In truth, it is nothing but the most unmitigated military despotism. A huge statue of liberty is placed in the National Assembly; but at every six paces bayonets are to be seen, to remind the bystanders of the rule of the sword. "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité," meet the eye at every turn in the streets; but the Champs Elysées, the Place de Grève, the Carrousel, and Place Vendôme, are crowded with soldiers; and the Champ de Mars is white with tents, to cover part of the 40,000 regular troops which form the ordinary garrison of Paris. Universal freedom of discussion has been proclaimed by the constitution; but dozens of journals have been suppressed by the authority of the dictator; and imprisonment notoriously hangs over the head of every one who indulges in the freedom of discussion, which in England and America is universal. The state of siege has been raised, after having continued four months; but the military preparations for another siege continue with unabated vigour on both sides. The constitution has been adopted by a great majority in the Assembly; but the forts are all armed, and prepared to rain down the tempest of death on the devoted city. Universal suffrage is established; but menacing crowds are in the streets, threatening any one who votes against their favourite candidates. The Faubourg St Antoine, during the late election, was in a frightful state of agitation; infantry, cavalry, and artillery, were traversing the streets in all directions; and conflicts not less bloody than those of June last were anticipated in the struggle for the presidency, and prevented only by the presence of ninety thousand soldiers in the capital: a force greater than that which fought on either side at Austerlitz or Jena. It is evident that republican institutions, in such a state of society, are a mere name; and that supreme despotic power is really invested in France, as in ancient Rome under the emperors, in the nominee of a victorious body of soldiery. The Prætorian guards will dispose of the French as they did of the Roman diadem; and ere long, gratuities to the troops will perhaps be the passport to power in Paris, as they were in the Eternal City.

Nor have the social evils, which in France have followed in the wake of successful revolution, been less deplorable than the entire destruction of the rights of freemen and security of property which has ensued. To show that this statement is not overcharged, we extract from a noted liberal journal of Paris, La Reforme, of November 17, 1848, the following statement:


Property, manufactures, and commerce are utterly destroyed in Paris. Of the population of that great city, the capital of France, there are 300,000 individuals wanting the necessaries of life. One half at least of those earned from 3f. to 5f. a day previous to the revolution, and occupied a number of houses in the faubourgs. The proprietors of those houses receiving no rent, and having taxes and other charges to pay, are reduced to nearly as deep distress as their tenants. In the centre of Paris, the same distress exists under another form. The large and sumptuous apartments of the fashionable quarters were occupied before the revolution by wealthy proprietors, or by persons holding lucra tive employments in the public offices, or by extensive manufacturers; but nearly all those have disappeared, and the few who remain have insisted upon such a reduction of rent that the proprietor does not receive one-half of the amount to which he is entitled. Should a proprietor of house property endeavour to raise a sum of money by a first mortgage, to defray his most urgent expenses, he finds it impossible to do so, even at a most exorbitant rate of interest. Those who possess ready money refuse to part with it, either through fear, or because they expect to purchase house property when it must be sold at 50 per cent less than the value."-La Reforme, November 17, 1848.

It is certainly a most remarkable thing, in the history of the aberrations of the human mind, that a system of policy which has produced, and is producing, such disastrous results-and, above all, which is inflicting such deadly and irreparable wounds on the interests of the poor, and the cause of freedom throughout the world-should have been, during the last eighteen years, the object of unceasing eulogy by the liberal party on both sides of the Channel; and that the present disastrous state of affairs, both in this country and on the Con

tinent, is nothing more than the natural and inevitable result of the principles that party has everywhere laboured to establish. The revolution of 1830 was hailed with enthusiasm in this country by the whole liberal party the Irish are not more enamoured now of the revolution of 1848, than the Whigs were, eighteen years ago, of that of 1830. The liberal government of England did all in their power to spread far and wide the glorious example. Flanders was attacked-an English fleet and French army besieged Antwerp; and, by a coalition of the two powers, a revolutionary throne was established in Belgium, and the king of the Netherlands prevented from re-establishing the kingdom guaranteed to him by all the powers of Europe. The Quadruple Alliance was formed to revolutionise Spain and Portugal; a sanguinary civil war was nourished for long in both kingdoms; and at length, after years of frightful warfare, the legitimate monarch, and legal order of succession, were set aside in both countries; queens were put on the thrones of both instead of kings, and England enjoyed the satisfaction, for the diffusion of her revolutionary propagandism, of destroying the securities provided for the liberties of Europe by the treaty of Utrecht, and preparing a Spanish princess for the hand of a Bourbon prince.

Not content with this memorable and politic step, and even after the recent disasters of France were actually before their eyes, our rulers were so enamoured of revolutions, that they could not refrain from encouraging it in every small state within their reach. Lord Palmerston counseled the Pope, in a too celebrated letter, to plunge into the career which has terminated so fatally for himself and for Italy. Admiral Parker long prevented the Neapolitan force from embarking for Sicily, to do there what Lord Hardinge was nearly at the same time sent to do in Ireland. We beheld the Imperial standards with complacency driven behind the Mincio; but no sooner did Radetzky disperse the revolutionary army, and advance to Milan, than British and French diplomacy interfered to arrest his march, and save their revolutionary protégé,

the King of Piedmont, from the chastisement which his perfidious attack on Austria in the moment of her distress merited. The Ministerial journals are never weary of referring to the revolutions on the Continent as the cause of all the distress which has prevailed in England, since they broke out in last spring: they forget that it was England herself which first unfurled the standard of revolution, and that, if we are suffering under its effects, it is under the effects of our own measures and policy.

Strange and unaccountable as this perverted and diseased state of opinion, in a large part of the people of this country, undoubtedly is, it is easily explained when the state of society, and the channel into which political contests have run, are taken into consideration. In truth, our present errors are the direct consequence of our former wisdom; our present weakness, of our former strength; our present misery, of our former prosperity.

In the feudal ages, and over the whole Asiatic world at the present time, the contests of parties are carried on for individuals. No change of national policy, or of the system of internal government, is contemplated on either side. It is for one prince or another prince, for one sultaun or another sultaun, that men draw their swords. "Under which King, Bezonian?-speak or die!" is there the watchword of all civil conflict. It was the same in this country during the feudal ages, and down to a very recent period. No man in the civil wars between Stephen and Henry II., or of the Plantagenet princes, or in the wars of the Roses, contemplated or desired any change of government or policy in the conflict in which they were engaged. The one party struck for the Red, the other for the White Rose. Great civil and social interests were at issue in the conflict; but the people cared little or nothing for these. The contest between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians was a great feud between two clans which divided the state; and the attachment to their chiefs was the blind devotion of the Highlanders to the Pretender.

The Reformation, which first brought the dearest objects of thought and interest home to all classes, made

a great change in this respect, and substituted in large proportion general questions for the adherence to particular men, or fidelity to particular families. Still, however, the old and natural instinct of the human race to attach themselves to men, not things, continued, in a great degree, to influence the minds of the people, and as many buckled on their armour for the man as the cause. The old Cavaliers, who periled life and lands in defence of Charles I., were as much influenced by attachment to the dignified monarch, who is immortalised in the canvass of Vandyke, as by the feelings of hereditary loyalty; and the iron bands which overthrew their ranks at Marston Moor, were as devoted to Cromwell as the tenth legion to Cæsar, or the Old Guard to Napoleon. In truth, such individual influences are so strongly founded in human nature, that they will continue to the end of the world, from whatever cause a contest may have arisen, as soon as it has continued for a certain time, and will always stand forth in prominent importance when a social has turned into a military conflict, and the perils and animosities of war have endeared their leaders to the soldiers on either side. The Vendeans soon became devoted to Henri Larochjaquelein, the Republicans to Napoleon; and in our own times, the great social conflict of the nineteenth century has been determined by the fidelity of the Austrian soldiers to Radetzky, of the French to Cavaignac, of the German to Windischgratz.

But in the British empire, for a century past, it has been thoroughly understood, by men of sense of all parties, that a change of dynasty is out of the question, and that there is no reform worth contending for in the state, which is not to be effected by the means which the constitution itself has provided. This conviction, long impressed upon the nation, and interwoven as it were with the very framework of the British mind, having come to coincide with the passions incident to party divisions in a free state, has in process of time produced the strange and tortuous policy which, for above a quarter of a century, has now been followed in this country by the government, and lauded

to the skies by the whole liberal party on the Continent. Deprived of the watchwords of men, the parties have come to assume those of things. Organic or social change have become the war-cry of faction, instead of change of dynasty. The nation is no longer drenched with blood by armies fighting for the Red or the White Rose, by parties striving for the mastery be tween the Stuart and Hanover families, but it was not less thoroughly divided by the cry of "The bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill," at one time, and that of "Free-trade and cheap corn" at another. Social change, alterations of policy, have thus come to be the great objects which divide the nation; and, as it is ever the policy of Opposition to represent the conduct of Government as erroneous, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that the main efforts of the party opposed to administration always have been, since the suppression of the Rebellion in 1745, to effect, when in opposition, a change in general opinion, and, when in power, to carry that change into effect by a change of policy. The old law of nature is still in operation. Action and reaction rule mankind; and in the efforts of parties mutually to supplant each other in power, a foundation is laid for an entire change of policy at stated periods, and an alteration, as great as from night to day, in the opinions and policy of the ruling party in the same state at different times.

The old policy of England-that policy under which, in the words of Macaulay, "The authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never known before; under which form, the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example; under which our country, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rose to the place of umpire among European powers; under which her opulence and martial glory grew together; under which, by wise and resolute good faith, was gradually established a public credit, fruitful of marvels which, to the statesmen of any former age, would have appeared incredible; under which a gigantic

commerce gave birth to a maritime power, compared with which every other maritime power, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance; under which Scotland, after ages of enmity, was at length united to England, not merely by legal bonds, but by indissoluble ties of interest and affection; under which, in America, the British colonies rapidly became far mightier and wealthier than the realms which Cortes and Pizarro added to the dominions of Charles V.; under which, in Asia, British adventurers founded an empire not less splendid, and more durable, than that of Alexander,"*— was not the policy of any particular party or section of the community, and thence its long duration and unexampled success.

It was not introduced-it grew. Like the old constitution, of which it was the emanation, it arose from the wants and necessities of all classes of men during a long series of ages. It was first proclaimed in energetic terms by the vigour of Cromwell; the cry of the national representatives for markets to native industry, of the merchants, for protection to their ships, produced the Navigation Laws, and laid the foundation of the colonial empire of England. Amidst all his insouciance and folly in the drawingroom of the Duchess of Portsmouth, and the boudoirs of the Duchess of Cleveland, it was steadily pursued by Charles II. James II. did not lose sight of this same system, amidst all his infatuation and cruelty; when directing the campaign of Jeffreys in the west, he was as steadily bent on upholding and extending the navy as when, amidst the thunders of war, he combated de Ruyter and van Tromp on the coast of Holland. William III., Anne, and the Georges, pursued the same system. It directed the policy of Somers and Godolphin; it ruled the diplomacy of Walpole and Chatham; it guided the measures of Bute and North; it directed the genius of Pitt and Fox. It was for it that Marlborough conquered, and Wolfe fell; that Blake combated, and Hawke destroyed; that Nelson launched the thunderbolt of war, and Wellington

carried the British standard to Madrid and Paris.

It was the peculiar structure of the English constitution, during this century and a half of prosperity and glory, that produced so remarkable a uniformity in the objects of the national policy. These objects were pursued alike by the Republicans and the Royalists; by the Roundheads and the Cavaliers; by the Whigs, during the seventy years of their rule that followed the Revolution, and the Tories, during the sixty years that succeeded the accession of George III. The policy was that of protection to all the national interests, whether landed, commercial, colonial, or manufacturing. Under this system they all grew and prospered, alike and abreast, in the marvellous manner which the peneil of Macaulay has sketched in the opening of his History. It was hard to say whether agriculture, manufactures, colonies, or shipping throve and prospered most during that unique period. The world had never seen anything like it before it is doubtful if it will ever see anything like it again. Under its shelter, the various interests of the empire were knit together in so close a manner, that they not only all grew and prospered together, but it was universally felt that their interests were entirely dependent on each other. The toast "The plough, the loom, and the sail," was drunk with as much enthusiasm in the farmers' club as in the merchant's saloon. As varied as the interests with which they were charged, the policy of government was yet perfectly steady in following out one principle-the protection of the productive classes, whether by land or water, whether at home or abroad.

The legislature represented and embodied all these interests, and carried out this policy. It gave them a stability and consistency which had never been seen in the world before. Nominally the representatives of certain towns and counties in the British islands, the House of Commons gradually became really the representatives of the varied interests of the whole British empire. The nomination boroughs afforded an inlet alike

* MACAULAY'S History, i. 1-2.

to native talent and foreign interests. Gatton and Old Sarum, or similar close boroughs, afforded an entrance to the legislature, not only to the genius of Pitt and Fox, of Burke and Sheridan, but to the wealth of Jamaica, the rising energy of Canada, the aged civilisation of Hindostan. Experienced protection reconciled all interests to a government under which all prospered; mutual dependence made all sensible of the necessity of common unanimity. The statute-book and national treaties, from the Revolution in 1688 to the close of the war with Napoleon in 1815, exhibit the most decisive proof of the working of these varied, but not conflicting interests, in the national councils. If you contemplate the general protection afforded to agriculture and the landed interest, you would imagine the House of Commons had been entirely composed of squires. If you examine the innumerable enactments, fiscal and prohibitory, for the protection of manufactures, you would suppose it had been entirely under the government of manufacturers. If you contemplate the steady protection invariably given to the mercantile navy, you would suppose it had been chiefly directed by shipowners. If you cast your eyes on the protection constantly given by discriminating fiscal duties to colonial industry, and the vast efforts made, both by sea and land, in the field and in the cabinet, to encourage and extend our colonial dependencies, you would conclude, not only that they were represented, but that their representatives had a majority in the legislature.

The reason of this prodigy was, that all interests had, in the course of ages, and the silent effects of time, worked their way into the legislature, and all enjoyed in fair proportion a reasonable influence on government. Human wisdom could no more ab ante have framed such a system, than it could have framed the British constitution. By accident, or rather the good providence of God, it grew up from the wants of men during a series of generations; and its effects appeared in this, that except in the cases of the American war, where unfortunate circumstances produced a departure from the system; of the Irish Celts,

whom it seems impracticable to amalgamate with Saxon institutions; and of the Scottish Highlanders, whom chivalrous honour for a short period alienated from the established government-unanimity unprecedented during the whole period pervaded the British empire. All foreign colonies were desirous to be admitted into the great protecting confederacy; the French and Dutch planters in secret prayed for the defeat of their defenders when the standard of St George approached their shores. The Hindoos, with heroic constancy, alike in prosperous and adverse fortune, maintained their fidelity: Canada stood firm during the most dangerous crisis of our history; and the flame of loyalty burned as steadily on the banks of the St Lawrence, on the mountains of Jamaica, and on the shores of the Ganges, as in the crowded emporiums of London, or the smiling fields of Yorkshire.

But there is a limit imposed by nature to all earthly things. The growth of empires is restrained, after they have reached a certain stature, by laws as certain as those which arrest that of individuals. If a state does not find the causes of its ruin in foreign disaster, it will inevitably find it in internal opinion. This arises so naturally and evidently from the constitution of the human mind, that it may be regarded as a fixed law of nature in all countries where intellectual activity has been called forth, and as one of the most powerful agents in the government, by supreme Wisdom, of human affairs. This principle is to be found in the tendency of original thought to differ from the current opinion with which it is surrounded, and of party ambition to decry the system of those by whom it is excluded from power.

Universally it will be found that the greatest exertions of human intellect have been made in direct opposition to the current of general opinion; and that public thought in one age is in general but the echo of solitary meditation in that which has preceded it. Illustrations of this crowd on the reflecting mind from every period of history. The instances of Luther standing forth alone to shake down, Samson-like, the pillar of the corrupted Romish faith; of Bacon's opening,

« ElőzőTovább »