“The temper and character which prevail in our Colonies are, I am afraid, unalterable by any human art. We cannot, I fear, falsify the pedigree of this fierce people, and persuade them that they are not sprung from a nation in whose veins the blood of freedom circulates. The language in which they would hear you tell them this tale would detect the imposition. Your speech would betray you. An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery.”
It may be said that these words, unlike the words with which Rousseau kindled revolution, failed of their purpose. The Government remained deaf and blind to the demand of British freedom; a terrible war was not averted; one of the greatest disasters in our history ensued. None the less, they glow with the true fire, and the book that contains them ranks with acts, and, indeed, with battles. That we should thus be coupling Rousseau and Burke—two men of naturally violent antipathy—is but one of the common ironies of history, which in the course of years obliterates differences and soothes so many hatreds. To be accepted and honoured by the same mind, and even for similar service, the two apparent opposites must have had something in common. What they had in common was the great qualities that Maine discovered in Rousseau—the vivid imagination and the genuine love for their fellow-men; and by imagination I mean the power of realising the thoughts, feelings, and sufferings of others. Thus from these two qualities combined in the presence of oppression, cruelty, or the ordinary stupid and callous denial of freedom, there sprang that flame of indignation from which alone the burning book derives its fire. Examine those other books whose titles I have mentioned, and their origin will in every case be found the same. They are the flaming children of rage, and rage is begotten by imaginative power out of love for the common human kind.
“WHERE CRUEL RAGE”
“Fret not thyself,” sang the cheerful Psalmist—“fret not thyself because of evildoers.” For they shall soon be cut down like the grass; they shall be rooted out; their sword shall go through their own heart; their arms shall be broken; they shall consume as the fat of lambs, and as the smoke they shall consume away; though they flourish like a green bay-tree, they shall be gone, and though we seek them, their place shall nowhere be found.
A soothing consolation lies in the thought. Why should we fluster ourselves, why wax so hot, when time thus brings its inevitable revenges? Composed in mind, let us pursue our own unruffled course, with calm assurance that justice will at length prevail. Let us comply with the dictates of sweetness and light, in reasonable expectation that iniquity will melt away of itself, like a snail before the fire. If we have confidence that vengeance is the Lord’s and He will repay, where but in that faith shall we find an outlet for our indignation at once so secure, so consolatory, and so cheap?