, for helping (under the necessary regulations

  • Literary Remains, p. 56.

VOL. II. 5


for preventing abuse) that large proportion of its mem- bers who cannot help themselves.

" Let us suppose," says Coleridge, " the negative ends of a State already attained, — namely, its own safety by means of its own strength, and the protection of person and property for all its members : there will then remain its positive ends, — 1. To make the means of subsistence more easy to each indi- vidual. 2. To secure to each of its members the hope of bettering his own condition, or that of his children. 3. The development of those faculties which are essential to his hu- manity; that is, to his rational and moral being."*

In regard to the two former ends, he of course does not mean that they can be accomplished merely by making laws to that eiFect ; or that, according to the wild doc- trines now afloat, it is the fault of the government if every one has not enough to eat and drink. But he means that government can do something directly, and very much indirectly, to promote even the physical comfort of the people ; and that, if, besides making a proper use of its own powers, it would exert itself to teach the people what is in theirs, indigence would soon disappear from the face of the earth.

Perhaps, however, the greatest service which Col- eridge has rendered to politics in his capacity of a Conservative philosopher, though its fruits are mostly yet to come, is in reviving the idea of a trust inherent in landed property. The land, the gift of nature, the source of subsistence to all, and the foundation of every thing that influences our physical well-being, can- not be considered a subject of property in the same absolute sense in which men are deemed proprietors of

• Second Lay Sermon, p. 414.


that in which no one has any interest but themselves, — that which they have actually called into existence by their own bodily exertion. As Coleridge points out, such a notion is altogether of modern growth.

" The very idea of individual or private property in our present acceptation of the term, and according to the current notion of the right to it, was originally confined to movable things ; and the more movable, the more susceptible of the nature of property." *

By the early institutions of Europe, property in land was a public function, created for certain public pur- poses, and held under condition of their fulfilment ; and as such, we predict, under the modifications suited to modern society, it will again come to be considered. In this age, when every thing is called in question, and when the foundation of private property itself needs to be argumentatively maintained against plausible and persuasive sophisms, one may easily see the danger of mixing up what is not really tenable with what is ; and the impossibility of maintaining an absolute right in an individual to an unrestricted control, Vijus utendi et abutendi, over an unlimited quantity of the mere raw material of the globe, to which every other person could originally, make out as good a natural title as himself. It will certainly not be much longer tolerated, that agriculture should be carried on (as Coleridge ex- presses it) on the same principles as those of trade ; " that a gentleman should regard his estate as a mer- chant his cargo, or a shopkeeper his stock ; " f that he should be allowed to deal with it as if it only existed to

• Second Lay Sermon, p. 414. t lb-, p- 414.


yield rent to him, not food to the numbers whose hands till it ; and should have a right, and a right possessing all the sacredness of property, to turn them out by hun- dreds, and mfike them perish on the high road, as has been done before now by Irish landlords. We believe it will soon be thought, that a mode of property in land, which has brought things to this pass, has existed long enough.

We shall not be suspected (we hope) of recommend- h\g a general resumption of landed possessions, or the depriving any one, without compensation, of any thing which the law gives him. But we say, that, when the State allows any one to exercise ownersliip over more land than suffices to raise by his own labor his subsistence and that of his family, it confers on him power over other human beings, — power affecting them in their most vital interests ; and that no notion of private property can bar the right which the State inherently possesses, to require that the power which it has so given shall not be abused. We say also, that, by giving this direct power over so large a portion of the community, indirect power is necessarily con- ferred over all the remaining portion ; and this, too, it is the duty of the State to place under proper control. Further, the tenure of land, the various rights connected with it, and the system on which its cultivation is car- ried on, are points of the utmost importance both to the economical and to the moral well-being of the whole community. And the State fails in one of its highest obligations, unless it takes these points under its par- ticular superintendence ; unless, to the full extent of its power, it takes means of providing that the manner



in which land is held, the mode and degree of its divis- ion, and every other peculiarity which influences the mode of its cultivation, shall be the most favorable possible for making the best use of the land, for draw- ing the greatest benefit from its productive resources, for securing the happiest existence to those employed on it, and for setting the greatest number of hands free to employ their labor for the benefit of the community in other ways. We believe that these opinions will become, in no very long period, universal throughout Europe ; and we gratefully bear testimony to the fact, that the first amono^ us who has given the sanction of philosophy to so great a reform in the popular and current notions is a Conservative philosopher.

Of Coleridge as a moral and religious philosopher (the character which he presents most prominently in his principal works), there is neither room, nor would it be expedient for us, to speak more than generally. On both subjects, few men have ever combined so much earnestness with so catholic and unsectarian a spirit.

    • We have imprisoned," says he, "om* own conceptions

by the lines which we have drawn in order to exclude the conceptions of others. Xai trouve que la plupart des sectes ont raison dans une bonne partie de ce qiCelles avdncent, mais non pas tant en ce qiCelles nient." * That almost all sects, both in philosophy and religion, are right in the positive part of their tenets, though commonly wrong in the negative, is a doctrine which he professes as strongly as the eclectic school in France. Almost all errors he holds to be "truths misunder- stood," "half-truths taken as the whole," though not

  • Biographia Literaria, ed. 1?17, vol. i. p. 249.


the less, but the more, dangerous on that account.* Both the theory and practice of enlightened tolerance, in matters of opinion, might be exhibited in extracts from his Avritings, more copiously than in those of any other writer we know ; though there are a few (and but a few) exceptions to his own practice of it. In the theory of ethics, he contends against the doctrine of general consequences, and holds, that for man "to obey the simple unconditional commandment of eschew- ing every act that implies a self-contradiction ; " so to act as to "be able, without involving any contradiction, to will that the maxim of thy conduct should be the law of all intelligent beings, — is the one universal and sufficient principle and guide of morality." f Yet even a utilitarian can have little complaint to make of a phi- losopher who lays it down that " the outward object of virtue " is " the greatest producible sum of happiness of all men," and that " happiness in its proper sense is but the continuity and sum-total of the pleasure which is allotted or happens to a man." \

But his greatest object was to bring into harmony religion and philosophy. He labored incessantly to establish, that "the Christian faith — in which," says he, "I include every article of belief and doctrine pro- fessed by the first reformers in common " — is not only divine truth, but also " the perfection of human intelli- gence." § All that Christianity has revealed, philoso- phy, according to him, can prove, though there is much

  • Literary Remains, iii. 145.

t The Friend, vol. i. pp. 256 and 840. } Aids to Reflection, pp. 37 and 89. ^ Preface to the Aids to Reflection.


which it could never have discovered : human reason, once strengthened by Christianity, can evolve all the Christian doctrines from its own sources.* Moreover, " if infidelity is not to overspread England as well as France," f the Scripture ^ and every passage of Scrip- ture, must be submitted to this test ; inasmuch as " the compatibility of a document with the conclusions of self-evident reason, and with the laws of conscience, is a condition a priori of any evidence adequate to the proof of its having been revealed by God ; " and this, he says, is no philosophical novelty, but a principle "clearly laid down both by Moses and St. Paul." | He thus goes quite as far as the Unitarians in making man's reason and moral feelings a test of revelation ; but differs toto coelo from them in their rejection of its mysteries, which he regards as the highest philosophic truths ; and says, that "the Christian to whom, after a long profession of Christianity, the mysteries remain as much mysteries as before, is in the same state as a schoolboy with regard to his arithmetic ; to whom the facit at the end of the examples in his ciphering-book is the whole ground fof his assuming that such and such figures amount to so and so."

These opinions are not likely to be popular in the religious world, and Coleridge knew it : "I quite calcu- late," § said he once, " on my being one day or other holden in worse repute by many Christians than the 'Unitarians' and even 'Infidels.' It must be under- gone by every one who loves the truth, for its own sake, beyond all other things." For our part, we are not

  • Literary Remains, vol. i. p. 388. % lb., iii. p. 293.

t lb., iii. 263. § Table Talk, 2(i ed. p. 91


bound to defend him ; and we must admit, that, in hia attempt to arrive at theology by way of philosophy, we see much straining, and most frequently, as it appears to us, total failure. The cuestion, however, is, not whether Coleridge's attempts are successful, but wheth- er it is desirable or not that such attempts should be made. Whatever some religious people may think, philosophy will and must go on, ever seeking to under- stand whatever can be made understandable ; and, whatever some philosophers may think, there is little prospect at present that philosophy will take the place of religion, or that any philosophy will be speedily received in this country, unless supposed not only to be consistent with, but even to yield collateral support to, Christianity. What is the use, then, of treating with contempt the idea of a religious philosophy ? Religious philosophies are among the things to be looked for ; and our main hope ought to be, that they may be such as fulfil the conditions of a philosophy, — the very fore- most of which is unrestricted freedom of thought. There is no philosophy possible where fear of conse- quences is a stronger principle than love of truth ; where speculation is paralyzed, either by the belief that conclusions honestly arrived at will be punished by a just and good Being with eternal damnation, or by seeing in every text of Scripture a foregone conclusion, with which the results of inquiry must, at any expense of sophistry and self-deception, be made to quadrate.

From both these withering influences, that have so often made the acutest intellects exhibit specimens of obliquity and imbecility in their theological speculations which have made them the pity of subsequent genera-



tions, Coleridge's mind was perfectly free. Faith — the faith which is placed among religious duties — was, in his view, a state of the will and of the affections, not of the understanding. Heresy, in "the literal sense and scriptural inrport of the word," is, according to him, "wUful error, or belief originating in some perversion of the will." He says, therefore, that there may be orthodox heretics, since indiflPerence to truth may as well be shown on the right side of the question 'as on the wrong; and denounces, in strong language, the contrary doctrine of the "pseudo-Athanasius," who " interprets catholic faith by belief," * an act of the understanding alone. The "true Lutheran doc trine," he says, is, that "neither will truth, as a mere conviction of the understanding, save, nor error con- demn. To love truth sincerely is spiritually to have truth ; and an error becomes a personal error, not by its aberration from logic or history, but so far as the causes of such error are in the heart, or may be traced back to some antecedent unchristian wish or habit." f " The unmistakable passions of a factionary and a schismatic, the ostentatious display, the ambitious and dishonest arts, of a sect-founder, must be superinduced on the false doctrine before the heresy makes the man a heretic." J

Against the other terror, so fatal to the unshackled exercise of reason on the greatest questions, the view which Coleridge took of the authority of the Scriptures was a preservative. He drew the strongest distinction between the inspiration which he owned in the various writers, and an express dictation by the Almighty of

  • Literary Remains, iv. 193. t lb-, i"- 159- t rb-. P- 245.


every word thej wrote. ^ Tlie notion of the absolute truth and di\inity of every sylldble of the text of the books of the Old and New Testament as we have it," he again and again asserts to be unsupported by the Scripture itself; to be one of those superstitions in which "there is a heart of unbelief; " * to be, "if pos- sible, still more extravagant" than the Papal infalli- bility ; and declares that the very same arguments are used for both doctrines. f God, he believes, informed the minds of the writers with the truths he meant to reveal, and left the rest to their human faculties. He pleaded most earnestly, says his nephew and editor, for this liberty of criticism with respect to the Scriptures, as " the only middle path of safety and peace between a godless disregard of the unique and transcendent char- acter of the Bible, taken generally, and that scheme of interpretation, scarcely less adverse to the pure spirit of Christian wisdom, which wildly arrays our faith in opposition to ovu- reason, and inculcates the sacrifice of the latter to the former : for he threw up his hands in dismay at the language of some of our modern divinity on this point ; as if a faith not founded on insight were aught else than a specious name for ^vilful positiveness ! as if the Father of lights could require, or would accept, from the only one of his creatures whom he had endowed with reason, the sacrifice of fools! . . . Of the aweless doctrine, that God might, if he had so pleased, have given to man a religion which to human intelligence shoidd not be rational, and exacted his faith in it, Coleridge's whole middle and later life was one

• Literaiy Remains, iii. 229. See also pp. 254, 323; and many other passages in the 3d and 4th volumes. f Ih-, ii- 385.


deep and solemn denial.* He bewails " bibliolatry " as the pervading error of modern Protestant divinity, and the great stumbling-block of Christianity ; and exclaims, f " Oh ! might I live but to utter all my medi- tations on this most concerning point, ... in vrhat sense the Bible may be called the word of God, and how and under what conditions the unity of the Spirit is translu- cent through the letter, which, read as the letter merely, is the word of this and that pious but fallible and im- perfect man." It is known that he did live to write down these meditations ; and speculations so important will one day, it is devoutly to be hoped, be given to the world. :{

Theological discussion is beyond our province ; and it is not for us, in this place, to judge these sentiments of Coleridge : but it is clear enough that they are fiot the sentiments of a bigot, or of one who is to be dreaded by Liberals, lest he should illiberalize the minds of the rising generation of Tories and High-Churchmen. We think the danger is, rather, lest they should find him vastly too liberal. And yet, now, when the most ortho- dox divines, both in the Church and out of it, find it necessary to explain away the obvious sense of the whole first chapter of Genesis, or, failing to do that, consent to disbelieve it provisionally, on the speculation that there may hereafter be discovered a sense in which it can be believed, one would think the time gone by for expecting to learn from the Bible what it never

  • Preface to the 3d volume of the Literary Bemains.

t Literarj' Remains, iv. 6.

t [This wish has, to a certain extent, been fulfilled by the publication of the series of letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures, which bears the not verj- appropriate name of " Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit."]


could have been intended to communicate, and to find in all its statements a Kteral truth, neither necessary nor conducive to what the volume itself declares to be the ends of revelation. Such, at least, was Coleridge's opinion ; and, whatever influence such an opinion may have over Conservatives, it cannot do other than make them less bigots, and better philosophers.

But we must close this long essay, — long in itself, though short in its relation to its subject, and to the multitude of topics involved in it. V^e do not pre- tend to have given anv sufficient account of Coleridge : but we hope we may have proved to some, not previously aware of it, that there is something, both in him and in the school to which he belongs, not unworthy of their better knowledge. We may have done something to show, that a Tory philosopher cannot be wholly a Tory, but must often be a better Liberal than Liberals them- selves ; while he is the natural means of rescuing from oblivion truths which Tories have forgotten, and which the prevailing schools of Liberalism never knew.

And, even if a Conservative philosophy were an absurdity, it is well calculated to drive out a hundred absurdities worse than itself. Let no one think that it is nothing to accustom people to give a reason for their opinion, be the opinion ever so untenable, the reason ever so insufficient. A person accustomed to submit his fundamental tenets to the test of reason wiU be more open to the dictates of reason on every other point- Not from him shall we have to apprehend the owl-like dread of light, the drudge-like aversion to change, which were the characteristics of the old un- reasoning race of bigots. A man accustomed to con-


template the fair side of Toryism (the side that every attempt at a philosophy of it must bring to view) , and to defend the existing system by the display of its capa- bilities as an engine of public good, — such a man, when he comes to administer the system, will be more anxious than another person to realize those capabili- ties, to bring the fact a little nearer to the specious theory. "Lord, enlighten thou our enemies," should be the prayer of every true reformer ; sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions, and consecu- tiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers. We are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom : their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength.

For ourselves, we are not so blinded by our particu- lar opinions as to be ignorant that in this, and ifl every other country of Europe, the great mass of the owners of large property, and of all the classes intimately con- nected with the owners of large property, are, and must be expected to be, in the main, Conservative. To suppose that so mighty a body can be without im- mense influence in the commonwealth, or to lay plans for effecting great changes, either spiritual or temporal, in which they are left out of the question, would be the height of absurdity. Let those who desire such changes ask themselves if they are content that these classes should be, and remain, to a man, banded against them ; and what progress they expect to make, or by what means, unless a process of preparation shall be going on in the minds of these very classes, not by the im- practicable method of converting them from Conserva- tives into Liberals, but by their being led to adopt one


liberal opinion after another as a part of Conservatism itself. The first step to this is to inspire them with the desire to systematize and rationalize their own actual creed : and the feeblest attempt to do this has an in- trinsic value ; far more, then, one which has so much in it, both of moral goodness and true insight, as the philosophy of Coleridge.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "John Stuart Mill's 1840 essay on Coleridge" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools