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question have been owing only to an erroneous conception of its nature. Many of them have arisen, from failing to carry the line of policy recommended by it to the lengths which it enjoins; and, in not a few instances, those events which have been deemed pernicious, would have proved altogether fatal, had not its influence modified and controlled them. We are desired, with no small appearance of triumph, to view the history of the last century; and to mark the manifold wars which the balancing system produced; the various intrigues to which it gave rise; the destructive conquests of which it furnishes the pretext; and the national catastrophes which it could not avert. But had it not been for that wholesome jealousy of rival neighbours, which modern politicians have learned to cherish, how many conquests and changes of dominion would have taken place, instead of wars, in which a few useless lives were lost, and some superfluous millions were squandered? How many fair portions of the globe might have been deluged in blood, instead of some hundreds of sailors fighting barmlessly on the barren plains of the ocean, and some thousands of soldiers carrying on a scientific, and regular, and quiet system of warfare, in countries set apart for the purpose, and resorted to as the arena where the disputes of nations may be determined? We may indeed look to the history of the last century as the proudest era in the annals of the species; the period most distinguished for learning, and skill, and industry; for the milder virtues, and for common sense ; for refinement in government, and an equal diffusion of liberty; above all, for that perfect knowledge of the arts of administration, which has established certain general rules of conduct among nations; has prevented the overthrow of empires, and the absorption of weak stales into the bodies of devouring neighbours ; has set bounds to the march of conquest, and rendered the unsheathing of the sword a measure of the last adoption; whereas, in other times, it was always resorted to in the first instance.
In the beginning of that century, we saw the gigantic power of France humbled by a coalition of princes, each resolved to undergo immediate loss, and run a great present risk, in order to prevent the greater chance of ruin at the distance of a few years. In ancient times the Stadtholder would have been more jealous of Britain or Austria, than of France. The great Monarch, like Cæsar, would have found a Divitiacus in the heart of the empire. By splitting the neighbouring potentates into adverse factions, and fighting one against the other, he would, in a few years, have subjugated the whole. No power would then have conceived that common prudence required an immediate sacrifice of peace, in order to ward off a distant peril.
All would have waited quietly till the invasion came on; then, fighting with a desperate, but an insulated valour, all would have been conquered in detail by the ambitious enemy of Europe; and the story of the Roman empire would have been renewed, when submission to foreign power and loss of liberty, and interruption of peaceful pursuits, were no longer the phantoms of vulgar terror, or the themes of idle declamation, but real and imminent, and inevitable calamities.
Jo the middle of the century, we indeed saw an ancient crown despoiled of its hereditary provinces; and the neighbouring states in vain attempting lo crush the new-born energies of the Prussian power. It is, however, extremely doubtful whether the principles of an enlightened policy would not have savoured the rise of a power, whose professed and natural object was the balancing of the Imperial House, and the protection of the smaller
princes of the empire, against the preponderating, and formerly absolute, sway of the Austrian monarchs. And, at any rate, admitting the other powers to have been actualed by no such views, it is clear that the success of ihe Silesian usurpation must be attributed to the actual dereliction of the balancing system, and not to its inefficacy; for, both in the Silesian and in the Seven-years' War,* the part of Prussia was openly espoused by some of the great powers; in the former, by France and Bavaria ; in the latter, first by England, and then by Russia herself. The preservation and accurate adjustment of the balance might perhaps have required some such event as the acquisition which Prussia actually made; but if the immediate object of the system, the maintenance of the established division of power, was held to be a more important consideration, it is clear that the part of Prussia ought not to have been taken by France and Bavaria, in the one case, or by England and Russia in the other, until the usurped dominions of Austria had been restored; and then the allies of that power ought instantly to have deserted her, if she did not remain satisfied with the fruits of their interference.
Soon after the Seven-years' War was terminated, the dismemberment of an ancient European kingdom was projected by the powers who had been most exhausted in the Silesian contest, and who wished to indemnify themselves for their losses at the expense of the Poles. The success of this iniquitous transaction, although it only demonstrates that the modern system has not been carried to its proper length — that it is incapable of changing the nature of men, or disarming the ambition and rapacity of princes has been always quoted by a certain set of politicians, as an irresragable proof of the futility and inefficacy of the great principle of modern politics. That calamitous event is indeed a sufficient proof, that the statesmen of Europe had for a while forgotten their most sacred principles, and that the princes who did not interfere to prevent it were blind to their best inte rests. It serves, therefore, to show us what wonld be the situation of the the world, were the maxims of ancient times to be revived, and the salutary system of modern Europe to lose its influence over the councils of states; but, for this very reason, the partition of Poland cannot, with any truth, be said to prove the inefficacy of those principles, by acting in direct opposition to which, the great powers of Europe permitted it to happen. If, however, the policy of the neighbouring stales provided no check to the injustice of the partitioning powers, the influence of the balancing system upon the conduct of those parties themselves was productive of the most important and beneficial effects. Had the ancient maxims of national indifference and insulation prevailed in the cabinets of princes at the crisis of Polish affairs in 1772, the distracted state of that unhappy country would indeed have called in the interference of foreign force. But this interference would have proceeded from one quarter alone. Poland would have been overwhelmed, and its vast resources appropriated, by one only of the conterminous powers, probably by the Russian Empire, which would thus have suddenly acquired a preponderance fatal to the rest of Europe; and, without receiving any check in the proportional aggrandisement of the neighbouring states, would have been enabled to stretch its resistless arm into the very heart of the great western commonwealth. But the prevalence of
* It is well known that the peace of Dresden was only a truce ; that the war of 1756 owed its origin to the cause of the former contest; and that the possession of Silesia was only secured by the peace of Hubertsburgh.
that national jealousy, and anxious attention to the affairs of other states, which is the master principle of the modern system, prevented the usurpation of Russia, even at the moment when she was actually mistress of the kingdom, garrisoned the capital with her troops, and ruled the national councils by a viceroy, under the name of ambassador. With all these circumstances in her favour, she was not even the first proposer of the partition. Her natural enemies, Austria and Prussia, actually gained a greater share of the spoil; and instead of being the first victims of her extended empire, as they infallibly would have been in ancient times, they have themselves acquired, at the same moment, an increase of resources, which enables them effectually to withstand the augmented force of her power.
Although, then, it is extremely absurd to adduce the partition of Poland as an instance of the balancing system (after the manner of the Prussian statesmen *), it is equally ridiculous to assert that it proves the inefficacy of that system, or to deny that the rest of Europe has been saved by the influence of those principles upon the parties in the usurpation, which should have led the other great powers of Europe to prevent it. Itis scarcely necessary to remark, that we by no means intend to assert any thing further than the injustice and impolicy of the transaction upon a great scale : at present, we only look to the effects of the balancing system in maintaining the independence of the weaker states. The case of Poland, as it appears to us, is one of the very few instances which have ever occurred, of a nation being placed in such unnatural circumstances of embarrassment, turbulence, and degradation of every sort, that no change of affairs could possibly render it worse, and scarce any revolution, by domestic violence or foreign invasion, could fail to alter it for the better. Setting apart the high-sounding phrases of patriotism and national spirit, and the feelings of admiration which the very natural emotions of pity have taught us to couple with the name of. Poland, it is impossible for a sober-minded observer not to perceive, that ages of the most debasing servitude had utterly disqualified the Polish boors for enjoying the privileges of free subjects; that a lifetime divided between unceasing tumult in public, and the revellings of a boisterous, barbarous hospitality, had utterly unfitted the rest of the state from co-operating in the formation of a constitution which should possess either energy or regularity, and that the happiest event which has ever befallen the fine country of Poland, has been a dismemberment, wept over and declaimed upon by those who had no experience of its necessity, or need of its benefits. Those benefits have most undoubtedly been the pacification of that unhappy kingdom, by the only means which human fancy could have devised for accomplishing this end, without endangering the security of the other powers ; namely, a fair division of the country among the neighbouring and rival powers, and a consequent communication of the inestimable blessings which iheir ancient subjects enjoyed under a system of peaceful government and regular police.
The memorable events which took place at the close of the eighteenth century, it is almost needless to observe, were the immediate consequence of an adherence to the principles of the modern system of international policy. The internal state of France would never have alarmed the neighbour
Count Hertzberg (the King's first minister in 1772), in a speculative essay on this subject, gives the partition as an apposite case of the balancing systein. It was made, he says, “ Selon les principes d'une balance dont les trois puissances partageanles élaient convenues entre elles.” -Mém. tom. i. p. 296.
ing nations in ancient times. Without anxiety, they would have seen the overthrow of all regular government, the progress of Jacobin contagion, and the development of those popular energies which armed a people, devoted exclusively to war, with resistless power to accomplish the grand object of their demagogues—the overthrow of altars and thrones, and the establishment of universal empire. Far from combining to resist the progress of the new horde, they would have split into factions, and assisted its destructive course. No efforts to check it would have been thought of, until all resistance was too late ; nor would those modern Gauls have found resistance effectual to oppose them from the Manlius of any Capitol in Europe. That this has not been the fate of every thing refined and valuable in Europe, is owing to the degree in which the maxims of the balancing system began to operate their usual effects at the very moment when the first changes took place in France. But that much injury has heen done ; that many independent states have been humbled; that some powers have been overwhelmed; and that melancholy changes have been effected in the distribution of dominion, has been owing to the unprincipled ambition of certain princes ; the taint of disaffection in the people of some countries, which have, together, prevented the modern system of external policy from being followed out, and have given to the common enemy of national independence an advantage proportioned to the neglect of those sound and necessary principles.
Let us hear no more, then, of the last century, as affording arguments against the balance of power. That eventful period in the history of mankind has been marked by the formation of vast schemes, which either by their success may allure, or by their failure may warn, future statesmen to cling still closer by those maxims of conduct which are necessary to the preservation of liberty and peace.
The remarks which have been frequently made on the knowledge of the ancients, in this branch of policy, are for the most part just. Mr. Hume, so far as we know, is the first who stated this point, in an essay replete with accurate reference, and distinguished acuteness of classical illustration, but mingled also with some injurious perversions of facts in more recent history; and with the mistatement, in one or two points, of the great system itself
, which he appears to treat with disrespect.* The celebrated passage in Polybius, which has so often been quoted, † is indeed a distinct statement of one general principle in that system ; and the orations of Demosthenes contain some discussions of the most delicate parts of the theory-discussions which, from the events of his time, we may be assured were but imperfectly comprehended in those early ages. But the number of discoveries or inventions which been suddenly made in any branch of knowledge, is small indeed. All the more important steps in the progress of the human mind may rather be termed improvements than inventions ; they are refinements upon methods formerly known-generalisations of ideas previously conceived. By how many small and slowly following steps was the true nature of the planetary motions brought to light! By how many insensible gradations did that theory receive its explanation from the great law of gravitalion, which, constantly and universally acting, keeps each body in its place, and preserves the arrangement of the whole system. In like manner has that theory of political expediency been gradually unfolded, and its parts
* Essay on the Balance of Power.
Particularly the famous speech" pro Megalopolitanis"-passim.
refined, which regulates the mutual actions of the contiguous nations of Europe, subjects each to the influence of others, however remote, – connects all together by a common principle,-regulates the motions of the whole,--and maintains the order of the great complicated system. As the newly discovered planets are found to obey the same law that keeps the rest in their orbits; so the powers, which frequently arise in the European world, immediately fall into their places, and conform to the same principles that fix the positions and direct the movements of the ancient states. And as, even in this enlightened age, we have not yet succeeded in discovering the whole extent of the planetary law, or in reducing certain apparent irregularites of the system to the common principles; so, in these days of political improvement, we have not attained the utmost refinements of internalional policy, and have still lo lament the many irregularities which continue to disturb the arrangement of the European commonwealth.
It is not, then, in the mere plan of forming offensive or defensive alliances ; or in the principle of altacking a neighbour, in order to weaken his power before he has betrayed hostile views ; or in the policy of defending a rival, in order to stay, in proper time, the progress of a common enemy; it is not in these simple maxims that the modern system consists. These are indeed the elements, the great and leading parts, of the theory; they are its most prominent features; they are maxims dictated by the plainest and coarsest views of political expediency : but they do not form the whole system; nor does the knowledge of them (for it cannot be pretended that ancient states were in possession of any thing beyond the speculative knowledge of them) comprehend an acquaintance with the profounder and more sublile parts of modern policy. The grand and distinguishing feature of the balancing theory is the systematic form to which it reduces those plain and obvious principles of national conduct; the perpetual attention to foreign affairs which it inculcates ; the constant watchfulness over every motion in all parts of the system which it prescribes; the subjection in which it tends to place all national passions and antipathies to the views of remote expediency; the unceasing care which it dictates of nations most remotely situated, and apparently unconnected with ourselves; the general union which it has effected, of all the European powers in one connected system-obeying certain laws, and actuated, in general, by a common principle; in fine, as a consequence of the whole, the right of mutual inspection, now universally recognised among civilised states, in the rights of public envoys and residents. This is the balancing theory. It was as much unknown to Athens and Rome as the Keplerian or Newtonian laws were concealed from Plato and Cicero, who certainly knew the effect of gravitation upon terrestrial bodies. It has arisen, in the progress of science, out of the circumstances of modern Europe-the greater extent and nearer equality of the contiguous states the more constant intercourse of the different nations with each other. We have been told by historians * that the principle of the balance of power was a discovery of the fifteenth century, made by the Italian politicians, in consequence of the invasion of Charles VIII. Against such statements as tbis it is perfectly fair to adduce the arguments of Mr. Hume and others, who have traced, 'in ancient times, vastly more refined notions of policy than any that dictated the Italian defensive league. It was, in truth, not to any such single event that the balancing system owed either its origin
• Robertson's Charles V., vol. i.