« PreviousContinue »
free people; and accordingly it is among the fan enumeration of the advantages of absolute advocates of arbitrary power that such per- monarchy;—and we are tempted to follow his sons, after they have served their purpose by example, by concluding with a dry catalogue a pretence of patriotic zeal, are ultimately of the advantages of free government-each found to range themselves.
of which would require a chapter at least as We positively deny, then, that the interests long as that which we have now bestowed of the country have ever been sacrificed to a upon one of them. Next, then, to that of its vindictive desire to mortify or humble a rival superior security from great reverses and atroparty ;-though we freely admit that a great cities, of which we have already spoken at deal of the time and the talent that might be sufficient length, we should be disposed to devoted more directly to her service, is wasted rank that pretty decisive feature, of the sain such an endeavour. This, however, is un- perior Happiness which it confers upon all avoidable—nor is it possible to separate those the individuals who live under it. The condiscussions, which are really necessary to ex. sciousness of liberty is a great blessing and enpose the dangers or absurdity of the practical joyment in itself.---The occupation it affords measures proposed by a party, from those —ihe importance it confers—the excitement which have really no other end but to expose of intellect, and the elevation of spint which it to general ridicule or odium. This too, it implies, are all elements of happiness pehowever, it should be remembered, is a point culiar to this condition of society, and quite in which the country has a still deeper, though separate and independent of the external ada more indirect interest than in the former; vantages with which it may be attended. since it is only by such means that a system In the second place, however, liberty makes that is radically vicious can be exploded, or a men more Industrious, and consequently more set of men fundamentally corrupt and incapa- generally prosperous and Wealthy; the result pable removed. If the time be well spent, of which is, both that they have among them therefore, which is occupied in preventing or more of the good things that wealth can propalliating some particular act of impolicy or cure, and that the resources of the State are oppression, it is impossible to grudge that by greater for all public purposes. In the third which the spring and the fountain of all such place, it renders men more Valiant and Highacts may be cut off.
minded, and also promotes the development With regard to the tumult—the disorder- of Genius and Talents, both by the unbounded the danger to public peace—the vexation and career it opens up to the emulation of every discomfort which certain sensitive persons individual in the land, and by the natural efand great lovers of tranquillity represent as fect of all sorts of intellectual or moral erthe fruits of our political dissensions, we can- citement to awaken all sorts of intellectual not help saying that we have no sympathy and moral capabilities. In the fourth place, with their delicacy or their timidity. What it renders men more Patient, and Docile, and they look upon as a frightful commotion of the Resolute in the pursuit of any public object; elements, we consider as no more than a whole- and consequently both makes their chance of some agitation; and cannot help regarding success greater, and enables them to make the contentions in which freemen are engaged much greater efforts in every way, in proporby a conscientious zeal for their opinions, as tion to the extent of their population. No an invigorating and not ungenerous exercise. slaves could ever have undergone the toils to What serious breach of the public peace has which the Spartans or the Romans tasked it occasioned ?-to what insurrections, or con- themselves for the good or the glory of their spiracies, or proscriptions has it ever given country ;-and no tyrant could ever have ex. rise ?—what mob even, or tumult, has been torted the sums in which the Commons of excited by the contention of the two great England have voluntarily assessed themselves parties of the state, since their contention has for the exigencies of the state. These are been open, and their weapons appointed, and among the positive advantages of freedom; their career marked out in the free lists of the and, in our opinion, are its chief advantages. constitution ?-Suppress these contentions, in- —But we must not forget, in the fifth and last deed—forbid these weapons, and shut up place, that there is nothing else but a free these lists, and you will have conspiracies government by which men can be secured and insurrections enough.—These are the from those arbitrary invasions of their Persons short-sighted fears of tyrants.—The dissen- and Properties—those cruel persecutions, opsions of a free people are the preventives pressive imprisonments, and lawless esecu. and not the indications of disorder- tions, which no formal code can prevent an and the noises which make the weak-hearted absolute monarch from regarding as a part of tremble, are but the natural murmurs of those his prerogative; and, above all, from those mighty and mingling currents of public opin- provì cial exactions and oppressions, and ion, which are destined to fertilize and unite those universal Insults, and Contumelies, and the country, and can never become danger. Indig ities, by which the inferior minions of ous till an attempt is made to obstruct their power spread misery and degradation among course, or to disturb their level.
The whole mass of every people which has no Mr. Leckie has favoured his readers with political independence.
(April, 1816.) A Song of Triumph. By W. SOTHEBY, 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 many high and anxious speculations. The feelpages dedicated like ours to topics of present ings, we are sure, are in unison with all that interest, and the discussions of the passing exists around us; and we reckon therefore on hour, should be ushered into the world at such more than usual indulgence for the speculaa moment as this, without some stamp of that tions into which they may expand. common joy and anxious emotion with which The first and predominant feeling which the wonderful events of the last three months rises on contemplating the scenes that have are still filling all the regions of the earth. In just burst on our view, is that of deep-felt such a situation, it must be difficult for any gratitude and delight,--for the liberation of one who has the means of being heard, to re- so many oppressed nations,- for the cessation frain from giving utterance to his sentiments: of bloodshed and fear and misery over the But to us, whom it has assured, for the first fairest portions of the civilised world, and time, of the entire sympathy of all our coun- for the enchanting, though still dim and untrymen, the temptation, we own, is irresisti- certain prospect of long peace and measureless ble; and the good-natured part of our readers, improvement, which seems at last to be openwe are persuaded, will rather smile at our ing on the suffering kingdoms of Europe. The simplicity, than fret at our presumption, when very novelty of such a state of things, which we add, that we have sometimes permitted could be known only by description to the ourselves to fancy that, if any copy of these greater part of the existing generation—the our lucubrations should go down to another suddenness of its arrival, and the contrast generation, it may be thought curious to trace which it forms with the anxieties and alarms in them the first effects of events that are pro- to which it has so immediately succeeded, all bably destined to fix the fortune of succeed- concur most powerfully to enhance its vast ing centuries, and to observe the impressions intrinsic attractions. It has come upon the which were made on the minds of contempo- world like the balmy air and flushing verdure raries, by those mighty transactions, which of a late spring, after the dreary chills of a will appear of yet greater moment in the eyes long and interminable winter; and the reof a distant posterity. We are still too near freshing sweetness with which' it has visited that great image of Deliverance and Reform the earth, feels like Elysium to those who which the Genius of Europe has just set up have just escaped from the driving tempests. before us, to discern with certainty its just it has banished. lineaments, or construe the true character of We have reason to hope, too, that the riches the Aspect with which it looks onward to fu- of the harvest will correspond with the splenturity! We see enough, however, to fill us dour of this early promise. All the periods with innumerable feelings, and the germs of in which human society and human intellect
have been known to make great and memor• This, I am afraid, will now be thought to be too able advances, have followed close upon much of a mere Song of Triumph ;" or, at least, periods of general agitation and disorder: to be conceived throughout in a far more sanguine Men's minds, it would appear, must be deeply spirit than is consistent either with a wise observa. tion of passing events, or a philosophical estimate and roughly stirred, before they become proof the frailties of human nature : And, having cer.lific of great conceptions, or vigorous resolves; tainly been written under that prevailing excite. and a vast and alarming fermentation must mení, of which I chiefly wish to preserve it as a pervade and agitate the mass of society, to memorial, I have no doubt that, to some extent, i inform it with that kindly warmth, by which is so. Al the same time it should be recollected, alone the seeds of genius and improvement that it was written immediately after the first res. toration of the Bourbons ; and before the stariling can be expanded. The fact, at all events, is drama of the Hundred Days, and its grand catastro- abundantly certain ; and may be accounted phe at Waterloo, had dispelled the first wholesome for, we conceive, without mystery, and withfears of the Allies, or sown the seeds of more bitter out metaphors. ranklings and resentments in the body of the French people: and, above all, that it was so written, be.
A popular revolution in government or refore the many lawless'invasions of national inde: ligion-or any thing else that gives rise to pendence, and broken promises of Sovereigns to general and long-continued contention, natuiheir subjects, which have since revived that dis. rally produces a prevailing disdain of authortrust, which both nations and philosophers were ity, and boldness of thinking in the leaders then, perhaps, too ready to renounce. And after of the fray,—together with a kindling of the all, I must say, that an attentive reader may find, imagination and
development of intellect in a even in this strain of good auguries, both such traces of misgivings, and such iteration of anxious warn
great multitude of persons, who, in ordinary ings, as to save me from the imputation of having times, would have vegetated stupidly in the merely predicted a Millennium.
places where fortune had fixed them.' Power
and distinction, and all the higher prizes in folly. History, we think, will not class him the lottery of life, are then brought within the quite so lowas the English newspapers of the reach of a larger proportion of the community; present day. He is a creature to be dreaded and that vivifying spirit of ambition, which is and condemned, but not, assuredly, to be the true source of all improvement, instead despised by men of ordinary dimensions. His of burning at a few detached points on the catastrophe, so far as it is yet visible, seems summit of society, now pervades every por- unsuitable indeed, and incongruous with the tion of its frame. Much extravagance, and, in part he has hitherto sustained ; but we have all probability, much guilt and much misery, perceived nothing in it materially to alter the result, in the first instance, from this sudden estimate which we formed long ago of his extrication of talent and enterprise, in places character. He still seems to us a man of where they can as yet have no legitimate consummate conduct, valour, and decision in issue, or points of application. But the con- war, but without the virtues, or even the tending elements at last find their spheres, generous or social vices of a soldier of fortune; and their balance. The disorder ceases; but -of matchless activity indeed, and boundless the activity remains. The multitudes that ambition, but entirely without principle, feel. had been raised into intellectual existence by ing, or affection ;-suspicious, vindiciive, and dangerous passions and crazy illusions, do not overbearing ;-selfish and solitary in all his all relapse into their original torpor, when pursuits and gratifications;-proud and overtheir passions are allayed and their illusions weening, to the very borders of insanity ;dispelled. There is a great permanent addi- and considering at last the laws of honour and tion to the power and the enterprise of the the principles of morality, equally beneath his community; and the talent and the activity notice with the interests and feelings of other which at first convulsed the state by their men.--Despising those who submitted to his unmeasured and misdirected exertions, ulti- pretensions, and pursuing, with implacable mately bless and adorn it, under a more en- hatred, all who presumed to resist them, he lightened and less intemperate guidance. If seems to have gone on in a growing confiwe may estimate the amount of this ultimate dence in his own fortune, and contempt for good by that of the disorder which preceded mankind, -till a serious check from without it, we cannot be too sanguine in our calcula- showed him the error of his calculation, and tions of the happiness that awaits the rising betrayed the fatal insecurity of a career which generation. The fermentation, it will readily reckoned only on prosperity. be admitted, has been long and violent enough Over the downfal of such a man, it is fitting to extract all the virtue of all the ingredients that the world should rejoice; and his downthat have been submitted to its action; and fal, and the circumstances with which it has enough of scum has boiled over, and enough been attended, seem to us to hold out three of pestilent vapour been exhaled, to afford a several grounds of rejoicing. reasonable assurance that the residuum will In the first place, we think it has establishbe both ample and pure.
ed for ever the impracticability of any scheme If this delight in the spectacle and the of universal dominion; and proved, that Euprospect of boundless good, be the first feeling rope possesses sufficient means to maintain that is excited by the scene before us, the and assert the independence of her several second, we do not hesitate to say, is a stern states, in despite of any power that can be and vindictive joy at the downfal of the Tyrant brought against them. It might formerly have and the tyranny by whom that good had been been doubted,—and many minds of no abject 60 long intercepted. We feel no compassion cast were depressed with more than doubts for that man's reverses of fortune, whose on the subject,—whether the undivided sway heart, in the days of his prosperity, was which Rome exercised of old, by means of steeled against that, or any other humanising superior skill and discipline, might not be re. emotion. He has fallen, substantially, with vived in modern times by arrangement, acout the pity, as he rose without the love, of tivity, and intimidation, - and whether, in any portion of mankind; and the admiration spite of the boasted intelligence of Europe at which was excited by his talents and activity the present day, the ready communication and success, having no solid stay in the mag- between all its parts, and the supposed weight nanimity or generosity of his character, has of its public opinion, the sovereign of one or been turned, perhaps rather too eagerly, into two great kingdoms might not subdue all the scorn and derision, now that he is deserted rest, by rapidity of movement and decision by fortune, and appears without extraordinary of conduct, and retain them in subjection by resources in the day of his calamity.-We do a strict system of disarming and espionagenot think that an ambitious despot and san- by a constant interchange of armies and staguinary conqueror can be too much execrated, tions-and, in short, by a dexterous and alert or too little respected by mankind; but the use of those very means, of extensive intellipopular clamour, at this moment, seems to us gence and communication, which their civilto be carried too far, even against this very isation seemed at first to hold ont as their dangerous individual. It is now discovered, surest protection. The experiment, however, it seems, that he has neither genius nor com- has now been tried ; and the result is, that mon sense; and he is accused of cowardice for the nations of Europe can never be brought not killing himself, by the very persons who under the rule of one conquering sovereign. would infallibly have exclaimed against his No individual, it may be fairly presumed, will suicide, as a clear proof of weakness and lever try that fatal experiment again, with so
many extraordinary advantages, and chances and by new aggressions, and the menace of success, as he in whose hands it has now of more intolerable evils, drove them into that finally miscarried. The different states, it is league which rolled back the tide of ruin on to be hoped, will never again be found so himself, and ultimately hurled him into the shamefully unprovided for defence--so long insignificance from which he originally sprung. insensible to their danger — and, let us not Ii is for this reason, chiefly, that we join in scruple at last to speak the truth, so little the feeling, which we think universal in this worthy of being saved—as most of them were country, of joy and satisfaction at the utter at the beginning of that awful period; while destruction of this victim of Ambition,--and there is still less chance of any military sove at the failure of those negotiations, which reign again finding himself invested with the would have left him, though humbled, in absolute disposal of so vast a population, at possession of a sovereign state, and of great once habituated to war and victory by the actual power and authority. We say nothing energies of a popular revolution, and disposed at present of the policy or the necessity, that to submit to any hardships and privations for may have dictated those propositions, but the a ruler who would protect them from a re- actual result is far more satisfactory, than any currence of revolutionary horrors. That ruler, condition of their acceptance. Without this, however, and that population, reinforced by the lesson to Ambition would have been imimmense drafts from the countries he had perfect, and the retribution of Eternal Justice already overrun, has now been fairly beaten apparently incomplete. It was fitting, that down by the other nations of Europe - at the world should see it again demonstrated, length cordially united by a sense their by this great example, that the appetite of common danger. Henceforward, therefore, conquest is in its own nature insatiable;they show their strength, and the means and and that a being, once abandoned to that occasions of bringing it into action; and the bloody career, is fated to pursue it to the end; very notoriety of that strength, and of the and must persist in the work of desolation scenes on which it has been proved, will in and murder, till the accumulated wrongs and all probability prevent the recurrence of any resentments of the harassed world sweep him necessity for proving it again.
from its face. The knowledge of this may The second ground of rejoicing in the down- deter some dangerous spirits from entering on fal of Bonaparte is on account of the impres- a course, which will infallibly bear them on sive lesson it has read to Ambition, and the to destruction ;-and at all events should instriking illustration it has afforded, of the in- duce the sufferers to cut short the measure evitable tendency of that passion to bring to of its errors and miseries, by accomplishing ruin the power and the greatness which it their doom at the beginning. Sanguinary seeks so madly to increase. No human being, conquerors, we do not hesitate to say, should perhaps, ever stood on so proud a pinnacle of be devoted by a perpetual proscription, in worldly grandeur, as this insatiable conqueror, mercy to the rest of the world. at the beginning of his Russian campaign.- Our last cause of rejoicing over this grand He had done more-he had acquired more— catastrophe, arises from the discredit, and and he possessed more, as to actual power, even the derision, which it has so opportunely influence, and authority, than any individual thrown upon the character of conquerors in that ever figured on the scene of European general. "The thinking part of mankind did story. He had visited, with a victorious army, not perhaps need to be disabused upon this almost every capital of the Continent; and subject ;-but no illusion was ever so strong, dictated the terms of peace to their astonished or so pernicious with the multitude, as that princes. He had consolidated under his im- which invested heroes of this description with mediate dominion, a territory and population a sort of supernatural grandeur and dignity, apparently sufficient to meet the combination and bent the spirits of men before them, as of all thai it did not include; and interwoven beings intrinsically entitled to the homage and himself with the government of almost all submission of inferior natures. It is above that was left. He had cast down and erected all things fortunate, therefore, when this spell thrones at his pleasure; and surrounded him- can be broken, by merely reversing the operaself with tributary kings, and principalities tion by which it had been imposed; when the of his own creation. He had connected him- idols that success had tricked out in the mock self by marriage with the proudest of the attributes of divinity, are stripped of their ancient sovereigns; and was at the head of disguise by the rough hand of misfortune, and the largest and the finest army that was ever exhibited before the indignant and wondering assembled to desolate or dispose of the world. eyes of their admirers, in the naked littleness Had he known where to stop in his aggres- of humbled and helpless men,-depending, sions upon the peace and independence of for life and subsistence, on the pity of their mankind, it seems as if this terrific sove human conquerors, -and spared with safety, reignty might have been permanently es- in consequence of their insignificance.-Such tablished in his person. But the demon by an exhibition, we would fain hope, will rescue whom he was possessed urged him on to his men for ever from that most humiliating devofate. He could not bear that any power should tion, which has hitherto so often tempted the exist which did not confess its dependence on ambition, and facilitated the progress of conhim. Without a pretext for quarrel, he at- querors. It is not in our days, at least, that tacked Russia -- insulted Austria—trod con- it will be forgotten, that Bonaparte turned out temptuously on the fallen fortunes of Prussia a mere mortal in the end ;-and neither in our days, nor in those of our children, is it at all | distinction of having kept alive the sacred likely, that any other adventurer will arise to fame of liberty and the spirit of national inefface the impressions connected with that dependence, when the chill of general appre. recollection, by more splendid achievements, hension, and the rushing whirlwind of conthan distinguished the greater part of his quest, had apparently extinguished them for career. The kind of shame, too, that is felt ever, in the other nations of the earth. No by those who have been the victims or the course of prosperity, indeed, and no harvest instruments of a being so weak and fallible, of ultimate success, can ever extinguish the will make it difficult for any successor to his regret of all the true friends of our national ambition, so to overawe the minds of the glory and happiness, for the many preposterworld again; and will consequently diminish ous, and the occasionally disreputable expethe dread, while it exasperates the hatred, ditions, in which English blood was more with which presumptuous oppression ought than unprofitably wasted, and English charalways to be regarded.
acter more than imprudently involved; nor If the downfal of Bonaparte teach this can the delightful assurance of our actual lesson, and fix this feeling in the minds of deliverance from danger efface the rememmen, we should almost be tempted to say that brance of the tremendous hazard to which we the miseries he has inflicted are atoned for; were so long exposed by the obstinate misand that his life, on the whole, will have been government of Ireland. These, however, were useful to mankind. Undoubtedly there is no ihe sins of the Government. -and do not at other single source of wretchedness so prolific all detract from the excellent spirit of the as that strange fascination by which atrocious People, to which, in its main bearings, it was guilt is converted into an object of admiration, necessary, for the government to conform. and the honours due to the benefactors of the That spirit was always, and we believe unihuman race lavished most profusely on their versally, a spirit of strong attachment to the destroyers. A sovereign who pursues schemes country, and of stern resolution to do all of conquest for the gratification of his personal things, and to suffer all things in its cause;ambition, is neither more nor less than a being mingled with more or less confidence, or more who inflicts violent death upon thousands, or less anxiety, according to the temper or the and miseries still more agonising on millions, information of individuals, - but sound, steady of innocent individuals, to relieve his own and erect we believe upon the whole,-and ennui, and divert the languors of a base and equally determined to risk all for independworthless existence :-and, if it be true that ence, whether it was believed to be in great the chief excitement to such exploits is found or in little danger. in the false Glory with which the madness Of our own sentiments and professions, and of mankind has surrounded their successful of the consistency of our avowed principles, performance, it will not be easy to calculate from the first to the last of this momentous how much we are indebted to him whose his period, it would be impertinent to speak at. tory has contributed to dispel it.
large, in discussing so great a theme as the Next to our delight at the overthrow of honour of our common country. None of our Bonaparte, is our exultation at the glory of readers, and none of our censors
, can be more England. - It is a proud and honourable dis- persuaded than we are of the extreme insig. tinction to be able to say, in the end of such nificance of such a discussion-and not many a contest, that we belong to the only nation of them can feel more completely indifferent that has never been conquered ;-to the nation about the aspersions with which we have that set the first example of successful resist- been distinguished, or more fully convinced ance to the power that was desolating the of the ultimate justice of public opinion. We world, -and who always stood erect, though shall make no answer therefore to the sneers she sometimes stood alone, before it. From and calumnies of which it has been thought England alone, that power, to which all the worth while to make us the subject, except rest had successively bowed, has won no tro-1 just to say, that if any man can read what we phies, and extorted no submission; on the have written on public affairs, and entertain contrary, she has been constantly baffled and any serious doubt of our zeal for the safety, disgraced whenever she has grappled directly the honour, and the freedom of England, he with the might and energy of England. Dur- must attach a different meaning to all these ing the proudest part of her continental career, phrases from that which we have most sinEngland drove her ships from the ocean, and cerely believed to belong to them; and that, annihilated her colonies and her commerce. though we do not pretend to have either foreThe first French army that capitulated. capit- seen or foretold the happy events that have so ulated to the English forces in Egypt; and lately astonished the world, we cannot fail to Lord Wellington is the only commander see in them the most gratifying confirmation against whom six Marshals of France have of the very doctrines we have been the longest successively tried in vain to procure any ad- and the most loudly abused for asserting vantage.
The last sentiment in which we think all The efforts of England have not always candid observers of the late great events must been well directed, nor her endeavours to cordially agree, is that of admiration and pure rouse the other nations of Europe very wisely and unmingled approbation of the magnanitimed :-But she has set a magnificent ex- mity, the prudence, the dignity and forbear. ample of unconquerable fortitude and unalter- ance of the Allies. There has been someable constancy; and she may claim the proud thing in the manner of those extraordinary