Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

of Lord Beaconsfield, and a sudden sinking of the spirits among most of the Liberals. Parliament met in February, and the Government gave it to be understood that they in. tended to have what one of them called “a fair working session." Suddenly, however, they made up their minds that it would be convenient to accept Mr. Gladstone's challenge, and to dissolve in the Easter holidays. The dissolution took place on March 24th, 1880, and the elections began.

The result cannot be better described than in the words of Lord Beaconfield himself, in the celebrated speech which depicted a sudden breakdown of the Liberal party in an attack upon Lord Derby's Government. We have quoted the words before in the place to which they properly belong, but they will bear repetition in their new application here. Only one word needs to be changed; we put in“ ministerial' where Lord Beaconsfield said "opposition." “ It was like a convulsion of nature rather than any ordinary transaction of human life. I can only liken it to one of those earth. quakes which take place in Calabria or Peru. There was a rumbling murmur, a groan, a shriek, a sound cf distant thunder. There was a rent, a fissure in the ground, and then a village disappeared ; then a tall tower toppled down; and the whole of the ministerial benches became one great dissolving view of anarchy.” For with the very first day of the elections it was evident that the Conservative majority was already gone. Each succeeding day showed more and more the change that had taken place in public feeling. Defeat was turned into disaster. Disaster became utter rout and confusion. When the elections were over it was found that the Conservative party were nowhere. A majority of some hundred and twenty sent the Liberals back into power. No Liberal statesmen in our time ever before saw themselves sustained by such an army of followers. There was a moment or two of hesitation-of delay. The Queen sent for Lord Hartington ; she then sent for Lord Granville ; but every one knew in advarce who was to come into power at last. The strife lately carried on had been the old duel between two great men. Mr. Gladstone had stood up against Lad Beaconsfield for some years and fought him alone. He had dragged his party after him into many a danger. He had compelled them more than once to fight where many of them would fain have held back, and where none of them saw any chance of victory. Now, at last, the battle had been given to his hands, and it was a matter of necessity that the triumph should bring back to power the man whose energy and eloquence had inspired the struggle. The Queen sent for Mr. Gladstone, and a new chapter of English history opened, with the opening of which this work has to close.



HE later period which we have now to survey is more

rich in scientific literature than that former period which we assumed to close with the Crimea War. In practical science, as we have already shown, the advance made during the reign of Queen Victoria has been greater in many ways than the advance made from the beginning of civilization to that time. Sir Robert Peel travelled from Rome to London to assume office as Prime Minister, exactly as Con. stantine travelled from York to Rome to become emperor. Each traveller had all that sails and horses could do for him and no more. A few years later Peel might have reached London from Rome in some forty-eight hours. Something of the same kind may be said for economical, political, and what is now called social science. The whole of that system of legislative reform which is founded on a recognition of the principles of humanity may be said tobelong to our own times. Our penal systems have undergone a thorough reform. More than once it seemed as if the reform were go. ing too far, and as if the tenderness to criminals were likely to prove an encouragement to crime. But although there have deen for this reason little outbursts of reaction every now and then, the growth of the principle of humanity has been steady, and the principle has taken firm and fixed route in our systems of penal legislation. Flogging in the army and navy may be said to be now wholly abolished. The senseless and

barbarous system of imprisonment for debt is abandoned. There is no more transportation of convicts. Care is taken of the lives and the health of women and children in all manner of employments. Schools are managed on systems of wise gentleness. Dotheboys Hall would be an impossible picture, even for caricature, in these later years. We are perhaps at the beginning of a movement of legislation which is about to try to the very utmost that right of state interterence with individual action which at one time it was the object of most of our legislators to reduce to its very narrowest proportions. It may be that this straining of the right of the majority over the minority is destined to bring about in due course its reaction. But we do not think that “the survival of the fittest," the doctrine on which our forefathers acted more or less consciously in the education of children and the treatment of criminals, will ever again, within any time to which speculation can safely reach, be adopted as a principle of our legislation. Much of the healthier and more humane spirit prevailing in our social systems, in our criminal laws, in the management of our schools, in the care of the state for the working classes, for women, and for children, is undoubtedly due to the spread of that sound and practical scientific teaching which began to make it known everywhere that the recognition of the laws of health will always be found in the end to be a recognition of the laws of morality.

But, though the philosophy of these later days has proved itself thus essentially practical, it is to be observed that the great scientific controversy of the time is distinctly and purely speculative. The Darwinian theory, as it is commonly, we will not say vulgarly, called, may be described as one of the most remarkable facts in the history of its time. Dr. Charles R. Darwin, grandson of the author of "The Botanic Garden” and “ Zoonomia," was born in 1809. He showed at an early age great capacity as a naturalist. He accom

panied as naturalist the expedition of her Majesty's ship Beagle for the survey of South America and the circumna. vigation of the globe. This expedition occupied him nearly five years, and he returned to England in 1836. He pub. lished several studies in geology and in fossil species, and seemed to have made his mark as a naturalist of distinction, and nothing more. Charles Knight's "English Cyclopædia," published in 1855, twenty years after the return of Dr. Darwin from his great voyage, speaks in high terms of his contributions to the sciences he studied, and adds: “Mr. Darwin is still in the prime of life, and may, therefore, be expected to contribute largely to the extension of the sciences he has so successfully cultivated." If Mr. Darwin had died soon after that time the world would never have suspected that it had lost anything more than a highly promising naturalist. In 1859 appeared “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or, the Preservation of the Favored Races in the Struggle of Life." The book had hardly been published when it was found that a great crisis had been reached in the history of science and of thought. The iniportance of Darwin's "Origin of Species," regarded as a mere historical fact, is of at least as much importance to the world as Comte's publication of his theory of historical development. In these pages we are considering Darwin's theory and his work merely as historical facts. We are dealing with them as we might deal with the fall of a dynasty or the birth of a new state. The controversy which broke out when the “ Origin of Species" was published has been going on ever since, without the slightest sign of diminishing ardor. It spread almost through all society. It was heard from the pulpit ard from the platform; it raged in the scientific and unscientific magazines. It was trumpeted in the newspapers; it made one of the stock subjects of talk in the dining-room and the smoking-room ; it tittered over the tea-table. Mr. Darwin's central idea was that the

« AnteriorContinuar »