« ZurückWeiter »
the Greeks, because they have no hopes of political greatness to turn them away from it; just as, in the days of our Lord and His Apostles, the Samaritans were more accessible than the Jews, because they could entertain no dreams of national glory and supremacy.
Roman Catholics are fond of asserting that all non-Romanist communities necessarily and irremediably fall under the absolute control of the State. It cannot be denied, however, that vital Protestantism is gradually emancipating itself from all despotism of the civil power; and it is equally evident that, in the East, the ecclesiastical character is becoming more and more merged in the civil. Even the Turks have felt the instinct of Church control common to all Governments. One of the first things Mohammed II. did, after the conquest of Constantinople, was to bestow the patriarchate on Gennadios Scholarios, because he was a fanatical adversary of the Latins, to load him with honours, and give him extensive civil powers. Ever since, the Porte gives only a nominal congé d'élire to the Prelates who choose the Patriarch, and displaces him at will. The author of "Catholic Orthodoxy" comforts himself with the remembrance that it is still the Metropolitan of Heraclia, who always, as of old, presents the pastoral staff to the newly-elected Patriarch; but this consideration cannot be expected to make much impression upon us rationalists of the West. Turning from those dioceses of the Eastern Church where she is oppressed by the Crescent, to the vast regions where she is mistress, and may breathe freely, we meet "the reforms of Peter the Great;" that is to say, we meet a revolution which made the Czar a Chaliph. The arguments with which Ignotus tries to satisfy his readers on this subject, are unworthy of him. It is true the Czar defines no doctrines, and claims no infallibility; but what matters that, in a Church where doctrines are never defined, and infallibility is asleep? The peculiar immobility of the Greek Church makes the executive in it to be every thing. There is no abstract legislation; and as for those minor enactments which are intended to be executed at once, the Holy Synod is practically no more than any other consultative Council in the Empire. To say that Michael Romanoff (Room-enough?) became the representative of all the rights of the people, is just to express, in a smooth way, the very thing which is so monstrous, that one man should be made the Church; and it requires no sagacity to see that an absolute Prince, playing the summus Episcopus, will be much more vigilant, energetic, and encroaching, than the people would be in his place. Our own Tudors and Stuarts had similar pretensions, and they were no dead letter once: but arbitrary power necessarily disappeared from the religious sphere,
Stealthy Policy of Russia.
when it became impossible in the civil. In Russia, on the contrary, the two forms of despotism have grown up together, like grim twin giants keeping pace with each other. Ignotus pretends that Russia is but one great ecclesiastical province: are we, then, to believe that the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, with their Russian pensions and their palaces at Moscow, are really independent? They are retained as useful and obedient instruments, while the Patriarch of Moscow, who might have been a rival, has been taken out of the way.
The "Orthodox Christian's" protestations against the intervention of religion in political questions, come with bad grace from the subject of a power which professes to wage a holy war, and which is ready, on theocratic principles, to assist any of the Sovereigns of Europe against their people. There cannot be a more odious intermixture of religion and politics, than that which would justify the selfish aggressions of the only great European nation which still cherishes the lust of conquest over other civilized communities. Never did any other pretender to universal dominion move towards its object so stealthily, and with so little loss to itself hitherto. When the Turks were really dangerous, it was not the Muscovite who protected Europe: the Venetians spent their treasures, the Poles, the Hungarians, and the Germans, their blood, to repel the foe; and then, in the hour of Turkey's weakness, Russia stepped in to profit by the toils and victories of others. Never did any nation so speculate upon the passions of its neighbours, and the blindness of its rivals, timing its every movement, avoiding unprofitable wars, and then leaping forward with feline vigour and address, when the prey was within reach, incapable of resistance or escape. Her own son and historian, Karamsin, thus characterizes her policy: "Russia never makes war; she conquers. Always on the defensive, she never trusts those whose interests do not agree with her own; and, without violating treaties, she loses no occasion of injuring her enemies." Assuredly the ambitious purposes of such a nation as this are doomed: but war is a solemn thing; it is, in principle, a sort of execution upon an immense scale, and at the peril of the executioner; it is not to be undertaken with levity, and with a presumptuous confidence in our own resources. There is a lesson in the experiences of the tribes of Israel before Gibeah, which should commend itself to the prayerful consideration of every one who lifts up his heart to God in his country's righteous cause. (Judges xx. 26.) They suffered and failed once and again, until they undertook the war in the chastened spirit with which they should have begun it.
Amid the public and private calamities of a struggle which arms against each other one seventh of the human race, and one half of Christendom, there is one comfort: never was war
undertaken so unwillingly by all the parties engaged. Russia would not, for any thing, have committed herself as she did, had she not reckoned on the forbearance of the Western Powers. Never was war accompanied by a greater desire, on all sides, to secure public opinion. And, lastly, notwithstanding some disastrous exceptions, never was war carried on with greater respect for the persons and properties of non-combatants. We are not afraid to say, that the circumstances attending even this great and sanguinary conflict, mark some faint progress-a progress perceptible to the eye of faith-toward the time when the nations shall learn war no more. O that it were, what we dare not hope, the last chastisement of the last great national aggression!
ART. VI.-First Report of the Postmaster-General, on the PostOffice. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. London: Printed for Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1855.
UPWARDS of twenty-three centuries ago, a series of mounted couriers might be seen hastening at full speed along the road which led from the Grecian Hellespont to the royal town of Susa. For each day of the journey a fresh messenger was ready, who, having received the King's commands, started off, despite of heat by day and darkness by night, through all weathers, until the capital was reached. The last of their number found the citizens exulting over the anticipated capture of Athens, and the city decked with joyful garlands and sacrifices; but his message changed the scene into one of mourning for their countrymen, and anxiety for their Monarch. He told of the complete discomfiture of the Persian Expedition, and the total rout of Xerxes at the battle of Salamis. Such was the event to which we are indebted for the first historic mention of "the Post," which occurs in the romantic chapters of the "Father of History." Strange it seems to ourselves, who are so accustomed to its conveniences, and would suffer so keenly from their interruption, that the Republics of neither Greece nor Rome appointed any such means of communication at home or abroad. No established post, arriving at stated intervals, acquainted Atticus with the news of Rome, or with his friend Cicero's views on existing politics; and the letters of the great orator to his intimate friends, which schoolboys suppose to have descended for their peculiar annoyance, were either carried by the hand of an especial messenger, or, more generally, voured" by a friend. Despotism called "the Post" again into existence; and we find it mentioned in the Code of Theodosius;
First public Conveyance of Letters.
whilst the vast extent of Charlemagne's Empire required, and is said to have enjoyed, its aid.
So short is the ancient history of a service of which the benefits are now so universally experienced. Even when it existed at all, it was rather a public horse-post for messages than a conveyance for letters; so that, in our acceptation of the term, the Post-Office is a modern invention. As no department of the public service brings its advantages more immediately before all classes of society, we propose, with the aid of the small Blue-Book before us, to give a rapid sketch of its past history, and an account of its present condition and working.
The first public conveyers of letters in England were the common carriers, who began to ply regularly with pack-horses about the time of the Wars of the Roses. So early, indeed, as the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries, we find "Haste, Poste, Haste," on the backs of private letters; and in 1548 the charge for post-horses was fixed by statute at a penny a mile. The first establishment of a Letter Post by Government was in the reign of James I., who set on foot a Post-Office for letters to foreign countries, "for the benefit of the English merchants." It would seem that foreigners resident in this country had been in the habit of appointing their own Postmaster; and the English accused them of detaining their letters, and so getting an unfair advantage of the markets.
The age of the Stuarts was rich in monopolies, and the sale of offices; and we accordingly find Charles I. assigning the office of Postmaster of Foreign Posts in reversion, and strictly enjoining "that none but his then Foreign Postmasters do hereafter presume to exercise any part of that office." The route between London and Paris was fixed in 1636, by convention between Charles I. and Louis XIII., by way of Dover and Calais, and thence through Boulogne, Abbeville, and Amiens. In the same reign, the first post for inland letters was established.
"The King issued a Proclamation, in which he recites that up to that time there had been no certain communication between England and Scotland: wherefore he now commands his Postmaster of England for foreign parts to settle a running post or two, to run night and day between Edinborough and London, to go thither and come back again in six days, and to take with them all such letters as shall be directed to any post-town in or near that road."
It is at the same time ordered, that bye-posts shall be connected with many places on the main line, to bring in and carry out the letters to and from Lincoln, Hull, and other towns. similar post to Chester and Holyhead, and another to Exeter
and Plymouth, are to be established; and it is promised that, as soon as possible, the like conveyance shall be organized for the Oxford and Bristol road, and also for that leading through Colchester to Norwich. The rates of postage are fixed at twopence the single letter for any distance under eighty miles; fourpence up to a hundred and forty miles; sixpence for any longer distance in England; and eightpence to any place in Scotland. By a subsequent Proclamation of 1637, it is ordered that no other messengers, nor foot-posts, shall carry any letters, but those alone which shall be employed by the King's Postmaster-General, unless to places to which the King's Posts do not go, and with the exception of common known carriers, or messengers particularly sent on purpose, or persons carrying a letter for a friend. (Pp. 9, 10.)
From this time, the Post-Office may be considered to have become one of the settled institutions of the country.
Of course the patriots loudly condemned the exclusive privilege of carrying letters assigned to the Post-Office; and we may, without much lack of charity, believe that its establishment was as much due to the expectation of a profitable revenue, as to any keen regard for the public accommodation.
Under the Commonwealth, however, men and master had changed places, and its former opponents not only confirmed the postal monopoly, when subject to the Commons, but promptly put a stop to all attempts at its infringement. Cromwell keenly appreciated the advantages of being made acquainted with what was going on in all parts of the kingdom, and assigned as a motive for a more general system of Posts, "that they will be the best means to discover and prevent many dangerous and wicked designs against the Commonwealth." At the Restoration this enlargement was confirmed; and the statute, 12 Car. II., c. 35, being the first strictly legal authority for the establishment of the Post-Office, has been called its "Charter." Great was the opposition and loud the clamour against William Dockwra, who set up a Penny Post for the conveyance of letters and small parcels about London and its suburbs in 1683. It was alleged that the scheme had been planned by the Jesuits, and that the bags were filled with Popish plots. Despite this calumny, Dockwra persevered, until his success excited the envy of the Government. This was the commencement of the London District Post, of which Dockwra was subsequently appointed Comptroller, and which, until last year, (1854,) existed as a separate department of the General Post-Office. No wonder that constant complaints were made against the monopoly enjoyed by the Post-Office, and that, despite all the royal proclamations in its favour, its violation was of constant occurrence, when we learn the way in which the service was performed :