29th September 2010
A misunderstood liberal: Thomas B. Macaulay #2
Always an optimistic futurist, Macaulay worked towards the distant future when others of his generation still worked for today.
"I have nad the year 2000", he writes, "and even the year 3000, often in my mind" (cited in Andrew Browning, "Lord Macaulay, 1800-59", The Historical Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1959), p.149).
He was also acutely aware that a varieties of criticisms might be levelled against him (although in all fairness he could never have imagined that people would cook up passages claiming them to be his, and vilify them for what he NEVER SAID!).
"It will be no gross injustice to our grandchildren to talk of us with contempt because they have surpassed us. . . As we have our descendants to judge us, so ought we to judge our fathers. In order to form a correct estimate of their merits, we ought to place ourselves in their situation, to put out of our minds, for a time, all that knowledge which they, how ever eager in the pursuit of truth, could not have, and which we, however negligent we may have been, could not help having. …
"But it is too much that the benefactors of man kind, after having been reviled by the dunces of their own generation for going too far, should be reviled by the dunces of their own generation for going too far, should be reviled by the dunces of the next generation for not going far enough." (Macaulay: Critical and Historical Essays, III, p. 302, cited in William S. Knickerbocker "Suet with No Plums: Restoring Thomas Babington Macaulay", The Sewanee Review, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1939), pp. 242-252)
F.A. HAYEK ON MACAULAY
"[i]t is doubtful whether any historical work of our time has had a circulation or direct influence comparable with, say, Macaulay's History of England."
JIM POWELL ON MACAULAY
"Throughout his life, Macaulay expressed a sincere, exuberant, unwavering love for liberty. He called for the abolition of slavery, advocated repeal of laws against Jews, defended freedom of the press, spoke for free trade and the free movement of people, celebrated the achievements of free markets, and rejected government excuses for suspending civil liberties… Macaulay believed that women should be able to have property in their own name, and he insisted liberty is impossible without secure private property." (The Triumph of Liberty, p.261)
MACAULAY ON FREEDOM
"There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces; and that cure is freedom."
This is just an appetiser. I've downloaded a number of research articles (published in reputed journals) about Macaulay and his work, and over the coming days I'll provide more information on Macaulay.
And when I can finally verify and validate the comment attributed to him in one of his letters to his father, I'll investigate and assess what that means.
At all times, please feel free to send me ANY material you may have on Macaulay. In particular could anyone show me the original source where that alleged quote from one of his letters is published.
A compendium of some of his writings
The Liberty Fund has digitised and published many of his works: http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php&person=80