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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 18

Old fable, the frog and the ox: a lecture delivered at the Princess' Theatre, Melbourne, on July 26, 1869 … being the seventh in a series of lectures under the auspices of the Early Closing Assoication

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The Frog and The Ox.

A Lecture

Stillwell and Knight, Printers Melbourne: Collins Street.

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The Frog and the Ox.

The seventh of the series of lectures on behalf of the Early-Closing Society of Melbourne was given on Monday by Mr. James Smith, who chose for his subject "The Frog and the Ox," as told in one of La Fontaine's fables. The attendance was good. It was intended that the Hon. T, H. Fellows should preside as chairman, but in his unavoidable absence on circuit, his place was taken by Mr. R. Murray Smith.

The Chairman opened the proceedings by apologising for Mr. Fellows' absence, and briefly introduced the lecturer to the meeting.

Mr. James Smith came forward, amid applause, and said,—Custom prescribes that those who preach sermons should precede them by the delivery of a text, and as a lecture is a species of secular sermon, I will preface my own with a few Lines, which you will find in one of the fables of La Fontaine.

They are as follow:—

"A frog, no bigger than a pullet's egg,
A fat ox, feeding in a meadow, spied.
The envious little creature blew and swelled;
In vain to reach the big bull's bulk she tried.
'Sister, now look ! observe me close!' she cried.
'Is this enough?' No!' 'Toll me! now then, see !'
'No, no!' 'Well, now I'm quite as big as he?'
You're scarcely bigger than you were at first.'
One more tremendous puff—she grew so large—she burst."

Now, the ox, I think, may be looked upon as typifying a great and venerable empire—like that, for example, to which we have the; honour to belong; while the frog may be accepted as the representative of some small community—suppose we say that of Nornansland—which has a disagreeable habit of distending its dimensions in a vain effort to emulate the bovine bulk, and of imitating—though with indifferent success—the bovine bellow. If, by any chance, a newspaper has ever reached you from the colony of Nomansland, you will find that its public speakers and public writers are greatly addicted to the practice of asseverating that theirs "is a great country," and that they "are a great people." And within certain limitations this is true. But it is only true relatively. The frog is a remarkably fine frog of its age, with a spacious marsh to pasture in; plenty of nutritious food, a strong, healthy croak, and a vigour of muscle that would do credit to the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras before the sharp-witted American had filled its inside with quail shot. But, for all that, it is not so big as an ox. Were it not for its overweening self-complacency, and its exaggerated pretensions, no exception could be taken to the lively little animal. As frogs go, it is a credit to its species. And, as colonial dependencies go, Nomansland is a flourishing and progressive colony. Nevertheless, it is not Great Britain. Now, what is true of Nomansland is equally true of other colonies—possibly, in some degree, of our own. All young countries have what may be termed a tumid tendency, which is a very unhealthy symptom. They resemble the immortal hero of a well known nursery story. Providence having presented them with a Christmas pie of noble dimensions and savoury material, each of them falls to pulling out the plums, and exclaiming, "What a good boy am I!" I don't wish to detract one iota from the moral worth of Master Horner, but I think that young gentleman would have been much more estimable if he had been a little less boastful. Depend upon it, that the man or boy, nation or community, which is perpetually vaunting his or its own greatness and goodness, is deficient in some of the vital elements of both, and is destitute of genuine self-respect. You will remember, at the commencement of the civil war in America, how loud and confident were the boastings of the Northerners that they would "chaw up" the rebellion in ninety days, and how numerous and severe were the reverses they sustained. After a time this page 4 vain-glorious talk was abandoned, and they gathered up all their strength for a protracted struggle, which was brought to a successful issue at the end of four years, under the leadership of Ulysses the Silent. "Brag" may have been, as the proverb says, a good dog, though I think he is at all times a contemptible cur—but "Holdfast was a better." Let us look our faults fairly in the face, and endeavour to correct them. We boast of our material progress and political freedom, and are prone to consider these as our own handiwork exclusively. But to what extent does the credit of them belong to us? In producing the sum of human wealth, two great coefficients have to be taken into account—the gratuitous utilities of nature, and the skill and industry of man. The first of these we enjoy in wonderful variety and measureless abundance. The soil, the climate, and the mineral resources of Victoria are factors of material prosperity, for which we cannot be sufficiently grateful, and they co-operate with us to a decree which we inadequately acknowledge. They are God's gifts, and we can claim no share in their creation. Their development and usufruct alone are ours. Next comes our own contribution to the work. I have no intention of disparaging it. I am proud, as every Englishman must be, of the genius, the enterprise, the inventive ingenuity, and the vehement industry of my countrymen. But I cannot forbear asking myself—How much of the skill and ability the mechanical appliances, and powerful auxiliaries which arm industry with such irresistible forces, and render it so productive in our generation, is inherited and derived from the generations which preceded it? Our forefathers, and not only our forefathers but inventive men in every age and country, have bequeathed to us the magnificent estate of their ideas and discoveries. Some portion of the bequest is centuries old: another portion may have been devised to us by the inventor who died yesterday, or last week, or a year ago. The screw which propels our steam vessels was the legacy to mankind of a philosopher of Syracuse, who flourished more than 2,000 years ago. To him, also, we owe the crane, the pulley, and the lever. But why should I multiply instances of our indebtedness to those who have gone before us? Take from us this incalculably precious inheritance, and wherein should we be superior to the Maories of New Zealand ? As the world grows older, and man's capacity to utilise the forces of nature increases in extent and power, his own share in the work, and consequently the credit due to him for what he does, diminishes from day to day and year to year, so that there is a profound—indeed, one may say, a pathetic—truth in Tennyson's assertion that "the individual withers, and the world is more and more." It may be mortifying to our self-love that it should be so, but the hard, unalterable fact remains. Every addition to the sum of our capacities, comforts, and enjoyments, involves a corresponding addition to the sum of our indebtedness to those who have gone before us. We shine with a borrowed lustre, and are sumptuous in trappings which were bequeathed us by the dead. The fabric of our greatness is erected, like the coral islands of the Pacific, upon the remains of millions of animated beings who have preceded us: and we may apply to the whole human race—although in a different sense to that which was intended by the poet—the observation—

"That men may rise on stepping stones
Of their dead salves, to higher things."

And if we attentively examine the title-deeds by which we hold our political franchises, we shall find that they bear the endorsement of names which the whole world holds in veneration—patriots and philosophers of all ages and of all countries; that the true principles of political science were as well understood in the days of Plato and Aristotle as in those of Bentham and Brougham; and that the liberty we prize is, in a much greater degree, an inheritance than a conquest. Considerations of this kind should moderate, I think, that spirit of arrogant self-assertion which is the reproach of young communities, and that everlasting "cock-a-doodle-doo,' and clapping of wings, which we nineteenth century people are everywhere setting up over our acquisitions and performances. The foremost ripple on the sea-beach, as it breaks into creamy foam upon the glistening shingle and traces a sinuous furrow on the plastic sand, might as well claim to be the highest embodiment and grandest product of the vast ocean by which its movements are impelled, as we might plume ourselves upon our preeminence, simply because we happen to be "foremost in the ranks of time." It is the old story of the wren mounted upon the page 5 eagle's crest. The smaller bird soared higher and saw further than the king of the air; but it was upon the strong pinions of the latter that the former was borne aloft. In like manner the vantage ground which we occupy was raised for us by the labour of our forerunners. One of the consequences of this overweening self-complacency is, that it induces us to form erroneous estimates of history, and to pronounce unjust censures upon the various states of society and forms of government through which mankind has passed, and out of which it has emerged into the light of what is possibly a brighter day. A youth—for in all probability the world is only in its youth, with the down of early manhood scarcely visible upon its upper lip—might as reasonably despise himself for ever having been a child, as we disparage and contemn phases of civilisation and forms of polity and conditions of social existence which were the natural growth or reflection of, and were strictly appropriate to the circumstances, the wants, the habits, and the general intelligence, or un-intelligence of times gone by. It is not my intention, nor does it fall within the scope of my lecture, to institute any comparison between what we are accustomed to call the dark ages and our own epoch of moral, mental, and spiritual enlightenment. I am not absolutely certain that we are so much wiser, better, and happier than our forefathers as to justify us in speaking of them either with Pharisaical contempt or Christian compassion. I cannot discover that crime, vice, destitution, and disease, war, pestilence, and famine were the special characteristics of any epoch, or have been entirely banished from our own. When I am tempted to pick up an objurgatory stone, and hurl it at the wicked people who flourished centuries ago in Europe, I pause for a moment to reflect upon the baby-farms in the manufacturing districts of England, upon the elevation of fœticide and other nameless horrors into a distinct and lucrative profession in New York and other American cities, upon Mormonism, spiritualism, and free love, upon the hundreds of thousands who perished by famine the other day at Orissa, upon the assassinations and explosions at Sheffield, upon the awful carnage at Sadowa, upon the re-establishment of Cæsarism in France, upon the stupendous frauds perpetrated by "rings" in the United States and by great houses like that of Overend, Gurney, and Co. in the mother country; and upon the terrible increase of insanity in Europe and America, and I drop the stone with as much precipitation as may be. Nevertheless, mankind may be better, wiser, and happier, as it is undoubtedly richer, than it was; and he can always count on praise and popularity who asseverates that it is so. We will not stop to argue the point, but will accept it as proved. Being so much wiser than our predecessors, we can afford to pass a lenient judgment upon their institutions and their actions; as it is most fitting we should study them in a philosophical spirit. And bringing to their investigation this spirit, and pursuing it without prejudice, what is the conclusion we arrive at? I dare say many of those whom I have the honour to address have been familiar either in Europe or Australia with the magnificent spectacle of the sunrise in a mountainous district. They have seen the golden light smiting the splintered crags and snowy peaks until they seemed to stand transfigured in its stainless lustre. They have watched the warm glow creeping down the mountain side, robing its massive shoulders with a garment of luminous beauty, penetrating dark rifts and sombre chasms with its swift effulgence, and dropping shafts of vivid radiance in among the forest trees. In a little while the morning sunshine has enveloped all the mountain and Hooded all the valley with its fervid glory and its animating warmth; and every object which looked so wan and indistinct in the cold grey light of early dawn, takes colour, form, and shapeliness, from the all-beholding, all-embracing light of cheerful day. Somewhat similar have been the dawn of knowledge and the incidence of political power. When modern civilisation was in its infancy, it was—in the first instance—only upon the regal eminences of society that the light of intelligence was seen to rest and irresponsible authority was permitted to devolve. Both extended, in process of time, to the ennobled classes and the ecclesiastics. And let it be remembered, to the credit of the Church of Rome, that, even then, it asserted the equality of all men in the sight of God; and—in direct opposition to the aristocratic and exclusive spirit of the governing classes—acknowledged no hereditary distinctions within its own pale, but adopted the elective prin- page 6 ciple with respect to some of its highest dignities and grandest offices, and did not debar the meanest serf in Christendom from ascending the Papal throne itself, provided he possessed the capacity to rise and rule. Eventually the trading classes in the great cities, acquiring wealth and intelligence in the pursuits of commerce, established their claims to certain immunities and to some degree of political influence; and then, as education diffused itself through all grades of society, the rights and privileges of citizenship were gradually conceded to the whole body, and thus we have reached the epoch of democracy in modern Europe, and in English speaking communities all over the world, to which we now find ourselves brought. But, occupying this novel stand-point, does it become us to speak superciliously of the past? Looking at the state of society in the middle ages, I think it is very doubtful whether a better system could have been devised for it than feudalism. Feudalism would be intolerable now; but feudalism was well adapted to a period in which the masses were ignorant, weak, superstitious, and dependent; and art, science, statesmanship, and letters were the possession of an exclusive few—it was exceedingly suitable to a rude and warlike epoch, in which the governing classes could offer substantial protection to the proletariat, in which the Church was strong enough to curb the licence of the Crown, and the monastery was the spiritual instructor, the moral teacher, the doctor, the almsgiver, and the protector of the poor. "If," as Ruskin observes, "the middle ages had their wars and agonies, they had also intense delights. Their gold was dashed with blood; but ours is sprinkled with dust. Their life was interwoven with white and purple; ours is one seamless stuff of brown." That monarchs misused their power, that aristocracies did the same, that abuses and corruptions crept into the church, and that mixed forms of government have been betrayed into follies and crimes, is only tantamount to saying that human beings in every grade of life, in every age and country, and under every kind of political institution, are human beings still, and that, with rare exceptions, the exercise of power tends to the demoralisation of its possessor; although this is true to a limited extent only of men who—like the more illustrious of our English statesmen-have been born or educated to it. The worst of tyrants is a parvenu. Only a pure heart and an incorruptible and well-balanced mind—calm, just, and passionless, like George Washington's—are proof against its terrible temptations. As I have said, we have now reached that stage in the political development of civilised mankind in which the equality of all men before the law has been finally, and I trust irrevocably, established; and it behoves us, instead of casting contemptuous or commiserating glances upon the past, and pluming ourselves upon our superior enlightenment and surprising attainments, to examine the dangers by which we are surrounded, in what I must venture to call our superficial and one-sided civilisation. Nor could I name one which appears to me to be more alarming than that deification of material prosperity and that Sordid worship of success which is rapidly supplanting all other forms of faith, and conducting us to a species of idolatry, compared with which, the belief of "the Pagan, suckled in some creed outworn," or of

——"the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds and hears him in the wind,"

is piety and poetry itself. Look, for instance, at the ordinary method of estimating and describing the condition and progress of any country—of our own, let us say. So many ounces of gold produced, so many million pounds of wool exported, so many thousand gallons of gin, rum, and brandy taken out of bond, so much money lying to the credit of so many depositors in savings banks, so much merchandise consumed, and so forth. Now, let me guard myself against being supposed to disparage industry and frugality, or to undervalue the rational enjoyment of the fruits of both. I hold activity of mind and body to be one of the most efficacious promoters of human happiness, and I speak from the experience of my own life, which has been both a busy and a happy one, when I say that industry is essential to bodily and mental health. What I wish to convey is this—that we ought to apply quite other tests to the welfare and advancement of a people than those which are commonly made use of. Instead of searching for them in the Customs Bill of Entry, or in that lively and entertaining publication called the Journal of Commerce, I think we should seek them in page 7 satisfactory answers to questions like the following :—Are your schools full, and your prisons empty? Have the doors of your courts of justice grown rusty on their hinges from sheer disuse, and are your laws so few in number that a little volume will contain them all? Is a drunkard as much a phenomenon in your streets, and as loathsome in the public estimation, as a leper ? Is the practice of any vice considered to he a prima facie evidence of insanity ? Is the word of every man, in all the transactions of daily life, as valid as his signature to a contract or a bill of exchange, and is the crime of perjury unknown? Is idleness reputed infamous, and slander an abomination? Have pauperism and mendicity been reduced to their minimum, and are life and property as secure as they were when a daughter of Erin, with a "bright gold ring on her wand," travelled from one end of Ireland to the other,

"And her maiden smile
In safety lighted her round the Green Isle."

Would it be impossible to discover an adulterated article of food, or clothing, or utility, of any kind, throughout the length and breadth of the land? And is justice the supreme guide and regulating principle of conduct among the whole community? Now, I think it is a painful proof that we are really, as yet, in a very rudimentary stage of civilisation, and have advanced hut a moderate distance along the path of progress, that the propounding of questions like these would inevitably subject the propounder to the imputation of being a dreamer and a visionary, if not a lunatic; and that the condition of society to which they point is one which would be characterised by ninety-nine people out of a hundred as Utopian in the highest degree. Yet no one will be bold enough to assert that upon any other than the moral basis just indicated would it be possible to construct a society which should bo Christian in deed as well as in name, in sentiment as well as in profession; and which should endure as long as the human race endures. Wanting this moral basis, every great nation of antiquity has perished; as I will venture to assert, every great nation of modern times will likewise perish, when there is no longer a sufficiency of public and private virtue to be found in the minority of good men and women—"the salt of the earth," as you will remember they have been called—to preserve the whole mass of society from corruption and decay. This is no fanciful speculation, or presumptuous prediction of my own. It is a logical deduction from the lessons of history, and from the undeniable existence and incessant operation of that moral law which is written in our consciences, and every violation of which, whether by individuals or nations, is visited with its appropriate and unavoidable penalty. Seeing, then, that we are so far from that stage of human progress, towards which I hope and believe mankind is slowly moving, it seems to me that we cannot too steadily discourage, or too sternly repress those tumid tendencies, and that disposition to look up to ourselves, and to look down upon our forefathers, upon which I have already animadverted. It may be argued that we are young, and that conceit and braggadocio are as natural to youthful communities as they are to a good many young people; but such an argument is scarcely tenable. We are a fragment chipped off an old nation—a branch layered from an old stock in a new soil—a portion of an ancient edifice transferred to and re-erected upon a fresh site, in conformity with the general plan of the original structure. Therefore the plea of youth is inadmissible in extenuation of the faults I have enlarged upon. And these faults should be rigorously discoutenanced, I think, because they are hostile to real progress and incompatible with true greatness. I do not think you will ever find this dissociated from modesty. The vain man—the man who is always sounding his own trumpet, and perpetually absorbed in the calculation and admiration of his own personal, moral, or mental qualifications—is almost invariably as weak and shallow as he is offensive and contemptible. The genuinely great man may or may not be conscious of the possession of distinguished gifts, but, in any case, he bears himself as meekly as King Duncan, as Michael Angelo, as Sir Isaac Newton. And this holds true, I think, of nations. There was a military commander in the early part of the present century, who, occupying a conquered country, at the head of a fine army, officered by splendid generals, arrogantly declared that he would drive the opposing army—which was inferior n numbers, in service and equipment—into page 8 the sea. That opposing army was led by a man from whose lips no boast was ever heard to fall. He was the servant of a nation which is proverbially reticent and taciturn. He possessed his soul in modesty and patience; and, in course of time, instead of being driven into the sea, he himself swept the country of its invaders, and drove them, defeated and dejected, across the Pyrenees. He never indulged in rhetorical flourishes about glory and victory—never wrote bombastic and mendacious bulletins—never told his soldiers that forty centuries were looking down upon them from the Pyramids of Egypt, nor talked grandiloquent rhodomontade of that kind,—he would not brag, and he could not lie:—

"For this was England's greatest son,
He that gain'd a hundred fights,
Nor ever lost an English gun."

The magniloquent boaster suffered ignominious defeat, and died in exile; while his' antagonist—

"Great in council and great in war,
Foremost captain of his time,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime;"

lived to a ripe old age, accompanied by "love, honour, obedience, and troops of friends," and went down to an honoured grave amidst "an empire's lamentation." Now, I suppose, it will be scarcely disputed that it is better for a people to be modest and abstinent from boasting, like Wellington, than to be vain, arrogant, and gasconading like Napoleon. There results, from the imitation of the frog in the fable, that spirit of provincialism in politics, art, letters, and social life, which Poole has so pleasantly satirised in "Little Pedlington." A fond attachment to the land of our birth, or the land of our adoption—to the neighbourhood in which the best years of our life have been spent, or to the particular circle in which we prefer to move—is a natural sentiment. Most of us have felt—

"As in a pensive dream
When all our active powers were still,
A distant dearness in the hill,
A secret sweetness in the stream,
The limit of our narrower fate,
While yet beside its vocal springs
We played at counsellors and kings
With one who was our earliest mate."

But the belief that these countries or neighbourhoods excel all others, and that outside of them there is neither grandeur nor attractiveness, neither excellence nor beauty, is quite another thing; is, in fact, a very mischievous and misleading delusion, almost as much so as the notion that what is alien must be necessarily hostile; and that what is unknown, because foreign or remote, must be therefore undesirable to know, if not actually eligible for aversion. The spirit of provincialism is a debasing and demoralising spirit. It dwarfs a man's intellect, narrows the range of his sympathies, and obstructs the full development of his nature. It disintegrates mankind—breaks it up into little communities, sects, coteries, and cliques; and is wholly opposed to the Gospel of Christ and the gospel of humanity. Show me a village, town, or district in which the spirit of provincialism is particularly rampant, and I will show you a hotbed of calumny and slander—a field for the display of little factions and petty animosities—an arena for the exercise of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness—a place in which the inhabitants dissipate no small proportion of their energies in foolish litigation, in rancorous quarrels, and perpetual backbiting. That was a magnificent illustration of provincialism which Leech once depicted in Punch:—"Who's 'im, Bill?" "A stranger." "'Eave 'arf a brick at 'im." How many of the wars of modern Europe are indirectly traceable to the rivalries, jealousies, and prejudices of provincialism—to a feeling, in short, like that which prompted the Staffordshire man to "'eave 'arf a brick" at the stranger. If you will just reflect for a moment upon the sanguinary quarrels which sprang up between one and another of the petty kingdoms into which England was formerly divided, you will find it impossible to avoid being struck by their ludicrous absurdity. It is as if the president of the road board of Boroondara should organise the able-bodied men of that sylvan district for the purpose of making a raid upon "the wild wood-carters of Nunawading" harrying their cattle, destroying their crops, emptying the bars of the bush inns of a good deal of indifferent brandy without offering to pay the reckoning, and burning down the homesteads of the Forty-second Regiment of bonâ fide settlers. Between such a war whether carried on in ancient Wessex or in modern Nunawading, and the wars of Euro- page 9 pean states, the difference is one of degree only. Common sense, self-interest, humanity, and the Christian religion—if the Christian religion may be mentioned without impropriety in these days when everybody doubts everything but his own omniscience—all concur in condemning such wars. For, to put the matter upon the lowest possible grounds, any merchant or shopkeeper will, admit that the very worst use to which you can put a profitable customer is to impale him on a bayonet, or to bore holes through his body with conical bullets. But this is precisely what nations do when they fall out and come to loggerheads; and what it costs them to destroy their neighbours and customers defies all calculation, and would—if it could be accurately estimated—stagger belief. That a time will come when the story of the desolating and mutually destructive wars which have taken place between neighbouring nations will be read with mingled feelings of incredulity and pity by our wiser posterity, I no more doubt than I doubt that the sun will rise with his accustomed punctuality to-morrow morning; but before it can be confidently asserted that "the war drum throbs no longer and the battle flag is furled," the spirit of provincialism will have to die out, and frogs will have to acquiesce in that law of nature which confers superior dimensions and a lustier voice upon their bovine associates in the succulent pastures. And this leads me to speak of the political institutions of the future. If those which exist in the most advanced nations of the earth were the final outcome of democracy—or if democracy were the goal of humanity, instead of being, as I hold that it is a mere stage of growth, a phase of development, and a transitional form of government—we might be tempted to despair of the future of mankind. Let us look at America, for example. Now, I think it must be acknowledged that, in theory at least, and regard being had to the popular notions on the subject, the Constitution of the United States is as near perfection as possible. The popular branch of the Legislature is chosen by the people; the Senate is elected by the Legislatures of the various states, and the President is appointed by a species of electoral college, composed of a number of electors from each state equal to the whole number of senators and representatives which such state is entitled to send to Congress. Here is a really model constitution, framed by men of rare political ability, who were actuated by the loftiest patriotism; but has it secured the ends for which all governments are ordained? Has it, in the language of the preamble, "established justice, insured domestic tranquillity, and promoted the general welfare?" I find it stated in the North American Review for July, 1867, that justice is unblushingly bought and sold, and that the corruption which prevails is without a parallel in the judicial annals of any country. "The most shameful offences are constantly committed by men placed upon the bench by the popular vote. They listen privately to one or other of the suitors in a case which is afterwards to be brought before them, and openly take bribes for their decisions. It is well known that one judge received 10,000 dollars for giving judgment in a case, and he still remains upon the bench." In the state of New York, all the judges are elected, and their appointment is in the hands of the pickpockets, the prize-fighters, the immigrant touters, the pimps, and the lowest class of liquor dealers. And what is the result? I quote from an official document—the report of the commissioners of police for the year 1865:—"In no other city does the machinery of criminal justice so signally fail to restrain or punish serious and capital offences. As our laws and institutions are administered, they do not afford adequate protection to life and property. Some remedy must be found and applied, or life in the metropolis will drift rapidly towards the condition of barbarism." Only a few days ago, I took up the New York Herald for the 7th of April last, and in that one issue I found reports of no less than twelve murders, one of them being the assassination of a judge; together with the particulars of two robberies—a burglary in South-street, New York, where the thieves had carried off 100,000 dollars' worth of stock and shares; and another in Philadelphia, where the booty in bonds and greenbacks amounted to a million dollars. If we turn to the conduct of political affairs, we find ourselves confronted by corruption and peculation on all sides. An influential member of the Senate has stated—and the statement has never been contradicted—that upon the article of whiskey page 10 alone twenty millions sterling are collected which never find their way into the Treasury, but are stolen by the officials. The estimated expenses of the two Houses of Congress for the year 1868 were set down at £1,060,000 sterling, of which more than three-fifths are absorbed by the Lower House. At one time its members were supplied with stationery ad libitum, but they carried off such large quantities, besides franking their dirty linen to their own homes by the Government mails, that it was found necessary to compromise the matter by allowing each member £25 per annum to find himself in pens, ink, and paper. Among the items on the Estimates for the House of Representatives I find £280 for combs, brushes, and soap; but even these articles disappear in a most rapid and mysterious manner, and many members complained, at the close of the last session of Congress, that they had not received a comb, a brush, or so much as a piece of soap during the whole session. And considering the very dirty work in which some of them must have been engaged, a scarcity of soap must have been a terrible privation. The corruption of numerous members of Congress is a matter of common notoriety; and, as regards the State Legislature of New York, it has been openly asserted, and never denied, that as many as 118 out of the 160 members of which it is composed habitually sell their votes to the highest bidder, and not unfrequently take money on both sides. It was only in the month of April last that one of these venal scoundrels, on returning by rail from Albany to Troy, accidentally left his pocketbook on the seat of the carriage. A brakeman found and opened it, and discovered 1,800dol. in bills, besides some papers which gave him a clue to the owner. While the train was stopping, the brakeman went in search of and found the owner, who promptly rewarded him with twenty dollars. As the brakeman turned to go away, however, the legislator stopped him, took him on one side, and whispered in his ear words to this effect, "When you get up to our place tomorrow you needn't say anything about my losing my pocketbook, You see, they wouldn't know how I came by that 1,800dol. exactly; in fact, I don't think I ever had so much money with me before; so you had better say nothing about it." It may be asked how it is that with so much profligacy, rapacity, and corruption among the representatives of the people in Congress and in the State Legislatures, the American cabinet should be composed, as it generally is, of men distinguished for their ability and probity? The answer is to be found in the fact that the President appoints his own Ministers subject to the formal confirmation of their appointments by the Senate; and thus the members of the Cabinet are relieved from the humiliating necessity of purchasing a precarious existence by trafficking departmental favours for legislative votes. Removed from the sphere of party conflict and of party intrigue in Congress, they can give their undivided attention to their administrative duties and to the preparation of necessary laws. Reverting, however, to the subject of corruption, let us look at the state of affairs in the "empire city" of the Union. The New York Tribune asserts that an alderman who could rob the city of £20,000, and squander half of it on the "boys" who nominated and elected him, would be regarded by the majority as a smart clever fellow, and would probably have an increased majority at the next election. The municipal government of New York, which raises a revenue of eight millions sterling, is virtually in the hands of seven men. They and their nominees, during the last sixteen years—I quote from the North American Review for October last—"have stolen not less than fifty millions of dollars, and not one of them has ever been punished, nor even made to disgorge." The price of a vote in the corporation of New York—I may add—ranges from fifty to five hundred dollars, according to circumstances. Finally, we arrive at that other object for which governments are instituted—namely, the general welfare of the people. Now, the material prosperity of the United States, taken as a whole, is undeniable, but to what agencies is that prosperity attributable? Upon this subject let us consult an American authority, Mr. David Wells, the special commissioner of internal revenue, whose dictum carries conviction with it. He says:—"These agencies are mainly two-first, great natural resources in respect to abundant and ferule territory, great natural facilities for intercommunication, abundant and cheap raw material, and diversity without insalubrity of climate; and, secondly, a form and spirit of page 11 government which heretofore has left man and capital, over an area almost continental, free and unrestrained, to work out their own development." In other words, industry flourished so long as the Government let it alone. But when the American Government is called upon to deal with some of the problems which perplex the statesmen of Europe, it proves to be unequal to the task. In the United States, as in England, the concentration of population produces an amount of crime and destitution which the authorities are impotent to grapple with. There are 52,000 paupers in the receipt of outdoor relief in New York, 1,500 professional thieves, 25,000 women of the town, and 15,000 of the dangerous classes; and the condition of some thousands of needle-women is no better than that of their sisters, the white slaves of London. "Murders," says a recent number of the New York Sun, "are a daily crop. Dear friends will in the morning go out to business, and are brought home mutilated corpses. Old men go out to sweep the pavement, and be cut to pieces with knives. Gentlemen, sitting quietly in their own rooms, awaiting company, are seized, bound, gagged, robbed, and threatened with a bullet if they resist. Nay, we have every reason to believe that some recreant members of the police force itself are in league with the thieves, murderers, assasins, and housebreakers. Vigilance committees are being formed in town and country, and it is this alarming riot of crime that has driven good citizens to this last resort of desperation." To sum all up, "Mr. Horace Greeley estimated last January that there were half a million persons within sight of the city steeples of New York who were hungry, destitute, and out of work." But New York, it may be objected, is the channel through which flows the enormous stream of immigration from Europe, and in that city are deposited both the scum and the sediment of that stream, of which the clear and wholesome elements flow westward. There is much force in the objection, so let us shift the scene for a moment. In the queen of the New England states, Massachusetts—which has the "modern Athens" for its capital—one person in every twenty-two is a pauper. With a population of 1,250,000 there are upwards of 57,000 destitute persons in the state, while there are between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners, 2,500 inmates o the lunatic asylums, and 1,600 pupils in the reformatories, besides 5,000 deaf, dumb, blind, and otherwise dependent human creatures. In short, this is the picture of New England, presented in a state document laid before the Senate in January last:—"A helpless crowd of workers, the oppression of low wages, inevitable poverty, and a disguised serfdom; a rich master, a poor servant, and a mean population." Thus, then, you will perceive that democratic institutions do not necessarily "establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and promote the general welfare;" and for these reasons I believe that this principle of government will be no less transitory than feudalism was. Let us endeavour, for the better understanding of this important question, to survey it as the inhabitant of another planet might do. "These men," he would say, "in their individual capacities, profess to be governed by their reason. That is the law of their lives, and in proportion as the will of each person is subordinated to enlightened judgment and moral principle, will the conduct of that man be just, wise, temperate, and prosperous. Yet, when they come to act in a collective capacity as states, what do these terrestrials do? They make the representative bodies, which, as lawgivers and as administrators, have to fulfil the same functions as conscience and reason discharge in man, the image and expression—of what? Of the collective reason of the people in its most dispassionate mood?—of its moral sense?—of its weightiest experience and deepest sagacity?—of the calmest judgment of the ablest, the soundest, the most discriminating and the most far-sighted thinkers? No such thing. These representative bodies merely reflect the popular will; so that it has come to pass in one of the foremost nations of Europe—in France, to wit—the intelligence and moral principle of the people are almost wholly unrepresented—are, in fact, hostile to and proscribed by the Government of the day. And, to make matters worse, these terrestrials, as often as they have occasion to renew their representative bodies, contrive to do so under circumstances so exciting as to prohibit the exercise of reflection and deliberation. In all countries possessing Parliamentary government, no party thinks of going to the page 12 hustings without what is called 'a good cry.' Instead of a principle, they are invited to swear by a phrase—a catch-word—a shibboleth. Party zeal, personal predilections or prejudices, national animosities, and religious fanaticism, are all inflamed at the very moment when men are called upon to make a calm and circumspect choice of enlightened and disinterested legislators and administrators. Verily, these terrestrials are strange beings." Now, this is how an ultra-mundane critic would deliver himself, I fancy, with respect to our method of managing our political affairs, and we could not find much fault with his strictures. But are we to be for ever amenable to such a reproach? Wilt our institutions be the institutions of after generations? If progress be the law of humanity, we may unhesitatingly answer, "No." That society must continue to rest upon a democratic basis, and that the equality of all men before the law is a sacred and eternal principle, I firmly believe; but I am also convinced that power in the good time which is coming will find a new depositary, a more satisfactory and enduring resting-place. It is unfortunate for the discussion of subjects like these that the technical language we employ has lost its original meaning, and has acquired improper and perverted significations. Thus, the word "aristocracy" has come to be confounded with a privileged class—with an hereditary caste; whereas it really implies the best men of a country, without respect to birth, or wealth, or station. And such an aristocracy I take to be the natural and rightful rulers of a country. These were the rulers of America when its Washingtons, its Hamiltons, its Madisons, its Jeifersons, ana its Quincy Adamses were at the head of its affairs; and these will constitute the governments of the future in all English-speaking countries when the moral and intellectual elevation of the masses shall have qualified them to make a prudent and sagacious choice of rulers. That choice will most assuredly fall upon the aristoi of a nation. Whatever is most eminent in moral worth—in disinterestedness and purity of purpose—in unselfish and self-sacrificing devotion to the public interests—in splendid ability, shaped, directed, and controlled by a lofty and incorruptible integrity—a clear discernment and a steadfast pursuit of the right—that will the people honour and obey. But before this comes to pass, the intelligence and the moral sentiments of mankind—its instinctive sense of justice and its fidelity to truth—must and will have reached that high point of development at which little will be left for Presidents or Cabinets to do. When public virtue attains its maximum, the power of Governments will fall to zero. The best code of laws is that which is written in a cultivated and healthily active conscience; and when every man carries such a code about with him, and habitually defers to its authority, mankind will be able to make a bonfire of its statute books, though centuries may elapse before the arrival of this golden age, when men will be too just to require lawyers, and too healthy to need doctors. The best government, it has been said, is that which governs least; and as all governments exist by the surrender of a portion of our liberties for the better protection and preservation of what remains, we shall be wise to part with as few of them as we can, consistently with the maintenance of law and order, and to restrict the functions of governments within the narrowest possible limits; above all, we must regard with a jealous eye everything in the shape of privilege. The first great assertion of democracy as a political force in modern Europe was when in 1789 it arose in its wrath and smote down privilege in France, and privilege—that is to say, a private and particular law conferring special powers and immunities upon a class or body—is just as liable to be wrested to tyrannous uses by a parliament as by a nobility or sovereign. Privilege and democracy cannot co-exist; they are a contradiction in terms. And "Parliamentary privilege in a democracy," as was once remarked to me by the late Ebenezer Syme—one of the ablest and sincerest champions of democracy I ever knew—"is only arbitrary power masking its features in a cap of liberty." Finally, although the epoch at which the true aristoi of a country will govern its affairs is distant, it is not to be despaired of; and I ground my expectation of a brighter chapter in human history upon what may at first sight appear to be a paradox, but which, upon closer examination, will prove to be an axiomatic truth. It is this—Morality is page 13 identical with enlightened selfishness. To be just, truthful, diligent, prudent, and temperate, is to be healthy, happy, and prosperous. Like many other truths, this is one which is but slowly apprehended by the mass of mankind; but we must not be impatient of results, remembering that, in the lifetime of our race, a thousand years are but as a day in the lifetime of a man. Each of us may do something to accelerate the arrival of this desirable state of things; and no person, howsoever insignificant, can rightly estimate the value of his own example or foresee the extent of his individual influence, for good or for evil. The hope of every generation, and the promise of the future, are enclosed in its young men and women. To them is en trusted the honourable and responsible duty of bearing aloft, and carrying forward, the torch of progress. In a few years the political and municipal government of this colony will fall—as it ought to fall—into the hands of those who have been born in the colony, or who came hither in their childhood. We who immigrated hither in the prime of life are more or less conscious of "a divided duty." We have been transplanted, and are not like the Anglo-Australians proper—"native and to the manner born." We cannot altogether forget the old country, nor obliterate from our hearts and minds old affections and old associations. Not so, however, our children. All their recollections and aspirations will centre here. Here will be found the past to which their memories will revert, and the future to which their hopes will be directed. Theirs will be the opportunity, as, I trust, theirs will be the honourable ambition, to build up the stately fabric of a commonwealth which will renew and perpetuate in this southern land the greatness and renown of that illustrious parent state,

"Whose deep foundations lie
In veneration and the people's love;
Whose steps are equity, whose seat is law."

Engaged in this exalted work, let them not undervalue the lessons of experience, nor be guilty of the filial ingratitude of despising the example and defaming the character of "that sceptred isle, that earth of majesty and seat of Mars—that precious stone set in the silver sea," which Milton loved and Shakspeare magnified. Hers is a great and glorious past. Be it yours to create a beneficent and brilliant future for this, almost the youngest born, of that august and venerable mother of nations; always maintaining that sober self-respect and modest dignity which best befit the children of such a parent, and always remembering that

"Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lead life to sovereign power."

The Rev. H. Higginson moved and Mr. Foord seconded a vote of thanks to the lecturer.

The motion was carried by acclamation and duly acknowledged.

On the motion of Mr. Jas. Smith, seconded by the Hon. E. Langton, a similar compliment was paid to the chairman, who acknowledged it by urging the members of the Early Closing Society to continue their exertions in their own behalf.

The proceedings then terminated.

Stillwell & Knight, Printers, 78, Collins-street East.