Few statesmen have done more than Peel to advance the material interests of the people; yet he never was a popular idol, and his history fails to kindle the enthusiasm with which we study the political career of Pitt or Canning or Disraeli or Gladstone. He was regarded as a great potentate rather than as a great genius; and he loved to make his power felt irrespective of praise or censure from literary men, to whom he was civil enough, but whose society he did not court. Politics were the element in which he lived, and politicians were his chief associates outside the family circle, which he adorned. And yet when distinguished merit in the Church or in the field of literature was brought to his notice, he was ready to reward it.
As a proof of the growing fame of Sir Robert Peel, no less than three biographies of him have lately been issued from the Press. Such, after a lapse of forty years, indicates the lasting reputation he has won as a statesman; but as a statesman only. He filled no other sphere. He was not a lawyer like Brougham; not a novelist like Beaconsfield; not a historian like Macaulay; not an essayist and reviewer like Gladstone. He was contented to be a great parliamentary leader alone.
Molesworth’s History of England; Miss Martineau’s History of England; Justin McCarthy’s Life of Sir Robert Peel; Alison’s History of Europe,—all of which should be read in connection with the Lives of contemporary statesmen, especially of Cobden, Bright, and Lord John Russell. The Lives of foreign statesmen shed but little light, since the public acts of Sir Robert Peel were chiefly confined to the domestic history of England.
The most interesting and perhaps important event in the history of Europe in the interval between the fall of Napoleon I. and that of Napoleon III., a period of fifty-six years,—from 1815 to 1871,—was that which united the Italians under the government of Victor Emmanuel as a constitutional monarchy, free of all interference by foreign Powers.
The freedom and unity of Italy are to be considered, however, only from a political point of view. The spiritual power still remains in the hands of the Pope, who reigns as an ecclesiastical monarch over not only Italy but all Roman Catholic countries, as the popes have reigned for a thousand years. That venerable and august despotism was not assailed, or even modified, in the separation of the temporal from the spiritual powers. It was rather, probably, increased in influence. At no time since the Reformation has the spiritual authority of the Roman Pontiff been greater than it is at the present day. Nor can any one, however gifted and wise, foretell when that authority will be diminished. “The Holy Father” still reigns and is likely long to reign as the vicegerent of the Almighty in all