« ZurückWeiter »
circumscribed within a quarter of the flame in its own ashes, and sagaa century; an entire action, of the ciously and constantly employing at highest interest and most extraordi- once the splendours of monarchy and nary variousness of incident and cha- the vigilance of despotism, to make racter, compressed into the briefest the people forget the license of the period of any one great change in Republic, or dread a collision with the history; an action, too, near enough weight of the sovereignty. At once to our time to possess the full excite- to dazzle and restrain; to make the ment of novelty, yet remote enough populace proud, yet afraid of the to supply us with the calmness and sceptre; to indulge the national love strength of ascertained fact. The of display, and yet keep the national Revolution has utterly passed away in caprices in rigid subordination, is the substance, but still exists in spirit; existing policy. Far be it from us to for no man can rationally look upon visit it with blame; it is the only pothe feverish condition of Europe at licy for France. Yet this is only the the present day, the restlessness of the régime of Louis XIV., exercised with public mind, or the power of popular a more delicate skill, and adapted to opinion every where, without tracing a more trying era. The building of their alliance with the convulsions of Versailles was more a stratagem of 1789. Nothing can be clearer, than state than even an indulgence of royal that the old constitution of European luxury. The new embellishment of government has been essentially alter- Versailles is in the same spirit ; but the ed, however it may retain its shape, in king has added to it the fortification foreign countries. Like the conjecture of Paris, and the union is only em. of some of our philosophers, that, in blematic of the time. the deluge, the axis of the earth sus. Mr Alison will have achieved antained a shock which changed its cli- other triumph if the success of his mates ; the moral deluge which, in work shall excite a taste for historical our day, overran the civilized world, writing among our authors. In the did more than sweep its surface-it last century England took the lead in shifted the position of its governmental history. It was most unfortunate that poles, and impressed a new character Gibbon's irreligious follies should have upon the temperament of its nations. been transferred to his « Decline and Representation, a principle once un. Fall of Rome;" for in all other reheard of but in England, is now the spects he stands at the head of all the demand or the possession of Europe. historians of his time. His copiousWhat termination it may find is be- ness of knowledge, his rich though yond our conjecture; but that it is formal style, and his singular power advancing, and will continue to ad- of arrangement, rendered his vast vance, until it absorbs every other history the first in the world. Its principle, is almost a matter of de- massiveness and magnificence remind monstration. Yet the French Revo- us of the architecture of antiquity ; lution has wholly past away. We have one of those great Basilicas, at once seen its cradle, its maturity, and its a palace, a seat of judgment, and a grave. Like the double entombment temple, exhibiting boundless ornaof Napoleon, it was inhumed alike at ment, costliness, and solidity of maMarengo and at Waterloo. Or, like that terial; yet degraded by many an mighty soldier himself, its spirit may impure emblem, filled with false worbe wandering through earth or air, ship, and breathing the incense of the but its body will never reappear be- passions. fore men, at least in the shape in The other two great historians of which it descended into the sepulchre. this period have been too long fixed Europe exhibits an almost total sup- in their rank to suffer modern cenpression of the republican forms; and
Hume was evidently a man of the first fruits of the Revolution have remarkable skill, and nothing can be been a harvest of minor monarchies. more adroit than his general ingeFrance herself is controlled by a puity, or more graceful than the chief powerful throne, using popular forms portion of his narrative.
But more only to exercise a more resolute au- exact knowledge has gradually dimi.. thority over popular passions ; skil- nished his interest, and a true and fully using the Revolution to put great history of England is yet to be down the Revolution, extinguishing written,
Robertson's name must always be ing of its candour, venality pretendregarded among the honours of his ing to independence, and perfidy trafcountry. He has sincerity, knowledge, ficking in principle. A Whig can no and a serious yet forcible eloquence. more comprehend the constitution It is to be regretted that his tempera- than a gambler can honour the tenth ment does not display more of the commandment. glow which reanimates dead transac- The modern French historians have tions, and gives immediate interest to the universal vice of their country. men and things long swept away All their tastes are theatrical; their from the eyes of man ; perhaps some language, their conceptions, their consideration of his rank as a divine judgments are all borrowed from the may have modelled his style as a his- stage. With the most painful effort torian. The most gallant enterprize for novelty, they have not the power of patriotism, or the severest sacrifice of producing any thing new beyond of piety, is too often recorded with the smartness of a vaudeville. Where the unimpassioned severity of an in- great events come before them, they scription on the grave.
are marched across their pages as if Hallam is an exact, laborious, and they were heralded by the trumpets and vigorous writer. But, probably dis- drums of the “ Grande opera;” chadaining the graces of style, he natu- racters are dressed in tinsel; show and rally loses their captivation.
sentimentare borrowed from Corneille more keenly discovers facts, or more and Racine. The History of the Rerigidly separates truth from fiction, volution from the pen of M. Thiers, but there he is content. Having quar- might be cut up into scenes, and reried the marble, he leaves it to some presented on the Française at twentyfuture hand to bring out the form, four hours' notice. and give it those fine touches which Germany has yet, produced but one constitute beauty. The sternness of man gifted with the true powers of a his political principles, gives sternness historian, and that man also her only to all his conceptions. His saturnine great dramatist. Schiller’s “ Thirty and formal school is never surprised Years' War" is a noble performance, into sympatby with human actions. at once profound and glowing, subtle He classes the noblest historic recol- and substantial; but it is too narrow lections like the plants of a hortus for the foundation of a historic fame. siccus, or the minerals of a museum, It has another obstacle. No man can and lectures on them with the cold- be a great writer without the spirit of ness of a philosopher in the midst of a poet. But Schiller has made his bis shelves. The king, the soldier, history too poetical; it is a gallery of and the beauty, are to him merely illustrious shades, which he less despecimens. In his most glowing mo- scribes than invocates. It is an epic ments, he only sits like one of the in prose. The tastes of Germany, judges of the dead in the ancient my- though ultra-commonplace in the thology, calmly passes sentence on general things of life, yet swell the departed clay, and coldly dismisses into
unaccountable extravagance the mighty movers of the earth to wherever the subject belongs to higher the land of shadows.
There is an evident consciThe later writers of history in Eng- ousness of its earthward tendency in land have scarcely risen beyond the the German mind, which makes it rank of compilers.
" Memoirs to fearful of trusting to the course of serve for the use of historians, nature; it doubts its own limbs, and “ Notes," “ Dissertations,” are in therefore borrows stilts; it knows the general the highest title which their national propensity to creep on the labours deserve. Their volumes have ground, and therefore it strains every been chiefly written by Whigs, and effort to spring into the air ; the most of course, for party purposes---this matter.of-fact of all existing generarenders them useless for purposes of tions, it yearns to be the most etheall higher kinds. Whiggism, in its real; a German genius is nothing best points of view, is prejudice that without a rapture, and his rapture is refuses to be enlightened, ignorance reverie; his muse is metaphysical, that defies instruction, and self-suffi- and his metaphysics press as nearly as ciency that perverts experience. In possible to the verge where “madness its worse points, it is hypocrisy boast- rules the realm beyond.” There is
more absolute nonsense written under meet her share in the common burthe pretext of the sublime in Germany, dens and contempts that belong to the than in any other land since the first sufferers and strugglers among man. invention of bedlam.
kind. Posterity will not believe those We have always held, that Eng. things; and in a hundred or a thouland has abilities for every thing ; sand years hence, the philosopher, that she has no rivalry to fear in the turning over the eloquent pages of intellectual struggles of Europe ; and this history, will attribute a large porthat to obtain the noblest distinctions, tion of their fervid imagery to the she has only to direct and devote her ardour of a contemporaneous mindpowers to the noblest objects. We the overwrought pressure of the time. thank the writer of these volumes for But the philosopher will be wrong, having enabled us to realize our boast and the historian right; the only dein one of the high provinces of litera- fect in the describer will be the native ture, and to have given the world a weakness of human expression to speak history to which the Continent has yet of impulses and causes beyond the reoffered no rival.
sources of language. No speech of The present volume begins with a man can realize the actual sensation general but impressive view of Europe with which the power of France was immediately at the close of the year really regarded in its days of power. 1813. It tells us justly, that when No conception of after times can apthe campaign had terminated, the as- proach the mixture of fear, astonishtonishment of mankind was scarcely ment, and anxiety, the solemn wonder, less excited by the ruin which had be- and even the mysterious and fearful fallen the forces of France, than in its admiration, with which Europe looked beginning it had been by the sudden on the throne of Napoleon.
Yet, what magnificence of its preparation, and must be the effect on the general the reviving immensity of its power, human mind, of living in the perpetual Of 400,000 troops on the Elbe, and presence of a sovereignty which had 200,000 in Spain, scarely more than concentrated all the powers of the vast 80,000 recrossed the Rhine, and about French empire on conquest—which the same number remained to make a
had turned every monarch into a vassal; feeble and dubious defence of the Py- whose armies were poured out by renees. But the contrast was stronger the hundred thousand-whose march still than between the mighty multi- was from capital to capital, and whose tude glittering in all the pomp of war, triumphs had the extent, rapidity, and and advancing to the ground of its completeness of something beyond habitual triumphs, with the double man! Even the language of the time stimulant of ambition and revenge, felt the impression of those extraordi. and the diminished and dilapidated nary events, and the phrases of “ Inremnant making their hurried march vincible," "Son of Destiny," “ Irresis. to take refuge behind the Rhine. The tible,” « King-maker,” though given fatal distinction was, between the spi- in other days in the sycophancy of rit of conquest and the sense of shame. courtiers or the terror of slaves, were The spell was now consciously bro- given to the head of this fearful emken. The star whose influence had pire and army almost by a natural use hitherto grown into a kind of gallant of words. The impression is wearing and illustrious credulity, a brilliant away now even among ourselves, but superstition of soldiership, was now it was not the less vivid while it existed. swept from the sky. Even the name In the conquering days of Napoleon of Napoleon was no longer the sound there was but one name in the world, of a trumpet; and the man of France and that name was his own. His had suddenly sunk down from that guilt, his personal vices, his perfidy, exaltation which, whether fictitious or and his reckless love of blood, were as true, makes men soldiers and makes fully acknowledged then as at this soldiers heroes; into the level in which moment, when we are recounting the all things become common-place, causes which brought him to his grave; and small and personal interests su- but success, genius, grandeur of plan, persede the splendid illusions of our and triumph of execution, had given general being. The heart of impe- him an elevation in the eye of Europe rial France was broken, and she to which no man, for a thousand years was thenceforth to be prepared to before him, had been raised, and to
France a power not merely over the as consigned to slaughter. Enorframe of nations, but the mind, which mous sums were given to save their almost divested submission of its dis- sons from the conscription. But in grace, and to which the simple resis- general the purchase was not to be tance, as it was resisted for many a made, and the youths of the best fapassive and painful year by England, milies were forced to march as comwas a title to glory.
mon soldiers. Since the terrible reNapoleon returned to Paris from treat from Moscow, no suffering had the Rhine on the 9th of November. struck deeper to the bosom of the He was now to begin a new and nation. The tears and agonies of darker
Conquest was individuals escape the notice of hisa more; he was to fight for his throne tory ; but to an eye which could note and life. His first step was to sum- the misery of the time, perhaps a mon his council at St Cloud. The darker mass of sorrow never oppressentire finance was acknowledged to ed a people. Napoleon's address to be in a state of bankruptcy; but his his council is one of the fragments council, with the readiness of men of an eloquence, as characteristic as living on his will, sigued the mon- his career in battle. strous order for an increase of a third Why," cried he, “ should we heto the three principal taxes of France. sitate to speak the truth? Has not The people were indignant, epigrams Wellington invaded the south? Do and caricatures spoke their anger; but not the Russians menace the north ? they were to feel a still heavier What shame! and the nation does not scourge.
The losses of the army rise in a mass to drive them away ! were the first topic in the mind of the “ All my allies have abandoned me. great warrior, and he immediately de- The Saxons betrayed me on the field manded a new conscription. The po- of battle; the Bavarians endeavoured pulation of the military age had been to cut off my retreat. Never talk of slain; he now demanded a conscription peace till i have burned Munich. of the youths of seventeen and eigh. The same triumvirate which partiteen. The senate instantly voted this tioned Poland, has arrayed itself desperate measure, and thus within against France. We can have no little more than two months, France truce until it is defeated. I demand was called on to send 600,000 of her 300,000 men. With what remains of rising population to the grave. In my armies, I shall have a million of reading this narrative, we seem to be soldiers. Councillors, what we rereading the judicial condemnation of a quire is energy. Every one should mighty criminal, after a long career march. You are the chiefs of the naof impunity-a traitor at length over- tion. Every one speaks of peace. taken by justice, and compelled to That word alone strikes my ear; pay in blood and pangs the price while every thing around us should of his criminality. The inflictions of resound with the cry of war.” those years are not unlike the succes- A glance at the preparations of sive blows of the Divine hand on the England for the coming collision, cruelty and pride of the Egyptian gives a memorable instance of the king. France, living so long on the force with wbich true freedom, aris. plunder of the world, had found her. ing from moral honesty and sound reself forced to give up her gold and ligion, arms a people. Her naval jewels. But the next blow was force now consisted of 109,000 seamen, heavier still the death of her first- and 31,000 marines ; 1003 ships of war, born. The war, which had once been of which 664 were in commission. The the source of national vanity, for the regular troops were 237,000, the mililast two years had been the source of tia 87,000; the local militia 288,000. national terror. But the demand of The land forces in India were 200,000. a new conscription, and the conse- The militia in Canada were 40,000.quent threat of a still more furious the total 1,053,000.
The expense of conflict on the very soil of France, the army was thirty-three millions ; four stirred universal horror. " There millions and a half for the ordnance; arose a great cry in Egypt. There the navy twenty-two millions ;
thie was not a house in which there was not interest of the national debi, &c., one dead” —
—or one whom every feeling was forty-three millions, continental of paternity and friendship regarded loans ten millions, Ireland (i!
millions, making in all 117 millions thrones of the whole continent even to sterling.
fight for themselves.
Without our Mr Alison doubts the theory, that loans they must have submitted, and the power of sustaining this extraor- increased the vassals and the armies dinary expenditure arose from the of France. The power of lending is sudden existence of the cotton trade. not unlimited, and England had long We agree with him, that nothing felt that she had reached the natural could be more absurd than to suppose, limit of her taxation. To avoid this as was said, that “ James Watt was
pressure, by sharing it with America, the real conqueror of Napoleon;" the she had even hazarded and suffered the notion itself belongs to that presump- loss of her colonies. And just tuous and pert school which employs then, as the very crisis was approachitself in flattering the mechanic to ing which was to lay upon her a burmake a tool of him, and substitutes den which she had never calculated mechanism and “ the schoolmaster” on bearing, or being able to bear-a for the higher agencies of Providence. crisis too, which, near as it was, no Still we cannot overlook the singular man had been able to foresee, an ex. coincidence of the origin of the cotton traordinary means of wealth was put manufacture in England with the com- into her hands; sustained and followmencement of a period of the most ed by the sudden discovery of the most severe financial strain ; the rapid de- powerful instrument of skill and labour velopment of that manufacture; the ever given to man; and the combined surprising inventions which gave its effect did enable England to subsimonopoly to England; and the flood dize all Europe, to fight the universal of wealth which it poured into the tyrant in defence of the universal country at the moment when it was
cause, to pour out millions on millions most necessary, and when, in fact, in the midst of an universal bankruptcy, without it the finance of England must and finally achieve an universal delihave broken down.
What can be more comWithout encouraging the supersti plete than the proof, except the actual tious folly which sees Providence in pouring down of a stream of gold from every trifle, no man of rational ob
heaven before our eyes? The stream of servation ever doubted that it regu- gold was actually poured; and though lates visibly many of the greater it did not come in the shape of miracle, changes of human things. Who can yet its source might not be the less rationally doubt, for instance, that the providential for its winding its way discoveries of the fifteenth century, through the ten thousand channels of and those immediately preceding it, society, to issue in the noblest use of gunpowder, printing, the mariner's the wealth of nations. compass, &c., had a direct reference to It is remarkable that the imperial the change which was to be effected throne, though despotic in the highest in the century following by the Refor- degree, was jacobinical to the last. mation, and the new political position Thus extremes meet in all things. of the European kingdoms? The Napoleon was a jacobin until the hour cause of England will be admitted to he died. He had the same contempt have been an object on a smaller scale; for all established things--the same yet such extensive interests were de reliance on his personal will—the same pendent on its success; the ultimate habit of appeal to popular passionoverthrow of the Revolution with all and the same dependence on the madits evils, the restoration of Euro- ness of the popular mind, as a regular pean order, and the palpable triumph resource against the natural pressures of sound principles in government and of a struggling and sinking empire. religion, were so closely connected On his first reception of the public with this country; that we, at least, authorities in the Tuileries, he burst should not be surprised to find that upon them in language exactly of the its success had been provided for by order which he would have used to one the great Protector of all human hap- of the mobs of the Palais-Royal twenty piness. The war was unquestionably years before :-" You have it in your one of finance. It could not have been power to do much good. You have carried on in Europe without an enor- done nothing but mischief. * mous and wholly unexampled expeil- you the representatives of the people ? diture. It was necessary to pay the
I am so.
Four times I have been in
* * Are