But indeed nobody knows what inarticulate traditions, remnants of old wisdom, priceless though quite anonymous, survive in many modern things that still have life in them. Ben Brace, with his taciturnities, and rugged stoical ways, with his tarry breeches, stiff as plank-breeches, I perceive is still a kind of _Lod-brog_ (Loaded-breeks) in more senses than one; and derives, little conscious of it, many of his excellences from the old Sea-kings and Saxon Pirates themselves; and how many Blakes and Nelsons since have contributed to Ben! "Things are not so false always as they seem," said a certain Professor to me once: "of this you will find instances in every country, and in your England more than any--and I hope will draw lessons from them. An English Seventy-four, if you look merely at the articulate law and methods of it, is one of the impossiblest entities. The captain is appointed not by preeminent merit in sailorship, but by parliamentary connection; the men [this was spoken some years ago] are got by impressment; a press-gang goes out, knocks men down. on the streets of sea-towns, and drags them on board,--if the ship were to be stranded, I have heard they would nearly all run ashore and desert. Can anything be more unreasonable than a Seventy-four? Articulately almost nothing. But it has inarticulate traditions, ancient methods and habitudes in it, stoicisms, noblenesses, _true_ rules both of sailing and of conduct; enough to keep it afloat on Nature's veridical bosom, after all. See; if you bid it sail to the end of the world, it will lift anchor, go, and arrive. The raging oceans do not beat it back; it too, as well as the raging oceans, has a relationship to Nature, and it does not sink, but under the due conditions is borne along. If it meet with hurricanes, it rides them out; if it meet an Enemy's ship, it shivers it to powder; and in short, it holds on its way, and to a wonderful extent _does_ what it means and pretends to do. Assure yourself, my friend, there is an immense fund of truth somewhere or other stowed in that Seventy-four."
More important than the past history of these Offices in Downing Street, is the question of their future history; the question, How they are to be got mended! Truly an immense problem, inclusive of all others whatsoever; which demands to be attacked, and incessantly persisted in, by all good citizens, as the grand problem of Society, and the one thing needful for the Commonwealth! A problem in which all men, with all their wisdoms and all their virtues, faithfully and continually co-operating at it, will never have done _enough_, and will still only be struggling _towards_ perfection in it. In which some men can do much;--in which every man can do something. Every man, and thou my present Reader canst do this: _Be_ thyself a man abler to be governed; more reverencing the divine faculty of governing, more sacredly detesting the diabolical semblance of said faculty in self and others; so shalt thou, if not govern, yet actually according to thy strength assist in real governing. And know always, and even lay to heart with a quite unusual solemnity, with a seriousness altogether of a religious nature, that as "Human Stupidity" is verily the accursed parent of all this mischief, so Human Intelligence alone, to which and to which only is victory and blessedness appointed here below, will or can cure it. If we knew this as devoutly as we ought to do, the evil, and all other evils were curable;--alas, if we had from of old known this, as all men made in God's image ought to do, the evil never would have been! Perhaps few Nations have ever known it less than we, for a good while back, have done. Hence these sorrows.
What a People are the poor Thibet idolaters, compared with us and our "religions," which issue in the worship of King Hudson as our Dalai-Lama! They, across such hulls of abject ignorance, have seen into the heart of the matter; we, with our torches of knowledge everywhere brandishing themselves, and such a human enlightenment as never was before, have quite missed it. Reverence for Human Worth, earnest devout search for it and encouragement of it, loyal furtherance and obedience to it: this, I say, is the outcome and essence of all true "religions," and was and ever will be. We have not known this. No; loud as our tongues sometimes go in that direction, we have no true reverence for Human Intelligence, for Human Worth and Wisdom: none, or too little,--and I pray for a restoration of such reverence, as for the change from Stygian darkness to Heavenly light, as for the return of life to poor sick moribund Society and all its interests. Human Intelligence means little for most of us but Beaver Contrivance, which produces spinning-mules, cheap cotton, and large fortunes. Wisdom, unless it give us railway scrip, is not wise.
True nevertheless it forever remains that Intellect is the real object of reverence, and of devout prayer, and zealous wish and pursuit, among the sons of men; and even, well understood, the one object. It is the Inspiration of the Almighty that giveth men understanding. For it must be repeated, and ever again repeated till poor mortals get to discern it, and awake from their baleful paralysis, and degradation under foul enchantments, That a man of Intellect, of real and not sham Intellect, is by the nature of him likewise inevitably a man of nobleness, a man of courage, rectitude, pious strength; who, even _because_ he is and has been loyal to the Laws of this Universe, is initiated into _discernment_ of the same; to this hour a Missioned of Heaven; whom if men follow, it will be well with them; whom if men do not follow, it will not be well. Human Intellect, if you consider it well, is the exact summary of Human _Worth_; and the essence of all worth-ships and worships is reverence for that same. This much surprises you, friend Peter; but I assure you it is the fact;--and I would advise you to consider it, and to try if you too do not gradually find it so. With me it has long been an article, not of "faith" only, but of settled insight, of conviction as to what the ordainments of the Maker in this Universe are. Ah, could you and the rest of us but get to know it, and everywhere religiously act upon it,--as our _Fortieth_ Article, which includes all the other Thirty-nine, and without which the Thirty-nine are good for almost nothing,--there might then be some hope for us! In this world there is but one appalling creature: the Stupid man _considered_ to be the Missioned of Heaven, and followed by men. He is our King, men say, he;--and they follow him, through straight or winding courses, I for one know well whitherward.
Abler men in Downing Street, abler men to govern us: yes, that, sure enough, would gradually remove the dung-mountains, however high they are; that would be the way, nor is there any other way, to remedy whatsoever has gone wrong in Downing Street and in the wide regions, spiritual and temporal, which Downing Street presides over! For the Able Man, meet him where you may, is definable as the born enemy of Falsity and Anarchy, and the born soldier of Truth and Order: into what absurdest element soever you put him, he is there to make it a little less absurd, to fight continually with it till it become a little sane and human again. Peace on other terms he, for his part, cannot make with it; not he, while he continues _able_, or possessed of real intellect and not imaginary. There is but one man fraught with blessings for this world, fated to diminish and successively abolish the curses of the world; and it is he. For him make search, him reverence and follow; know that to find him or miss him, means victory or defeat for you, in all Downing Streets, and establishments and enterprises here below.--I leave your Lordship to judge whether this has been our practice hitherto; and would humbly inquire what your Lordship thinks is likely to be the consequence of continuing to neglect this. It ought to have been our practice; ought, in all places and all times, to be the practice in this world; so says the fixed law of things forevermore:--and it must cease to be _not_ the practice, your Lordship; and cannot too speedily do so I think!--
Much has been done in the way of reforming Parliament in late years; but that of itself seems to avail nothing, or almost less. The men that sit in Downing Street, governing us, are not abler men since the Reform Bill than were those before it. Precisely the same kind of men; obedient formerly to Tory traditions, obedient now to Whig ditto and popular clamors. Respectable men of office: respectably commonplace in facility,--while the situation is becoming terribly original! Rendering their outlooks, and ours, more ominous every day.
Indisputably enough the meaning of all reform-movement, electing and electioneering, of popular agitation, parliamentary eloquence, and all political effort whatsoever, is that you may get the ten Ablest Men in England put to preside over your ten principal departments of affairs. To sift and riddle the Nation, so that you might extricate and sift out the true ten gold grains, or ablest men, and of these make your Governors or Public Officers; leaving the dross and common sandy or silty material safely aside, as the thing to be governed, not to govern; certainly all ballot-boxes, caucuses, Kennington-Common meetings, Parliamentary debatings, Red Republics, Russian Despotisms, and constitutional or unconstitutional methods of society among mankind, are intended to achieve this one end; and some of them, it will be owned, achieve it very ill!--If you have got your gold grains, if the men you have got are actually the ablest, then rejoice; with whatever astonishment, accept your Ten, and thank the gods; under this Ten your destruction will at least be milder than under another. But if you have _not_ got them, if you are very far from having got them, then do not rejoice at all, then _lament_ very much; then admit that your sublime political constitutions and contrivances do not prove themselves sublime, but ridiculous and contemptible; that your world's wonder of a political mill, the envy of surrounding nations, does not yield you real meal; yields you only powder of millstones (called Hansard Debatings), and a detestable brown substance not unlike the grindings of dried horse-dung or prepared street-mud, which though sold under royal patent, and much recommended by the trade, is quite unfit for culinary purposes!--
But the disease at least is not mysterious, whatever the remedy be. Our disease,--alas, is it not clear as the sun, that we suffer under what is the disease of all the miserable in this world, _want of wisdom_; that in the Head there is no vision, and that thereby all the members are dark and in bonds? No vision in the head; heroism, faith, devout insight to discern what is needful, noble courage to do it, greatly defective there: not seeing eyes there, but spectacles constitutionally ground, which, to the unwary, _seem_ to see. A quite fatal circumstance, had you never so many Parliaments! How is your ship to be steered by a Pilot with no _eyes_ but a pair of glass ones got from the constitutional optician? He must steer by the _ear_, I think, rather than by the eye; by the shoutings he catches from the shore, or from the Parliamentary benches nearer hand:--one of the frightfulest objects to see steering in a difficult sea! Reformed Parliaments in that case, reform-leagues, outer agitations and excitements in never such abundance, cannot profit: all this is but the writhing, and painful blind convulsion of the limbs that are in bonds, that are all in dark misery till the head be delivered, till the pressure on the brain be removed.