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VI.

GENERAL POLITICS.

A GREAT deal that should naturally come under this title has been unavoidably given already, under that of History; and more, I fear, may be detected under still less appropriate denominations. If any unwary readers have been thus unwittingly decoyed into Politics, while intent on more innocent studies, I can only hope that they will now take comfort, from finding how little of this obnoxious commodity has been left to appear in its proper colours; and also from seeing, from the decorous title now assumed, that all intention of engaging them in Party discussions is disclaimed.

I do not think that I was ever a violent or (consciously) uncandid partisan; and at all events, ten years of honest abstinence and entire segregation from party contentions (to say nothing of the sobering effects of threescore antecedent years!), should have pretty much effaced the vestiges of such predilections, and awakened the least considerate to a sense of the exaggerations, and occasional unfairness, which such influences must almost unavoidably impart to political disquisitions. In what I now reprint I have naturally been anxious to select what seemed least liable to this objection: and though I cannot flatter myself that a tone of absolute, Judicial impartiality is maintained in all these early productions, I trust that nothing will be found in them that can suggest the idea either of personal animosity, or of an ungenerous feeling towards a public opponent.

To the two first, and most considerable, of the following papers, indeed, I should wish particularly to refer, as fair exponents both of the principles I think I have always maintained, and of the temper in which I was generally disposed to maintain them. In some of the others a more vehement and contentious tone may no doubt be detected. But as they touch upon matters of permanent interest and importance, and advocate opinions which I still think substantially right, I have felt that it would be pusillanimous now to suppress them, from a poor fear of censure, which, if just, I cannot but know that I deserve or a still poorer distrust of those allowances which I have no reason to think will be withheld from me by the better part of my readers.

GENERAL POLITICS.

(NOVEMBER, 1812.)

Essay on the Practice of the British Government, distinguished from the abstract Theory on which it is supposed to be founded. By GOULD FRANCIS LECKIE. 8vo. London:

1812.*

THIS is the most direct attack which we have ever seen in English, upon the free constitution of England;—or rather upon political liberty in general, and upon our government only in so far as it is free-and it consists partly in an eager exposition of the inconveniences resulting from parliaments or representative legislatures, and partly in a warm defence and undisguised panegyric of Absolute, or, as the author more elegantly phrases it, of Simple monarchy.

The pamphlet which contains these consolatory doctrines, has the further merit of being, without any exception, the worst written, and the worst reasoned, that has ever fallen into our hands; and there is nothing indeed but the extreme importance of the subject, and the singular complexion of the times in which it appears, that could induce us to take any notice of it. The rubbish that is scattered in our common walks, we merely

* I used to think that this paper contained a very good defence of our free constitution; and especially the most complete, temperate, and searching vindication of our Hereditary Monarchy that was any where to be met with: And, though it now appears to me rather more elementary and elaborate than was necessary, I am still of opinion that it may be of use to young politicians, and suggest cautions and grounds of distrust, to rash discontent and thoughtless presumption,

VOL. III.

L

146 LECKIE'S EULOGIUM ON ARBITRARY POWER.

push aside and disregard; but, when it defiles the approaches to the temple, or is heaped on the sanctuary itself, it must be cast out with other rites of expiation, and visited with severer penalties. When the season is healthy, we may walk securely among the elements of corruption, and warrantably decline the inglorious labour of sweeping them away :-but, when the air is tainted and the blood impure, we should look with jealousy upon every speck, and consider that the slightest remission of our police may spread a pestilence through all the borders of the land.

There are two periods, as it appears to us, when the promulgation of such doctrines as are maintained by this author may be considered as dangerous, or at least as of evil omen, in a country like this. The one, when the friends of arbitrary power are strong and daring, and advantageously posted, and when, meditating some serious attack on the liberties of the people, they send out their emissaries and manifestoes, to feel and to prepare their way;-the other, when they are substantially weak, and unfit to maintain a conflict with their opponents, but where the great body of the timid and the cautious are alarmed at the prospect of such a conflict, and half disposed to avert the crisis, by supporting whatever is in actual possession of power. Whether either of these descriptions may suit the aspect of the present times, we willingly leave it to our readers to determine: But before going farther, we think it proper to say, that we impute no corrupt motives to the author before us; and that there is, on the contrary, every appearance of his being conscientiously persuaded of the advantages of arbitrary power, and sincerely eager to reconcile the minds of his countrymen to the introduction of so great a blessing. The truth indeed seems to be, that having lived so long abroad as evidently to have lost, in a great degree, the use of his native language, it is not surprising that he should have lost along with it, a great number of those feelings, without which it really is not possible to reason, in this country, on the English constitution; and has gradually

SUMMARY OF HIS DOCTRINE.

147

come, not only to speak, but to feel, like a foreigner, as to many of those things which will constitute both the pride and the happiness of his countrymen. We have no doubt that he would be a very useful and enlightened patriot in Sicily; but we think it was rather rash in him to venture before the public with his speculations on the English government, with his present stock of information and habits of thinking. Though we do not, however, impute to him any thing worse than these disqualifications, there are persons enough in the country to whom it will be a sufficient recommendation of any work, that it inculcates principles of servility; and who will be abundantly ready to give it every chance of making an impression, which it may derive from their approbation, and indeed we have already heard such testimonies in favour of this slender performance, as seem to impose it upon us as a duty to give some little account of its contents, and some short opinion of its principles.

The first part of the task may be performed in a very moderate compass; for though the learned author has not always the gift of writing intelligibly, it is impossible for a diligent reader not to see what he would be at; and his doctrine, when once fairly understood, may readily be reduced to a few very simple propositions. After preluding on a variety of minor topics, and suggesting some curious enough remedies for our present unhappy condition, he candidly admits that none of those would reach to the root of the evil; which consists entirely, it seems, in our "too great jealousy of the Crown:" and accordingly proceeds to draw a most seducing picture of his favourite Simple monarchy; and indirectly indeed, but quite unequivocally, to intimate, that the only effectual cure for the evils under which we now suffer is to be found in the total abolition of Parliaments, and the conversion of our constitution. into an absolute monarchy: or, shortly to "advert," as he expresses himself, "to the advantages which a Monarchy, such as has been described, has over our boasted British Constitution." These advantages, after a good

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