Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke.
by Edmund Burke
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


Disappointment and mortification undoubtedly they feel; but to them, repentance is a thing impossible. They are atheists. This wretched opinion, by which they are possessed even to the height of fanaticism, leading them to exclude from their ideas of a commonwealth the vital principle of the physical, the moral, and the political world, engages them in a thousand absurd contrivances to fill up this dreadful void. Incapable of innoxious repose, or honourable action, or wise speculation, in the lurking-holes of a foreign land, into which (in a common ruin) they are driven to hide their heads amongst the innocent victims of their madness, they are at this very hour as busy in the confection of the dirt-pies of their imaginary constitutions, as if they had not been quite fresh from destroying, by their impious and desperate vagaries, the finest country upon earth.


The English people are satisfied, that to the great the consolations of religion are as necessary as its instructions. They too are among the unhappy. They feel personal pain, and domestic sorrow. In these they have no privilege, but are subject to pay their full contingent to the contributions levied on mortality. They want this sovereign balm under their gnawing cares and anxieties, which, being less conversant about the limited wants of animal life, range without limit, and are diversified by infinite combinations in the wild and unbounded regions of imagination. Some charitable dole is wanting to these, our often very unhappy brethren, to fill the gloomy void that reigns in minds which have nothing on earth to hope or fear; something to relieve in the killing languor and over-laboured lassitude of those who have nothing to do; something to excite an appetite to existence in the palled satiety which attends on all pleasures which may be bought, where nature is not left to her own process, where even desire is anticipated, and therefore fruition defeated by meditated schemes and contrivances of delight; and no interval, no obstacle, is interposed between the wish and the accomplishment.

The people of England know how little influence the teachers of religion are likely to have with the wealthy and powerful of long standing, and how much less with the newly fortunate, if they appear in a manner no way assorted to those with whom they must associate, and over whom they must even exercise, in some cases, something like an authority. What must they think of that body of teachers, if they see it in no part above the establishment of their domestic servants? If the poverty were voluntary, there might be some difference. Strong instances of self-denial operate powerfully on our minds; and a man who has no wants has obtained great freedom, and firmness, and even dignity. But as the mass of any description of men are but men, and their poverty cannot be voluntary, that disrespect, which attends upon all lay property, will not depart from the ecclesiastical. Our provident constitution has therefore taken care that those who are to instruct presumptuous ignorance, those who are to be censors over insolent vice, should neither incur their contempt, nor live upon their alms; nor will it tempt the rich to a neglect of the true medicine of their minds. For these reasons, whilst we provide first for the poor, and with a parental solicitude, we have not relegated religion (like something we were ashamed to show) to obscure municipalities, or rustic villages. No! We will have her to exalt her mitred front in courts and parliaments. We will have her mixed throughout the whole mass of life, and blended with all the classes of society. The people of England will show to the haughty potentates of the world, and to their talking sophisters, that a free, a generous, an informed nation honours the high magistrates of its church; that it will not suffer the insolence of wealth and titles, or any other species of proud pretension, to look down with scorn upon what they look up to with reverence; nor presume to trample on that acquired personal nobility, which they intend always to be, and which often is, the fruit, not the reward (for what can be the reward), of learning, piety, and virtue. They can see, without pain or grudging, an archbishop precede a duke. They can see a bishop of Durham, or a bishop of Winchester, in possession of ten thousand pounds a year; and cannot conceive why it is in worse hands than estates to the like amount in the hands of this earl, or that squire; although it may be true, that so many dogs and horses are not kept by the former, and fed with the victuals which ought to nourish the children of the people. It is true, the whole church revenue is not always employed, and to every shilling, in charity; nor perhaps ought it; but something is generally so employed. It is better to cherish virtue and humanity by leaving much to free will, even with some loss to the object, than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of a political benevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty, without which virtue cannot exist.

When once the commonwealth has established the estates of the church as property, it can, consistently, hear nothing of the more or the less. Too much and too little are treason against property. What evil can arise from the quantity in any hand, whilst the supreme authority has the full, sovereign superintendence over this, as over any property, to prevent every species of abuse; and, whenever it notably deviates, to give to it a direction agreeable to the purposes of its institution. In England most of us conceive that it is envy and malignity towards those who are often the beginners of their own fortune, and not a love of the self-denial and mortification of the ancient church, that makes some look askance at the distinctions, and honours, and revenues, which, taken from no person, are set apart for virtue. The ears of the people of England are distinguishing. They hear these men speak broad. Their tongue betrays them. Their language is in the patois of fraud; in the cant and gibberish of hypocrisy. The people of England must think so, when these praters affect to carry back the clergy to that primitive, evangelic poverty, which, in the spirit, ought always to exist in them (and in us too, however we may like it), but in the thing must be varied, when the relation of that body to the state is altered; when manners, when modes of life, when indeed the whole order of human affairs, has undergone a total revolution. We shall believe those reformers then to be honest enthusiasts, not, as now we think them, cheats and deceivers, when we see them throwing their own goods into common, and submitting their own persons to the austere discipline of the early church.


It is not worth our while to discuss, like sophisters, whether, in no case, some evil, for the sake of some benefit, is to be tolerated. Nothing universal can be rationally affirmed on any moral or any political subject. Pure metaphysical abstraction does not belong to these matters. The lines of morality are not like ideal lines of mathematics. They are broad and deep as well as long. They admit of exceptions; they demand modifications. These exceptions and modifications are not made by the process of logic, but by the rules of prudence. Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all. Metaphysics cannot live without definition; but prudence is cautious how she defines. Our courts cannot be more fearful in suffering fictitious cases to be brought before them for eliciting their determination on a point of law, than prudent moralists are in putting extreme and hazardous cases of conscience upon emergencies not existing. Without attempting therefore to define, what never can be defined, the case of a revolution in government, this, I think, may be safely affirmed, that a sore and pressing evil is to be removed, and that a good, great in its amount, and unequivocal in its nature, must be probable almost to certainty, before the inestimable price of our own morals, and the well-being of a number of our fellow-citizens, is paid for a revolution. If ever we ought to be economists even to parsimony, it is in the voluntary production of evil. Every revolution contains in it something of evil.


The quality of the sentence does not however decide on the justice of it. Angry friendship is sometimes as bad as calm enmity. For this reason the cold neutrality of abstract justice is, to a good and clear cause, a more desirable thing than an affection liable to be any way disturbed. When the trial is by friends, if the decision should happen to be favourable, the honour of the acquittal is lessened; if adverse, the condemnation is exceedingly embittered. It is aggravated by coming from lips professing friendship, and pronouncing judgment with sorrow and reluctance. Taking in the whole view of life, it is more safe to live under the jurisdiction of severe but steady reason, than under the empire of indulgent but capricious passion. It is certainly well for Mr. Burke that there are impartial men in the world. To them I address myself, pending the appeal which on his part is made from the living to the dead, from the modern Whigs to the ancient.


The unhappy Louis XVI. was a man of the best intentions that probably ever reigned. He was by no means deficient in talents. He had a most laudable desire to supply by general reading, and even by the acquisition of elemental knowledge, an education in all points originally defective; but nobody told him (and it was no wonder he should not himself divine it) that the world of which he read, and the world in which he lived, were no longer the same. Desirous of doing everything for the best, fearful of cabal, distrusting his own judgment, he sought his ministers of all kinds upon public testimony. But as courts are the field for caballers, the public is the theatre for mountebanks and imposters. The cure for both those evils is in the discernment of the prince. But an accurate and penetrating discernment is what in a young prince could not be looked for.

His conduct in its principle was not unwise; but, like most other of his well-meant designs, it failed in his hands. It failed partly from mere ill fortune, to which speculators are rarely pleased to assign that very large share to which she is justly entitled in human affairs. The failure, perhaps, in part was owing to his suffering his system to be vitiated and disturbed by those intrigues, which it is, humanly speaking, impossible wholly to prevent in courts, or indeed under any form of government. However, with these aberrations, he gave himself over to a succession of the statesmen of public opinion. In other things he thought that he might be a king on the terms of his predecessors. He was conscious of the purity of his heart, and the general good tendency of his government. He flattered himself, as most men in his situation will, that he might consult his ease without danger to his safety. It is not at all wonderful that both he and his ministers, giving way abundantly in other respects to innovation, should take up in policy with the tradition of their monarchy. Under his ancestors the monarchy had subsisted, and even been strengthened, by the generation or support of republics. First, the Swiss republics grew under the guardianship of the French monarchy. The Dutch republics were hatched and cherished under the same incubation. Afterwards, a republican constitution was, under the influence of France, established in the empire against the pretensions of its chief. Even whilst the monarchy of France, by a series of wars and negociations, and lastly, by the treaties of Westphalia, had obtained the establishment of the Protestants in Germany as a law of the empire, the same monarchy under Louis the Thirteenth, had force enough to destroy the republican system of the Protestants at home. Louis the Sixteenth was a diligent reader of history. But the very lamp of prudence blinded him. The guide of human life led him astray. A silent revolution in the moral world preceded the political, and prepared it. It became of more importance than ever what examples were given, and what measures were adopted. Their causes no longer lurked in the recesses of cabinets, or in the private conspiracies of the factious. They were no longer to be controlled by the force and influence of the grandees, who formerly had been able to stir up troubles by their discontents, and to quiet them by their corruption. The chain of subordination, even in cabal and sedition, was broken in its most important links. It was no longer the great and the populace. Other interests were formed, other dependencies, other connections, other communications. The middle classes had swelled far beyond their former proportion. Like whatever is the most effectively rich and great in society, these classes became the seat of all the active politics; and the preponderating weight to decide on them. There were all the energies by which fortune is acquired; there the consequence of their success. There were all the talents which assert their pretensions, and are impatient of the place which settled society prescribes to them. These descriptions had got between the great and the populace; and the influence on the lower classes was with them. The spirit of ambition had taken possession of this class as violent as ever it had done of any other. They felt the importance of this situation. The correspondence of the monied and the mercantile world, the literary intercourse of academies, but, above all, the press, of which they had in a manner entire possession, made a kind of electric communication everywhere. The press in reality has made every government, in its spirit, almost democratic. Without it the great, the first movements in this Revolution could not, perhaps, have been given. But the spirit of ambition, now for the first time connected with the spirit of speculation, was not to be restrained at will. There was no longer any means of arresting a principle in its course. When Louis the Sixteenth, under the influence of the enemies to monarchy, meant to found but one republic, he set up two. When he meant to take away half the crown of his neighbour, he lost the whole of his own. Louis the Sixteenth could not with impunity countenance a new republic: yet between his throne and that dangerous lodgment for an enemy, which he had erected, he had the whole Atlantic for a ditch. He had for an outwork the English nation itself, friendly to liberty, adverse to that mode of it. He was surrounded by a rampart of monarchies, most of them allied to him, and generally under his influence. Yet even thus secured, a republic erected under his auspices, and dependent on his power, became fatal to his throne. The very money which he had lent to support this republic, by a good faith, which to him operated as perfidy, was punctually paid to his enemies, and became a resource in the hands of his assassins.


If mere dissent from the church of Rome be a merit, he that dissents the most perfectly is the most meritorious. In many points we hold strongly with that church. He that dissents throughout with that church will dissent with the church of England, and then it will be a part of his merit that he dissents with ourselves:—a whimsical species of merit for any set of men to establish. We quarrel to extremity with those who we know agree with us in many things, but we are to be so malicious even in the principle of our friendships, that we are to cherish in our bosom those who accord with us in nothing, because whilst they despise ourselves, they abhor, even more than we do, those with whom we have some disagreement. A man is certainly the most perfect Protestant who protests against the whole Christian religion. Whether a person's having no Christian religion be a title to favour, in exclusion to the largest description of Christians who hold all the doctrines of Christianity, though holding along with them some errors and some superfluities, is rather more than any man, who has not become recreant and apostate from his baptism, will, I believe, choose to affirm. The countenance given from a spirit of controversy to that negative religion may, by degrees, encourage light and unthinking people to a total indifference to everything positive in matters of doctrine; and, in the end, of practice too. If continued, it would play the game of that sort of active, proselytizing, and persecuting atheism, which is the disgrace and calamity of our time, and which we see to be as capable of subverting a government, as any mode can be of misguided zeal for better things.


To those who do not love to contemplate the fall of human greatness, I do not know a more mortifying spectacle, than to see the assembled majesty of the crowned heads of Europe waiting as patient suitors in the antechamber of regicide. They wait, it seems, until the sanguinary tyrant Carnot shall have snorted away the fumes of the indigested blood of his sovereign. Then, when, sunk on the down of usurped pomp, he shall have sufficiently indulged his meditations with what monarch he shall next glut his ravening maw, he may condescend to signify that it is his pleasure to be awake; and that he is at leisure to receive the proposals of his high and mighty clients for the terms on which he may respite the execution of the sentence he has passed upon them. At the opening of those doors, what a sight it must be to behold the plenipotentiaries of royal impotence, in the precedency which they will intrigue to obtain, and which will be granted to them according to the seniority of their degradation, sneaking into the regicide presence, and with the relics of the smile, which they had dressed up for the levee of their masters, still flickering on their curled lips, presenting the faded remains of their courtly graces, to meet the scornful, ferocious, sardonic grin of a bloody ruffian, who, whilst he is receiving their homage, is measuring them with his eye, and fitting to their size the slider of his guillotine! These ambassadors may easily return as good courtiers as they went; but can they ever return from that degrading residence, loyal and faithful subjects; or with any true affection to their master, or true attachment to the constitution, religion, or laws of their country? There is great danger that they, who enter smiling into this Trophonian cave, will come out of it sad and serious conspirators; and such will continue as long as they live. They will become true conductors of contagion to every country which has had the misfortune to send them to the source of that electricity. At best they will become totally indifferent to good and evil, to one institution or another. This species of indifference is but too generally distinguishable in those who have been much employed in foreign courts; but in the present case the evil must be aggravated without measure; for they go from their country, not with the pride of the old character, but in a state of the lowest degradation, and what must happen in their place of residence can have no effect in raising them to the level of true dignity, or of chaste self-estimation, either as men, or as representatives of crowned heads.


As if war was a matter of experiment! As if you could take it up or lay it down as an idle frolic! As if the dire goddess that presides over it, with her murderous spear in hand, and her gorgon at her breast, was a coquette to be flirted with! We ought with reverence to approach that tremendous divinity, that loves courage, but commands counsel. War never leaves where it found a nation. It is never to be entered into without mature deliberation; not a deliberation lengthened out into a perplexing indecision, but a deliberation leading to a sure and fixed judgment. When so taken up, it is not to be abandoned without reason as valid, as fully, and as extensively considered. Peace may be made as unadvisedly as war. Nothing is so rash as fear; and the councils of pusillanimity very rarely put off, whilst they are always sure to aggravate, the evils from which they would fly.


There is no want of officers, that I have ever understood, for the new ships which we commission, or the new regiments which we raise. In the nature of things it is not with their persons, that the higher classes principally pay their contingent to the demands of war. There is another, and not less important part, which rests with almost exclusive weight upon them. They furnish the means,

"How war may best upheld Move by her two main nerves, iron and gold, In all her equipage." Not that they are exempt from contributing also by their personal service in the fleets and armies of their country. They do contribute, and in their full and fair proportion, according to the relative proportion of their numbers in the community. They contribute all the mind that actuates the whole machine. The fortitude required of them is very different from the unthinking alacrity of the common soldier, or common sailor, in the face of danger and death; it is not a passion, it is not an impulse, it is not a sentiment; it is a cool, steady, deliberate principle, always present, always equable; having no connection with anger; tempering honour with prudence; incited, invigorated, and sustained, by a generous love of fame; informed, moderated, and directed by an enlarged knowledge of its own great public ends; flowing in one blended stream from the opposite sources of the heart and the head; carrying in itself its own commission, and proving its title to every other command, by the first and most difficult command, that of the bosom in which it resides: it is a fortitude, which unites with the courage of the field the more exalted and refined courage of the council; which knows as well to retreat, as to advance; which can conquer as well by delay, as by the rapidity of a march, or the impetuosity of an attack; which can be, with Fabius, the black cloud that lowers on the tops of the mountains, or with Scipio, the thunderbolt of war; which, undismayed by false shame, can patiently endure the severest trial that a gallant spirit can undergo, in the taunts and provocations of the enemy, the suspicions, the cold respect, and "mouth-honour" of those, from whom it should meet a cheerful obedience; which, undisturbed by false humanity, can calmly assume that most awful moral responsibility of deciding, when victory may be too dearly purchased by the loss of a single life, and when the safety and glory of their country may demand the certain sacrifice of thousands. Different stations of command may call for different modifications of this fortitude; but the character ought to be the same in all. And never, in the most "palmy state" of our martial renown, did it shine with brighter lustre than in the present sanguinary and ferocious hostilities, wherever the British arms have been carried.


It happens frequently that pride may reject a public advance, while interest listens to a secret suggestion of advantage. The opportunity has been afforded. At a very early period in the diplomacy of humiliation, a gentleman was sent on an errand, of which, from the motive of it, whatever the event might be, we can never be ashamed. Humanity cannot be degraded by humiliation. It is its very character to submit to such things. There is a consanguinity between benevolence and humility. They are virtues of the same stock. Dignity is of as good a race; but it belongs to the family of fortitude. In the spirit of that benevolence we sent a gentleman to beseech the Directory of regicide not to be quite so prodigal as their republic had been of judicial murder. We solicited them to spare the lives of some unhappy persons of the first distinction, whose safety at other times could not have been an object of solicitation. They had quitted France on the faith of the declaration of the rights of citizens. They never had been in the service of the regicides, nor at their hands had received any stipend. The very system and constitution of government that now prevails was settled subsequently to their emigration. They were under the protection of Great Britain, and in his majesty's pay and service. Not an hostile invasion, but the disasters of the sea, had thrown them upon a shore more barbarous and inhospitable than the inclement ocean under the most pitiless of its storms. Here was an opportunity to express a feeling for the miseries of war; and to open some sort of conversation, which (after our public overtures had glutted their pride), at a cautious and jealous distance, might lead to something like an accommodation. What was the event? A strange uncouth thing, a theatrical figure of the opera, his head shaded with three-coloured plumes, his body fantastically habited, strutted from the back scenes, and, after a short speech, in the mock heroic falsetto of stupid tragedy, delivered the gentleman who came to make the representation into the custody of a guard, with directions not to lose sight of him for a moment; and then ordered him to be sent from Paris in two hours.


We have a vast interest to preserve, and we possess great means of preserving it: but it is to be remembered that the artificer may be encumbered by his tools, and that resources may be among impediments. If wealth is the obedient and laborious slave of virtue and of public honour, then wealth is in its place, and has its use: but if this order is changed, and honour is to be sacrificed to the conservation of riches,—riches, which have neither eyes nor hands, nor anything truly vital in them, cannot long survive the being of their vivifying powers, their legitimate masters, and their potent protectors. If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free: if our wealth command us, we are poor indeed. We are bought by the enemy with the treasure from our own coffers. Too great a sense of the value of a subordinate interest may be the very source of its danger, as well as the certain ruin of interests of a superior order. Often has a man lost his all because he would not submit to hazard all in defending it. A display of our wealth before robbers is not the way to restrain their boldness, or to lessen their rapacity. This display is made, I know, to persuade the people of England that thereby we shall awe the enemy, and improve the terms of our capitulation: it is made, not that we should fight with more animation, but that we should supplicate with better hopes. We are mistaken. We have an enemy to deal with who never regarded our contest as a measuring and weighing of purses. He is the Gaul that puts his SWORD into the scale. He is more tempted with our wealth as booty, than terrified with it as power. But let us be rich or poor, let us be either in what proportion we may, nature is false or this is true, that where the essential public force (of which money is but a part) is in any degree upon a par in a conflict between nations, that state, which is resolved to hazard its existence rather than to abandon its objects, must have an infinite advantage over that which is resolved to yield rather than to carry its resistance beyond a certain point. Humanly speaking, that people which bounds its efforts only with its being, must give the law to that nation which will not push its opposition beyond its convenience.


On this their gaudy day the new regicide Directory sent for their diplomatic rabble, as bad as themselves in principle, but infinitely worse in degradation. They called them out by a sort of roll of their nations, one after another, much in the manner in which they called wretches out of their prison to the guillotine. When these ambassadors of infamy appeared before them, the chief director, in the name of the rest, treated each of them with a short, affected, pedantic, insolent, theatric laconium: a sort of epigram of contempt. When they had thus insulted them in a style and language which never before was heard, and which no sovereign would for a moment endure from another, supposing any of them frantic enough to use it; to finish their outrage, they drummed and trumpeted the wretches out of their hall of audience.

Among the objects of this insolent buffoonery was a person supposed to represent the king of Prussia. To this worthy representative they did not so much as condescend to mention his master; they did not seem to know that he had one; they addressed themselves solely to Prussia in the abstract, notwithstanding the infinite obligation they owed to their early protector for their first recognition and alliance, and for the part of his territory he gave into their hands for the first-fruits of his homage. None but dead monarchs are so much as mentioned by them, and those only to insult the living by an invidious comparison. They told the Prussians they ought to learn, after the example of Frederick the Great, a love for France. What a pity it is, that he, who loved France so well as to chastise it, was not now alive, by an unsparing use of the rod (which indeed he would have spared little) to give them another instance of his paternal affection. But the Directory were mistaken. These are not days in which monarchs value themselves upon the title of GREAT: they are grown PHILOSOPHIC: they are satisfied to be good. Your lordship will pardon me for this no very long reflection on the short but excellent speech of the plumed director to the ambassador of Cappadocia. The imperial ambassador was not in waiting, but they found for Austria a good Judean representation. With great judgment his highness the Grand Duke had sent the most atheistic coxcomb to be found in Florence to represent, at the bar of impiety, the house of apostolic majesty, and the descendants of the pious, though high-minded, Maria Theresa. He was sent to humble the whole race of Austria before those grim assassins, reeking with the blood of the daughter of Maria Theresa, whom they sent, half-dead, in a dung-cart, to a cruel execution; and this true-born son of apostasy and infidelity, this renegado from the faith, and from all honour and all humanity, drove an Austrian coach over the stones which were yet wet with her blood;—with that blood which dropped every step through her tumbril, all the way she was drawn from the horrid prison, in which they had finished all the cruelty and horrors, not executed in the face of the sun! The Hungarian subjects of Maria Theresa, when they drew their swords to defend her rights against France, called her, with correctness of truth, though not with the same correctness, perhaps, of grammar, a king: Moriamur pro rege nostro Maria Theresa.—She lived and died a king, and others will have subjects ready to make the same vow, when, in either sex, they show themselves real kings.


When you choose an arduous and slippery path, God forbid that any weak feelings of my declining age, which calls for soothings and supports, and which can have none but from you, should make me wish that you should abandon what you are about, or should trifle with it. In this house we submit, though with troubled minds, to that order which has connected all great duties with toils and with perils, which has conducted the road to glory through the regions of obloquy and reproach, and which will never suffer the disparaging alliance of spurious, false, and fugitive praise with genuine and permanent reputation. We know that the Power which has settled that order, and subjected you to it by placing you in the situation you are in, is able to bring you out of it with credit and with safety. His will be done. All must come right. You may open the way with pain, and under reproach. Others will pursue it with ease and with applause.


They have murdered one Robespierre. This Robespierre they tell us was a cruel tyrant, and now that he is put out of the way, all will go well in France. Astraea will again return to that earth from which she has been an emigrant, and all nations will resort to her golden scales. It is very extraordinary, that the very instant the mode of Paris is known here, it becomes all the fashion in London. This is their jargon. It is the old bon ton of robbers, who cast their common crimes on the wickedness of their departed associates. I care little about the memory of this same Robespierre. I am sure he was an execrable villain. I rejoiced at his punishment neither more nor less than I should at the execution of the present Directory, or any of its members. But who gave Robespierre the power of being a tyrant? and who were the instruments of his tyranny? The present virtuous constitution-mongers. He was a tyrant, they were his satellites and his hangmen. Their sole merit is in the murder of their colleague. They have expiated their other murders by a new murder. It has always been the case among this banditti. They have always had the knife at each other's throats, after they had almost blunted it at the throats of every honest man. These people thought that, in the commerce of murder, he was like to have the better of the bargain if any time was lost; they therefore took one of their short revolutionary methods, and massacred him in a manner so perfidious and cruel, as would shock all humanity, if the stroke was not struck by the present rulers on one of their own associates. But this last act of infidelity and murder is to expiate all the rest, and to qualify them for the amity of a humane and virtuous sovereign and civilized people. I have heard that a Tartar believes, when he has killed a man, that all his estimable qualities pass with his clothes and arms to the murderer: but I have never heard that it was the opinion of any savage Scythian, that, if he kills a brother villain, he is, ipso facto, absolved of all his own offences. The Tartarian doctrine is the most tenable opinion. The murderers of Robespierre, besides what they are entitled to by being engaged in the same tontine of infamy, are his representatives, have inherited all his murderous qualities in addition to their own private stock. But it seems we are always to be of a party with the last and victorious assassins. I confess I am of a different mind, and am rather inclined, of the two, to think and speak less hardly of a dead ruffian, than to associate with the living. I could better bear the stench of the gibbeted murderer than the society of the bloody felons who yet annoy the world. Whilst they wait the recompense due to their ancient crimes, they merit new punishment by the new offences they commit. There is a period to the offences of Robespierre. They survive in his assassins. Better a living dog, says the old proverb, than a dead lion; not so here. Murderers and hogs never look well till they are hanged. From villany no good can arise, but in the example of its fate. So I leave them their dead Robespierre, either to gibbet his memory, or to deify him in their Pantheon with their Marat and their Mirabeau.


There must be some impulse besides public spirit to put private interest into motion along with it. Monied men ought to be allowed to set a value on their money; if they did not, there could be no monied men. This desire of accumulation is a principle without which the means of their service to the state could not exist. The love of lucre, though sometimes carried to a ridiculous, sometimes to a vicious excess, is the grand cause of prosperity to all states. In this natural, this reasonable, this powerful, this prolific principle, it is for the satirist to expose the ridiculous: it is for the moralist to censure the vicious; it is for the sympathetic heart to reprobate the hard and cruel; it is for the judge to animadvert on the fraud, the extortion, and the oppression; but it is for the statesman to employ it as he finds it, with all its concomitant excellencies, with all its imperfections on its head. It is his part, in this case, as it is in all other cases where he is to make use of the general energies of nature, to take them as he finds them.


With all these causes of corruption, we may well judge what the general fashion of mind will be through both sexes and all conditions. Such spectacles and such examples will overbear all the laws that ever blackened the cumbrous volumes of our statutes. When royalty shall have disavowed itself; when it shall have relaxed all the principles of its own support; when it has rendered the system of regicide fashionable, and received it as triumphant in the very persons who have consolidated that system by the perpetration of every crime; who have not only massacred the prince, but the very laws and magistrates which were the support of royalty, and slaughtered, with an indiscriminate proscription, without regard to either sex or age, every person that was suspected of an inclination to king, law, or magistracy,—I say, will any one dare to be loyal? Will any one presume, against both authority and opinion, to hold up this unfashionable, antiquated, exploded constitution? The Jacobin faction in England must grow in strength and audacity; it will be supported by other intrigues, and supplied by other resources than yet we have seen in action. Confounded at its growth, the government may fly to parliament for its support. But who will answer for the temper of a house of commons elected under these circumstances? Who will answer for the courage of a house of commons to arm the crown with the extraordinary powers that it may demand? But the ministers will not venture to ask half of what they know they want. They will lose half of that half in the contest: and when they have obtained their nothing, they will be driven by the cries of faction either to demolish the feeble works they have thrown up in a hurry, or, in effect, to abandon them. As to the House of Lords, it is not worth mentioning. The peers ought naturally to be the pillars of the crown; but when their titles are rendered contemptible, and their property invidious, and a part of their weakness, and not of their strength, they will be found so many degraded and trembling individuals, who will seek by evasion to put off the evil day of their ruin. Both houses will be in perpetual oscillation between abortive attempts at energy, and still more unsuccessful attempts at compromise. You will be impatient of your disease, and abhorrent of your remedy. A spirit of subterfuge and a tone of apology will enter into all your proceedings, whether of law or legislation. Your judges, who now sustain so masculine an authority, will appear more on their trial than the culprits they have before them. The awful frown of criminal justice will be smoothed into the silly smile of seduction. Judges will think to insinuate and soothe the accused into conviction and condemnation, and to wheedle to the gallows the most artful of all delinquents. But they will not be so wheedled. They will not submit even to the appearance of persons on their trial. Their claim to this exception will be admitted. The place in which some of the greatest names which ever distinguished the history of this country have stood, will appear beneath their dignity. The criminal will climb from the dock to the side-bar, and take his place and his tea with the counsel. From the bar of the counsel, by a natural progress, he will ascend to the bench, which long before had been virtually abandoned. They who escape from justice will not suffer a question upon reputation. They will take the crown of the causeway: they will be revered as martyrs; they will triumph as conquerors. Nobody will dare to censure that popular part of the tribunal, whose only restraint on misjudgment is the censure of the public. They who find fault with the decision will be represented as enemies to the institution. Juries that convict for the crown will be loaded with obloquy. The juries who acquit will be held up as models of justice. If parliament orders a prosecution, and fails (as fail it will), it will be treated to its face as guilty of a conspiracy maliciously to prosecute. Its care in discovering a conspiracy against the state will be treated as a forged plot to destroy the liberty of the subject; every such discovery, instead of strengthening government, will weaken its reputation.

In this state things will be suffered to proceed, lest measures of vigour should precipitate a crisis. The timid will act thus from character; the wise from necessity. Our laws had done all that the old condition of things dictated to render our judges erect and independent; but they will naturally fail on the side upon which they had taken no precautions. The judicial magistrates will find themselves safe as against the crown, whose will is not their tenure; the power of executing their office will be held at the pleasure of those who deal out fame or abuse as they think fit. They will begin rather to consult their own repose and their own popularity, than the critical and perilous trust that is in their hands. They will speculate on consequences when they see at court an ambassador whose robes are lined with a scarlet dyed in the blood of judges. It is no wonder, nor are they to blame, when they are to consider how they shall answer for their conduct to the criminal of to?day turned into the magistrate of to-morrow.


Is it only an oppressive nightmare with which we have been loaded? Is it then all a frightful dream, and are there no regicides in the world? Have we not heard of that prodigy of a ruffian, who would not suffer his benignant sovereign, with his hands tied behind him, and stripped for execution, to say one parting word to his deluded people;—of Santerre, who commanded the drums and trumpets to strike up to stifle his voice, and dragged him backward to the machine of murder? This nefarious villain (for a few days I may call him so) stands high in France, as in a republic of robbers and murderers he ought. What hinders this monster from being sent as ambassador to convey to his majesty the first compliments of his brethren, the regicide Directory? They have none that can represent them more properly. I anticipate the day of his arrival. He will make his public entry into London on one of the pale horses of his brewery. As he knows that we are pleased with the Paris taste for the orders of knighthood, he will fling a bloody sash across his shoulders with the order of the Holy Guillotine, surmounting the Crown, appendant to the riband. Thus adorned, he will proceed from Whitechapel to the further end of Pall Mall, all the music of London playing the Marseillais hymn before him, and escorted by a chosen detachment of the Legion de l'Echaffaud. It were only to be wished, that no ill-fated loyalist for the imprudence of his zeal may stand in the pillory at Charing Cross, under the statue of King Charles the First, at the time of this grand procession, lest some of the rotten eggs, which the constitutional society shall let fly at his indiscreet head, may hit the virtuous murderer of his king. They might soil the state dress, which the ministers of so many crowned heads have admired, and in which Sir Clement Cotterel is to introduce him at St. James's.

If Santerre cannot be spared from the constitutional butcheries at home, Tallien may supply his place, and, in point of figure, with advantage. He has been habituated to commissions; and he is as well qualified as Santerre for this. Nero wished the Roman people had but one neck. The wish of the more exalted Tallien, when he sat in judgment, was, that his sovereign had eighty-three heads, that he might send one to every one of the departments. Tallien will make an excellent figure at Guildhall at the next sheriff's feast. He may open the ball with my Lady Mayoress. But this will be after he has retired from the public table, and gone into the private room for the enjoyment of more social and unreserved conversation with the ministers of state and the judges of the bench. There these ministers and magistrates will hear him entertain the worthy aldermen with an instructing and pleasing narrative of the manner in which he made the rich citizens of Bordeaux squeak, and gently led them by the public credit of the guillotine to disgorge their anti-revolutionary pelf.

All this will be the display, and the town-talk, when our regicide is on a visit of ceremony. At home nothing will equal the pomp and splendour of the Hotel de la Republique. There another scene of gaudy grandeur will be opened. When his citizen excellency keeps the festival, which every citizen is ordered to observe, for the glorious execution of Louis the Sixteenth, and renews his oath of detestation of kings, a grand ball, of course, will be given on the occasion. Then what a hurly-burly;—what a crowding;—what a glare of a thousand flambeaux in the square;—what a clamour of footmen contending at the door;—what a rattling of a thousand coaches of duchesses, countesses, and Lady Marys, choking the way, and overturning each other, in a struggle who should be first to pay her court to the Citoyenne, the spouse of the twenty-first husband, he the husband of the thirty-first wife, and to hail her in the rank of honourable matrons, before the four days' duration of marriage is expired!—Morals, as they were:—decorum, the great outguard of the sex, and the proud sentiment of honour, which makes virtue more respectable where it is, and conceals human frailty where virtue may not be, will be banished from this land of propriety, modesty, and reserve.


This officer having attempted, with great gallantry, to cut out a vessel from one of the enemy's harbours, was taken after an obstinate resistance, such as obtained him the marked respect of those who were witnesses of his valour, and knew the circumstances in which it was displayed. Upon his arrival at Paris, he was instantly thrown into prison; where the nature of his situation will best be understood, by knowing, that amongst its MITIGATIONS, was the permission to walk occasionally in the court, and to enjoy the privilege of shaving himself. On the old system of feelings and principles, his sufferings might have been entitled to consideration, and even in a comparison with those of citizen La Fayette, to a priority in the order of compassion. If the ministers had neglected to take any steps in his favour, a declaration of the sense of the House of Commons would have stimulated them to their duty. If they had caused a representation to be made, such a proceeding would have added force to it. If reprisal should be thought advisable, the address of the House would have given an additional sanction to a measure which would have been, indeed, justifiable without any other sanction than its own reason. But, no. Nothing at all like it. In fact, the merit of Sir Sydney Smith, and his claim on British compassion, was of a kind altogether different from that which interested so deeply the authors of the motion in favour of citizen La Fayette. In my humble opinion, Captain Sir Sydney Smith has another sort of merit with the British nation, and something of a higher claim on British humanity, than citizen La Fayette. Faithful, zealous, and ardent, in the service of his king and country; full of spirit; full of resources; going out of the beaten road, but going right, because his uncommon enterprise was not conducted by a vulgar judgment;—in his profession, Sir Sydney Smith might be considered as a distinguished person, if any person could well be distinguished in a service in which scarcely a commander can be named without putting you in mind of some action of intrepidity, skill, and vigilance, that has given them a fair title to contend with any men, and in any age. But I will say nothing farther of the merits of Sir Sydney Smith: the mortal animosity of the regicide enemy supersedes all other panegyric. Their hatred is a judgment in his favour without appeal. At present he is lodged in the tower of the Temple, the last prison of Louis the Sixteenth, and the last but one of Maria Antonietta of Austria; the prison of Louis the Seventeenth; the prison of Elizabeth of Bourbon. There he lies, unpitied by the grand philanthropy, to meditate upon the fate of those who are faithful to their king and country. Whilst this prisoner, secluded from intercourse, was indulging in these cheering reflections, he might possibly have had the further consolation of learning (by means of the insolent exultation of his guards), that there was an English ambassador at Paris; he might have had the proud comfort of hearing, that this ambassador had the honour of passing his mornings in respectful attendance at the office of a regicide pettifogger; and that in the evening he relaxed in the amusements of the opera, and in the spectacle of an audience totally new; an audience in which he had the pleasure of seeing about him not a single face that he could formerly have known in Paris; but in the place of that company, one indeed more than equal to it in display of gaiety, splendour, and luxury; a set of abandoned wretches, squandering in insolent riot the spoils of their bleeding country. A subject of profound reflection both to the prisoner and to the ambassador.


I think we might have found, before the rude hand of insolent office was on our shoulder, and the staff of usurped authority brandished over our heads, that contempt of the suppliant is not the best forwarder of a suit; that national disgrace is not the high road to security, much less to power and greatness. Patience, indeed, strongly indicates the love of peace; but mere love does not always lead to enjoyment. It is the power of winning that palm which ensures our wearing it. Virtues have their place; and out of their place they hardly deserve the name. They pass into the neighbouring vice. The patience of fortitude and the endurance of pusillanimity are things very different, as in their principle, so in their effects.


In the revolution of France two sorts of men were principally concerned in giving a character and determination to its pursuits: the philosophers and the politicians. They took different ways, but they met in the same end. The philosophers had one predominant object, which they pursued with a fanatical fury; that is, the utter extirpation of religion. To that every question of empire was subordinate. They had rather domineer in a parish of atheists than rule over a Christian world. Their temporal ambition was wholly subservient to their proselytizing spirit, in which they were not exceeded by Mahomet himself. They who have made but superficial studies in the natural history of the human mind, have been taught to look on religious opinions as the only cause of enthusiastic zeal and sectarian propagation. But there is no doctrine whatever, on which men can warm, that is not capable of the very same effect. The social nature of man impels him to propagate his principles, as much as physical impulses urge him to propagate his kind. The passions give zeal and vehemence. The understanding bestows design and system. The whole man moves under the discipline of his opinions. Religion is among the most powerful causes of enthusiasm. When anything concerning it becomes an object of much meditation, it cannot be indifferent to the mind. They who do not love religion, hate it. The rebels to God perfectly abhor the author of their being. They hate him "with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, and with all their strength." He never presents himself to their thoughts, but to menace and alarm them. They cannot strike the sun out of heaven, but they are able to raise a smouldering smoke that obscures him from their own eyes. Not being able to revenge themselves on God, they have a delight in vicariously defacing, degrading, torturing, and tearing in pieces his image in man. Let no one judge of them by what he has conceived of them, when they were not incorporated, and had no lead. They were then only passengers in a common vehicle. They were then carried along with the general motion of religion in the community, and, without being aware of it, partook of its influence. In that situation, at worst, their nature was left free to counter-work their principles. They despaired of giving any very general currency to their opinions. They considered them as a reserved privilege for the chosen few. But when the possibility of dominion, lead, and propagation, presented itself, and that the ambition, which before had so often made them hypocrites, might rather gain than lose by a daring avowal of their sentiments, then the nature of this infernal spirit, which has "evil for its good," appeared in its full perfection. Nothing indeed but the possession of some power can with any certainty discover what at the bottom is the true character of any man. Without reading the speeches of Vergniaud, Francian of Nantes, Isnard, and some others of that sort, it would not be easy to conceive the passion, rancour, and malice of their tongues and hearts. They worked themselves up to a perfect frenzy against religion and all its professors. They tore the reputation of the clergy to pieces by their infuriated declamations and invectives, before they lacerated their bodies by their massacres. This fanatical atheism left out, we omit the principal feature in the French revolution, and a principal consideration with regard to the effects to be expected from a peace with it.

The other sort of men were the politicians. To them, who had little or not at all reflected on the subject, religion was in itself no object of love or hatred. They disbelieved it, and that was all. Neutral with regard to that object, they took the side which in the present state of things might best answer their purposes. They soon found that they could not do without the philosophers; and the philosophers soon made them sensible that the destruction of religion was to supply them with means of conquest, first at home, and then abroad. The philosophers were the active internal agitators, and supplied the spirit and principles: the second gave the practical direction. Sometimes the one predominated in the composition, sometimes the other. The only difference between them was in the necessity of concealing the general design for a time, and in their dealing with foreign nations; the fanatics going straightforward and openly, the politicians by the surer mode of zigzag. In the course of events, this, among other causes, produced fierce and bloody contentions between them. But at the bottom they thoroughly agreed in all the objects of ambition and irreligion, and substantially in all the means of promoting these ends.


After such an elaborate display had been made of the injustice and insolence of an enemy, who seems to have been irritated by every one of the means which had been commonly used with effect to soothe the rage of intemperate power, the natural result would be, that the scabbard, in which we in vain attempted to plunge our sword, should have been thrown away with scorn. It would have been natural that, rising in the fulness of their might, insulted majesty, despised dignity, violated justice, rejected supplication, patience goaded into fury, would have poured out all the length of the reins upon all the wrath which they had so long restrained. It might have been expected that, emulous of the glory of the youthful hero in alliance with him, touched by the example of what one man, well formed and well placed, may do in the most desperate state of affairs, convinced there is a courage of the cabinet full as powerful, and far less vulgar than that of the field, our minister would have changed the whole line of that useless, prosperous prudence, which had hitherto produced all the effects of the blindest temerity. If he found his situation full of danger (and I do not deny that it is perilous in the extreme), he must feel that it is also full of glory; and that he is placed on a stage, than which no muse of fire that had ascended the highest heaven of invention could imagine anything more awful and august. It was hoped that, in this swelling scene in which he moved with some of the first potentates of Europe for his fellow-actors, and with so many of the rest for the anxious spectators of a part, which, as he plays it, determines for ever their destiny and his own, like Ulysses in the unravelling point of the epic story, he would have thrown off his patience and his rags together; and, stripped of unworthy disguises, he would have stood forth in the form and in the attitude of a hero. On that day it was thought he would have assumed the port of Mars; that he would bid to be brought forth from their hideous kennel (where his scrupulous tenderness had too long immured them) those impatient dogs of war, whose fierce regards affright even the minister of vengeance that feeds them; that he would let them loose, in famine, fever, plagues, and death, upon a guilty race, to whose frame, and to all whose habit, order, peace, religion, and virtue are alien and abhorrent. It was expected that he would at last have thought of active and effectual war; that he would no longer amuse the British lion in the chase of mice and rats; that he would no longer employ the whole naval power of Great Britain, once the terror of the world, to prey upon the miserable remains of a peddling commerce, which the enemy did not regard, and from which none could profit. It was expected that he would have re-asserted the justice of his cause; that he would have re-animated whatever remained to him of his allies, and endeavoured to recover those whom their fears had led astray; that he would have rekindled the martial ardour of his citizens; that he would have held out to them the example of their ancestry, the assertor of Europe, and the scourge of French ambition; that he would have reminded them of a posterity, which, if this nefarious robbery under the fraudulent name and false colour of a government, should in full power be seated in the heart of Europe, must for ever be consigned to vice, impiety, barbarism, and the most ignominious slavery of body and mind. In so holy a cause it was presumed that he would (as in the beginning of the war he did) have opened all the temples; and with prayer, with fasting, and with supplication (better directed than to the grim Moloch of regicide in France), have called upon us to raise that united cry which has so often stormed heaven, and with a pious violence forced down blessings upon a repentant people. It was hoped that when he had invoked upon his endeavours the favourable regard of the Protector of the human race, it would be seen that his menaces to the enemy, and his prayers to the Almighty, were not followed, but accompanied, with correspondent action. It was hoped that his shrilling trumpet should be heard, not to announce a show, but to sound a charge.


This violent breach in the community of Europe we must conclude to have been made (even if they had not expressly declared it over and over again) either to force mankind into an adoption of their system, or to live in perpetual enmity with a community the most potent we have ever known. Can any person imagine, that, in offering to mankind this desperate alternative, there is no indication of a hostile mind, because men in possession of the ruling authority are supposed to have a right to act without coercion in their own territories. As to the right of men to act anywhere according to their pleasure, without any moral tie, no such right exists. Men are never in a state of TOTAL independence of each other. It is not the condition of our nature: nor is it conceivable how any man can pursue a considerable course of action without its having some effect upon others; or, of course, without producing some degree of responsibility for his conduct. The SITUATIONS in which men relatively stand produce the rules and principles of that responsibility, and afford directions to prudence in exacting it. Distance of place does not extinguish the duties or the rights of men; but it often renders their exercise impracticable. The same circumstance of distance renders the noxious effects of an evil system in any community less pernicious. But there are situations where this difficulty does not occur; and in which, therefore, these duties are obligatory, and these rights are to be asserted. It has ever been the method of public jurists to draw a great part of the analogies, on which they form the law of nations, from the principles of law which prevail in civil community. Civil laws are not all of them merely positive. Those, which are rather conclusions of legal reason than matters of statutable provision, belong to universal equity, and are universally applicable. Almost the whole praetorian law is such. There is a "Law of Neighbourhood" which does not leave a man perfectly master on his own ground. When a neighbour sees a NEW ERECTION, in the nature of a nuisance, set up at his door, he has a right to represent it to the judge; who, on his part, has a right to order the work to be stayed; or, if established, to be removed. On this head the parent law is express and clear, and has made many wise provisions, which, without destroying, regulate and restrain the right of OWNERSHIP, by the right of VICINAGE. No INNOVATION is permitted that may redound, even secondarily, to the prejudice of a neighbour. The whole doctrine of that important head of praetorian law, "De novi operis nunciatione," is founded on the principle, that no NEW use should be made of a man's private liberty of operating upon his private property, from whence a detriment may be justly apprehended by his neighbour. This law of denunciation is prospective. It is to anticipate what is called damnum infectum, or damnum nondum factum, that is, a damage justly apprehended, but not actually done. Even before it is clearly known whether the innovation be damageable or not, the judge is competent to issue a prohibition to innovate, until the point can be determined. This prompt interference is grounded on principles favourable to both parties. It is preventive of mischief difficult to be repaired, and of ill blood difficult to be softened. The rule of law, therefore, which comes before the evil, is amongst the very best parts of equity, and justifies the promptness of the remedy; because, as it is well observed, Res damni infecti celeritatem desiderat, et periculosa est dilatio. This right of denunciation does not hold, when things continue, however inconveniently to the neighbourhood, according to the ANCIENT mode. For there is a sort of presumption against novelty, drawn out of a deep consideration of human nature, and human affairs; and the maxim of jurisprudence is well laid down, Vetustas pro lege semper habetur.

Such is the law of civil vicinity. Now where there is no constituted judge, as between independent states there is not, the vicinage itself is the natural judge. It is, preventively, the assertor of its own rights, or remedially, their avenger. Neighbours are presumed to take cognizance of each other's acts. "Vicini vicinorum facta praesumuntur scire." This principle, which, like the rest, is as true of nations as of individual men, has bestowed on the grand vicinage of Europe a duty to know, and a right to prevent, any capital innovation which may amount to the erection of a dangerous nuisance.


The operation of dangerous and delusive first principles obliges us to have recourse to the true ones. In the intercourse between nations, we are apt to rely too much on the instrumental part. We lay too much weight upon the formality of treaties and compacts. We do not act much more wisely when we trust to the interests of men as guarantees of their engagements. The interests frequently tear to pieces the engagements; and the passions trample upon both. Entirely to trust to either, is to disregard our own safety, or not to know mankind. Men are not tied to one another by papers and seals. They are led to associate by resemblances, by conformities, by sympathies. It is with nations as with individuals. Nothing is so strong a tie of amity between nation and nation as correspondence in laws, customs, manners, and habits of life. They have more than the force of treaties in themselves. They are obligations written in the heart. They approximate men to men, without their knowledge, and sometimes against their intentions. The secret, unseen, but irrefragable bond of habitual intercourse holds them together, even when their perverse and litigious nature sets them to equivocate, scuffle, and fight, about the terms of their written obligations. As to war, if it be the means of wrong and violence, it is the sole means of justice amongst nations. Nothing can banish it from the world. They who say otherwise, intending to impose upon us, do not impose upon themselves. But it is one of the greatest objects of human wisdom to mitigate those evils which we are unable to remove. The conformity and analogy of which I speak, incapable, like everything else, of preserving perfect trust and tranquillity among men, has a strong tendency to facilitate accommodation, and to produce a generous oblivion of the rancour of their quarrels. With this similitude, peace is more of peace, and war is less of war. I will go further. There have been periods of time in which communities, apparently in peace with each other, have been more perfectly separated than, in latter times, many nations in Europe have been in the course of long and bloody wars. The cause must be sought in the similitude throughout Europe of religion, laws, and manners. At bottom, these are all the same. The writers on public law have often called this AGGREGATE of nations a commonwealth. They had reason. It is virtually one great state having the same basis of general law, with some diversity of provincial customs and local establishments. The nations of Europe have had the very same Christian religion, agreeing in the fundamental parts, varying a little in the ceremonies and in the subordinate doctrines. The whole of the polity and economy of every country in Europe has been derived from the same sources. It was drawn from the old Germanic or Gothic custumary, from the feudal institutions which must be considered as an emanation from that custumary; and the whole has been improved and digested into system and discipline by the Roman law. From hence arose the several orders, with or without a monarch (which are called states), in every European country; the strong traces of which, where monarchy predominated, were never wholly extinguished or merged in despotism. In the few places where monarchy was cast off, the spirit of European monarchy was still left. Those countries still continued countries of states; that is, of classes, orders, and distinctions such as had before subsisted, or nearly so. Indeed, the force and form of the institution called states continued in greater perfection in those republican communities than under monarchies. From all those sources arose a system of manners and of education which was nearly similar in all this quarter of the globe; and which softened, blended, and harmonized the colours of the whole.


The same temper which brings us to solicit a Jacobin peace, will induce us to temporize with all the evils of it. By degrees our minds will be made to our circumstances. The novelty of such things, which produces half the horror, and all the disgust, will be worn off. Our ruin will be disguised in profit, and the sale of a few wretched baubles will bribe a degenerate people to barter away the most precious jewel of their souls. Our constitution is not made for this kind of warfare. It provides greatly for our happiness,—it furnishes few means for our defence. It is formed, in a great measure, upon the principle of jealousy of the crown; and, as things stood when it took that turn, with very great reason. I go further; it must keep alive some part of that fire of jealousy eternally and chastely burning, or it cannot be the British constitution. At various periods we have had tyranny in this country, more than enough. We have had rebellions, with more or less justification. Some of our kings have made adulterous connections abroad, and trucked away for foreign gold the interests and glory of their crown. But before this time our liberty has never been corrupted. I mean to say, that it has never been debauched from its domestic relations. To this time it has been English liberty, and English liberty only. Our love of liberty and our love of our country were not distinct things. Liberty is now, it seems, put upon a larger and more liberal bottom. We are men, and as men, undoubtedly nothing human is foreign to us. We cannot be too liberal in our general wishes for the happiness of our kind. But in all questions on the mode of procuring it for any particular community, we ought to be fearful of admitting those who have no interest in it, or who have, perhaps, an interest against it, into the consultation. Above all, we cannot be too cautious in our communication with those who seek their happiness by other roads than those of humanity, morals, and religion, and whose liberty consists, and consists alone, in being free from those restraints which are imposed by the virtues upon the passions.

When we invite danger from a confidence in defensive measures, we ought, first of all, to be sure that it is a species of danger against which any defensive measures that can be adopted will be sufficient. Next we ought to know that the spirit of our laws, or that our own dispositions, which are stronger than laws, are susceptible of all those defensive measures which the occasion may require. A third consideration is, whether these measures will not bring more odium than strength to government; and the last, whether the authority that makes them, in a general corruption of manners and principles, can insure their execution? Let no one argue from the state of things, as he sees them at present, concerning what will be the means and capacities of government, when the time arrives, which shall call for remedies commensurate to enormous evils.

It is an obvious truth that no constitution can defend itself: it must be defended by the wisdom and fortitude of men. These are what no constitution can give: they are the gifts of God; and he alone knows whether we shall possess such gifts at the time when we stand in need of them. Constitutions furnish the civil means of getting at the natural; it is all that in this case they can do. But our constitution has more impediments than helps. Its excellencies, when they come to be put to this sort of proof, may be found among its defects.

Nothing looks more awful and imposing than an ancient fortification. Its lofty, embattled walls, its bold, projecting, rounded towers, that pierce the sky, strike the imagination, and promise inexpugnable strength. But they are the very things that make its weakness. You may as well think of opposing one of these old fortresses to the mass of artillery brought by a French irruption into the field, as to think of resisting, by your old laws, and your old forms, the new destruction which the corps of Jacobin engineers of to-day prepare for all such forms and all such laws. Besides the debility and false principle of their construction to resist the present modes of attack, the fortress itself is in ruinous repair, and there is a practicable breach in every part of it.

Such is the work. But miserable works have been defended by the constancy of the garrison. Weather-beaten ships have been brought safe to port by the spirit and alertness of the crew. But it is here that we shall eminently fail. The day that, by their consent, the seat of regicide has its place among the thrones of Europe, there is no longer a motive for zeal in their favour; it will at best be cold, unimpassioned, dejected, melancholy duty. The glory will seem all on the other side. The friends of the crown will appear, not as champions, but as victims; discountenanced, mortified, lowered, defeated, they will fall into listlessness and indifference. They will leave things to take their course; enjoy the present hour, and submit to the common fate.


Your throne cannot stand secure upon the principles of unconditional submission and passive obedience; on powers exercised without the concurrence of the people to be governed; on acts made in defiance of their prejudices and habits; on acquiescence procured by foreign mercenary troops, and secured by standing armies. These may possibly be the foundation of other thrones: they must be the subversion of yours. It was not to passive principles in our ancestors that we owe the honour of appearing before a sovereign, who cannot feel that he is a prince, without knowing that we ought to be free. The revolution is a departure from the ancient course of the descent of this monarchy. The people at that time re-entered into their original rights; and it was not because a positive law authorized what was then done, but because the freedom and safety of the subject, the origin and cause of all laws, required a proceeding paramount and superior to them. At that ever-memorable and instructive period, the letter of the law was superseded in favour of the substance of liberty. To the free choice, therefore, of the people, without either king or parliament, we owe that happy establishment, out of which both king and parliament were regenerated. From that great principle of liberty have originated the statutes, confirming and ratifying the establishment, from which your majesty derives your right to rule over us. Those statutes have not given us our liberties; our liberties have produced them. Every hour of your majesty's reign your title stands upon the very same foundation on which it was at first laid; and we do not know a better on which it can possibly be placed.

Convinced, sir, that you cannot have different rights and a different security in different parts of your dominions, we wish to lay an even platform for your throne; and to give it an unmovable stability, by laying it on the general freedom of your people; and by securing to your majesty that confidence and affection in all parts of your dominions, which makes your best security and dearest title in this the chief seat of your empire.

Such, sir, being amongst us the foundation of monarchy itself, much more clearly and much more peculiarly is it the ground of all parliamentary power. Parliament is a security provided for the protection of freedom, and not a subtile fiction, contrived to amuse the people in its place. The authority of both houses can, still less than that of the crown, be supported upon different principles in different places, so as to be, for one part of your subjects, a protector of liberty, and for another a fund of despotism, through which prerogative is extended by occasional powers, whenever an arbitrary will finds itself straitened by the restrictions of law. Had it seemed good to parliament to consider itself as the indulgent guardian and strong protector of the freedom of the subordinate popular assemblies, instead of exercising its power to their annihilation, there is no doubt that it never could have been their inclination, because not their interest, to raise questions on the extent of parliamentary rights, or to enfeeble privileges which were the security of their own. Powers evident from necessity, and not suspicious from an alarming mode or purpose in the exertion, would, as formerly they were, be cheerfully submitted to; and these would have been fully sufficient for conservation of unity in the empire, and for directing its wealth to one common centre. Another use has produced other consequences; and a power which refuses to be limited by moderation must either be lost, or find other more distinct and satisfactory limitations.


He had undertaken to demonstrate by arguments which he thought could not be refuted, and by documents which he was sure could not be denied, that no comparison was to be made between the British government and the French usurpation. That they who endeavoured madly to compare them, were by no means making the comparison of one good system with another good system, which varied only in local and circumstantial differences; much less, that they were holding out to us a superior pattern of legal liberty, which we might substitute in the place of our old, and, as they described it, superannuated constitution. He meant to demonstrate that the French scheme was not a comparative good, but a positive evil. That the question did not at all turn, as had been stated, on a parallel between a monarchy and a republic. He denied that the present scheme of things in France did at all deserve the respectable name of a republic: he had therefore no comparison between monarchies and republics to make. That what was done in France was a wild attempt to methodize anarchy; to perpetuate and fix disorder. That it was a foul, impious, monstrous thing, wholly out of the course of moral nature. He undertook to prove that it was generated in treachery, fraud, falsehood, hypocrisy, and unprovoked murder. He offered to make out that those who had led in that business had conducted themselves with the utmost perfidy to their colleagues in function, and with the most flagrant perjury both towards their king and their constituents; to the one of whom the Assembly had sworn fealty, and to the other, when under no sort of violence or constraint, they had sworn a full obedience to instructions.—That, by the terror of assassination, they had driven away a very great number of the members, so as to produce a false appearance of a majority.—That this fictitious majority had fabricated a constitution, which, as now it stands, is a tyranny far beyond any example that can be found in the civilized European world of our age; that therefore the lovers of it must be lovers, not of liberty, but if they really understand its nature, of the lowest and basest of all servitude.

He proposed to prove that the present state of things in France is not a transient evil, productive, as some have too favourably represented it, of a lasting good; but that the present evil is only the means of producing future and (if that were possible) worse evils.—That it is not an undigested, imperfect, and crude scheme of liberty, which may gradually be mellowed and ripened into an orderly and social freedom; but that it is so fundamentally wrong, as to be utterly incapable of correcting itself by any length of time, or of being formed into any mode of polity of which a member of the House of Commons could publicly declare his approbation.


I ever looked on Lord Keppel as one of the greatest and best men of his age; and I loved and cultivated him accordingly. He was much in my heart, and I believe I was in his to the very last beat. It was at his trial at Portsmouth that he gave me this picture. With what zeal and anxious affection I attended him through that his agony of glory, what part my son took in the early flush and enthusiasm of his virtue, and the pious passion with which he attached himself to all my connections, with what prodigality we both squandered ourselves in courting almost every sort of enmity for his sake, I believe he felt, just as I should have felt such friendship on such an occasion. I partook indeed of this honour with several of the first, and best, and ablest in the kingdom, but I was behindhand with none of them; and I am sure, that if to the eternal disgrace of this nation, and to the total annihilation of every trace of honour and virtue in it, things had taken a different turn from what they did, I should have attended him to the quarter-deck with no less good-will and more pride, though with far other feelings, than I partook of the general flow of national joy that attended the justice that was done to his virtue.

Pardon, my lord, the feeble garrulity of age, which loves to diffuse itself in discourse of the departed great. At my years we live in retrospect alone; and, wholly unfitted for the society of vigorous life, we enjoy, the best balm to all wounds, the consolation of friendship in those only whom we have lost for ever. Feeling the loss of Lord Keppel at all times, at no time did I feel it so much as on the first day when I was attacked in the House of Lords.

Had he lived, that reverend form would have risen in its place, and, with a mild, parental reprehension to his nephew the duke of Bedford, he would have told him that the favour of that gracious prince, who had honoured his virtues with the government of the navy of Great Britain, and with a seat in the hereditary great council of his kingdom, was not undeservedly shown to the friend of the best portion of his life, and his faithful companion and counsellor under his rudest trials. He would have told him, that to whomever else these reproaches might be becoming, they were not decorous in his near kindred. He would have told him that when men in that rank lose decorum they lose everything. On that day I had a loss in Lord Keppel; but the public loss of him in this awful crisis—! I speak from much knowledge of the person, he never would have listened to any compromise with the rabble rout of this sans-culotterie of France. His goodness of heart, his reason, his taste, his public duty, his principles, his prejudices, would have repelled him for ever from all connection with that horrid medley of madness, vice, impiety, and crime.

Lord Keppel had two countries; one of descent, and one of birth. Their interest and their glory are the same; and his mind was capacious of both. His family was noble, and it was Dutch: that is, he was the oldest and purest nobility that Europe can boast, among a people renowned above all others for love of their native land. Though it was never shown in insult to any human being, Lord Keppel was something high. It was a wild stock of pride, on which the tenderest of all hearts had grafted the milder virtues. He valued ancient nobility; and he was not disinclined to augment it with new honours. He valued the old nobility and the new, not as an excuse for inglorious sloth, but as an incitement to virtuous activity. He considered it as a sort of cure for selfishness and a narrow mind; conceiving that a man born in an elevated place in himself was nothing, but everything in what went before, and what was to come after him. Without much speculation, but by the sure instinct of ingenuous feelings, and by the dictates of plain, unsophisticated, natural understanding, he felt that no great commonwealth could by any possibility long subsist without a body of some kind or other of nobility, decorated with honour, and fortified by privilege. This nobility forms the chain that connects the ages of a nation, which otherwise (with Mr. Paine) would soon be taught that no one generation can bind another. He felt that no political fabric could be well made without some such order of things as might, through a series of time, afford a rational hope of securing unity, coherence, consistency, and stability to the state. He felt that nothing else can protect it against the levity of courts, and the greater levity of the multitude. That to talk of hereditary monarchy, without anything else of hereditary reverence in the commonwealth, was a low-minded absurdity, fit only for those detestable "fools aspiring to be knaves," who began to forge in 1789 the false money of the French constitution.—That it is one fatal objection to all NEW fancied and NEW FABRICATED republics (among a people who, once possessing such an advantage, have wickedly and insolently rejected it), that the PREJUDICE of an old nobility is a thing that CANNOT be made. It may be improved, it may be corrected, it may be replenished: men may be taken from it or aggregated to it, but the THING ITSELF is matter of INVETERATE opinion, and therefore CANNOT be matter of mere positive institution. He felt that this nobility in fact does not exist in wrong of other orders of the state, but by them, and for them.


Let government protect and encourage industry, secure property, repress violence, and discountenance fraud, it is all that they have to do. In other respects, the less they meddle in these affairs the better; the rest is in the hands of our Master and theirs. We are in a constitution of things wherein—"Modo sol nimius, modo corripit imber." But I will push this matter no further. As I have said a good deal upon it at various times during my public service, and have lately written something on it which may yet see the light, I shall content myself now with observing, that the vigorous and laborious class of life has lately got, from the bon ton of the humanity of this day, the name of the "labouring poor." We have heard many plans for the relief of the "labouring poor." This puling jargon is not as innocent as it is foolish. In meddling with great affairs, weakness is never innoxious. Hitherto the name of poor (in the sense in which it is used to excite compassion) has not been used for those who can, but for those who cannot, labour—for the sick and infirm, for orphan infancy, for languishing and decrepit age: but when we affect to pity, as poor, those who must labour, or the world cannot exist, we are trifling with the condition of mankind. It is the common doom of man that he must eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, that is, by the sweat of his body, or the sweat of his mind. If this toil was inflicted as a curse, it is, as might be expected from the curses of the Father of all blessings—it is tempered with many alleviations, many comforts. Every attempt to fly from it, and to refuse the very terms of our existence, becomes much more truly a curse; and heavier pains and penalties fall upon those who would elude the tasks which are put upon them by the great Master Workman of the world, who, in his dealings with his creatures, sympathizes with their weakness, and speaking of a creation wrought by mere will out of nothing, speaks of six days of LABOUR and one of REST. I do not call a healthy young man, cheerful in his mind, and vigorous in his arms, I cannot call such a man POOR; I cannot pity my kind as a kind, merely because they are men. This affected pity only tends to dissatisfy them with their condition, and to teach them to seek resources where no resources are to be found, in something else than their own industry, and frugality, and sobriety. Whatever may be the intention (which, because I do not know, I cannot dispute) of those who would discontent mankind by this strange pity, they act towards us, in the consequences, as if they were our worst enemies.


I beg leave to speak of our church establishment, which is the first of our prejudices, not a prejudice destitute of reason, but involving in it profound and extensive wisdom. I speak of it first. It is first, and last, and midst in our minds. For, taking ground on that religious system, of which we are now in possession, we continue to act on the early received and uniformly continued sense of mankind. That sense not only, like a wise architect, hath built up the august fabric of states, but like a provident proprietor, to preserve the structure from profanation and ruin, as a sacred temple purged from all the impurities of fraud, and violence, and injustice, and tyranny, hath solemnly and for ever consecrated the commonwealth, and all that officiate in it. This consecration is made, that all who administer in the government of men, in which they stand in the person of God himself, should have high and worthy notions of their function and destination; that their hope should be full of immortality; that they should not look to the paltry pelf of the moment, nor to the temporary and transient praise of the vulgar, but to a solid, permanent existence, in the permanent part of their nature, and to a permanent fame and glory, in the example they leave as a rich inheritance to the world.

Such sublime principles ought to be infused into persons of exalted situations; and religious establishments provided, that may continually revive and enforce them. Every sort of moral, every sort of civil, every sort of politic institution, aiding the rational and natural ties that connect the human understanding and affections to the divine, are not more than necessary, in order to build up that wonderful structure, Man; whose prerogative it is, to be in a great degree a creature of his own making; and who, when made as he ought to be made, is destined to hold no trivial place in the creation. But whenever man is put over men, as the better nature ought ever to preside, in that case more particularly, he should as nearly as possible be approximated to his perfection.

The consecration of the state, by a state religious establishment, is necessary also to operate with a wholesome awe upon free citizens; because in order to secure their freedom, they must enjoy some determinate portion of power. To them therefore a religion connected with the state, and with their duty towards it, becomes even more necessary than in such societies, where the people, by the terms of their subjection, are confined to private sentiments, and the management of their own family concerns. All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust; and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society. This principle ought even to be more strongly impressed upon the minds of those who compose the collective sovereignty, than upon those of single princes. Without instruments, these princes can do nothing. Whoever uses instruments, in finding helps, finds also impediments. Their power is therefore by no means complete; nor are they safe in extreme abuse. Such persons, however elevated by flattery, arrogance, and self-opinion, must be sensible that whether covered or not by positive law, in some way or other they are accountable even here for the abuse of their trust. If they are not cut off by a rebellion of their people, they may be strangled by the very janissaries kept for their security against all other rebellion. Thus we have seen the king of France sold by his soldiers for an increase of pay. But where popular authority is absolute and unrestrained, the people have an infinitely greater, because a far better founded, confidence in their own power. They are themselves, in a great measure, their own instruments. They are nearer to their objects. Besides, they are less under responsibility to one of the greatest controlling powers on earth, the sense of fame and estimation. The share of infamy, that is likely to fall to the lot of each individual in public acts, is small indeed; the operation of opinion being in the inverse ratio to the number of those who abuse power. Their own approbation of their own acts has to them the appearance of a public judgment in their favour. A perfect democracy is therefore the most shameless thing in the world. As it is the most shameless, it is also the most fearless. No man apprehends in his person that he can be made subject to punishment. Certainly the people at large never ought: for as all punishments are for example towards the conservation of the people at large, the people at large can never become the subject of punishment by any human hand. (Quicquid multis peccatur inultum.) It is therefore of infinite importance that they should not be suffered to imagine that their will, any more than that of kings, is the standard of right and wrong. They ought to be persuaded that they are full as little entitled, and far less qualified, with safety to themselves, to use any arbitrary power whatsoever; that therefore they are not, under a false show of liberty, but in truth, to exercise an unnatural, inverted domination, tyranically to exact from those who officiate in the state, not an entire devotion to their interest, which is their right, but an abject submission to their occasional will; extinguishing thereby, in all those who serve them, all moral principle, all sense of dignity, all use of judgment, and all consistency of character; whilst by the very same process they give themselves up a proper, a suitable, but a most contemptible prey to the servile ambition of popular sycophants, or courtly flatterers.


Let those who have the trust of political or of natural authority ever keep watch against the desperate enterprises of innovation: let even their benevolence be fortified and armed. They have before their eyes the example of a monarch, insulted, degraded, confined, deposed; his family dispersed, scattered, imprisoned; his wife insulted to his face like the vilest of the sex, by the vilest of all populace; himself three times dragged by these wretches in an infamous triumph; his children torn from him, in violation of the first right of nature, and given into the tuition of the most desperate and impious of the leaders of desperate and impious clubs; his revenues dilapidated and plundered; his magistrates murdered; his clergy proscribed, persecuted, famished; his nobility degraded in their rank, undone in their fortunes, fugitives in their persons; his armies corrupted and ruined; his whole people impoverished, disunited, dissolved; whilst through the bars of his prison, and amidst the bayonets of his keepers, he hears the tumult of two conflicting factions, equally wicked and abandoned, who agree in principles, in dispositions, and in objects, but who tear each other to pieces about the most effectual means of obtaining their common end; the one contending to preserve for a while his name, and his person, the more easily to destroy the royal authority—the other clamouring to cut off the name, the person, and the monarchy together, by one sacrilegious execution. All this accumulation of calamity, the greatest that ever fell upon one man, has fallen upon his head, because he had left his virtues unguarded by caution; because he was not taught that, where power is concerned, he who will confer benefits must take security against ingratitude.


All this violent cry against the nobility I take to be a mere work of art. To be honoured and even privileged by the laws, opinions, and inveterate usages of our country, growing out of the prejudice of ages, has nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any man. Even to be too tenacious of those privileges is not absolutely a crime. The strong struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what he has found to belong to him, and to distinguish him, is one of the securities against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. It operates as an instinct to secure property, and to preserve communities in a settled state. What is there to shock in this? Nobility is a graceful ornament to the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital of polished society. Omnes boni nobilitati semper favemus, was the saying of a wise and good man. It is indeed one sign of a liberal and benevolent mind to incline to it with some sort of partial propensity. He feels no ennobling principle in his own heart who wishes to level all the artificial institutions which have been adopted for giving a body to opinion, and permanence to fugitive esteem. It is a sour, malignant, envious disposition, without taste for the reality, or for any image or representation of virtue, that sees with joy the unmerited fall of what had long flourished in splendour and in honour. I do not like to see anything destroyed; any void produced in society; any ruin on the face of the land. It was therefore with no disappointment or dissatisfaction that my inquiries and observations did not present to me any incorrigible vices in the noblesse of France, or any abuse which could not be removed by a reform very short of abolition. Your noblesse did not deserve punishment: but to degrade is to punish.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse