Abbildungen der Seite

England, without a brief allusion to the peculiar but powerful aid rendered to it by the late Lord Holland. The nephew of Fox inherited much of the eloquence, all the democracy, and more than all the love for learning and the fine arts, of his illustrious uncle. For a third of a century, which carried England forward a hundred years in the path of improvement, " Holland House" was the center of attraction for liberal statesmen, orators, poets, painters, wits, and scholars. Mingling in the brilliant throngs that so often filled its gorgeous drawing-rooms, elegant picture-galleries, and ample libraries, were to be seen statesmen who gụided Cabinets, and orators who swayed Senates; men of letters who had reached the nights of human knowledge, and modest genius just struggling into notice; poets reposing under the shadow of their fame, and poets just plucking their first laurel-leaf; sculptors who had engraven life in the marble, and painters who had impressed beauty on the canvas; the writer of the first article in the last Edinburgh, and the author of the best comedy then acting at Drury-Lane ; here a Whig Duke with a long title and a landed air, and there a Radical Editor under indictment for a seditious libel on the Government; the Duchess of Sutherland shedding grace around this circle, and Mrs. Opie diffusing benerolence around that; Buxton, the brewer, discoursing on Prison Discipline with Bentham, the philosopher; Brougham explaining to a Polish refugee his plan for educating the people, while Moore delighted a bevy of belles by singing his last Irish melody; Sydney Smith enlivening this alcove with his humor, and Mackintosh enlightening that with his learning-all these varied and diverse elements meeting on terms of social equality, and impressing upon th, literary mind of the country the allinfluential lesson, that, so far from losing caste by embracing liberal political opinions, the man of letters, of science, and of art, might find the profession of that faith a passport to circles where fashion displayed its smiles and power dispensed its favors.




The literature of France prostrated the Throne of Louis Philippe, and erected the Republic of Lamartine. The follies of the cowardly Louis, the errors of his vacillating ministers, the barricades of the sans-culottes mobs, the bayonets of the recusant guards, were insufficient to have overthrown the monarchy, had not the literature of France been gradually but efficiently preparing the national mind for the great change. During the preceding thirty years, a taste for philosophical speculation had raised up a school of bold thinkers, who had employed their rarest powers in eulogizing the rights of man, in depicting his wrongs, in displaying the merits of the masses, in painting the crimes of the Government, and in demonstrating that the throne and its institutions stood between the laboring poor and their social regeneration. Poets, essayists, novelists, dramatists, and orators brought the artillery of eloquence, the lighter and more insinuating weapons of romance, and the glittering arms of wit and satire, to bear against the acknowledged abuses in the administration of affairs, and especially the factitious institutions of the State, which sat heavily upon the middle and lower orders of society. As the crisis drew nearer, the liberal portion of the political press stimulated the popular discontent —the cafés and clubs were thronged with the advocates of equality--the theater and the opera gratified the public taste by adapting their amusements to the appetite for social change

the ballad-singers chanted the blessings of freedom and fraternity at the street corners, in bad verse and harsh melody, the Parisian circles of fashion, nowhere more brilliant, nowhere more influential, reflected abroad through a thousand avenues the popular sentiment, imparting to it the charms of beauty, the grace of scholarship, and the dignity of station. These influences had been silently and steadily at work all over France, and especially in Paris, the national heart of this susceptible people, for years before the mere accident of the

suppression of a Reform Banquet became, in the natural order of events, the occasion of that explosion which electrified Europe.

[ocr errors]



But though the streams of public feeling had so long poured into one channel, whose currents tended toward one result the undermining of existing institutions-Louis Philippe was blinded to his destiny, and boasted of his power to crush the rising mass, only a few hours before the tri-colored flag, bearing the talismanic motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," was displayed from the Hotel de Ville, while he leaped into a carriage, on the very spot where the blood of Louis XVI was poured out, and, with money borrowed of his guards, filed an exile from republican France

Thus the literature of France prostrated the throne of Louis Philippe, and erected the Republic of Lamartine. The literature of England can do more to change its institutions, than the clubs of Chartists or the pikes of Repealers. Without the shedding of one drop of human blood, it might, in the next third of a century, revolutionize the Government, and establish institutions that would recognize and protect the equal rights of the whole people. Will it fulfill its glorious mission ?

[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]

In the foregoing chapters, I have endeavored to trace the rise and progress of the GREAT British PARTY OF REFORM, which, adopting such changes in principle and policy as experience may suggest, will live and grow till every man has a voice in the election of both branches of the Legislature that governs him—till the burdens of taxation are impartially distributed among the people—till the sinecure and pension rolls are destroyed till the public debt is paid or repudiated—till the main reliance for home defense rests with an organized militia-till the marine of a free commerce has chased the

wooden walls” from the ocean-till traffic in the land is as free as in the wheat it grows—till labor, fairly paid, becomes labor duly respected-till every sect supports its own church and clergy, and none other-till common schools, drawing nourishment from the bosom of the State, nestle in every valley

till the precepts of the law are made plain, and its admistration cheap-till Ireland becomes independent, or is allowed her just, share in the national councils—till the dogma that a favored few are born booted and spurred, to ride the masses “by the grace of God,” has had its last day, and the England of the times when George the Third was King” exists only in the chronicles of History.

Since these Sketches were commenced, Europe has been the theater of a series of revolutions and counter-revolutiona

France rose, overthrew the Monarchy, and expelled Louis Philippe. In an evil hour, she thrust aside Lamartine, to make room for Louis Napoleon. Ireland, having made an attempt to break her chains, has fallen into the arms of despair. Austria and Prussia kindled a flame which, for a time, gladdened the eye of Liberty. The expiring embers have been trodden out by the hoof of the Cossack. Rome expelled "her Dictator, and founded a Republic more glorious and free than that of antiquity. She died under assassin blows dealt across the Alps by a professedly fraternal hand. Hungary made a stand for Freedom which electrified the world. Her immortal Kossuth and Bem have been compelled to flee to the mountains, while the hordes of Russia lay waste her plains, and Austria, the meanest of despots, rivets chains on the limbs of her sons.

From this dark and dreary prospect, the eye turns to the Radical Reformers of Great Britain and Ireland. Acting through institutions comparatively free, they will by slow but sure advances yet work out for themselves, and, by the aid of kindred spirits in other countries, for Europe, the great problem of Constitutional liberty. In the present aspect of Continental affairs, they, with the Radical Republicans of France, must be regarded as the rallying point, the forlorn hope of the struggling masses from the Gulf of Finland to the Straits of Gibraltar.


« ZurückWeiter »