Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
By Edward Augustus Freeman (18231892)
From Historical Essays
NATIONAL prosperity, it must be remembered, is of two kinds, which may go together or may not. A state may be great in the sense of being powerful, great in extent and population; its counsels may be listened to in peace, and its armies may be dreaded in war. It may be placed beyond all fear of being conquered itself, and it may have the means of conquering other states, if it chooses to use them. On the other hand, there may be a state whose physical extent and power could not successfully resist some of its neighbours, whose voice is never heard in diplomacy except with regard to its own affairs, and yet which may be thoroughly free, well governed, and materially prosperous within its own borders. It may well be better off in all these things than many of the powers which in physical strength far surpass it. Of course either kind of prosperity is more likely to be permanent when it is backed up by the other. The external power of a state cannot last if it is thoroughly ill governed and discontented at home. On the other hand, there is always a fear that the internal prosperity and good government of the small state may be put an end to by its conquest by some greater state.
Now we Englishmen are apt to fancy, and there is a germ of truth in the fancy, that we have the advantage over all other nations in the union of various forms of what the prayer-book calls health and wealth. Internal freedom, external importance, material prosperity, are three excellent things. Other nations have one or two of them separately. Frenchmen, notwithstanding that they live under a despotism,1 contrive to get rich at home and to make a noise all over the world. Dutchmen, Belgians, Swiss, are free and happy in their own fashion at home, but nobody cares about them as European powers. Even Russia, however lacking in the other points, is at least very big and is not to be meddled with without due forethought. As for Spain, Greece, and the dominions of the Turk, they are supposed to lack everything at home and abroad. We, on the other hand, are supposed to unite all advantages. We are as great as the great powers, as free and happy as the small ones. If we are all this, and if the Blessed Reformation has made us all this, then the Blessed Reformation is very blessed indeed, and is the cause of much blessedness. It is Beatrix as well as Beata.