« PreviousContinue »
he saw. Montesquieu, more happy in his birth and fortune, enjoying an early leisure, in a quiet and well: regulated monarchy, drew his first principles of politics from what be read. Yet, neither was the first given up to mere personal observation; nor the last to mere study: in the progress of life, Machiavel applied himself to books, and Montesquieu to men : yet, as was natural, their first habits prevailed, and gave to each his distinct and peculiar character. Hence, though both saw the internal and secret springs of government, (which, in my opinion, no writer but these two did ever fully comprehend or penetrate,) yet they saw them by different lights, and through different mediums. Machiavel's leading guide was fact; Montesquieu's was philosophy. In consequence of this, simplicity forms the character of the one, refinement of the other. The speculative Frenchman forms a fine system, to the completion of which he sometimes tortures both argument and fact: the plain and downright Florentine builds on facts, independent of all system. The polite and disinterested Sage is warm in the praise of honesty : the active and penetrating Secretary, above praise or censuré, gives a bold and striking picture of the ways of men. Hence, while the first gains every heart, by the force of moral sympathy; the latter hath been falsely detested as the enemy of virtue and mankind. Machiavel is negligent, yet pure and strong, scorning the minuter graces of composition : Montesquieu is elegant, yet nervous ; and to the acuteness of the philosopher, adds the fire of the poet. Both were the friends of freedom and of man : both superior to the genius of their time and country : both truly great: the Florentine severe and great; the Frenchman great
and amiable." - Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times, by Dr. John Brown. 1757.)
NOTE (1) - Page 210.
- My well-informed readers, if with such these pages
should be honoured, are doubtless acquainted with Andrew Fletcher ; but I mast just introduce him to my young friends. He was a Scotch gentleman, of large property, in the reign of Charles II., and having distinguished himself by his open and parliamentary opposition to the designs of James II., then Duke of York, was obliged to retire to Holland, and not appearing to a summons from the Privy Council, he was declared a traitor, and his estate confiscated. He joined in the unfortunate attempt made by the Duke of Monmouth, and afterwards came over with William III. at the Revolution. During that and the succeeding reign he distinguished himself in the Scotch Parliament by the jealousy with which he watched the encroachments of the crown, and the firmness and boldness with which he advocated popular rights. He is truly described as “ steady in his principles, of nice honour, with abundance of learning : brave as the sword he wears, and bold as a lion: a sure friend, and an irreconcileable enemy: would lose his life readily to serve his country; and would not do a base thing to save it. His thoughts are large as to religion, and could never be brought within the bounds of any particular sect. Nor will he be under the distinction of a Whig or Tory; saying, those names are used to cloak the knaves of both."-" If ever a man proposes to serve and merit
well of his country, let him place his courage, zeal, and constancy as a pattern before him; and think himself sufficiently applauded and rewarded, if he obtain the character of being like Andrew. Fletcher, of Saltoun.” (Vide Characters prefixed to his Works.) .
Fletcher must be enrolled in the honourable fraternity of Utopians, having tried his hand at réforming the world in a “Conversation concerning a right Regulation of Governments for the common Good of Mankind.” He had himself been a military man, and during his banishment served several campaigns under the Duke of Lorrain : but a principal object of his scheme was the abolition of wars, which he proposed to accomplish by so modelling governments, as to render them powerful in defence, but incapable or unfit to make conquests. His favourite idea was that of small, independent states in federal union. His political works contain, besides the" Conversation" referred to, two discourses on the affairs of Scotland, one on Spain, one on Government with relation to Militias, and several parliamentary speeches. All are characterized by powerful and philosophical reasoning, extensive information, sound patriotism, and nervous eloquence. Towards the close of Queen Anne's reign, he introduced a bill into the Scotch Parliament, the object of which was, to provide effectual limitations of the royal prerogative before the declaration of her successør. The first clause of this bill is curious, as it couples with a limitation of the duration of parliaments, now advocated by many, a change in their mode of proceeding, which, though sometimes pleaded for as to electors, has not been thought of by any modern reformer, as far as I know, for the members themselves,
The proposed enactment was, " that elections shall be made at every Michaelmas head-court for a new parliament every year; to sit the first of November next following, and adjourn themselves from time to time, till next Michaelmas : that they choose their own president, and that every thing shall be determined by ballotting, in place of voting.” The collector of the pieces in this volume pithily observes, “Mr. Fletcher never wrote for a party; and his writings, therefore, ought to last."
NOTE (*)—Page 241.
This and other references to Spain, and to the Inquisition, make it necessary to remind the reader that these Lectures were delivered in 1818. I leave such expressions as they were; there is something in their present incorrectness not unpleasant, nor unfavourable to the argument.
NOTE (TM) - Page 242.
To illustrate the several particulars of this progression would require volumes, and perhaps their compilation would not be either an uninteresting or an useless task. Were I to begin extracts, I know not where they would end, and a capricious selection would be worth nothing as proof. I must therefore content myself with a reference or two to books commonly accessible.
The historical views commonly prefixed to works of science, or to be found in Dictionaries, Encyclopædias, &c. abundantly demonstrate the superiority of the mo. derns. Astronomy has most of the appearance of an exception, and, undoubtedly, great discoveries were made in this science at an early period, which afterwards sunk into oblivion. The more, however, that the claims set up for Egypt, India, and China, have been scrutinized, the less tenable have they appeared. Every concession that can be required, would still leave unrivalled the brilliant progress made since the time of Newton to the complete perfection of astronomy in the writings of La Place Besides that almost every science has received immense accessions by discovery and invention, as the mathematics by logarithms, the fluxional calculus, &c., two circumstances deserve notice : 1. They are generally cultivated; the degree of scientific knowledge which would once have conferred celebrity and immortality, is now, in this country, attained by thousands of obscure individuals. 2. The application of mathematical acquirements to the multiplication of the comforts of life has been wonderfully extended. The re-partition of the overflowed lands of Egypt, (if the common story of the invention of Geometry be true,) and the defence of Syracuse by Archimedes, seem to be the only degradation (as the old philosophers deemed it) of the pure sciences to useful purposes, in antiquity. Now they are chiefly and most successfully cultivated on account of their subservience to such objects.