ALTHOUGH at the turn of the century Bright, in the full vigour of early middle-age, had become a shining figure in the nation, his noblest speeches were yet unborn and his finest work still to do. In the great campaign for Free Trade he spoke continuously, ardently, with ingenuity, force and freedom; but the conditions of that busy, hurried survey of three kingdoms and his sense of the urgency of a single question made for argumentative agility rather than for philosophic weight. The year 1850 marked the beginning of the harvest he had tilled in long brooding over the moral philosophy of politics, the possibility of the democratic government of a State on the basis of Christian ethics, the question of peace and war, the foundations of human freedom, the relation of nationality to political morality, the conditions of citizenship, the limits of toleration.
Bright never made a successful Minister. One chief reason why has been suggested--that he had no genius for detail and no industry in routine. There are, however, conspicuous examples of politicians, more impatient of detail and less tolerant of routine than he, who have succeeded in the highest offices of State. The likelier reason, as it will probably seem to readers of his Diaries, is that he referred every question of policy or of political conduct to first principles. "He is to be feared who fears the gods." To Bright more than to most mortals, Conscience was a god whom in the last resort he could not disobey. A conscience trained in the quiet of the Quaker spirit and nourished by the Inner Light was a greater force than ambition, fame, popularity or applause. It guided his conduct in fair weather and foul. To it he referred the decision of every crisis of his life. It gave him his authority with his fellow-countrymen and his importance in Parliament. To it he owed the singular impressiveness, the truly heroic magnitude, which he attained in the fierce contest with Palmerston and all that