The great ecclesiastical chair of this kingdom, for near a century, was filled by foreigners; they were nominated by the popes, who were in that age just or politic enough to appoint persons of a merit in some degree adequate to that important charge. Through this series of foreign and learned prelates, continual accessions were made to the originally slender stock of English literature. The greatest and most valuable of these accessions was made in the time and by the care of Theodorus, the seventh archbishop of Canterbury. He was a Greek by birth; a man of a high ambitious spirit, and of a mind more liberal, and talents better cultivated, than generally fell to the lot of the western prelates. He first introduced the study of his native language into this island. He brought with him a number of valuable books in many faculties; and amongst them a magnificent copy of the works of Homer; the most ancient and best of poets, and the best chosen to inspire a people, just initiated into letters, with an ardent love, and with a true taste for the sciences. Under his influence a school was formed at Canterbury; and thus the other great fountain of knowledge, the Greek tongue, was opened in England in the year of our Lord 669.
COMMON LAW AND MAGNA CHARTA.
The common law, as it then prevailed in England, was in a great measure composed of some remnants of the old Saxon customs, joined to the feudal institutions brought in at the Norman conquest. And it is here to be observed, that the constitutions of Magna Charta are by no means a renewal of the laws of St. Edward, or the ancient Saxon laws, as our historians and law-writers generally, though very groundlessly, assert. They bear no resemblance, in any particular, to the laws of St. Edward, or to any other collection of these ancient institutions. Indeed, how should they? The object of Magna Charta is the correction of the feudal policy, which was first introduced, at least in any regular form, at the Conquest, and did not subsist before it. It may be further observed, that in the preamble to the Great Charter it is stipulated, that the barons shall HOLD the liberties, there granted TO THEM AND THEIR HEIRS, from THE KING AND HIS HEIRS; which shows, that the doctrine of an unalienable tenure was always uppermost in their minds. Their idea even of liberty was not (if I may use the expression) perfectly free; and they did not claim to possess their privileges upon any natural principle or independent bottom, but, just as they held their lands, from the king. This is worthy of observation. By the feudal law all landed property is, by a feigned conclusion, supposed to be derived, and therefore to be mediately or immediately held, from the Crown. If some estates were so derived, others were certainly procured by the same original title of conquest, by which the crown itself was acquired; and the derivation from the king could in reason only be considered as a fiction of law. But its consequent rights being once supposed, many real charges and burthens grew from a fiction made only for the preservation of subordination; and in consequence of this, a great power was exercised over the persons and estates of the tenants. The fines on the succession to an estate, called in the feudal language "Reliefs," were not fixed to any certainty; and were therefore frequently made so excessive, that they might rather be considered as redemptions, or new purchases, than acknowledgments of superiority and tenure. With respect to that most important article of marriage, there was, in the very nature of the feudal holding, a great restraint laid upon it. It was of importance to the lord, that the person, who received the feud, should be submissive to him; he had therefore a right to interfere in the marriage of the heiress, who inherited the feud. This right was carried further than the necessity required; the male heir himself was obliged to marry according to the choice of his lord: and even widows, who had made one sacrifice to the feudal tyranny, were neither suffered to continue in the widowed state, nor to choose for themselves the partners of their second bed. In fact, marriage was publicly set up to sale. The ancient records of the exchequer afford many instances where some women purchased, by heavy fines, the privilege of a single life; some the free choice of a husband; others the liberty of rejecting some person particularly disagreeable. And, what may appear extraordinary, there are not wanting examples, where a woman has fined in a considerable sum, that she might not be compelled to marry a certain man; the suitor on the other hand has outbid her; and solely by offering more for the marriage than the heiress could to prevent it, he carried his point directly and avowedly against her inclinations. Now, as the king claimed no right over his immediate tenants, that they did not exercise in the same, or in a more oppressive manner over their vassals, it is hard to conceive a more general and cruel grievance than this shameful market, which so universally outraged the most sacred relations among mankind. But the tyranny over women was not over with the marriage. As the king seized into his hands the estate of every deceased tenant in order to secure his relief, the widow was driven often by a heavy composition to purchase the admission to her dower, into which it should seem she could not enter without the king's consent.
All these were marks of a real and grievous servitude. The Great Charter was made not to destroy the root, but to cut short the overgrown branches, of the feudal service; first, in moderating, and in reducing to a certainty, the reliefs, which the king's tenants paid on succeeding to their estate according to their rank; and secondly, in taking off some of the burthens, which had been laid on marriage, whether compulsory or restrictive, and thereby preventing that shameful market, which had been made in the persons of heirs, and the most sacred things amongst mankind.
There were other provisions made in the Great Charter, that went deeper than the feudal tenure, and affected the whole body of the civil government. A great part of the king's revenue then consisted in the fines and amercements, which were imposed in his courts. A fine was paid there for liberty to commence, or to conclude a suit. The punishment of offences by fine was discretionary; and this discretionary power had been very much abused. But by Magna Charta things were so ordered, that a delinquent might be punished, but not ruined, by a fine or amercement, because the degree of his offence, and the rank he held, were to be taken into consideration. His freehold, his merchandise, and those instruments, by which he obtained his livelihood, were made sacred from such impositions. A more grand reform was made with regard to the administration of justice. The kings in those days seldom resided long in one place, and their courts followed their persons. This erratic justice must have been productive of infinite inconvenience to the litigants. It was now provided, that civil suits, called COMMON PLEAS, should be fixed to some certain place. Thus one branch of jurisdiction was separated from the king's court, and detached from his person. They had not yet come to that maturity of jurisprudence as to think this might be made to extend to criminal law also; and that the latter was an object of still greater importance. But even the former may be considered as a great revolution. A tribunal, a creature of mere law, independent of personal power, was established, and this separation of a king's authority from his person was a matter of vast consequence towards introducing ideas of freedom, and confirming the sacredness and majesty of laws.
But the grand article, and that which cemented all the parts of the fabric of liberty, was this: "that no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseized, or outlawed, or banished, or in any wise destroyed, but by judgment of his peers."
There is another article of nearly as much consequence as the former, considering the state of the nation at that time, by which it is provided, that the barons shall grant to their tenants the same liberties which they had stipulated for themselves. This prevented the kingdom from degenerating into the worst imaginable government, a feudal aristocracy. The English barons were not in the condition of those great princes, who had made the French monarchy so low in the preceding century; or like those, who reduced the imperial power to a name. They had been brought to moderate bounds by the policy of the first and second Henrys, and were not in a condition to set up for petty sovereigns by an usurpation equally detrimental to the Crown and the people. They were able to act only in confederacy; and this common cause made it necessary to consult the common good, and to study popularity by the equity of their proceedings. This was a very happy circumstances to the growing liberty.
EUROPE AND THE NORMAN INVASION.
Before the period of which we are going to treat, England was little known or considered in Europe. Their situation, their domestic calamities, and their ignorance, circumscribed the views and politics of the English within the bounds of their own island. But the Norman conqueror threw down all these barriers. The English laws, manners, and maxims, were suddenly changed; the scene was enlarged; and the communication with the rest of Europe being thus opened, has been preserved ever since in a continued series of wars and negotiations. That we may therefore enter more fully into the matters which lie before us, it is necessary that we understand the state of the neighbouring continent at the time when this island first came to be interested in its affairs.
The northern nations, who had overrun the Roman empire, were at first rather actuated by avarice than ambition, and were more intent upon plunder than conquest; they were carried beyond their original purposes, when they began to form regular governments, for which they had been prepared by no just ideas of legislation. For a long time, therefore, there was little of order in their affairs, or foresight in their designs. The Goths, the Burgundians, the Franks, the Vandals, the Suevi, after they had prevailed over the Roman empire, by turns prevailed over each other in continual wars, which were carried on upon no principles of a determinate policy, entered into upon motives of brutality and caprice, and ended as fortune and rude violence chanced to prevail. Tumult, anarchy, confusion, overspread the face of Europe; and an obscurity rests upon the transactions of that time, which suffers us to discover nothing but its extreme barbarity.
Before this cloud could be dispersed, the Saracens, another body of barbarians from the south, animated by a fury not unlike that, which gave strength to the northern irruptions, but heightened by enthusiasm, and regulated by subordination and uniform policy, began to carry their arms, their manners, and religion into every part of the universe. Spain was entirely overwhelmed by the torrent of their armies; Italy, and the islands, were harassed by their fleets, and all Europe alarmed by their vigorous and frequent enterprises. Italy, who had so long sat the mistress of the world, was by turns the slave of all nations. The possession of that fine country was hotly disputed between the Greek emperor and the Lombards, and it suffered infinitely by that contention. Germany, the parent of so many nations, was exhausted by the swarms she had sent abroad. However, in the midst of this chaos there were principles at work, which reduced things to a certain form, and gradually unfolded a system, in which the chief movers and main springs were the papal and the imperial powers; the aggrandisement or diminution of which have been the drift of almost all the politics, intrigues, and wars, which have employed and distracted Europe to this day.
From Rome the whole western world had received its Christianity. She was the asylum of what learning had escaped the general desolation; and even in her ruins she preserved something of the majesty of her ancient greatness. On these accounts she had a respect and a weight, which increased every day amongst a simple religious people, who looked but a little way into the consequences of their actions. The rudeness of the world was very favourable for the establishment of an empire of opinion. The moderation with which the popes at first exerted this empire, made its growth unfelt until it could no longer be opposed. And the policy of later popes, building on the piety of the first, continually increased it; and they made use of every instrument but that of force. They employed equally the virtues and the crimes of the great; they favoured the lust of kings for absolute authority, and the desire of subjects for liberty; they provoked war, and mediated peace; and took advantage of every turn in the minds of men, whether of a public or private nature, to extend their influence, and push their power from ecclesiastical to civil; from subjection to independency; from independency to empire.
France had many advantages over the other parts of Europe. The Saracens had no permanent success in that country. The same hand, which expelled those invaders, deposed the last of a race of heavy and degenerate princes, more like eastern monarchs than German leaders, and who had neither the force to repel the enemies of their kingdom, nor to assert their own sovereignty. This usurpation placed on the throne princes of another character; princes, who were obliged to supply their want of title by the vigour of their administration. The French monarch had need of some great and respected authority to throw a veil over his usurpation, and to sanctify his newly-acquired power by those names and appearances, which are necessary to make it respectable to the people. On the other hand, the pope, who hated the Grecian empire, and equally feared the success of the Lombards, saw with joy this new star arise in the north, and gave it the sanction of his authority. Presently after he called it to his assistance. Pepin passed the Alps, relieved the pope, and invested him with the dominion of a large country in the best part of Italy.
Charlemagne pursued the course which was marked out for him, and put an end to the Lombard kingdom, weakened by the policy of his father, and the enmity of the popes, who never willingly saw a strong power in Italy. Then he received from the hand of the pope the imperial crown, sanctified by the authority of the Holy See, and with it the title of emperor of the Romans; a name venerable from the fame of the old empire, and which was supposed to carry great and unknown prerogatives; and thus the empire rose again out of its ruins in the West; and what is remarkable, by means of one of those nations which had helped to destroy it. If we take in the conquests of Charlemagne, it was also very near as extensive as formerly; though its constitution was altogether different, as being entirely on the northern model of government.
From Charlemagne the pope received in return an enlargement and a confirmation of his new territory. Thus the papal and imperial powers mutually gave birth to each other. They continued for some ages, and, in some measure, still continue closely connected, with a variety of pretensions upon each other, and on the rest of Europe. Though the imperial power had its origin in France, it was soon divided into two branches, the Gallic and the German. The latter alone supported the title of empire; but the power being weakened by this division, the papal pretensions had the greater weight. The pope, because he first revived the imperial dignity, claimed a right of disposing of it, or at least of giving validity to the election of the emperor. The emperor, on the other hand, remembering the rights of those sovereigns, whose title he bore, and how lately the power, which insulted him with such demands, had arisen from the bounty of his predecessors, claimed the same privileges in the election of a pope. The claims of both were somewhat plausible; and they were supported, the one by force of arms, and the other by ecclesiastical influence, powers which in those days were very nearly balanced. Italy was the theatre upon which this prize was disputed. In every city the parties in favour of each of the opponents were not far from an equality in their numbers and strength. Whilst these parties disagreed in the choice of a master, by contending for a choice in their subjection, they grew imperceptibly into freedom, and passed through the medium of faction and anarchy into regular commonwealths. Thus arose the republics of Venice, of Genoa, of Florence, Sienna, and Pisa, and several others. These cities, established in this freedom, turned the frugal and ingenious spirit contracted in such communities to navigation and traffic; and pursuing them with skill and vigour, whilst commerce was neglected and despised by the rustic gentry of the martial governments, they grew to a considerable degree of wealth, power, and civility.
The Danes, who in this latter time preserved the spirit and the numbers of the ancient Gothic people, had seated themselves in England, in the Low Countries, and in Normandy. They passed from thence to the southern part of Europe, and in this romantic age gave rise in Sicily and Naples to a new kingdom, and a new line of princes.
All the kingdoms on the continent of Europe were governed nearly in the same form; from whence arose a great similitude in the manners of their inhabitants. The feodal discipline extended itself everywhere, and influenced the conduct of the courts, and the manners of the people, with its own irregular martial spirit. Subjects, under the complicated laws of a various and rigorous servitude, exercised all the prerogatives of sovereign power. They distributed justice, they made war and peace at pleasure. The sovereign, with great pretensions, had but little power; he was only a greater lord among great lords, who profited of the differences of his peers; therefore no steady plan could be well pursued, either in war or peace. This day a prince seemed irresistible at the head of his numerous vassals, because their duty obliged them to war, and they performed this duty with pleasure. The next day saw this formidable power vanish like a dream, because this fierce undisciplined people had no patience, and the time of the feudal service was contained within very narrow limits. It was therefore easy to find a number of persons at all times ready to follow any standard, but it was hard to complete a considerable design, which required a regular and continued movement. This enterprising disposition in the gentry was very general, because they had little occupation or pleasure but in war; and the greatest rewards did then attend personal valour and prowess. All that professed arms, became in some sort on an equality. A knight was the peer of a king; and men had been used to see the bravery of private persons opening a road to that dignity. The temerity of adventurers was much justified by the ill order of every state, which left it a prey to almost any who should attack it with sufficient vigour. Thus, little checked by any superior power, full of fire, impetuosity, and ignorance, they longed to signalize themselves wherever an honourable danger called them; and wherever that invited, they did not weigh very deliberately the probability of success. The knowledge of this general disposition in the minds of men will naturally remove a great deal of our wonder at seeing an attempt, founded on such slender appearances of right, and supported by a power so little proportioned to the undertaking as that of William, so warmly embraced and so generally followed, not only by his own subjects, but by all the neighbouring potentates. The counts of Anjou, Bretagne, Ponthieu, Boulogne, and Poictou, sovereign princes; adventurers from every quarter of France, the Netherlands, and the remotest parts of Germany, laying aside their jealousies and enmities to one another, as well as to William, ran with an inconceivable ardour into this enterprise; captivated with the splendour of the object, which obliterated all thoughts of the uncertainty of the event. William kept up this fervour by promises of large territories to all his allies and associates in the country to be reduced by their united efforts. But after all it became equally necessary to reconcile to his enterprise the three great powers, of whom we have just spoken, whose disposition must have had the most influence on his affairs.
His feudal lord the king of France was bound by his most obvious interests to oppose the further aggrandisement of one already too potent for a vassal; but the king of France was then a minor; and Baldwin, earl of Flanders, whose daughter William had married, was regent of the kingdom. This circumstance rendered the remonstrance of the French council against his design of no effect; indeed the opposition of the council itself was faint; the idea of having a king under vassalage to their crown might have dazzled the more superficial courtiers; whilst those, who thought more deeply, were unwilling to discourage an enterprise, which they believed would probably end in the ruin of the undertaker. The emperor was in his minority, as well as the king of France; but by what arts the duke prevailed upon the imperial council to declare in his favour, whether or no by an idea of creating a balance to the power of France, if we can imagine that any such idea then subsisted, is altogether uncertain; but it is certain, that he obtained leave for the vassals of the empire to engage in his service, and that he made use of this permission. The pope's consent was obtained with still less difficulty. William had shown himself in many instances a friend to the church, and a favourer of the clergy. On this occasion he promised to improve those happy beginnings in proportion to the means he should acquire by the favour of the Holy See. It is said that he even proposed to hold his new kingdom as a fief from Rome. The pope, therefore, entered heartily into his interests; he excommunicated all those that should oppose his enterprise, and sent him, as a means of ensuring success, a consecrated banner.
ANCIENT INHABITANTS OF BRITAIN.
That Britain was first peopled from Gaul, we are assured by the best proofs: proximity of situation, and resemblance in language and manners. Of the time in which this event happened, we must be contented to remain in ignorance, for we have no monuments. But we may conclude that it was a very ancient settlement, since the Carthaginians found this island inhabited when they traded hither for tin; as the Phoenicians, whose tracks they followed in this commerce, are said to have done long before them. It is true, that when we consider the short interval between the universal deluge and that period, and compare it with the first settlement of men at such a distance from this corner of the world, it may seem not easy to reconcile such a claim to antiquity with the only authentic account we have of the origin and progress of mankind; especially as in those early ages the whole face of nature was extremely rude and uncultivated; when the links of commerce, even in the countries first settled, were few and weak; navigation imperfect; geography unknown; and the hardships of travelling excessive. But the spirit of migration, of which we have now only some faint ideas, was then strong and universal; and it fully compensated all these disadvantages. Many writers indeed imagine, that these migrations, so common in the primitive times, were caused by the prodigious increase of people beyond what their several territories could maintain. But this opinion, far from being supported, is rather contradicted by the general appearance of things in that early time, when in every country vast tracts of land were suffered to lie almost useless in morasses and forests. Nor is it, indeed, more countenanced by the ancient modes of life, no way favourable to population. I apprehend that these first settled countries, so far from being overstocked with inhabitants, were rather thinly peopled; and that the same causes, which occasioned that thinness, occasioned also those frequent migrations, which make so large a part of the first history of almost all nations. For in these ages men subsisted chiefly by pasturage or hunting. These are occupations which spread the people without multiplying them in proportion; they teach them an extensive knowledge of the country, they carry them frequently and far from their homes, and weaken those ties which might attach them to any particular habitation.
It was in a great degree from this manner of life, that mankind became scattered in the earliest times over the whole globe. But their peaceful occupations did not contribute so much to that end, as their wars, which were not the less frequent and violent because the people were few, and the interests for which they contended of but small importance. Ancient history has furnished us with many instances of whole nations, expelled by invasion, falling in upon others, which they have entirely overwhelmed; more irresistible in their defeat and ruin than in their fullest prosperity. The rights of war were then exercised with great inhumanity. A cruel death, or a servitude scarcely less cruel, was the certain fate of all conquered people; the terror of which hurried men from habitations to which they were but little attached, to seek security and repose under any climate, that however in other respects undesirable, might afford them refuge from the fury of their enemies. Thus the bleak and barren regions of the north, not being peopled by choice, were peopled as early, in all probability, as many of the milder and more inviting climates of the southern world, and thus, by a wonderful disposition of the Divine Providence, a life of hunting, which does not contribute to increase, and war, which is the great instrument in the destruction of men, were the two principal causes of their being spread so early and so universally over the whole earth. From what is very commonly known of the state of North America, it need not be said, how often, and to what distance, several of the nations on that continent are used to migrate; who, though thinly scattered, occupy an immense extent of country. Nor are the causes of it less obvious—their hunting life, and their inhuman wars.
Such migrations, sometimes by choice, more frequently from necessity, were common in the ancient world. Frequent necessities introduced a fashion, which subsisted after the original causes. For how could it happen, but from some universally established public prejudice, which always overrules and stifles the private sense of men, that a whole nation should deliberately think it a wise measure to quit their country in a body, that they might obtain in a foreign land a settlement, which must wholly depend upon the chance of war? Yet this resolution was taken, and actually pursued by the entire nation of the Helvetii, as it is minutely related by Caesar. The method of reasoning which led them to it, must appear to us at this day utterly inconceivable; they were far from being compelled to this extraordinary migration by any want of subsistence at home; for it appears that they raised without difficulty as much corn in one year as supported them for two; they could not complain of the barrenness of such a soil.
This spirit of migration, which grew out of the ancient manners and necessities, and sometimes operated like a blind instinct, such as actuates birds of passage, is very sufficient to account for the early habitation of the remotest parts of the earth; and in some sort also justifies that claim which has been so fondly made by almost all nations to great antiquity. Gaul, from whence Britain was originally peopled, consisted of three nations; the Belgae towards the north; the Celtae in the middle countries; and the Aquitani to the south. Britain appears to have received its people only from the two former. From the Celtae were derived the most ancient tribes of the Britons, of which the most considerable were called Brigantes. The Belgae, who did not even settle in Gaul until after Britain had been peopled by colonies from the former, forcibly drove the Brigantes into the inland countries, and possessed the greatest part of the coast, especially to the south and west. These latter, as they entered the island in a more improved age, brought with them the knowledge and practice of agriculture, which however only prevailed in their own countries; the Brigantes still continued their ancient way of life by pasturage and hunting. In this respect alone they differed; so that what we shall say in treating of their manners is equally applicable to both. And though the Britons were further divided into an innumerable multitude of lesser tribes and nations, yet all being the branches of these two stocks, it is not to our purpose to consider them more minutely.
Britain was in the time of Julius Caesar, what it is at this day in climate and natural advantages, temperate, and reasonably fertile. But destitute of all those improvements, which in a succession of ages it has received from ingenuity, from commerce, from riches and luxury, it then wore a very rough and savage appearance. The country, forest or marsh; the habitations, cottages; the cities, hiding-places in woods; the people, naked, or only covered with skins; their sole employment, pasturage and hunting. They painted their bodies for ornament or terror, by a custom general among all savage nations; who being passionately fond of show and finery, and having no object but their naked bodies on which to exercise this disposition, have in all times painted or cut their skins, according to their ideas of ornament. They shaved the beard on the chin; that on the upper lip was suffered to remain, and grow to an extraordinary length, to favour the martial appearance, in which they placed their glory. They were in their natural temper not unlike the Gauls; impatient, fiery, inconstant, ostentatious, boastful, fond of novelty; and like all barbarians, fierce, treacherous, and cruel. Their arms were short javelins, small shields of a slight texture, and great cutting swords with a blunt point, after the Gaulish fashion.
Their chiefs went to battle in chariots, not unartfully contrived, nor unskilfully managed. I cannot help thinking it something extraordinary, and not easily to be accounted for, that the Britons should have been so expert in the fabric of those chariots, when they seem utterly ignorant in all other mechanic arts: but thus it is delivered to us. They had also horse, though of no great reputation in their armies. Their foot was without heavy armour; it was no firm body; nor instructed to preserve their ranks, to make their evolutions, or to obey their commanders; but in tolerating hardships, in dexterity of forming ambuscades (the art military of savages), they are said to have excelled. A natural ferocity, and an impetuous onset, stood them in the place of discipline.
Public prosecutions are become little better than schools for treason; of no use but to improve the dexterity of criminals in the mystery of evasion; or to show with what complete impunity men may conspire against the commonwealth; with what safety assassins may attempt its awful head. Everything is secure, except what the laws have made sacred; everything is tameness and languor that is not fury and faction. Whilst the distempers of a relaxed fibre prognosticate and prepare all the morbid force of convulsion in the body of the state, the steadiness of the physician is overpowered by the very aspect of the disease. The doctor of the constitution, pretending to underrate what he is not able to contend with, shrinks from his own operation. He doubts and questions the salutary but critical terrors of the cautery and the knife. He takes a poor credit even from his defeat, and covers impotence under the mask of lenity. He praises the moderation of the laws, as, in his hands, he sees them baffled and despised. Is all this, because in our day the statutes of the kingdom are not engrossed in as firm a character, and imprinted in as black and legible a type as ever? No! the law is a clear, but it is a dead letter. Dead and putrid, it is insufficient to save the state, but potent to infect and to kill. Living law, full of reason, and of equity and justice (as it is, or it should not exist), ought to be severe and awful too; or the words of menace, whether written on the parchment roll of England, or cut into the brazen tablet of Rome, will excite nothing but contempt. How comes it, that in all the state prosecutions of magnitude, from the Revolution to within these two or three years, the Crown has scarcely ever retired disgraced and defeated from its courts? Whence this alarming change? By a connection easily felt, and not impossible to be traced to its cause, all the parts of the state have their correspondence and consent. They who bow to the enemy abroad, will not be of power to subdue the conspirator at home. It is impossible not to observe, that, in proportion as we approximate to the poisonous jaws of anarchy, the fascination grows irresistible. In proportion as we are attracted towards the focus of illegality, irreligion, and desperate enterprise, all the venomous and blighting insects of the state are awakened into life. The promise of the year is blasted, and shrivelled and burned up before them. Our most salutary and most beautiful institutions yield nothing but dust and smut; the harvest of our law is no more than stubble. It is in the nature of these eruptive diseases in the state to sink in by fits, and re-appear. But the fuel of the malady remains; and in my opinion is not in the smallest degree mitigated in its malignity, though it waits the favourable moment of a freer communication with the source of regicide to exert and to increase its force.
Is it that the people are changed, that the commonwealth cannot be protected by its laws? I hardly think it. On the contrary, I conceive that these things happen because men are not changed, but remain always what they always were; they remain what the bulk of us ever must be, when abandoned to our vulgar propensities, without guide, leader, or control; that is, made to be full of a blind elevation in prosperity; to despise untried dangers; to be overpowered with unexpected reverses; to find no clue in a labyrinth of difficulties, to get out of a present inconvenience with any risk of future ruin; to follow and to bow to fortune; to admire successful though wicked enterprise, and to imitate what we admire; to contemn the government which announces danger from sacrilege and regicide, whilst they are only in their infancy and their struggle, but which finds nothing that can alarm in their adult state, and in the power and triumph of those destructive principles. In a mass we cannot be left to ourselves. We must have leaders. If none will undertake to lead us right, we shall find guides who will contrive to conduct us to shame and ruin.
TRUE NATURE OF A JACOBIN WAR.
As to me, I was always steadily of opinion, that this disorder was not in its nature intermittent. I conceived that the contest, once begun, could not be laid down again, to be resumed at our discretion; but that our first struggle with this evil would also be our last. I never thought we could make peace with the system; because it was not for the sake of an object we pursued in rivalry with each other, but with the system itself, that we were at war. As I understood the matter, we were at war not with its conduct, but with its existence; convinced that its existence and its hostility were the same.
The faction is not local or territorial. It is a general evil. Where it least appears in action, it is still full of life. In its sleep it recruits its strength, and prepares its exertion. Its spirit lies deep in the corruption of our common nature. The social order which restrains it, feeds it. It exists in every country in Europe; and among all orders of men in every country, who look up to France as to a common head. The centre is there. The circumference is the world of Europe wherever the race of Europe may be settled. Everywhere else the faction is militant; in France it is triumphant. In France is the bank of deposit, and the bank of circulation, of all the pernicious principles that are forming in every state. It will be a folly scarcely deserving of pity, and too mischievous for contempt, to think of restraining it in any other country whilst it is predominant there. War, instead of being the cause of its force, has suspended its operation. It has given a reprieve, at least, to the Christian world. The true nature of a Jacobin war, in the beginning, was, by most of the Christian powers, felt, acknowledged, and even in the most precise manner declared. In the joint manifesto, published by the emperor and the king of Prussia, on the 4th of August, 1792, it is expressed in the clearest terms, and on principles which could not fail, if they had adhered to them, of classing those monarchs with the first benefactors of mankind. This manifesto was published, as they themselves express it, "to lay open to the present generation, as well as to posterity, their motives, their intentions, and the DISINTERESTEDNESS of their personal views; taking up arms for the purpose of preserving social and political order amongst all civilized nations, and to secure to EACH state its religion, happiness, independence, territories, and real constitution."—"On this ground, they hoped that all empires and all states would be unanimous; and becoming the firm guardians of the happiness of mankind, that they could not fail to unite their efforts to rescue a numerous nation from its own fury, to preserve Europe from the return of barbarism, and the universe from the subversion and anarchy with which it was threatened." The whole of that noble performance ought to be read at the first meeting of any congress, which may assemble for the purpose of pacification. In that peace "these powers expressly renounce all views of personal aggrandisement," and confine themselves to objects worthy of so generous, so heroic, and so perfectly wise and politic an enterprise. It was to the principles of this confederation, and to no other, that we wished our sovereign and our country to accede, as a part of the commonwealth of Europe. To these principles, with some trifling exceptions and limitations, they did fully accede. (See Declaration, Whitehall, October 29, 1793.) And all our friends who took office acceded to the ministry (whether wisely or not), as I always understood the matter, on the faith and on the principles of that declaration.
As long as these powers flattered themselves that the menace of force would produce the effect of force, they acted on those declarations: but when their menaces failed of success, their efforts took a new direction. It did not appear to them that virtue and heroism ought to be purchased by millions of rix-dollars. It is a dreadful truth, but it is a truth that cannot be concealed; in ability, in dexterity, in the distinctness of their views, the Jacobins are our superiors. They saw the thing right from the very beginning. Whatever were the first motives to the war among politicians, they saw that in its spirit, and for its objects, it was a CIVIL WAR; and as such they pursued it. It is a war between the partisans of the ancient, civil, moral, and political order of Europe, against a sect of fanatical and ambitious atheists which means to change them all. It is not France extending a foreign empire over other nations: it is a sect aiming at universal empire, and beginning with the conquest of France. The leaders of that sect secured the CENTRE OF EUROPE; and that secured, they knew, that whatever might be the event of battles and sieges, their CAUSE was victorious. Whether its territory had a little more or a little less peeled from its surface, or whether an island or two was detached from its commerce, to them was of little moment. The conquest of France was a glorious acquisition. That once well laid as a basis of empire, opportunities never could be wanting to regain or to replace what had been lost, and dreadfully to avenge themselves on the faction of their adversaries. They saw it was a CIVIL WAR. It was their business to persuade their adversaries that it ought to be a FOREIGN war. The Jacobins everywhere set up a cry against the new crusade; and they intrigued with effect in the cabinet, in the field, and in every private society in Europe. Their task was not difficult. The condition of princes, and sometimes of first ministers too, is to be pitied. The creatures of the desk, and the creatures of favour, had no relish for the principles of the manifestoes. They promised no governments, no regiments, no revenues from whence emoluments might arise by perquisite or by grant. In truth, the tribe of vulgar politicians are the lowest of our species. There is no trade so vile and mechanical as government in their hands. Virtue is not their habit. They are out of themselves in any course of conduct recommended only by conscience and glory. A large, liberal, and prospective view of the interests of states passes with them for romance; and the principles that recommend it, for the wanderings of a disordered imagination. The calculators compute them out of their senses. The jesters and buffoons shame them out of everything grand and elevated. Littleness in object and in means, to them appears soundness and sobriety. They think there is nothing worth pursuit, but that which they can handle; which they can measure with a two-foot rule; which they can tell upon ten fingers.
Without the principles of the Jacobins, perhaps without any principles at all, they played the game of that faction. There was a beaten road before them. The powers of Europe were armed; France had always appeared dangerous; the war was easily diverted from France as a faction, to France as a state. The princes were easily taught to slide back into their old, habitual course of politics. They were easily led to consider the flames that were consuming France, not as a warning to protect their own buildings (which were without any party-wall, and linked by a contignation into the edifice of France), but as a happy occasion for pillaging the goods, and for carrying off the materials, of their neighbour's house. Their provident fears were changed into avaricious hopes. They carried on their new designs without seeming to abandon the principles of their old policy. They pretended to seek, or they flattered themselves that they sought, in the accession of new fortresses, and new territories, a DEFENSIVE security. But the security wanted was against a kind of power, which was not so truly dangerous in its fortresses nor in its territories, as in its spirit and its principles. They aimed, or pretended to aim, at DEFENDING themselves against a danger from which there can be no security in any DEFENSIVE plan. If armies and fortresses were a defence against jacobinism, Louis the Sixteenth would this day reign a powerful monarch over a happy people.
This error obliged them, even in their offensive operations, to adopt a plan of war, against the success of which there was something little short of mathematical demonstration. They refused to take any step which might strike at the heart of affairs. They seemed unwilling to wound the enemy in any vital part. They acted through the whole, as if they really wished the conservation of the Jacobin power, as what might be more favourable than the lawful government to the attainment of the petty objects they looked for. They always kept on the circumference; and the wider and remoter the circle was, the more eagerly they chose it as their sphere of action in this centrifugal war. The plan they pursued, in its nature demanded great length of time. In its execution, they, who went the nearest way to work, were obliged to cover an incredible extent of country. It left to the enemy every means of destroying this extended line of weakness. Ill success in any part was sure to defeat the effect of the whole. This is true of Austria. It is still more true of England. On this false plan, even good fortune, by further weakening the victor, put him but the further off from his object.
As long as there was any appearance of success, the spirit of aggrandisement, and consequently the spirit of mutual jealousy, seized upon all the coalesced powers. Some sought an accession of territory at the expense of France, some at the expense of each other, some at the expense of third parties; and when the vicissitude of disaster took its turn, they found common distress a treacherous bond of faith and friendship. The greatest skill conducting the greatest military apparatus has been employed; but it has been worse than uselessly employed, through the false policy of the war. The operations of the field suffered by the errors of the cabinet. If the same spirit continues when peace is made, the peace will fix and perpetuate all the errors of the war; because it will be made upon the same false principle. What has been lost in the field, in the field may be regained. An arrangement of peace in its nature is a permanent settlement; it is the effect of counsel and deliberation, and not of fortuitous events. If built upon a basis fundamentally erroneous, it can only be retrieved by some of those unforeseen dispensations, which the all-wise but mysterious Governor of the world sometimes interposes, to snatch nations from ruin. It would not be pious error, but mad and impious presumption, for any one to trust in an unknown order of dispensations, in defiance of the rules of prudence, which are formed upon the known march of the ordinary providence of God.
National dignity in all treaties I do admit is an important consideration. They have given us a useful hint on that subject: but dignity, hitherto, has belonged to the mode of proceeding, not to the matter of a treaty. Never before has it been mentioned as the standard for rating the conditions of peace; no, never by the most violent of conquerors. Indemnification is capable of some estimate: dignity has no standard. It is impossible to guess what acquisitions pride and ambition may think fit for their DIGNITY.
PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT NOT ABSOLUTE, BUT RELATIVE.
I reprobate no form of government merely upon abstract principles. There may be situations in which the purely democratic form will become necessary. There may be some (very few, and very particularly circumstanced) where it would be clearly desirable. This I do not take to be the case of France, or of any other great country. Until now, we have seen no examples of considerable democracies. The ancients were better acquainted with them. Not being wholly unread in the authors, who had seen the most of those constitutions, and who best understood them, I cannot help concurring with their opinion, that an absolute democracy, no more than absolute monarchy, is to be reckoned among the legitimate forms of government. They think it rather the corruption and degeneracy, than the sound constitution of a republic. If I recollect rightly, Aristotle observes, that a democracy has many striking points of resemblance with a tyranny. (When I wrote this, I quoted from memory, after many years had elapsed from my reading the passage. A learned friend has found it, and it is as follows:—
To ethos to auto, kai ampho despotika ton Beltionon, kai ta psephismata, osper ekei ta epitagmata kai o demagogos kai o kolax, oi autoi kai analogoi kai malista ekateroi par ekaterois ischuousin, oi men kolakes para turannois, oi de demagogoi para tois demois tois toioutois.—
"The ethical character is the same; both exercise despotism over the better class of citizens; and decrees are in the one, what ordinances and arrets are in the other: the demagogue too, and the court favourite, are not unfrequently the same identical men, and always bear a close analogy; and these have the principal power, each in their respective forms of government, favourites with the absolute monarch, and demagogues with a people such as I have described."—Arist. Politic. lib. iv. cap 4.)
Of this I am certain, that in a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority, whenever strong divisions prevail in that kind of polity, as they often must; and that oppression of the minority will extend to far greater numbers, and will be carried on with much greater fury, than can almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a single sceptre. In such a popular persecution, individual sufferers are in a much more deplorable condition than in any other. Under a cruel prince they have the balmy compassion of mankind to assuage the smart of their wounds; they have the plaudits of the people to animate their generous constancy under their sufferings: but those who are subjected to wrong under multitudes, are deprived of all external consolation. They seem deserted by mankind, overpowered by a conspiracy of their whole species. But admitting democracy not to have that inevitable tendency to party tyranny, which I suppose it to have, and admitting it to possess as much good in it when unmixed, as I am sure it possesses when compounded with other forms; does monarchy, on its part, contain nothing at all to recommend it? I do not often quote Bolingbroke, nor have his works in general left any permanent impression on my mind. He is a presumptuous and a superficial writer. But he has one observation, which, in my opinion, is not without depth and solidity. He says, that he prefers a monarchy to other governments, because you can better ingraft any description of republic on a monarchy, than anything of monarchy upon the republican forms. I think him perfectly in the right. The fact is so historically; and it agrees well with the speculation.
I know how easy a topic it is to dwell on the faults of departed greatness. By a revolution in the state, the fawning sycophant of yesterday is converted into the austere critic of the present hour. But steady, independent minds, when they have an object of so serious a concern to mankind as government under their contemplation, will disdain to assume the part of satirists and declaimers. They will judge of human institutions as they do of human characters. They will sort out the good from the evil, which is mixed in mortal institutions, as it is in mortal men.
DECLARATION OF 1793.
It is not difficult to discern what sort of humanity our government is to learn from these syren singers. Our government also, I admit with some reason, as a step towards the proposed fraternity, is required to abjure the unjust hatred which it bears to this body, of honour and virtue. I thank God I am neither a minister nor a leader of opposition. I protest I cannot do what they desire. I could not do it if I were under the guillotine; or as they ingeniously and pleasantly express it, "looking out of the little national window." Even at that opening I could receive none of their light. I am fortified against all such affections by the declaration of the government, which I must yet consider as lawful, made on the 29th of October, 1793, and still ringing in my ears.
("In their place has succeeded a system destructive of all public order, maintained by proscriptions, exiles, and confiscations without number; by arbitrary imprisonment; by massacres which cannot be remembered without horror; and at length by the execrable murder of a just and beneficent sovereign, and of the illustrious princess, who, with an unshaken firmness, has shared all the misfortunes of her royal consort, his protracted sufferings, his cruel captivity, and ignominious death." They (the allies) have had to encounter acts of aggression without pretext, open violation of all treaties, unprovoked declarations of war; in a word, whatever corruption, intrigue, or violence, could effect for the purpose, openly avowed, of subverting all the institutions of society, and of extending over all the nations of Europe that confusion, which has produced the misery of France."— "This state of things cannot exist in France without involving all the surrounding powers in one common danger, without giving them the right, without imposing it upon them as a duty, to stop the progress of an evil, which exists only by the successive violation of all law and all property, and which attacks the fundamental principles by which mankind is united in the bonds of civil society."—"The king would impose none other than equitable and moderate conditions, not such as the expense, the risks, and the sacrifices of the war might justify; but such as his majesty thinks himself under the indispensable necessity of requiring, with a view to these considerations, and still more to that of his own security and of the future tranquillity of Europe. His majesty desires nothing more sincerely than thus to terminate a war, which he in vain endeavoured to avoid, and all the calamities of which, as now experienced by France, are to be attributed only to the ambition, the perfidy, and the violence of those, whose crimes have involved their own country in misery, and disgraced all civilized nations."—"The king promises, on his part, the suspension of hostilities, friendship, and (as far as the course of events will allow, of which the will of man cannot dispose) security and protection to all those who, by declaring for a monarchical form of government, shall shake off the yoke of sanguinary anarchy; of that anarchy which has broken all the most sacred bonds of society, dissolved all the relations of civil life, violated every right, confounded every duty; which uses the name of liberty to exercise the most cruel tyranny, to annihilate all property, to seize on all possessions: which founds its power on the pretended consent of the people, and itself carries fire and sword through extensive provinces for having demanded their laws, their religion, and their LAWFUL SOVEREIGN."
Declaration sent by his majesty's command to the commanders of his majesty's fleets and armies employed against France, and to his majesty's ministers employed at foreign courts.)
This declaration was transmitted not only to our commanders by sea and land, but to our ministers in every court of Europe. It is the most eloquent and highly-finished in the style, the most judicious in the choice of topics, the most orderly in the arrangement, and the most rich in the colouring, without employing the smallest degree of exaggeration, of any state paper that has ever yet appeared. An ancient writer, Plutarch, I think it is, quotes some verses on the eloquence of Pericles, who is called "the only orator that left stings in the minds of his hearers." Like his, the eloquence of the declaration, not contradicting, but enforcing sentiments of the truest humanity, has left stings that have penetrated more than skin-deep into my mind; and never can they be extracted by all the surgery of murder, never can the throbbings they have created be assuaged by all the emolient cataplasms of robbery and confiscation. I CANNOT love the republic.
To diet a man into weakness and languor, afterwards to give him the greater strength, has more of the empiric than the rational physician. It is true that some persons have been kicked into courage; and this is no bad hint to give to those who are too forward and liberal in bestowing insults and outrages on their passive companions. But such a course does not at first view appear a well-chosen discipline to form men to a nice sense of honour, or a quick resentment of injuries. A long habit of humiliation does not seem a very good preparative to manly and vigorous sentiment. It may not leave, perhaps, enough of energy in the mind fairly to discern what are good terms or what are not. Men low and dispirited may regard those terms as not at all amiss, which in another state of mind they would think intolerable: if they grow peevish in this state of mind, they may be roused, not against the enemy whom they have been taught to fear, but against the ministry, who are more within their reach, and who have refused conditions that are not unreasonable, from power that they have been taught to consider as irresistible.
KING WILLIAM'S POLICY.
His majesty did determine; and did take and pursue his resolution. In all the tottering imbecility of a new government, and with parliament totally unmanageable, he persevered. He persevered to expel the fears of his people by his fortitude—to steady their fickleness by his constancy—to expand their narrow prudence by his enlarged wisdom—to sink their factious temper in his public spirit. In spite of his people he resolved to make them great and glorious; to make England, inclined to shrink into her narrow self, the arbitress of Europe, the tutelary angel of the human race. In spite of the ministers, who staggered under the weight that his mind imposed upon theirs, unsupported as they felt themselves by the popular spirit, he infused into them his own soul, he renewed in them their ancient heart, he rallied them in the same cause. It required some time to accomplish this work. The people were first gained, and through them their distracted representatives. Under the influence of King William, Holland had rejected the allurements of every seduction, and had resisted the terrors of every menace. With Hannibal at her gates, she had nobly and magnanimously refused all separate treaty, or anything which might for a moment appear to divide her affection or her interest, or even to distinguish her in identity from England. Having settled the great point of the consolidation (which he hoped would be eternal) of the countries made for a common interest, and common sentiment, the king, in his message to both houses, calls their attention to the affairs of the STATES-GENERAL. The House of Lords was perfectly sound, and entirely impressed with the wisdom and dignity of the king's proceedings. In answer to the message, which you will observe was narrowed to a single point (the danger of the States-General), after the usual professions of zeal for his service, the lords opened themselves at large. They go far beyond the demands of the message. They express themselves as follows: "We take this occasion FURTHER to assure your majesty, that we are sensible of the GREAT AND IMMINENT DANGER TO WHICH THE STATES-GENERAL ARE EXPOSED. AND WE PERFECTLY AGREE WITH THEM IN BELIEVING THAT THEIR SAFETY AND OURS ARE SO INSEPARABLY UNITED, THAT WHATSOEVER IS RUIN TO THE ONE MUST BE FATAL TO THE OTHER.
"We humbly desire your majesty will be pleased NOT ONLY to made good all the articles of any FORMER treaties to the States-General, but that you will enter into a strict league, offensive and defensive, with them, FOR THEIR COMMON PRESERVATION; AND THAT YOU WILL INVITE INTO IT ALL PRINCES AND STATES WHO ARE CONCERNED IN THE PRESENT VISIBLE DANGER, ARISING FROM THE UNION OF FRANCE AND SPAIN.
"And we further desire your majesty, that you will be pleased to enter into such alliances with the EMPEROR as your majesty shall think fit, pursuant to the ends of the treaty of 1689; towards all which we assure your majesty of our hearty and sincere assistance; not doubting, but whenever your majesty shall be obliged to be engaged for the defence of your allies, AND SECURING THE LIBERTY AND QUIET OF EUROPE, Almighty God will protect your sacred person in so righteous a cause. And that the unanimity, wealth, and courage, of your subjects will carry your majesty with honour and success THROUGH ALL THE DIFFICULTIES OF A JUST WAR."
The House of Commons was more reserved; the late popular disposition was still in a great degree prevalent in the representative, after it had been made to change in the constituent body. The principle of the grand alliance was not directly recognised in the resolution of the Commons, nor the war announced, though they were well aware the alliance was formed for the war. However, compelled by the returning sense of the people, they went so far as to fix the three great immovable pillars of the safety and greatness of England, as they were then, as they are now, and as they must ever be to the end of time. They asserted in general terms the necessity of supporting Holland, of keeping united with our allies, and maintaining the liberty of Europe; though they restricted their vote to the succours stipulated by actual treaty. But now they were fairly embarked, they were obliged to go with the course of the vessel; and the whole nation, split before into a hundred adverse factions, with a king at its head evidently declining to his tomb, the whole nation, lords, commons, and people, proceeded as one body, informed by one soul. Under the British union, the union of Europe was consolidated; and it long held together with a degree of cohesion, firmness, and fidelity, not known before or since in any political combination of that extent.
Just as the last hand was given to this immense and complicated machine, the master workman died: but the work was formed on true mechanical principles, and it was as truly wrought. It went by the impulse it had received from the first mover. The man was dead; but the grand alliance survived in which King William lived and reigned. That heartless and dispirited people, whom Lord Somers had represented about two years before as dead in energy and operation, continued that war to which it was supposed they were unequal in mind, and in means, for nearly thirteen years. For what have I entered into all this detail? To what purpose have I recalled your view to the end of the last century? It has been done to show that the British nation was then a great people—to point out how and by what means they came to be exalted above the vulgar level, and to take that lead which they assumed among mankind. To qualify us for that pre-eminence, we had then a high mind and a constancy unconquerable; we were then inspired with no flashy passions, but such as were durable as well as warm, such as corresponded to the great interests we had at stake. This force of character was inspired, as all such spirit must ever be, from above. Government gave the impulse. As well may we fancy, that of itself the sea will swell, and that without winds the billows will insult the adverse shore, as that the gross mass of the people will be moved, and elevated, and continue by a steady and permanent direction to bear upon one point, without the influence of superior authority, or superior mind.
This impulse ought, in my opinion, to have been given in this war; and it ought to have been continued to it at every instant. It is made, if ever war was made, to touch all the great springs of action in the human breast. It ought not to have been a war of apology. The minister had, in this conflict, wherewithal to glory in success; to be consoled in adversity; to hold high his principle in all fortunes. If it were not given him to support the falling edifice, he ought to bury himself under the ruins of the civilized world. All the art of Greece, and all the pride and power of eastern monarchs, never heaped upon their ashes so grand a monument.
DISTEMPER OF REMEDY.
This distemper of remedy, grown habitual, relaxes and wears out, by a vulgar and prostituted use, the spring of that spirit which is to be exerted on great occasions. It was in the most patient period of Roman servitude that themes of tyrannicide made the ordinary exercise of boys at school—cum perimit saevos classis numerosa tyrannos. In the ordinary state of things, it produces in a country like ours the worst effects, even on the cause of that liberty which it abuses with the dissoluteness of an extravagant speculation. Almost all the high-bred republicans of my time have, after a short space, become the most decided, thorough-paced courtiers; they soon left the business of a tedious, moderate, but practical resistance, to those of us whom, in the pride and intoxication of their theories, they have slighted as not much better than Tories. Hypocrisy, of course, delights in the most sublime speculations; for, never intending to go beyond speculation, it costs nothing to have it magnificent. But even in cases where rather levity than fraud was to be suspected in these ranting speculations, the issue has been much the same. These professors, finding their extreme principles not applicable to cases which call only for a qualified, or, as I may say, civil, and legal resistance, in such cases employ no resistance at all. It is with them a war or a revolution, or it is nothing. Finding their schemes of politics not adapted to the state of the world in which they live, they often come to think lightly of all public principle; and are ready, on their part, to abandon for a very trivial interest what they find of very trivial value. Some indeed are of more steady and persevering natures; but these are eager politicians out of parliament, who have little to tempt them to abandon their favourite projects. They have some change in the Church or State, or both, constantly in their view. When that is the case, they are always bad citizens, and perfectly unsure connections. For, considering their speculative designs as of infinite value, and the actual arrangement of the state as of no estimation, they are at best indifferent about it. They see no merit in the good, and no fault in the vicious management of public affairs; they rather rejoice in the latter, as more propitious to revolution. They see no merit or demerit in any man, or any action, or any political principle, any further than as they may forward or retard their design of change: they therefore take up, one day, the most violent and stretched prerogative, and another time the wildest democratic ideas of freedom, and pass from the one to the other without any sort of regard to cause, to person, or to party.
WAR AND WILL OF THE PEOPLE.
In matters of state, a constitutional competence to act is in many cases the smallest part of the question. Without disputing (God forbid I should dispute) the sole competence of the king and the parliament, each in its province, to decide on war and peace, I venture to say, no war CAN be long carried on against the will of the people. This war, in particular, cannot be carried on unless they are enthusiastically in favour of it. Acquiescence will not do. There must be zeal. Universal zeal in such a cause, and at such a time as this is, cannot be looked for; neither is it necessary. Zeal in the larger part carries the force of the whole. Without this, no government, certainly not our government, is capable of a great war. None of the ancient regular governments have wherewithal to fight abroad with a foreign foe, and at home to overcome repining, reluctance, and chicane. It must be some portentous thing, like regicide France, that can exhibit such a prodigy. Yet even she, the mother of monsters, more prolific than the country of old called Ferax monstrorum, shows symptoms of being almost effete already; and she will be so, unless the fallow of a peace comes to recruit her fertility. But whatever may be represented concerning the meanness of the popular spirit, I, for one, do not think so desperately of the British nation. Our minds, as I said, are light, but they are not depraved. We are dreadfully open to delusion and to dejection; but we are capable of being animated and undeceived.
It cannot be concealed: we are a divided people. But in divisions, where a part is to be taken, we are to make a muster of our strength. I have often endeavoured to compute and to class those who, in any political view, are to be called the people. Without doing something of this sort we must proceed absurdly. We should not be much wiser, if we pretended to very great accuracy in our estimate; but I think, in the calculation I have made, the error cannot be very material. In England and Scotland, I compute that those of adult age, not declining in life, of tolerable leisure for such discussions, and of some means of information, more or less, and who are above menial dependence (or what virtually is such), may amount to about four hundred thousand. There is such a thing as a natural representative of the people. This body is that representative; and on this body, more than on the legal constituent, the artificial representative depends. This is the British public; and it is a public very numerous. The rest, when feeble, are the objects of protection; when strong, the means of force. They who affect to consider that part of us in any other light, insult while they cajole us; they do not want us for counsellors in deliberation, but to list us as soldiers for battle.
Of these four hundred thousand political citizens, I look upon one-fifth, or about eighty thousand, to be pure Jacobins; utterly incapable of amendment; objects of eternal vigilance, and, when they break out, of legal constraint. On these, no reason, no argument, no example, no venerable authority, can have the slightest influence. They desire a change; and they will have it if they can. If they cannot have it by English cabal, they will make no sort of scruple of having it by the cabal of France, into which already they are virtually incorporated. It is only their assured and confident expectation of the advantages of French fraternity, and the approaching blessings of regicide intercourse, that skins over their mischievous dispositions with a momentary quiet. This minority is great and formidable. I do not know whether if I aimed at the total overthrow of a kingdom, I should wish to be encumbered with a larger body of partisans. They are more easily disciplined and directed than if the number were greater. These, by their spirit of intrigue, and by their restless agitating activity, are of a force far superior to their numbers; and, if times grew the least critical, have the means of debauching or intimidating many of those who are now sound, as well as of adding to their force large bodies of the more passive part of the nation. This minority is numerous enough to make a mighty cry for peace, or for war, or for any object they are led vehemently to desire. By passing from place to place with a velocity incredible, and diversifying their character and description, they are capable of mimicking the general voice. We must not always judge of the generality of the opinion by the noise of the acclamation.
FALSE POLICY IN OUR FRENCH WAR.
We have never put forth half the strength which we have exerted in ordinary wars. In the fatal battles which have drenched the continent with blood, and shaken the system of Europe to pieces, we have never had any considerable army of a magnitude to be compared to the least of those by which, in former times, we so gloriously asserted our place as protectors, not oppressors, at the head of the great commonwealth of Europe. We have never manfully met the danger in front: and when the enemy, resigning to us our natural dominion of the ocean, and abandoning the defence of his distant possessions to the infernal energy of the destroying principles which he had planted there for the subversion of the neighbouring colonies, drove forth, by one sweeping law of unprecedented despotism, his armed multitudes on every side, to overwhelm the countries and states which had for centuries stood the firm barriers against the ambition of France; we drew back the arm of our military force, which had never been more than half raised to oppose him. From that time we have been combating only with the other arm of our naval power; the right arm of England I admit; but which struck almost unresisted with blows that could never reach the heart of the hostile mischief. From that time, without a single effort to regain those outworks, which ever till now we so strenuously maintained, as the strong frontier of our own dignity and safety, no less than the liberties of Europe; with but one feeble attempt to succour those brave, faithful, and numerous allies, whom, for the first time since the days of our Edwards and Henrys, we now have in the bosom of France itself; we have been intrenching, and fortifying, and garrisoning ourselves at home: we have been redoubling security on security, to protect ourselves from invasion, which has now become to us a serious object of alarm and terror. Alas! the few of us who have protracted life in any measure near to the extreme limits of our short period, have been condemned to see strange things; new systems of policy, new principles, and not only new men, but what might appear a new species of men. I believe that any person who was of age to take a part in public affairs forty years ago (if the intermediate space of time were expunged from his memory) would hardly credit his senses, when he should hear from the highest authority, that an army of two hundred thousand men was kept up in this island, and that in the neighbouring island there were at least fourscore thousand more. But when he had recovered from his surprise on being told of this army, which has not its parallel, what must be his astonishment to be told again, that this mighty force was kept up for the mere purpose of an inert and passive defence, and that in its far greater part, it was disabled by its constitution and very essence from defending us against an enemy by any one preventive stroke, or any one operation of active hostility? What must his reflections be on learning further, that a fleet of five hundred men of war, the best appointed, and to the full as ably commanded as any this country ever had upon the sea, was for the greater part employed in carrying on the same system of unenterprising defence? what must be the sentiments and feelings of one who remembers the former energy of England, when he is given to understand that these two islands, with their extensive and everywhere vulnerable coast, should be considered as a garrisoned sea-town; what would such a man, what would any man think, if the garrison of so strange a fortress should be such, and so feebly commanded, as never to make a sally; and that, contrary to all which has hitherto been seen in war, an infinitely inferior army, with the shattered relics of an almost annihilated navy, ill found and ill manned, may with safety besiege this superior garrison, and, without hazarding the life of a man, ruin the place, merely by the menaces and false appearances of an attack? Indeed, indeed, my dear friend, I look upon this matter of our defensive system as much the most important of all considerations at this moment. It has oppressed me with many anxious thoughts, which, more than any bodily distemper, have sunk me to the condition in which you know that I am. Should it please Providence to restore to me even the late weak remains of my strength, I propose to make this matter the subject of a particular discussion. I only mean here to argue, that the mode of conducting the war on our part, be it good or bad, has prevented even the common havoc of war in our population, and especially among that class whose duty and privilege of superiority it is to lead the way amidst the perils and slaughter of the field of battle.
MORAL ESSENCE MAKES A NATION.
Mere locality does not constitute a body politic. Had Cade and his gang got possession of London, they would not have been the lord mayor, aldermen, and common council. The body politic of France existed in the majesty of its throne, in the dignity of its nobility, in the honour of its gentry, in the sanctity of its clergy, in the reverence of its magistracy, in the weight and consideration due to its landed property in the several bailliages, in the respect due to its moveable substance represented by the corporations of the kingdom. All these particular moleculae united form the great mass of what is truly the body politic in all countries. They are so many deposits and receptacles of justice; because they can only exist by justice. Nation is a moral essence, not a geographical arrangement, or a denomination of the nomenclator. France, though out of her territorial possession, exists; because the sole possible claimant, I mean the proprietary, and the government to which the proprietary adheres, exists, and claims. God forbid, that if you were expelled from your house by ruffians and assassins, that I should call the material walls, doors, and windows of —, the ancient and honourable family of —. Am I to transfer to the intruders, who, not content to turn you out naked to the world, would rob you of your very name, all the esteem and respect I owe to you? The regicides in France are not France. France is out of her bounds, but the kingdom is the same.
Other great states, having been without any regular, certain course of elevation or decline, we may hope that the British fortune may fluctuate also; because the public mind, which greatly influences that fortune, may have its changes. We are therefore never authorised to abandon our country to its fate, or to act or advise as if it had no resource. There is no reason to apprehend, because ordinary means threaten to fail, that no others can spring up. Whilst our heart is whole, it will find means, or make them. The heart of the citizen is a perennial spring of energy to the state. Because the pulse seems to intermit, we must not presume that it will cease instantly to beat. The public must never be regarded as incurable. I remember in the beginning of what has lately been called the Seven Years' War, that an eloquent writer and ingenious speculator, Dr. Brown, upon some reverses which happened in the beginning of that war, published an elaborate philosophical discourse to prove that the distinguishing features of the people of England have been totally changed, and that a frivolous effeminacy was become the national character. Nothing could be more popular than that work. It was thought a great consolation to us, the light people of this country (who were and are light, but who were not and are not effeminate), that we had found the causes of our misfortunes in our vices. Pythagoras could not be more pleased with his leading discovery. But whilst in that splenetic mood we amused ourselves in a sour, critical speculation, of which we were ourselves the objects, and in which every man lost his particular sense of the public disgrace in the epidemic nature of the distemper; whilst, as in the Alps, goitre ["i" circumflex] kept goitre ["i" acute] in countenance; whilst we were thus abandoning ourselves to a direct confession of our inferiority to France, and whilst many, very many, were ready to act upon a sense of that inferiority, a few months effected a total change in our variable minds. We emerged from the gulf of that speculative despondency, and were buoyed up to the highest point of practical vigour. Never did the masculine spirit of England display itself with more energy, nor ever did its genius soar with a prouder pre-eminence over France, than at the time when frivolity and effeminacy had been at least tacitly acknowledged as their national character by the good people of this kingdom.
PROGRESSIVE GROWTH OF CHRISTIAN STATES.
When I contemplate the scheme on which France is formed, and when I compare it with these systems, with which it is, and ever must be, in conflict, those things, which seem as defects in her polity, are the very things which make me tremble. The states of the Christian world have grown up to their present magnitude in a great length of time, and by a great variety of accidents. They have been improved to what we see them with greater or less degrees of felicity and skill. Not one of them has been formed upon a regular plan or with any unity of design. As their constitutions are not systematical, they have not been directed to any PECULIAR end, eminently distinguished, and superseding every other. The objects which they embrace are of the greatest possible variety, and have become in a manner infinite. In all these old countries, the state has been made to the people, and not the people conformed to the state. Every state has pursued not only every sort of social advantage, but it has cultivated the welfare of every individual. His wants, his wishes, even his tastes, have been consulted. This comprehensive scheme virtually produced a degree of personal liberty in forms the most adverse to it. That liberty was found, under monarchies styled absolute, in a degree unknown to the ancient commonwealths. From hence the powers of all our modern states meet, in all their movements, with some obstruction. It is therefore no wonder, that, when these states are to be considered as machines to operate for some one great end, this dissipated and balanced force is not easily concentrated, or made to bear with the whole force of the nation upon one point.
The British state is, without question, that which pursues the greatest variety of ends, and is the least disposed to sacrifice any one of them to another, or to the whole. It aims at taking in the entire circle of human desires, and securing for them their fair enjoyment. Our legislature has been ever closely connected, in its most efficient part, with individual feeling, and individual interest. Personal liberty, the most lively of these feelings and the most important of these interests, which in other European countries has rather arisen from the system of manners and the habitudes of life, than from the laws of the state (in which it flourished more from neglect than attention), in England, has been a direct object of government.
On this principle England would be the weakest power in the whole system. Fortunately, however, the great riches of this kingdom arising from a variety of causes, and the disposition of the people, which is as great to spend as to accumulate, has easily afforded a disposable surplus that gives a mighty momentum to the state. This difficulty, with these advantages to overcome it, has called forth the talents of the English financiers, who, by the surplus of industry poured out by prodigality, have outdone everything which has been accomplished in other nations. The present minister has outdone his predecessors; and, as a minister of revenue, is far above my power of praise. But still there are cases in which England feels more than several others (though they all feel) the perplexity of an immense body of balanced advantages, and of individual demands, and of some irregularity in the whole mass.
France differs essentially from all those governments, which are formed without system, which exist by habit, and which are confused with the multitude, and with the perplexity of their pursuits. What now stands as government in France is struck out at a heat. The design is wicked, immoral, impious, oppressive; but it is spirited and daring; it is systematic; it is simple in its principle; it has unity and consistency in perfection.
It is undoubtedly the business of ministers very much to consult the inclinations of the people, but they ought to take great care that they do not receive that inclination from the few persons who may happen to approach them. The petty interests of such gentlemen, the low conceptions of things, their fears arising from the danger to which the very arduous and critical situation of public affairs may expose their places; their apprehensions from the hazards to which the discontents of a few popular men at elections may expose their seats in parliament; all these causes trouble and confuse the representations which they make to ministers of the real temper of the nation. If ministers, instead of following the great indications of the constitution, proceed on such reports, they will take the whispers of a cabal for the voice of the people, and the counsels of imprudent timidity for the wisdom of a nation.
It is not for his Holiness we intend this consolatory declaration of our own weakness, and of the tyrannous temper of his grand enemy. That prince has known both the one and the other from the beginning. The artists of the French revolution had given their very first essays and sketches of robbery and desolation against his territories, in a far more cruel "murdering piece" than had ever entered into the imagination of painter or poet. Without ceremony they tore from his cherishing arms the possessions which he held for five hundred years, undisturbed by all the ambition of all the ambitious monarchs who, during that period, have reigned in France. Is it to him, in whose wrong we have in our late negotiation ceded his now unhappy countries near the Rhone, lately amongst the most flourishing (perhaps the most flourishing for their extent) of all the countries upon earth, that we are to prove the sincerity of our resolution to make peace with the republic barbarism? That venerable potentate and pontiff is sunk deep into the vale of years; he is half disarmed by his peaceful character; his dominions are more than half disarmed by a peace of two hundred years, defended as they were, not by forces, but by reverence; yet in all these straits, we see him display, amidst the recent ruins and the new defacements of his plundered capital, along with the mild and decorated piety of the modern, all the spirit and magnanimity of ancient Rome! Does he, who, though himself unable to defend them, nobly refused to receive pecuniary compensations for the protection he owed to his people of Avignon, Carpentras, and the Venaisin;—does he want proofs of our good disposition to deliver over that people without any security for them, or any compensation to their sovereign, to this cruel enemy? Does he want to be satisfied of the sincerity of our humiliation to France, who has seen his free, fertile, and happy city and state of Bologna, the cradle of regenerated law, the seat of sciences and of arts, so hideously metamorphosed, whilst he was crying to Great Britain for aid, and offering to purchase that aid at any price? Is it him, who sees that chosen spot of plenty and delight converted into a Jacobin ferocious republic, dependent on the homicides of France? Is it him, who, from the miracles of his beneficent industry, has done a work which defied the power of the Roman emperors, though with an enthralled world to labour for them; is it him, who has drained and cultivated the PONTINE MARSHES, that we are to satisfy of our cordial spirit of conciliation, with those who, in their equity, are restoring Holland again to the seas, whose maxims poison more than the exhalations of the most deadly fens, and who turn all the fertilities of nature and of art into a howling desert? Is it to him, that we are to demonstrate the good faith of our submissions to the cannibal republic; to him who is commanded to deliver into their hands Ancona and Civita Vecchia, seats of commerce, raised by the wise and liberal labours and expenses of the present and late pontiffs; ports not more belonging to the Ecclesiastical State than to the commerce of Great Britain; thus wresting from his hands the power of the keys of the centre of Italy, as before they had taken possession of the keys of the northern part, from the hands of the unhappy king of Sardinia, the natural ally of England? Is it to him we are to prove our good faith in the peace which we are soliciting to receive from the hands of his and our robbers, the enemies of all arts, all sciences, all civilization, and all commerce?
EXTINCTION OF LOCAL PATRIOTISM.
That day was, I fear, the fatal term of LOCAL patriotism. On that day, I fear, there was an end of that narrow scheme of relations called our country, with all its pride, its prejudices, and its partial affections. All the little quiet rivulets, that watered an humble, a contracted, but not an unfruitful field, are to be lost in the waste expanse, and boundless, barren ocean of the homicide philanthropy of France. It is no longer an object of terror, the aggrandizement of a new power, which teaches as a professor that philanthropy in their chair; whilst it propagates by arms, and establishes by conquest, the comprehensive system of universal fraternity. In what light is all this viewed in a great assembly? The party which takes the lead there has no longer any apprehensions, except those that arise from not being admitted to the closest and most confidential connections with the metropolis of that fraternity. That reigning party no longer touches on its favourite subject, the display of those horrors, that must attend the existence of a power, with such dispositions and principles, seated in the heart of Europe. It is satisfied to find some loose, ambiguous expressions in its former declarations, which may set it free from its professions and engagements. It always speaks of peace with the regicides as a great and an undoubted blessing; and such a blessing as, if obtained, promises, as much as any human disposition of things can promise, security and permanence. It holds out nothing at all definite towards this security. It only seeks, by a restoration, to some of their former owners, of some fragments of the general wreck of Europe, to find a plausible plea for a present retreat from an embarrassing position. As to the future, that party is content to leave it, covered in a night of the most palpable obscurity. It never once has entered into a particle of detail of what our own situation, or that of other powers, must be, under the blessings of the peace we seek. This defect, to my power, I mean to supply; that if any persons should still continue to think an attempt at foresight is any part of the duty of a statesman, I may contribute my trifle to the materials of his speculation.
As to the other party, the minority of to?day, possibly the majority of to-morrow, small in number but full of talents and every species of energy, which, upon the avowed ground of being more acceptable to France, is a candidate for the helm of this kingdom, it has never changed from the beginning. It has preserved a perennial consistency. This would be a never-failing source of true glory, if springing from just and right; but it is truly dreadful if it be an arm of Styx, which springs out of the profoundest depths of a poisoned soil. The French maxims were by these gentlemen at no time condemned. I speak of their language in the most moderate terms. There are many who think that they have gone much further; that they have always magnified and extolled the French maxims; that not in the least disgusted or discouraged by the monstrous evils, which have attended these maxims from the moment of their adoption both at home and abroad, they still continue to predict, that in due time they must produce the greatest good to the poor human race. They obstinately persist in stating those evils as matter of accident; as things wholly collateral to the system. It is observed, that this party has never spoken of an ally of Great Britain with the smallest degree of respect or regard; on the contrary, it has generally mentioned them under opprobrious appellations, and in such terms of contempt or execration, as never had been heard before, because no such would have formerly been permitted in our public assemblies. The moment, however, that any of those allies quitted this obnoxious connection, the party has instantly passed an act of indemnity and oblivion in their favour. After this, no sort of censure on their conduct; no imputation on their character! From that moment their pardon was sealed in a reverential and mysterious silence. With the gentlemen of this minority, there is no ally, from one end of Europe to the other, with whom we ought not to be ashamed to act. The whole college of the states of Europe is no better than a gang of tyrants. With them all our connexions were broken off at once. We ought to have cultivated France, and France alone, from the moment of her revolution. On that happy change, all our dread of that nation as a power was to cease. She became in an instant dear to our affections, and one with our interests. All other nations we ought to have commanded not to trouble her sacred throes, whilst in labour to bring into a happy birth her abundant litter of constitutions.