Page images
PDF
EPUB

member of the cabinet, can not only resist, | If addresses and clamours are disregarded, but suggest, or propose, or recommend any recourse may be had to arms; and an open thing which he pleases' for the adoption of civil war be left again to determine, whether that executive council;-—and his suggestions the sense of the people at large be, or be not, must at all times be more attended to than resolutely against its adoption. This last tnose of any other person of the same know- species of check on the power of the Soveledge or capacity. Such, indeed, are the in- reign, no political arrangement, and no change destructible sources of influence belonging to in the Constitution, can obviate or prevent, his situation, that, if he be only compos mentis, and as all the other checks of which we have he may rely upon having more authority than spoken refer ultimately to this, so, the defence any two of the gravest and most experienced of their necessity and justice is complete, individuals with whom he can communicate ; when we merely say, that their use is to preand that there will be a far greater disposition vent a recurrence to this last extremity—and, - to adopt his recommendations, than those of by enabling the sense of the nation to repress

the wisest and most popular minister that the pernicious counsels in the outset, through the country has ever seen. He may, indeed, be safe and pacific channels of the cabinet and outvoted even in the cabinet ; —the absurdity the parliament, to remove the necessity of reof his suggestions may be so palpable, or their sisting them at last, by the dreadful expedient danger so great, that no habitual deference, of actual force and compulsion. or feeling of personal dependence, may be If a king, under any form of monarchy, sufficient to induce his advisers to venture on attempt to act against the sense of the comtheir adoption. This, however, we imagine, manding part of the population, he will inev. will scarcely be looked upon as a source of itably be resisted and overthrown. This is national weakness or hazard; and is, indeed, not a matter of institution or policy; but a an accident that may befal any sovereign, necessary result from the nature of his office, however absolute—since the veriest despot and of the power of which he is the adminiscannot work without tools—and even a mili- trator-or rather from the principles of human tary sovereign at the head of his army, must nature. But that form of monarchy is the submit to abandon any scheme which that worst—both for the monarch and for the peoarmy positively refuses to execute. If he is ple—which exposes him the most to the shock baffled in one cabinet, however, the King of of such ultimate resistance; and that is the England may in general repeat the experi- | best, which interposes the greatest number ment in another; and change his counsellors of intermediate bodies between the oppressive over and over, till he find some who are more purpose of the king and his actual attempt to courageous or more complying.

carry it into execution,-which tries the proBut, suppose that the Cabinet acquiesces:- jected measure upon the greatest number of the Parliament also may no doubt oppose, and selected samples of the public sense, before defeat the execution of the project. The it comes into collision with its general mass,Cabinet may be outvoted in the House of and affords the most opportunities for retreat, Commons, as the Sovereign may be outvoted and the best cautions for advance, before the in the Cabinet; and all its other members battle is actually joined. The cabinet is premay be displaced by votes of that House. sumed to know more of the sentiments of the The minister who had escaped being dis- nation than the king ;—and the parliament to missed by the King through his compliance know more than the cabinet. Both these with the Royal pleasure, may be dismissed bodies, too, are presumed to be rather more

for that compliance, by the voice of the under the personal influence of the king than Legislature. But the Sovereign, with whom, the great body of the nation; and therefore, upon this supposition, the objectionable mea- whatever suggestions of his are ultimately sure originated, is not dismissed; and may rejected in those deliberative assemblies, not only call another minister to his councils must be held to be such as would have been to try this same measure a second time, but still less acceptable to the bulk of the commay himself dismiss the Parliament by which munity. By rejecting them there, however, it had been censured; and submit its pro- by silent votes or clamorous harangues, the ceedings to the consideration of another as- nation is saved from the necessity of rejecting sembly! We really cannot see any want of them, by actual resistance and insurrection in effective power in such an order of things; the field. The person and the office of the nor comprehend how the royal authority is monarch remain untouched, and untainted for rendered altogether nugatory and subordinate, all purposes of good; and the peace

of the merely by requiring it to have ultimately the country is maintained, and its rights asserted, concurrence of the Cabinet and of the Legis- without any turbulent exertion of its power. lature. The last stage of this hypothesis, The whole frame and machinery of the conhowever, will clear all the rest.

stitution, in short, is contrived for the express The King's measure may triumph in par- purpose of preventing the kingly power from liament as well as in the council—and yet it dashing itself to pieces against the more radmay be resisted by the Nation. The parlia- ical power of the people: and those institument may be outvoted in the country, as well tions that are absurdly supposed to restrain as the cabinet in the parliament; and if the the authority of the sovereign within too narmeasure, even in this last stage, and after all row limits, are in fact its great safeguards these tests of its safety, be not abandoned, and protectors, by providing for the timely the most dreadful consequences may ensue. I and peaceful operation of that great controlling power, which it could only elude for a that this submission is itself an evil--and an season, at the expense of much certain mis- evil only inferior to those through which it ery to the people, and the hazard of final must ultimately seek its relief. If any form destruction to itself.

of tyranny, therefore, were as secure from Mr. Leckie, however, and his adherents, terrible convulsions as a regulated freedom, can see nothing of all this. The facility of it would not cease for that to be a far less decasting down a single tyrant, we have already sirable condition of existence; and as the seen, is one of the prime advantages which mature sense of a whole nation may be fairly he ascribes to the institution of Simple mon- presumed to point more certainly to the true archy;—and so much is this advocate of means of their happiness than the single kingly power enamoured of the uncourtly opinion even of a patriotic king, so it must be doctrine of resistance, that he not only recog- right and reasonable, in all cases, that his nises it as a familiar element in the constitu- opinion should give way to theirs; and that a tion, but lays it down in express terms, that power should be generated, if it did not natuit affords the only remedy for all political cor- rally and necessarily exist, to insure its preruption. “History," he observes, “has fur- dominane. nished us with no example of the reform of a We have still a word or two to say on the corrupt and tyrannical government, but either alleged inconsistency and fluctuation of all

from intestine war, or conquest from without. public councils that are subjected to the conThus, the objection against a simple montrol of popular assemblies, and on the unprinarchy, because there is no remedy for its cipled violence of the factions to which they abuse, holds the same, but in a greater de are said to give rise. The first of these topics, gree, against any other form. Each is borne however, need not detain us long. If it be with as long as possible; and when the evil is meant, that errors in public measures are at its greatest height, the nation either rises more speedily detected, and more certainly against it, or, not having the means of so doing; repaired, when they are maturely and freely sinks into abject degradation and misery." discussed by all the wisdom and all the talent

Such, however, are not our principles of of a nation, than when they are left to the policy; on the contrary, we hold, that the blind guidance of the passions or conceit of chief use of a free constitution is to prevent an individual;—if it be meant, that, under a the recurrence of these dreadful extremities: Simple monarchy, we should have persevered and that the excellence of a limited monarchy longer and more steadily in the principles of consists less in the good laws, and the good the Slave Trade, of Catholic Proscription, and administration of law, to which it naturally of the Orders in Council:—then we cheerfully gives birth, than in the security it affords admit the justice of the charge—we readily against such a melancholy alternative. To yield to those governments the praise of such some, we know, who have been accustomed consistency and such perseverance—and offer to the spectacle of long-established despo- no apology for that change from folly to wistisms, the hazards of such a terrific regenera- dom, and from cruelty to mercy,

which is protion appear distant and inconsiderable; and, duced by the variableness of a free constiif they could only prolong the intervals of tution. But if it be meant that an absolute patient submission, and polish away some monarch keeps the faith which he pledges of the harsher features of oppression, they more religiously than a free people, or that he imagine a state of things would result more is less liable to sudden and capricious variatranquil and desirable than can ever be pre- tions in his policy, we positively deny the sented by the eager and salutary contentions truth of the imputation, and boldly appeal to of a free government. To such persons we the whole course of history for its confutation, shall address but two observations. The first, What nation, we should like to know, everstood that though the body of the people may in- half so high as our own, for the reputation of deed be kept in brutish subjection for ages, good faith and inviolable fidelity to its allies ? where the state of society, as to intelligence Or in what instance has the national honour and property, is such that the actual power been impeached, by the refusal of one set of and command of the nation is vested in a few ministers to abide by the engagements enter, bands of disciplined troops, this could never ed into by their predecessors ?With regard be done in a nation abounding in independent to mere caprice and inconsistency again, will wealth, very generally given to reading and it be seriously maintained, that councils, de reflection, and knit together in all its parts pending upon the individual will of an absoby a thousand means of communication and Iute sovereign-who may be a boy, or a girl, ties of mutual interest and sympathy; and or a dotard, or a driveller-are more likely least of all could it be done in a nation already to be steadily and wisely pursued, than those accustomed to the duties and enjoyments of that are taken up by a set of experienced freedom, and regarding the safe and honour-statesmen, under the control of a vigilant and able struggles it is constantly obliged to main- intelligent public? It is not by mere popular tain in its defence, as the most ennobling and clamour-by the shouts or hisses of an ignodelightful of its exercises. The other remark rant and disorderly mob—but by the deep, the is, that even if it were possible, as it is not, slow, and the collected voice of the intelligent to rivet and shackle down an enlightened na- and enlightened part of the community, that tion in such a way as to make it submit for the councils of a free nation are ultimately some time, in apparent quietness, to the abuses guided. But if they were at the disposal of a of arbitrary power, it is never to be forgotten | rabble—what rabble, we would ask, is so igo. norant, so contemptible, so fickle, false, and it has to maintain ;-the party in Opposition, empty of all energy of purpose or principle, therefore, must be marshalled in the same as the rabble that invests the palaces of arbi- way. When bad men combine, good men trary kings——the favourites, the mistresses, must unite :-and it would not be less hopethe panders, the flatterers and intriguers, who less for a crowd of worthy citizens to take the succeed or supplant each other in the crum- field without leaders or discipline, against a bling soil of his favour, and so frequently dis- regular army, than for individual patriots to pose of all that ought to be at the command think of opposing the influence of the Soveof wisdom and honour ?

reign by their separate and uncombined ex. Looking only to the eventful history of our ertions. As to the length which they shoul: own day, will any one presume to say, that be permitted to go in support of the common the conduct of the simple monarchies of Eu- cause, or the extent to which each ought to rope has afforded us, for the last twenty years, submit his private opinion to the general sense any such lessons of steady and unwavering of his associates, it does not appear to uspolicy as to make us blush for our own demo- though casuists may varish over dishonour, cratical inconstancy? What, during that pe- and purists startle'at shadows-either that riod, has been the conduct of Prussia-of any man of upright feelings can be often at a Russia—of Austria herself—of every state, in loss for a rule of conduct, or that, in point of short, that has not been terrified into constan- fact, there has ever been any blameable ex cy by the constant dread of French violence?cess in the maxims upon which the great par And where, during all that time, are we to look ties of this country have been generally con for any traces of manly firmness, but in the ducted. The leading principle is, that a man conduct and councils of the only nation whose should satisfy himself ihat the party to which measures were at all controlled by the influ- he attaches himself means well to the counence of popular sentiments ? If that nation try, and that more substantial good will actoo was not exempt from the common charge crue to the nation from its coming into power, of vacillation—if she did Auctuate between than from the success of any other body of designs to restore the Bourbons, and to enrich men whose success is at all within the limits herself by a share of their spoils-if she did of probability. Upon this principle, therefore, contract one deep stain on her faith and her he will support that party in all things which humanity, by encouraging and deserting the he approves—in all things that are indifferent party of the Royalists in La Vendée-if she —and even in some things which he partly did waver and wander from expeditions into disapproves, provided they neither touch the Flanders to the seizure of West Indian islands, honour and vital interests of the country, nor and from menaces to extirpate Jacobinism to imply any breach of the ordinary rules of missions courting its alliance—will any man morality. — Upon the same principle he will pretend to say, that these signs of infirmity attack not only all that he individually disapof purpose were produced by yielding to the proves in the conduct of the adversary, but all varying impulses of popular opinions, or the that might appear indifferent and tolerable alternate preponderance of hostile factions in enough to a neutral spectator, if it afford an the state? Is it not notorious, on the contra- opportunity to weaken this adversary in the ry, that they all occurred during that lament- public opinion, and to increase the chance of able but memorable period, when the alarm bringing that party into power from which excited by the aspect of new dangers had in alone he sincerely believes that any sure or a manner extinguished the constitutional spirit systematic good is to be expected. Farther of party, and composed the salutary conflicts than this we do not believe that the leaders of the nation—that they occurred in the first or respectable followers of any considerable ten years of Mr. Pitt's war administration, party, intentionally allow themselves to go. when opposition was almost extinct, and when Their zeal, indeed, and the heats and passions the government was not only more entirely in engendered in the course of the conflict, may the hands of one man than it had been at any sometimes hurry them into measures for time since the days of Cardinal Wolsey, but which an impartial spectator cannot find this when the temper and tone of its administra- apology:—but to their own consciences and tion approached very nearly to that of an ar- honour we are persuaded that they generally bitrary monarchy ?

stand acquitted ;-and, on the score of duty or On the doctrine of parties and party dissen-morality, that is all that can be required of sions, it is now too late for us to enter at human beings. For the baser retainers of the large ;--and indeed when we recollect what party indeed—those marauders who follow in Mr. Burke has written upon that subject, * we the rear of every army, not for battle but for do not know why we should wish for an op-booty-who concern themselves in no way portunity of expressing our feeble sentiments. about the justness of the quarrel, or the fairParties are necessary in all free governments ness of the field — who plunder the dead, -and are indeed the characteristics by which and butcher the wounded, and desert the unsuch governments may be known. One party, prosperous, and betray the daring ;—for those that of the Rulers or the Court, is necessarily wretches who truly belong to no party, and are formed and disciplined from the permanence a disgrace and a drawback upon all, we shall of its chief, and the uniformity of the interests assuredly make no apology, nor propose any

measures of toleration. The spirit by which * See his " Thoughts on the Cause of the present they are actuated is the very opposite of that Discontents." Sub initio el passim.

spirit which is generated by the parties of a free people; and accordingly it is among the an enumeration of the advantages of absolule 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 atra party ;-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 io devoted more directly to her service, is wasted rank that pretty decisive feature, of the suin 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 the importance it confers—the excitement which have really no other end but to expose of intellect, and the elevation of spirit 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 ef. and great lovers of tranquillity represent as fect of all sorts of intellectual or moral ex. the 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 propose by 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 esa 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 execuand not the indications of radical 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- provi:cial exactions and oppressions, and ion, which are destined to fertilize and unite those universal Insults, and Contumelies, and the country, and can riever become danger- Indig iities, 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, 1814.) 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 100 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 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 ment, 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, il inform it with that kindly warmth, by which

Ai 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 startling 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: ligion

or any thing else that gives rise to

A popular revolution in government or rependence, and broken promises of Sovereigns to general and long-continued contention, natutheir subjects, which have since revived that dis. rally produces a prevailing disdain of author. trust, which both nations and philosophers were ity, and boldness of thinking in the leaders then, perhaps, 100 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 iraces 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

is so.

« PreviousContinue »