Imágenes de página



cannot help saying that we have no sympathy with their delicacy or their timidity. What they look upon as a frightful commotion of the elements, we consider as no more than a wholesome agitation; and cannot help regarding the contentions in which freemen are engaged by a conscientious zeal for their opinions, as an invigorating and not ungenerous exercise. What serious breach of the public peace has it occasioned ? to what insurrections, or conspiracies, or proscriptions has it ever given rise?- what mob even, or tumult, has been excited by the contention of the two great parties of the state, since their contention has been open, and their weapons appointed, and their career marked out in the free lists of the constitution?-Suppress these contentions, indeed-forbid these weapons, and shut up these lists, and you will have conspiracies and insurrections enough. These are the short-sighted fears of tyrants. The dissensions of a free people are the preventives and not the indications of radical disorder and the noises which make the weak-hearted tremble, are but the natural murmurs of those mighty and mingling currents of public opinion, which are destined to fertilize and unite the country, and can never become dangerous till an attempt is made to obstruct their course, or to disturb their level.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Leckie has favoured his readers with an enumeration of the advantages of absolute monarchy;- and we are tempted to follow his example, by concluding with a dry catalogue of the advantages of free governmenteach of which would require a chapter at least as long as that which we have now bestowed upon one of them. Next, then, to that of its superior security from great reverses and atrocities, of which we have already spoken at sufficient length, we should be disposed to rank that pretty decisive feature, of the superior Happiness which it confers upon all the individuals who live under it. The consciousness of liberty is a great blessing and enjoyment in itself.-The occupation it affords the importance it confers-the excitement of intellect, and the elevation of spirit which it implies, are all elements

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


of happiness peculiar to this condition of society, and quite separate and independent of the external advantages with which it may be attended. In the second. place, however, liberty makes men more Industrious, and consequently more generally prosperous and Wealthy; the result of which is, both that they have among them more of the good things that wealth can procure, and that the resources of the State are greater for all public purposes. In the third place, it renders men more Valiant and high-minded, and also promotes the development of Genius and talents, both by the unbounded career it opens up to the emulation of every individual in the land, and by the natural effect of all sorts of intellectual or moral excitement to awaken all sorts of intellectual and moral capabilities. In the fourth place, it renders men more Patient, and docile, and Resolute in the pursuit of any public object; and consequently both makes their chance of success greater, and enables them to make much greater efforts in every way, in proportion to the extent of their population. No slaves could ever have undergone the toils to which the Spartans or the Romans tasked themselves for the good or the glory of their country; and no tyrant could ever have extorted the sums in which the Commons of England have voluntarily assessed themselves for the exigencies of the state. These are among the positive advantages of freedom; and, in our opinion, are its chief advantages. But we must not forget, in the fifth and last place, that there is nothing else but a free government by which men can be secured from those arbitrary invasions of their Persons and Properties - those cruel persecutions, oppressive imprisonments, and lawless executions, which no formal code can prevent an absolute monarch from regarding as a part of his prerogative; and, above all, from those provincial exactions and oppressions, and those universal Insults, and Contumelies, and Indignities, by which the inferior minions of power spread misery and degradation among the whole mass of every people which has no political independence.


[blocks in formation]

(APRIL, 1814.)

A Song of Triumph. By W. SOTHEBY, Esq. 8vo. London:


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 pages dedicated like ours to topics of present interest, and the discussions of the passing hour, should be ushered into the world at such a moment as this, without some stamp of that common joy and anxious emotion with which the wonderful events of the last three months are still filling all the regions of the earth. In such a situation, it must be difficult for any one who has the means of being heard,

* This, I am afraid, will now be thought to be too much of a mere Song of Triumph;" or, at least, to be conceived throughout in a far more sanguine spirit than is consistent either with a wise observation of passing events, or a philosophical estimate of the frailties of human nature: And, having certainly been written under that prevailing excitement, of which I chiefly wish to preserve it as a memorial, I have no doubt that, to some extent, it is so. At the same time it should be recollected, that it was written immediately after the first restoration of the Bourbons; and before the startling drama of the Hundred Days, and its grand catastrophe at Waterloo, had dispelled the first wholesome fears of the Allies, or sown the seeds of more bitter ranklings and resentments in the body of the French people: and, above all, that it was so written, before the many lawless invasions of national independence, and broken promises of Sovereigns to their subjects, which have since revived that distrust, which both nations and philosophers were then, perhaps, but too ready to renounce. And after all, I must say, that an attentive reader may find, even in this strain of good auguries, both such traces of misgivings, and such iteration of anxious warnings, as to save me from the imputation of having merely predicted a Millennium.


[ocr errors]



to refrain from giving utterance to his sentiments: But to us, whom it has assured, for the first time, of the entire sympathy of all our countrymen, the temptation, we own, is irresistible; and the good-natured part of our readers, we are persuaded, will rather smile at our simplicity, than fret at our presumption, when we add, that we have sometimes permitted ourselves to fancy that, if any copy of these our lucubrations should go down to another generation, it may be thought curious to trace in them the first effects of events that are probably destined to fix the fortune of succeeding centuries, and to observe the impressions which were made on the minds of contemporaries, by those mighty transactions, which will appear of yet greater moment in the eyes of a distant posterity. We are still too near that great image of Deliverance and Reform which the Genius of Europe has just set up before us to discern with certainty its just lineaments, or construe the true character of the Aspect with which it looks onward to futurity! We see enough, however, to fill us with innumerable feelings, and the germs of many high and anxious speculations. The feelings, we are sure, are in unison with all that exists around us; and we reckon therefore on more than usual indulgence for the speculations into which they may expand.

The first and predominant feeling which rises on contemplating the scenes that have just burst on our view, is that of deep-felt gratitude and delight,-for the liberation of so many oppressed nations, for the cessation of bloodshed and fear and misery over the fairest portions of the civilized world, and for the enchanting, though still dim and uncertain prospect of long peace and measureless improvement, which seems at last to be opening on the suffering kingdoms of Europe. The very novelty of such a state of things, which could be known only by description to the greater part of the existing generation the suddenness of its arrival, and the contrast which it forms with the anxieties and alarms to which it has so immediately succeeded, all concur most powerfully to enhance its vast intrinsic attractions. It

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



has come upon the world like the balmy air and flushing verdure of a late spring, after the dreary chills of a long and interminable winter; and the refreshing sweetness with which it has visited the earth, feels like Elysium to those who have just escaped from the driving tempests it has banished.

We have reason to hope, too, that the riches of the harvest will correspond with the splendour of this early promise. All the periods in which human society and human intellect have been known to make great and memorable advances, have followed close upon periods of general agitation and disorder. Men's minds, it would appear, must be deeply and roughly stirred, before they become prolific of great conceptions, or vigorous resolves; and a vast and alarming fermentation must pervade and agitate the mass of society, to inform it with that kindly warmth, by which alone the seeds of genius and improvement can be expanded. The fact, at all events, is abundantly certain; and may be accounted for, we conceive, without mystery, and without metaphors.


A popular revolution in government or religion-or any thing else that gives rise to general and long-continued contention, naturally produces a prevailing disdain of authority, and boldness of thinking in the leaders of the fray, — together with a kindling of the imagination and development of intellect in a great multitude persons, who, in ordinary times, would have vegetated stupidly in the places where fortune had fixed them. Power and distinction, and all the higher prizes in the lottery of life, are then brought within the reach of a larger proportion of the community; and that vivifying spirit of ambition, which is the true source of all improvement, instead of burning at a few detached points on the summit of society, now pervades every portion of its frame. Much extravagance, and, in all probability, much guilt and much misery, result, in the first instance, from this sudden extrication of talent and enterprise, in places where they can as yet have no legitimate issue, or points of application. But the contending elements at last find their spheres, and their balance. The dis

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »