Page:Machiavelli, Romanes Lecture, 2 June 1897.djvu/49

This page has been validated.

portant aspects of national policy its reaction upon the character of the nation itself, and can States enter on courses of duplicity and selfish violence, without paying the penalty in national demoralisation? What are we to think of such sayings as d'Alembert's motto for a virtuous man, 'I prefer my family to myself, my country to my family, and humanity to my country'? Is this the true order? To Machiavelli all these questions would have been futile. Yet the world, in spite of a thousand mischances, and at tortoise-pace, has steadily moved away from him and his Romans.

The modern conception of a State has long made it a moral person, capable of right and wrong, just as are the individuals composing it. Civilisation is taken to advance, exactly in proportion as communities leave behind them the violences of external nature, and of man in a state of war. The usages of war are constantly undergoing mitigation. Diplomacy, though it is said even now not to be wholly purged of lying, fraud, and duplicity, still is conscious of having a character to keep up for truth and plain dealing, so far as circumstances allow. Such conferences, again, as those at Berlin and Brussels in our own day, imperfectly as they have worked, mark the recognition of duty towards inferior races. All these improvements in the character of nations were in the minds of the best men in Machiavelli's day. Reason of State has always been a plea for impeding and resisting them. Las Casas and other churchmen, Machiavelli's contemporaries, fought nobly at the