Page:Machiavelli, Romanes Lecture, 2 June 1897.djvu/15

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dish, and the Italian's pregnant thinking has no serious place in an author whose performances are little more than splendid beating of the wind. Hume had evidently read the Discourses, the Prince, and the History of Florence with attention, and with his usual faculty for hitting the nail on the head, he avows a suspicion that the world is still too young to fix many general truths in politics. We have not as yet had experience of 3000 years. We do not know of what great changes human nature may show itself susceptible, nor what great revolutions may come about in men's customs and principles.11

It would take a long chapter to draw a full comparison between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, who was undoubtedly set by him on some trains of thinking both in his short book on the Romans, and his more memorable book on Laws. It may be too much to say, as some critics have said, that all the great modern ideas have their beginning in Montesquieu. But this is at least true among other marked claims that might be made for him, that in spite of much looseness of definition and a thousand imperfections in detail, he launched effectually on European thought the conception of social phenomena as being no less subject to general laws than all other phenomena. Of a fundamental extension of this kind, Machiavelli was in every way incapable, nor did the state of any of the sciences at that date permit it. As for secondary differences it is enough to say that Machiavelli put the level of human character low,