Page images

nanimous warrior Mr. Pistol, or among the moderns, as those eloquent persons who expatiate so feelingly, in our diurnal prints, on the mischiefs of worms and the misery of red whiskers. Taking into account the size of the volume, it is really a curiosity. Many men, beside Mr. Finch, have evinced a determined preference of sound to sense, but few have indulged it on so large a scale, or with so little intermission. There is, too, an habitual aggravation of emphasis which strikes us as somewhat curious : nothing is said in a low tone and natural manner; but the most trifling proposition is delivered with the effort and agitation of a hierophant. Lastly we cannot avoid noticing the singularly odd mixture of meanness and finery, rags and ribbons, truisms and nonsense ;-though this last characteristic indeed is not without a parallel in the natural world: for it is the same animal that at one time crawls as a grub, and at another flutters as a butterfly.

What renders all this so much the worse is, that the claims of Mr. Finch rest, mainly, on his manner. To originality of doctrine,' he says, he makes no pretensions, but professes to have exhibited common, though momentous subjects, under a new arrangement and in a new dress:' and he goes on to add that the chief excellence of a work like his, of practical utility, must be sought for in the reasonings and illustrations' by which the principles' are recommended. Now as it is but fair, we think, to let an author take his own ground and advance his own pretensions,' we shall give this intimation all the attention it demands. Of Mr. Finch's principles, therefore, we shall merely say that in politics they are sufficiently democratic, and that in religion they are characterized by a great aversion to mystery, and a great abhorrence of the narrowminded bigotry of Calvinian zealots. It is Mr. Finch’s manner, which is to perpetuate his fame: and to this therefore we shall confine ourselves in the brief space we can afford to devote to a work, which perhaps, after all, deserves as little to be noticed as it did to be written.

The first thing that strikes a reader on opening the volume, is the marvellous simplicity and perspicuity of the statements. These are frequently enounced in pithy independent propositions,—of which the following may serve for specimens.

• The chilling breeze may sometimes interrupt the calm atmosphere, and vernal showers may occasionally becloud the light of day: the storm may agitate the ocean, and the Aowing tides may swell the channels of the earth,' p. 254.

• Robbery, insults, slavery, and murder, violate the sacred rights of man, and demolish the fundamental laws of civil government. Murder, indeed, is a crime of the most horrible description. p. 73. Vol. X.

2 F

• When the character of a nation no longer harmonizes with the constitution of that government under whose wing it is placed, that government itself, though surpassless in theoretic beauty stands on a sandy basis, and is hourly liable to an immediate fall. p. 43.

• A superior degree of muscular energy or circumstantial force, can never be esteemed an evidence of intrinsically superior worth.”

p. 77.

[ocr errors]

• Knowledge however valuable neither descends from the clouds, nor enters the mind while sleeping on the bed of indolence and sensuality. It is neither bequeathed to us by the will of our forefathers, nor suddenly put within our grasp by the revolutionary wheel of fortune.' p. 218.

To the man whose eyes have been always beamless, the charms of light can have no attractions; but those who have beheld with rapture its varied beauties, can never become insensible of its worth, nor be desirous of hiding themselves in perpetual darkness.'

p. 236.

• He that has enjoyed the sweets of liberty, and lived independent of coercive power, must abhor the idea of bondage, and shrink from the apprehension of ceaseless imprisonment.' p. 236.

• It would doubtless be ridiculous enough to see a congress of national senators relaxing themselves at a game of blindman's buff.'

p. 357.

Sometimes, however, these statements assume a more extended shape.

• Some propositions, designed merely to convey the most simple ideas of truth, strike the mind with the force of intuitive demon. stration, and render it impossible for the understanding to wait for a moment in suspense. Every one instantly perceives that the whole of any thing must be greater than a part-that three and two can be neither morc nor less than fiveand that no being can possess existence, and yet be annihilated at the same moment. Many axioms of this description might indeed be specified, respecting which no doubt can possibly exist in the mind, nor any difference or dispute be admitted for an instant among the human race. They are equally acknowledged to be true, whether uttered in the polished languages of Europe, or conveyed by the simple dialect of savage tribes --whether announced to philosophers on the theatre of science, or delivered to wild barbarians in the desert.' p. 334.

• It is the foundation of a superstructure that forms an essential criterion of its solidity, its duration, and its worth. The most scientific arrangement of parts, or the utmost splendor of

superficial embellishments, can never be deemed an equivalent for stability, nor give value to a fabric which is built on the sand. If our system of rights be founded on the schemes of fancy, and not on the principles of equity and truth, the first wind that assails it will discover its inherent weakness, and cause its high raised pinnacles to realize an immediate fall. But if the firm and immutable laws of nature, of reason, of virtue, and of truth, constitute the basis on which it stands, it may endure the vicissitudes of ages, and remain coeval with the social existence of man.' p. 125.

Of the reasonings' the reader may take the following examples.

• Freedom of speech is therefore essential to the true dignity of reason, and to the rational utility of social intercourse. In its absence, the mind could receive no permanent increase of felicity, buc every hoped for accession of intellectual joy would either terminate in abortion, or expire at the moment of its birth. Wisdom would no longer diffuse its genial benefits throughout the world, but folly, like a pestilential atmosphere, would spread its baneful

contagion and desolating ravages on every hand. Sincerity the foundation of all the virtues would be driven from the habitations of men, and hypocrisy with all its guileful train, would become familiar with the human race. The character of the mind would be deformed in every feature,-society would appear more hideous than solitude itself,—and the kindred ties of nature would serve only to increase imposture and aggravate distress. p. 232.

• Poverty in general excludes the multitude from the light of wisdom, and imprisons them in the dungeon of ignorance, superstition, and depravity. It not only contracts the minds of its present victims, but seals the understandings of their posterity, and renders it almost impossible for them to rise beyond the infancy of their moral being. Trained up to labour from their earliest days, and doomed to persevere through life in its perpetual toils, the lowest poor can neither enjoy the benefit of juvenile improvement, nor possess an opportunity to cultivate and dignify their own minds. Compelled to engage with incessant diligence in some laborious avocation of manual employ, their immortal faculties are withheld from the best pursuits of reason, and denied the heaven born emotions of intellectual joy.' p. 174_5.

• If the zealous advocates of uniformity in the religious world would ever accomplish their favourite object, let them not only embrace the principles of pure democracy, but exemplify the character of universal levellers on the largest scale. Let them not only demolish those distinctions of rank and property which the revolutions of time have unavoidably introduced among us, but let them likewise terminate those different avocations and alliances which necessarily diversify our principles, and change the complexion of our moral features. Let them establish some infallible rule by which the muscular energies and sensative organs of our infant race may be as similated; and, like Pharaoh and Herod their cruel prototypes, let them commission some bloody-minded lictors to dispatch, every one who is found incapable of such similitude. Let them also institute, on some invariably regulated plan, two national establishments from which alone


preceptors can be obtained to swathe our infants and educate our youth.'


p. 341.

But our author's forte is evidently in “illustration.'

In the midst of those gloomy periods our immortal Alfred rising to the throne, shone like the vernal sun in all his benignant majesty. Beneath the influence of his illustrious government the clouds of ignorance fled away, the chains of vassalage were burst asunder, plunder and assassination ceased to reign. The splendor of his genius indeed kindled the flame of liberty in every dejected bosom, compelled the haggard form of tyranny to hide its head, and lighted up the bloom of joy in every dejected countenance. p. 46.

"We perceive that mankind were neither designed to vegetate like plants, nor to spend their days in listlessness like oysters; they were neither intended to crawl on the earth like reptiles, nor to ravage it like tygers.' p 217.

An encroachment on the liberty of the press is the prelude of general tyranny. It is the insidious harbinger of hungry lions, who lurk in secret, waiting with eagerness the favourable instant, that will enable them, with ferocious cruelty to grasp our best enjoyments, and cause our liberties to fall lifeless at their feet.' p. 284.

• Every attempt to restrain our mental liberty is, indeed, an attack on our most essential prerogatives. It is a poison infused into the body politic, perhaps by deceitful measures, which, unless speedily counteracted by a vigorous medicine, will debilitate all its energies, and gradually reduce it within the power of the rapacious and devouring grave.' p. 364.

"A calm indeed would be realized; but it would either resemble the stillness of the frozen ocean and the stagnant pestilential lake, or assimilate itself, to the dismal calm that precedes the destructive tempest, or the tremendous earthquake.' p. 253.

Our readers cannot fail by this time to have penetrated the secret of Mr. Finch's manner. It may be expressed in one word-amplification. Always choose the longest and most sonorous words you can lay hold of, and put as many of them together as you possibly can. The author's grand solicitude is to avoid propounding his little fractions of meaning in their lowest terms, convinced, as he apparently is, that 500 thousandths are precisely 499 times more valuable than one half. There is no end to the employment of this expedient. Thus a wise and good man is one, who is distinguished for the superior energies of his mental frame, and the quenchless ardour of his virtuous philanthropy.' To take an oath is to swear by the records of the New Testament:' to kneel is 'to bow the knee of supplicating homage;' to die and be forgotten is 'to verge towards the grave and be entombed in the sepulchre of disgraceful oblivion;' and to be fond of dress is 'to be absorbed in the vain embellishments of our earthly tabernacles.' If he has occasion to say that men differ in their notions of government, he must phrase it, 'the opinions of those who have most closely investigated the principles of human government, instead of approximating towards uniformity, have been characterized by diversity in its most opposing forms.' He cannot simply saytime and experience, but must have it, the fiery trial of long experience and the ravages of dissolving time. A borough “is a petty institution of domiciliary legislation ;' and a clergyman (we suppose a papistical one) is a personage who claims it as his prerogative to revel in the wealth of the people, and grasp without obligation or control the tythes of the earth. If a man is cruel, he is said to "feel no compunctuous regret in the recollection of his ruthless, triumphs;' if aspiring to be emulously concerned to soar above the giddy multitude:' if anxious, to be exposed to the pangs

of overbearing solicitude.' Then, too, we hear of men of oppressive characters' and sentimental opponents.'

And sometimes the phraseology of scripture must be improved to accommodate the taste of Mr. Finch-as at page 84, where he says that · Freedom enables men to sit beneath their own vine and fig tree none presuming to fill them with dismay."

But we have really no wish to pursue this unfortunate rhetorician any further. Enough has been said to shew under what a variety of form' he has here dressed out the Principles of Political Philosophy. That he has succeeded in throwing much light upon them that he has disentangled what was complicated, arranged what was confused, and set disputed questions for ever at rest, is more than we dare take upon ourselves to assert. In these respects, we fear he has accomplished little. But for swelling periods and rotund cadences, he may be safely backed against the field. As a serious performance this book must be allowed to set rivalry at defiance; and unless Mr. Finch should think. proper to favour the world with another volume of his lucubrations, we may wait long enough before we meet with a similar display of absurdity without humour, and pomp without dignity.

Art. IX. A Sketch of the History of the East India Company, from

its first formation to the passing of the regulating Act of 1773; with a Summary View of the Changes that have taken place since that period in the Internal Administration of British India. By Robert Grant, Esq. 8vo. pp. 450. Black, Parry, and Co. 1813. THE title and contents of this volume would have more ac

curately corresponded, we think, had it been called " The Expediency maintained of continuing the System by which " the trade and government of India are now regulated : Part - the Second, being a continuation to Part the First.' The tone of the work is that of a political pamphlet, upon the topic

« PreviousContinue »