« PreviousContinue »
a!i possible palliations for the conduct of the individual delinquent, and never attempts to shut him out from the benefit of those natural sympathies of which the bad as well as the good are occasionally the objects, from their fortune or situation. He has given a new character, we think, to history, by this soft and condescending concern for the feelings of individuals; and not only left a splendid record of the gentleness and affectionate simplicity of his own dispositions, but set an example by which we hope that men of genius may be taught hereafter to render their instructions more engaging and impressive. Nothing, we are persuaded, can be more gratifying to his friends, than the impression of his character which this work will carry down to posterity; nor is it a matter of indifference to the country, that its most illustrious statesman should be yet more distinguished for the amiableness of his private affections.
This softness of feeling is the first remarkable thing in the work before us. The second is perhaps of more general importance. It is. that it contains the only appeal to the old principles of English constitutional freedom, and the only expression of those firm and temperate sentiments of independence, which are the peculiar produce, and natural protection of our mixed government, which we recollect to have met with for very many years. The tone of the work, in this respect, recalls us to feelings which seem of late to have slumbered in the country which they used to inspire. In our indolent reliance upon the imperishable virtue of our constitution, and in our busy pursuit of wealth, we appeared to be forgetting our higher vocation of free citizens ; and, in our dread of revolution or foreign invasion, to have lost sight of those intestine dangers to which our liberties are always more immediately exposed. The history of the Revolution of" 1688, and of the times immediately preceding, was eminently calculated to revive those feelings, and restore those impressions, which so many causes had in our days conspired to obliterate; and, in the hands of Mr. Fox, could scarcely have failed to produce a very powerful effect. On this account, it must be matter of the deepest regret that he was not permitted to finish, or indeed to do more than begin, that inspiring narrative. Even in the little which he has i done, however, we discover the spirit of the master: Even in the broken prelude which he has here sounded, the true notes are struck with such force and distinctness, and are in themselves so much in unison with the natural chords of every British heart, that we think no slight vibration will be excited throughout the country; and would willingly lend our assistance to propagate it into every part of the empire. In order to explain more fully the reasons for which we set so high a value upon the work before us on this particular account, we must be allowed to enlarge a little upon the evil which we think it calculated to correct.
We do not think the present generation of our countrymen substantially degenerated
from their ancestors in the days of the Révolu tion. In the same circumstances, we are persuaded, they would have acted with the вате spirit ;—nay, in consequence of the more general diffusion of education and intelligence, we believe they would have been still more zealous and more unanimous in the I cause of liberty. But we have of late beec exposed to the operation of various cautts. which have tended to lull our vigilance, ami relax our exertions; and which threaten, unless powerfully counteracted, to bru::: t;:. gradually, such a general indifference va forgetfulness of the interests of freedom, as ¡o prepare the people for any tolerably mil form of servitude which their future rukn may be tempted to impose upon them.
The first, and the principal of these can--.? however paradoxical it may seem, is the actual excellence of our laws, and the sup¡> -• . inviolability of the constitution. The second is, the great increase of luxury, and the tremendous patronage of the government. Tllast is, the impression made and maintained by the events of the French Revolution. \\shall say but a word upon each of these prolific themes of speculation.
Because our ancestors stipulated wisely v the public at the Revolution, it seemed !. have become a common opinion, that nothing was left to their posterity but to puisue thej private interest. The machine of Government was then completed and set agoinçand it will go on without their interfere:.'.Nobody talks now of the divine right, or tk dispensing power of kings, or ventures to j r,pose to govern without Parliament*, ur !.• levy taxes without their authority ;—therefore, our liberties are secure;—and itisonli factious or ambitious people that affect Щ jealousy of the executive. Things go on Terj smoothly as they are; and it can never Ы the interest of any party in power, to attempt any thing very oppressive or injurious to tb public. By such reasonings, men excuse th-' abandonment of all concern for the commenity, and find, in the very excellence of the constitution, an apology for exposing it to abruption. It is obvious, however, that ЬЫп like love, is as hard to keep as to win; аьthat the exertions by which it was oni.ru s. gained will be worse than fruitless, if mev te not followed up by the assiduities by wLt: alone it can be preserved. Wherever there is power, we may be sure that there is, or will be, a disposition to increase it; and il there be not a constant spirit of jealousy and of resistance on the part of the people, every monarchy will gradually harden into a tit1*potism. It will not, indeed, wantonly pnm>»e or alarm, by seeking again to occupy thu^ very positions from which it had once I*--dislodged: but it \yill extend itself in other quarters, and march on silently, under the colours of a venal popularity.
This indolent reliance on the sufficiency o: the constitution for its own preservation, aifords great facilities, no doubt, to those who may be tempted to project its destruction but the efficient means are to be found chiefl) m the prevailing manners of the people, and the monstrous patronage of the government. It ran admit of no doubt, we suppose, that trrUe, which has made us rich, has made us still more luxurious: and that the increased necessity of expense, has in general outgone the means of supplying it. Almost every individual now finds it more difficult to live on a level with his equals, than he did when all were poorer; almost every man, therefore, is needy; and he who is both needy and luxurious, holds his independence on a very precarious tenure. Government, on the other hand, has the disposal of nearly twenty millions per annum, and the power of nominating to two or three hundred thousand posts or placee of emolument ;—the whole population of the country amounting (1808) to less than five millions of grown men. The consequence is. that beyond the rank of mere labourers, there is scarcely one man out of three who does not hold or hope for some appointment or promotion from government, and is not consequently disposed to go all honest lengths in recommending himself to its favour. This, it must be admitted, is a situation which justifies some alarm for the liberties of the people: and, when taken together with that general indifference to the public which has been already noticed¡ accounts sufficiently for that habit of presuming in favour of all exertioos of authority, and against all popular discontent or interference, which is so remarkably the characteristic of the present generation. From this passive desertion of the people, it is but one step to abet and defend the actual oppressions of their rulers; »nd men, otherwise conscientious, we are afraid, too often impose upon themselves by no better reasonings than the following— "This measure, to be sure, is bad, and somewhat tyrannical ;—but men are not angels;— all human government is imperfect; and, on the whole, ours is much too good to be quarrelled with. Besides, what good purpose conld be answered by my individual opposition1! I might ruin my own fortune, indeed, and blast the prospects of my children; but it would be too romantic to imagine, that the fear of ray displeasure would produce an immaculate administration—so I will hold my tongue, and shift for myself as well as possible." When the majority of those who have influence in the country reason in this manner, it surely cannot be unnecessary to remind us, now and then, of the great things that were done when the people roused themselves sgiinft their oppressors.
In aid of these actual temptations of interest and indolence, come certain speculative doctrines, as to the real value of liberty, and the illusions by which men are carried away who fancy themselves acting on the principle °f patriotism. Private happiness, it is dis"overed. has but little dependence on the ¡atnre of the government. The oppressions '') monarch» and demagogues are nearly equal in di-eree. though a little different in form; »•id the only thing certain is, that in flying from the one we shall fall into the other, and ,
suffer tremendously in the period of transition. If ambition and great activity therefore be not necessary to our happiness, we shall do wisely to occupy ourselves with the many innocent and pleasant pursuits that are allowed under all governments; instead of spreading tumult and discontent, by endeavouring to realize some political conceit of our own imagination. Mr. Hume, we are afraid, is chiefly responsible for the prevalence of this Epicurean and ignoble strain of sentiment in this country,— an author from whose dispositions and understanding, a very different doctrine might have been anticipated.* But, under whatever authority it is maintained, we have no scruple in saying, that it seems to us as obviously false as it is pernicious. We need not appeal to Turkey or to Russia to prove, that neither liberal nor even gainful pursuits can be carried on with advantage, where there is no political freedom: For, even laying out of view the utter impossibility of securing the persons and properties of individuals in any other way, it is certain that the consciousness of independence is a great enjoyment in itself. and that, without it, all the powers of the mind, and all the capacities of happiness, are gradually blunted and destroyed. It is like the privation of air and exercise, or the emasculation of the body;—which, though they may appear at first to conduce to tranquillity and indolent enjoyment, never fail to enfeeble the whole frame, and to produce a state of oppressive languor and debility, in comparison with which even wounds and fatigue would be delicious.
To counteract all these enervating and depressing causes, we had, no doubt, the increasing opulence of the lower and middling orders of the people, naturally leading them to aspire to greater independence, and improving their education and general intelligence. And thus, public opinion, which is in all countries the great operating check upon authority, had become more extensive and more enlightened; and might perhaps have been found a suffi
'Few things seem more unaccountable, and indeed absurd, than that Hume should have taken part with high-church and high-monarchy men. The persecutions which he suffered in his youth from the Presbyterians, may perhaps have influenced his ecclesiastical partialities. But that he should have sided with the Tudors and the Stuarts against the people, seems quite inconsistent with all the great traits of his character. His unrivalled sagacity must have looked with contempt on the preposterous arguments by which the ja» divinum was maintained. Hie natural benevolence must have suggested the cruelty of subjecting the enjoyments of thousands to the caprice of one unfeeling individual; and his own practical independence in private life, might have taught him the value of those feelings which he has so mischievously derided. Mr. Foi seems to have been struck with the same surprise at this strange trait in the character of our philosopher. In a letter to Mr. baing, he says, " He was an excellent man, and of great powers of mind; but his partiality to kings and princes is intolerable: nay, it is, in my opinion, quite ridiculous; and is more like the foolish admiration which women and children sometimes have for kines, than the opinion right or wrong, of a philosopher."
cieut corrective of all our other corruptions, had things gone on around us in their usual and accustomed channels. Unfortunately, however, the French Revolution came? to astonish and appal the world; and, originating with the people, not only subverted thrones and establishments, but made such havoc on the lives and properties and principles of individuals, as very naturally to excite the horror and alarm of all whose condition was not already intolerable. This alarm, in so far as it related to this country, was always excessive, and in a great degree unreasonable: But it was impossible perhaps altogether to escape it; and the consequences have been incalculably injurious to the interests of practical liberty. During the raging of that war which Jacobinism in its most disgusting form carried on against rank and royalty, it was natural for those who apprehended the possibility of a similar conflict at home, to fortify those orders with all that reason and even prejudice could supply for their security, and to lay aside for the time those jealousies and Hereditary grudges, upon which, in better days, it was their duty to engage in contention. While a raging fever of liberty was epidemic in the neighbourhood, the ordinary diet of the people appeared too inflammatory for their constitution; and it was thought advisable to abstain from articles, which, at all other times, were allowed to be necessary for their health and vigour. Thus, a sort of tacit convention was entered into,—to say nothing, for a while, of the follies and vices of princes, the tyranny of courts, or the rights of the people. The Revolution of 1688, it was agreed, could not be mentioned with praise, without giving some indirect encouragement to the Revolution of 1789; and it was thought as well to say nothing in favour of Hampden, or Russell, or Sydney, for fear it might give spirits to Robespierre. Danton, or Marat. To this strict regimen the greater part of the nation submitted of their own accord ; and it was forced upon the remainder by a pretty vigorous system of proceeding. Now, we do not preatly blame cither the alarm, or the precautions which it dictated; but we do very seriously lament, that the use of those precautions should have degenerated into a sort of national habit; and should be continued and approved of so very long after the danger which occasioned them has ceased.
It is now at least ten years since Jacobinism was prostrated at Paris; and it is still longer since it ceased to be regarded with any thing but horror in this country. Yet the favourers of power would still take advantage of its name to shield authority from question: and to throw obloquy on the rishts and services of the people. The power of habit has come unfortunately to their aid; and it is still unfashionable, and, we are afraid, not verypopular, to talk of the tyranny of the Stuarts, and the triumph of the Revolution, in the lone which was universal and established within these last twenty years. For our parts, however, we see no sort of reason for this change; and we hail, with pleasure, this work
of Mr. Fox's, as likely to pat an end tot system of timidity so apt to graduate into servility; and to familiarize his countrymea once more to speak and to think of Charles, of James, and of StrarTord, — and of William, and Russell, and Sydney, — as it becomes Englishmen to speak and to think ol ¿ud characters. To talk with affected tenderme of oppressors, may suit the policy of those who wish to bespeak the clemency of ¿:, Imperial Conqueror; but must appear peculiarly base and inconsistent in all who i¡ro¡- -¿ an anxiety to rouse the people to great eiertions in me cause of their independence.
The volume itself, which has given occa-icc to these reflections, and from which we hat-.' withheld our readers too loug, consists oí ¿ preface or general introduction from the pea of Lord Holland; an introductory chapter, comprising a review of the leading events, from the year 1640 to the death of Charle» II.; two chapters of the history of the гг.т. of James, which include no more thaa leven months of the year 1685, and narrate тегу little but the unfortunate expeditions of Argyle and of Monmouth; arid a prettj k:; Appendix, consisting chiefly of the correspondence between Barillon, the French coi lii Initial minister at the court of England, and his master Louis XIV.
Lord Holland's part of the volume is written with great judgment, perspicuity, and propriety; and though it contains less anecdote and minute information with regard to Ы« illustrious kinsman than every reader muí! wish to possess, it not only gives а тегу K¡:.factory account of the progress of the wu.k to which it is prefixed, but affords us soiaglimpses of the character and opinion« of it« author, which are peculiarly interesting, both from the authenticity of the source from w ¡m they are derived, and from the unostentatious simplicity wilh which they are communierai' Lord Holland has not been able to asmis .:: at what period Mr. Fox first formed the i'" sign of writing a history; but, from the year 1797, when he ceased to give a regular atterJanee in parliament, he was almost eiiti.rr } occupied with literary schemes and avortions. The following little sketch of the !• п.per and employments of him who was j) :t¡r.. by many as a disappointed politician, is <.'.\tremely amiable; and, we are now conviuo\J by the fragment before us, correctly true.
"During his retirement, that love of l nnd fondness for poetry, which neither pleasure f> г business had ever extinguished, revived with ai ardour, such ¡is few, in the eagerness of youth ' r in pursuit of fame or advantage, are с»р«Ы« « feeling. For some time, however, his stud»«»'TM not directed to any particular object. Puch ws.1'1' happy disposition of his mind, that his own rffVlions, whether supplied by conversation. dfsulMv reading, or the common occurrences of a lifc i" "'•'' ciiuntry, were always sufficient to call forh 'be vieour and exertion of his faculties. Inifrcoutv' «iih the world had so liltle deadened in him ibe sense of the simplest enjoyments, that even hi 'hi hours of apparent leisure and inactivity, he гли"1'' ihnt keen relish of existence, which, utter the firimpressions uf life, is so rarely excited but by?'''1 interest* and strong passions. Hence it *•» U'J"
in the intcnral between his active attendance in pa lament, and the undertaking of his History, h never felt the tedium of a vacant day. A verse Cowper, which he frequently repeated,
•How T.mou« hi» employments whom tbe world
was an accurate description of the life he was the leading; and I am persuaded, that if he had con «ultcd his own gratifications only, it would hav continued to be eo. Tha circumstances which le him once more to take an active part in public dis eussions, »re foreign to the purposes of this preface It is iufficient to remark, that they could not b foreseen, and that his notion of engaging in som liierary undertaking was adopted during his retire mem, and with the prospect of long and uninter rjpted leisure before him/1—p. in iv.
He seems to have fixed finally on the history of the Revolution, about the year 1799 but even after the work was begun, he no only dedicated large portions of hie time to the study of Greek literature, and poetry и general, but meditated and announced to" his correspondents a great variety of publications upon a very wide range of subjects. Among lhe«j were, an edition of Dryden—a Defence of Racine and of the French Stage—an Essay on the Beauties of Euripides—a Disquisition upon Hume's History—and an Essay or Dia. 1огие on Poetry, History, and Oratory. In 1802, the greater part of the work, as it now «amis, was finished; but the author wished to consult the papers in the Scotch College, a:iil the Depot des Affaires étrangères at Paris and took the opportunity of the peace to pay a visit to that capital accordingly. After his return, he made some additions to his chapters; but being soon after recalled to the duties of public life, he never afterwards found leisure to go on with the work to which h.- liad dedicated himself with so much zeal ;-:iJ assiduity. What he did write was finished, however, for the most part, with very great ••are He wrote very slow: arid was extremely fastidious iu the choice of his expressions; h./.Jina pedantry and affectation, however, in '-ч LTeater horror than carelessness or rough;i*». He commonly wrote detached sentences o-v-ups of paper, and afterwards dictated them "Л to Mrs. Fox, who copied them into the book from which the present volume has been printed without the alteration of a single syllable.
The only other part of Lord Holland's statement, to which we think it necessary to call the attention of the reader, is that m which u-; thinks it necessary to explain the peculiar notions which Mr. Fox entertained on the mbjpct of historical composition, and the very rr/.d laws to which he had subjected himsel'f •- the execution of his important task.
"It » therefore necessary to observe, that ho hnd
'tmd his plan so exclusively on the model of an
Cfnt writers, that he not only felt pome repugnance
'" the modern practice of notes, but he thought that
'»hich an historian wished to say. should be infodured as part of a continued narration, and never wwme the appearance of a digression, much less ",' > wwertation annexed to it. From the period, '=-jl Te. lhat he closed his Introductory Chapter, M dfhned his duty as an author, to consist in rc«•im-me Oie facie as they arose; or in his simple Ю4 forc-Me language, m teUiag the itory of thou
lima. A conversation which passed on the subject of the literature of the age of James the Second, proves his rigid adherence to these ideas; and perhaps the substance of ii may si-rve to illustrate and explain them. In speaking of the writers of that period, he lamented that he had not devised a method of interweaving any account of them or their works, much less any criticism on their siyle, into his history. On my suggesting the example of Hume and Voltaire, who had discussed such topics at some length, either at the end of each reign, or in a separate chapter, he observed, with much commendation of their execution of it, that such a contrivance might be a good mode of writing critical essays, but that it was, in his opinion, incompatible with the nature of his undertaking, which, if it ceased to be a narrative, ceased to be a history."—p. xxxvi. xxxvii.
Now, we must be permitted to say, tnat this is a view of the nature of history, which, in so far as it is inteDigible, appears to be very narrow and erroneous; and which seems, like all such partial views, to have been so little adhered to by the author himself, as only to exclude many excellences, without at:aining the praise even of consistency in error. The object of history, we conceive, is to give us a clear narrative of the transactions of past ages, with a view of the character and condition of those who were concerned in them, and such reasonings and reflections as may зе necessary to explain their connection," or latural on reviewing their results. That some iccount of the authors of a literary age should lave a place in such a composition, seems to rollow upon two considerations: first, because t is unquestionably one object of history to ive usa distinct view of the state and cond ition jf the ago and people with whose affairs it is occupied; and nothing can serve so well to Ilústrate their true state and condition as a iorrect estimate and description of thi; great '.uthors they produced: and, secondly, be•ause the fact that such and such authors did lourish in such a period, and were ingenious ind elegant, or rude and ignorant, are facts which are interesting in themselves, and may )e made the object of narrative just as pro>erly as that such and such princes or minisers did liourish at the same time, and were mbitious or slothful, tyrannical or friends to iberty. Political events are not the only vents which are recorded even in ancient listory: and, now when it is generally adnitled, that even political events cannot be ully understood or accounted for without aking into view the preceding and concomiant changes in manners, literature, comlerce, &c. it cannot fail to appear surprising, lat an author of such a compass of mind as elonged to Mr. Fox, should have thought of onfining himself to the mere chronicling of •ars or factions, and held himself excluded, y the laws of historical composition, from uching upon topics so much more interestng.
The truth is, however, that Mr. Fox has by о means adhered to this plan of merely telling the story of the times" of which he eats. On the contrary, he is more full of rgument, and what is properly called reflecon, than most modern historians with whom we are acquainted. His argument, to be sure, is chiefly directed to ascertain the truth of reputed facts, or the motives of ambiguous actions; and his reflections, however just and natural, may commonly be considered as redundant, with a view to mere information. Of another kind of reasoning, indeed, he is more sparing; though of a kind far more valuable, and, in our apprehension, far more essential to the true perfection of history. We allude now to those general views of the causes which influence the character and disposition of the people at laree; and which, as they vary from age to age, bring a greater or a smaller part of the nation into contact with its government, and ultimately produce the success or failure of every scheme of tyranny or freedom. The more this subject is meditated, the more certain, we are persuaded, it will appear, that all permanent and important occurrences in the internal history of a country, are the result of those changes in the general character of its population; and that kings and ministers are necessarily guided in their projects by a feeling of the tendencies of this varying character, and fail or succeed, exactly as they had judged correctly or erroneously of its condition. To trace the causes and the modes of its variation, is therefore to describe the true sources of events; and, merely to narrate the occurrences to which it gave rise, is to recite a history of actions without intelligible motives, and of effects without assignable causes. It is true, no doubt, that political events operate in their turn on that national character by which they are previously moulded and controuled: But they are very far, indeed, from being the chief agents in its formation; and the history of those very events is necessarily imperfect, as well as uninstructive. if the consideration of those other agents is omitted. They consist of every thing which affects the character of individuals :—manners, education, prevailing occupations, religion, taste,—and. above all. the distribution of wealth, and the state of prejudice and opinions.
It is the more to be regretted, that such a mind as Mr. Fox's should have been bound up from such a subject by the shackles of an idle theory; because the period of which he treats affords the finest of all opportunities for prosecuting such an inquiry, and does not, indeed, admit of an intelligible or satisfactory history upon any other conditions. There are three irreal events, falling within that period, of which, it appears to us, that "the story" has not yet been intelligibly told, for want of some such analysis of the national feelings. One is, the universal joy and sincere confidence with which Charles II. was received back, without one stipulation for the liberties of the people, or one precaution against the abuses of power. This was done by the very people who had waged war airainst a more amiable Sovereign, and quarrelled with the Protector for depriving them of their freedom. It is saying nothing, to say that Monk did this by means of the army. It was not done either by Monk or the army, but by the na
tion; and even if it were not ¿o, the qnection would still be,—by what change in the dispositions of the army and the nation Moai was able to make them do it. The second event, which must always appear unaccountable upon the mere narrative of the circumstances, is the base and abject submission ы the people to the avowed tyranny of the restored Charles, when he was pleased at Ы to give up the use of Parliaments, and to Im and govern on his own single authority. Th:5 happened when most of those must have etill been alive who had seen the nation rise up ш arms against his father; and within five yean of the time when it rose up still more unanimously against his successor, and not only changed the succession of the crown, but тегу strictly defined and limited its prerogatives. The third, is the Revolution itself; an evei.l which was brought about by the very individuals who had submitted so quietly to the domination of Charles, and who, when аак-шbled in the House of Commons under Jame? himself, had, of their own accord, sent one of their members to the Tower for having observed, upon a harsh and tyrannical елрггг sion of the King's, that "he hoped they \u-re all Englishmen, and not to be frighted with a few hard words." It ¡в not to give us the history of these events, merely to set down the time and circumstances of the occurrence, They evidently require some explanation, ii. order to be comprehended; and the narrative will be altogether unsatisfactory, as well a.totally barren of instruction, unless it give some account of those changes in the gywrai temper and opinion of the nation, by which such contradictory actions became posait.' Mr. Fox's conception of the limits of legitimate history, restrained him, we are afraid, from entering into such considerations; a;they will best estimate the amount ot h_
! error, who are most aware of the importance of the information of which it has deprived us. Nothing, in our apprehension, can « beyond the province of legitimate history. which tends to give us clear conception* ci the times and characters with which that history is conversant; nor can the story of any time be complete or valuable, unless it look before and after.—to the causes and C«iis-lquences of the events which it details, and mark out the period with which it is occupies. as part of a greater series, as well as anobjec: of separate consideration.
In proceeding to the consideration ol MrFox's own part of this volume, it may Ы as well to complete that general estimate u! its excellence and defects which we hare been led incidentally to express in a suti degree already. We shall then I* able to pursue our analysis of the successive I'uapters with less distraction.
The sentiments, we think, are almost a just, and candid, and maní v; but the narrative is too minute and diffusive, and docs
i not in general flow with much spirit orb
i cility. Inconsiderable incidents are detail«! at far too great length: and an extreme an.'
, painful anxiety ia shown to ascertain the