Page images

member of the cabinet, can not only resist, put suggest, or propose, or recommend any thing which he pleases for the adoption of that executive council;—and his suggestions must at all times be more attended to than tnose, of any other person of the same knowledge or capacity. Such, indeed, are the indestructible sources of influence belonging to his situation, that, if he be only compos mentis, he may rely upon having more authority than any two of the gravest and most experienced individuals with whom he can communicate; and that there will be a far greater disposition to adopt his recommendations, than those of the wisest and most popular minister that the country has ever seen. He may, indeed, be outvoted even in the cabinet ;—the absurdity of his suggestions may be so palpable, or their danger so great, that no habitual deference, or feeling of personal dependence, may be eufficient to induce his advisers to venture on iheir adoption. This, however, we imagine, will scarcely be looked upon as a source of national weakness or hazard; and is, indeed, an accident that may befal any sovereign, however absolute—since the veriest despot cannot work without tools—and even a military sovereign at the head of his army, must submit to abandon any scheme which that army positively refuses to execute. If he is baffled щ one cabinet, however, the King of England may in general repeat the experiment in another; and change his counsellors over and over, till he find some who are more courageous or more complying.

But, suppose that the Cabinet acquiesces :— ihe Parliament also may no doubt oppose, and defeat the execution of the project. The Cabinet may be outvoted in the House of Commons, as the Sovereign may be outvoted in the Cabinet; and all its other members may be displaced by votes of that House. The minister who had escaped being dismissed by the King through his compliance with the Royal pleasure, may be dismissed for that compliance, by the voice of the Legislature. But the Sovereign, with whom, upon this supposition, the objectionable measure originated, is not dismissed; and may not only call another minister to his councils to try this same measure a second time, but may himself dismiss Ihe Parliament by which u had been censured; and submit its proceedings to the consideration of another assembly! We really cannot see any want of effective power in such an order of things; nor comprehend how the royal authority is rendered altogether nugatory and subordinate, merely by requiring it to have ultimately the concurrence of the Cabinet and of the Legislature. The last stage of this hypothesis, however, will clear all the rest.

The King's measure may triumph in parliament as well as in the council—and yet it may be resisted by the Nation. The parliament may be outvoted in the country, as well аз the cabinet in the parliament; and if the measure, even in this last stage, and after all Леве tests of its safety, be not abandoned, tie most dreadful consequences may ensue.

If addresses and clamours are disregarded, recourse may be had to arms; and an open civil war be left again to determine, whelnei the sense of the people at large be, or be not, resolutely against its adoption. This last species of check on the power of the Sovereign, no political arrangement, and no change in the Constitution, can obviate or prevent, and as all the other checks of which we have spoken refer ultimately to this, so; the defence of their necessity and justice is complete, when we merely say. that their use is to prevent a recurrence to this last extremity—and, by enabling the sense of the nation to represa pernicious counsels in the outset, through the safe and pacific channels of the cabinet and the parliament, to remove the necessity of resisting them at last, by the dreadful expedient of actual force and compulsion.

If a king, under any form of monarchy, attempt to act against the sense of the commanding part of the population, he will inevitably be resisted and overthrown. This is not a matter of institution or policy; but a necessary result from the nature of his office, and of the power of which he is the administrator—or rather from the principles of human nature. But that form of monarchy is the worst—both for the monarch and for the people—which exposes him the most to the shock of such ultimate resistance; and that is the best, which interposes the greatest number of intermediate bodies between the oppressive purpose of the king and his actual attempt to carry it into execution,—which tries the projected measure upon the greatest number of selected samples of the public sense, before it comes into collision with its general mass,— and affords the most opportunities for retreat, and the best cautions for advance, before the battle is actually joined. The cabinet is presumed to know more of the sentiments of the nation than the king ;—and the parliament to know more than the cabinet. Both these bodies, too, are presumed to be rather more under the personal influence of the king than the great body of the nation; and therefore, whatever suggestions of his are ultimately rejected in those deliberative assemblies, must be held to be such as would have been still less acceptable to the bulk of the community. By rejecting them there, however, by silent votes or clamorous harangues, the nation is saved from the necessity of rejecting them, by actual resistance and insurrection in the field. The person and the office of the monarch remain untouched, and untainted for all purposes of good; and the peace of the country is maintained, and its rights asserted, without any turbulent exertion of its power. The whole frame and machinery of the constitution, in short, is contrived for the express Surpose of preventing the kingly power from ashing itself to pieces against the more radical power of the people: and those institutions that are absurdly supposed to restrain the authority of the sovereign within too narrow limits, are in fact its great safeguard» and protectors, by providing for the timely and peaceful operation of that great controlling power, which it could only elude for a season, at the expense of much certain misery to the people, and the hazard of final destruction to itself.

Mr. Leckie, however, and his adherents, can see nothing of all this. The facility of casting down a single tyrant, we have already seen, is one of the prime advantages which he ascribes to the institution of Simple monarchy;—and so much is this advocate of kingly power enamoured of the uncourtly doctrine of resistance, that he not only recognises it as a familiar element in the constitution, but lays it down in express terms, that it affords the wily remedy for all political corruption. "History," he observes, "has furnished us with no example of the reform of a corrupt and tyrannical government, but either from intestine war, or conquest from without. Thus, Ihe objection against a simple monarchy, because there is no remedy for its abuse, holds the same, but in a greater degree, against any other form. Each is borne with as long as possible; and when the evil is at its greatest height, the nation eil her rises against it, or, not having the means of so doing, sinks into abject degradation and misery."

Such, however, are not our principles of policy; on the contrary, we hold, that the chief use of a free constitution is to prevent the recurrence of these dreadful extremities: and that the excellence of a limited monarchy consists less in the good laws, and the good administration of law, to which it naturally gives birth, than in the security it affords against such a melancholy alternative. To some, we know, who have been accustomed to the spectacle of long-established despotisms, the hazards of such a terrific regeneration appear distant and inconsiderable; and, if they could only prolong the intervals of patient submission, and polish away some of the harsher features of oppression, they imagine a state of things would result more Uanqui] and desirable than can ever be presented by the eager and salutary contentions of a free government. To such persons we shall address but two observations. The first, that though the body of the people may indeed be kept in brutish subjection for ages, where the state of society, as to intelligence and property, is such that the actual power and command of the nation is vested in a few bands of disciplined troops, this could never be done in a nation abounding in independent wealth, very generally given to reading and reflection, and knit together in all its parte by a thousand means of communication and ties of mutual interest and sympathy; and least of all could it be done in a nation already accustomed to the duties and enjoyments of freedom, and regarding the safe and honourable struggles it is constantly obliged to maintain in its defence, as the most ennobling and delightful of its exercises. The other remark is, that even if it were possible, as it is not. to rivet and shackle down an enlightened nation in such a way as to make it submit for some time, in apparent quietness, to the abuses oí arbitrary power, it is never to be forgotten

that this submission is itself an evil—an 1 ca evil only inferior to those through which i: must ultimately seek its relief. If any fora of tyranny, therefore, were as secure 'raa terrible convulsions as a regulated freedom, it would not cease for that to be a far less Jc-;iüble condition of existence; ami as the mature sense of a whole nation may be fainy presumed to point more certainly to the t.te means of their happiness than the sai_ie opinion even of a patriotic king, so it must Ь« right and reasonable, in all cages, that hs opinion should give way to theirs; and that a power should be generated, if it did not ratrally and necessarily exist, to insure its predominan^.

We have still a word or two to say on the alleged inconsistency and fluctuation of au public councils that are subjected to the octroi of popular assemblies, and on the unprincipled violence of the factions to which they are said to give rise. The first of theíe t>.•;м -. however, need not detain us long. If it be meant, that errors in public measures are more speedily detected, and more certainly repaired, when they are maturely and freely discussed by all the wisdom and all the tala: of a nation, than when they are left to tin blind guidance of the passions or conceit of an individual;—if it be meant, that. u:.¿-r i Simple monarchy, we should have persevered longer and more steadily in the principles of the Slave Trade, of Catholic Proscription, aad of the Orders in Council :—then we cheerftiiy admit the justice of the charge—we rea¿¡T yield to those governments the praise of suta consistency and such perseverance—ar.J г no apology for that change from folly to та dom, and from cruelty to mercy, which is produced by the variableness of a free consttutioD. But if it be meant that an absoute monarch keeps the faith which he рЫг« more religiously than a free people, or that he is less liable to sudden and capricious ranalions in his policy, we positively deny the truth of the imputation, and boldly appeal to the whole course of history for its con¡ut.>:.' What nation, we should like to know, ever-:••. half so high as our own, for the reputaría: good faith and inviolable fidelity to its all.- Or in what instance has the national hocouj been impeached, by the refusal of one •••: •-'• ministers to abide by the engagements c:.;-"; ed into by their predecessors ΗWith retrr to mere caprice and inconsistency again. ». it be seriously maintained, that councils, depending upon the individual will of an astute sovereign—who may be a boy, or a ..:.. or a dotard, or a driveller—are more likeij to be steadily and wisely pursued, than ih *j that are taken up by a set of experienced statesmen, under the control of a vigiknl an<i intelligent public Î It is not by mere popular clamour—by the shouts or hisses of an ignorant and disorderly mob—but by the «ieep. ¡и slow, and the collected voice of the intelligent and enlightened part of the community, ihai the councils of a free nation are allimatoV guided. But if thev were at the disposa! o: ¿ rabble—what rabble, we would ask, is so ignorant, so contemptible, so fickle, false, and empty of all energy of purpose or principle, as the rabble that invests the palaces of arbitrary kings—the favourites, the mistresses, the panders, the flatterers and intriguers, who succeed or supplant each other in the crumbling soil of his favour, and so frequently dispose of all that ought to be at the command oi wisdom and honour?

Looking only to the eventful history of our own day, will any one presume to say, that the conduct of the simple monarchies of Europe has afforded us, for the last twenty years, ip.v such lessons of steady and unwavering policy as to make us blush for our own democrática] inconstancy? What, during that period, has been the conduct of Prussia—of lluvia—of Austria herself—of every state, in short, that has not been terrified into constancy by the constant dread of French violence? And where, during all that time, are we to look for any traces of manly firmness, but in the conduct and councils of the only nation whose measures were at all controlled by the influence of popular sentiments 1 If that nation too was not exempt from the common charge of vacillation—if she did fluctuate between designs to restore the Bourbons, and to enrich k-raelf by a share of their spoils—if she did contract one deep stain on her faith and her humanity, by encouraging and deserting the party of the Royalists in La Vendée—if she did waver and wander from expeditions into Flanders to the seizure of West Indian islands, and from menaces to extirpate Jacobinism to missions courting its alliance—will any man pretend to say, that these signs of infirmity of purpose were produced by yielding to the varying impulses of popular opinions, or the alternate preponderance of hostile factions in the state Î Is it not notorious, on the contrarv, that they all occurred during that lamentable but memorable period, when the alarm excited by the aspect of new dangers had in a manner extinguished the constitutional spirit of party, and composed the salutary conflicts of the nation—that they occurred m the first ten years of Mr. Pitt's war administration, when opposition was almost extinct, and when the government was not only more entirely in the hands of one man than it had been at any time since the days of Cardinal Wolsey, but when the temper and tone of its administration approached very nearly to that of an arbitrary monarchy t

On the doctrine of parties and party dissensions, it is now too late for us to enter at large ;—and indeed when we recollect what Mr. Burke has written upon that subject,* we do not know why we should wish for an opportunity of expressing our feeble sentiments. Parties are necessary in all free governments —and are indeed the characteristics by which such governments may be known. One party, that of the Rulers or the Court, is necessarily formed and disciplined from the permanence of its chief, and the uniformity of the interests

* See hie " Thoughts on the Cause of the present Discontents." Sub initiaet pailón.

it has to maintain ;—the party in Opposition, therefore, must be marshalled in the same way. When bad men combine, good men must unite :—and it would not be less hopeless for a crowd of worthy citizens to lake the field without leaders or discipline, against a regular army, than for individual patriots to think of opposing the influence of the Sovereign by their separate and uncombined exertions. As to the length which they should be permitted to go in support of the common cause, or the extent to which each ought to submit his private opinion to the general sense of his associates, it does not appear to us— though casuists may varnish over dishonour, and purists startle at shadows—either that any man of upright feelings can be often at a loss for a rule of conduct, or that, in point of fact, there has ever been any blameable ex cess in the maxims upon which the great par ties of this country have been generally con ducted. The leading principle is. that a man should satisfy himself that the party to which he attaches himself means well to the country, and that more substantial good will accrue to the nation from its coming into power, than from the success of any other body of men whose success is at all within the limits of probability. Upon this principle; therefore, he will support that party in all things which he approves—in all things that are indifferent —and even in some things which he partly disapproves, provided they neither touch the honour and vital interests of the country, nor imply any breach of the ordinary rules of morality.—Upon the same principle he will attack not only all that he individually disapproves in the conduct of the adversary, but all that might appear indifferent and tolerable enough to a neutral spectator, if it afford an opportunity to weaken this adversary in the public opinion, and to increase the chance of bringing that party into power from which alone he sincerely believes that any sure or systematic good is to be expected. Farther than this we do not believe that the leaders or respectable followers of any considerable party, intentionally allow themselves to go. Their zeal, indeed, and the heats and passions engendered in the course of the conflict, may sometimes hurry them into measures for which an impartial spectator cannot find this apology :—but to their own consciences and honour we are persuaded that they generally stand acquitted ;—and, on the score of duty or morality, that is all that can be required of human beings. For the baser retainers of the party indeed—those marauders who follow in the rear of every army, not for battle but for booty—who concern themselves in no way about the justness of the quarrel, or the fairness of the field — who plunder the dead, and butcher the wounded, and desert the unprosperous, and betray the daring ;—for those wretches who truly belong to no party, and are a disgrace and a drawback upon all, we shall assuredly make no apology, nor propose any measures of toleration. The spirit by which they are actuated is the very opposite of that ! spirit which is generated by the parties of a free people; and accordingly it is among the advocates of arbitrary power that such persons, after they have served their purpose by a pretence of patriotic zeal, are ultimately found to range themselves. We E. deny, then, that the interests of the country have ever been sacrificed to a vindictive desire to mortify or humble a rival party;-though we freely admit that a great deal of the time and the talent that might be devoted more directly to her service, is wasted in such an endeavour. This, however, is unavoidable—nor is it possible to separate those discussions, which are really necessary to expose the dangers or absurdity of the practical measures proposed by a party, from those which have really no other end but to expose it to general ridicule or odium. This too, however, it should be remembered, is a point in which the country has a still deeper, though a more indirect interest than in the former; since it is only by such means that a system that is radically vicious can be exploded, or a set of men fundamentally corrupt and incapapable removed. If the time be well spent, therefore, which is occupied in preventing or palliating some particular act of impolicy or oppression, it is impossible to grudge that b which the spring and the fountain of all o ‘acts may be cut off. With regard to the tumult—the disorder—

the danger to public peace—the vexation and discomfort which certain sensitive persons and great lovers of tranquillity represent as the fruits of our political dissensions, we cannot help saying that we have no sympathy with their delicacy or their timidity. What they look upon as a frightful commotion of the elements, we consider as no more than a wholesome agitation; and cannot help regarding the contentions in which freemen are engaged by a conscientious zeal for their opinions, as an invigorating and not ungenerous exercise. What serious breach of the public peace has it occasioned?—to what insurrections, or conspiracies, or proscriptions has it ever given rise?—what mob even, or tumult, has been excited by the contention of the two great

arties of the state, since their contention has

een open, and their weapons appointed, and their career marked out in the free lists of the constitution?—Suppress these contentions, indeed—forbid these weapons, and shut up

these lists, and you will have conspiracies

and insurrections enough.-These are the

short-sighted fears of tyrants—The dissensions of a free people are the preventives |

and not the indications of radical disorder— and the noises which make the weak-hearted tremble, are but the natural murmurs of those mighty and mingling currents of public opinion, which are destined to fertilize and unite

the country, and can never become dangerous till an attempt is made to obstruct their

course, or to disturb their level.

Mr. Leckie has favoured his readers with

an enumeration of the advantages of absolute monarchy;-and we are tempted to follow his example, by concluding with a dry catalogue of the advantages of free government—each of which would require a chapter at least as long as that which we have now bestowed upon one of them. Next, then, to that of its superior security from great reverses and atrocities, of which we have already spoken at sufficient length, we should be disposed to rank that pretty decisive feature, of the superior Happiness which it confers upon all the #. who live under it. The consciousness of liberty is a great blessing and enjoyment in itself—The occupation it affords —the importance it confers—the excitement of intellect, and the elevation of spirit which it implies, are all elements of happiness pe. culiar to this condition of society, and quite separate and independent of the external advantages with which it may be attended. In the second place, however, liberty makes men more Industrious, and consequently more generally prosperous and Wealthy; the result of which is, both that they have among them more of the good things that wealth can procure, and that the resources of the State are greater for all public purposes. In the third place, it renders men more Valiant and Highminded, and also promotes the development of Genius and Talents, both by the unbounded career it opens up to the emulation of every individual in the land, and by the naturales. fect of all sorts of intellectual or moral excitement to awaken all sorts of intellectual and moral capabilities. In the fourth place, it renders men more Patient, and Docile, and Resolute in the pursuit of any public object; and consequently both makes their chance of success greater, and enables them to make much greater efforts in every way, in propos. tion to the extent of their population. No slaves could ever have undergone the toils to which the Spartans or the Romans tasked themselves for the good or the glory of their country;-and no tyrant could ever have ex: torted the sums in which the Commons of England have voluntarily assessed themselves for the exigencies of the state. These are among the positive advantages of freedom; and, in our opinion, are its chief advantages. —But we must not forget, in the fifth and last place, that there is nothing else but a free government by which men can be secured from those arbitrary invasions of their Persons and Properties—those cruel persecutions, op. pressive imprisonments, and lawless execu

. which no formal code can prevent an

absolute monarch from regarding as a part of

his prerogative; and, above all, from those provincial exactions and oppressions, and those universal Insults, and Contumelies, and Indignities, by which the inferior minions of power spread misery and degradation among the whole mass of every people which has no political independence.


ril, 1814.)

A Song of Triumph. By W. So-ГНЕВУ, Esq. 8vo. London: 1814.
L'Acte Constitutionnel, en la Séance du 9 Avril, 1814. 8vo. Londres: 1814.
Of Bonaparte, the Bourbons, and the Necessity of rallying round our legitimate Princes, for the
Happiness of France and of Europe. By F. A. Chateaubriand. 8vo. London: 1814.*

It would be strange indeed, we think, if liages dedicated like ours to topics of present interest, and the discussions of the passing hour, should be ushered into the world at such a moment as this, without some stamp of that common joy and anxious emotion with which the wenderful events of the last three months are still tilling all the regions of the earth. In euch a situation, it must be difficult for any one who has the means of being heard, to refrain from giving utterance to his sentiments: But to us, whom it has assured, for the first time, of the entire sympathy of all our countrymen, the temptation, we own, is irresistible; and the good-natured part of our readers, we are persuaded, will rather smile at our simplicity, than fret at our presumption, when we add, that we have sometimes permitted ourselves to fancy that, if any copy of these our lucubrations should go down to another generation, it maybe thought curious to trace in them the first effects of events that are probably destined to fix the fortune of succeeding centuries, and to observe the impressions which were made on the minds of contemporaries, by those mighty transactions, which will appear of yet greater moment in the eyes o; a (liétant posterity. We are still too near that great image of Deliverance and Reform which the Genius of Europe has just set up before us, to discern with certainty its just lineaments, or construe the true character of the Aspect with which it looks onward to futurity! We see enough, however, to fill us with innumerable feelings, and the germs of

* This, I am afraid, will now be thought to be too much of a mere " Song of Triumph ;" or, ai least, t<> lie conceived throughout in a far more sanguine •pirn than is consistent either with a wise observation of passing events, or a philosophical estimate of the frailties of human nature: And, having cer(tuily been written under that prevailing excitement, of which I chiefly wish to preserve it as a memorial, I have no doubt that, to some extent, it i> so. At the same time it should be recollected, that it was written immediately after the finí restoration of the Bourbons; and before the startling drama of the Hundred Days, and its grand catastrophe at Waterloo, had dispelled the first wholesome fears of the Allies, or sown the seeds of more bitter rsnklings and resentmentsin the body of the French people: and, above all, that it was so written, helore l he many lawless invasions of national independence, and broken promises of Sovereigns to their subjects, which have since revived that distrust, which both nations and philosophers wore then, perhaps, too ready to renounce. And after all, [ must say, that an attentive reader may find, even in this strain of good auguries, both such traces of misgivings, and such iteration of anxious warnings, as to save me from the imputation of having mi-rely predicted a Millennium.

many high and anxious speculations. The feelings, we are sure, are in unison with all that exists around us; and we reckon therefore on more than usual indulgence for the speculations into which they may expand.

The first and predominant feeling which rises on contemplating the scenes that have just burst on our view, is that of deep-felt gratitude and delight,—for the liberation of so many oppressed nations,—for the cessation

j of bloodshed and fear and misery over the fairest portions of the civilised world,—and for the enchanting, though still dim and uncertain prospect of long peace and measureless improvement, which seems at last to be opening on the suffering kingdoms of Europe. The very nov?lty of such a state of things, which could be known only by description to the greater part of the existing generation—the suddenness of its arrival, and the contrast which it forms with the anxieties and alarms to which it has so immediately succeeded, all concur most powerfully to enhance its vast intrinsic attractions. It has come upon the

1 world like the balmy air and flushing verdure of a late spring, after the dreary chills of a long and interminable winter; and the refreshing sweetness with which it has visited the earth, feels like Elysium to those who have just escaped from the driving tempests it has banished.

We have reason I o hope, too, that the riche« of the harvest will correspond with the splendour of this early promise. All the periods in which human society and human intellect have been known to make great and memorable advances, have followed close upon periods of general agitation and disorder. Men's minds, it would appear, must bo deeply and roughly stirred, before they become prolific of great conceptions, or vigorous resolves; and a vast and alarming fermentation must pervade and agitate the mass of society, to inform it with that kindly warmth, by which alone the seeds of genius and improvement can be expanded. The fact, at all events, is abundantly certain ¿ and may be accounted for, we conceive, without mystery, and without metaphors.

A popular revolution in government or religion—or any thing else that gives rise to general and long-continued contention, naturally produces a prevailing disdain of authority, and boldness of thinking in the leaders of the fray,—together with a kindling of the imagination and development of intellect in a great multitude of persons, who, in ordinary times, would have vegetated stupidly in the places where fortune had fixed them. Power

« PreviousContinue »