« ZurückWeiter »
were also to see, as far as they could judge, practising upon the mean and selfish passions of his aristocracy.
I confess that it appears to me, a more unhappy expedient than the new system could not well have been devised, for procuring the extinction of every thing rare and precious in the constitution of our government, for destroying the British patriotism of the monarch, the British spirit of the nobility, the British loyalty of the people. Prerogative was to remain. and privilege was to remain, and obedience was to remain; but all these necessary elements of government were to lose their former sympathies, limits, and nature: they were no longer to be what they were made by the Revolution of 1688.
The maxims of a court are not the security of a court; servility is not loyalty; and attachment to civil freedom not republicanism. It may answer well to the designing on each side, to confound principles and characters, in themselves distinct. But when proper allowance has been made, and pardon extended to the unavoidable faults and mistakes of public men and private men of every description, of parties and of their leaders, it will always be competent for any one who really understands the mixed and free constitution of this country, if he pleases, to distinguish from each other those who think too exclusively of the king, those who think too exclusively of the people; and those who are not only virtuous, but wise enough to think of the best interests of both. I condescend not to speak of those, who think only of themselves, who have no political principle at all, who mean only to get place or preferment in their profession.
Here I had been accustomed to end the lecture, after I had referred my hearers to Burke's Thoughts on the present Discontents, to other pamphlets of the time, and to the general principles of Lord Bolingbroke's writings, as contrasted with those of Mr. Burke; but in the year 1823, I had been struck with certain appearances that I had observed in and out of parliament, and I from that time always ended the lecture, by subjoining what I shall now read, written, you will remember, in the year 1823.
This new system had a tendency to increase servility in the nation in the way I have suggested; but it did not follow, though it should succeed, as it did succeed, in a most unfor
tunate manner, still it did not follow, that it should extinguish in a country like this, the spirit of freedom; the spirit that naturally belongs to the commercial and manufacturing classes, as they rise into affluence and importance. But in this case it will have, undoubtedly, an effect in giving to this spirit, as exhibited in these classes, a more republican tone and feeling. The new system has gone far to destroy the Whig families and their influence. It is possible also that the great events of modern times, that mistakes of the Whigs themselves, that the fickle nature of human opinions, that all, or any of these, may have contributed to the same effect; but any change of this kind will be, to all who love the constitution of their country, and who, I must presume to add, have examined and understand it, a circumstance deeply to be lamented. For a fearful void, an arena that may very easily be covered with tumult and bloodshed, is immediately disclosed when the monarch is set on one side, and the people on the other, and an aristocracy with popular feelings is withdrawn from between them. It can never have been the interest of the people, still less of the crown, to have any alteration like this in our political system. What may not be the fortunes of our constitution, and the experiments to which it may be exposed, if the ancient friends of liberty, the friends of liberty upon the ancient and tried model, are no longer to be treated with confidence and respect.
When Mr. Burke had to defend his country, as he conceived, from the democratic principles of France, it was to the Whigs and their principles, and the Revolution of 1688, that he appealed. Mr. Sheridan, in like manner, with directly opposite opinions, did the same; and it was for the people of England to decide between them. Nothing could be more valuable to a community than to have, at any crisis like this, a common test and standard to which they could refer. Nothing can be so important to a nation already possessed of prosperity and freedom to so remarkable a degree; nothing so important, as a ready means like this, of protecting themselves from the heats and delusions of particular seasons, as a ready means, at all times, of distinguishing from each other the man of speculation and the man of sense.
In a word, they who have proposed and patronised the new
system, have been preparing the people of England, more or less, for that species of monarchy which has been represented by Hume as the euthanasia, the natural and tranquil death of the British constitution; or they have been preparing us, on the other hand, for the influence of those who are desirous to refer every thing to the people, to their public meetings, their resolutions and addresses, their will, in short, and their wisdom, when enlightened by the press, to be produced on every occasion, and to be considered as a specific for every political disease that can approach us. But such an order of things is republicanism, under whatever name it may be disguised.
Such a government may be better for America: by some it may be thought better for England; but it is not the constitution of England, and on this head, at least, let no mistakes be made.
Any effect of the kind now described, might be little in the contemplation of Lord Bute, of those who first advised the new system; of those who have since, or those who, even now, venture to maintain it; but it is no uncommon occurrence in the history of human affairs, to see men, while they are escaping from one uneasiness or restraint, incur evils of an opposite nature, far more disagreeable in themselves, and far more destructive in their consequences.
HAVE in my last lecture alluded to the opening of the present reign, and to the new system of government which was then adopted. I do not think it necessary to enter into the discussion of such events as took place. I have proposed to your consideration such observations and principles as will enable you, I conceive, both to explain and judge of them.
The narrative and details, to which you are to apply them, you must yourselves study.
I hasten to the subject which I always proposed to myself as the proper termination of these lectures-the American War.
Prior to the French revolution, this subject could not have been well presented to you; for the passions that it had excited, could scarcely have been said to have properly subsided. But at the very name and sound of the French revolution, every other revolution and event loses its first, and even proper interest; and we now discuss the measures and administration of Lord North, or the conduct of the American congress; the claim of the right of taxation on the one part, and the resistance to that claim on the other, almost with the same impartiality which would be felt by the reasoners of after ages. Such sentiments therefore as occur to me, and as occur to others, I shall lay before you in the most unreserved manner; considering the whole as now become entirely a portion of history, which I may fairly attempt to convert, as I would any other, to the proper purposes of your instruction.
The American war must immediately appear to you a subject of historical curiosity. By the event of that war, an
independent empire has arisen, boundless in extent, and removed from the reach of the arms- -secure at least from the invasions of Europe; beginning its career with such advantages as our communities in the old world never possessed; beginning almost from the point, to which they have but arrived in the progress of nearly two thousand years. It is even possible that what England once was, may have to be traced out hereafter by the philosophers of distant ages, from the language, the customs, the manners, the political feelings of men inhabiting the banks of the Mississippi, or enjoying the benefits of society amid what may be now a wilderness, inaccessible to the footsteps of every human being.
Such is the American war as a subject of historical curiosity to the readers of whatever clime or nation. But to ourselves it is even more attractive and important: one half of our empire has been violently rent from the other. We no longer, in case of a war, shut out that long line of harbours from the ships and fleets of our enemies; we no longer let loose the privateers of America upon their trade; we no longer man our fleets with her strong and skilful seamen: all these advantages are no longer exclusively our own; they may even be turned against us. Great Britain seems no longer to overshadow the globe, the west as well as the east, with the image of her greatness. Assuredly at the peace of 1763, the power and empire of this country seemed to the nations, and might have appeared even to the philosophers of Europe, above all ancient, and above all modern fame. To what extent that power and empire might have been carried by the interchange of the natural productions of America with the manufactures of Britain, by the proper application and sympathy of youthful and matured strength, it is indeed difficult for us to determine; but the subject of the possible greatness of Great Britain did not a little disquiet, as it appears, the speculations of our enemies, whether feeling for their posterity, or attentive to their own advantages.
How then was it, or why, that this promising appearance of things was, on a sudden, to cease? How was it that this That France, and
great empire was to be torn asunder? other unfriendly powers on the continent, had no longer to dread the united strength of England and America; but