Page images
[ocr errors]

exploits, when returned home, crowned with laurels and in the árms of peace, in the center of his own capital, surrounded by his subjects, friends, and courtiers, preparing, with a generous con, tempt of repeated warnings, to relax in those pleasures which he had well earned by his toil, he was destined to experience the hard fortune of falling by the vile hands of a traiterous assassin. The French writers sometimes called him the Agamemnon of the royal confederacy, and his fate bore some resemblance to that of the Grecian monarch, though the motive of his murder was not the fame.' Part i. Þ. 392.

A part of the sketch of his character we shall subjoin, as it is apparently just.

• Gustavus poffesfed very eminent abilities, and talents not only splendid, but equal to the performance of the greatest things. Among these, together with a most fascinating address, which rendered every stranger at first sight interested in his favour, was a very powerful and persuasive eloquence, admirably suited to popular assemblies, and from which he derived the most signal benefits in many of the most trying exigencies of his life. Indeed he valued himself on his management of the diet, and observed, that he was the only sovereign who had succeeded in convoking a public. body of that description. His presence of mind, immediate recollection, and instant decision, in all sudden cafes of difficulty or danger, were perhaps only equalled by his uncle the great Frederick; while the firmness and fortitude which he manifested in the many fevere conflicts on governmental and public affairs which he was obliged to fuftain, were in no degree inferior to that exalted courage which he displayed in the field of battle.

• In that scene of action, indeed, his intrepidity and contempt of danger were carried to such an excess, as to constitute the great blemih of his military character; the duties of the commander seeming not unfrequently to be too much funk in those of the private soldier or volunteer. He evidently had the actions of his two great predeceffors, Guftavus Adolphus, and Charles the XIIth constantly in his vietu, and endeavoured alternately, not only to emulate but to exceed them both. If he failed in some of those comprehensive first rate qualities of a great commander, particuŁarly in a cool conimand of temper, which so highly distinguished the former, he equalled the latter in the only shining parts of his character, those of valour and enterprize, and was infinitely his superior in all other respects ; indeed, the urbanity of his manners, his humanity, and his forgiving clemency, could not be shewn to greater advantage, than by opposing them to the unrelenting obftinacy, and the cruel ferocity of Charles.' Part i. P. 394.

The chronicle given in the second part of the volume is thort; but the appendix to it is long. The state papers are

numerous; and the extracts from the publications of the year are either amufing or interesting.

It cannot be denied that this volume exhibits the marks of diligence and attention ; but traces of partiality are visible, and many inaccuracies of diction appear.

The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and

Literature, for the Year 1793. 8vo. 85. Boards, Otridge and Son. 1798.

A Contest has arisen with regard to the Annual Register, fince the death of the person who was for a long course of years the proprietor and publisher of it. The booksellers who purchased of Mr. Dodsley's

, executors the old volumes and the copy-right, claim the privilege of continuing the work; while those who, with the perinision of Mr. Dodsley, and in concert with the author employed by him, continued it in his lifetime, conceive themselves to be solely entitled to the right of publication. Though the copy-right to a work of this kind could not extend to the succeeding volumes, the former feem to have the stronger claiın in point of equity.

The volume which now offers itself to our notice, has been published by the purchasers to whom we have above referred; and they are preparing to bring down the history to the present time, after reverting to the years 1791 and 1792.

The manner in which the history of the year 1793 commences, is not very auspicious to the hopes of those who may have wished for a inafterly continuation of the Register.

We now approach the period when Great-Britain relinquished its neutral character, and became a party in the war that had traversed the Austrian Netherlands, and tlıreatened the dominions of the United Provinces.

• The zeal with which the French convention propagated revolutionary principles; the emiffories which it encouraged in this country; the connection it had formed with certain political focieties established in London ; and the manner in which deputies from them had been received at their bar, had already, it was alleged, excited the vigilance of the British government, and compelled it to employ fuch meafures as the important and extraordinary circumftances of the country appeared to demand: that, at length, however, France, disdaining to continue its base and artful designs against the conftitution and government of Great-Britain, or de spairing of any final advantage being reaped from them, had risen at once into an avowed intention of provoking it to war, and that in this view, among others, it was determined, by the executive power of France, to set aside the law of nations, and to trample on

[ocr errors]

P. I.

treaties, by declaring not only its design, but its right, to open the navigation of the Scheldt. It was added, that the French had already obtained poffeffion of the Belgic provinces by force of arms, and were impelled by their mad ambition to encroach on Holland, with a view to a similar subjugation of that country: that the con vention, therefore, as a preparatory step to this continuation of their aggrandizing project, had made known, in November 1792, their design of opening the Scheldt, in direct opposition to treaties of which England was a guarantee, and to the manifest disadvan, tage of the commerce of the United Provinces, who were the allies of England, to whom they naturally looked for that protection, which they had a right to demand.'

The debates of the British parliament, which occupy nearly two-thirds of the historical part of the volume, are exhibited in an aukward, confused, and spiritless state of compression, If the limits to which the compiler was restricted had even been considerably more narrow, he might, by the exercise of a fmall share of ability and attention, have given the bftance of the debates with better effect.

The affairs of France are not recounted in a more luminous or impressive manner. The trial of Louis XVI. is given in a form more proper for an appendix than for a regular hiltory; and the remarks which are introduced, though occafionally just, are not only trite, but are weakened by the uncouth dress in which they appear. Let the reader judge from the following speciinen:

5 Those who tried Louis XVI. for treason were themselves traitors; for they had betrayed the nation. They accused him of tyranny and despotism, when they and their coadjutors alone were the tyrants and despots of the people: they accused him oi shedding innocent blood; when, in a few hours, they immolated to their own ambition and revenge more victims than there had fallen cri- , minals under the severity of the law, during the whole reign of the king. Respecting the cruel treatment of Louis, during his confinement, as well as the mock trial by which he was brought to the scaffold, there is but one opinion among all ranks of people in every part of Europe : but it is not in general so well known, by what methods his enemies contrived to lull all Frauce; and particularly the inhabitants of Paris, into a kind of stupci, till it was too late to prevent the execution of this fanguinary project. The ruling party in the assembly, in the clubs, and at the Hotel de Ville, were not without their apprehenfons. The majority of France, it was well known, not only deprecated any violence being committed against the king, but disapproved of the oth of Auguft, and all the machinations which followed. The murder of the king therefore might have served as a fignal for the majority to break forth, who, by uniting in one single point, might have

crushed their adversaries. To prevent, therefore, so dangerous a point of re-union, the assembly discussed the question in a way which made the generality of people believe, that imprisonment or exile would be the utmost extent of their vengeance.

The king had 'long been a prisoner, and the formality, by a pretended process of law, of confirming his imprisonment did not appear to be a subject for alarm, as it respected his life ; and as for exile, as the ftate of things then was, even royalists themselves might consider it as an advantage. The trial of Louis, therefore, was so conducted, as by presenting these two kinds of punishment to the public attention, the sentence of death did not appear to be an object of apprehension, till the trial drew near to its conclusion, and then the precipitate execution of the sentence prevented the possibility of an effort on the part of the departments of France.'

P. 225 The account of the campaign is not calculated to atone for the imperfections of the other parts of the volume.

We therefore dismiss the whole without that praise which we would gladly have given to real merit.

[ocr errors]

History of Great Britain, from the Revolution to the Seffion of

Parliament ending 4. D. 1793. By W. Belsam. (Concluded from Vol. XXIII. p. 369.)

OUR author's history of the reign of William III. was fufficiently copious; but he seems, if we may judge from the comparative brevity of his account of the reign of Anne, to have been eager to bring it to a close, notwithstanding the great importance of many of the occurrences of that period.

Having noticed the consternation which the death of William produced among the members of the grand alliance, he gives a hasty sketch of the first measures of the new sovereign. No novelty of statement appears; and the remarks are not striking. The transactions of the war, however, are related with fome animation ; and the merits of the duke of Marlborough are properly appreciated. Civil affairs, and the deliþerations of the parliaments of the two British kingiloms, are impartially discussed; and the proceedings preparatory to the union are fairly represented. Of the treaty which the commissioners adjufted for that desirable purpose, Mr. Belshain speaks in the following terms :

• It was generally believed that lord Somers had the chief share in framing this famous treaty, which was in many respects highly advantageous to Scotland, though in some points it feemed to derogate from her national dignity and independence. When four shillings in the pound land-tax, amounting to the

[ocr errors]

sum of two millions, were levied in England, Scotland was to be assessed at the rate of 48,000l. only. On the other hand, the peerage of Scotland were divested of their privilege of fitting as lords of parliament, and the whole body was in future to be represented by fixteen peers elected by themselves; and the commons by 45 members chosen by the country, Scotland was rendered liable to the same duties of custom and excise with England; and a part of these being mortgaged for the payment of the principal or interest of the public debt of England, the sum of 398,000l. was paid to Scotland as an equivalent for her share of the same, to be applied to a re-coinage of the public monies, to the payment of the Scottish national debt, to indemnifying the Darien company for their losses, in consideration of the diffolution of the same, and the encouragement of the infant manufactures of the kingdom. Trade was to be free all over the island, and to the plantations; private rights were to be preserved ; and the judicatories and laws of Scotland were to be continued. Finally, the two nations were to the end of time to constitute one kingdom, under the same succession to the crown, and united under one legislature. There was no provision in the treaty respecting religion-agreeably to an express limitation in the powers granted to the commissioners by the parliaments of both kingdoms. These were the chief and leading articles of this memorable treaty-the firit of the kind recorded in history ; " for there never was at any time or in any place an example of two fovereign kingdoms incorporating themselves in such a manner.” Thefe are the words of lord Halifax, in a letter addressed to the court of Hanover on this welcome and interesting occasion.' Vol. i. P. 445.

The queen testified great joy at the success of the scheme of union;' but her satisfaction would have been more complete, if the could conveniently have discarded the ministers by whom it was effected. But she could not yet assume sufficient fpirit to shake off the yoke to which they subjected her. The rising influence of Mrs. Masham, however, inenaced them with a diminution of their power.

. About this period' (says Mr. Belsham) " a new favorite had arisen in the court-Mrs. Marham, a relation of the duchess of Marlborough, and introduced by her to the queen; over whom she had, by her foft and insinuating manners, so opposite to the imperious deportment of the duchess, acquired such an afcendency, that her grace was absolutely supplanted before fie was apprised of the danger. Mrs. Masham had formed a strict con. nection with the secretary of state, Harley, who had in conjunction with her formed a project of raising himself to the summit of power on the ruins of the present ministry, whose whole fystem of politics he found secretly diftasteful to the queen. The fecretary had been frequently introduced by the favorite to private audiences of the queen, in which he represented to her, who was extremely jealous of her authority, the political thraldom in which flue was held by the Marlborough family, and he practised

« PreviousContinue »