on the top of that pole," pointing to a high, straight
What the "_New_ Downing Street" can grow to, and will and must if England is to have a Downing Street beyond a few years longer, it is far from me, in my remote watch-tower, to say with precision. A Downing Street inhabited by the gifted of the intellects of England; directing all its energies upon the real and living interests of England, and silently but incessantly, in the alembics of the place, burning up the extinct imaginary interests of England, that we may see God's sky a little plainer overhead, and have all of us a great accession of "heroic wisdom" to dispose of: such a Downing Street--to draw the plan of it, will require architects; many successive architects and builders will be needed there. Let not editors, and remote unprofessional persons, interfere too much!--Change in the present edifice, however, radical change, all men can discern to be inevitable; and even, if there shall not worse swiftly follow, to be imminent. Outlines of the future edifice paint themselves against the sky (to men that still have a sky, and are above the miserable London fogs of the hour); noble elements of new State Architecture, foreshadows of a new Downing Street for the New Era that is come. These with pious hope all men can see; and it is good that all men, with whatever faculty they have, were earnestly looking thitherward;--trying to get above the fogs, that they might look thitherward!
Among practical men the idea prevails that Government can do nothing but "keep the peace." They say all higher tasks are unsafe for it, impossible for it,--and in fine not necessary for it or for us. On this footing a very feeble Downing Street might serve the turn!--I am well aware that Government, for a long time past, has taken in hand no other public task, and has professed to have no other, but that of keeping the peace. This public task, and the private one of ascertaining whether Dick or Jack was to do it, have amply filled the capabilities of Government for several generations now. Hard tasks both, it would appear. In accomplishing the first, for example, have not heaven-born Chancellors of the Exchequer had to shear us very bare; and to leave an overplus of Debt, or of fleeces shorn _before_ they are grown, justly esteemed among the wonders of the world? Not a first-rate keeping of the peace, this, we begin to surmise! At least it seems strange to us.
For we, and the overwhelming majority of all our acquaintances, in this Parish and Nation and the adjacent Parishes and Nations, are profoundly conscious to ourselves of being by nature peaceable persons; following our necessary industries; without wish, interest or faintest intention to cut the skin of any mortal, to break feloniously into his industrial premises, or do any injustice to him at all. Because indeed, independent of Government, there is a thing called conscience, and we dare not. So that it cannot but appear to us, "the peace," under dexterous management, might be very much more easily kept, your Lordship; nay, we almost think, if well let alone, it would in a measure keep _itself_ among such a set of persons! And how it happens that when a poor hardworking creature of us has laboriously earned sixpence, the Government comes in, and (as some compute) says, "I will thank you for threepence of that, as per account, for getting you peace to spend the other threepence," our amazement begins to be considerable,--and I think results will follow from it by and by. Not the most dexterous keeping of the peace, your Lordship, unless it be more difficult to do than appears!
Our domestic peace, we cannot but perceive, as good as keeps itself. Here and there a select Equitable Person, appointed by the Public for that end, clad in ermine, and backed by certain companies of blue Police, is amply adequate, without immoderate outlay in money or otherwise, to keep down the few exceptional individuals of the scoundrel kind; who, we observe, by the nature of them, are always weak and inconsiderable. And as to foreign peace, really all Europe, now especially with so many railroads, public journals, printed books, penny-post, bills of exchange, and continual intercourse and mutual dependence, is more and more becoming (so to speak) one Parish; the Parishioners of which being, as we ourselves are, in immense majority peaceable hard-working people, could, if they were moderately well guided, have almost no disposition to quarrel. Their economic interests are one, "To buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest;" their faith, any _religious_ faith they have, is one, "To annihilate shams--by all methods, street-barricades included." Why should they quarrel? The Czar of Russia, in the Eastern parts of the Parish, may have other notions; but he knows too well he must keep them to himself. He, if he meddled with the Western parts, and attempted anywhere to crush or disturb that sacred Democratic Faith of theirs, is aware there would rise from a hundred and fifty million human throats such a _Hymn of the Marseillaise_ as was never heard before; and England, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the Nine Kingdoms, hurling themselves upon him in never-imagined fire of vengeance, would swiftly reduce his Russia and him to a strange situation! Wherefore he forbears,--and being a person of some sense, will long forbear. In spite of editorial prophecy, the Czar of Russia does not disturb our night's rest. And with the other parts of the Parish our dreams and our thoughts are of anything but of fighting, or of the smallest need to fight.
For keeping of the peace, a thing highly desirable to us , we strive to be grateful to your Lordship. Intelligible to us, also, your Lordship's reluctance to get out of the old routine. But we beg to say farther, that peace by itself has no feet to stand upon, and would not suit us even if it had. Keeping of the peace is the function of a policeman, and but a small fraction of that of any Government, King or Chief of men. Are not all men bound, and the Chief of men in the name of all, to do properly this: To see, so far as human effort under pain of eternal reprobation can, God's Kingdom incessantly advancing here below, and His will done on Earth as it is in Heaven? On Sundays your Lordship knows this well; forgot it not on week-days. I assure you it is forevermore a fact. That is the immense divine and never-ending task which is laid on every man, and with unspeakable increase of emphasis on every Government or Commonwealth of men. Your Lordship, that is the basis upon which peace and all else depends! That basis once well lost, there is no peace capable of being kept,--the only peace that could then be kept is that of the churchyard. Your Lordship may depend on it, whatever thing takes upon it the name of Sovereign or Government in an English Nation such as this will have to get out of that old routine; and set about keeping something very different from the peace, in these days!
Truly it is high time that same beautiful notion of No-Government should take itself away. The world is daily rushing towards wreck, while that lasts. If your Government is to be a Constituted Anarchy, what issue can it have? Our one interest in such Government is, that it would be kind enough to cease and go its ways, _before_ the inevitable arrive. The question, Who is to float atop no-whither upon the popular vertexes, and act that sorry character, "carcass of the drowned ass upon the mud-deluge"? is by no means an important one for almost anybody,--hardly even for the drowned ass himself. Such drowned ass ought to ask himself, If the function is a sublime one? For him too, though he looks sublime to the vulgar and floats atop, a private situation, down out of sight in his natural ooze, would be a luckier one.
Crabbe, speaking of constitutional philosophies, faith in the ballot-box and such like, has this indignant passage: "If any voice of deliverance or resuscitation reach us, in this our low and all but lost estate, sunk almost beyond plummet's sounding in the mud of Lethe, and oblivious of all noble objects, it will be an intimation that we must put away all this abominable nonsense, and understand, once more, that Constituted Anarchy, with however many ballot-boxes, caucuses, and hustings beer-barrels, is a continual offence to gods and men. That to be governed by small men is not only a misfortune, but it is a curse and a sin; the effect, and alas the cause also, of all manner of curses and sins. That to profess subjection to phantasms, and pretend to accept guidance from fractional parts of tailors, is what Smelfungus in his rude dialect calls it, 'a damned _lie_,' and nothing other. A lie which, by long use and wont, we have grown accustomed to, and do not the least feel to be a lie, having spoken and done it continually everywhere for such a long time past;--but has Nature grown to accept it as a veracity, think you, my friend? Have the Parcae fallen asleep, because you wanted to make money in the City? Nature at all moments knows well that it is a lie; and that, like all lies, it is cursed and damned from the beginning.
"Even so, ye indigent millionnaires, and miserable bankrupt populations rolling in gold,--whose note-of-hand will go to any length in Threadneedle Street, and to whom in Heaven's Bank the stern answer is, 'No effects!' Bankrupt, I say; and Californias and Eldorados will not save us. And every time we speak such lie, or do it or look it, as we have been incessantly doing, and many of us with clear consciousness, for about a hundred and fifty years now, Nature marks down the exact penalty against us. 'Debtor to so much lying: forfeiture of existing stock of worth to such extent;--approach to general damnation by so much.' Till now, as we look round us over a convulsed anarchic Europe, and at home over an anarchy not yet convulsed, but only heaving towards convulsion, and to judge by the Mosaic sweating-establishments, cannibal Connaughts and other symptoms, not far from convulsion now, we seem to have pretty much _exhausted_ our accumulated stock of worth; and unless money's 'worth' and bullion at the Bank will save us, to be rubbing very close upon that ulterior bourn which I do not like to name again!
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