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STRENGTH OF NATIONS.
OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, M.A., AND OF LINCOLN'S INN,
SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL.
223. l, 28,
The causes of the strength and weakness of a nation, so far as our own country is concerned, and in contradistinction to its wealth and commercial prosperity, have for some time occupied my thoughts; and I have employed much time in investigating minutely the records of one portion of the history of England, with a view of pointing out the evils in our systems of government and taxation, which appear to me to have sown the seeds of future disasters. But it is only lately that the critical aspect of affairs in Europe induced me to open up the subject of “ The Strength of Nations,” in order to recal to my contemporaries the lessons of the past as warnings, in the hope that they may be used to correct present evils, and avert possible and perhaps imminent dangers.
The Strength of Nations is a subject equally vast in its extent and in its importance; involving as it does an elucidation of the causes of the decline and fall of the great empires of antiquity, and the diminution or decay of some kingdoms and states of modern times; and to do full justice to so comprehensive a theme, would require more time and space than are available to a writer having in view the application to the present crisis of principles and examples deduced from the facts of universal history,
This will account for, and I hope excuse, the limitation of the scope of this volume, and also the stress that is laid upon physical force and armaments as elements of national strength. It will, however, be seen that I have by no means omitted from the
argument those moral and intellectual forces, and that spirit of patriotism, which are to the material power of a nation what the soul is to the body.
Nations, like individuals, have their growing youth, their energetic manhood, their maturity and decline; and to what height of power and greatness they may rise, how early and rapid may be their descent from the culminating point of their strength and prosperity to decay and ruin, depends upon the soundness and vigour of their constitution, the amount of moral and spiritual forces they have exerted, and the extent to which these powers have been kept in healthy exercise by good government.
The examples I have selected are those nations whose history is best known to us, and whose fate affords the most instructive instances of the operation of causes analogous to those which tend to weaken the strength of Britain.
If it be too late to retrace the steps which our rulers have at various times taken in deviation from the right course, there is yet time to remedy in part the consequences of such errors, and to make up for the shortcomings which have led this country to the verge of a precipice, while the nation has been lulled into a dream of false security. And when the people of England are thoroughly aroused from their apathy to a sense of impending danger and neglected duties, the resolute determination of Englishmen will be shown in energetic action combined with an expression of the popular will, which no government will dare openly to disregard.