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We are surprised that M. Necker should attempt to build any strong argument upon the durability of opinions in nations that are about to undergo, or that have recently undergone, great political changes. What opinion was there in favour of a republic in 1780? or against it in 1794? or, what opinion is there now in favour of in 1802? Is not the tide of opinions, at this moment, in France, setting back with a strength equal to its flow? and is there not reason to presume that, for some time to come, their ancient institutions may be adored with as much fury as they were destroyed ? If opinion can revive in favour of kings (and M. Necker allows it may), why not in favour of nobles ? It is true their property is in the hands of other persons; and the whole of that species of proprietors will exert themselves to the utmost to prevent a restoration so pernicious to their interests. The obstacle is certainly of a very formidable nature. But why this weight of property, so weak a weapon of defence to its ancient, should be deemed so irresistible in the hands of its present possessors, we are at a loss to conceive; unless, indeed, it be supposed that antiquity of possession diminishes the sense of right and the vigour of retention; and that men will struggle harder to keep what they have acquired only yesterday than that which they have possessed, by themselves or their ancestors, for six centuries.
In France the inferiority of the price of revolutionary lands to others is immense. Of the former species, Church land is considerably dearer than the forfeited estates of emigrants. Whence the difference of price, but from the estimated difference of security ? Can any fact display more strongly the state of public opinion with regard to the probability of a future restoration of these estates, either partial or total ? and can any circumstance facilitate the execution of such a project more than the general belief that it will be executed ? Mr. Necker allows that the impediments to the formation of a republic are very serious ; but thinks they would all yield to the talents and activity of Bonaparte, if he were to dedicate himself to the superintendence of such a government during the period of its infancy : of course, therefore, he is to suppose the same power delicated to the formation of an hereditary monarchyor his parallel of difficulties is unjust, and his preference irrational. Bonaparte could represent the person of a monarch, during his life, as well as he could represent the executive of a republic; and if he could overcome the turbulence of electors to whom freedom was new, he could appease the jealousy that his generals would entertain of the returning nobles. Indeed, without such powerful intervention, this latter objection does not appear to us to be by any means insuperable. If the history of our own Restoration were to be acted over again in France, and royalty and aristocracy brought back by the military successor of Bonaparte, it certainly could not be done without a very liberal distribution of favours among the great leaders of the army.
Jealousy of the executive is one feature of a republic; in consequence, that government is clogged with a multiplicity of safeguards and restrictions, which render it unfit for investigating complicated details, and managing extensive relations with vigour, consistency, and despatch. A republic, therefore, is better fitted for a little stage than a large one.
A love of equality is another very strong principle in a republic; therefore, it does not tolerate hereditary honour or wealth; and all the effect produced upon the minds of the people by this factitious power is lost, and the government weakened. But, in proportion as the government is less able to command, the people should be more willing to obey ; therefore a republic is better suited to a moral than an immoral people.
A people who have recently experienced great evils from the privileged orders and from monarchs love republican forms so much that the warmth
of their inclination supplies, in some degree, the defect of their institutions, Immediately, therefore, upon the destruction of despotism a republic may be preferable to a limited monarchy.
And yet, though narrowness of territory, purity of morals, and recent escape from despotism appear to be the circumstances which most strongly recommend a republic, M. Necker proposes it to the most numerous and the most profligate people in Europe, who are disgusted with the very name of liberty, from the incredible evils they have suffered in pursuit of it.
Whatever be the species of free government adopted by France, she can adopt none without the greatest peril. The miserable dilemma in which men living under bad governments are placed is that, without a radical revolu. tion, they may never be able to gain liberty at all; and, with it, the attainment of liberty appears to be attended with almost insuperable difficulties. To call upon a nation, on a sudden, totally destitute of such knowledge and experience, to perform all the manifold functions of a free constitution, is to intrust valuable, delicate, and abstruse mechanism to the rudest skill and the grossest ignorance. Public acts may confer liberty ; but experience only can teach a people to use it ; and, till they have gained that experience, they are liable to tumult, to jealousy, to collision of powers, and to every evil to which men are exposed who are desirous of preserving a great good, without knowing how to set about it. In an old-established system of liberty, like our own, the encroachments which one department of the State makes on any other are slow, and hardly intentional; the political feelings and the constitutional knowledge which every Englishman possesses creates a public voice, which tends to secure the tranquillity of the whole. Amid the crude sentiments and new-born precedents of sudden liberty, the Crown might destroy the Commons, or the Commons the Crown, almost before the people had formed any opinion of the nature of their contention. A nation grown free in a single day is a child born with the limbs and the vigour of a man, who would take a drawn sword for his rattle, and set the house in a blaze, that he might chuckle over the splendour.
Why can factious eloquence produce such limited effects in this country? Partly because we are accustomed to it, and know how to appreciate it. We are acquainted with popular assemblies; and the language of our Parliament produces the effect it ought upon public opinion, because long experience enables us to conjeeture the real motives by which men are actuated ; to separate the vehemence of party spirit from the language of principle and truth; and to discover whom we can trust, and whom we cannot. The want of all this, and of much more than this, must retard, for a very long period, the practical enjoyment of liberty in France, and present very serious obstacles to ? her prosperity; obstacles little dreamed of by men who seem to measure the ; happiness and future grandeur of France by degrees of longitude and latitude, and who believe she might acquire liberty with as much facility as she could acquire Switzerland or Naples.
M. Necker's observations on the finances of France, and on finance in general, are useful, entertaining, and not above the capacity of every reader. France, he says, at the beginning of 1781, had 438 millions of revenue ; and, at present, 540 millions. The State paid, in 1781, about 215 millions in pensions, the interest of perpetual debts, and debts for life. It pays, at present, 80 millions in interests and pensions, and owes about 12 millions for anticipations on the public revenue. A considerable share of the increase of the revenue is raised upon the conquered countries; and the people are liberated from tithes, corvées, and the tax on salt. This, certainly, is a magnificent picture of finance. The best-informed people at Paris, who would be very
glad to consider it as a copy from life, dare not contend that it is so. At least, we sincerely ask pardon of M. Necker, if our information as to this point be not correct : but we believe he is generally considered to have been misled by the public financial reports.
In addition to the obvious causes which keep the interest of money so high in France, M. Necker states one which we shall present to our readers :
“There is one means for the establishment of credit,” he says, “ equally important with the others which I have stated -a sentiment of respect for morals sufficiently diffused to overawe the government, and intimidate it from treating with bad faith any solemn engagements contracted in the name of the State. It is this respect for morals which seems at present to have disappeared; a respect which the Revolution has destroyed, and which is unquestionably one of the firmest supports of national faith.”
The terrorists of this country are so extremely alarmed at the power of Bonaparte that they ascribe to him resources which M. Necker very justly observes to be incompatible-despotism and credit. Now, clearly, if he be so omnipotent in France as he is represented to be, there is an end of all credit ; for nobody will trust him whom nobody can compel to pay ; and if he establishes a credit, he loses all that temporary vigour which is derived from a revolutionary government. Either the despotism or the credit of France directed against this country would be highly formidable ; but, both together can never be directed at the same time.
In this part of his work M. Necker very justly points out one of the most capital defects of Mr. Pitt's administration ; who always supposed that the power of France was to cease with her credit, and measured the period of her existence by the depreciation of her assignats. Whereas, France was never more powerful than when she was totally unable to borrow a single shilling in the whole circumference of Europe, and when her assignats were not worth the paper on which they were stamped.
Such are the principal contents of M. Necker's very respectable work. Whether, in the course of that work, his political notions appear to be derived from a successful study of the passions of mankind, and whether his plan for the establishment of a republican government in France, for the ninth or tenth time, evinces a more sanguine, or a more sagacious mind, than the rest of the world, we would rather our readers should decide for themselves, than expose ourselves to any imputation of arrogance by deciding for them. But when we consider the pacific and impartial disposition which characterises the “ Last Views on Politics and Finance," the serene benevolence which it always displays, and the pure morals which it always inculcates, we cannot help entertaining a high respect for its venerable author, and feeling a fervent wish that the last views of every public man may proceed from a heart as upright, and be directed to objects as good.
COLLINS'S ACCOUNT OF NEW SOUTH WALES. (E. Review,
April, 1803.) Account of the English Colony of New South Wales. By Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, of
the Royal Marines. Vol. II. 4to. Cadell and Davies, London. To introduce an European population, and, consequently, the arts and civilisation of Europe into such an untrodden country as New Holland, is to confer a lasting and important benefit upon the world. If man be destined for perpetual activity, and if the proper objects of that activity be the subju. gation of physical difficulties, and of his own dangerous passions, how absurd are those systems which proscribe the acquisitions of science and the restraints
of law, and would arrest the progress of man in the rudest and earliest stages of his existence! Indeed, opinions so very extravagant in their nature must be attributed rather to the wantonness of paradox than to sober reflection and extended inquiry.
To suppose the savage state permanent, we must suppose the numbers of those who compose it to be stationary, and the various passions by which men have actually emerged from it to be extinct ; and this is to suppose man a very different being from what he really is. To prove such a per. manence beneficial (if it were possible), we must have recourse to matter of fact, and judge of the rude state of society, not from the praises of tranquil literati, but from the narratives of those who have seen it through a nearer and better medium than that of imagination. There is an argument, how. ever, for the continuation of evil drawn from the ignorance of good ; by which it is contended that to teach men their situation can be better is to teach them that it is bad, and to destroy that happiness which always results from an ignorance that any greater happiness is within our reach. All pains and pleasures are clearly by comparison ; but the most deplorable savage enjoys a sufficient contrast of good, to know that the grosser evils from which civilisation rescues him are evils. A New Hollander seldom passes a year without suffering from famine ; the small-pox falls upon him like a plague ; he dreads those calamities, though he does not know how to avert them : but, doubtless, would find his happiness increased if they were averted. To deny this is to suppose that men are reconciled to evils, because they are inevitable; and yet hurricanes, earthquakes, bodily decay, and death, stand highest in the catalogue of human calamities.
Where civilisation gives birth to new comparisons unfavourable to savage life, with the information that a greater good is possible, it generally connects the means of attaining it. The savage no sooner becomes ashamed of his nakedness than the loom is ready to clothe him ; the forge prepares for him more perfect tools, when he is disgusted with the awkwardness of his own : his weakness is strengthened, and his wants supplied, as soon as they are discovered ; and the use of the discovery is that it enables him to derive from comparison the best reasons of present happiness. A man born blind is ignorant of the pleasures of which he is deprived. After the restoration of his sight, his happiness will be increased from two causes-from the delight he experiences at the novel accession of power, and from the contrast he will always be enabled to make between his two situations, long after the pleasure of novelty has ceased. For these reasons, it is humane to restore him to sight.
But, however beneficial to the general interests of mankind the civilisation of barbarous countries may be considered to be, in this particular instance of it, the interest of Great Britain would seem to have been very little consulted. With fanciful schemes of universal good we have no business to meddle. Why we are to erect penitentiary-houses and prisons at the distance of half the diameter of the globe, and to incur the enormous expense of feeding and transporting their inhabitants to and at such a distance, it is extremely difficult to discover. It certainly is not from any deficiency of barren islands near our own coast, nor of uncultivated wastes in the interior; and if we were suficiently fortunate to be wanting in such species of accommodation, we might discover in Canada, or the West Indies, or on the coast of Africa, a climate malignant enough, or a soil suficiently sterile, to revenge all the injuries which have been inflicted on society by pickpockets, larvenists, and petty felons. Upon the foundation of a new colony, and especially one peopled by criminals, there is a disposition in Gorernment (where any circumstance in the commission of the crime affords the least pretence for the commutation) to convert capital punishments into transportation; and by these means to hold forth a very dangerous, though certainly a very un. intentional encouragement to offences. And when the history of the colony has been attentively perused in the parish of St. Giles, the ancient avocation of picking pockets will certainly not become more discreditable from the knowledge that it may eventually lead to the possession of a farm of a thousand acres on the river Hawkesbury. Since the benevolent Howard attacked our prisons, incarceration has become not only healthy but elegant ; and a county-jail is precisely the place to which any pauper might wish to retire, to gratify his taste for magnificence as well as for comfort. Upon the same principle, there is some risk that transportation will be considered as one of the surest roads to honour and wealth; and that no felon will hear a verdict of “not guilty” without considering himself as cut off in the fairest career of prosperity. It is foolishly believed that the colony of Botany Bay unites our moral and commercial interests, and that we shall receive hereafter an ample equivalent in bales of goods, for all the vices we export. Unfortunately, the expense we have incurred in founding the colony will not retard the natural progress of its emancipation, or prevent the attacks of other nations, who will be as desirous of weaping the fruit, as if they had sown the seed. It is a colony, besides, begun under every possible disadvantage; it is too distant to be long governed, or well defended ; it is undertaken, not by the voluntary association of individuals, but by Government, and by means of compulsory labour. A nation must, indeed, be redundant in capital that will expend it where the hopes of a just return are so very small.
It may be a curious consideration, to reflect what we are to do with this colony when it comes to years of discretion. Are we to spend another hundred millions of money in discovering its strength, and to humble ourselves again before a fresh set of Washingtons and Franklins ? The moment after we have suffered such serious mischief from the escape of the old tiger, we are breeding up a young cub, whom we cannot render less ferocious, or more secure. If we are gradually to manumit the colony, as it is more and more capable of protecting itself, the degrees of emancipation, and the periods at which they are to take place, will be judged of very differently by the two nations. But we confess ourselves not to be so sanguine as to suppose that a spirited and commercial people would, in spite of the example of America, ever consent to abandon their sovereignty over an important colony, without a struggle. Endless blood and treasure will be exhausted to support a tax on kangaroos' skins; faithful Commons will go on voting fresh supplies to support a just and necessary war; and Newgate, then become a quarter of the world, will evince a heroism, not unworthy of the great characters by whom she was originally peopled.
The experiment, however, is not less interesting in a moral, because it is objectionable in a commercial point of view. It is an object of the highest curiosity thus to have the growth of a nation subjected to our examination ; to trace it by such faithful records from the first day of its existence; and to gather that knowledge of the progress of human affairs from actual experi. ence which is considered to be only accessible to the conjectural reflections of enlightened minds.
Human nature, under very old governments, is so trimmed, and pruned, and ornamented, and led into such a variety of factitious shapes, that we are almost ignorant of the appearance it would assume, if it were left more to itself. From such an experiment as that now before us, we shall be better able to appreciate what circumstances of our situation are owing to those