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point out, I think, sufficiently a common result. But amid the founders of a new science who shall represent our own country? Can I hesitate, or can I venture, in this place and company, to mention the hand which has directed the scattered rays of light from so many sources on the wild children of Central Asia, and produced the Turk before us in his untameable ferocity,--the outcast of the human race, before whom the earth herself ceases to be a mother, by whom man's blood has ever been shed like water, woman's honour counted as the vilest of things, nature's most sacred laws publicly and avowedly outraged, --has produced him before us for the abhorrence of mankind, the infamy of nations? To sketch the intrinsic character of barbarism and civilisation, and out of common historical details, travel, and observation, to show the ineffaceable stamp of race and temper reproducing itself through the long series of ages, surely expresses the idea which we mean by the philosophy of history.'
We have seen how the strong light of Catholic truth and teaching gave to history its unity and its universality, reducing the nation under the greater whole of the race, subordinating the city of Romulus to the City of God. It was by discerning the growth and progress of that City of God that the Catholic Doctor, Saint Augustine, seized upon it as the central point in the destinies of man, which, while dominion passes from country to country and from race to race, remains fixed and immutable. And this idea penetrated and took possession of Christian history for more than a thousand years. At length a violent schism arose, which severed from the City of God a portion of the civilised world. They who were outside felt no longer touched by its glories or soothed by. its promises, and the last three centuries have witnessed on their part repeated attempts to construct histories, -and philosophical histories too,—which either ignore the existence, or disfigure and misrepresent the operation, of the City of God. The grand exploit of these writers is to blot the sun out of the world. Their utmost skill consists in throwing themselves back into the position of the heathen, when there was no truth, but every man's opinion; their total success would be to banish from their readers' minds, and to exclude from their
own, the thought that God had become man, had sphered his truth in a society, and subordinated the whole course of events unto the trial of men, of nations, and of races, in accepting or rejecting that truth, in combating or forming a part of that society. To all such men a philosophy of history becomes by their own fault as impossible, as without their own fault it was to Livy or Tacitus. But there is scarcely a period or a fact of early, or mediæval, or modern history, which this perverted view of things has not misrepresented; and it is necessary to allude to it, since our own
country has been the chief seat of the error. None can ask for a nobler intellectual work than to be instrumental in any sort to the restoration of truth to history. May we not hope that this also is a glory reserved for those who have in the midst of them one who sits in Peter's Chair at the centre of the earth, alone immovable where all is fluctuating; who may well possess and communicate to his children the secret of history, for he has seen age after age and people after people pass by him? they are gone, and he remains the same, to be to all future generations what he was to them — truth's pillar, or its witness. Sedet æternumque sedebit.
And this would seem to be the special work in history of the present age, and the ages which are to come. If “facts are the power in credit,” so never before were they communicated in such abundance to the curiosity of mankind. The predicted times are come upon us; “many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased.” The world, indeed, in all its aspects, is ransacked for facts. Not only all that concern the experimental sciences, but all that belong to the moral field of human action, are gathered together before us as in a museum. Life seems too short to exhaust the documents that belong even to a single generation. The ends of the earth are brought to meet, and a tide of travellers is continually going forth to sweep every creek and shore of civilised or uncivilised life, and to lay up the results of their observation for posterity; not to say that every age inherits the riches of its predecessors. In the records of human thought accumulation is ever going on : the individual mind passes away; but the collective mind continues its ceaseless progress. It is said that the greatest philosopher of antiquity availed himself of the power and wealth of his mighty pupil, Alexander, to collect animals for the study of natural history. But the poorest child of modern civilisation is richer than Aristotle with the stores of Alexander at his feet. Rather the student of history is embarrassed with the boundlessness of the wealth set out before him. It is obvious that the special work of such a period must be to select and combine, to analyse and construct. In this direction a work is possible now which in former days no power of mind could accomplish, because the materials were wanting. A subject of importance may be chosen, pursued through centuries and nations, every fact bearing on it noted, the experience of most dissimilar circumstances calculated; and the result may be to throw a new light on even the leading motives which governed such times and countries. The actors themselves and their contemporaries are usually unconscious of those very motives. “One must be outside the picture,” says an able historian, * “to know well its striking and characteristic points.” It is in such studies, perhaps, that the mind is most sensibly
affected by that wonderful mystery of Almighty power, the Providence which rules the free actions of men. Who has not gazed with admiration on a swarm of insects unconfusedly engaged, with ceaseless industry and unity of purpose, in the work of their hive? Who has not felt arrested at the spectacle of the Divine mind which planted this instinct within them, and reveals itself in such effects? But look now on the hive of men, where every one possesses not instinct, but the diviner gifts of memory, understanding, and will — where every one has an origin of action and choice in himself, which is essentially free, which he is ever exercising. And yet no less the whole hive conspire to a work beyond the thought and aim of the individual, beyond that of the mass — every one goes his own way, but all go together a way they wot not of, and man's free will works out God's intention. Gazing on such a scene, we realise the poet's thought, and admire with him
“La Provvidenza che governa il mondo
Creato è vinto pria che vada al fondo." Such is human history in its highest aspect ; a most wonderful and entrancing sight. In thus analysing, comparing, sorting, and combining facts, the philosophy of history has a great field open before it. If carried out faithfully and conscientiously, no science can be fraught with more im
Dante, Parad. xi. 28.