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apostolic zeal for their propaganda. They came from all classes. Collins and Tindal were men of the people, always in touch with their readers and using their language. The works of Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke appealed to a more cultured audience. The arguments of the Deists to-day seem Aimsy enough, they were in truth finally disposed of in the terms of the controversy by Bishop Butler, but in spite of their inadequacy, in spite of their ultimate defeat, they kept alive in their day a spirit that is infinitely precious. They stood for liberty and the rights of the mind, for the intelligibility of opinions, for the conscientious use of those great words which the well-paid defenders of the Anglican Zion were only too ready to degrade to the controversial necessities of their official position. Voltaire with his amazing flair for the actual detected the spiritual quality of these men and was rewarded by the privilege of its absorption as far as was possible to his mobile, mercurial, so essentially different nature. This is why, however much there may be to criticise in him both as a man and a writer, he remains for ever so important a figure among those who have won for us the liberty of the mind. Under his most prejudiced diatribes, and he is at times the most unfair disputant imaginable, under the veil of fanciful petulance that so often disfigures his pages, a critic worth his ink can always perceive the passion for mental clarity, for the righteousness of the spirit. The effect of the 'Lettres Anglaises 'was immediate in France. Public opinion, prepared by the Protestant refugees and by Prévost, was carried off its feet. The next ten years assured the success of English ideas in France.
That success was so great and lasting that it is not too much to say that the French owed to England the great change that produced itself in their literature and their ideas during the second half of the eighteenth century. In large measure that change was due to the respect for the experimental sciences which commerce with English ideas had introduced. Since the seventeenth century, England had been the home of the experimental sciences. The name of Bacon symbolised all the aspirations born of the spirit of observation of natureall those aspirations so magnificently realised by Newton. It is not surprising that the man who maintained that discoveries
should be sought in the light of nature rather than in the darkness of antiquity' should have been described by
D'Alembert in the preliminary discourse to the Encyclopædia as 'the greatest, the most universal, and the most eloquent of philosophers.' What Bacon aspired to, Newton realised. As Voltaire with flippant wit remarked, the heavens declared the glory of the Author of the ‘Principia ' and the ‘Laws of Optics.' English science, widening every day its scope, produced on the contemporaries of Voltaire the effect of the greatest renovation of the human spirit since antiquity. The experimental method—the method of Bacon—triumphed over the abstract ideas of Descartes. As early as 1732 Le Clerc wrote:
Je crois que le monde commence à revenir de cet air décisif que Descartes avait introduit en débitant des conjectures pour des démonstrations, et on ne voit pas un habile homme qui soit autant systématique, pour ainsi dire, qu'il était. Les Anglais surtout sont ceux qui en sont les plus éloignés.'
The moral and social ideals akin to the scientific spirit developed pari passu with its development both in England and in France. Thirty years later, in 1763, Voltaire could write to Helvetius :
Nous avons pris des Anglais, les annuités, les rentes tournantes, les fonds d'arrondissement, la construction et la mancuvre des vaisseaux, l'attraction, le calcul différentiel, les sept couleurs primitives, l'inoculation. Nous prendrons insensiblement leur noble liberté de penser, et leur profond mépris pour les fadaises de l'école.'
That England happened to be at war with France from time to time did not affect the deeper entente that was not of the flesh but of the spirit. Their governments might fight, but the two nations, pioneers of progress of every description, walked arm in arm, like the great Twins who protected of old the civilisation of Rome. Certainly whatever we may say about the discoveries of Newton, this union of mind between France and England has been the most significant phenomenon of the modern world. No doubt both countries have at times faltered in the path of progress. A stupid king and incompetent ministers lost a large part of a continent to English rule. Nor in more recent days have our little wars always been waged on philosophical principles. The French know better than we do their own errors and the explanation of them. It is not given to nations any more than to men to be always consistent. But the spirit of liberty has always been with us both-more honoured in theory perhaps in Republican France, and in practice in monarchical Englandbut inevitably presenting itself to both nations as the authentic mainspring of their political and social activities.
To-day, when French and English soldiers fight side by side in the mightiest struggle for liberty that the world has ever seen, it has perhaps not been inopportune to recall, briefly and inadequately as we have been able to do it, an important stage in the formation of that fund of sentiment which is common to both nations. It would be idle as well as hopelessly pedantic to attempt to estimate the precise indebtedness of one nation to the other. French was the lingua franca of the Europe of the eighteenth century, and of that century Voltaire was the prophet. Without the aid of that illustrious and indefatigable colporteur English ideas would hardly have reached, would certainly not have conquered, in so short a time the European mind. The alliance of France with England, initiated after the close of the Middle Ages and their tiresome dynastic disputes by the most farsighted of British sovereigns to which we drew our readers' attention in the opening pages of this essay, was purely political and military in scope.
It reflected no common ideal of life, no common principle of growth. Yet, purely the work of statesmen as it was, it saved the principle of small nationalities and broke the power of Spain. Since those faroff days Frenchmen and Englishmen have come to know each other, and are fighting with conscious agreement of purpose on those battlefields of Flanders on which the blood of their forbears has so often mingled. The spirit which the French Encyclopædists and the great Englishmen of the eighteenth century fought so successfully in the battles of the mind, the spirit of intolerance, injustice and cruelty, of the lust of power, of the contempt of the rights of the human soul, has returned and challenges in every sphere those victories that were so perseveringly and gradually won, it seemed for And indeed they have been won for ever.
It is to prove this to the world definitely, finally, that England and her Allies are fighting their common foe.
FOOD PRICES: A WARNING
SINCE the war began the country has passed through
various economic phases, each of which while it lasted seemed to be extremely serious. At the outbreak of war there was for a brief period a dislocation of employment, and the Press and the Government shared the idea that there was grave danger of general unemployment and poverty. Funds were hastily raised to provide relief, and the local authorities were urged by the Government to take steps to grapple with the problem. Within twelve months an entirely new problem had revealed itself. The demand for labour had outstripped the supply; the wage-earning classes were enjoying a condition of unprecedented prosperity, and their increased consumption was adding very seriously to the difficulty of financing our imports from abroad, and to the difficulty of financing the war. The most urgent problem in the autumn and winter of 1915 was how to diminish consumption. Thrift lectures were organised all over the country; taxation was somewhat increased ; and steps were taken to check the import of certain classes of goods. How serious the matter seemed at the end of 1915 can be gathered from the manifesto drawn up by the principal bankers of Great Britain. It is worth while to quote a few passages from this important document, which was published in the newspapers of December 23rd, 1915 :
At this time of great national danger it is imperative that every citizen should realise the vastness of the work which Great Britain has to perform, and should so act that the full strength of the nation may be put forth. ..
The task of finding the greater part of the immense sums needed by the Allies is the special duty of the British people, for they in particular possess the necessary financial resources.
'No one can realise the vastness of the task before the nation without becoming keenly conscious that it demands the strenuous co-operation of every man and woman, youth and maiden in the country; that the nation's energies must be completely concencrated upon the production of really essential things ; and that the production of all non-essentials must be wholly stopped. Moreover, not only must the nation avoid the consumption of all nonessentials, but must even restrict the consumption of essentials to the limits of efficiency.'
The whole of the above argument is as true as when it was written more than a year ago; but during the past three months the newspaper press and the House of Commons have been mainly discussing, not the need for economy in consumption, but the duty of the Government to provide cheap food for the nation. The importance of the food problem can hardly be exaggerated ; but there is at least a danger that the new ministry may be harried by a popular outcry into taking measures which will intensify the trouble and may even provoke grave national disaster. It is significant that Mr. Walter Runciman, one of the most level-headed members of the late Cabinet, found himself compelled by political pressure to adopt measures which were in direct conflict with the sound economic principles which he had previously laid down. He unfortunately reversed the order of action which, apparently, must be followed by any man called upon to serve an impatient democracy. In a country governed by platform orators and halfpenny newspapers a minister is in a stronger position for doing what he knows to be right if he first lays himself out to win the applause of the people by saying what he knows to be wrong. Populus vult decipi—but let it be deceived for its own good.
The food problem is likely to be with us for many months to come—unless, perchance, the much more serious food problem in Germany should compel an early peace. Except on that hypothesis there is no reason to expect that staple foods will become cheaper: they may become very much dearer. It is therefore worth while to consider what are the main principles involved in a problem which has suddenly been presented to a people long accustomed to low prices for all the staple articles of consumption.
The idea that the high prices of food-stuffs are due to the malevolent machinations of persons called profiteers need not be seriously discussed. This silly platform cry has just one element of truth behind it: that every person who earns a living by dealing in food-stuffs naturally tries to secure as wide a margin as possible between the price at which he buys and the price at which he sells. This is as true of the coster who sells vegetables from a barrow as it is of the Chicago speculator who deals in wheat by the shipload. The coster's percentage of profit is, as it happens, necessarily larger than that of the Chicago wheat-king. If the coster is to earn enough to live upon he must make fifty or a hundred per cent. profit on the