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* It would be an injustice,' this intelligent Writer subsequently remarks, to the memory of the worst abettor of Cromwell, to
compare him to the least atrocious member of the Convention.' It would be not merely injustice, but imbecility, to compare the characters of Hampden and Mirabeau, Fairfax and Robespierre, Cromwell and Bonaparte. Mirabeau, in particular, 'the genius
of disorganization, the Catiline of the Revolution, was such a personification of all the vices of the social system out of which he rose, as France alone could have given birth to. In no other country could Mirabeau have been Mirabeau, or Robespierre Robespierre.
As a further proof that such a Revolution as the French could not have taken place in England, we might advert to the happy and almost bloodless revolution of 1688; nay, to the American Revolution itself, which might equally be cited as a noble illustration of the English national character,—the character produced by the laws, the liberties, and the religion of England, and by the national habit of deference to those mutually conservative elements of her government and polity. But, if neither in the seventeenth nor in the eighteenth century, such a Revolution could by possibility have occurred in this country; the notion that such a catastrophe is now to be apprehended as the result of popular concessions, the ultimate consequence of reform in church and state, is surely as absurd as ever haunted a mind not deprived of sanity. Yet, the French Revolution is still held up by certain writers as a bug-bear; and the Quarterly Reviewer would fain have us look upon Lord Althorp as the Turgot (who will be the Calonne ?) of the revolution now in progress here.'
We, let it be observed,' is their oracular language, are but now in the second month of our States General: we are approaching the Night of Sacrifices, and by just the same steps which the French trod before us. There can be no delusion in this assertion : it is pure audacity.
We should deem it an insult to the understandings of our readers to enter into a grave refutation of this absurd comparison. But we are tempted to pursue the contrast between the two countries a little further, in reference to the actual condition, moral and political, of the French people in the reign of Louis XVI., and of the English in that of William IV.
The state of France previous to the first movements of the revolutionary spirit, is thus forcibly described by the writer in the Quarterly.
Exhausted with civil strife and bloodshed, the
present purpose, to advert to those points of opinion or religious sentiment upon which our own views differ from those of the learned Author.
' people gladly sought repose under the quiet shade of despotism."
Far from dreaming of resistance, the leaders of the public mind * never even dreamed of murmurs. This repose of exhaustion, this ominous passiveness, is the very state of feeling which might be expected to precede and forebode a frightful display of popular violence, when the tiger should be waked from his slumber. The general condition of the people has been described as a state of fear, suspicion, and wretchedness. If that wretchedness was not progressive, (for between the beginning of the century and the accession of Louis XVI., the social condition of the people in some parts of France appears to have improved,) they were made but the more sensible of the fiscal burdens and aristocratical oppression under which they groaned. Lord John Russell thus sums up
his account of the state of the kingdom, which cannot be charged with exaggeration.
• A nobility, disfigured by every vice, and possessing scarcely any virtue but courage, were privileged to insult and maltreat the people, whose burdens they did not share. The tribunals were filled with persons who bought the power of administering justice, and very generally sold it to the clients who appeared at their bar. The most outrageous violations of all the rules of equity, the most barbarous methods of inquiry and of punishment, were revered and hallowed by the government as the established forms of law. A small portion of the nation, divided from the rest, enjoyed all the patronage of the court, held the command of armies and the richest benefices in the church, and were seldom punished for any crime they committed. At the same time, their exemption from taxes did not prevent them from involving themselves in debt; and they exhibited to their countrymen the want of principle which is the cause, the recklessness which is the companion, and the embarrassment and poverty which are the consequences, of vice. On the other hand, the people were rendered thoroughly wretched by the vexations to which they were subject from the government and their landlords. Their misery proceeded from the arbitrary nature of every power in the state : the taxes were arbitrary : the administration of justice ; even their labour was controlled by arbitrary authority. Growing in importance, and struggling through all their difficulties into prosperity and comfort, their social condition improved, while their polítical condition remained stationary. They formed a mass long inert, and apparently lifeless ; but the matter of sedition” was abundant among them, and required only stirring to make it blaze at once into a flame.' pp. 80, 81.
Yet the Frenchman, while he hated the noble, still connected his greatness and glory with that of his king, le Grand Monarque. Lord Chesterfield, a keen observer, and one of the few
who, at a later period, foresaw and foretold the Revolution, remarks, that a French soldier will venture his life with alacrity pour l'honneur du roi, but that, if you were to change the object and propose to him le bien de la patrie, he would pro
bably run away.' This remark is cited by the Quarterly Reviewer for his purpose: it will serve ours better, and we have only to contrast with it the nature of British patriotism as illustrated by Mr. Chenevix. " The object of its veneration, unlike that which the people of other monarchies adore, is the country, not the sovereign. Although the prince or dynasty who governed England, has always been much less its idol than the * nation itself; yet, when once the English have professed a
regard and esteem for a sovereign, they are capable of greater sacrifices for his welfare, than the vain nations, whose only patriotism is their monarch.'*
In England, the words king and country compose not merely one phrase, but one idea. On the other hand, the Court and the Government are ideas perfectly distinct, and never confounded. The Court may be the object either of popular affection or of contempt, without its affecting the sentiments of loyalty to the Government. It is felt, if not understood, that, in this country, the King does not rule, but
the Law, of which the King is a part; and the constable's staff is respected as much as a direct mandate from the highest authority, in virtue of what it represents. A steady attachment to their Government, under every change of administration, discriminating the office from the
person, pervades all classes of the community, and is discovered in the very anxiety to perfect those institutions through and by which alone the nation seeks to express its will
. In France, before the Revolution, there were but two classes, the privileged orders who were above the law, and the people to whom the law afforded no efficient protection. In England, the highest nobleman is controlled by the same law that protects the peasant. The difference between the two social conditions cannot be more strikingly illustrated than by the fact, that well educated Frenchmen have confessed themselves unable, even now, to conceive of an hereditary aristocracy such as exists in England, the members of which should not have it in their power to oppress a poor man in violation of the law with impunity. The political condition of the people of England is so totally different from that of their neighbours, that the latter cannot even understand it. To our American brethren, who ought to know us better, it presents a scarcely less baffling paradox. We find,' says an American writer, institutions existing together which suppose the truth of directly opposite principles, --equality of rights and hereditary
privileges, with a thousand other incongruities. But that which harmonizes all these apparent incongruities, is, that they have their common foundation in law, their common sanction from that which is, in England, an element of law,-history. It is not the
* Chenevix, Vol. II. p. 523.
mere title and privilege of the peer that is hereditary: the hereditary feeling pervades all classes, enters into the composition of the national character, and mocks the wisdom of philosophy.
But that which more peculiarly distinguishes the composition of English society is, the character and importance of what is denominated the middle class. Our readers will recollect the remark cited from M. Mignet; that the first events of the French Revolution were an insurrection of the middle class against the privileged orders; the second act, an insurgency of the mob against the middle class. Assuming this to be correct, we might be warranted in saying, that the cause of the miscarriage of the Revolution was the numerical insignificance and relative weakness of the middle class in France. Wo awaits that nation in which, in time of foreign or domestic peril, there exists no mediatory class at once connecting and keeping apart the privileged orders and the mob. But not only was the middle class of society relatively inconsiderable: the absence of virtue, wisdom, and true piety, the sources of moral ascendancy, rendered it intrinsically weak. The exile of the Protestants, the persecution of the Jansenists, had exhausted society of its conservative worth, and enfeebled the nation at its heart. The consequences were not felt till, when the seeds of disease long latent in the body politic developed themselves, it was found that there was no strength left to struggle with the excitement, which passed almost at once into frenzy.
In this country, an intelligent foreigner, Count Pecchio, has remarked, that that class of society which is the best informed,
the most hospitable, the most beneficent, and the most virtuous of all,' is immeasurably more numerous than in any other country, and forms, so to speak, the heart of the nation. We think it was Voltaire who compared the English nation to their own porter, the froth at the top, the dregs at the bottom, and all between excellent. But the distipction between the different classes of society in England, is not marked by intervals, but by gradations. There are a variety of castes in the aristocracy itself; but there is no impassable barrier to prevent the child of poverty from attaining the highest political or ecclesiastical dignity. There is no one definable middle class, but rather a series of middle classes; and the lowest orders of England would, in any other country, be a middle order, in point of comfort and intelligence. That a frightful amount of popular ignorance, irreligion, crime, and distress exists in this country, cannot be denied. How should it be otherwise, when, in less than a century, our population has more than doubled upon us, without any adequate correspondent extension of the means of instruction ? How should it be otherwise, when, till very recently, the higher orders have discouraged, and even opposed the education of the people;
-while the very criminal institutions of the country have contributed to the encouragement of crime. * The increase of vice and delinquency under these circumstances, however appalling, bears a smaller proportion to the increase of the population, than might have been anticipated, and than must inevitably have resulted from such positive and negative causes of demoralization, had not other causes of mighty efficiency come into operation, of which, till of late, small account has been taken by our statesmen and legislators.
The march of intellect is a hackneyed phrase, which has afforded occasion for much fair satire, as well as unfair and vulgar ridicule. But it means something. It describes a fact which, even if exaggerated, is not the less worthy of being rightly estimated. The ridicule is not unmixed with jealousy and fear on the part of many who are constrained to admit the progress of intelligence in the lower orders of society. What is the true meaning of the spirit of reform which has assumed so commanding an attitude ? To Quarterly Reviewers and the faction they represent, it may seem to presage revolution; whereas it is the effect of one. A revolation has taken place; and that which, in their blindness, they wish to prevent, has become history. And what is the character of that pacific revolution, which has been going on almost unperceived among us? It differs from that which took place in France forty years ago, much as the revolution produced by the vernal sun in the face of nature, differs from the effects of a physical convulsion, or a conflict of the elements. The French revolution was a conflict of the new opinions with the old. The English revolution of the nineteenth century is the development of the moral energies of the nation.
Among the unequivocal signs of that development, we may in the first place refer to the astonishing display of the principles of spontaneous exertion and voluntary combination, in our religious and patriotic institutions. Other countries have their munificent public establishments and endowed institutions : but where shall we find any thing like the immense amount of beneficence that is sustained by popular contributions in this country ? The pecuniary amount that is annually raised for such objects, though a striking evidence of the wealth and reproductive energy of the nation, is not the most important feature of these institutions. To estimate them aright, we must take into account the moral sympathy which is generated and transmitted throughout the social system by this reticular apparatus, spread over the surface, and blending with the veins and arteries of the body politic, as the media of thought and voluntary motion. All this additional
• See, on the Increase and Causes of Crime, Ecl. Rev., 3d Series, vol. vii. p. 319.