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SECTION VII.: GENERAL REMARKS. - Sir James Mackintosh, The Miscellaneous Works 
The Miscellaneous Works. Three Volumes, complete in One. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871).
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The oft-repeated warning with which the foregoing section concluded being again premised, it remains that we should offer a few observations, which naturally occur on the consideration of Dr. Brown’s argument in support of the proposition, that moral approbation is not only in its mature state independent of, and superior to, any other principle of human nature (regarding which there is no dispute), but that its origin is altogether inexplicable, and that its existence is an ultimate fact in mental science. Though these observations are immediately occasioned by the writings of Brown, they are yet, in the main, of a general nature, and might have been made without reference to any particular writer.
The term “suggestion,” which might be inoffensive in describing merely intellectual associations, becomes peculiarly unsuitable when it is applied to those combinations of thought with emotion, and to those unions of feeling, which compose the emotive nature of Man. Its common sense of a sign recalling the thing signified, always embroils the new sense vainly forced upon it. No one can help owning, that if it were consistently pursued, so as that we were to speak of “suggesting a feeling” or “passion,” the language would be universally thought absurd. To “suggest love” or “hatred” is a mode of expression so manifestly incongruous, that most readers would choose to understand it as suggesting reflections on the subject of these passages. “Suggest” would not commonly be understood as synonymous with “revive” or “rekindle.” Defects of the same sort may indeed be found in the parallel phrases of most, if not all, philosophers, and all of them proceed from the erroneous but prevalent notion, that the law of Association produces only such a close union of a thought and a feeling, as gives one the power of reviving the other;—the truth being that it forms them into a new compound, in which the properties of the component parts are no longer discoverable, and which may itself become a substantive principle of human nature. They supposed the condition, produced by the power of that law, to resemble that of material substances in a state of mechanical separation; whereas in reality it may be better likened to a chemical combination of the same substances, from which a totally new product arises. Their language involves a confusion of the question which relates to the origin of the principles of human activity, with the other and far more important question which relates to their nature; and as soon as this distinction is hidden, the theorist is either betrayed into the Selfish system by a desire of clearness and simplicity, or tempted to the needless multiplication of ultimate facts by mistaken anxiety for what he supposes to be the guards of our social and moral nature. The defect is common to Brown with his predecessors, but in him it is less excusable; for he saw the truth and recoiled from it. It is the main defect of the term “association” itself, that it does not, till after long use, convey the notion of a perfect union, but rather leads to that of a combination which may be dissolved, if not at pleasure, at least with the help of care and exertion; which is utterly and dangerously false in the important cases where such unions are considered as constituting the most essential principles of human nature. Men can no more dissolve these unions than they can disuse their habit of judging of distance by the eye, and often by the ear. But “suggestion” implies, that what suggests is separate from what is suggested, and consequently negatives that unity in an active principle which the whole analogy of nature, as well as our own direct consciousness, shows to be perfectly compatible with its origin in composition.
Large concessions are, in the first place, to be remarked, which must be stated, because they very much narrow the matter in dispute. Those who, before Brown, contended against “beneficial tendency” as the standard of Morality, have either shut their eyes on the connection of Virtue with general utility, or carelessly and obscurely allowed, without further remark, a connection which is at least one of the most remarkable and important of ethical facts. He acts more boldly, and avowedly discusses “the relation of Virtue to Utility.” He was compelled by that discussion to make those concessions which so much abridge this controversy. “Utility and Virtue are so related, that there is perhaps no action generally felt to be virtuous, which it would not be beneficial that all men in similar circumstances should imitate.”* “In every case of benefit or injury willingly done, there arise certain emotions of moral approbation or disapprobation.”† “The intentional produce of evil, as pure evil, is always hated, and that of good, as pure good, always loved.”‡ All virtuous acts are thus admitted to be universally beneficial; Morality and the general benefit are acknowledged always to coincide. It is hard to say, then, why they should not be reciprocally tests of each other, though in a very different way;—the virtuous feelings, fitted as they are by immediate appearance, by quick and powerful action, to be sufficient tests of Morality in the moment of action, and for all practical purposes; while the consideration of tendency of those acts to contribute to general happiness, a more obscure and slowly discoverable quality, should be applied in general reasoning, as a test of the sentiments and dispositions themselves. In cases where such last-mentioned test has been applied, no proof has been attempted that it has ever deceived those who used it in the proper place. It has uniformly served to justify our moral constitution, and to show how reasonable it is for us to be guided in action by our higher feelings. At all events it should be, but has not been considered, that from these concessions alone it follows, that beneficial tendency is at least one constant property of Virtue. Is not this, in effect, an admission that beneficial tendency does distinguish virtuous acts and dispositions from those which we call vicious? If the criterion be incomplete or delusive, let its faults be specified, and let some other quality be pointed out, which, either singly or in combination with beneficial tendency, may more perfectly indicate the distinction. But let us not be assailed by arguments which leave untouched its value as a test, and are in truth directed only against its fitness as an immediate incentive and guide to right action. To those who contend for its use in the latter character, it must be left to defend, if they can, so untenable a position: but all others must regard as pure sophistry the use of arguments against it as a test, which really show nothing more than its acknowledged unfitness to be a motive.
When voluntary benefit and voluntary injury are pointed out as the main, if not the sole objects of moral approbation, and disapprobation,—when we are told truly, that the production of good, as good, is always loved, and that of evil, as such, always hated, can we require a more clear, short, and unanswerable proof, that beneficial tendency is an essential quality of Virtue? It is indeed an evidently necessary consequence of this statement, that if benevolence be amiable in itself, our affection for it must increase with its extent, and that no man can be in a perfectly right state of mind, who, if he consider general happiness at all, is not ready to acknowledge that a good man must regard it as being in its own nature the most desirable of all objects, however the constitution and circumstances of human nature may render it unfit or impossible to pursue it directly as the object of life. It is at the same time apparent that no such man can consider any habitual disposition, clearly discerned to be in its whole result at variance with general happiness, as not unworthy of being cultivated, or as not fit to be rooted out. It is manifest that, if it were otherwise, he would cease to be benevolent. As soon as we conceive the sublime idea of a Being who not only foresees, but commands, all the consequences of the actions of all voluntary agents, this scheme of reasoning appears far more clear. In such a case, if our moral sentiments remain the same, they compel us to attribute His whole government of the world to benevolence. The consequence is as necessary as in any process of reason; for if our moral nature be supposed, it will appear self-evident, that it is as much impossible for us to love and revere such a Being, if we ascribe to Him a mixed or imperfect benevolence, as to believe the most positive contradiction in terms. Now, as Religion consists in that love and reverence, it is evident that it cannot subsist without a belief in benevolence as the sole principle of divine government. It is nothing to tell us that this is not a process of reasoning, or, to speak more exactly, that the first propositions are assumed. The first propositions in every discussion relating to intellectual operations must likewise be assumed. Conscience is not Reason, but it is not less an essential part of human nature. Principles which are essential to all its operations are as much entitled to immediate and implicit assent, as those principles which stand in the same relation to the reasoning faculties. The laws prescribed by a benevolent Being to His creatures must necessarily be founded on the principle of promoting their happiness. It would be singular indeed, if the proofs of the goodness of God, legible in every part of Nature, should not, above all others, be most discoverable and conspicuous in the beneficial tendency of His moral laws.
But we are asked, if tendency to general welfare be the standard of Virtue, why is it not always present to the contemplation of every man who does or prefers a virtuous action? Must not Utility be in that case “the felt essence of Virtue?”* Why are other ends, besides general happiness, fit to be morally pursued?
These questions, which are all founded on that confusion of the theory of actions with the theory of sentiments, against which the reader was so early warned,† might be dismissed with no more than a reference to that distinction, from the forgetfulness of which they have arisen. By those advocates of the principle of Utility, indeed, who hold it to be a necessary part of their system, that some glimpse at least of tendency to personal or general well-being is an essential part of the motives which render an action virtuous, these questions cannot be satisfactorily answered. Against such they are arguments of irresistible force; but against the doctrine itself, rightly understood and justly bounded, they are altogether powerless. The reason why there may, and must be many ends morally more fit to be pursued in practice than general happiness, is plainly to be found in the limited capacity of Man. A perfectly good Being, who foresees and commands all the consequences of action, cannot indeed be conceived by us to have any other end in view than general well-being. Why evil exists under that perfect government, is a question towards the solution of which the human understanding can scarcely advance a single step. But all who hold the evil to exist only for good, and own their inability to explain why or how, are perfectly exempt from any charge of inconsistency in their obedience to the dictates of their moral nature. The measure of the faculties of Man renders it absolutely necessary for him to have many other practical ends; the pursuit of all of which is moral, when it actually tends to general happiness, though that last end never entered into the contemplation of the agent. It is impossible for us to calculate the effects of a single action, any more than the chances of a single life. But let it not be hastily concluded, that the calculation of consequences is impossible in moral subjects. To calculate the general tendency of every sort of human action, is a possible, easy, and common operation. The general good effects of temperance, prudence, fortitude, justice, benevolence, gratitude, veracity, fidelity, of the affections of kindred, and of love for our country, are the subjects of calculations which, taken as generalities, are absolutely unerring. They are founded on a larger and firmer basis of more uniform experience, than any of those ordinary calculations which govern prudent men in the whole business of life. An appeal to these daily and familiar transactions furnishes at once a decisive answer, both to those advocates of Utility who represent the consideration of it as a necessary ingredient in virtuous motives, as well as moral approbation, and to those opponents who turn the unwarrantable inferences of unskilful advocates into proofs of the absurdity into which the doctrine leads.
The cultivation of all the habitual sentiments from which the various classes of virtuous actions flow, the constant practice of such actions, the strict observance of rules in all that province of Ethics which can be subjected to rules, the watchful care of all the outworks of every part of duty, and of that descending series of useful habits which, being securities to Virtue, become themselves virtues,—are so many ends which it is absolutely necessary for man to pursue and to seek for their own sake. “I saw D’Alembert,” says a very late writer, “congratulate a young man very coldly, who brought him a solution of a problem. The young man said, ‘I have done this in order to have a seat in the Academy.’ ‘Sir,’ answered D’Alembert, ‘with such dispositions you never will earn one. Science must be loved for its own sake, and not for the advantage to be derived. No other principle will enable a man to make progress in the sciences.’ ”* It is singular that D’Alembert should not perceive the extensive application of this truth to the whole nature of Man. No man can make progress in a virtue who does not seek it for its own sake. No man is a friend, a lover of his country, a kind father, a dutiful son, who does not consider the cultivation of affection and the performance of duty in all these cases, respectively, as incumbent on him for their own sake, and not for the advantage to be derived from them. Whoever serves another with a view of advantage to himself is universally acknowledged not to act from affection. But the more immediate application of this truth to our purpose is, that in the case of those virtues which are the means of cultivating and preserving other virtues, it is necessary to acquire love and reverence for the secondary virtues for their own sake, without which they never will be effectual means of sheltering and strengthening those intrinsically higher qualities to which they are appointed to minister. Every moral act must be considered as an end, and men must banish from their practice the regard to the most naturally subordinate duty as a means. Those who are perplexed by the supposition that secondary virtues, making up by the extent of their beneficial tendency for what in each particular instance they may want in magnitude, may become of as great importance as the primary virtues themselves, would do well to consider a parallel though very homely case. A house is useful for many purposes: many of these purposes are in themselves, for the time, more important than shelter. The destruction of the house may, nevertheless, become a greater evil than the defeat of several of these purposes, because it is permanently convenient, and indeed necessary to the execution of most of them. A floor is made for warmth, for dryness,—to support tables, chairs, beds, and all the household implements which contribute to accommodation and to pleasure. The floor is valuable only as a means; but, as the only means by which many ends are attained, it may be much more valuable than some of them. The table might be, and generally is, of more valuable timber than the floor; but the workman who should for that reason take more pains in making the table strong, than the floor secure, would not long be employed by customers of common sense.
The connection of that part of Morality which regulates the intercourse of the sexes with benevolence, affords the most striking instance of the very great importance which may belong to a virtue, in itself secondary, but on which the general cultivation of the highest virtues permanently depends. Delicacy and modesty may be thought chiefly worthy of cultivation, because they guard purity; but they must be loved for their own sake, without which they cannot flourish. Purity is the sole school of domestic fidelity, and domestic fidelity is the only nursery of the affections between parents and children, from children towards each other, and, through these affections, of all the kindness which renders the world habitable. At each step in the progress, the appropriate end must be loved for its own sake, and it is easy to see how the only means of sowing the seeds of benevolence, in all its forms, may become of far greater importance than many of the modifications and exertions even of benevolence itself. To those who will consider this subject, it will not long seem strange that the sweetest and most gentle affections grow up only under the apparently cold and dark shadow of stern duty. The obligation is strengthened, not weakened, by the consideration that it arises from human imperfection; which only proves it to be founded on the nature of man. It is enough that the pursuit of all these separate ends leads to general well-being, the promotion of which is the final purpose of the Creation.
The last and most specious argument against beneficial tendency, even as a test, is conveyed in the question, Why moral approbation is not bestowed on every thing beneficial, instead of being confined, as it confessedly is, to voluntary acts? It may plausibly be said, that the establishment of the beneficial tendency of all those voluntary acts which are the objects of moral approbation, is not sufficient;—since, if such tendency be the standard, it ought to follow, that whatever is useful should also be morally approved. To answer, as has before been done,* that experience gradually limits moral approbation and disapprobation to voluntary acts, by teaching us that they influence the Will, but are wholly wasted if they be applied to any other object,—though the fact be true, and contributes somewhat to the result,—is certainly not enough. It is at best a partial solution. Perhaps, on reconsideration, it is entitled only to a secondary place. To seek a foundation for universal, ardent, early, and immediate feelings, in processes of an intellectual nature, has, since the origin of philosophy, been the grand error of ethical inquirers into human nature. To seek for such a foundation in Association,—an early and insensible process, which confessedly mingles itself with the composition of our first and simplest feelings, and which is common to both parts of our nature, is not liable to the same animadversion. If Conscience be uniformly produced by the regular and harmonious co-operation of many processes of association, the objection is in reality a challenge to produce a complete theory of it, founded on that principle, by exhibiting such a full account of all these processes as may satisfactorily explain why it proceeds thus far and no farther. This would be a very arduous attempt, and perhaps it may be premature. But something may be more modestly tried towards an outline, which, though it may leave many particulars unexplained, may justify a reasonable expectation that they are not incapable of explanation, and may even now assign such reasons for the limitation of approbation to voluntary acts, as may convert the objection derived from that fact into a corroboration of the doctrines to which it has been opposed as an insurmountable difficulty. Such an attempt will naturally lead to the close of the present Dissertation. The attempt has indeed been already made,* but not without great apprehensions on the part of the author that he has not been clear enough, especially in those parts which appeared to himself to owe most to his own reflection. He will now endeavour, at the expense of some repetition, to be more satisfactory.
There must be primary pleasures, pains, and even appetites, which arise from no prior state of mind, and which, if explained at all, can be derived only from bodily organization; for if there were not, there could be no secondary desires. What the number of the underived principles may be, is a question to which the answers of philosophers have been extremely various, and of which the consideration is not necessary to our present purpose. The rules of philosophizing, however, require that causes should not be multiplied without necessity. Of two explanations, therefore, which give an equally satisfactory account of appearances, that theory is manifestly to be preferred which supposes the smaller number of ultimate and inexplicable principles. This maxim, it is true, is subject to three indispensable conditions:—1st, That the principles employed in the explanation should be known really to exist; in which consists the main distinction between hypothesis and theory. Gravity is a principle universally known to exist; ether and a nervous fluid are mere suppositions.—2dly, That these principles should be known to produce effects like those which are ascribed to them in the theory. This is a further distinction between hypothesis and theory; for there are an infinite number of degrees of likeness, from the faint resemblances which have led some to fancy that the functions of the nerves depend on electricity, to the remarkable coincidences between the appearances of projectiles on earth, and the movements of the heavenly bodies, which constitutes the Newtonian system,—a theory now perfect, though exclusively founded on analogy, and in which one of the classes of phenomena brought together by it is not the subject of direct experience.—3dly, That it should correspond, if not with all the facts to be explained, at least with so great a majority of them as to render it highly probable that means will in time be found of reconciling it to all. It is only on this ground that the Newtonian system justly claimed the title of a legitimate theory during that long period when it was unable to explain many celestial appearances, before the labours of a century, and the genius of Laplace, at length completed it by adapting it to all the phenomena. A theory may be just before it is complete.
In the application of these canons to the theory which derives most of the principles of human action from the transfer of a small number of pleasures, perhaps organic ones, by the law of Association to a vast variety of new objects, it cannot be denied, 1st, That it satisfies the first of the above conditions, inasmuch as Association is really one of the laws of human nature; 2dly, That it also satisfies the second, for Association certainly produces effects like those which are referred to it by this theory;—otherwise there would be no secondary desires, no acquired relishes and dislikes,—facts universally acknowledged, which are, and can be explained only by the principle called by Hobbes “Mental Discourse,”—by Locke, Hume, Hartley, Condillac, and the majority of speculators, as well as in common speech, “Association,”—by Tucker, “Translation,”—and by Brown, “Suggestion.” The facts generally referred to the principle resemble those facts which are claimed for it by the theory in this important particular, that in both cases equally, pleasure becomes attached to perfectly new things,—so that the derivative desires become perfectly independent of the primary. The great dissimilarity of these two classes of passions has been supposed to consist in this, that the former always regards the interest of the individual, while the latter regards the welfare of others. The philosophical world has been almost entirely divided into two sects,—the partisans of Selfishness, comprising mostly all the predecessors of Butler, and the greater part of his successors, and the advocates of Benevolence, who have generally contended that the reality of Disinterestedness depends on its being a primary principle. Enough has been said by Butler against the more fatal heresy of Selfishness: something also has already been said against the error of the advocates of Disinterestedness, in the progress of this attempt to develope ethical truths historically, in the order in which inquiry and controversy brought them out with increasing brightness. The analogy of the material world is indeed faint, and often delusive; yet we dare not utterly reject that on which the whole technical language of mental and moral science is necessarily grounded. The whole creation teems with instances where the most powerful agents and the most lasting bodies are the acknowledged results of the composition, sometimes of a few, often of many elements. These compounds often in their turn become the elements of other substances; and it is with them that we are conversant chiefly in the pursuits of knowledge, and solely in the concerns of life. No man ever fancied, that because they were compounds, they were therefore less real. It is impossible to confound them with any of the separate elements which contribute towards their formation. But a much more close resemblance presents itself: every secondary desire, or acquired relish, involves in it a transfer of pleasure to something which was before indifferent or disagreeable. Is the new pleasure the less real for being acquired? Is it not often preferred to the original enjoyment? Are not many of the secondary pleasures indestructible? Do not many of them survive primary appetites? Lastly, the important principle of regard to our own general welfare, which disposes us to prefer it to immediate pleasure (unfortunately called “Self-love,”—as if, in any intelligible sense of the term “love,” it were possible for a man to love himself), is perfectly intelligible, if its origin be ascribed to Association, but utterly incomprehensible, if it be considered as prior to the appetites and desires, which alone furnish it with materials. As happiness consists of satisfactions, Self-love presupposes appetites and desires which are to be satisfied. If the order of time were important, the affections are formed at an earlier period than many self-regarding passions, and they always precede the formation of Self-love.
Many of the later advocates of the Disinterested system, though recoiling from an apparent approach to the Selfishness into which the purest of their antagonists had occasionally fallen, were gradually obliged to make concessions to the Derivative system, though clogged with the contradictory assertion, that it was only a refinement of Selfishness: and we have seen that Brown, the last and not the least in genius of them, has nearly abandoned the greater, though not indeed the most important, part of the territory in dispute, and scarcely contends for any underived principle but the Moral Faculty. This being the state of opinion among the very small number in Great Britain who still preserve some remains of a taste for such speculations, it is needless here to trace the application of the law of Association to the formation of the secondary desires, whether private or social. For our present purposes, the explanation of their origin may be assumed to be satisfactory. In what follows, it must, however, be steadily borne in mind, that this concession involves an admission that the pleasure derived from low objects may be transferred to the most pure,—that from a part of a self-regarding appetite such a pleasure may become a portion of a perfectly disinterested desire,—and that the disinterested nature and absolute independence of the latter are not in the slightest degree impaired by the consideration, that it is formed by one of those grand mental processes to which the formation of the other habitual states of the human mind have been, with great probability, ascribed.
When the social affections are thus formed, they are naturally followed in every instance by the will to do whatever can promote their object. Compassion excites a voluntary determination to do whatever relieves the person pitied: the like process must occur in every case of gratitude, generosity, and affection. Nothing so uniformly follows the kind disposition as the act of Will, because it is the only means by which the benevolent desire can be gratified. The result of what Brown justly calls “a finer analysis,” shows a mental contiguity of the affection to the volition to be much closer than appears on a coarser examination of this part of our nature. No wonder, then, that the strongest association, the most active power of reciprocal suggestion, should subsist between them. As all the affections are delightful, so the volitions,—voluntary acts which are the only means of their gratification,—become agreeable objects of contemplation to the mind. The habitual disposition to perform them is felt in ourselves, and observed in others, with satisfaction. As these feelings become more lively, the absence of them may be viewed in ourselves with a pain,—in others with an alienation capable of indefinite increase. They become entirely independent sentiments,—still, however, receiving constant supplies of nourishment from their parent affections,—which, in well-balanced minds, reciprocally strengthen each other;—unlike the unkind passions, which are constantly engaged in the most angry conflicts of civil war. In this state we desire to experience the beneficient volitions, to cultivate a disposition towards them, and to do every correspondent voluntary act: they are for their own sake the objects of desire. They thus constitute a large portion of those emotions, desires, and affections, which regard certain dispositions of the mind, and determinations of the Will as their sole and ultimate end. These are what are called the “Moral Sense,” the “Moral Sentiments,” or best, though most simply, by the ancient name of Conscience,—which has the merit, in our language, of being applied to no other purpose,—which peculiarly marks the strong working of these feelings on conduct,—and which, from its solemn and sacred character, is well adapted to denote the venerable authority of the highest principle of human nature.
Nor is this all: it has already been seen that not only sympathy with the sufferer, but indignation against the wrong-doer, contributes a large and important share towards the moral feelings. We are angry at those who disappoint our wish for the happiness of others; we make the resentment of the innocent person wronged our own: our moderate anger approves all well-proportioned punishment of the wrong-doer. We hence approve those dispositions and actions of voluntary agents which promote such suitable punishment, and disapprove those which hinder its infliction, or destroy its effect; at the head of which may be placed that excess of punishment beyond the average feelings of good men which turns the indignation of the calm by-stander against the culprit into pity. In this state, when anger is duly moderated,—when it is proportioned to the wrong,—when it is detached from personal considerations,—when dispositions and actions are its ultimate objects, it becomes a sense of justice, and is so purified as to be fitted to be a new element of Conscience. There is no part of Morality which is so directly aided by a conviction of the necessity of its observance to the general interest, as Justice. The connection between them is discoverable by the most common understanding. All public deliberations profess the public welfare to be their object; all laws propose it as their end. This calm principle of public utility serves to mediate between the sometimes repugnant feelings which arise in the punishment of criminals, by repressing undue pity on one hand, and reducing resentment to its proper level on the other. Hence the unspeakable importance of criminal laws as a part of the moral education of mankind. Whenever they carefully conform to the Moral Sentiments of the age and country,—when they are withheld from approaching the limits within which the disapprobation of good men would confine punishment, they contribute in the highest degree to increase the ignominy of crimes, to make men recoil from the first suggestions of criminality, and to nourish and mature the sense of justice, which lends new vigour to the conscience with which it has been united.
Other contributary streams present themselves: qualities which are necessary to Virtue, but may be subservient to Vice, may, independently of that excellence, or of that defect, be in themselves admirable: courage, energy, decision, are of this nature. In their wild state they are often savage and destructive: when they are tamed by the society of the affections, and trained up in obedience to the Moral Faculty, they become virtues of the highest order, and, by their name of “magnanimity,” proclaim the general sense of mankind that they are the characteristic qualities of a great soul. They retain whatever was admirable in their unreclaimed state, together with all that they borrow from their new associate and their high ruler. Their nature, it must be owned, is prone to evil; but this propensity does not hinder them from being rendered capable of being ministers of good, when in a state where the gentler virtues require to be vigorously guarded against the attacks of daring depravity. It is thus that the strength of the well-educated elephant is sometimes employed in vanquishing the fierceness of the tiger, and sometimes used as a means of defence against the shock of his brethren of the same species. The delightful contemplation, however, of these qualities, when purely applied, becomes one of the sentiments of which the dispositions and actions of voluntary agents are the direct and final object. By this resemblance they are associated with the other moral principles, and with them contribute to form Conscience, which, as the master faculty of the soul, levies such large contributions on every province of human nature.
It is important, in this point of view, to consider also the moral approbation which is undoubtedly bestowed on those dispositions and actions of voluntary agents which terminate in their own satisfaction, security, and well-being. They have been called “duties to ourselves,” as absurdly as a regard to our own greatest happiness is called “self-love.” But it cannot be reasonably doubted, that intemperance, improvidence, timidity,—even when considered only in relation to the individual,—are not only regretted as imprudent, but blamed as morally wrong. It was excellently observed by Aristotle, that a man is not commended as temperate, so long as it costs him efforts of self-denial to persevere in the practice of temperance, but only when he prefers that virtue for its own sake. He is not meek, nor brave, as long as the most vigorous self-command is necessary to bridle his anger or his fear. On the same principle, he may be judicious or prudent, but he is not benevolent, if he confers benefits with a view to his own greatest happiness. In like manner, it is ascertained by experience, that all the masters of science and of art,—that all those who have successfully pursued Truth and Knowledge, love them for their own sake, without regard to the generally imaginary dower of interest, or even to the dazzling crown which Fame may place on their heads.* But it may still be reasonably asked, why these useful qualities are morally improved, and how they become capable of being combined with those public and disinterested sentiments which principally constitute Conscience? The answer is, because they are entirely conversant with volitions and voluntary actions, and in that respect resemble the other constituents of Conscience, with which they are thereby fitted to mingle and coalesce. Like those other principles, they may be detached from what is personal and outward, and fixed on the dispositions and actions, which are the only means of promoting their ends. The sequence of these principles and acts of Will becomes so frequent, that the association between both may be as firm as in the former cases. All those sentiments of which the final object is a state of the Will, become thus intimately and inseparably blended; and of that perfect state of solution (if such words may be allowed) the result is Conscience—the judge and arbiter of human conduct—which, though it does not supersede ordinary motives of virtuous feelings and habits (equally the ordinary motives of good actions), yet exercises a lawful authority even over them, and ought to blend with them. Whatsoever actions and dispositions are approved by Conscience acquire the name of virtues or duties: they are pronounced to deserve commendation; and we are justly considered as under a moral obligation to practise the actions and cultivate the dispositions.
The coalition of the private and public feelings is very remarkable in two points of view, from which it seems hitherto to have been scarcely observed. 1st. It illustrates very forcibly all that has been here offered to prove, that the peculiar character of the Moral Sentiments consists in their exclusive reference to states of Will, and that every feeling which has that quality, when it is purified from all admixture with different objects, becomes capable of being absorbed into Conscience, and of being assimilated to it, so as to become a part of it. For no feelings can be more unlike each other in their object, than the private and the social; and yet, as both employ voluntary actions as their sole immediate means, both may be transferred by association to states of the Will, in which case they are transmuted into moral sentiments. No example of the coalition of feelings in their general nature less widely asunder, could afford so much support to this position. 2d. By raising qualities useful to ourselves to the rank of virtues, it throws a strong light on the relation of Virtue to individual interest; very much as Justice illustrates the relation of Morality to general interest. The coincidence of Morality with individual interest is an important truth in Ethics: it is most manifest in that part of the science which we are now considering. A calm regard to our general interest is indeed a faint and infrequent motive to action. Its chief advantage is, that it is regular, and that its movements may be calculated. In deliberate conduct it may often be relied on, though perhaps never safely without knowledge of the whole temper and character of the agent. But in moral reasoning at least, the fore-named coincidence is of unspeakable advantage. If there be a miserable man who has cold affections, a weak sense of justice, dim perceptions of right and wrong, and faint feelings of them,—if, still more wretched, his heart be constantly torn and devoured by malevolent passions—the vultures of the soul, we have one resource still left, even in cases so dreadful. Even he still retains a human principle, to which we can speak: he must own that he has some wish for his own lasting welfare. We can prove to him that his state of mind is inconsistent with it. It may be impossible indeed to show, that while his disposition continues the same, he can derive any enjoyment from the practice of virtue: but it may be most clearly shown, that every advance in the amendment of that disposition is a step towards even temporal happiness. If he do not amend his character, we may compel him to own that he is at variance with himself and offends against a principle of which even he must recognise the reason ableness.
The formation of Conscience from so many elements, and especially from the combination of elements so unlike as the private desires and the social affections, early contributes to give it the appearance of that simplicity and independence which in its mature state really distinguish it. It becomes, from these circumstances, more difficult to distinguish its separate principles; and it is impossible to exhibit them in separate action. The affinity of these various passions to each other, which consists in their having no object but states of the Will, is the only common property which strikes the mind. Hence the facility with which the general terms, first probably limited to the relations between ourselves and others, are gradually extended to all voluntary acts and dispositions. Prudence and temperance become the objects of moral approbation. When imprudence is immediately disapproved by the by-stander, without deliberate consideration of its consequences, it is not only displeasing, as being pernicious, but is blamed as wrong, though with a censure so much inferior to that bestowed on inhumanity and injustice, as may justify those writers who use the milder term ‘improper.’ At length, when the general words come to signify the objects of moral approbation, and the reverse, they denote merely the power to excite feelings, which are as independent as if they were underived, and which coalesce the more perfectly, because they are detached from objects so various and unlike as to render their return to their primitive state very difficult.
The question,* Why we do not morally approve the useful qualities of actions which are altogether involuntary? may now be shortly and satisfactorily answered:—because Conscience is in perpetual contact, as it were, with all the dispositions and actions of voluntary agents, and is by that means indissolubly associated with them exclusively. It has a direct action on the Will, and a constant mental contiguity to it. It has no such mental contiguity to involuntary changes. It has never perhaps been observed, that an operation of the conscience precedes all acts deliberate enough to be in the highest sense voluntary and does so as much when it is defeated as when it prevails. In either case the association is repeated. It extends to the whole of the active man. All passions have a definite outward object to which they tend, and a limited sphere within which they act. But Conscience has no object but a state of Will; and as an act of Will is the sole means of gratifying any passion, Conscience is co-extensive with the whole man, and without encroachment curbs or aids every feeling,—even within the peculiar province of that feeling itself. As Will is the universal means, Conscience, which regards Will, must be a universal principle. As nothing is interposed between Conscience and the Will when the mind is in its healthy state, the dictate of Conscience is followed by the determination of the Will, with a promptitude and exactness which very naturally is likened to the obedience of an inferior to the lawful commands of those whom he deems to be rightfully placed over him. It therefore seems clear, that on the theory which has been attempted, moral approbation must be limited to voluntary operations, and Conscience must be universal, independent, and commanding.
One remaining difficulty may perhaps be objected to the general doctrines of this Dissertation, though it does not appear at any time to have been urged against other modifications of the same principle. “If moral approbation,” it may be said, “involve no perception of beneficial tendency, whence arises the coincidence between that principle and the Moral Sentiments?” It may seem at first sight, that such a theory rests the foundation of Morals upon a coincidence altogether mysterious, and apparently capricious and fantastic. Waiving all other answers, let us at once proceed to that which seems conclusive. It is true that Conscience rarely contemplates so distant an object as the welfare of all sentient beings;—but to what point is every one of its elements directed? What, for instance, is the aim of all the social affections?—Nothing but the production of larger or smaller masses of happiness among those of our fellow-creatures who are the objects of these affections. In every case these affections promote happiness, as far as their foresight and their power extend. What can be more conducive, or even necessary, to the being and well-being of society, than the rules of justice? Are not the angry passions themselves, as far as they are ministers of Morality, employed in removing hindrances to the welfare of ourselves and others, and so in indirectly promoting it? The private passions terminate indeed in the happiness of the individual, which, however, is a part of general happiness, and the part over which we have most power. Every principle of which Conscience is composed has some portion of happiness for its object: to that point they all converge. General happiness is not indeed one of the natural objects of Conscience, because our voluntary acts are not felt and perceived to affect it. But how small a step is left for Reason! It only casts up the items of the account. It has only to discover that the acts of those who labour to promote separate portions of happiness must increase the amount of the whole. It may be truly said, that if observation and experience did not clearly ascertain that beneficial tendency is the constant attendant and mark of all virtuous dispositions and actions, the same great truth would be revealed to us by the voice of Conscience. The coincidence, instead of being arbitrary, arises necessarily from the laws of human nature, and the circumstances in which mankind are placed. We perform and approve virtuous actions, partly because Conscience regards them as right, partly because we are prompted to them by good affections. All these affections contribute towards general well-being, though it is not necessary, nor would it be fit, that the agent should be distracted by the contemplation of that vast and remote object.
The various relations of Conscience to Religion we have already been led to consider on the principles of Butler, of Berkeley, of Paley, and especially of Hartley, who was brought by his own piety to contemplate as the last and highest stage of virtue and happiness, a sort of self-annihilation, which, however unsuitable to the present condition of mankind, yet places in the strongest light the disinterested character of the system, of which it is a conceivable, though perhaps not attainable, result. The completeness and rigour acquired by Conscience, when all its dictates are revered as the commands of a perfectly wise and good Being, are so obvious, that they cannot be questioned by any reasonable man, however extensive his incredulity may be. It is thus that she can add the warmth of an affection to the inflexibility of principle and habit. It is true that, in examining the evidence of the divine original of a religious system, in estimating an imperfect religion, or in comparing the demerits of religions of human origin, hers must be the standard chiefly applied: but it follows with equal clearness, that those who have the happiness to find satisfaction and repose in divine revelation are bound to consider all those precepts for the government of the Will, delivered by her, which are manifestly universal, as the rules to which all their feelings and actions should conform. The true distinction between Conscience and a taste for moral beauty has already been pointed out;* —a distinction which, notwithstanding its simplicity, has been unobserved by philosophers, perhaps on account of the frequent co-operation and intermixture of the two feelings. Most speculators have either denied the existence of the taste, or kept it out of view in their theory, or exalted it to the place which is rightfully filled only by Conscience. Yet it is perfectly obvious that, like all the other feelings called “pleasures of imagination,” it terminates in delightful contemplation, while the Moral Faculty always aims exclusively at voluntary action. Nothing can more clearly show that this last quality is the characteristic of Conscience, than its being thus found to distinguish that faculty from the sentiments which most nearly resemble it, most frequently attend it, and are most easily blended with it.
Some attempt has now been made to develope the fundamental principles of Ethical theory, in that historical order in which meditation and discussion brought them successively into a clearer light. That attempt, as far as it regards Great Britain, is at least chronologically complete. The spirit of bold speculation, conspicuous among the English of the seventeenth century, languished after the earlier part of the eighteenth, and seems, from the time of Hutcheson, to have passed into Scotland, where it produced Hume, the greatest of sceptics, and Smith, the most eloquent of modern moralists; besides giving rise to that sober, modest, perhaps timid philosophy which is commonly called Scotch, and which has the singular merit of having first strongly and largely inculcated the absolute necessity of admitting certain principles as the foundation of all reasoning, and the indispensable conditions of thought itself. In the eye of the moralist all the philosophers of Scotland,—Hume and Smith as much as Reid, Campbell, and Stewart,—have also the merit of having avoided the Selfish system, and of having, under whatever variety of representation, alike maintained the disinterested nature of the social affections and the supreme authority of the Moral Sentiments. Brown reared the standard of revolt against the masters of the Scottish School, and in reality still more than in words, adopted those very doctrines against which his predecessors, after their war against scepticism, uniformly combated. The law of Association, though expressed in other language, became the nearly universal principle of his system; and perhaps it would have been absolutely universal, if he had not been restrained rather by respectful feelings than by cogent reasons. With him the love of speculative philosophy, as a pursuit, appears to have expired in Scotland. There are some symptoms, yet however very faint, of the revival of a taste for it among the English youth: while in France instruction in it has been received with approbation from M. Royer Collard, the scholar of Stewart more than of Reid, and with enthusiasm from his pupil and successor M. Cousin, who has clothed the doctrines of the Schools of Germany in an unwonted eloquence, which always adorns, but sometimes disguises them.
The history of political philosophy, even if its extent and subdivisions were better defined, would manifestly have occupied another dissertation, at least equal in length to the present. The most valuable parts of it belong to civil history. It has too much of the spirit of faction and turbulence infused into it to be easily combined with the calmer history of the progress of Science, or even with that of the revolutions of speculation. In no age of the world were its principles so interwoven with political events, and so deeply imbued with the passions and divisions excited by them, as in the eighteenth century.
It was at one time the purpose, or rather perhaps the hope, of the writer, to close this discourse by an account of the Ethical systems which have prevailed in Germany during the last half century;—which, maintaining the same spirit amidst great changes of technical language, and even of speculative principle, have now exclusive possession of Europe to the north of the Rhine,—have been welcomed by the French youth with open arms,—have roused in some measure the languishing genius of Italy, but are still little known, and unjustly estimated by the mere English reader. He found himself, however, soon reduced to the necessity of either being superficial, and by consequence uninstructive, or of devoting to that subject a far longer time than he can now spare, and a much larger space than the limits of this work would probably allow. The majority of readers will, indeed, be more disposed to require an excuse for the extent of what has been done, than for the relinquishment of projected additions. All readers must agree that this is peculiarly a subject on which it is better to be silent than to say too little.
A very few observations, however, on the German philosophy, as far as relates to its ethical bearings and influence, may perhaps be pardoned. These remarks are not so much intended to be applied to the moral doctrines of that school, considered in themselves, as to those apparent defects in the prevailing systems of Ethics throughout Europe, which seem to have suggested the necessity of their adoption. Kant has himself acknowledged that his whole theory of the percipient and intellectual faculty was intended to protect the first principles of human knowledge against the assaults of Hume. In like manner, his Ethical system is evidently framed for the purpose of guarding certain principles, either directly governing, or powerfully affecting practice, which seemed to him to have been placed on unsafe foundations by their advocates, and which were involved in perplexity and confusion, especially by those who adapted the results of various and sometimes contradictory systems to the taste of multitudes,—more eager to know than prepared to be taught. To the theoretical Reason the former superadded the Practical Reason, which had peculiar laws and principles of its own, from which all the rules of Morals may be deduced. The Practical Reason cannot be conceived without these laws; therefore they are inherent. It perceives them to be necessary and universal. Hence, by a process not altogether dissimilar, at least in its gross results, to that which was employed for the like purpose by Cudworth and Clarke, by Price, and in some degree by Stewart, he raises the social affections, and still more the Moral Sentiments, above the sphere of enjoyment, and beyond that series of enjoyments which is called happiness. The performance of duty, not the pursuit of happiness, is in this system the chief end of man. By the same intuition we discover that Virtue deserves happiness; and as this desert is not uniformly so requited in the present state of existence, it compels us to believe a moral government of the world, and a future state of existence, in which all the conditions of the Practical Reason will be realized;—truths, of which, in the opinion of Kant, the argumentative proofs were at least very defective, but of which the revelations of the Practical Reason afforded a more conclusive demonstration than any process of reasoning could supply. The Understanding, he owned, saw nothing in the connection of motive with volition different from what it discovered in every other uniform sequence of a cause and an effect. But as the moral law delivered by the Practical Reason issues peremptory and inflexible commands, the power of always obeying them is implied in their very nature. All individual objects, all outward things, must indeed be viewed in the relation of cause and effect: these last are necessary conditions of all reasoning. But the acts of the faculty which wills, of which we are immediately conscious, belong to another province of mind, and are not subject to these laws of the Theoretical Reason. The mere intellect must still regard them as necessarily connected; but the Practical Reason distinguishes its own liberty from the necessity of nature, conceives volition without at the same time conceiving an antecedent to it, and regards all moral beings as the original authors of their own actions.
Even those who are unacquainted with this complicated and comprehensive system, will at once see the slightness of the above sketch: those who understand it, will own that so brief an outline could not be otherwise than slight. It will, however, be sufficient for the present purpose, if it render what follows intelligible.
With respect to what is called the “Practical Reason,” the Kantian system varies from ours, in treating it as having more resemblance to the intellectual powers than to sentiment and emotion:—enough has already been said on that question. At the next step, however, the difference seems to resolve itself into a misunderstanding. The character and dignity of the human race surely depend, not on the state in which they are born, but on that which they are all destined to attain, or to approach. No man would hesitate in assenting to this observation, when applied to the intellectual faculties. Thus, the human infant comes into the world imbecile and ignorant; but a vast majority acquire some vigour of reason and extent of knowledge. Strictly, the human infant is born neither selfish nor social; but a far greater part acquire some provident regard to their own welfare, and a number, probably not much smaller, feel some sparks of affection towards others. On our principles, therefore, as much as on those of Kant, human nature is capable of disinterested sentiments. For we too allow and contend that our Moral Faculty is a necessary part of human nature,—that it universally exists in human beings,—and that we cannot conceive any moral agents without qualities which are either like, or produce the like effects. It is necessarily regarded by us as co-extensive with human, and even with moral nature. In what other sense can universality be predicated of any proposition not identical? Why should it be tacitly assumed that all these great characteristics of Conscience should necessarily presuppose its being unformed and underived? What contradiction is there between them and the theory of regular and uniform formation?
In this instance it would seem that a general assent to truth is chiefly, if not solely, obstructed by an inveterate prejudice, arising from the mode in which the questions relating to the affections and the Moral Faculty have been discussed among ethical philosophers. Generally speaking, those who contend that these parts of the mind are acquired, have also held that they are, in their perfect state, no more than modifications of self-love. On the other hand, philosophers “of purer fire,” who felt that Conscience is sovereign, and that affection is disinterested, have too hastily fancied that their ground was untenable, without contending that these qualities were inherent or innate, and absolutely underived from any other properties of Mind. If a choice were necessary between these two systems as masses of opinion, without any freedom of discrimination and selection, I should unquestionably embrace that doctrine which places in the clearest light the reality of benevolence and the authority of the Moral Faculty. But it is surely easy to apply a test which may be applied to our conceptions as effectually as a decisive experiment is applied to material substances. Does not he who, whatever he may think of the origin of these parts of human nature, believes that actually Conscience is supreme, and affection terminates in its direct object, retain all that for which the partisans of the underived principles value and cling to their system? “But they are made,” these philosophers may say, “by this class of our antagonists, to rest on insecure foundations: unless they are underived, we can see no reason for regarding them as independent.” In answer, it may be asked, how is connection between these two qualities established? It is really assumed. It finds its way easily into the mind under the protection of another coincidence, which is of a totally different nature. The great majority of those speculators who have represented the moral and social feelings as acquired, have also considered them as being mere modifications of self-love, and sometimes as being casually formed and easily eradicated, like local and temporary prejudices. But when the nature of our feelings is thoroughly explored, is it not evident that this coincidence is the result of superficial confusion? The better moralists observed accurately, and reasoned justly, on the province of the Moral Sense and the feelings in the formed and mature man: they reasoned mistakenly on the origin of these principles. But the Epicureans were by no means right, even on the latter question; and they were totally wrong on the other, and far more momentous, part of the subject: their error is more extensive, and infinitely more injurious. But what should now hinder an inquirer after truth from embracing, but amending their doctrine where it is partially true, and adopting without any change the just description of the most important principles of human nature which we owe to their more enlightened as well as more generous antagonists?
Though unwilling to abandon the arguments by which, from the earliest times, the existence of the Supreme and Eternal Mind has been established, we, as well as the German philosophers, are entitled to call in the help of our moral nature to lighten the burden of those tremendous difficulties which cloud His moral government. The moral nature is an actual part of man, as much on our scheme as on theirs.
Even the celebrated questions of Liberty and Necessity may perhaps be rendered somewhat less perplexing, if we firmly bear in mind that peculiar relation of Conscience to the Will which we have attempted to illustrate. It is impossible for Reason to consider occurrences otherwise than as bound together by the connection of cause and effect; and in this circumstance consists the strength of the Necessitarian system. But Conscience, which is equally a constituent part of the mind, has other laws. It is composed of emotions and desires, which contemplate only those dispositions which depend on the Will. Now, it is the nature of an emotion to withdraw the mind from the contemplation of every idea but that of the object which excites it: while every desire exclusively looks at the object which it seeks. Every attempt to enlarge the mental vision alters the state of mind, weakens the emotion, or dissipates the desire, and tends to extinguish both. If a man, while he was pleased with the smell of a rose, were to reflect on the chemical combinations from which it arose, the condition of his mind would be changed from an enjoyment of the senses to an exertion of the Understanding. If, in the view of a beautiful scene, a man were suddenly to turn his thoughts to the disposition of water, vegetables, and earths, on which its appearance depended, he might enlarge his knowledge of Geology, but he must lose the pleasure of the prospect. The anatomy and analysis of the flesh and blood of a beautiful woman necessarily suspend admiration and affection. Many analogies here present themselves. When life is in danger either in a storm or a battle, it is certain that less fear is felt by the commander or the pilot, and even by the private soldier actively engaged, or the common seaman laboriously occupied, than by those who are exposed to the peril, but not employed in the means of guarding against it. The reason is not that the one class believe the danger to be less: they are likely in many instances to perceive it more clearly. But having acquired a habit of instantly turning their thoughts to means of counteracting the danger, their minds are thrown into a state which excludes the ascendency of fear.—Mental fortitude entirely depends on this habit. The timid horseman is haunted by the fear of a fall: the bold and skilful thinks only about the best way of curbing or supporting his horse. Even when all means of avoiding danger are in both cases evidently unavailable, the brave man still owes to his fortunate habit that he does not suffer the agony of the coward. Many cases have been known where fortitude has reached such strength that the faculties, instead of being confounded by danger, are never raised to their highest activity by a less violent stimulant. The distinction between such men and the coward does not depend on difference of opinion about the reality or extent of the danger, but on a state of mind which renders it more or less accessible to fear. Though it must be owned that the Moral Sentiments are very different from any other human faculty, yet the above observations seem to be in a great measure applicable to every state of mind. The emotions and desires which compose Conscience, while they occupy the mind, must exclude all contemplation of the cause in which the object of these feelings may have originated. To their eye the voluntary dispositions and actions, their sole object, must appear to be the first link of a chain; in the view of Conscience these have no foreign origin, and her view, constantly associated as she is with all volitions, becomes habitual. Being always possessed of some, and capable of intense warmth, it predominates over the habits of thinking of those few who are employed in the analysis of mental occupations.
The reader who has in any degree been inclined to adopt the explanations attempted above, of the imperative character of Conscience, may be disposed also to believe that they afford some foundation for that conviction of the existence of a power to obey its commands, which (it ought to be granted to the German philosophers) is irresistibly suggested by the commanding tone of all its dictates. If such an explanation should be thought worthy of consideration, it must be very carefully distinguished from that illusive sense by which some writers have laboured to reconcile the feeling of liberty with the reality of necessity.* In this case there is no illusion; nothing is required but the admission, that every faculty observes its own laws, and that when the action of the one fills the mind, that of every other is suspended. The ear cannot see, nor can the eye hear: why then should not the greater powers of Reason and Conscience have different habitual modes of contemplating voluntary actions? How strongly do experience and analogy seem to require the arrangement of motive and volition under the class of causes and effects! With what irresistible power, on the other hand, do all our moral sentiments remove extrinsic agency from view, and concentrate all feeling in the agent himself! The one manner of thinking may predominate among the speculative few in their short moments of abstraction; the other will be that of all other men, and of the speculator himself when he is called upon to act, or when his feelings are powerfully excited by the amiable or odious dispositions of his fellow-men. In these workings of various faculties there is nothing that can be accurately described as contrariety of opinion. An intellectual state, and a feeling, never can be contrary to each other: they are too utterly incapable of comparison to be the subject of contrast; they are agents of a perfectly different nature, acting in different spheres. A feeling can no more be called true or false, than a demonstration, considered simply in itself, can be said to be agreeable or disagreeable. It is true, indeed, that in consequence of the association of all mental acts with each other, emotions and desires may occasion habitual errors of judgment: but liability to error belongs to every exercise of human reason; it arises from a multitude of causes; it constitutes, therefore, no difficulty peculiar to the case before us. Neither truth nor falsehood can be predicated of the perceptions of the senses, but they lead to false opinions. An object seen through different mediums may by the inexperienced be thought to be no longer the same. All men long concluded falsely, from what they saw, that the earth was stationary, and the sun in perpetual motion around it: the greater part of mankind still adopt the same error. Newton and Laplace used the same language with the ignorant, and conformed,—if we may not say to their opinion,—at least to their habits of thinking on all ordinary occasions, and during the far greater part of their lives. Nor is this all: the language which represents various states of mind is very vague. The word which denotes a compound state is often taken from its principal fact,—from that which is most conspicuous, most easily called to mind, most warmly felt, or most frequently recurring. It is sometimes borrowed from a separate, but, as it were, neighbouring condition of mind. The grand distinction between thought and feeling is so little observed, that we are peculiarly liable to confusion on this subject.—Perhaps when we use language which indicates an opinion concerning the acts of the Will, we may mean little more than to express strongly and warmly the moral sentiments which voluntary acts alone call up. It would argue disrespect for the human understanding, vainly employed for so many centuries in reconciling contradictory opinions, to propose such suggestions without peculiar diffidence; but before they are altogether rejected, it may be well to consider, whether the constant success of the advocates of Necessity on one ground, and of the partisans of Free Will on another, does not seem to indicate that the two parties contemplate the subject from different points of view, that neither habitually sees more than one side of it, and that they look at it through the medium of different states of mind.
It should be remembered that these hints of a possible reconciliation between seemingly repugnant opinions are proposed, not as perfect analogies, but to lead men’s minds into the inquiry, whether that which certainly befalls the mind, in many cases on a small scale, may not, under circumstances favourable to its development, occur with greater magnitude and more important consequences. The coward and brave man, as has been stated, act differently at the approach of danger, because it produces exertion in the one, and fear in the other. But very brave men must, by force of the term, be few: they have little aid in their highest acts, therefore, from fellow-feeling. They are often too obscure for the hope of praise; and they have seldom been trained to cultivate courage as a virtue. The very reverse occurs in the different view taken by the Understanding and by Conscience, of the nature of voluntary actions. The conscientious view must, in some degree, present itself to all mankind; it is therefore unspeakably strengthened by general sympathy. All men respect themselves for being habitually guided by it: it is the object of general commendation; and moral discipline has no other aim but its cultivation. Whoever does not feel more pain from his crimes than from his misfortunes, is looked on with general aversion. And when it is considered that a Being of perfect wisdom and goodness estimates us according to the degree in which Conscience governs our voluntary acts, it is surely no wonder that, in this most important discrepancy between the great faculties of our nature, we should consider the best habitual disposition to be that which the coldest Reason shows us to be most conducive to well-doing and well-being.
On every other point, at least, it would seem that, without the multiplied suppositions and immense apparatus of the German school, the authority of Morality may be vindicated, the disinterestedness of human nature asserted, the first principles of knowledge secured, and the hopes and consolations of mankind preserved. Ages may yet be necessary to give to ethical theory all the forms and language of a science, and to apply it to the multiplied and complicated facts and rules which are within its province. In the mean time, if the opinions here unfolded, or intimated, shall be proved to be at variance with the reality of social affections, and with the feeling of moral distinction, the author of this Dissertation will be the first to relinquish a theory which will then show itself inadequate to explain the most indisputable, as well as by far the most important, parts of human nature. If it shall be shown to lower the character of Man, to cloud his hopes, or to impair his sense of duty, he will be grateful to those who may point out his error, and deliver him from the poignant regret of adopting opinions which lead to consequences so pernicious.
NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE PARTITION OF POLAND.*
Little more than fifty years have passed since Poland occupied a high place among the Powers of Europe. Her natural means of wealth and force were inferior to those of few states of the second order. The surface of the country exceeded that of France; and the number of its inhabitants was estimated at fourteen millions,—a population probably exceeding that of the British Islands, or of the Spanish Peninsula, at that time. The elimate was nowhere unfriendly to health, or unfavourable to labour; the soil was fertile, the produce redundant: a large portion of the country, still uncleared, afforded ample scope for agricultural enterprise. Great rivers afforded easy means of opening an internal navigation from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. In addition to these natural advantages, there were many of those circumstances in the history and situation of Poland which render a people fond and proud of their country, and foster that national spirit which is the most effectual instrument either of defence or aggrandisement. Till the middle of the seventeenth century, she had been the predominating power of the North. With Hungary, and the maritime strength of Venice, she had formed the eastern defence of Christendom against the Turkish tyrants of Greece; and, on the north-east, she had been long its sole barrier against the more obscure barbarians of Muscovy. A nation which thus constituted a part of the vanguard of civilization, necessarily became martial, and gained all the renown in arms which could be acquired before war had become a science. The wars of the Poles, irregular, romantic, full of personal adventure, depending on individual courage and peculiar character, proceeding little from the policy of Cabinets, but deeply imbued by those sentiments of chivalry which may pervade a nation, chequered by extraordinary vicissitudes, and carried on against barbarous enemies in remote and wild provinces, were calculated to leave a deep impression on the feelings of the people, and to give every man the liveliest interest in the glories and dangers of his country. Whatever renders the members of a community more like each other, and unlike their neighbours, usually strengthens the bonds of attachment between them. The Poles were the only representatives of the Sarmatian race in the assembly of civilized nations. Their language and their national literature—those great sources of sympathy and objects of national pride—were cultivated with no small success. They contributed, in one instance, signally to the progress of science; and they took no ignoble part in those classical studies which composed the common literature of Europe. They were bound to their country by the peculiarities of its institutions and usages,—perhaps, also, by those dangerous privileges, and by that tumultuary independence which rendered their condition as much above that of the slaves of an absolute monarchy, as it was below the lot of those who inherit the blessings of legal and moral freedom. They had once another singularity, of which they might justly have been proud, if they had not abandoned it in times which ought to have been more enlightened. Soon after the Reformation, they had set the first example of that true religious liberty which equally admits the members of all sects to the privileges, the offices, and dignities of the commonwealth. For nearly a century they had afforded a secure asylum to those obnoxious sects of Anabaptists and Unitarians, whom all other states excluded from toleration; and the Hebrew nation, proscribed every where else, found a second country, with protection for their learned and religious establishments, in this hospitable and tolerant land. A body, amounting to about half a million, professing the equality of gentlemen amidst the utmost extremes of affluence and poverty, forming at once the legislature and the army, or rather constituting the commonwealth, were reproached, perhaps justly, with the parade, dissipation, and levity, which generally characterise the masters of slaves: but their faculties were roused by ambition; they felt the dignity of conscious independence; and they joined to the brilliant valour of their ancestors, an uncommon proportion of the accomplishments and manners of a polished age. Even in the days of her decline, Poland had still a part allotted to her in the European system. By her mere situation, without any activity on her own part, she in some measure prevented the collision, and preserved the balance, of the three greatest military powers of the Continent. She constituted an essential member of the federative system of France; and, by her vicinity to Turkey, and influence on the commerce of the Baltic, directly affected the general interest of Europe. Her preservation was one of the few parts of continental policy in which both France and England were concerned; and all Governments dreaded the aggrandisement of her neighbours. In these circumstances, it might have been thought that the dismemberment of the territory of a numerous, brave, ancient, and renowned people, passionately devoted to their native land, without colour of right or pretext of defence, in a period of profound peace, in defiance of the law of nations, and of the common interest of all states, was an event not much more probable, than that it should have been swallowed up by a convulsion of nature. Before that dismemberment, nations, though exposed to the evils of war and the chance of conquest, in peace placed some reliance on each other’s faith. The crime has, however, been triumphantly consummated. The principle of the balance of power has perished in the Partition of Poland.
The succession to the crown of Poland appears, in ancient times, to have been governed by that rude combination of inheritance and election which originally prevailed in most European monarchies, where there was a general inclination to respect hereditary claims, and even the occasional elections were confined to the members of the reigning family. Had not the male heirs of the House of Jagellon been extinct, or had the rule of female succession been introduced, it is probable that the Polish monarchy would have become strictly hereditary. The inconveniences of the elective principle were chiefly felt in the admission of powerful foreign princes as candidates for the crown: but that form of government proved rather injurious to the independence, than to the internal peace of the country. More than a century, indeed, elapsed before the mischief was felt. In spite of the ascendant acquired by Sweden in the affairs of the North, Poland still maintained her high rank. Her last great exertion, when John Sobieski, in 1683, drove the Turks from the gates of Vienna, was worthy of her ancient character as the guardian of Christendom.
His death, in 1696, first showed that the admission of such competition might lead to the introduction of foreign influence, and even arms. The contest which then occurred between the Prince of Conti and Augustus, Elector of Saxony, had been decided in favour of the latter by his own army, and by Russian influence, when Charles XII., before he had reached the age of twenty, having already compelled Denmark to submit, and defeated a great Russian army, entered Warsaw in triumph, deposed him as an usurper raised to the royal dignity by foreign force, and obliged him, by express treaty, to renounce his pretensions to the crown. Charles was doubtless impelled to these measures by the insolence of a youthful conqueror, and by resentment against the Elector; but he was also influenced by those rude conceptions of justice, sometimes degenerating into cruelty, which were blended with his irregular ambition. He had the generosity, however, to spare the territory of the republic, and the good sense to propose the son of the great Sobieski to fill the vacant throne;—a proposal which, had it been successful, might have banished foreign factions, by gradually conferring on a Polish family an hereditary claim to the crown. But the Saxons, foreseeing such a measure, carried away young Sobieski a prisoner. Charles then bestowed it on Stanislaus Leczinski, a Polish gentleman of worth and talent, but destitute of the genius and boldness which the public dangers required, and by the example of a second king enthroned by a foreign army, struck another blow at the independence of Poland. The treaty of Alt-Ranstadt was soon after annulled by the battle of Pultowa; and Augustus, renewing the pretensions which he had solemnly renounced, returned triumphantly to Warsaw. The ascendant of the Czar was for a moment suspended by the treaty of Pruth, in 1711, where the Turks compelled Peter to swear that he would withdraw his troops from Poland, and never to interfere in its internal affairs; but as soon as the Porte were engaged in a war with Austria, he marched an army into it; and the first example of a compromise between the King and the Diet, under the mediation of a Russian ambassador, and surrounded by Russian troops, was exhibited in 1717.
The death of Augustus, in 1733, had nearly occasioned a general war throughout Europe. The interest of Stanislaus, the deposed king, was espoused by France, partly perhaps because Louis XV. had married his daughter, but chiefly because the cause of the new Elector of Saxony, who was his competitor, was supported by Austria, the ally of England, and by Russia, then closely connected with Austria. The court of Petersburgh then set up the fatal pretext of a guarantee of the Polish constitution, founded on the transactions of 1717. A guarantee of the territories and rights of one independent state against others, is perfectly compatible with justice: but a guarantee of the institutions of a people against themselves, is but another name for its dependence on the foreign power which enforces it. In pursuance of this pretence, the country was invaded by sixty thousand Russians, who ravaged with fire and sword every district which opposed their progress; and a handful of gentlemen, some of them in chains, whom they brought together in a forest near Warsaw, were compelled to elect Augustus III.
Henceforward Russia treated Poland as a vassal. She indeed disappeared from the European system,—was the subject of wars and negotiations, but no longer a party engaged in them. Under Augustus III., she was almost as much without government at home as without influence abroad, slumbering for thirty years in a state of pacific anarchy, which is almost without example in history. The Diets were regularly assembled, conformably to the laws; but each one was dissolved, without adopting a single measure of legislation or government. This extraordinary suspension of public authority arose from the privilege which each nuncio possessed, of stopping any public measure, by declaring his dissent from it, in the well known form of the Liberum Veto. To give a satisfactory account of the origin and progress of this anomalous privilege, would probably require more industrious and critical research than were applied to the subject when Polish antiquaries and lawyers existed.* The absolute negative enjoyed by each member seems to have arisen from the principle, that the nuncios were not representatives, but ministers; that their power was limited by the imperative instructions of the provinces; that the constitution was rather a confederacy than a commonwealth; and that the Diet was not so much a deliberative assembly, as a meeting of delegates, whose whole duty consisted in declaring the determination of their respective constituents. Of such a state of things, unanimity seemed the natural consequence. But, as the sovereign power was really vested in the gentry, they were authorised, by the law, to interfere in public affairs, in a manner most inconvenient and hazardous, though rendered in some measure necessary by the unreasonable institution of unanimity. This interference was effected by that species of legal insurrection called a “confederation,” in which any number of gentlemen subscribing the alliance bound themselves to pursue, by force of arms, its avowed object, either of defending the country, or preserving the laws, or maintaining the privileges of any class of citizens. It was equally lawful for another body to associate themselves against the former; and the war between them was legitimate. In these confederations, the sovereign power released itself from the restraint of unanimity; and in order to obtain that liberty, the Diet sometimes resolved itself into a confederation, and lost little by being obliged to rely on the zeal of voluntary adherents, rather than on the legal obedience of citizens.
On the death of Augustus III., it pleased the Empress Catharine to appoint Stanislaus Poniatowski, a discarded lover, to the vacant throne,—a man who possessed many of the qualities and accomplishments which are attractive in private life; but who, when he was exposed to the tests of elevated station and public danger, proved to be utterly void of all dignity and energy. Several circumstances in the state of Europe enabled her to bestow the crown on him without resistance from foreign powers. France was unwilling to expose herself so early to the hazard of a new war, and was farther restrained by her recent alliance with Austria; and the unexpected death of the Elector of Saxony deprived the Courts of Versailles and Vienna of the competitor whom they could have supported with most hope of success against the influence of the Czarina. Frederic II., abandoned, or (as he himself with reason thought) betrayed by England,* found himself, at the general peace, without an ally, exposed to the deserved resentment of Austria, and no longer with any hope of aid from France, which had become the friend of his natural enemy. In this situation, he thought it necessary to court the friendship of Catharine, and in the beginning of the year 1764, concluded a defensive alliance with her, the stipulations of which with respect to Poland were, that they were to oppose every attempt either to make that crown hereditary or to strengthen the royal power; that they were to unite in securing the election of Stanislaus; and that they were to protect the Dissidents of the Greek and Protestant communions, who, since the year 1717, had been deprived of that equal admissibility to public office which was bestowed on them by the liberality of the ancient laws. The first of these stipulations was intended to perpetuate the confusions of Poland, and to insure her dependence on her neighbours; while the last would afford a specious pretext for constant interference. In a declaration delivered at Warsaw, Catharine asserted, “that she did nothing but in virtue of the right of vicinage, acknowledged by all nations;”† and, on another occasion, observed, “that justice and humanity were the sole rules of her conduct; and that her virtues alone had placed her on the throne:”‡ while Frederic declared, that “he should constantly labour to defend the states of the republic in their integrity;” and Maria Theresa, a sovereign celebrated for piety and justice, assured the Polish Government of “her resolution to maintain the republic in all her rights, prerogatives, and possessions.” Catharine again, when Poland, for the first time, acknowledged her title of Empress of all the Russias, granted to the republic a solemn guarantee of all its possessions!*
Though abandoned by their allies and distracted by divisions, the Poles made a gallant stand against the appointment of the discarded lover of a foreign princess to be their King. One party, at the head of which was the illustrious house of Czartorinski, by supporting the influence of Russia, and the election of Stanislaus, hoped to obtain the power of reforming the constitution, of abolishing the veto, and giving due strength to the crown. The other, more generous though less enlightened, spurned at foreign interference, and made the most vigorous efforts to assert independence, but were unhappily averse to reforms of the constitution, wedded to ancient abuses, and resolutely determined to exclude their fellow-citizens of different religions from equal privileges. The leaders of the latter party were General Branicki, a veteran of Roman dignity and intrepidity, and Prince Radzivil, a youth of almost regal revenue and dignity, who, by a singular combination of valour and generosity with violence and wildness, exhibited a striking picture of a Sarmatian grandee. The events which passed in the interregnum, as they are related by Rulhière, form one of the most interesting parts of modern history. The variety of character, the elevation of mind, and the vigour of talent exhibited in the fatal struggle which then began, afford a memorable proof of the superiority of the worst aristocracy over the best administered absolute monarchy. The most turbulent aristocracy, with all its disorders and insecurity, must contain a certain number of men who respect themselves, and who have some scope for the free exercise of genius and virtue.
In spite of all the efforts of generous patriotism, the Diet, surrounded by a Russian army, were compelled to elect Stanislaus. The Princes Czartorinski expected to reign under the name of their nephew. They had carried through their reforms so dexterously as to be almost unobserved; but Catharine had too deep an interest in the anarchy of Poland not to watch over its preservation. She availed herself of the prejudices of the party most adverse to her, and obliged the Diet to abrogate the reforms. Her ambassadors were her viceroys. Keyserling, a crafty and smooth German jurist, Saldern, a desperate adventurer, banished from Holstein for forgery, and Repnin, a haughty and brutal Muscovite, were selected, perhaps from the variety of their character, to suit the fluctuating circumstances of the country: but all of them spoke in that tone of authority which has ever since continued to distinguish Russian diplomacy. Prince Czartorinski was desirous not to be present in the Diet when his measures were repealed; but Repnin told him, that if he was not, his palaces should be burnt, and his estates laid waste. Understanding this system of Muscovite canvass, he submitted to the humiliation of proposing to abrogate those reformations which he thought essential to the existence of the republic.
In September of the same year, the Russian and Prussian ministers presented notes in favour of the Dissidents,* and afterwards urged the claims of that body more fully to the Diet of 1766, when they were seconded with honest intentions, though perhaps with a doubtful right of interference, by Great Britain, Denmark, and Sweden, as parties to, or as guarantees of, the Treaty of Oliva, the foundation of the political system of the north of Europe. The Diet, influenced by the unnatural union of an intolerant spirit with a generous indignation against foreign interference, rejected all these solicitations, though undoubtedly agreeable to the principle of the treaty, and though some of them proceeded from powers which could not be suspected of unfriendly intentions. The Dissidents were unhappily prevailed upon to enter into confederations for the recovery of their ancient rights, and thus furnished a pretext for the armed interference of Russia. Catharine now affected to espouse the cause of the Republicans, who had resisted the election of Stanislaus. A general confederation of malcontents was formed under the auspices of Prince Radzivil at Radom, but surrounded by Russian troops, and subject to the orders of the brutal Repnin. This capricious barbarian used his power with such insolence as soon to provoke general resistance. He prepared measures for assembling a more subservient Diet by the utmost excesses of military violence at the elections, and by threats of banishment to Siberia held out to every one whose opposition he dreaded.
This Diet, which met on the 4th of October, 1767, showed at first strong symptoms of independence,† but was at length intimidated; and Repnin obtained its consent to a treaty‡ stipulating for the equal admission of all religious sectaries to civil offices, containing a reciprocal guarantee “of the integrity of the territories of both powers in the most solemn and sacred manner,” confirming the constitution of Poland, especially the fatal law of unanimity, with a few alterations recently made by the Diet, and placing this “constitution, with the government, liberty, and rights of Poland, under the guarantee of her. Imperial Majesty, who most solemnly promises to preserve the republic for ever entire.” Thus, again, under the pretence of enforcing religious liberty, were the disorder and feebleness of Poland perpetuated; and by the principle of the foreign guarantee was her independence destroyed. Frederick II., an accomplice in these crimes, describes their immediate effect with the truth and coolness of an unconcerned spectator. “So many acts of sovereignty,” says he, “exercised by a foreign power on the territory of the republic, at length excited universal indignation: the offensive measures were not softened by the arrogance of Prince Repnin: enthusiasm seized the minds of all, and the grandees availed themselves of the fanaticism of their followers and serfs, to throw off a yoke which had become insupportable.” In this temper of the nation, the Diet rose on the 6th of March following, and with it expired the Confederation of Radom, which furnished the second example, within five years, of a Polish party so blind to experience as to become the dupes of Russia.
Another confederation was immediately formed at Bar, in Podolia, for the preservation of religion and liberty,* which, in a moment, spread over the whole kingdom. The Russian officers hesitated for a moment whether they could take a part in this intestine war. Repnin, by pronouncing the word “Siberia,” compelled those members of the Senate who were at Warsaw to claim the aid of Russia, notwithstanding the dissent of the Czartorinskis and their friends, who protested against that inglorious and ruinous determination. The war that followed presented, on the part of Russia, a series of acts of treachery, falsehood, rapacity, and cruelty, not unworthy of Cæsar Borgia. The resistance of the Poles, an undisciplined and almost unarmed people, betrayed by their King and Senate, in a country without fastnesses or fortifications, and in which the enemy had already established themselves at every important point, forms one of the most glorious, though the most unfortunate, of the struggles of mankind for their rights. The council of the confederation established themselves at Eperies, within the frontier of Hungary, with the connivance and secret favour of Austria. Some French officers, and aid in money from Versailles and Constantinople, added something to their strength, and more to their credit. Repnin entered into a negotiation with them, and proposed an armistice, till he could procure reinforcements. Old Pulaski, the first leader of the confederation, objected:—“There is no word,” said he, “in the Russian language for honour.” Repnin, as soon as he was reinforced, laughed at the armistice, fell upon the confederates, and laid waste the lands of all true Poles with fire and sword. The Cossacks brought to his house at Warsaw, Polish gentlemen tied to the tails of their horses, and dragged in this manner along the ground.† A Russian colonel, named Drewitz, seems to have surpassed all his comrades in ferocity. Not content with massacring the gentlemen to whom quarter had been given, he inflicted on them the punishments invented in Russia for slaves; sometimes tying them to trees as a mark for his soldiers to fire at; sometimes scorching certain parts of their skin, so as to represent the national dress of Poland; sometimes dispersing them over the provinces, after he had cut off their hands, arms, noses, or ears, as living examples of the punishment to be suffered by those who should love their country.* It is remarkable, that this ferocious monster, then the hero of the Muscovite army, was deficient in the common quality of military courage. Peter had not civilized the Russians; that was an undertaking beyond his genius, and inconsistent with his ferocious character: he had only armed a barbarous people with the arts of civilized war.
But no valour could have enabled the Confederates of Bar to resist the power of Russia for four years, if they had not been seconded by certain important changes in the political system of Europe, which at first raised a powerful diversion in their favour, but at length proved the immediate cause of the dismemberment of their country. These changes may be dated from the alliance of France with Austria in 1756, and still more certainly from the peace of 1762. On the day on which the Duke de Choiseul signed the preliminaries of peace at Fontainebleau, he entered into a secret convention with Spain, by which it was agreed, that the war should be renewed against England in eight years,—a time which was thought sufficient to repair the exhausted strength of the two Bourbon monarchies.† The hostility of the French Minister to England was at that time extreme. “If I was master,” said he, “we should act towards England as Spain did to the Moors. If we really adopted that system, England would, in thirty years, be reduced and destroyed.”‡ Soon after, however, his vigilance was directed to other quarters by projects which threatened to deprive France of her accustomed and due influence in the North and East of Europe. He was incensed with Catharine for not resuming the alliance with Austria, and the war which had been abruptly suspended by the caprice of her unfortunate husband. She, on the other hand, soon after she was seated on the throne, had formed one of those vast and apparently chimerical plans to which absolute power and immense territory have familiarised the minds of Russian sovereigns. She laboured to counteract the influence of France, which she considered as the chief obstacle to her ambition, on all the frontiers of her empire, in Sweden, Poland, and Turkey, by the formation of a great alliance of the North, to consist of England, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland,—Russia being of course the head of the league.* Choiseul exerted himself in every quarter to defeat this project, or rather to be revenged on Catharine for attempts which were already defeated by their own extravagance. In Sweden his plan for reducing the Russian influence was successfully resisted; but the revolution accomplished by Gustavus III. in 1772, re-established the French ascendant in that kingdom. The Count de Vergennes, ambassador at Constantinople, opened the eyes of the Sultan to the ambitious projects of Catharine in Sweden, in Poland, and in the Crimea, and held out the strongest assurances of powerful aid, which, had Choiseul remained in power, would probably have been carried into effect. By all these means, Vergennes persuaded the Porte to declare war against Russia on the 30th of October, 1768.†
The Confederates of Bar, who had established themselves in the neighbourhood of the Turkish, as well as of the Austrian provinces, now received open assistance from the Turks. The Russian arms were fully occupied in the Turkish war; a Russian fleet entered the Mediterranean; and the agents of the Court of St. Petersburgh excited a revolt among the Greeks, whom they afterwards treacherously and cruelly abandoned to the vengeance of their Turkish tyrants. These events suspended the fate of Poland. French officers of distinguished merit and gallantry guided the valour of the undisciplined Confederates: Austria seemed to countenance, if not openly to support them. Supplies and reinforcements from France passed openly through Vienna into Poland; and Maria Theresa herself publicly declared, that there was no principle or honour in that country, but among the Confederates. But the Turkish war, which had raised up an important ally for the struggling Poles, was in the end destined to be the cause of their destruction.
The course of events had brought the Russian armies into the neighbourhood of the Austrian dominions, and began to fill the Court of Vienna with apprehensions for the security of Hungary. Frederic had no desire that his ally should become stronger; while both the great powers of Germany were averse to the extension of the Russian territories at the expense of Turkey. Frederic was restrained from opposing it forcibly by his treaty with Catharine, who continued to be his sole ally; but Kaunitz, who ruled the councils at Vienna, still adhered to the French alliance, seconding the French negotiations at Constantinople. Even so late as the month of July, 1771, he entered into a secret treaty with Turkey, by which Austria bound herself to recover from Russia, by negotiation or by force, all the conquests made by the latter from the Porte. But there is reason to think that Kaunitz, distrusting the power and the inclination of France under the feeble government of Louis XV., and still less disposed to rely on the councils of Versailles after the downfal of Choiseul in December, 1770, though he did not wish to dissolve the alliance, was desirous of loosening its ties, and became gradually disposed to adopt any expedient against the danger of Russian aggrandisement, which might relieve him from the necessity of engaging in a war, in which his chief confidence must necessarily have rested on so weak a stay as the French Government. Maria Theresa still entertained a rooted aversion for Frederic, whom she never forgave for robbing her of Silesia; and openly professed her abhorrence of the vices and crimes of Catharine, whom she never spoke of but in a tone of disgust, as “that woman.” Her son Joseph, however, affected to admire, and, as far as he had power, to imitate the King of Prussia; and in spite of his mother’s repugnance, found means to begin a personal intercourse with him. Their first interview occurred at Neiss, in Silesia, in August, 1769, where they entered into a secret engagement to prevent the Russians from retaining Moldavia and Wallachia. In September, 1770, a second took place at Neustadt in Moravia, where the principal subject seems also to have been the means of staying the progress of Russian conquest, and where despatches were received from Constantinople, desiring the mediation of both Courts in the negotiations for peace.* But these interviews, though lessening mutual jealousies, do not appear to have directly influenced their system respecting Poland.† The mediation, however, then solicited, ultimately gave rise to that fatal proposition.
Frederic had proposed a plan for the pacification of Poland, on condition of reasonable terms being made with the Confederates, and of the Dissidents being induced to moderate their demands. Austria had assented to this plan, and was willing that Russia should make an honourable peace, but insisted on the restitution of Moldavia and Wallachia, and declared, that if her mediation were slighted, she must at length yield to the instances of France, and take an active part for Poland and Turkey. These declarations Frederic communicated to the Court of Petersburgh;* and they alone seem sufficient to demonstrate that no plan of partition was then contemplated by that monarch. To these communications Catharine answered, in a confidential letter to the King, by a plan of peace, in which she insisted on the independence of the Crimea, the acquisition of a Greek island, and of a pretended independence for Moldavia and Wallachia, which should make her the mistress of these provinces. She spoke of Austria with great distrust and alienation; but, on the other hand, intimated her readiness to enter into a closer intimacy with that Court, if it were possible to disengage her from her present absurd system, and to make her enter into their views; by which means Germany would be restored to its natural state, and the House of Austria would be diverted, by other prospects, from those views on his Majesty’s possessions, which her present connections kept up.† This correspondence continued during January and February, 1771; Frederic objecting, in very friendly language, to the Russian demands, and Catharine adhering to them.‡ In January, Panin notified to the Court of Vienna his mistress’ acceptance of the good offices of Austria towards the pacification, though she declined a formal mediation. This despatch is chiefly remarkable for a declaration,§ “that the Empress had adopted, as an invariable maxim, never to desire any aggrandisement of her states.” When the Empress communicated her plan of peace to Kaunitz in May, that minister declared that his Court could not propose conditions of peace, which must be attended with ruin to the Porte, and with great danger to the Austrian monarchy.
In the summer of the year 1770, Maria Theresa had caused her troops to take possession of the county of Zipps, a district anciently appertaining to Hungary, but which had been enjoyed by Poland for about three hundred and sixty years, under a mortgage made by Sigismond, king of Hungary, on the strange condition that if it was not redeemed by a fixed time, it could only be so by payment of as many times the original sum as there had years elapsed since the appointed term. So unceremonious an adjudication to herself of this territory, in defiance of such an ancient possession, naturally produced a remonstrance even from the timid Stanislaus, which, however, she coolly overruled, in the critical state of Poland, it was impossible that such a measure should not excite observation; and an occasion soon occurred, when it seems to have contributed to produce the most important effects.
Frederic, embarrassed and alarmed by the difficulties of the pacification, resolved to send his brother Henry to Petersburgh, with no other instructions than to employ all his talents and address in bringing Catharine to such a temper as might preserve Prussia from a new war. Henry arrived in that capital on the 9th December; and it seems now to be certain, that the first open proposal of a dismemberment of Poland arose in his conversations with the Empress, and appeared to be suggested by the difficulty of making peace on such terms as would be adequate to the successes of Russia, without endangering the safety of her neighbours.* It would be difficult to guess who first spoke out in a conversation about such a matter between two persons of great adroitness, and who were, doubtless, both equally anxious to throw the blame on each other. Unscrupulous as both were, they were not so utterly shameless that each party would not use the utmost address to bring the dishonest plan out of the mouth of the other. A look, a smile, a hint, or a question were sufficiently intelligible. The best accounts agree, that in speaking of the entrance of the Austrian troops into Poland, and of a report that they had occupied the fortress of Czentokow, Catharine smiling, and casting down her eyes, said to Henry, “It seems that in Poland you have only to stoop and take;” that he seized on the expression; and that she then, resuming an air of indifference, turned the conversation to other subjects. At another time, speaking of the subsidy which Frederic paid to her by treaty, she said, “I fear he will be weary of this burden, and will leave me. I wish I could secure him by some equivalent advantage.” “Nothing,” replied Henry, “will be more easy. You have only to give him some territory to which he has pretensions, and which will facilitate the communication between his dominions.” Catharine, without appearing to understand a remark, the meaning of which could not be mistaken, adroitly rejoined, “that she would willingly consent, if the balance of Europe was not disturbed; and that she wished for nothing.”† In a conversation with Baron Saldern on the terms of peace, Henry suggested that a plan must be contrived which would detach Austria from Turkey, and by which the three powers would gain. “Very well,” replied the former, “provided that it is not at the expense of Poland;”—“as if,” said Henry afterwards, when he told the story, “there were any other country about which such plans could be formed.” Catharine, in one of the conferences in which she said to the Prince, “I will frighten Turkey and flatter England; it is your business to gain Austria, that she may lull France to sleep,” became so eager, that she dipped her finger into ink, and drew with it the lines of partition on a map of Poland which lay before them. “The Empress,” says Frederic, “indignant that any other troops than her own should give law to Poland, said to Prince Henry, that if the Court of Vienna wished to dismember Poland, the other neighbours had a right to do as much.”* Henry said that there were no other means of preventing a general war;—“Pour prévenir ce malheur il n’y a qu’un moyen,—de mettre trois têtes dans un bonnet; et cela ne peut pas se faire qu’aux depens d’un quart.” It is hard to settle the order and time of these fragments of conversation, which, in a more or less imperfect state, have found their way to the public. The probability seems to be, that Henry, who was not inferior in address, and who represented the weaker party, would avoid the first proposal in a case where, if it was rejected, the attempt might prove fatal to the objects of his mission. However that may be, it cannot be doubted that before he left Petersburg on the 30th of January, 1771, Catharine and he had agreed on the general outline to be proposed to his brother.
On his return to Berlin, he accordingly disclosed it to the King, who received it at first with displeasure, and even with indignation, as either an extravagant chimera, or a snare held out to him by his artful and dangerous ally. For twenty-four hours this anger lasted. It is natural to believe that a ray of conscience shot across so great a mind, during one honest day; or, if then too deeply tainted by habitual king-craft for sentiments worthy of his native superiority, that he shrunk for a moment from disgrace, and felt a transient, but bitter, foretaste of the lasting execration of mankind. On the next day, however, he embraced his brother, as if inspired, and declared that he was a second time the saviour of the monarchy.† He was still, however, not without apprehensions from the inconstant councils of a despotic government, influenced by so many various sorts of favourites, as that of Russia. Orlow, who still held the office of Catharine’s lover, was desirous of continuing the war. Panin desired peace, but opposed the Partition, which he probably considered as the division of a Russian province. But the great body of lovers and courtiers who had been enriched by grants of forfeited estates in Poland, were favourable to a project which would secure their former booty, and, by exciting civil war, lead to new and richer forfeitures. The Czernitcheffs were supposed not to confine their hopes to confiscation, but to aspire to a principality to be formed out of the ruins of the republic. It appears that Frederic, in his correspondence with Catharine, urged, perhaps sincerely, his apprehension of general censure: her reply was,—“I take all the blame upon myself.”*
The consent of the Court of Vienna, however, was still to be obtained; where the most formidable and insuperable obstacles were still to be expected in the French alliance, in resentment towards Prussia, and in the conscientious character of Maria Theresa. Prince Henry, on the day of his return to Berlin, in a conversation with Van Swieten the Austrian minister, assured him, on the part of Catharine, “that if Austria would favour her negotiations with Turkey, she would consent to a considerable augmentation of the Austrian territory.” On Van Swieten asking “where?” Henry replied, “You know as well as I do what your Court might take, and what it is in the power of Russia and Prussia to cede to her.” The cautious minister was silent; but it was impossible that he should either have mistaken the meaning of Henry, or have failed to impart such a declaration to his Court.† As soon as the Court of Petersburgh had vanquished the scruples or fears of Frederic, they required that he should sound that of Vienna, which he immediately did through Van Swieten.‡ The state of parties there was such, that Kaunitz thought it necessary to give an ambiguous answer. That celebrated coxcomb, who had grown old in the ceremonial of courts and the intrigues of cabinets, and of whom we are told that the death of his dearest friend never shortened his toilet nor retarded his dinner, still felt some regard to the treaty with France, which was his own work; and was divided between his habitual submission to the Empress Queen and the court which he paid to the young Emperor. It was a difficult task to minister to the ambition of Joseph, without alarming the conscience of Maria Theresa. That Princess had, since the death of her husband, “passed several hours of every day in a funeral apartment, adorned by crucifixes and death’s heads, and by a portrait of the late Emperor, painted when he had breathed his last, and by a picture of herself, as it was supposed she would appear, when the paleness and cold of death should take from her countenance the remains of that beauty which made her one of the finest women of her age.”* Had it been possible, in any case, to rely on the influence of the conscience of a sovereign over measures of state, it might be supposed that a princess, occupied in the practice of religious austerities, and in the exercise of domestic affections, advanced in years, loving peace, beloved by her subjects, respected in other countries, professing remorse for the bloodshed which her wars had occasioned, and with her children about to ascend the greatest thrones of Europe, would not have tarnished her name by cooperating with one monarch whom she detested, and another whom she scorned and disdained, in the most faithless and shameless measures which had ever dishonoured the Christian world. Unhappily, she was destined to be a signal example of the insecurity of such a reliance. But she could not instantly yield; and Kaunitz was obliged to temporize. On the one hand, he sent Prince Lobkowitz on an embassy to Petersburgh, where no minister of rank had of late represented Austria; while, on the other, he continued his negotiation for a defensive alliance with Turkey. After having first duly notified to Frederic that his Court disapproved the impracticable projects of Partition, and was ready to withdraw their troops from the district which they had occupied in virtue of an ancient claim,† he soon after proposed neutrality to him, in the event of a war between Austria and Russia. Fiederic answered, that he was bound by treaty to support Russia; but intimated that Russia might probably recede from her demand of Moldavia and Wallachia. Both parts of the answer seemed to have produced the expected effect on Kaunitz, who now saw his country placed between a formidable war and a profitable peace. Even then, probably, if he could have hoped for effectual aid from France, he might have chosen the road of honour. But the fall of the Duc de Choiseul, and the pusillanimous rather than pacific policy of his successors, destroyed all hope of French succour, and disposed Kaunitz to receive more favourably the advances of the Courts of Berlin and Petersburgh. He seems to have employed the time, from June to October, in surmounting the repugnance of his Court to the new system.
The first certain evidence of a favourable disposition at Vienna towards the plan of the two Powers, is in a despatch of Prince Galitzin at Vienna to Count Panin, on the 25th of October,* in which he gives an account of a conversation with Kaunitz on the day before. The manner of the Austrian minister was more gracious and cordial than formerly; and, after the usual discussions about the difficulties of the terms of peace, Galitzin at last asked him—“What equivalent do you propose for all that you refuse to allow us? It seems to me that there can be none.” Kaunitz, suddenly assuming an air of cheerfulness, pressed his hand, and said “Sir, since you point out the road, I will tell you,—but in such strict confidence, that it must be kept a profound secret at your Court; for if it were to transpire and be known even to the ally and friend of Russia, my Court would solemnly retract and disavow this communication.” He then proposed a moderate plan of peace, but added, that the Court of Vienna could not use its good offices to cause it to be adopted, unless the Court of Petersburgh would give the most positive assurances that she would not subject Poland to dismemberment for her own advantage, or for that of any other; provided always, that their Imperial Majesties were to retain the county of Zipps, but to evacuate every other part of the Polish territory which the Austrian troops might have occupied. Galitzin observed, that the occupation of Zipps had much the air of a dismemberment. This Kaunitz denied; but said, that his Court would co-operate with Russia in forcing the Poles to put an end to their dissensions. The former observed, that the plan of pacification showed the perfect disinterestedness of her Imperial Majesty towards Poland, and that no idea of dismemberment had ever entered into her mind, or into that of her ministers. “I am happy,” said Kaunitz, “to hear you say so.” Panin, in his answer, on the 16th of December,† to Galitzin, seems to have perfectly well understood the extraordinary artifice of the Austrian minister. “The Court of Vienna,” says he, “claims the thirteen towns, and disclaims dismemberment: but there is no state which does not keep claims open against its neighbours, and the right to enforce them when there is an opportunity; and there is none which does not feel the necessity of the balance of power to secure the possession of each. To be sincere, we must not conceal that Russia is also in a condition to produce well-grounded claims against Poland, and that we can with confidence say the same of our ally the King of Prussia; and if the Court of Vienna finds it expedient to enter into measures with us and our ally to compare and arrange our claims, we are ready to agree.” The fears of Kaunitz for the union of France and England were unhappily needless. These great Powers, alike deserters of the rights of nations, and betrayers of the liberties of Europe, saw the crime consummated without stretching forth an arm to prevent it.
In the midst of the conspiracy, a magnificent embassy from France arrived at Vienna early in January, 1772.* At the head of it was the Prince de Rohan, then appointed to grace the embassy by his high birth; while the business continued to be in the hands of M. Durand, a diplomatist of experience and ability. Contrary to all reasonable expectation, the young prince discovered the secret which had escaped the sagacity of the veteran minister. Durand, completely duped by Kaunitz, warned Rohan to hint no suspicions of Austria in his despatches to Versailles. About the end of February, Rohan received information of the treachery of the Austrian court so secretly,† that he was almost obliged to represent it as a discovery made by his own penetration. He complained to Kaunitz, that no assistance was given to the Polish confederates, who had at that moment brilliantly distinguished themselves by the capture of the Castle of Cracow. Kaunitz assured him, that “the Empress Queen never would suffer the balance of power to be disturbed by a dismemberment which would give too much preponderance to neighbouring and rival Courts.” The ambassador suspected the intentions that lurked beneath this equivocal and perfidious answer, and communicated them to his Court, in a despatch on the 2d of March, giving an account of the conference. But the Duc d’Aiguillon, either deceived, or unwilling to appear so, rebuked the Prince for his officiousness, observing, that “the ambassador’s conjectures being incompatible with the positive assurances of the Court of Vienna, constantly repeated by Count Mercy, the ambassador at Paris, and with the promises recently made to M. Durand, the thread which could only deceive must be quitted.” In a private letter to M. d’Aiguillon, to be shown only to the King, referring to a private audience with the Empress, he says:—“I have indeed seen Maria Theresa weep over the misfortunes of oppressed Poland; but that Princess, practised in the art of concealing her designs, has tears at command. With one hand she lifts her handkerchief to her eyes to wipe away tears; with the other she wields the sword for the Partition of Poland.”‡
In February and March, 1772, the three Powers exchanged declarations, binding themselves to adhere to the principle of equality in the Partition. In August following, the treaties of dismemberment were executed at Petersburgh; and in September, the demands and determinations of the combined Courts were made known at Warsaw. It is needless to characterize papers which have been universally regarded as carried to the extremity of human injustice and effrontery. An undisputed possession of centuries, a succession of treaties, to which all the European states were either parties or guarantees,—nay, the recent, solemn, and repeated engagements of the three Governments themselves, were considered as forming no title of dominion. In answer, the Empress Queen and the King of Prussia appealed to some pretensions of their predecessors in the thirteenth century: the Empress of Russia alleged only the evils suffered by neighbouring states from the anarchy of Poland.* The remonstrances of the Polish Government, and their appeals to all those states who were bound to protect them as guarantees of the Treaty of Olivia, were equally vain. When the Austrian ambassador announced the Partition at Versailles, the old King said, “If the other man (Choiseul) had been here, this would not have happened.”† But in truth, both France and Great Britain had, at that time, lost all influence in the affairs of Europe:—France, from the imbecility of her Government, and partly, in the case of Poland, from reliance on the Court of Vienna; Great Britain, in consequence of her own treachery to Prussia, but in a still greater degree from the unpopularity of her Government at home, and the approaches of a revolt in the noblest part of her colonies. Had there been a spark of spirit, or a ray of wise policy in the councils of England and France, they would have been immediately followed by all the secondary powers whose very existence depended on the general reverence for justice.
The Poles made a gallant stand. The Government was compelled to call a Diet; and the three Powers insisted on its unanimity in the most trivial act. In spite, however, of every species of corruption and violence, the Diet, surrounded as it was by foreign bayonets, gave powers to deputies to negotiate with the three Powers, by a majority of only one; and it was not till September, 1773, that it was compelled to cede, by a pretended treaty, some of her finest provinces, with nearly five millions of her population. The conspirators were resolved to deprive the remains of the Polish nation of all hope of re-establishing a vigorous government, or attaining domestic tranquillity; and the Liberum Veto, the elective monarchy, and all the other institutions which tended to perpetuate disorder, were again imposed.
Maria Theresa had the merit of confessing her fault. On the 19th of February, 1775, when M. de Breteuil, the ambassador of Louis XVI., had his first audience, after some embarrassed remarks on the subject of Poland, she at length exclaimed, in a tone of sorrow, “I know, Sir, that I have brought a deep stain on my reign, by what has been done in Poland; but I am sure that I should be forgiven, if it could be known what repugnance I had to it, and how many circumstances combined against my principles.”* The guilt of the three parties to the Partition was very unequal. Frederic, the weakest, had most to apprehend, both from a rupture with his ally, and from the accidents of a general war; while, on the other hand, some enlargement seemed requisite to the defence of his dominions. The House of Austria entered late and reluctantly into the conspiracy, which she probably might have escaped, if France had been under a more vigorous Government. Catharine was the great criminal. She had for eight years oppressed, betrayed, and ravaged Poland,—had imposed on her King,—had prevented all reformation of the government,—had fomented divisions among the nobility,—in a word, had created and maintained that anarchy, which she at length used as a pretence for the dismemberment. Her vast empire needed no accession of territory for defence, or, it might have been hoped, even for ambition. Yet, by her insatiable avidity, was occasioned the pretended necessity for the Partition. To prevent her from acquiring the Crimea, Moldavia, and Wallachia, the Courts of Vienna and Berlin agreed to allow her to commit an equivalent robbery on Poland. Whoever first proposed it, Catharine was the real cause and author of the whole monstrous transaction; and, should any historian,—dazzled by the splendour of her reign, or more excusably seduced by her genius, her love of letters, her efforts in legislation, and her real services to her subjects,—labour to palliate this great offence, he will only share her infamy in the vain attempt to extenuate her guilt.
The defects of the Polish government probably contributed to the loss of independence most directly by their influence on the military system. The body of the gentry retaining the power of the sword, as well as the authority of the state in their own hands, were too jealous of the Crown to strengthen the regular army; though even that body was more in the power of the great officers named by the Diet, than in that of the King. They continued to serve on horseback as in ancient times, and to regard the Pospolite, or general armament of the gentry, as the impenetrable bulwark of the commonwealth. Nor, indeed, unless they had armed their slaves, would it have been possible to have established a formidable native infantry. Their armed force was adequate to the short irruptions or sudden enterprises of ancient war; but a body of noble cavalry was altogether incapable of the discipline, which is of the essence of modern armies; and their military system was irreconcilable with the acquisition of the science of war. In war alone, the Polish nobility were barbarians; while war was the only part of civilization which the Russians had obtained. In one country, the sovereign nobility of half a million durst neither arm their slaves, nor trust a mercenary army: in the other, the Czar naturally employed a standing army, recruited, without fear, from the enslaved peasantry. To these military conscription was a reward, and the station of a private soldier a preferment; and they were fitted by their previous condition to be rendered, by military discipline, the most patient and obedient of soldiers,—without enterprise, but without fear, and equally inaccessible to discontent and attachment, passive and almost insensible members of the great military machine. There are many circumstances in the institutions and destiny of a people, which seem to arise from original peculiarities of national character, of which it is often impossible to explain the origin, or even to show the nature. Denmark and Sweden are countries situated in the same region of the globe, inhabited by nations of the same descent, language, and religion, and very similar in their manners, their ancient institutions, and modern civilization: yet he would be a bold speculator who should attempt to account for the talent, fame, turbulence, and revolutions of the former; and for the quiet prosperity and obscure mediocrity, which have formed the character of the latter.
There is no political doctrine more false or more pernicious than that which represents vices in its internal government as an extenuation of unjust aggression against a country, and a consolation to mankind for the destruction of its independence. As no government is without great faults, such a doctrine multiplies the grounds of war, gives an unbounded scope to ambition, and furnishes benevolent pretexts for every sort of rapine. However bad the government of Poland may have been, its bad qualities do not in the least degree abate the evil consequence of the Partition, in weakening, by its example, the security of all other nations. An act of robbery on the hoards of a worthless miser, though they be bestowed on the needy and the deserving, does not the less shake the common basis of property. The greater number of nations live under governments which are indisputably bad; but it is a less evil that they should continue in that state, than that they should be gathered under a single conqueror, even with a chance of improvement in their internal administration. Conquest and extensive empire are among the greatest evils, and the division of mankind into independent communities is among the greatest advantages, which fall to the lot of men. The multiplication of such communities increases the reciprocal control of opinion, strengthens the principles of generous rivalship, makes every man love his own ancient and separate country with a warmer affection, brings nearer to all mankind the objects of noble ambition, and adds to the incentives to which we owe works of genius and acts of virtue. There are some peculiarities in the condition of every civilized country which are peculiarly favourable to some talents or good qualities. To destroy the independence of a people, is to annihilate a great assemblage of intellectual and moral qualities, forming the character of a nation, and distinguishing it from other communities, which no human skill can bring together. As long as national spirit exists, there is always reason to hope that it will work real reformation: when it is destroyed, though better forms may be imposed by a conqueror, there is no farther hope of those only valuable reformations which represent the sentiments, and issue from the heart of a people. The barons at Runnymede continued to be the masters of slaves; but the noble principles of the charter shortly began to release these slaves from bondage. Those who conquered at Marathon and Platæa were the masters of slaves; yet, by the defeat of Eastern tyrants, they preserved knowledge, liberty, and civilization itself, and contributed to that progress of the human mind which will one day banish slavery from the world. Had the people of Scotland been conquered by Edward II. or by Henry VIII., a common observer would have seen nothing in the event but that a race of turbulent barbarians was reduced to subjection by a more civilized state.
After this first Partition was completed in 1776, Poland was suffered for sixteen years to enjoy an interval of more undisturbed tranquillity than it had known for a century. Russian armies ceased to vex it: the dispositions of other foreign powers became more favourable. Frederic II. now entered on that honourable portion of his reign, in which he made a just war for the defence of the integrity of Bavaria, and of the independence of Germany. Still attempts were not wanting to seduce him into new enterprises against Poland. When, in the year 1782, reports were current that Potemkin was to be made King of Poland, that haughty and profligate barbarian told the Count de Goertz, then Prussian ambassador at Petersburgh, that he despised the Polish nation too much to be ambitious of reigning over them.* He desired the ambassador to communicate to his master a plan for a new Partition, observing “that the first was only child’s play, and that if they had taken all, the outcry would not have been greater.” Every man who feels for the dignity of human nature, will rejoice that the illustrious monarch firmly rejected the proposal. Potemkin read over his refusal three times before he could believe his eyes, and at length exclaimed, in language very common among certain politicians, “I never could have believed that King Frederic was capable of romantic deas.”† As soon as Frederic returned to counsels worthy of himself, he became unfit for the purposes of the Empress, who, in 1780, refused to renew her alliance with him, and found more suitable instruments in the restless character, and shallow understanding, of Joseph II., whose unprincipled ambition was now released from the restraint which his mother’s scruples had imposed on it. The project of re-establishing an Eastern empire now occupied the Court of Petersburgh, and a portion of the spoils of Turkey was a sufficient lure to Joseph. The state of Europe tended daily more and more to restore some degree of independence to the remains of Poland. Though France, her most ancient and constant ally, was then absorbed in the approach of those tremendous convulsions which have for more than thirty years agitated Europe, other Powers now adopted a policy, the influence of which was favourable to the Poles. Prussia, as she receded from Russia, became gradually connected with England, Holland, and Sweden; and her honest policy in the case of Bavaria placed her at the head of all the independent members of the Germanic Confederacy. Turkey declared war against Russia. The Austrian Government was disturbed by the discontent and revolts which the precipitate innovations of Joseph had excited in various provinces of the monarchy. A formidable combination against the power of Russia was in time formed. In the treaty between Prussia and the Porte, concluded at Constantinople in January, 1790, the contracting parties bound themselves to endeavour to obtain from Austria the restitution of those Polish provinces, to which she had given the name of Galicia.*
During the progress of these auspicious changes, the Poles began to entertain the hope that they might at length be suffered to reform their institutions, to provide for their own quiet and safety, and to adopt that policy which might one day enable them to resume their ancient station among European nations. From 1778 to 1788, no great measures had been adopted, but no tumults disturbed the country; while reasonable opinions made some progress, and a national spirit was slowly reviving. The nobility patiently listened to plans for the establishment of a productive revenue and a regular army; a disposition to renounce their dangerous right of electing a king made perceptible advances; and the fatal law of unanimity had been so branded as an instrument of Russian policy, that in the Diets of these ten years, no nuncio was found bold enough to employ his negative. At the breaking out of the Turkish war, the Poles ventured to refuse not only an alliance offered by Catharine, but even permission to her to raise a body of cavalry in the territories of the republic.†
In the midst of these excellent symptoms of public sense and temper, a Diet assembled at Warsaw in October, 1788, from whom the restoration of the republic was hoped, and by whom it would have been accomplished, if their prudent and honest measures had not been defeated by one of the blackest acts of treachery recorded in the annals of mankind. Perhaps the four years which followed present more signal examples than any other part of history,—of patience, moderation, wisdom, and integrity, in a popular assembly,—of spirit and unanimity among a turbulent people,—of inveterate malignity in an old oppressor,—and of the most execrable perfidy in a pretended friend. The Diet applied itself with the utmost diligence and caution to reform the state, watching the progress of popular opinion, and proposing no reformation till the public seemed ripe for its reception. While the spirit of the French Revolution was every where prevalent, these reformers had the courageous prudence to avoid whatever was visionary in its principles, or violent in their execution. They refused the powerful but perilous aid of the enthusiasm which it excited long before its excesses and atrocities had rendered it odious. They were content to be reproached by their friends for the slowness of their reformatory measures; and to be despised for the limited extent of these by many of those generous minds who then aspired to bestow a new and more perfect liberty on mankind. After having taken measures for the re-establishment of the finances and the army, they employed the greater part of the year 1789 in the discussion of constitutional reforms.* A committee appointed in September, before the conclusion of the year, made a report which contained an outline of the most necessary alterations. No immediate decision was made on these propositions; but the sense of the Diet was, in the course of repeated discussions, more decisively manifested. It was resolved, without a division, that the Elector of Saxony should be named successor to the crown; which determination,—the prelude to the establishment of hereditary monarchy,—was confirmed by the Dietines, or electoral assemblies. The elective franchise, formerly exercised by all the nobility, was limited to landed proprietors. Many other fundamental principles of a new constitution were perfectly understood to be generally approved, though they were not formally established. In the mean time, as the Diets were biennial, the assembly approached to the close of its legal duration; and as it was deemed dangerous to intrust the work of reformation to an entirely new one, and equally so to establish the precedent of an existence prolonged beyond the legal period, an expedient was accordingly adopted, not indeed sanctioned by law, but founded in constitutional principles, the success of which afforded a signal proof of the unanimity of the Polish nation. New writs were issued to all the Dietines requiring them to choose the same number of nuncios as usual. These elections proceeded regularly; and the newmembers being received by the old, formed with them a double Diet. Almost all the Dietines instructed their new representatives to vote for hereditary monarchy, and declared their approbation of the past conduct of the Diet.
On the 16th of December, 1790, this double Diet assembled with a more direct, deliberate, formal, and complete authority, from the great majority of the freemen, to reform the abuses of the government, than perhaps any other representative assembly in Europe ever possessed. They declared the pretended guarantee of Russia in 1776 to be “null, an invasion of national independence, incompatible with the natural rights of every civilized society, and with the political privileges of every free nation.”* They felt the necessity of incorporating, in one law, all the reforms which had passed, and all those which had received the unequivocal sanction of public approbation. The state of foreign affairs, as well as the general voice at home, loudly called for the immediate adoption of such a measure; and the new Constitution was presented to the Diet on the 3d of May following,† after being read and received the night before with unanimous and enthusiastic applause by far the greater part of the members of both Houses, at the palace of Prince Radzivil. Only twelve dissentient voices opposed it in the Diet. Never were debates and votes more free: these men, the most hateful of apostates, were neither attacked, nor threatened, nor insulted. The people, on this great and sacred occasion, seemed to have lost all the levity and turbulence of their character, and to have already learnt those virtues which are usually the slow fruit of that liberty which they were then only about to plant.
This constitution confirmed the rights of the Established Church, together with religious liberty, as dictated by the charity which religion inculcates and inspires. It established an hereditary monarchy in the Electoral House of Saxony; reserving to the nation the right of choosing a new race of Kings, in case of the extinction of that family. The executive power was vested in the King, whose ministers were responsible for its exercise. The Legislature was divided into two Houses,—the Senate and the House of Nuncios, with respect to whom the ancient constitutional language and forms were preserved. The necessity of unanimity was taken away, and, with it, those dangerous remedies of confederation and confederate Diets which it had rendered necessary. Each considerable town received new rights, with a restoration of all their ancient privileges. The burgesses recovered the right of electing their own magistrates. All their property within their towns were declared to be inheritable and inviolable. They were empowered to acquire land in Poland, as they always had done in Lithuania. All the offices of the state, the law, the church, and the army, were thrown open to them. The larger towns were empowered to send deputies to the Diet, with a right to vote on all local and commercial subjects, and to speak on all questions whatsoever. All these deputies became noble, as did every officer of the rank of captain, and every lawyer who filled the humblest office of magistracy, and every burgess who acquired a property in land, paying 5l. of yearly taxes. Two hundred burgesses were ennobled at the moment, and a provision was made for ennobling thirty at every future Diet. Industry was perfectly unfettered. Immunity from arrest till after conviction was extended to the burgesses;—the extension of which most inconvenient privilege was well adapted to raise traders to a level with the gentry. The same object was promoted by a provision, that no nobleman, by becoming a merchant, a shopkeeper, or artisan, should forfeit his privileges, or be deemed to derogate from his rank. Numerous paths to nobility were thus thrown open; and every art was employed to make the ascent easy. The wisdom and liberality of the Polish gentry, if they had not been defeated by flagitious enemies, would, by a single act of legislation, have accomplished that fusion of the various orders of society, which it has required the most propitious circumstances, in a long course of ages, to effect, in the freest and most happy of the European nations. Having thus communicated political privileges to hitherto disregarded freemen, the new constitution extended to all serfs the full protection of law, which before was enjoyed only by those of the royal demesnes; while it facilitated and encouraged voluntary manumission, by ratifying all contracts relating to it,—the first step to be taken in every country towards the accomplishment of the highest of all the objects of human legislation.
The course of this glorious revolution was not dishonoured by popular tumult, by sanguinary excesses, or by political executions. So far did the excellent Diet carry its wise regard to the sacredness of property, that, though it was in urgent need of financial resources, it postponed, till after the death of present incumbents, the application to the relief of the state of the income of those ecclesiastical offices which were no longer deemed necessary. History will one day do justice to that illustrious body, and hold out to posterity their work, as the perfect model of a most arduous reformation.
The storm which demolished this noble edifice came from abroad. On the 29th of March, of the preceding year, a treaty of alliance had been concluded at Warsaw between the King of Prussia and the Republic, containing, among others, the following stipulation:—“If any foreign Power, in virtue of any preceding acts and stipulations whatsoever, should claim the right of interfering in the internal affairs of the republic of Poland, at what time or in what manner soever, his Majesty the King of Prussia will first employ his good offices to prevent hostilities in consequence of such pretension; but, if his good offices should be ineffectual, and that hostilities against Poland should ensue, his Majesty the King of Prussia, considering such an event as a case provided for in this treaty, will assist the republic according to the tenor of the fourth article of the present treaty.”* The aid here referred to was, on the part of Prussia, twenty-two thousand or thirty thousand men, or, in case of necessity, all its disposable force. The undisputed purpose of the article had been to guard Poland against an interference in her affairs by Russia, under pretence of the guarantee of the Polish constitution in 1775.
Though the King of Prussia had, after the conclusion of the treaty, urgently pressed the Diet for the cession of the cities of Dantzick and Thorn, his claim had been afterwards withdrawn and disavowed. On the 13th of May, in the present year, Goltz, then Prussian Chargé d’Affaires at Warsaw, in a conference with the Deputation of the Diet for Foreign Affairs, said, “that he had received orders from his Prussian Majesty to express to them his satisfaction at the happy revolution which had at length given to Poland a wise and regular constitution.”† On the 23d of May, in his answer to the letter of Stanislaus, announcing the adoption of the constitution, the same Prince, after applauding the establishment of hereditary monarchy in the House of Saxony, (which, it must be particularly borne in mind, was a positive breach of the constitution guaranteed by Russia in 1775,) proceeds to say, “I congratulate myself on having contributed to the liberty and independence of Poland; and my most agreeable care will be, to preserve and strengthen the ties which unite us.” On the 21st of June, the Prussian minister, on occasion of alarm expressed by the Poles that the peace with Turkey might prove dangerous to them, declares, that if such dangers were to arise, “the king of Prussia, faithful to all his obligations, will have it particularly at heart to fulfil those which were last year contracted by him.” If there was any reliance in the faith of treaties, or on the honour of kings, Poland might have confidently hoped, that, if she was attacked by Russia, in virtue of the guarantee of 1775, her independence and her constitution would be defended by the whole force of the Prussian monarchy.
The remaining part of the year 1791 passed in quiet, but not without apprehension. On the 9th of January, 1792, Catharine concluded a peace with Turkey at Jassy; and being thus delivered from all foreign enemies, began once more to manifest intentions of interfering in the affairs of Poland. Emboldened by the removal of Herztberg from the councils of Prussia, and by the death of the Emperor Leopold, a prince of experience and prudence, she resolved to avail herself of the disposition then arising in all European Governments, to sacrifice every other object to a preparation for a contest with the principles of the French Revolution. A small number of Polish nobles furnished her with that very slender pretext, with which she was always content. Their chiefs were Rzewuski, who, in 1768, had been exiled to Siberia, and Felix Potocki, a member of a potent and illustrious family, which was inviolably attached to the cause of the republic. These unnatural apostates deserting their long-suffering country at the moment when, for the first time, hope dawned on her, were received by Catharine with the honours due from her to aggravated treason in the persons of the Confederates of Targowitz. On the 18th of May the Russian minister at Warsaw declared, that the Empress, “called on by many distinguished Poles who had confederated against the pretended constitution of 1791, would, in virtue of her guarantee, march an army into Poland to restore the liberties of the republic.” The hope, meantime, of help from Prussia was speedily and cruelly deceived. Lucchesini, the Prussian minister at Warsaw, in an evasive answer to a communication made to him respecting the preparations for defence against Russia, said coldly, “that his master received the communication as a proof of the esteem of the King and Republic of Poland; but that he could take no cognisance of the affairs which occupied the Diet.” On Stanislaus himself claiming his aid, Frederic on the 8th of June answered:—“In considering the new constitution which the republic adopted, without my knowledge and without my concurrence, I never thought of supporting or protecting it.” So signal a breach of faith is not to be found in the modern history of great states. It resembles rather the vulgar frauds and low artifices, which, under the name of “reason of state,” made up the policy of the petty tyrants of Italy in the fourteenth century.
Assured of the connivance of Prussia, Catharine now poured an immense army into Poland, along the whole line of frontier, from the Baltic to the neighbourhood of the Euxine. But the spirit of the Polish nation was unbroken. A series of brilliant actions occupied the summer of 1792, in which the Polish army, under Poniatowski and Kosciusko, alternately victorious and vanquished, gave equal proofs of unavailing gallantry.
Meantime Stanislaus, who had remained in his capital, willing to be duped by the Russian and Prussian ambassadors, whom he still suffered to continue there, made a vain attempt to disarm the anger of the Empress, by proposing that her grandson Constantine should be the stock of the new constitutional dynasty; to which she haughtily replied, that he must re-establish the old constitution, and accede to the Confederation of Targowitz;—“perhaps,” says M. Ferrand, “because a throne acquired without guilt or perfidy might have few attractions for her.”* Having on the 4th of July published a proclamation, declaring “that he would not survive his country,” on the 22d of the same month, as soon as he received the commands of Catharine, this dastard prince declared his accession to the Confederation of Targowitz, and thus threw the legal authority of the republic into the hands of that band of conspirators. The gallant army, over whom the Diet had intrusted their unworthy King with absolute authority, were now compelled, by his treacherous orders, to lay down their arms amidst the tears of their countrymen, and the insolent exultation of their barbarous enemies.† The traitors of Targowitz were, for a moment, permitted by Russia to rule over the country which they had betrayed, to prosecute the persons and lay waste the property of all good citizens, and to re-establish every ancient abuse.
Such was the unhappy state of Poland during the remainder of the year 1792, a period which will be always memorable for the invasion of France by a German army, their ignominious retreat, the eruption of the French forces into Germany and Flanders, the dreadful scenes which passed in the interior of France, and the apprehension professed by all Governments of the progress of the opinions to which these events were ascribed. The Empress of Russia, among the rest, professed the utmost abhorrence of the French Revolution, made war against it by the most vehement manifestoes, stimulated every other power to resist it, but never contributed a battalion or a ship to the confederacy against it. Frederic-William also plunged headlong into the coalition against the advice of his wisest counsellors.‡ At the moment of the Duke of Brunswick’s entry into France, in July,—if we may believe M. Ferrand, himself a zealous royalist, who had evidently more than ordinary means of information,—the ministers of the principal European powers met at Luxemburg, provided with various projects for new arrangements of territory, in the event which they thought inevitable, of the success of the invasion. The Austrian ministers betrayed the intention of their Court, to renew its attempt to compel the Elector of Bavaria to exchange his dominions for the Low Counties; which, by the dissolution of their treaties with France, they deemed themselves entitled again to propose. The King of Prussia, on this alarming disclosure, showed symptoms of an inclination to abandon an enterprise, which many other circumstances combined to prove was impracticable, at least with the number of troops with which he had presumptuously undertaken it. These dangerous projects of the Court of Vienna made him also feel the necessity of a closer connection with Russia; and in an interview with the Austrian and Russian ministers at Verdun, he gave them to understand, that Prussia could not continue the war without being assured of an indemnity. Russia eagerly adopted a suggestion which engaged Prussia more completely in her Polish schemes; and Austria willingly listened to a proposal which would furnish a precedent and a justification for similar enlargements of her own dominions: while both the Imperial Courts declared, that they would acquiesce in the occupation of another portion of Poland by the Prussian armies.*
Whether in consequence of the supposed agreement at Verdun or not, the fact at least is certain, that Frederic-William returned from his French disgraces to seek consolation in the plunder of Poland. Nothing is more characteristic of a monarch without ability, without knowledge, without resolution, whose life had been divided between gross libertinism and abject superstition, than that, after flying before the armies of a powerful nation, he should instantly proceed to attack an oppressed, and, as he thought, defenceless people. In January, 1793, he entered Poland; and, while Russia was charging the Poles with the extreme of royalism, he chose the very opposite pretext, that they propagated anarchical principles, and had established Jacobin clubs. Even the criminal Confederates of Targowitz were indignant at these falsehoods, and remonstrated, at Berlin and Petersburgh, against the entry of the Prussian troops. But the complaints of such apostates against the natural results of their own crimes were heard with contempt. The Empress of Russia, in a Declaration of the 9th of April, informed the world that, acting in concert with Prussia, and with the consent of Austria, the only means of controlling the Jacobinism of Poland was “by confining it within more narrow limits, and by giving it proportions which better suited an intermediate power.” The King of Prussia, accordingly, seized Great Poland; and the Russian army occupied all the other provinces of the republic. It was easy, therefore, for Catharine to determine the extent of her new robbery.
In order, however, to give it some shadow of legality, the King was compelled to call a Diet, from which every one was excluded who was not a partisan of Russia, and an accomplice of the Confederates of Targowitz. The unhappy assembly met at Grodno in June; and, in spite of its bad composition, showed still many sparks of Polish spirit. Sievers, the Russian ambassador, a man apparently worthy of his mission, had recourse to threats, insults, brutal violence, military imprisonment, arbitrary exile, and every other species of outrage and intimidation which, for near thirty years, had constituted the whole system of Russia towards the Polish legislature. In one note, he tells them that, unless they proceed more rapidly, “he shall be under the painful necessity of removing all incendiaries, disturbers of the public peace, and partisans of the 3d of May, from the Diet.”* In another, he apprises them, that he must consider any longer delay “as a declaration of hostility; in which case, the lands, possessions, and dwellings of the malcontent members, must be subject to military execution.” “If the King adheres to the Opposition, the military execution must extend to his demesnes, the pay of the Russian troops will be stopped, and they will live at the expense of the unhappy peasants.”† Grodno was surrounded by Russian troops; loaded cannon were pointed at the palace of the King and the hall of the Diet; four nuncios were carried away prisoners by violence in the night; and all the members were threatened with Siberia. In these circumstances, the captive Diet was compelled, in July and September, to sign two treaties with Russia and Prussia, stipulating such cessions as the plunderers were pleased to dictate, and containing a repetition of the same insulting mockery which had closed every former act of rapine,—a guarantee of the remaining possessions of the republic.‡ It had the consolation of being allowed to perform one act of justice,—that of depriving the leaders of the Confederation of Targowitz, Felix Potocki, Rzewuski, and Braneki, of the great offices which they dishonoured. It may hereafter be discovered, whether it be actually true that Alsace and Lorraine were to have been the compensation to Austria for forbearing to claim her share of the spoils of Poland at this period of the second Partition. It is already well known that the allied army refused to receive the surrender of Strasburgh in the name of Louis XVII., and that Valenciennes and Condé were taken in the name of Austria.
In the beginning of 1794, a young officer named Madalinski, who had kept together, at the disbanding of the army, eighty gentlemen, gradually increased his adherents, till they amounted to a force of about four thousand men, and began to harass the Russian posts. The people of Cracow expelled the Russian garrison; and, on the night of the 28th of March, the heroic Kosciusko, at the head of a small body of adherents, entered that city, and undertook its government and defence. Endowed with civil as well as military talents, he established order among the insurgents, and caused the legitimate constitution to be solemnly proclaimed in the cathedral, where it was once more hailed with genuine enthusiasm. He proclaimed a national confederation, and sent copies of his manifesto to Petersburgh, Berlin, and Vienna; treating the two first courts with deserved severity, but speaking amicably of the third, whose territory he enjoined his army to respect. These marks of friendship, the Austrian resident at Warsaw publicly disclaimed, imputing to Kosciusko and his friends “the monstrous principles of the French Convention;”—a language which plainly showed that the Court of Vienna, which had only consented to the last Partition, was willing to share in the next. Kosciusko was daily reinforced; and on the 17th of April rose on the Russian garrison of Warsaw, and compelled Igelstrom the commander, after an obstinate resistance of thirty-six hours, to evacuate the city with a loss of two thousand men wounded. The citizens of the capital, the whole body of a proud nobility, and all the friends of their country throughout Poland, submitted to the temporary dictatorship of Kosciusko, a private gentleman only recently known to the public, and without any influence but the reputation of his virtue. Order and tranquillity generally prevailed; some of the burghers, perhaps excited by the agents of Russia, complained to Kosciusko of the inadequacy of their privileges. But this excellent chief, instead of courting popularity, repressed an attempt which might lead to dangerous divisions. Soon after, more criminal excesses for the first time dishonoured the Polish revolution, but served to shed a brighter lustre on the humanity and intrepidity of Kosciusko. The papers of the Russian embassy laid open proofs of the venality of many of the Poles who had betrayed their country. The populace of Warsaw, impatient of the slow forms of law, apprehensive of the lenient spirit which prevailed among the revolutionary leaders, and instigated by the incendiaries, who are always ready to flatter the passions of a multitude, put to death eight of these persons, and, by their clamours, extorted from the tribunal a precipitate trial and execution of a somewhat smaller number. Kosciusko did not content himself with reprobating these atrocities. Though surrounded by danger, attacked by the most formidable enemies, betrayed by his own Government, and abandoned by all Europe, he flew from his camp to the capital, brought the ringleaders of the massacre to justice, and caused them to be immediately executed. We learn, from very respectable authority, that during all the perils of his short administration, he persuaded the nobility to take measures for a more rapid enfranchisement of the peasantry, than the cautious policy of the Diet had hazarded.*
Harassed by the advance of Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies, Kosciusko concentrated the greater part of his army around Warsaw, against which Frederic-William advanced at the head of forty thousand disciplined troops. With an irregular force of twelve thousand he made an obstinate resistance for several hours on the 8th of June, and retired to his entrenched camp before the city. The Prussians having taken possession of Cracow, summoned the capital to surrender, under pain of all the horrors of an assault. After two months employed in vain attempts to reduce it, the King of Prussia was compelled, by an insurrection in his lately acquired Polish province, to retire with precipitation and disgrace. But in the mean time, the Russians were advancing, in spite of the gallant resistance of General Count Joseph Sierakowski, one of the most faithful friends of his country; and on the 4th of October, Kosciusko, with only eighteen thousand men, thought it necessary to hazard a battle at Macciowice, to prevent the junction of the two Russian divisions of Suwarrow and Fersen. Success was long and valiantly contested. According to some narrations, the enthusiasm of the Poles would have prevailed, but for the treachery or incapacity of Count Poninski.† Kosciusko, after the most admirable exertions of judgment and courage, fell, covered with wounds; and the Polish army fled. The Russians and Cossacks were melted at the sight of their gallant enemy, who lay insensible on the field. When he opened his eyes, and learnt the full extent of the disaster, he vainly implored the enemy to put an end to his sufferings. The Russian officers, moved with admiration and compassion, treated him with tenderness, and sent him, with due respect, a prisoner of war to Petersburgh, where Catharine threw him into a dungeon; from which he was released by Paul on his succession, perhaps partly from hatred to his mother, and partly from one of those paroxysms of transient generosity, of which that brutal lunatic was not incapable.
From that moment the farther defence of Poland became hopeless. Suwarrow advanced to the capital, and stimulated his army to the assault of the great suburb of Praga, by the barbarous promise of a license to pillage for forty-eight hours. A dreadful contest ensued on the 4th of November, in which the inhabitants performed prodigies of useless valour, making a stand in every street, and almost at every house. All the horrors of war, which the most civilized armies practised on such occasions, were here seen with tenfold violence. No age or sex, or condition, was spared; the murder of children forming a sort of barbarous sport for the assailants. The most unspeakable outrages were offered to the living and the dead. The mere infliction of death was an act of mercy. The streets streamed with blood. Eighteen thousand human carcasses were carried away after the massacre had ceased. Many were burnt to death in the flames which consumed the town. Multitudes were driven by the bayonet into the Vistula. A great body of fugitives perished by the fall of the great bridge over which they fled. These tremendous scenes closed the resistance of Poland, and completed the triumph of her oppressors. The Russian army entered Warsaw on the 9th of November, 1794. Stanislaus was suffered to amuse himself with the formalities of royalty for some months longer, till, in obedience to the order of Catharine, he abdicated on the 25th of November, 1795,—a day which, being the anniversary of his coronation, seemed to be chosen to complete his humiliation. Quarrels about the division of the booty retarded the complete execution of the formal and final Partition, till the beginning of the next year.
Thus fell the Polish people, after a wise and virtuous attempt to establish liberty, and a heroic struggle to defend it, by the flagitious wickedness of Russia, by the foul treachery of Prussia, by the unprincipled accession of Austria, and by the short-sighted, as well as mean-spirited, acquiescence of all the other nations of Europe. Till the first Partition, the right of every people to its own soil had been universally regarded as the guardian principle of European independence. But in the case of Poland, a nation was robbed of its ancient territory without the pretence of any wrong which could justify war, and without even those forms of war which could bestow on the acquisition the name of conquest. It is a cruel and bitter aggravation of this calamity, that the crime was perpetrated, under the pretence of the wise and just principle of maintaining the balance of power;—as if that principle had any value but its tendency to prevent such crimes;—as if an equal division of the booty bore any resemblance to a joint exertion to prevent the robbery. In the case of private highwaymen and pirates, a fair division of the booty tends, no doubt, to the harmony of the gang and the safety of its members, but renders them more formidable to the honest and peaceable part of mankind.*
For about eleven years the name of Poland was erased from the map of Europe. By the Treaty of Tilsit, in 1807, the Prussian part of that unfortunate country was restored to as much independence as could then be enjoyed, under the name of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw; and this revived state received a considerable enlargement in 1809, by the treaty of Shoenbrunn, at the expense of Austria.
When Napoleon opened the decisive campaign of 1812, in what he called in his proclamations “the Second Polish War,” he published a Declaration, addressed to the Poles, in which he announced that Poland would be greater than she had been under Stanislaus, and that the Archduke, who then governed Wurtsburg, was to be their sovereign; and when on the 12th of July in that year, Wybicki, at the head of a deputation of the Diet, told him, at Wilna, with truth, “The interest of your empire requires the re-establishment of Poland; the honour of France is interested in it,”—he replied, “that he had done all that duty to his subjects allowed him to restore their country; that he would second their exertions; and that he authorized them to take up arms, every where but in the Austrian provinces, of which he had guaranteed the integrity, and which he should not suffer to be disturbed.” In his answer,—too cold and guarded to inspire enthusiasm,—he promised even less than he had acquired the the power of performing; for, by the secret articles of his treaty with Austria, concluded in March, provision had been made for an exchange of the Illyrian provinces (which he had retained at his own disposal) for such a part of Austrian Poland as would be equivalent to them.* What his real designs respecting Poland were, it is not easy to conjecture. That he was desirous of re-establishing its independence, and that he looked forward to such an event as the result of his success, cannot be doubted. But he had probably grown too much of a politician and an emperor, to trust, or to love that national feeling and popular enthusiasm to which he had owed the splendid victories of his youth. He was now rather willing to owe every thing to his policy and his army. Had he thrown away the scabbard in this just cause,—had he solemnly pledged himself to the restoration of Poland,—had he obtained the exchange of Galicia for Dalmatia, instead of secretly providing for it,—had he considered Polish independence, not merely as the consequence of victory, but as one of the most powerful means of securing it,—had he, in short, retained some part of his early faith in the attachment of nations, instead of relying exclusively on the mechanism of armies, perhaps the success of that memorable campaign might have been more equally balanced. Seventy thousand Poles were then fighting under his banners.† Forty thousand are supposed to have fallen in the French armies from the destruction of Poland to the battle of Waterloo.* There are few instances of the affection of men for their country more touching than that of these gallant Poles, who, in voluntary exile, amidst every privation, without the hope of fame, and when all the world had become their enemies, daily sacrificed themselves in the battles of a foreign nation, in the faint hope of its one day delivering their own from bondage. Kosciusko had originally encouraged his countrymen to devote themselves to this chance; but when he was himself offered a command in 1807, this perfect hero refused to quit his humble retreat, unless Napoleon would pledge himself for the restoration of Poland.
When Alexander entered France in 1814, as the avowed patron of liberal institutions, Kosciusko addressed a letter to him,† in which he makes three requests,—that the Emperor would grant an universal amnesty, a free constitution, resembling, as nearly as possible, that of England, with means of general education, and, after the expiration of ten years, an emancipation of the peasants. It is but justice to Alexander to add, that when Kosciusko died, in 1817, after a public and private life, worthy of the scholar of Washington, the Emperor, on whom the Congress of Vienna had then bestowed the greater part of the duchy of Warsaw, with the title of King of Poland, allowed his Polish subjects to pay due honours to the last of their heroes; and that Prince Jablonowski was sent to attend his remains from Switzerland to Cracow, there to be interred in the only spot of the Polish territory which is now not dishonoured by a foreign master. He might have paid a still more acceptable tribute to his memory, by executing his pure intentions, and acceding to his disinterested prayers.
The Partition of Poland was the model of all those acts of rapine which have been committed by monarchs or republicans during the wars excited by the French Revolution. No single cause has contributed so much to alienate mankind from ancient institutions, and loosen their respect for established governments. When monarchs show so signal a disregard to immemorial possession and legal right, it is in vain for them to hope that subjects will not copy the precedent. The law of nations is a code without tribunals, without ministers, and without arms, which rests only on a general opinion of its usefulness, and on the influence of that opinion in the councils of states, and most of all, perhaps, on a habitual reverence, produced by the constant appeal to its rules even by those who did not observe them, and strengthened by the elaborate artifice to which the proudest tyrants deigned to submit, in their attempts to elude an authority which they did not dare to dispute. One signal triumph over such an authority was sufficient to destroy its power. Philip II. and Louis XIV. had often violated the law of nations; but the spoilers of Poland overthrew it.
SKETCH OF THE ADMINISTRATION AND FALL OF STRUENSEE.*
On the arrival of Charles VII. of Sweden, at Altona, in need of a physician,—an attendant whom his prematurely broken constitution made peculiarly essential to him even at the age of nineteen,—Struensee, the son of a Lutheran bishop in Holstein, had just begun to practise medicine, after having been for some time employed as the editor of a newspaper in that city. He was now appointed physician to the King, at the moment when he was projecting a professional establishment at Malaga, or a voyage to India, which his imagination, excited by the perusal of the elder travellers, had covered with “barbaric pearl and gold.” He was now twenty-nine years old, and appears to have been recommended to the royal favour by an agreeable exterior, pleasing manners, and some slight talents and superficial knowledge, with the subserviency indispensable in a favourite, and the power of amusing his listless and exhausted master. His name appears in the publications of the time as “Doctor Struensee,” among the attendants of his Danish Majesty in England; and he received, in that character, the honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Oxford.
Like all other minions, his ascent was rapid, or rather his flight to the pinnacle of power was instantaneous; for the passion of an absolute prince on such occasions knows no bounds, and brooks no delay. Immediately after the King’s return to Copenhagen, Struensee was appointed a Cabinet Minister. While his brother was made a counsellor of justice, he appointed Brandt, another adventurer, to superintend the palace and the imbecile King; and intrusted Rantzau, a disgraced Danish minister, who had been his colleague in the editorship of the Altona Journal, with the conduct of foreign affairs. He and his friend Brandt were created Earls. Stolk, his predecessor in favour, had fomented and kept up an animosity between the King and Queen: Struensee (unhappily for himself as well as for her) gained the confidence of the Queen, by restoring her to the good graces of her husband. Caroline Matilda, sister of George III., who then had the misfortune to be Queen of Denmark, is described by Falkenskiold* as the handsomest woman of the Court, as of a mild and reserved character, and as one who was well qualified to enjoy and impart happiness, if it had been her lot to be united to an endurable husband. Brandt seems to have been a weak coxcomb, and Rantzau a turbulent and ungrateful intriguer.
The only foreign business which Struensee found pending on his entrance into office, was a negotiation with Russia, concerning the pretensions of that formidable competitor to a part of Holstein, which Denmark had unjustly acquired fifty years before. Peter III., the head of the house of Holstein, was proud of his German ancestry, and ambitious of recovering their ancient dominions. After his murder, Catharine claimed these possessions, as nominal Regent of Holstein, during the minority of her son. The last act of Bernstorff’s administration had been a very prudent accommodation, in which Russia agreed to relinquish her claims on Holstein, in consideration of the cession to her by Denmark of the small principality of Oldenburg, the very ancient partimony of the Danish Royal Family. Rantzau, who in his exile had had some quarrel with the Russian Government, prevailed on the inexperienced Struensee to delay the execution of this politic convention, and aimed at establishing the influence of France and Sweden at Copenhagen instead of that of Russia, which was then supported by England. He even entertained the chimerical project of driving the Empress from Petersburgh. Falkenskiold, who had been sent on a mission to Petersburgh, endeavoured, after his return, to disabuse Struensee, and to show him the ruinous tendency of such rash counsels, proposing to him even to recall Bernstorff, to facilitate the good understanding which could hardly be re-restored as long as Counts Osten and Rantzau, the avowed enemies of Russia, were in power. Struensee, like most of those who must be led by others, was exceedingly fearful of being thought to be so. When Falkenskiold warned him against yielding to Rantzau, his plans were shaken: but when the same weapon was turned against Falkenskiold, Struensee returned to his obstinacy. Even after Rantzau had become his declared enemy, he adhered to the plans of that intriguer, lest he should be suspected of yielding to Falkenskiold. Whereever there were only two roads, it was easy to lead Struensee, by exciting his fear of being led by the opposite party.
Struensee’s measures of internal policy appear to have been generally well-meant, but often ill-judged. Some of his reforms were in themselves excellent: but he showed, on the whole, a meddling and restless spirit, impatient of the necessary delay, often employed in petty change, choosing wrong means, braving prejudices that might have been softened, and offending interests that might have been conciliated. He was a sort of inferior Joseph II.; like him, rather a servile copyist than an enlightened follower of Frederic II. His dissolution of the Guards (in itself a prudent measure of economy) turned a numerous body of volunteers into the service of his enemies. The removal of Bernstorff was a very blamable means of strengthening himself. The suppression of the Privy Council, the only feeble restraint on despotic power, was still more reprehensible in itself, and excited the just resentment of the Danish nobility. The repeal of a barbarous law, inflicting capital punishment on adultery, was easily misrepresented to the people as a mark of approbation of that vice.
Both Struensee and Brandt had embraced the infidelity at that time prevalent among men of the world, which consisted in little more than a careless transfer of implied faith from Luther to Voltaire. They had been acquainted with the leaders of the Philosophical party at Paris, and they introduced the conversation of their masters at Copenhagen. In the same school they were taught to see clearly enough the distempers of European society; but they were not taught (for their teachers did not know) which of these maladies were to be endured, which were to be palliated, and what were the remedies and regimen by which the remainder might, in due time, be effectually and yet safely removed. The dissolute manners of the Court contributed to their unpopularity; rather, perhaps, because the nobility resented the intrusion of upstarts into the sphere of their priviledged vice, than because there was any real increase of licentiousness.
It must not be forgotten that Struensee was the first minister of an absolute monarchy who abolished the torture; and that he patronized those excellent plans for the emancipation of the enslaved husbandmen, which were first conceived by Reverdil, a Swiss, and the adoption of which by the second Bernstorff has justly immortalized that statesman. He will be honoured by after ages for what offended the Lutheran clergy,—the free exercise of religious worship granted to Calvinists, to Moravians, and even to Catholics; for the Danish clergy were ambitious of retaining the right to persecute, not only long after it was impossible to exercise it, but even after they had lost the disposition to do so;—at first to overawe, afterwards to degrade non-conformists; in both stages, as a badge of the privileges and honour of an established church.
No part, however, of Struensee’s private or public conduct can be justly considered as the cause of his downfall. His irreligion, his immoralities, his precipitate reforms, his parade of invidious favour, were only the instruments or pretexts by which his competitors for office were able to effect his destruction. Had he either purchased the good-will, or destroyed the power of his enemies at Court, he might long have governed Denmark, and perhaps have been gratefully remembered by posterity as a reformer of political abuses. He fell a victim to an intrigue for a change of ministers, which, under such a King, was really a struggle for the sceptre.
His last act of political imprudence illustrates both the character of his enemies, and the nature of absolute government. When he was appointed Secretary of the Cabinet, he was empowered to execute such orders as were very urgent, without the signature of the King, on condition, however, that they should be weekly laid before him, to be confirmed or annulled under his own hand. This liberty had been practised before his administration; and it was repeated in many thousand instances after his downfall. Under any monarchy, the substantial fault would have consisted rather in assuming an independence of his colleagues, than in encroaching on any royal power which was real or practicable. Under so wretched a pageant as the King of Denmark, Struensee showed his folly in obtaining, by a formal order, the power which he might easily have continued to execute without it. But this order was the signal of a clamour against him, as an usurper of royal prerogative. The Guards showed symptoms of mutiny: the garrison of the capital adopted their resentment. The populace became riotous. Rantzau, partly stimulated by revenge against Struensee, for having refused a protection to him against his creditors, being secretly favoured by Count Osten, found means of gaining over Guldberg, an ecclesiastic of obscure birth, full of professions of piety, the preceptor of the King’s brother, who prevailed on that prince and the Queen-Dowager to engage in the design of subverting the Administration. Several of Struensee’s friends warned him of his danger; but, whether from levity or magnanimity, he neglected their admonitions. Rantzau himself, either jealous of the ascendant acquired by Guldberg among the conspirators, or visited by some compunctious remembrances of friendship and gratitude, spoke to Falkenskiold confidentially of the prevalent rumours, and tendered his services for the preservation of his former friend. Falkenskiold distrusted the advances of Rantzau, and answered coldly, “Speak to Struensee:” Rantzau turned away, saying, “He will not listen to me.”
Two days afterwards, on the 16th of January, 1772, there was a brilliant masked ball at Court, where the conspirators and their victims mingled in the festivities (as was observed by some foreign ministers present) with more than usual gaiety. At four o’clock in the morning, the Queen-Dowager, who was the King’s step-mother, her son, and Count Rantzau, entered the King’s bedchamber, compelled his valet to awaken him, and required him to sign an order to apprehend the Queen, the Counts Struensee and Brandt, who, with other conspirators, they pretended were then engaged in a plot to depose, if not to murder him. Christian is said to have hesitated, from fear or obstinacy,—perhaps from some remnant of humanity and moral restraint: but he soon yielded; and his verbal assent, or perhaps a silence produced by terror, was thought a sufficient warrant. Rantzau, with three officers, rushed with his sword drawn into the apartment of the Queen, compelled her to rise from her bed, and, in spite of her tears and threats, sent her, half-dressed, a prisoner to the fortress of Cronenbourg, together with her infant daughter Louisa, whom she was then suckling, and Lady Mostyn, an English lady who attended her. Struensee and Brandt were in the same night thrown into prison, and loaded with irons. On the next day, the King was paraded through the streets in a carriage drawn by eight milk-white horses, as if triumphing after a glorious victory over his enemies, in which he had saved his country: the city was illuminated. The preachers of the Established Church are charged by several concurring witnesses with inhuman and unchristian invectives from the pulpit against the Queen and the fallen ministers; the good, doubtless, believing too easily the tale of the victors, the base paying court to the dispensers of preferment, and the bigoted greedily swallowing the most incredible accusations against unbelievers. The populace, inflamed by these declamations, demolished or pillaged from sixty to a hundred houses.
The conspirators distributed among themselves the chief offices. The King was suffered to fall into his former nullity: the formality of his signature was dispensed with; and the affairs of the kingdom were conducted in his name, only till his son was of an age to assume the regency. Guldberg, under the modest title of “Secretary of the Cabinet,” became Prime Minister. Rantzau was appointed a Privy Councillor; and Osten retained the department of Foreign Affairs: but it is consolatory to add, that, after a few months, both were discarded at the instance of the Court of Petersburgh, to complete the desired exchange of Holstein for Oldenburgh.
The object of the conspiracy being thus accomplished, the conquerors proceeded, as usual, to those judicial proceedings against the prisoners, which are intended formally to justify the violence of a victorious faction, but substantially aggravate its guilt. A commission was appointed to try the accused: its leading members were the chiefs of the conspiracy. Guldberg, one of them, had to determine, by the sentence which he pronounced, whether he was himself a rebel. General Eichstedt, the president, had personally arrested several of the prisoners, and was, by his judgment on Struensee, who had been his benefactor, to decide, that the criminality of that minister was of so deep a die as to cancel the obligations of gratitude. To secure his impartiality still more, he was appointed a minister, and promised the office of preceptor of the hereditary prince,—the permanence of which appointments must have partly depended on the general conviction that the prisoners were guilty.
The charges against Struensee and Brandt are dated on the 21st of April. The defence of Struensee was drawn up by his counsel on the 22d; that of Brandt was prepared on the 23d. Sentence was pronounced against both on the 23d. On the 27th, it was approved, and ordered to be executed by the King. On the 28th, after their right hands had been cut off on the scaffold, they were beheaded. For three months they had been closely and very cruelly imprisoned. The proceedings of the commission were secret: the prisoners were not confronted with each other; they heard no witnesses; they read no depositions; they did not appear to have seen any counsel till they had received the indictments. It is characteristic of this scene to add, that the King went to the Opera on the 25th, after signifying his approbation of the sentence; and that on the 27th, the day of its solemn confirmation, there was a masked ball at Court. On the day of the execution, the King again went to the Opera. The passion which prompts an absolute monarch to raise an unworthy favourite to honour, is still less disgusting than the levity and hardness with which, on the first alarm, he always abandons the same favourite to destruction. It may be observed, that the very persons who had represented the patronage of operas and masquerades as one of the offences of Struensee, were the same who thus unseasonably paraded their unhappy Sovereign through a succession of such amusements.
The Memoirs of Falkenskiold contain the written answers of Struensee to the preliminary questions of the commission, the substance of the charges against him, and the defence made by his counsel. The first were written on the 14th of April, when he was alone in a dungeon, with irons on his hands and feet, and an iron collar fastened to the wall round his neck. The Indictment is prefaced by a long declamatory invective against his general conduct and character, such as still dishonour the criminal proceedings of most nations, and from which England has probably been saved by the scholastic subtlety and dryness of her system of what is called “special pleading.” Laying aside his supposed connection with the Queen, which is reserved for a few separate remarks, the charges are either perfectly frivolous, or sufficiently answered by his counsel, in a defence which he was allowed only one day to prepare, and which bears evident marks of being written with the fear of the victorious faction before the eyes of the feeble advocate. One is, that he caused the young Prince to be trained so hardily as to endanger his life; in answer to which, he refers to the judgment of physicians, appeals to the restored health of the young Prince, and observes, that even if he had been wrong, his fault could have been no more than an error of judgment. The truth is, that he was guilty of a ridiculous mimicry of the early education of Emile, at a time when all Europe was intoxicated by the writings of Rousseau. To the second charge, that he had issued, on the 21st of December preceding, unknown to the King, an order for the incorporation of the Foot Guards with the troops of the line, and on their refusal to obey, had, on the 24th, obtained an order from him for their reduction, he answered, that the draught of the order had been read and approved by the King on the 21st, signed and sealed by him on the 23d, and finally confirmed by the order for reducing the refractory Guards, as issued by his Majesty on the 24th; so that he could scarcely be said to have been even in form guilty of a two days’ usurpation. It might have been added, that it was immediately fully pardoned by the royal confirmation; that Rantzau, and others of his enemies, had taken an active share in it; and that it was so recent, that the conspirators must have resolved on their measures before its occurrence. He was further charged with taking or granting exorbitant pensions; and he answered, seemingly with truth, that they were not higher than those of his predecessors. He was accused also of having falsified the public accounts; to which his answer is necessarily too detailed for our purpose, but appears to be satisfactory. Both these last offences, if they had been committed, could not have been treated as high treason in any country not wholly barbarous; and the evidence on which the latter and more precise of the charges rested, was a declaration of the imbecile and imprisoned King on an intricate matter of account reported to him by an agent of the enemies of the prisoner.
Thus stands the case of the unfortunate Struensee on all the charges but one, as it appears in the accusation which his enemies had such time and power to support, and on the defence made for him under such cruel disadvantages. That he was innocent of the political offences laid to his charge, is rendered highly probable by the Narrative of his Conversion, published soon after his execution by Dr. Munter, a divine of Copenhagen, appointed by the Danish Government to attend him;* a composition, which bears the strongest marks of the probity and sincerity of the writer, and is a perfect model of the manner in which a person, circumstanced like Struensee, ought to be treated by a kind and considerate minister of religion. Men of all opinions, who peruse this narrative, must own that it is impossible, with more tenderness, to touch the wounds of a sufferer, to reconcile the agitated penitent to himself, to present religion as the consoler, not as the disturber of his dying moments, gently to dispose him to try his own actions by a higher test of morality, to fill his mind with indulgent benevolence towards his fellow-men, and to exalt it to a reverential love of boundless perfection. Dr. Munter deserved the confidence of Struensee, and seems entirely to have won it. The unfortunate man freely owned his private licentiousness, his success in corrupting the principles of the victims of his desires, his rejection not only of religion, but also in theory, though not quite in feeling, of whatever ennobles and elevates the mind in morality, the imprudence and rashness by which he brought ruin on his friends, and plunged his parents in deep affliction, and the ignoble and impure motives of all his public actions, which, in the eye of reason, deprived them of that pretension to virtuous character, to which their outward appearance might seem to entitle them. He felt for his friends with unusual tenderness. Instead of undue concealment from Munter, he is, perhaps, chargeable with betraying to him secrets which were not exclusively his own: but he denies the truth of the political charges against him,—more especially those of peculation and falsification of accounts.
The charges against Brandt would be altogether unworthy of consideration, were it not for the light which one of them throws on the whole of this atrocious procedure. The main accusation against him was, that he had beaten, flogged, and scratched the sacred person of the King. His answer was, that the King, who had a passion for wrestling and boxing, had repeatedly challenged him to a match, and had severely beaten him five or six times; that he did not gratify his master’s taste till after these provocations; that two of the witnesses against him, servants of the King, had indulged their master in the same sport; and that he received liberal gratifications, and continued to enjoy the royal favour for months after this pretended treason. The King inherited this perverse taste in amusements from his father, whose palace had been the theatre of the like kingly sports. It is impossible to entertain the least doubt of the truth of this defence: it affords a natural and probable explanation of a fact which would be otherwise incomprehensible.
A suit for divorce was commenced against the Queen, on the ground of criminal connection with Struensee, who was himself convicted of high treason for that connection. This unhappy princess had been sacrificed, at the age of seventeen, to the brutal caprices of a husband who, if he had been a private man, would have been deemed incapable of the deliberate consent which is essential to marriage. She had early suffered from his violence, though she so far complied with his fancies as to ride with him in male apparel,—an indecorum for which she had been sharply reprehended by her mother, the Princess-Dowager of Wales, in a short interview between them, during a visit which the latter had paid to her brother at Gotha, after an uninterrupted residence of thirty-four years in England. The King had suffered the Russian minister at Copenhagen to treat her with open rudeness; and had disgraced his favourite cousin, the Prince of Hesse, for taking her part. He had never treated her with common civility, till they were reconciled by Struensee, at that period of overflowing good-nature when that minister obtained the recall from banishment of the ungrateful Rantzau.
The evidence against her consisted of a number of circumstances (none of them incapable of an innocent explanation) sworn to by attendants, who had been employed as spies on her conduct. She owned that she had been guilty of much imprudence; but in her dying moments she declared to M. Roques, pastor of the French church at Zell, that she never had been unfaithful to her husband.* It is true, that her own signature affixed to a confession was alleged against her: but if General Falkenskiold was rightly informed (for he has every mark of honest intention), that signature proves nothing but the malice and cruelty of her enemies. Schack, the counsellor sent to interrogate her at Cronenbourg, was received by her with indignation when he spoke to her of connection with Struensee. When he showed Struensee’s confession to her, he artfully intimated that the fallen minister would be subjected to a very cruel death if he was found to have falsely criminated the Queen. “What!” she exclaimed, “do you believe that if I was to confirm this declaration, I should save the life of that unfortunate man?” Schack answered by a profound bow. The Queen took a pen, wrote the first syllable of her name, and fainted away. Schack completed the signature, and carried away the fatal document in triumph.
Struensee himself, however, had confessed his intercourse to the Commissioners. It is said that this confession was obtained by threats of torture, facilitated by some hope of life, and influenced by a knowledge that the proceeding against the Queen could not be carried beyond divorce. But his repeated and deliberate avowals to Dr. Munter do not (it must be owned) allow of such an explanation. Scarcely any supposition favourable to this unhappy princess remains, unless it should be thought likely, that as Dr. Munter’s Narrative was published under the eye of her oppressors, they might have caused the confessions of Struensee to be inserted in it by their own agents, without the consent—perhaps without the knowledge—of Munter; whose subsequent life is so little known, that we cannot determine whether he ever had the means of exposing the falsification. It must be confessed, that internal evidence does not favour this hypothesis; for the passages of the Narrative, which contain the avowals of Struensee, have a striking appearance of genuineness. If Caroline betrayed her sufferings to Struensee,—if she was led to a dangerous familiarity with a pleasing young man who had rendered essential services to her,—if mixed motives of confidence, gratitude, disgust, and indignation, at last plunged her into an irretrievable fault, the reasonable and the virtuous will reserve their abhorrence for the conspirators who, for the purposes of their own ambition, punished her infirmity by ruin, endangered the succession to the crown, and disgraced their country in the eyes of Europe. It is difficult to contain the indignation which naturally arises from the reflection, that at this very time, and with a full knowledge of the fate of the Queen of Denmark, the Royal Marriage Act was passed in England, for the avowed purpose of preventing the only marriages of preference, which a princess, at least, has commonly the opportunity of forming. Of a monarch, who thought so much more of the pretended degradation of his brother than of the cruel misfortunes of his sister, less cannot be said than that he must have had more pride than tenderness. Even the capital punishment of Struensee, for such an offence will be justly condemned by all but English lawyers, who ought to be silenced by the consciousness that the same barbarous disproportion of a penalty to an offence is sanctioned in the like case by their own law.
Caroline Matilda died at Zell about three years after her imprisonment. The last tidings which reached the Princess-Dowager of Wales on her death-bed, was the imprisonment of this ill-fated daughter, which was announced to her in a letter dictated to the King of Denmark by his new masters, and subscribed with his own hand. Two days before her death, though in a state of agony, she herself wrote a letter to the nominal sovereign, exhorting him to be at least indulgent and lenient towards her daughter. After hearing the news from Copenhagen she scarcely swallowed any nourishment. The intelligence was said to have accelerated her death; but the dreadful malady* under which she suffered, neither needed the cooperation of sorrow, nor was of a nature to be much affected by it.
What effects were produced by the interference of the British Minister for the Queen?—How far the conspirators were influenced by fear of the resentment of King George III.?—and, In what degree that monarch himself may have acquiesced in the measures finally adopted towards his sister?—are questions which must be answered by the historian from other sources than those from which we reason on the present occasion. The only legal proceeding ever commenced against the Queen was a suit for a divorce, which was in form perfectly regular: for in all Protestant countries but England, the offended party is entitled to release from the bands of marriage by the ordinary tribunals. It is said that two legal questions were then agitated in Denmark, and “even occasioned great debates among the Commissioners:—1st. Whether the Queen, as a sovereign, could be legally tried by her subjects; and, 2dly, Whether, as a foreign princess, she was amenable to the law of Denmark?” But it is quite certain on general principles, (assuming that no Danish law had made their Queen a partaker of the sovereign power, or otherwise expressly exempted her from legal responsibility,) that however high in dignity and honour, she was still a subject; and that as such, she, as well as every other person wherever born, resident in Denmark, was, during her residence at least, amenable to the laws of that country.
It was certain that there was little probability of hostility from England. Engaged in a contest with the people at home, and dreading the approach of a civil war with America, Lord North was not driven from an inflexible adherence to his pacific system by the Partition of Poland itself. An address for the production of the diplomatic correspondence respecting the French conquest, or purchase of Corsica, was moved in the House of Commons on the 17th of November, 1768, for the purpose of condemning that unprincipled transaction, and with a view indirectly to blame the supineness of the English ministers respecting it. The motion was negatived by a majority of 230 to 84, on the same ground as that on which the like motions respecting Naples and Spain were resisted in 1822 and 1823;—that such proposals were too little if war was intended, and too much if it was not. The weight of authority, however, did not coincide with the power of numbers. Mr. Greenville, the most experienced statesman, and Mr. Burke, the man of greatest genius and wisdom in the House, voted in the minority, and argued in support of the motion. ‘Such,’ said the latter, ‘was the general zeal for the Corsican, that if the Ministers would withdraw the Proclamation issued by Lord Bute’s Government, forbidding British subjects to assist the Corsican “rebels,” ’ (a measure similar to our Foreign Enlistment Act), ‘private individuals would supply the brave insurgents with sufficient means of defence.’ The young Duke of Devonshire, then at Florence, had sent 400l. to Corsica, and raised 2000l. more for the same purpose by a subscription among the English in Italy.* A Government which looked thus passively at such breaches of the system of Europe on occasions when the national feeling was favourable to a more generous, perhaps a more wise policy, would hardly have been diverted from its course by any indignities or outrages which a foreign Government could offer to an individual of however illustrious rank. Little, however, as the likelihood of armed interference by England was, the apprehension of it might have been sufficient to enable the more wary of the Danish conspirators to contain the rage of their most furious accomplices. The ability and spirit displayed by Sir Robert Murray Keith on behalf of the Queen was soon after rewarded by his promotion to the embassy at Vienna, always one of the highest places in English diplomacy. His vigorous remonstrances in some measure compensated for the timidity of his Government; and he powerfully aided the cautious policy of Count Osten, who moderated the passions of his colleagues, though giving the most specious colour to their acts in his official correspondence with foreign Powers.
Contemporary observers of enlarged minds considered these events in Denmark not so much as they affected individuals, or were connected with temporary policy, as in the higher light in which they indicated the character of nations, and betrayed the prevalence of dispositions inauspicious to the prospects of mankind. None of the unavowed writings of Mr. Burke, and perhaps few of his acknowledged ones, exhibit more visible marks of his hand than the History of Europe in the Annual Register of 1772, which opens with a philosophical and eloquent vindication of the policy which watched over the balance of power, and with a prophetic display of the evils which were to flow from the renunciation of that policy by France and England, in suffering the partition of Poland. The little transactions of Denmark, which were despised by many as a petty and obscure intrigue, and affected the majority only as a part of the romance or tragedy of real life, appeared to the philosophical statesman pregnant with melancholy instruction. “It has,” says he, “been too hastily and too generally received as an opinion with the most eminent writers, and from them too carelessly received by the world, that the Northern nations, at all times and without exception, have been passionate admirers of liberty, and tenacious to an extreme of their rights. A little attention will show that this opinion ought to be received with many restrictions. Sweden and Denmark have, within little more than a century, given absolute demonstration to the contrary; and the vast nation of the Russes, who overspread so great a part of the North, have, at all times, so long as their name has been known, or their acts remembered by history, been incapable of any other than a despotic government. And notwithstanding the contempt in which we hold the Eastern nations, and the slavish disposition we attribute to them, it may be found, if we make a due allowance for the figurative style and manner of the Orientals, that the official papers public acts, and speeches, at the Courts of Petersburgh, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, are in as unmanly a strain of servility and adulation as those of the most despotic of the Asiatic governments.”
It was doubtless an error to class Russia with the Scandinavian nations, merely because they were both comprehended within the same parallels of latitude. The Russians differ from them in race,—a circumstance always to be considered, though more liable to be exaggerated or underrated, than any other which contributes to determine the character of nations. No Sarmatian people has ever been free. The Russians profess a religion, founded on the blindest submission of the understanding, which is, in their modern modification of it, directed to their temporal sovereign. They were for ages the slaves of Tartais, the larger part of their dominions is Asiatic; and they were, till lately, with justice, more regarded as an Eastern than as a Western nation. But the nations of Scandinavia were of that Teutonic race, who were the founders of civil liberty: they early embraced the Reformation, which ought to have taught them the duty of exercising reason freely on every subject: and their spirit has never been broken by a foreign yoke. Writing in the year when despotism was established in Sweden, and its baneful effects so strikingly exhibited in Denmark, Mr. Burke may be excused for comparing these then unhappy countries with those vast regions of Asia which have been the immemorial seat of slavery. The revolution which we have been considering, shows the propriety of the parallel in all its parts. If it only proved that absolute power corrupts the tyrant, there are many too debased to dread it on that account. But it shows him at Copenhagen, as at Ispahan, reduced to personal insignificance, a pageant occasionally exhibited by his ministers, or a tool in their hands, compelled to do whatever suits their purpose, without power to save the life even of a minion, and without security, in cases of extreme violence, for his own. Nothing can more clearly prove that under absolute monarchy, good laws, if they could by a miracle be framed, must always prove utterly vain; that civil cannot exist without political liberty; and that the detestable distinction, lately attempted in this country by the advocates of intolerance,* between freedom and political power, never can be allowed in practice without, in the first instance, destroying all securities for good government, and very soon introducing every species of corruption and oppression.
The part of Mr. Burke’s History, which we have quoted, is followed by a memorable passage which seems, in later times, to have escaped the notice both of his opponents and adherents, and was probably forgotten by himself. After speaking of the final victory of Louis XV. over the French Parliaments, of whom he says, “that their fate seems to be finally decided,† and the few remains of public liberty that were preserved in these illustrious bodies are now no more,” he proceeds to general reflection on the condition and prospects of Europe. “In a word, if we seriously consider the mode of supporting great standing armies, which becomes daily more prevalent, it will appear evident, that nothing less than a convulsion that will shake the globe to its centre, can ever restore the European nations to that liberty by which they were once so much distinguished. The Western world was its seat until another more western was discovered; and that other will probably be its asylum when it is hunted down in every other part of the world. Happy it is that the worst of times may have one refuge left for humanity.”
This passage is not so much a prophecy of the French Revolution, as a declaration that without a convulsion as deep and dreadful as that great event, the European nations had no chance of being restored to their ancient dignity and their natural rights. Had it been written after, or at least soon after the event, it might have been blamed as indicating too little indignation against guilt, and compassion for suffering. Even when considered as referring to the events of a distant futurity, it may be charged with a pernicious exaggeration, which seems to extenuate revolutionary horrors by representing them as inevitable, and by laying it down falsely that Wisdom and Virtue can find no other road to Liberty. It would, however, be very unjust to charge such a purpose on Mr. Burke, or indeed to impute such a tendency to his desponding anticipations. He certainly appears to have foreseen that the progress of despotism would at length provoke a general and fearful resistance, the event of which, with a wise scepticism, he does not dare to foretel; rather, however, as a fond, and therefore fearful, lover of European liberty, foreboding that she will be driven from her ancient seats, and leave the inhabitants of Europe to be numbered with Asiatic slaves. The fierceness of the struggle he clearly saw, and most distinctly predicts; for he knew that the most furious passions of human nature would be enlisted on both sides. He does not conclude, from this dreadful prospect, that the chance of liberty ought to be relinquished rather than expose a country to the probability or possibility of such a contest; but, on the contrary, very intelligibly declares by the melancholy tone in which he adverts to the expulsion of Liberty, that every evil is to be hazarded for her preservation. It would be well if his professed adherents would bear in mind, that such is the true doctrine of most of those whom they dread and revile as incendiaries. The friends of freedom only profess that those who have recourse to the only remaining means of preserving or acquiring liberty, are not morally responsible for the evils which may arise in an inevitable combat.
The Danish dominions continued to be administered in the name of Christian VII., for the long period of thirty-six years after the deposition of Struensee. The mental incapacity under which he always laboured, was not formally recognised till the association of his son, now King of Denmark, with him in the government. He did not cease to breathe till 1808, after a nominal reign of forty-three years, and an animal existence of near sixty. During the latter part of that period, the real rulers of the country were wise and honest men. It enjoyed a considerable interval of prosperity under the administration of Bernstorff, whose merit in forbearing to join the coalition against France in 1793, is greatly enhanced by his personal abhorience of the Revolution. His adoption of Reverdil’s measures of enfranchisement, sheds the purest glory on his name.
The fate of Denmark, after the ambition of Napoleon had penetrated into the North,—the iniquity with which she was stripped by Russia of Norway, for adherence to an alliance which Russia had compelled her to join, and as a compensation to Sweden for Finland, of which Sweden had been robbed by Russia, are events too familiarly known to be recounted here. She is now no more than a principality, whose arms are still surmounted by a royal crown. A free and popular government, under the same wise administration, might have arrested many of these calamities, and afforded a new proof that the attachment of a people to a government in which they have a palpable interest and a direct share, is the most secure foundation of defensive strength.
The political misfortunes of Denmark disprove the commonplace opinion, that all enslaved nations deserve their fate: for the moral and intellectual qualities of the Danes seem to qualify them for the firm and prudent exercise of the privileges of freemen. All those by whom they are well known, commend their courage, honesty, and industry. The information of the labouring classes has made a considerable progress since their enfranchisement. Their literature, like that of the Northern nations, has generally been dependent on that of Germany, with which country they are closely connected in language and religion. In the last half century, they have made persevering efforts to build up a national literature. The resistance of their fleet in 1801, has been the theme of many Danish poets; but we believe that they have been as unsuccessful in their bold competition with Campbell, as their mariners in their gallant contest with Nelson. However, a poor and somewhat secluded country, with a small and dispersed population, which has produced Tycho Brahe, Oehlenschlæger, and Thorwaldsen, must be owned to have contributed her full contingent to the intellectual greatness of Europe.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE OF DONNA MARIA DA GLORIA, AS A CLAIMANT TO THE CROWN OF PORTUGAL.*
Before the usurpation of Portugal by Philip II. of Spain in 1580, the Portuguese nation, though brilliantly distinguished in arts and arms, and as a commercial and maritime power, in some measure filling up the interval between the decline of Venice and the rise of Holland, had not yet taken a place in the political system of Europe. From the restoration of her independence under the House of Braganza in 1640, to the peace of Utrecht, Spain was her dangerous enemy, and France, the political opponent of Spain, was her natural protector. Her relation to France was reversed as soon as a Bourbon King was seated on the throne of Spain. From that moment the union of the two Bourbon monarchies gave her a neighbour far more formidable than the Austrian princes who had slumbered for near a century at the Escurial. It became absolutely necessary for her safety that she should strengthen herself against this constantly threatening danger by an alliance, which, being founded in a common and permanent interest, might be solid and durable. England, the political antagonist of France, whose safety would be endangered by every aggrandizement of the House of Bourbon, and who had the power of rapidly succouring Portugal, without the means of oppressing her independence, was evidently the only state from which friendship and aid, at once effectual, safe, and lasting, could be expected:—hence the alliance between England and Portugal, and the union, closer than can be created by written stipulations, between these two countries.
The peril, however, was suspended during forty years of the dissolute and unambitious government of Louis XV. till the year 1761, when, by the treaty known under the name of the ‘Family Compact,’ the Duc de Choiseul may be justly said (to borrow the language of Roman ambition) to have reduced Spain to the form of a province. A separate and secret convention was executed on the same day (15th of August), by which it was agreed, that if England did not make peace with France by the 1st of May, 1762, Spain should then declare war against the former power. The sixth article fully disclosed the magnitude of the danger which, from that moment to this, has hung over the head of Portugal. His Most Faithful Majesty was to be desired to accede to the convention; “it not being just,” in the judgment of these royal jurists, “that he should remain a tranquil spectator of the disputes of the two Courts with England, and continue to enrich the enemies of the two Sovereigns, by keeping his ports open to them.” The King of Portugal refused to purchase a temporary exemption from attack by a surrender of his independence. The French and Spanish Ministers declared, “that the Portuguese alliance with England, though called ‘defensive,’ became in reality offensive, from the situation of the Portuguese dominions, and from the nature of the English power.”* A war ensued,—being probably the first ever waged against a country, on the avowed ground of its geographical position. It was terminated by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, without, however, any proposition on the part of France and Spain that Portugal should be cut away from the Continent, and towed into the neighbourhood of Madeira,—where perhaps she might re-enter on her right as an independent state to observe neutrality, and to provide for her security by defensive alliances. This most barefaced act of injustice might be passed over here in silence, if it did not so strongly illustrate the situation of Portugal, since Spain became a dependent ally of France; and if we could resist the temptation of the occasion to ask whether the authors of such a war were as much less ambitious than Napoleon, as they were beneath him in valour and genius.
In the American war, it does not appear that any attempt was made, on principles of geography, to compel Portugal to make war on England.† The example of the Family Compact, however, was not long barren. As soon as the French Republic had re-established the ascendant of France at Madrid, they determined to show that they inherited the principles as well as the sceptre of their monarchs. Portugal, now overpowered, was compelled to cede Olivenza to Spain, and to shut her ports on English ships.‡ Thus terminated the second war made against her to oblige her to renounce the only ally capable of assisting her, and constantly interested in her preservation. But these compulsory treaties were of little practical importance, being immediately followed by the Peace of Amiens. They only furnished a new proof that the insecurity of Portugal essentially arose from the dependence of Spain on France, and could not be lessened by any change in the government of the latter country.
When the war, or rather wars, against universal monarchy broke out, the Regent of Portugal declared the neutrality of his dominions.* For four years he was indulged in the exercise of this right of an independent prince, in spite of the geographical position of the kingdom. At the end of that period the ‘geographical principle’ was enforced against him more fully and vigorously than on the former instances of its application. The Portuguese monarchy was confiscated and partitioned in a secret convention between France and Spain, executed at Fontainebleau on the 27th of October, 1807, by which considerable parts of its continental territory were granted to the Prince of the Peace, and to the Spanish Princess, then called Queen of Etruria, in sovereignty, but as feudatories of the crown of Spain.† A French army under Junot marched against Portugal, and the Royal Family were compelled, in November following, to embark for Brazil; a measure which was strongly suggested by the constant insecurity to which European Portugal was doomed by the Family Compact, and which had been seriously entertained by the Government since the treaty of Badajoz.
The events which followed in the Spanish Peninsula are too memorable to be more than alluded to. Portugal was governed by a Regency nominated by the King. The people caught the generous spirit of the Spaniards, took up arms against the conquerors, and bravely aided the English army to expel them. The army, delivered from those unworthy leaders to whom the abuses of despotism had subjected them, took an ample share in the glorious march from Torres Vedras to Toulouse, which forms one of the most brilliant pages in history.
The King opened the ports of his American territories to all nations;—a measure in him of immediate necessity, but fraught with momentous consequences. He cemented his ancient relations with Great Britain (which geography no longer forbade) by new treaties; and he bestowed on Brazil a separate administration, with the title of a kingdom. The course of events in the spring of 1814 had been so rapid, that there was no minister in Europe authorized to represent the Court of Rio Janeiro at the Treaty of Paris: but so close was the alliance with England then deemed, that Lord Castlereagh took it upon him, on the part of Portugal, to stipulate for the restoration of French Guiana, which had been conquered by the Portuguese arms. At the Congress of Vienna in the following year, the Portuguese plenipotentiaries protested against the validity of this restoration, and required the retrocession of Olivenza, which had been wrested from them at Badajoz, in a war in which they had been the allies of England. The good offices of the European powers to obtain this last restoration were then solemnly promised, but have hitherto been in vain.
In 1816, John VI. refused to return to Lisbon, though a squadron under Sir John Beresford had been sent to convey him thither; partly because he was displeased at the disregard of his rights, shown by the Congress of Vienna; partly because the unpopularity of the Commercial Treaty had alienated him from England; but probably still more, because he was influenced by the visible growth of a Brazilian party which now aimed at independence. Henceforward, indeed, the separation manifestly approached. The Portuguese of Europe began to despair of seeing the seat of the monarchy at Lisbon; the Regency were without strength; all appointments were obtained from the distant Court of Rio Janeiro; men and money were drawn away for the Brazilian war on the Rio de la Plata; the army left behind was unpaid: in fine, all the materials of formidable discontent were heaped up in Portugal, when, in the beginning of 1820, the Spanish Revolution broke out. Six months elapsed without a spark having fallen in Portugal. Marshal Beresford went to Rio Janeiro to solicit the interference of the King: but that Prince made no effort to prevent the conflagration; and perhaps no precaution would then have been effectual.
In August, the garrison of Oporto declared for a revolution; and being joined on their march to the Capital by all the troops on their line, were received with open arms by the garrison of Lisbon. It was destined to bestow on Portugal a still more popular constitution than that of Spain. With what prudence or justice the measures of the popular leaders in the south of Europe were conceived or conducted, it is happily no part of our present business to inquire. Those who openly remonstrated against their errors when they seemed to be triumphant, are under no temptation to join the vulgar cry against the fallen. The people of Portugal, indeed, unless guided by a wise and vigorous Government, were destined by the very nature of things, in any political change made at that moment, to follow the course of Spain. The Regency of Lisbon, by the advice of a Portuguese Minister,* at once faithful to his Sovereign, and friendly to the liberty of his country, made an attempt to stem the torrent, by summoning an assembly of the Cortes. The attempt was too late; but it pointed to the only means of saving the monarchy.
The same Minister, on his arrival in Brazil, at the end of the year, advised the King to send his eldest son to Portugal as Viceroy, with a constitutional charter; recommending also the assembling of the most respectable Brazilians at Rio Janeiro, to consider of the improvements which seemed practicable in Brazil. But while these honest, and not unpromising counsels, were the objects of longer discussions than troublous times allow, a revolution broke out in Brazil, in the spring of 1821, the first professed object of which was, not the separation of that country, but the adoption of the Portuguese Constitution. It was acquiesced in by the King, and espoused with the warmth of youth, by his eldest son Don Pedro. But in April, the King, disquieted by the commotions which encompassed him, determined to return to Lisbon, and to leave the conduct of the American revolution to his son. Even on the voyage he was advised to stop at the Azores, as a place where he might negotiate with more independence: but he rejected this counsel; and on his arrival in the Tagus, on the 3d of July, nothing remained but a surrender at discretion. The revolutionary Cortes were as tenacious of the authority of the mother country, as the Royal Administration; and they accordingly recalled the Heir-apparent to Lisbon. But the spirit of independence arose among the Brazilians, who, encouraged by the example of the Spanish-Americans, presented addresses to the Prince, beseeching him not to yield to the demands of the Portuguese Assembly, who desired to make him a prisoner, as they had made his father; but, by assuming the crown of Brazil, to provide for his own safety, as well as for their liberty. In truth it is evident, that he neither could have continued in Brazil without acceding to the popular desire, nor could have then left it without insuring the destruction of monarchy in that country. He acquiesced therefore in the prayer of these flattering petitions: the independence of Brazil was proclaimed; and the Portuguese monarchy was finally dismembered.
In the summer of 1823, the advance of the French army into Spain, excited a revolt of the Portuguese Royalists. The infant Don Miguel, the King’s second son, attracted notice, by appearing at the head of a battalion who declared against the Constitution; and the inconstant soldiery, equally ignorant of the object of their revolts against the King or the Cortes, were easily induced to overthrow the slight work of their own hands. Even in the moment of victory, however, John VI. solemnly promised a free government to the Portuguese nation.* A few weeks afterwards, he gave a more deliberate and decisive proof of what was then thought necessary for the security of the throne, and the well-being of the people, by a Royal Decree,† which, after pronouncing the nullity of the constitution of the Cortes, proceeds as follows:—“Conformably to my feelings, and the sincere promises of my Proclamations, and considering that the ancient fundamental laws of the monarchy cannot entirely answer my paternal purposes, without being accommodated to the present state of civilization, to the mutual relations of the different parts which compose the monarchy, and to the form of representative governments established in Europe, I have appointed a Junta to prepare the plan of a charter of the fundamental laws of the Portuguese monarchy, which shall be founded on the principles of public law, and open the way to a progressive reformation of the administration.”
Count Palmella was appointed President of this Junta, composed of the most distinguished men in the kingdom. They completed their work in a few months; and presented to the King the plan of a Constitutional Charter, almost exactly the same with that granted in 1826 by Don Pedro. John VI. was favourable to it, considering it as an adaptation of the ancient fundamental laws to present circumstances. While the revolution was triumphant, the more reasonable Royalists regretted that no attempt had been made to avoid it by timely concession; and in the first moment of escape, the remains of the same feelings disposed the Court to concede something. But after a short interval of quiet, the possessors of authority relapsed into the ancient and fatal error of their kind,—that of placing their security in maintaining the unbounded power which had proved their ruin. A resistance to the form of the constitution, which grew up in the interior of the Court, was fostered by foreign influence, and after a struggle of some months, prevented the promulgation of the charter.
In April 1824, events occurred at Lisbon, on which we shall touch as lightly as possible. It is well known that part of the garrison of Lisbon surrounded the King’s palace, and hindered the access of his servants to him; that some of his ministers were imprisoned; that the diplomatic body, including the Papal Nuncio, the French Ambassador, and the Russian as well as English Ministers, were the means of restoring him to some degree of liberty, which was however so imperfect and insecure, that, by the advice of the French Ambassador, the King took refuge on board an English ship of war lying in the Tagus, from whence he was at length able to assert his dignity and re-establish his authority. Over the part in these transactions, into which evil counsellors betrayed the inexperience of Don Miguel, it is peculiarly proper to throw a veil, in imitation of his father, who forgave these youthful faults as ‘involuntary errors.’ This proof of the unsettled state of the general opinion and feeling respecting the government, suggested the necessity of a conciliatory measure, which might in some measure compensate for the defeat of the Constitutional Charter in the preceding year. The Minister who, both in Europe and in America, had attempted to avert revolution by reform, was not wanting to his sovereign and his country at this crisis. Still counteracted by foreign influence, and opposed by a colleague who was a personal favourite of the King, he could not again propose the Charter, not even obtain so good a substitute for it as he desired: but he had the merit of being always ready to do the best practicable. By his counsel, the King issued a Proclamation on the 4th of June, for restoring the ancien, constitution of the Portuguese monarchy, with assurances that an assembly of the Cortes, or Three Estates of the Realm, should be speedily held with all their legal rights, and especially with the privilege of laying before the King, for his consideration, the heads of such measures as they might deem necessary for the public good. To that assembly was referred the consideration of the periodical meetings of succeeding Cortes, and ‘the means of progressively ameliorating the administration of the state.’ The proclamation treats this re-establishment of the ancient constitution as being substantially the same with the Constitutional Charter drawn up by the Junta in the preceding year; and it was accordingly followed by a Decree, dissolving that Junta, as having performed its office. Though these representations were not scrupulously true, yet when we come to see what the rights of the Cortes were in ancient times, the language of the Proclamation will not be found to deviate more widely into falsehood than is usual in the preambles of Acts of State. Had the time for the convocation of the Cortes been fixed, the restoration of the ancient constitution might, without much exaggeration, have been called the establishment of liberty. For this point the Marquis Palmella made a struggle: but the King thought that he had done enough, in granting such a pledge to the Constitutionalists, and was willing to soothe the Absolutists, by reserving to himself the choice of a time. On the next day he created a Junta, to prepare, ‘without loss of time,’ the regulations necessary ‘for the convocation of the Cortes, and for the election of the members.’ As a new proof of the growing conviction that a free constitution was necessary, and as a solemn promise that it should be established, the Declaration of the 4th of June is by no means inferior in force to its predecessors. Nay, in that light, it may be considered as deriving additional strength from those appearances of reserve and reluctance which distinguish it from the more ingenious, and really more politic Declarations of 1823. But its grand defect was of a practical nature, and consisted in the opportunity which indefinite delay affords, for evading the performance of a promise.
Immediately after the counter-revolution in 1823, John VI. had sent a mission to Rio Janeiro, requiring the submission of his son and his Brazilian subjects. But whatever might be the wishes of Don Pedro, he had no longer the power to transfer the allegiance of a people who had tasted independence,—who were full of the pride of their new acquisition,—who valued it as their only security against the old monopoly, and who may well be excused for thinking it more advantageous to name at home the officers of their own government, than to receive rulers and magistrates from the intrigues of courtiers at Lisbon. Don Pedro could not restore to Portugal her American empire; but he might easily lose Brazil in the attempt. A negotiation was opened at London, in the year 1825, under the mediation of Austria and England. The differences between the two branches of the House of Braganza were, it must be admitted, peculiarly untractable. Portugal was to surrender her sovereignty, or Brazil to resign her independence. Union, on equal terms, was equally objected to by both. It was evident that no amicable issue of such a negotiation was possible, which did not involve acquiescence in the separation; and the very act of undertaking the mediation, sufficiently evinced that this event was contemplated by the mediating Powers. The Portuguese minister in London, Count Villa-Real, presented projects which seemed to contain every concession short of independence: but the Brazilian deputies who, though not admitted to the conference, had an unofficial intercourse with the British Ministers, declared, as might be expected, that nothing short of independence could be listened to. It was agreed, therefore, that Sir Charles Stuart, who was then about to go to Rio Janeiro to negotiate a treaty between England and Brazil, should take Lisbon on his way, and endeavour to dispose the Portuguese Government to consent to a sacrifice which could no longer be avoided. He was formally permitted by his own Government to accept the office of Minister Plenipotentiary from Portugal to Brazil, if it should be proposed to him at Lisbon. Certainly no man could be more fitted for this delicate mediation, both by his extraordinary knowledge of the ancient constitution of Portugal, and by the general confidence which he had gained while a minister of the Regency during the latter years of the war. After a series of conferences with the Count de Porto Santo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, which continued from the 5th of April to the 23d of May, and in the course of which two points were considered as equally understood,—that John VI. should cede to Don Pedro the sovereignty of Brazil, and that Don Pedro should preserve his undisputed right as heir of Portugal,—he set sail for Rio Janeiro, furnished with full powers, as well as instructions, and more especially with Royal Letters-Patent of John VI., to be delivered on the conclusion of an amicable arrangement, containing the following important and decisive clause:—“And as the succession of the Imperial and Royal Crowns belongs to my beloved son Don Pedro, I do, by these Letters-Patent, cede and transfer to him the full exercise of sovereignty in the empire of Brazil, which is to be governed by him; nominating him Emperor of Brazil, and Prince Royal of Portugal and the Algarves.”
A treaty was concluded on the 29th of August, by Sir Charles Stuart, recognising the independence and separation of Brazil; acknowledging the sovereignty of that country to be vested in Don Pedro; allowing the King of Portugal also to assume the Imperial title; binding the Emperor of Brazil to reject the offer of any Portuguese colony to be incorporated with his dominions; and containing some other stipulations usual in treaties of peace. It was ratified at Lisbon, on the 5th of November following, by Letters-Patent,* from which, at the risk of some repetition, it is necessary to extract two clauses, the decisive importance of which will be shortly seen. “I have ceded and transferred to my beloved son Don Pedro de Alcantara, heir and successor of these kingdoms, all my rights over that country, recognising its independence with the title of empire.” “We recognise our said son Don Pedro de Alcantara, Prince of Portugal and the Algarves, as Emperor, and having the exercise of sovereignty in the whole empire.”
The part of this proceeding which is intended to preserve the right of succession to the crown of Portugal to Don Pedro, is strictly conformable to diplomatic usage, and to the principles of the law of nations. Whatever relates to the cession of a claim is the proper subject of agreement between the parties, and is therefore inserted in the treaty. The King of Portugal, the former Sovereign of Brazil, cedes his rights or pretensions in that country to his son. He releases all his former subjects from their allegiance. He abandons those claims which alone could give him any colour or pretext for interfering in the internal affairs of that vast region. Nothing could have done this effectually, solemnly, and notoriously, but the express stipulation of a treaty. Had Don Pedro therefore been at the same time understood to renounce his right of succession to the crown of Portugal, an explicit stipulation in the treaty to that effect would have been necessary: for such a renunciation would have been the cession of a right. Had it even been understood, that the recognition of his authority as an independent monarch implied the abdication of his rights as heir-apparent to the Portuguese crown, it would have been consonant to the general tenor of the treaty, explicitly to recognise this abdication. The silence of the treaty is a proof that none of the parties to it considered these rights as taken away or impaired, by any previous or concomitant circumstance. Stipulations were necessary when the state of regal rights was to be altered; but they would be at least impertinent where it remained unchanged. Silence is in the latter case sufficient; since, where nothing is to be done, nothing needs be said. There is no stipulation in the treaty, by which Don Pedro acknowledges the sovereignty of his father in Portugal; because that sovereignty is left in the same condition in which it was before. For the very same reason the treaty has no article for the preservation of Don Pedro’s right of succession to Portugal. Had Don Pedro required a stipulation in the treaty for the maintenance of these rights, he would have done an act which would have tended more to bring them into question, than to strengthen them. As they were rights which John VI. could not take away, it was fit and wise to treat them also as rights which no act of his could bestow or confirm.
But though a provision for the preservation of these rights in the treaty was needless, and would have been altogether misplaced, there were occasions on which the recognition of them was fit, and, as a matter of abundant caution, expedient. These occasions are accordingly not passed over. The King of Portugal styles Don Pedro the heir of Portugal, both in the first Letters-Patent, addressed to his Brazilian subjects, in which he recognises the independence of Brazil, and in the second, addressed to his Portuguese subjects, where he ratifies the treaty which definitively established that independence. Acknowledged to be the monarch, and for the time the lawgiver of Portugal, and necessarily in these acts, claiming the same authority in Brazil, he announces to the people of both countries that the right of his eldest son to inherit the crown was, in November 1825, inviolate, unimpaired, unquestioned.
The ratifications are, besides, a portion of the treaty; and when they are exchanged, they become as much articles of agreement between the parties, as any part of it which bears that name. The recognition repeated in this Ratification proceeded from John VI., and was accepted by Don Pedro. Nothing but express words could have taken away so important a right as that of succession to the crown: in this case, there are express words which recognise it. Though it has been shown that silence would have been sufficient, the same conclusion would unanswerably follow, if the premises were far more scanty. The law of nations has no established forms, a deviation from which is fatal to the validity of the trasactions to which they are appropriated. It admits no merely technical objections to conventions formed under its authority, and is bound by no positive rules in the interpretation of them. Wherever the intention of contracting parties is plain, it is the sole interpreter of a contract. Now, it is needless to say that, in the Treaty of Rio Janeiro, taken with the preceding and following Letters-Patent, the manifest intention of John VI. was not to impair, but to recognise the rights of his eldest son to the inheritance of Portugal.
On the 10th of March 1826, John VI. died at Lisbon. On his death-bed, however, he had made provision for the temporary administration of the government. By a Royal Decree, of the 6th,* he committed the government to his daughter, the Infanta Donna Isabella Maria, assisted by a council during his illness, or, in the event of his death, till “the legitimate heir and successor to the crown should make other provision in this respect.” These words have no ambiguity. In every hereditary monarchy they must naturally, and almost necessarily, denote the eldest son of the King, when he leaves a son. It would, in such a case, require the strongest evidence to warrant the application of them to any other person. It is clear that the King must have had an individual in view, unless we adopt the most extravagant supposition that, as a dying bequest to his subjects, he meant to leave them a disputed succession and a civil war. Who could that individual be, but Don Pedro, his eldest son, whom, according to the ancient order of succession to the crown of Portugal, he had himself called “heir and successor,” on the 13th of May and 5th of November preceding. Such, accordingly, was the conviction, and the correspondent conduct of all whose rights or interests were concerned. The Regency was immediately installed, and universally obeyed at home, as well as acknowledged, without hesitation or delay, by all the Powers of Europe. The Princess Regent acted in the name, and on the behalf of her brother, Don Pedro. It was impossible that the succession of any Prince to a throne could be more quiet and undisputed.
The Regency, without delay, notified the demise of the late King to their new Sovereign: and then the difficulties of that Prince’s situation began to show themselves. Though the treaty had not weakened his hereditary right to Portugal, yet the main object of it was to provide, not only for the independence of Brazil, but for its “separation” from Portugal, which undoubtedly imported a separation of the crowns. Possessing the government of Brazil, and inheriting that of Portugal, he became bound by all the obligations of the treaty between the two states. Though he inherited the crown of Portugal by the laws of that country, yet he was disabled by treaty from permanently continuing to hold it with that of Brazil. But if, laying aside unprofitable subtilties, we consult only conscience and common sense, we shall soon discover that these rights and duties are not repugnant, but that, on the contrary, the legal right is the only means of performing the federal duty. The treaty did not expressly determine which of the two crowns Don Pedro was bound to renounce; it therefore left him to make an option between them. For the implied obligations of a contract extend only to those acts of the parties which are necessary to the attainment of its professed object. If he chose,—as he has chosen,—to retain the crown of Brazil, it could not, by reasonable implication, require an instantaneous abdication of that of Portugal; because such a limitation of time was not necessary, and might have been very injurious to the object. It left the choice of time, manner, and conditions to himself, requiring only good faith, and interdicting nothing but fraudulent delay. Had he not (according to the principle of all hereditary monarchs) become King of Portugal at the instant of his father’s demise, there would have been no person possessed of the legal and actual power in both countries necessary to carry the treaty of separation into effect. If the Portuguese had not acquiesced in his authority, they must have voluntarily chosen anarchy, for no one could have the power to discharge the duty imposed by treaty, or to provide for any of the important changes which it might occasion. The most remarkable example of this latter sort, was the order of succession. The separation of the two crowns rendered it absolutely impossible to preserve that order in both monarchies; for both being hereditary, the legal order required that both crowns should descend to the same person, the eldest son of Don Pedro—the very union which it was the main or sole purpose of the treaty to prevent. A breach in the order of succession became therefore inevitable, either in Portugal or Brazil. Necessity required the deviation. But the same necessity vested in Don Pedro, as a king and a father, the power of regulating in this respect, the rights of his family; and the permanent policy of monarchies required that he should carry the deviation no farther than the necessity.
As the nearer female would inherit before the more distant male, Don Miguel had no right which was immediately involved in the arrangement to be adopted. It is acknowledged, that the two daughters of John VI., married and domiciled in Spain, had lost their rights as members of the Royal Family. Neither the Queen, nor indeed any other person, had a legal title to the regency, which in Portugal, as in France and England was a case omitted in the constitutional laws, and, as no Cortes had been assembled for a century, could only be provided for by the King, who, of necessity, was the temporary lawgiver. The only parties who could be directly affected by the allotment of the two crowns, were the children of Don Pedro, the eldest of whom was in her sixth year. The more every minute part of this case is considered, the more obvious and indisputable will appear to be the necessity, that Don Pedro should retain the powers of a King of Portugal, until he had employed them for the quiet and safety of both kingdoms, as far as these might be endangered by the separation. He held, and holds, that crown as a trustee for the execution of the treaty. To hold it after the trust is performed, would be usurpation: to renounce it before that period, would be treachery to the trust.
That Don Pedro should have chosen Brazil, must have always been foreseen; for his election was almost determined by his preceding conduct. He preferred Brazil, where he had been the founder of a state, to Portugal, where the most conspicuous measures of his life could be viewed with no more than reluctant acquiescence. The next question which arose was, whether the inevitable breach in the order of succession was to be made in Portugal or Brazil; or, in other words, of which of these two disjointed kingdoms, the Infant Don Sebastian should be the heir-apparent. The father made the same choice for his eldest son as for himself. As Don Sebastian preserved his right of succession in Brazil, the principle of the least possible deviation from the legal order required that the crown of Portugal should devolve on his sister Donna Maria, the next in succession of the Royal Family.
After this exposition of the rights and duties of Don Pedro, founded on the principles of public law, and on the obligations of treaty, and of the motives of policy which have influenced him in a case where he was left free to follow the dictates of his own judgment, let us consider very shortly what a conscientious ruler would, in such a case, deem necessary to secure to both portions of his subjects all the advantages of their new position. He would be desirous of softening the humiliation of one of effacing the recent animosities between them, and of reviving their ancient friendship, by preserving every tie which reminded them of former union and common descent. He would therefore, even if he were impartial, desire that they should continue under the same Royal Family which had for centuries ruled both. He would labour, as far as the case allowed, to strengthen the connections of language, of traditions, of manners, and of religion, by the resemblance of laws and institutions. He would clearly see that his Brazilian subjects never could trust his fidelity to their limited monarchy, if he maintained an absolute government in Portugal; and that the Portuguese people would not long endure to be treated as slaves, while those whom they were not accustomed to regard as their superiors were thought worthy of the most popular constitution. However much a monarch was indifferent or adverse to liberty, these considerations would lose nothing of their political importance: for a single false step in this path might overthrow monarchy in Brazil, and either drive Portugal into a revolution, or seat a foreign army in her provinces, to prevent it. It is evident that popular institutions can alone preserve monarchy in Brazil from falling before the principles of republican America; and it will hardly be denied, that, though some have questioned the advantage of liberty, no people were ever so mean-spirited as not to be indignant at being thought unworthy of it, as a privilege. Viewing liberty with the same cold neutrality, a wise statesman would have thought it likely to give stability to a new government in Portugal, and to be received there as some consolation for loss of dominion. Portugal, like all the other countries between the Rhine and the Mediterranean, had been convulsed by conquest and revolution. Ambition and rapacity, fear and revenge, political fanaticism and religious bigotry,—all the ungovernable passions which such scenes excite, still agitated the minds of those who had been actors or victims of them. Experience has proved, that no expedient can effectually allay these deep-seated disorders, but the institution of a government in which all interests and opinions are represented,—which keeps up a perpetual negotiation between them,—which compels each in its turn to give up some part of its pretensions,—and which provides a safe field of contest in those cases where a treaty cannot be concluded. Of all the stages in the progress of human society, the period which succeeds the troubles of civil and foreign war is that which most requires this remedy: for it is that in which the minds of men are the most dissatisfied, the most active, and the most aspiring. The experiment has proved most eminently successful in the Netherlands, now beyond all doubt the best governed country of the Continent. It ought to be owned, that it has also in a great measure succeeded in France, Italy, and Spain. Of these countries we shall now say nothing but that, being occupied by foreign armies, they cannot be quoted. If any principle be now universally received in government, it seems to be, that the disorders of such a country must either be contained by foreign arms, or composed by a representative constitution.
But there were two circumstances which rendered the use of this latter remedy peculiarly advisable in Portugal. The first is, that it was so explicitly, repeatedly, and solemnly promised by John VI. In the second place, the establishment of a free constitution in Portugal, afforded an opportunity of sealing a definitive treaty of peace between the most discordant parties, by opening (after a due period of probation) to the Prince whom the Ultra-Royalist faction had placed in their front, a prospect of being one day raised to a higher station, under the system of liberty, than he could have expected to reach if both Portugal and Brazil had continued in slavery.*
It is unworthy of a statesman, or of a philosopher, to waste time in childishly regretting the faults of a Prince’s personal character. The rulers of Portugal can neither create circumstances, nor form men according to their wishes. They must take men and things as they find them; and their wisdom will be shown, by turning both to the best account. The occasional occurrence of great personal faults in princes, is an inconvenience of hereditary monarchy, which a wise limitation of royal power may abate and mitigate. Elective governments are not altogether exempt from the same evils, besides being liable to others. All comparison of the two systems is, in the present case, a mere exercise of ingenuity: for it is appaparent, that liberty has at this time no chance of establishment in Portugal, in any other form than that of a limited monarchy. The situation of Don Miguel renders it possible to form the constitution on an union between him, as the representative of the Ultra-Royalists, and a young Princess, whose rights will be incorporated with the establishment of liberty.
As soon as Don Pedro was informed of his father’s death, he proceeded to the performance of the task which had devolved on him. He began, on the 20th of April, by granting a Constitutional Charter to Portugal. On the 26th, he confirmed the Regency appointed by his father, till the proclamation of the constitution. On the 2d of May he abdicated the crown in favour of his daughter, Donna Maria; on condition, however, “that the abdication should not be valid, and the Princess should not quit Brazil, until it be made officially known to him, that the constitution had been sworn to, according to his orders; and that the espousals of the Princess with Don Miguel should have been made, and the marriage concluded; and that the abdidation and cession should not take place if either of these two conditions should fail.”* On the 26th of April, Letters-Patent, or writs of summons, had issued, addressed to each of those who were to form the House of Peers, of which the Duke de Cadaval was named President, and the Patriarch Elect of Lisbon Vice-President. A Decree had also been issued on the same day, commanding the Regency of Portugal to take the necessary measures for the immediate election of members of the other House, according to the tenor of the constitutional law.† When these laws and decrees were received at Lisbon, the Regency proceeded instantly to put them into execution; in consequence of which, the Constitution was proclaimed, the Regency installed, the elections commenced, and the Cortes were finally assembled at Lisbon on the 30th of October.
Whether the Emperor of Brazil had, by the laws of Portugal, the power to regulate the affairs of that kingdom, had hitherto given rise to no question. All parties with in and without Portugal had treated his right of succession to his father in the throne of that kingdom as undisputed. But no sooner had he exercised that right, by the grant of a free constitution, than it was discovered by some Ultra-Royalists, that he had forfeited the right itself; that his power over Portugal was an usurpation, and his constitutional law an absolute nullity! Don Miguel, whose name was perpetually in the mouth of these writers, continued at Vienna. The Spanish Government and its officers breathed menace and invective. Foreign agency manifested itself in Portugal; and some bodies of troops, both on the northern and southern frontier, were excited to a sedition for slavery. “All foreigners,” say the objectors,” are, by the fundamental laws of Portugal, excluded from the succession to the crown. This law passed at the foundation of the monarchy, by the celebrated Cortes of Lamego, in 1143, was confirmed, strengthened, and enlarged by the Cortes of 1641; and under it, on the last occasion, the King of Spain was declared an usurper, and the House of Braganza were raised to the throne. Don Pedro had, by the treaty which recognised him as Emperor of Brazil, become a foreign sovereign, and was therefore, at the death of his father, disqualified from inheriting the crown of Portugal.”
A few years after the establishment of the Normans in England, Henry, a Burgundian Prince, who served under the King of Castile in his wars against the Moors, obtained from that monarch, as a fief, the newly conquered territory between the rivers Douro and Minho. His son Alfonso threw off the superiority of Castile, and, after defeating the Moors at the great battle of Campo Ouriquez, in 1139, was declared King by the Pope, and acknowledged in that character by an assembly of the principal persons of the community, held at Lamego, in 1143, composed of bishops, nobles of the court, and, as it should seem, of procurators of the towns. The crown, after much altercation, was made hereditary, first in males and then in females; but on condition “that the female should always marry a man of Portugal, that the kingdom might not fall to foreigners; and that if she should marry a foreign prince, she should not be Queen;”—“because we will that our kingdom shall go only to the Portuguese, who, by their bravery, have made us King without foreign aid.” On being asked whether the King should pay tribute to the King of Leon, they all rose up, and, with naked swords uplifted, and answered, “Our King is independent; ourarms have delivered us; the King who consents to such things shall die.” The King, with his drawn sword in his hand, said, “If any one consent to such, let him die. If he should be my son, let him not reign.”
The Cortes of 1641, renewing the laws of Lamego, determined that, according to these fundamental institutions, the Spanish Princes had been usurpers, and pronounced John, Duke of Braganza, who had already been seated on the throne by a revolt of the whole people, to be the rightful heir. This Prince, though he appears not to have had any pretensions as a male heir, yet seems to have been the representative of the eldest female who had not lost the right of succession by marriage to a foreigner; and, consequently, he was entitled to the crown, according to the order of succession established at Lamego. The Three Estates presented the Heads of laws to the King, praying that effectual means might be taken to enforce the exclusion of foreigners from the throne according to the laws passed at Lamego. But as the Estates, according to the old constitution of Portugal, presented their Chapters severally to the King, it was possible that they might differ; and they did so, in some respects, on this important occasion,—not indeed as to the end, for which they were equally zealous, but as to the choice of the best means of securing its constant attainment. The answer of the King to the Ecclesiastical Estate was as follows:—“On this Chapter, for which I thank you, I have already answered to the Chapters of the States of the People and of the Nobles, in ordaining a law to be made in conformity to that ordained by Don John IV., with the declarations and modifications which shall be most conducive to the conservation and common good of the kingdom.” Lawyers were accordingly appointed to draw up the law; but it is clear that the reserve of the King left him ample scope for the exercise of his own discretion, even if it had not been rendered necessary by the variation between the proposals of the three Orders, respecting the means of its execution. But, in order to give our opponents every advantage, as we literally adopt their version, so we shall suppose (for the sake of argument) the royal assent to have been given to the Chapter of the Nobles without alteration, and in all its specific provisions; it being that on which the Absolutists have chosen to place their chief reliance. The Chapter stands thus in their editions:—“The State of the Nobility prays your Majesty to enact a law, ordaining that the succession to the kingdom may never fall to a foreign Prince, nor to his children, though they may be the next to the last in possession; and that, in case the King of Portugal should be called to the succession of another crown, or of a greater empire, he be compelled to live always there; and that if he has two or more male children, the eldest son shall assume the reins in the foreign country, and the second in Portugal, and the latter shall be the only recognised heir and legitimate successor; and, in case there should be only one child to inherit these two kingdoms, these said kingdoms shall be divided between the children of the latter, in the order and form above mentioned. In case there shall be daughters only, the eldest shall succeed in this kingdom, with the declaration that she marry here with a native of the country, chosen and named by the Three Estates assembled in Cortes: should she marry without the consent of the States, she and her descendants shall be declared incapable, and be ousted of the succession; and the Three Estates shall be at liberty to choose a King from among the natives, if there be no male relation of the Royal Family to whom the succession should devolve.”
Now the question is, whether Pedro IV. as the monarch of Brazil, a country separated from Portugal by treaty, became a foreign prince, in the sense intended by these ancient laws, and was thereby disabled from inheriting the crown of Portugal on the decease of John VI.?
This question is not to be decided by verbal chicane. The mischief provided against in these laws was twofold:—the supposed probability of mal-administration through the succession of a foreigner, ignorant of the country and not attached to it; and the loss of domestic government, if it fell by inheritance to the sovereign of another, especially a greater country. The intention of the lawgiver to guard against both these occurrences affords the only sure means of ascertaining the meaning of his words. But the present case has not even the slightest tendency to expose the country to either danger. Pedro IV. is a native Portuguese, presumed to have as much of the knowledge and feelings belonging to that character as any of his predecessors. The danger to Portuguese independence arises from the inheritance of the crown devolving in perpetuity, and without qualification, to a foreign sovereign. Such was the evil actually experienced under Philip II. King of Spain, and his two successors; and the most cursory glance over the law of 1641 shows that the Cortes had that case in view. Had the present resembled it in the important quality of a claim to unconditional inheritance, the authority would have been strong. But, instead of being annexed to a foreign dominion, Pedro IV. takes it only for the express purpose of effectually and perpetually disannexing his other territories from it;—a purpose which he immediately proceeds to carry into execution, by establishing a different line of succession for the crowns of both countries, and by an abdication, which is to take effect as soon as he has placed the new establishment in a state of security. The case provided against by the law is, that of permanent annexation to a foreign crown: the right exercised by Pedro IV. is, that of a guardian and administrator of the kingdom, during an operation which is necessary to secure it against such annexation. The whole transaction is conformable to the spirit of the two laws, and not repugnant to their letter.
That a temporary administration is perfectly consistent with these laws, is evident from the passage:—“If the King of Portugal should be called to the succession of another crown, and there should be only one child to inherit the two kingdoms, these said kingdoms shall be divided among the children of the latter”—meaning after his death, and if he should leave children. Here then is a case of temporary administration expressly provided for. The father is to rule both kingdoms, till there should be at least two children to render the division practicable. He becomes, for an uncertain, and possibly a long period, the provisional sovereign of both; merely because he is presumed to be the most proper regulator of territories which are to be divided between his posterity. Now, the principle of such an express exception is, by the rules of fair construction, applicable to every truly and evidently parallel case; and there is precisely the same reason for the tutelary power of Pedro IV. as there would be for that of a father, in the event contemplated by the law of 1641.
The effect of the Treaty of Rio Janeiro cannot be inconsistent with this temporary union. Even on the principle of our opponents, it must exist for a shorter or longer time. The Treaty did not deprive Pedro of his option between Portugal and Brazil: he must have possessed both crowns, when he was called upon to determine which of them he would lay down. But if it be acknowledged that a short but actual union is necessary, in order to effect the abdication, how can it be pretended that a longer union may not be equally justifiable, for the honest purpose of quiet and amicable separation?
The Treaty of Rio de Janeiro would have been self-destructive, if it had taken from Pedro the power of sovereignty in Portugal immediately on the death of his father: for in that case no authority would exist capable of carrying the Treaty into execution. It must have been left to civil war to determine who was to govern the kingdom; while, if we adopt the principle of Pedro’s hereditary succession by law, together with his obligation by treaty to separate the kingdoms, the whole is consistent with itself, and every measure is quietly and regularly carried into effect.
To these considerations we must add the recognition of Pedro “as heir and successor” in the Ratification. Either John VI. had power to decide this question, or he had not. If he had not, the Treaty is null; for it is impossible to deny that the recognition is really a condition granted to Brazil, which is a security for its independence, and the breach of which would annul the whole contract. In that case, Portugal and Brazil are not legally separated. Pedro IV. cannot be called a “foreign prince;” and no law forbids him to reside in the American provinces of the Portuguese dominions. In that case also, exercising all the power of his immediate predecessors, his authority in Portugal becomes absolute; he may punish the Absolutists as rebels, according to their own principles; and it will be for them to show, that his rights, as supreme lawgiver, can be bounded by laws called ‘fundamental.’ But,—to take a more sober view,—can it be doubted, that, in a country where the monarch had exercised the whole legislative power for more than a century, his authoritative interpretation of the ancient laws, especially if it is part of a compact with another state, must be conclusive? By repeatedly declaring in the introduction to the Treaty, and in the Ratification of it, that Pedro IV. was “heir and successor” of Portugal, and that he was not divested of that character by the Treaty, which recognised him as Sovereign of Brazil, John VI. did most deliberately and solemnly determine, that his eldest son was not a “foreign prince” in the sense in which these words are used by the ancient laws. Such too seems to have been the sense of all parties, even of those the most bitterly adverse to Pedro IV., and most deeply interested in disputing his succession, till he granted a Constitutional Charter to the people of Portugal.
John VI., by his decree for the re-establishment of the ancient constitution of Portugal, had really abolished the absolute monarchy, and in its stead established a government, which, with all its inconveniences and defects, was founded on principles of liberty. For let it not be supposed that the ancient constitution of Portugal had become forgotten or unknown by disuse for centuries, like those legendary systems, under cover of which any novelty may be called a restoration. It was perfectly well known; it was long practised; and never legally abrogated. Indeed the same may be affirmed, with equal truth, of the ancient institutions of the other inhabitants of the Peninsula, who were among the oldest of free nations, but who have so fallen from their high estate as to be now publicly represented as delighting in their chains and glorying in their shame. In Portugal, however, the usurpation of absolute power was not much older than a century. We have already seen, that the Cortes of Lamego, the founders of the monarchy, proclaimed the right of the nation in a spirit as generous, and in a Latinity not much more barbarous, than that of the authors of Magna Charta about seventy years later.
The Infant Don Miguel has sworn to observe and maintain the constitution. In the act of his espousals he acknowledges the sovereignty of the young Queen, and describes himself as only her first subject. The mutinies of the Portuguese soldiers have ceased; but the conduct of the Court of Madrid still continues to keep up agitation and alarm: for no change was ever effected which did not excite discontent and turbulence enough to serve the purposes of a neighbour straining every nerve to vex and disturb a country. The submission of Don Miguel to his brother and sovereign are, we trust, sincere. He will observe his oath to maintain the constitution, and cheerfully take his place as the first subject of a limited monarchy. The station to which he is destined, and the influence which must long, and may always belong to it, form together a more attractive object of ambition than any thing which he could otherwise have hoped peaceably and lawfully to attain. No man of common prudence, whatever may be his political opinions, will advise the young Prince to put such desirable prospects to hazard. He will be told by all such counsellors of every party that he must now adapt himself to occurrences which he may learn to consider as fortunate; that loyalty to his brother and his country would now be his clearest interest, if they were not his highest duty; that he must forget all his enmities, renounce all his prejudices, and even sacrifice some of his partialities; and that he must leave full time to a great part of the people of Portugal to recover from those prepossessions and repugnances which they may have contracted.
CHARACTER OF CHARLES, FIRST MARQUIS CORNWALLIS.*
Charles, Marquis Cornwallis, the representative of a family of ancient distinction, and of no modern nobility, had embraced in early youth the profession of arms. The sentiments which have descended to us from ancient times have almost required the sacrifice of personal ease, and the exposure of personal safety, from those who inherit distinction. All the superiority conferred by society must either be earned by previous services, or at least justified by subsequent merit. The most arduous exertions are therefore imposed on those who enjoy advantages which they have not earned. Noblemen are required to devote themselves to danger for the safety of their fellow-citizens, and to spill their blood more readily than others in the public cause. Their choice is almost limited to that profession which derives its dignity from the contempt of danger and death, and which is preserved from mercenary contamination by the severe but noble renunciation of every reward except honour.
In the early stages of his life there were no remarkable events. His sober and well-regulated mind probably submitted to that industry which is the excellence of a subordinate station, and the basis of higher usefulness in a more elevated sphere. The brilliant irregularities which are the ambiguous distinctions of the youth of others found no place in his. He first appeared in the eye of the public during the unhappy civil war between Great Britain and her Colonies, which terminated in the division of the empire. His share in that contest was merely military: in that, as well as in every subsequent part of his life, he was happily free from those conflicts of faction in which the hatred of one portion of our fellow-citizens is insured by those acts which are necessary to purchase the transient and capricious attachment of the other. A soldier, more fortunate, deserves, and generally receives, the unanimous thanks of his country.
It would be improper here to follow him through all the vicissitudes of that eventful war. There is one circumstance, however, which forms too important a part of his character to be omitted,—he was unfortunate. But the moment of misfortune was, perhaps, the most honourable moment of his life. So unshaken was the respect felt, that calamity did not lower him in the eyes of that public which is so prone to estimate men merely by the effect of their councils. He was not received with those frowns which often undeservedly await the return of the unsuccessful general: his country welcomed him with as much honour as if fortune had attended his virtue, and his sovereign bestowed on him new marks of confidence and favour. This was a most signal triumph. Chance mingles with genius and science in the most renowned victories; but merit and well-earned reputation alone can preserve an unfortunate general from sinking in popular estimation.
In 1786 his public life became more connected with that part of the British Empire which we now inhabit. This choice was made under circumstances which greatly increased the honour. No man can recollect the situation of India at that period, or the opinions concerning it in Great Britain, without remembering the necessity, universally felt and acknowledged, for committing the government of our Asiatic territories to a person peculiarly and conspicuously distinguished for prudence, moderation, integrity, and humility. On these grounds he was undoubtedly selected; and it will not be disputed, by any one acquainted with the history of India that his administration justified the choice.
Among the many wise and honest measures which did honour to his government, there are two which are of such importance that they cannot be passed over in silence. The first was, the establishment of a fixed land-rent throughout Bengal, instead of those annually varying, and often arbitrary, exactions to which the landholders of that great province had been for ages subject. This reformation, one of the greatest, perhaps, ever peaceably effected in an extensive and opulent country, has since been followed in the other British territories in the East; and it is the first certain example in India of a secure private property in land, which the extensive and undefined territorial claims of Indian Princes had, in former times, rendered a subject of great doubt and uncertainty. The other distinguishing measure of his government was that judicial system which was necessary to protect and secure the property thus ascertained, and the privileges thus bestowed. By the combined influence of these two great measures, he may confidently be said to have imparted to the subjects of Great Britain in the East a more perfect security of person and property, and a fuller measure of all the advantages of civil society, than had been enjoyed by the natives of India within the period of authentic history;—a portion of these inestimable benefits larger than appears to have been ever possessed by any people of Asia, and probably not much inferior to the share of many flourishing states of Europe in ancient and modern times. It has sometimes been objected to these arrangements, that the revenue of the sovereign was sacrificed to the comfort and prosperity of the subject. This would have been impossible: the interests of both are too closely and inseparably connected. The security of the subject will always enrich him; and his wealth will always overflow into the coffers of his sovereign. But if the objection were just in point of policy, it would be the highest tribute to the virtue of the governor. To sacrifice revenue to the well-being of a people is a blame of which Marcus Aurelius would have been proud!*
The war in which he was engaged during his Indian government it belongs to the historian to describe: in this place it is sufficient to say that it was founded in the just defence of an ally, that it was carried on with vigour, and closed with exemplary moderation.
In 1793 Lord Cornwallis returned to Europe, leaving behind him a greater and purer name than that of any foreigner who had ruled over India for centuries.
It is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the history of his life, that great offices were scarcely ever bestowed on him in times when they could be mere marks of favour, or very desirable objects of pursuit; but that he was always called upon to undertake them in those seasons of difficulty when the acceptance became a severe and painful duty. One of these unhappy occasions arose in the year 1798. A most dangerous rebellion had been suppressed in Ireland, without extinguishing the disaffection that threatened future rebellions. The prudence, the vigilance, the unspotted humanity, the inflexible moderation of Marquis Cornwallis, pointed him out as the most proper person to compose the dissensions of that generous and unfortunate people. He was accordingly chosen for that mission of benevolence, and he most amply justified the choice. Besides the applause of all good men and all lovers of their country, he received the still more unequivocal honour of the censure of violent, and the clamours of those whose ungovernable resentments he refused to gratify. He not only succeeded in allaying the animosities of a divided nation, but he was happy enough to be instrumental in a measure which, if it be followed by moderate and healing counsels, promises permanent quiet and prosperity: under his administration Ireland was united to Great Britain. A period was at length put to the long misgovernment and misfortunes of that noble island, and a new era of justice, happiness, and security opened for both the great members of the British Empire.
The times were too full of difficulty to suffer him long to enjoy the retirement which followed his Irish administration. A war, fortunate and brilliant in many of its separate operations, but unsuccessful in its grand objects, was closed by a treaty of peace, which at first was joyfully hailed by the feelings of the public, but which has since given rise to great diversity of judgment. It may be observed, without descending into political contests, that if the terms of the treaty* were necessarily not flattering to national pride, it was the more important to choose a negotiator who should inspire public confidence, and whose character might shield necessary concessions from unpopularity. Such was unquestionably the principle on which Lord Cornwallis was selected; and such (whatever judgment may be formed of the treaty) is the honourable testimony which it bears to his character.
The offices bestowed on him were not matters of grace: every preferment was a homage to his virtue. He was never invited to the luxuries of high station: he was always summoned to its most arduous and perilous duties. India once more needed, or was thought to need, the guardian care of him who had healed the wounds of conquest, and bestowed on her the blessings of equitable and paternal legislation. Whether the opinion held in England of the perils of our Eastern territories was correct or exaggerated, it is not for us in this place to inquire. It is enough to know that the alarm was great and extensive, and that the eyes of the nation were once more turned towards Lord Cornwallis. Whether the apprehensions were just or groundless, the tribute to his character was equal. He once more accepted the government of these extensive dominions, with a full knowledge of his danger, and with no obscure anticipation of the probability of his fate. He obeyed his sovereign, nobly declaring, “that if he could render service to his country, it was of small moment to him whether he died in India or in Europe;” and no doubt thoroughly convinced that it was far better to die in the discharge of great duties than to add a few feeble inactive years to life. Great Britain, divided on most public questions, was unanimous in her admiration of this signal sacrifice; and British India, however various might be the political opinions of her inhabitants, welcomed the Governor General with only one sentiment of personal gratitude and reverence.
Scarcely had he arrived when he felt the fatal influence of the climate which, with a a clear view of its terrors, he had resolved to brave. But he neither yielded to the languor of disease, nor to the infirmity of age. With all the ardour of youth, he flew to the post where he was either to conclude an equitable peace, or, if that were refused, to prosecute necessary hostilities with rigour. His malady became more grievous, and for some time stopped his progress. On the slightest alleviation of his symptoms he resumed his journey, though little hope of recovery remained, with an inflexible resolution to employ what was left of life, in the performance of his duty to his country. He declared to his surrounding friends, “that he knew no reason to fear death; and that if he could remain in the world but a short time longer to complete the plans of public service in which he was engaged, he should then cheerfully resign his life to the Almighty Giver;”—a noble and memorable declaration, expressive of the union of every private, and civil, and religious excellence, in which the consciousness of a blameless and meritorious life is combined with the affectionate zeal of a dying patriot, and the meek submission of a pious Christian. But it pleased God, “whose ways are not as our ways,” to withdraw him from this region of the universe before his honest wishes of usefulness could be accomplished, though doubtless not before the purposes of Providence were fulfilled. He expired at Gazeepore, in the province of Benares, on the 5th of October, 1805,—supported by the remembrance of his virtue, and by the sentiments of piety which had actuated his whole life.
His remains are interred on the spot where he died, on the banks of that famous river, which washes no country not either blessed by his government, or visited by his renown; and in the heart of that province so long the chosen seat of religion and learning in India, which under the influence of his beneficent system, and under the administration of good men whom he had chosen, had risen from a state of decline and confusion to one of prosperity probably unrivalled in the happiest times of its ancient princes. “His body is buried in peace, and his name liveth for evermore.”
The Christian religion is no vain superstition, which divides the worship of God from the service of man. Every social duty is a Christian grace. Public and private virtue is considered by Christianity as the purest and most acceptable incense which can ascend before the Divine Throne. Political duties are a most momentous part of morality, and morality is the most momentous part of religion. When the political life of a great man has been guided by the rules of morality and consecrated by the principles of religion, it may, and it ought to be commemorated, that the survivors may admire and attempt to copy, not only as men and citizens, but as Christians. It is due to the honour of Religion and Virtue,—it is fit for the confusion of the impious and the depraved, to show that these sacred principles are not to be hid in the darkness of humble life to lead the prejudiced and amuse the superstitious, but that they appear with their proper lustre at the head of councils, of armies, and of empires,—the supports of valour,—the sources of active and enlightened beneficence,—the companions of all real policy,—and the guides to solid and durable glory.
A distinction has been made in our times among statesmen, between Public and Private Virtue: they have been supposed to be separable. The neglect of every private obligation, has been supposed to be compatible with public virtue, and the violation of the most sacred public trust has been thought not inconsistent with private worth:—a deplorable distinction, the creature of corrupt sophistry, disavowed by Reason and Morals, and condemned by all the authority of Religion. No such disgraceful inconsistency, or flagrant hypocrisy, disgraced the character of the venerable person of whom I speak,—of whom we may, without suspicion of exaggeration, say, that he performed with equal strictness every office of public or private life; that his public virtue was not put on for parade, like a gaudy theatrical dress, but that it was the same integrity and benevolence which attended his most retired moments; that with a simple and modest character, alien to ostentation, and abhorrent from artifice,—with no pursuit of popularity, and no sacrifice to court favour,—by no other means than an universal reputation for good sense, humanity, and honesty, he gained universal confidence, and was summoned to the highest offices at every call of danger.
He has left us an useful example of the true dignity of these invaluable qualities, and has given us new reason to thank God that we are the natives of a country yet so uncorrupted as to prize them thus highly. He has left us an example of the pure statesman,—of a paternal governor,—of a warrior who loved peace,—of a hero without ambition,—of a conqueror who showed unfeigned moderation in the moment of victory,—and of a patriot who devoted himself to death for his country. May this example be as fruitful, as his memory will be immortal! May the last generations of Britain aspire to copy and rival so pure a model! And when the nations of India turn their eyes to his monument, rising amidst fields which his paternal care has restored to their ancient fertility, may they who have long suffered from the violence of those who are unjustly called ‘Great,’ at length learn to love and reverence the Good.
CHARACTER OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE GEORGE CANNING.*
Without invidious comparison, it may be safely said that, from the circumstances in which he died, his death was more generally interesting among civilized nations than that of any other English statesman had ever been. It was an event in the internal history of every country. From Lima to Athens, every nation struggling for independence or existence, was filled by it with sorrow and dismay. The Miguelites of Portugal, the Apostolicals of Spain, the Jesuit faction in France, and the Divan of Constantinople, raised a shout of joy at the fall of their dreaded enemy. He was regretted by all who, heated by no personal or party resentment, felt for genius struck down in the act of attempting to heal the revolutionary distemper, and to render future improvements pacific, on the principle since successfully adopted by more fortunate, though not more deserving, ministers,—that of an honest compromise between the interests and the opinions,—the prejudices and the demands,—of the supporters of establishments, and the followers of reformation.
* * * * *
The family of Mr. Canning, which for more than a century had filled honourable stations in Ireland, was a younger branch of an ancient one among the English gentry. His father, a man of letters, had been disinherited for an imprudent marriage; and the inheritance went to a younger brother, whose son was afterwards created Lord Garvagh. Mr. Canning was educated at Eton and Oxford, according to that exclusively classical system, which, whatever may be its defects, must be owned, when taken with its constant appendages, to be eminently favourable to the cultivation of sense and taste, as well as to the development of wit and spirit. From his boyhood he was the foremost among very distinguished contemporaries, and continued to be regarded as the best specimen, and the most brilliant representative, of that eminently national education. His youthful eye sparkled with quickness and arch pleasantry; and his countenance early betrayed that jealousy of his own dignity, and sensibility to suspected disregard, which were afterwards softened, but never quite subdued. Neither the habits of a great school, nor those of a popular assembly, were calculated to weaken his love of praise and passion for distinction: but, as he advanced in years, his fine countenance was ennobled by the expression of thought and feeling; he more pursued that lasting praise, which is not to be earned without praiseworthiness; and, if he continued to be a lover of fame, he also passionately loved the glory of his country. Even he who almost alone was entitled to look down on fame as ‘that last infirmity of noble minds,’ had not forgotten that it was—
“The spur that the clear spirit doth raise, To scorn delights, and live laborious days.”*
The natural bent of character is, perhaps, better ascertained from the undisturbed and unconscious play of the mind in the common intercourse of society, than from its movements under the power of strong interest or warm passions in public life. In social intercourse Mr. Canning was delightful. Happily for the true charm of his conversation he was too busy not to treat society as more fitted for relaxation than for display. It is but little to say, that he was neither disputatious declamatory, nor sententious,—neither a dictator nor a jester. His manner was simple and unobtrusive; his language always quite familiar. If a higher thought stole from his mind, it came in its conversational undress. From this plain ground his pleasantry sprang with the happiest effect; and it was nearly exempt from that alloy of taunt and banter, which he sometimes mixed with more precious materials in public contest. He may be added to the list of those eminent persons who pleased most in their friendly circle. He had the agreeable quality of being more easily pleased in society than might have been expected from the keenness of his discernment, and the sensibility of his temper: still he was liable to be discomposed, or even silenced, by the presence of any one whom he did not like. His manner in company betrayed the political vexations or anxietres which preyed on his mind: nor could he conceal that sensitiveness to public attacks which their frequent recurrence wears out in most English politicians. These last foibles may be thought interesting as the remains of natural character, not destroyed by refined society and political affairs. He was assailed by some adversaries so ignoble as to wound him through his filial affection, which preserved its respectful character through the whole course of his advancement.
The ardent zeal for his memory, which appeared immediately after his death, attests the warmth of those domestic affections which seldom prevail where they are not mutual. To his touching epitaph on his son, parental love has given a charm which is wanting in his other verses. It was said of him, at one time, that no man had so little popularity and such affectionate friends, and the truth was certainly more sacrificed to point in the former than in the latter member of the contrast. Some of his friendships continued in spite of political differences (which, by rendering intercourse less unconstrained, often undermine friendship;) and others were remarkable for a warmth, constancy, and disinterestedness, which, though chiefly honourable to those who were capable of so pure a kindness, yet redound to the credit of him who was the object of it. No man is thus beloved who is not himself formed for friendship.
Notwithstanding his disregard for money, he was not tempted in youth by the example or the kindness of affluent friends much to overstep his little patrimony. He never afterwards sacrificed to parade or personal indulgence; though his occupations scarcely allowed him to think enough of his private affairs. Even from his moderate fortune, his bounty was often liberal to suitors to whom official relief could not be granted. By a sort of generosity still harder for him to practise, he endeavoured, in cases where the suffering was great, though the suit could not be granted, to satisfy the feelings of the suitor by a full explanation in writing of the causes which rendered compliance impracticable. Wherever he took an interest, he showed it as much by delicacy to the feelings of those whom he served or relieved, as by substantial consideration for their claims;—a rare and most praiseworthy merit among men in power.
In proportion as the opinion of a people acquires influence over public affairs, the faculty of persuading men to support or oppose political measures acquires importance. The peculiar nature of Parliamentary debate contributes to render eminence in that province not so imperfect a test of political ability as it might appear to be. Recited speeches can seldom show more than powers of reasoning and imagination; which have little connection with a capacity for affairs. But the unforeseen events of debate, and the necessity of immediate answer in unpremeditated language, afford scope for the quickness, firmness, boldness, wariness, presence of mind, and address in the management of men, which are among the qualities most essential to a statesman. The most flourishing period of our Parliamentary eloquence extends for about half a century,—from the maturity of Lord Chatham’s genius to the death of Mr. Fox. During the twenty years which succeeded, Mr. Canning was sometimes the leader, and always the greatest orator, of the party who supported the Administration; in which there were able men who supported, without rivalling him, against opponents also not thought by him inconsiderable. Of these last, one, at least, was felt by every hearer, and acknowledged in private by himself, to have always forced his faculties to their very uttermost stretch.*
Had he been a dry and meagre speaker, he would have been universally allowed to have been one of the greatest masters of argument; but his hearers were so dazzled by the splendour of his diction, that they did not perceive the acuteness and the occasionally excessive refinement of his reasoning; a consequence which, as it shows the injurious influence of a seductive fault, can with the less justness be overlooked in the estimate of his understanding. Ornament, it must be owned, when it only pleases or amuses, without disposing the audience to adopt the sentiments of the speaker, is an offence against the first law of public speaking; it obstructs instead of promoting its only reasonable purpose. But eloquence is a widely extended art, comprehending many sorts of excellence; in some of which ornamented diction is more liberally employed than in others; and in none of which the highest rank can be attained, without an extraordinary combination of mental powers. Among our own orators, Mr. Canning seems to have been the best model of the adorned style. The splendid and sublime descriptions of Mr. Burke,—his comprehensive and profound views of general principle,—though they must ever delight and instruct the reader, must be owned to have been digressions which diverted the mind of the hearer from the object on which the speaker ought to have kept it steadily fixed. Sheridan, a man of admirable sense, and matchless wit, laboured to follow Burke into the foreign regions of feeling and grandeur. The specimens preserved of his most celebrated speeches show too much of the exaggeration and excess to which those are peculiarly liable who seek by art and effort what nature has denied. By the constant part which Mr. Canning took in debate, he was called upon to show a knowledge which Sheridan did not possess, and a readiness which that accomplished man had no such means of strengthening and displaying. In some qualities of style, Mr. Canning surpassed Mr. Pitt. His diction was more various,—sometimes more simple,—more idiomatical, even in its more elevated parts. It sparkled with imagery, and was brightened by illustration; in both of which Mr. Pitt, for so great an orator, was defective.
No English speaker used the keen and brilliant weapon of wit so long, so often, or so effectively, as Mr. Canning. He gained more triumphs, and incurred more enmity, by it than by any other. Those whose importance depends much on birth and fortune are impatient of seeing their own artificial dignity, or that of their order, broken down by derision; and perhaps few men heartily forgive a successful jest against themselves, but those who are conscious of being unhurt by it. Mr. Canning often used this talent imprudently. In sudden flashes of wit, and in the playful description of men or things, he was often distinguished by that natural felicity which is the charm of pleasantry; to which the air of art and labour is more fatal than to any other talent. Sheridan was sometimes betrayed by an imitation of the dialogue of his master, Congreve, into a sort of laboured and finished jesting, so balanced and expanded, as sometimes to vie in tautology and monotony with the once applauded triads of Johnson; and which, even in its most happy passages, is more sure of commanding serious admiration than hearty laughter. It cannot be denied that Mr. Canning’s taste was, in this respect, somewhat influenced by the example of his early friend. The exuberance of fancy and wit lessened the gravity of his general manner, and perhaps also indisposed the audience to feel his earnestness where it clearly showed itself. In that important quality he was inferior to Mr. Pitt,—
“Deep on whose front engraven, Deliberation sat, and public care;”*
and no less inferior to Mr. Fox, whose fervid eloquence flowed from the love of his country, the scorn of baseness, and the hatred of cruelty, which were the ruling passions of his nature.
On the whole, it may be observed, that the range of Mr. Canning’s powers as an orator was wider than that in which he usually exerted them. When mere statement only was allowable, no man of his age was more simple. When infirm health compelled him to be brief, no speaker could compress his matter with so little sacrifice of clearness, ease, and elegance. In his speech on Colonial Reformation, in 1823, he seemed to have brought down the philosophical principles and the moral sentiments of Mr. Burke to that precise level where they could be happily blended with a grave and dignified speech, intended as an introduction to a new system of legislation. As his oratorical faults were those of youthful genius, the progress of age seemed to purify his eloquence, and every year appeared to remove some speck which hid, or, at least, dimmed, a beauty. He daily rose to larger views, and made, perhaps, as near approaches to philosophical principles as the great difence between the objects of the philosopher and those of the orator will commonly allow.
Mr. Canning possessed, in a high degree, the outward advantages of an orator. His expressive countenance varied with the changes of his eloquence: his voice, flexible and articulate, had as much compass as his mode of speaking required. In the calm part of his speeches, his attitude and gesture might have been selected by a painter to represent grace rising towards dignity.
When the memorials of his own time,—the composition of which he is said never to have interrupted in his busiest moments,—are made known to the public, his abilities as a writer may be better estimated. His only known writings in prose are State Papers, which, when considered as the composition of a Minister for Foreign Affairs, in one of the most extraordinary periods of European history, are undoubtedly of no small importance. Such of these papers as were intended to be a direct appeal to the judgment of mankind combine so much precision, with such uniform circumspection and dignity, that they must ever be studied as models of that very difficult species of composition. His Instructions to ministers abroad, on occasions both perplexing and momentous, will be found to exhibit a rare union of comprehensive and elevated views, with singular ingenuity in devising means of execution; on which last faculty he sometimes relied perhaps more confidently than the short and dim foresight of man will warrant. “Great affairs,” says Lord Bacon, “are commonly too coarse and stubborn to be worked upon by the fine edges and points of wit.”* His papers in negotiation were occasionally somewhat too controversial in their tone: they were not near enough to the manner of an amicable conversation about a disputed point of business, in which a negotiator does not so much draw out his argument, as hint his own object, and sound the intention of his opponent. He sometimes seems to have pursued triumph more than advantage, and not to have remembered that to leave the opposite party satisfied with what he has got, and in good humour with himself, is not one of the least proofs of a negotiator’s skill. Where the papers were intended ultimately to reach the public through Parliament, it might have been prudent to regard chiefly the final object; and when this excuse was wanting, much must be pardoned to the controversial habits of a Parliamentary life. It is hard for a debater to be a negotiator: the faculty of guiding public assemblies is very remote from the art of dealing with individuals.
Mr. Canning’s power of writing verse may rather be classed with his accomplishments, than numbered among his high and noble faculties. It would have been a distinction for an inferior man. His verses were far above those of Cicero, of Burke, and of Bacon. The taste prevalent in his youth led him to feel more relish for sententious declaimers than is shared by lovers of the true poetry of imagination and sensibility. In some respects his poetical compositions were also influenced by his early intercourse with Mr. Sheridan, though he was restrained by his more familiar contemplation of classical models from the glittering conceits of that extraordinary man. Something of an artificial and composite diction is discernible in the English poems of those who have acquired reputation by Latin verse,—more especially since the pursuit of rigid purity has required so timid an imitation as not only to confine itself to the words, but to adopt none but the phrases of ancient poets. Of this effect Gray must be allowed to furnish an example.
Absolute silence about Mr. Canning’s writings as a political satirist,—which were for their hour so popular,—might be imputed to undue timidity. In that character he yielded to General Fitzpatrick in arch stateliness and poignant raillery; to Mr. Moore in the gay prodigality with which he squanders his countless stores of wit; and to his own friend Mr. Frere in the richness of a native vein of original and fantastic drollery. In that ungenial province, where the brightest of laurels are apt very soon to fade, and where Dryden only boasts immortal lays, it is perhaps his best praise to record that there is no writing of his, which a man of honour might not have avowed as soon as the first heat of contest was past.
In some of the amusements or tasks of his boyhood there are passages which, without much help from fancy, might appear to contain allusions to his greatest measures of policy, as well as to the tenor of his life, and to the melancholy splendour which surrounded his death. In the concluding line of the first English verses written by him at Eton, he expressed a wish, which has been singularly realised, that he might
“Live in a blaze, and in a blaze expire.”
It is a striking coincidence, that the statesman, whose dying measure was to mature an alliance for the deliverance of Greece, should, when a boy, have written English verses on the slavery of that country; and that in his prize poem at Oxford, on the Pilgrimage to Mecca,—a composition as much applauded as a modern Latin poem can aspire to be—he should have as bitterly deplored the lot of other renowned countries, now groaning under the same barbarous yoke,—
“Nunc Satrapæ imperio et sævo subdita Turcæ.”*
To conclude:—he was a man of fine and brilliant genius, of warm affections, of a high and generous spirit,—a statesman who, at home, converted most of his opponents into warm supporters; who, abroad, was the sole hope and trust of all who sought an orderly and legal liberty; and who was cut off in the midst of vigorous and splendid measures, which, if executed by himself, or with his own spirit, promised to place his name in the first class of rulers, among the founders of lasting peace, and the guardians of human improvement.
PREFACE TO A REPRINT OF THE EDINDURGH REVIEW OF 1755.*
It is generally known that two numbers of a Critical Journal were published at Edinburgh in the year 1755, under the title of the “Edinburgh Review.” The following volume contains an exact reprint of that Review, now become so rare that it is not to be found in the libraries of some of the most curious collectors. To this reprint are added the names of the writers of the most important articles. Care has been taken to authenticate the list of names by reference to well-informed persons, and by comparison with copies in the possession of those who have derived their information from distinct and independent sources. If no part of it should be now corrected by those Scotchmen of letters still living, who may have known the fact from the writers themselves, we may regard this literary secret as finally discovered, with some gratification to the curious reader, and without either pain to the feelings, or wrong to the character of any one. There are few anonymous writers the discovery of whose names would be an object of curiosity after the lapse of sixty years: there are perhaps still fewer whose secret might be exposed to the public after that long period with perfect security to their reputation for equity and forbearance.
The mere circumstance that this volume contains the first printed writings of Adam Smith and Robertson, and the only known publication of Lord Chancellor Rosslyn, will probably be thought a sufficient reason for its present appearance.
Of the eight articles which appear to have been furnished by Dr. Robertson, six are on historical subjects. Written during the composition of the History of Scotland, they show evident marks of the wary understanding, the insight into character, the right judgment in affairs, and the union of the sober speculation of a philosopher with the practical prudence of a statesman, as well as the studied elegance and somewhat ceremonious stateliness of style which distinguish his more elaborate writings. He had already succeeded in guarding his diction against the words and phrases of the dialect which he habitually spoke;—an enterprise in which he had no forerunner, and of which the difficulty even now can only be estimated by a native of Scotland. The dread of inelegance in a language almost foreign kept him, as it has kept succeeding Scotch writers, at a distance from the familiar English, the perfect use of which can be acquired only by conversation from the earlist years. Two inaccurate expressions only are to be found in these early and hasty productions of this elegant writer. Instead of “individuals” he uses the Gallicism “particulars;” and for “enumeration” he employs “induction,”—a term properly applicable only with a view to the general inference which enumeration affords. In the review of the History of Peter the Great it is not uninteresting to find it remarked, that the violence and ferocity of that renowned barbarian perhaps partly fitted him to be the reformer of a barbarous people; as it was afterwards observed in the Histories of Scotland and of Charles V., that a milder and more refined character might have somewhat disqualified Luther and Knox for their great work. Two articles being on Scottish affairs were natural relaxations for the historian of Scotland. In that which relates to the Catalogue of Scottish Bishops we observe a subdued smile at the eagerness of the antiquary and the ecclesiastical partisan, qualified indeed by a just sense of the value of the collateral information which their toil may chance to throw up, but which he was too cautious and decorous to have hazarded in his avowed writings. That he reviewed Douglas’ Account of North America was a fortunate circumstance, if we may suppose that the recollection might at a distant period have contributed to suggest the composition of the History of America. None of these writings could have justified any expectation of his historical fame; because they furnished no occasion for exerting the talent for narration,—the most difficult but the most necessary attainment for an historian, and one in which he has often equalled the greatest masters of his art. In perusing the two essays of a literary sort ascribed to him, it may seem that he has carried lenient and liberal criticism to an excess. His mercy to the vicious style of Hervey may have been in some measure the result of professional prudence: but it must be owned that he does not seem enough aware of the interval between Gray and Shenstone, and that he names versifiers now wholly forgotten. Had he and his associates, however, erred on the opposite extreme,—had they underrated and vilified works of genius, their fault would now appear much more offensive. To overrate somewhat the inferior degrees of real merit which are reached by contemporaries is indeed the natural disposition of superior minds, when they are neither degraded by jealousy nor inflamed by hostile prejudice. The faint and secondary beauties of contemporaries are aided by novelty; they are brought near enough to the attention by curiosity, and they are compared with their competitors of the same time instead of being tried by the test of likeness to the produce of all ages and nations. This goodnatured exaggeration encourages talent, and gives pleasure to readers as well as writers, without any permanent injury to the public taste. The light which seems brilliant only because it is near the eye, cannot reach the distant observer. Books which please for a year, which please for ten years, and which please for ever, gradually take their destined stations. There is little need of harsh criticism to forward this final justice. The very critic who has bestowed too prodigal praise, if he long survives his criticism, will survive also his harmless error. Robertson never reased to admire Gray: but he lived long enough probably to forget the name of Jago.
In the contributions of Dr. Adam Smith it is easy to trace his general habits both of thinking and writing. Among the inferior excellencies of this great philosopher, it is not to be forgotten that in his full and flowing composition he manages the English language with a freer hand and with more native ease than any other Scottish writer. Robertson avoids Scotticisms: but Smith might be taken for an English writer not peculiarly idiomatical. It is not improbable that the early lectures of Hutcheson, an eloquent native of Ireland, and a residence at Oxford from the age of seventeen to that of twenty-four, may have aided Smith in the attainment of this more free and native style. It must however be owned, that his works, confined to subjects of science or speculation, do not afford the severest test of a writer’s familiarity with a language. On such subjects it is comparatively easy, without any appearance of constraint or parade, to avoid the difficulties of idiomatical expression by the employment of general and technical terms. His review of Johnson’s Dictionary is chiefly valuable as a proof that neither of these eminent persons was well qualified to write an English dictionary. The plan of Johnson and the specimens of Smith are alike faulty. At that period, indeed, neither the cultivation of our old literature, nor the study of the languages from which the English springs or to which it is related, nor the habit of observing the general structure of language, was so far advanced as to render it possible for this great work to approach perfection. His parallel between French and English writers* is equally just and ingenious, and betrays very little of that French taste in polite letters, especially in dramatic poetry to which Dr. Smith and his friend Mr. Hume were prone. The observations on the life of a savage, which when seen from a distance appears to be divided between Arcadian repose and chivalrous adventure, and by this union is the most alluring object of general curiosity and the natural scene of the golden age both of the legendary, and of the paradoxical sophist, are an example of those original speculations on the reciprocal influence of society and opinions which characterize the genius of Smith. The commendation of Rousseau’s eloquent Dedication to the Republic of Geneva, for expressing “that ardent and passionate esteem which it becomes a good citizen to entertain for the government of his country and the character of his countrymen,” is an instance of the seeming exaggeration of just principles, arising from the employment of the language of moral feeling, as that of ethical philosophy, which is very observable in the Theory of Moral Sentiments.
Though the contributions of Alexander Wedderburn, afterwards Earl of Rosslyn, afforded little scope for the display of mental superiority, it is not uninteresting to examine the first essays in composition of a man whose powers of reason and eloquence raised him to the highest dignity of the state. A Greek grammar and two law books were allotted to him as subjects of criticism. Humble as these subjects are, an attentive perusal will discover in his remarks on them a distinctness of conception and a terseness as well as precision of language which are by no means common qualities of writing. One error in the use of the future tense deserves notice only as it shows the difficulties which he had to surmount in acquiring what costs an Englishman no study. The praise bestowed in his Preface on Buchanan for an “undaunted spirit of liberty,” is an instance of the change which sixty years have produced in political sentiment. Though that great writer was ranked among the enemies of monarchy,* the praise of him, especially in Scotland, was a mark of fidelity to a government which, though monarchical, was founded on the principles of the Revolution, and feared no danger but from the partisans of hereditary right. But the criticisms and the ingenious and judicious Preface show the early taste of a man who at the age of twenty-two withstands every temptation to unseasonable display. The love of letters, together with talents already conspicuous, had in the preceding year (1754) placed him in the chair at the first meeting of a literary society of which Hume and Smith were members. The same dignified sentiment attended him through a long life of activity and ambition, and shed a lustre over his declining years. It was respectably manifested by fidelity to the literary friends of his youth, and it gave him a disposition, perhaps somewhat excessive, to applaud every shadow of the like merit in others.
The other writers are only to be regarded as respectable auxiliaries in such an undertaking. Dr. Blair is an useful example, that a station among good writers may be attained by assiduity and good sense, with the help of an uncorrupted taste; while for the want of these qualities, it is often not reached by others whose powers of mind may be allied to genius.
The delicate task of reviewing the theological publications of Scotland was allotted to Mr. Jardine, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, whose performance of that duty would have required no particular notice, had it not contributed with other circumstances to bring the work to its sudden and unexpected close. At the very moment when Mr. Wedderburn (in his note at the end of the second number) had announced an intention to enlarge the plan, he and his colleagues were obliged to relinquish the work.
The temper of the people of Scotland was at that moment peculiarly jealous on every question that approached the boundaries of theology. A popular election of the parochial clergy had been restored with Presbytery by the Revolution. The rights of Patrons had been reimposed on the Scottish Church in the last years of Queen Anne, by Ministers who desired, if they did not meditate, the re-establishment of Episcopacy. But for thirty years afterwards this unpopular right was either disused by the Patrons or successfully resisted by the people. The zealous Presbyterians still retained the doctrine and spirit of the Covenanters; and their favourite preachers, bred up amidst the furious persecutions of Charles the Second, had rather learnt piety and fortitude than acquired that useful and ornamental learning which becomes their order in times of quiet. Some of them had separated from the Church on account of lay Patronage, among other marks of degeneracy. But besides these Seceders, the majority of the Established clergy were adverse to the law of Patronage, and disposed to connive at resistance to its execution. On the other hand, the more lettered and refined ministers of the Church, who had secretly relinquished many parts of the Calvinistic system,—from the unpopularity of their own opinions and modes of preaching, from their connection with the gentry who held the rights of Patronage, and from repugnance to the vulgar and illiterate ministers whom turbulent elections had brought into the Church,—became hostile to the interference of the people, and zealously laboured to enforce the execution of a law which had hitherto remained almost dormant. The Orthodox party maintained the rights of the people against a regulation imposed on them by their enemies; and the party which in matters of religion claimed the distinction of liberality and toleration, contended for the absolute authority of the civil magistrate to the destruction of a right which more than any other interested the conscience of the people of Scotland. At the head of this last party was Dr. Robertson, one of the contributors to the present volume, who about the time of its appearance was on the eve of effecting a revolution in the practice of the Church, by at length compelling the stubborn Presbyterians to submit to the authority of a law which they abhorred.
Another circumstance rendered the time very perilous for Scotch reviewers of ecclesiastical publications. The writings of Mr. Hume, the intimate friend of the leader of the tolerant clergy, very naturally excited the alarm of the Orthodox party, who, like their predecessors of the preceding age, were zealous for the rights of the people, but confined their charity within the pale of their own communion, and were much disposed to regard the impunity of heretics and infidels as a reproach to a Christian magistrate. In the year 1754 a complaint to the General Assembly against the philosophical writings of Mr. Hume and Lord Kames was with difficulty eluded by the friends of free discussion. The writers of the Review were aware of the danger to which they were exposed by these circumstances. They kept the secret of their Review from Mr. Hume, the most intimate friend of some of them. They forbore to notice in it his History of the Stuarts, of which the first volume appeared at Edinburgh two months before the publication of the Review; though it is little to say that it was the most remarkable work which ever issued from the Scottish press.
They trusted that the moderation and well-known piety of Mr. Jardine would conduct them safely through the suspicion and jealousy of jarring parties. Nor does it in fact appear that any part of his criticisms is at variance with that enlightened reverence for religion which he was known to feel; but he was somewhat influenced by the ecclesiastical party to which he adhered. He seems to have thought that he might securely assail the opponents of Patronage through the sides of Erskine, Boston, and other popular preachers, who were either Seceders, or divines of the same school. He even ventured to use the weapon of ridicule against their extravagant metaphors, their wire-drawn allegories, their mean allusions, and to laugh at those who complained of “the connivance at Popery, the toleration of Prelacy, the pretended rights of Lay Patrons,—of heretical professors in the universities, and a lax clergy in possession of the churches,” as the crying evils of the time.
This species of attack, at a moment when the religious feelings of the public were thus susceptible, appears to have excited general alarm. The Orthodox might blame the writings criticised without approving the tone assumed by the critic: the multitude were exasperated by the scorn with which their favourite writers were treated: and many who altogether disapproved these writings might consider ridicule as a weapon of doubtful propriety against language habitually employed to convey the religious and moral feelings of a nation. In these circumstances the authors of the Review did not think themselves bound to hazard their quiet, reputation, and interest, by perseverance in their attempt to improve the taste of their countrymen.
It will not be supposed that the remarks made above on the ecclesiastical parties in Scotland sixty years ago can have any reference to their political character at the present day. The principles of toleration now seem to prevail among the Scottish clergy more than among any other established church in Europe. A public act of the General Assembly may be considered as a renunciation of that hostility to the full toleration of Catholics which was for a long time the disgrace of the most liberal Protestants. The party called ‘Orthodox’ are purified from the intolerance which unhappily reigned among their predecessors, and have in general adopted those principles of religious liberty which the sincerely pious, when consistent with themselves, must be the foremost to maintain. Some of them also, even in these times, espouse those generous and sacred principles of civil liberty which distinguished the old Puritans, and which in spite of their faults entitle them to be ranked among the first benefactors of their country.*
ON THE WRITINGS OF MACHIAVEL.*
Literature, which lies much nearer to the feelings of mankind than science, has the most important effect on the sentiments with which the sciences are regarded, the activity with which they are pursued, and the mode in which they are cultivated. It is the instrument, in particular, by which ethical science is generally diffused. As the useful arts maintain the general honour of physical knowledge, so polite letters allure the world into the neighbourhood of the sciences of morals and of mind. Wherever the agreeable vehicle of literature does not convey their doctrines to the public, they remain as the occupation of a few recluses in the schools, with no root in the general feelings, and liable to be destroyed by the dispersion of a handful of doctors, and the destruction of their unlamented seminaries. Nor is this all:—polite literature is not only the true guardian of the moral sciences, and the sole instrument of spreading their benefits among men, but it becomes, from these very circumstances, the regulator of their cultivation and their progress. As long as they are confined to a small number of men in scholastic retirement, there is no restraint upon their natural proneness to degenerate either into verbal subtilties or shadowy dreams. As long as speculation remained in the schools, all its followers were divided into mere dialecticians, or mystical visionaries, both alike unmindful of the real world, and disregarded by its inhabitants. The revival of literature produced a revolution at once in the state of society, and in the mode of philosophizing. It attracted readers from the common ranks of society, who were gradually led on from eloquence and poetry, to morals and philosophy. Philosophers and moralists, after an interval of almost a thousand years, during which they had spoken only to each other, once more discovered that they might address the great body of mankind, with the hope of fame and of usefulness. Intercourse with this great public, supplied new materials, and imposed new restraints: the feelings, the common sense, the ordinary affairs of men, presented themselves again to the moralist; and philosophers were compelled to speak in terms intelligible and agreeable to their new hearers. Before this period, little prose had been written in any modern language, except chronicles or romances. Boccacio had indeed acquired a classical rank, by compositions of the latter kind; and historical genius had risen in Froissart and Comines to a height which has not been equalled among the same nation in times of greater refinement. But Latin was still the language in which all subjects then deemed of higher dignity, and which occupied the life of the learned by profession, were treated. This system continued till the Reformation, which, by the employment of the living languages in public worship, gave them a dignity unknown before, and, by the versions of the Bible, and the practice of preaching and writing on theology and morals in the common tongues, did more for polishing modern literature, for diffusing knowledge, and for improving morality, than all the other events and discoveries of that active age.
Machiavel is the first still celebrated writer who discussed grave questions in a modern language. This peculiarity is the more worthy of notice, because he was not excited by the powerful stimulant of the Reformation. That event was probably regarded by him as a disturbance in a barbarous country, produced by the novelties of a vulgar monk, unworthy of the notice of a man wholly occupied with the affairs of Florence, and the hope of expelling strangers from Italy; and having reached, at the appearance of Luther, the last unhappy period of his agitated life.
The Prince is an account of the means by which tyrannical power is to be acquired and preserved: it is a theory of that class of phenomena in the history of mankind. It is essential to its purpose, therefore, that it should contain an enumeration and exposition of tyrannical arts; and, on that account, it may be viewed and used as a manual of such arts. A philosophical treatise on poisons, would in like manner determine the quantity of each poisonous substance capable of producing death, the circumstances favourable or adverse to its operation, and every other information essential to the purpose of the poisoner, though not intended for his use. But it is also plain, that the calm statement of tyrannical arts is the bitterest of all satires against them. The Prince must therefore have had this double aspect, though neither of the objects which they seem to indicate had been actually in the contemplation of the author. It may not be the object of the chemist to teach the means of exhibiting antidotes, any more than those of administering poisons; but his readers may employ his discoveries for both objects. Aristotle* had long before given a similar theory of tyranny, without the suspicion of an immoral intention. Nor was it any novelty in more recent times, among those who must have been the first teachers of Machiavel. The Schoolmen followed the footsteps of Aristotle too closely, to omit so striking a passage; and Aquinas explains it, in his commentary, like the rest, in the unsuspecting simplicity of his heart. To us accordingly, we confess, the plan of Machiavel seems, like those of former writers, to have been purely scientific; and so Lord Bacon seems to have understood him, where he thanks him for an exposition of immoral policy. In that singular passage, where the latter lays down the theory of the advancement of fortune (which, when compared with his life, so well illustrates the fitness of his understanding, and the unfitness of his character for the affairs of the world), he justifies his application of learning to such a subject, on a principle which extends to The Prince:—“that there be not any thing in being or action which should not be drawn and collected into contemplation and doctrine.”
Great defects of character, we readily admit, are manifested by the writings of Machiavel: but if a man of so powerful a genius had shown a nature utterly depraved, it would have been a painful, and perhaps single, exception to the laws of human nature. And no depravity can be conceived greater than a deliberate intention to teach perfidy and cruelty. That a man who was a warm lover of his country, who bore cruel sufferings for her liberty, and who was beloved by the best of his countrymen,† should fall into such unparalleled wickedness, may be considered as wholly incredible. No such depravity is consistent with the composition of the History of Florence. It is only by exciting moral sentiment, that the narrative of human actions can be rendered interesting. Divested of morality, they lose their whole dignity, and all their power over feeling. History would be thrown aside as disgusting, if it did not inspire the reader with pity for the sufferer,—with anger against the oppressor,—with anxiety for the triumph of right;—to say nothing of the admiration for genius, and valour, and energy, which, though it disturbs the justice of our historical judgments, partakes also of a moral nature. The author of The Prince, according to the common notion of its intention, could never have inspired these sentiments, of which he must have utterly emptied his own heart. To possess the power, however, of contemplating tyranny with scientific coldness, and of rendering it the mere subject of theory, must be owned to indicate a defect of moral sensibility. The happier nature, or fortune, of Aristotle, prompted him to manifest distinctly his detestation of the flagitious policy which he reduced to its principles.
As another subject of regret, not as an excuse for Machiavel, a distant approach to the same defect may be observed in Lord Bacon’s History of Henry the Seventh; where we certainly find too little reprehension of falsehood and extortion, too cool a display of the expedients of cunning, sometimes dignified by the name of wisdom, and throughout, perhaps, too systematic a character given to the measures of that monarch, in order to exemplify, in him, a perfect model of kingcraft; pursuing safety and power by any means,—acting well in quiet times, because it was most expedient, but never restrained from convenient crimes. This History would have been as delightful as it is admirable, if he had felt the difference between wisdom and cunning as warmly in that work, as he has discerned it clearly in his philosophy.
Many historical speculators have indeed incurred some part of this fault. Enamoured of their own solution of the seeming contradictions of a character, they become indulgent to the character itself; and, when they have explained its vices, are disposed, unconsciously, to write as if they had excused them. A writer who has made a successful exertion to render an intricate character intelligible, who has brought his mind to so singular an attempt as a theory of villany, and has silenced his repugnance and indignation sufficiently for the purposes of rational examination, naturally exults in his victory over so many difficulties, delights in contemplating the creations of his own ingenuity, and the order which he seems to have introduced into the chaos of malignant passions, and may at length view his work with that complacency which diffuses clearness and calmness over the language in which he communicates his imagined discoveries.
It should also be remembered, that Machiavel lived in an age when the events of every day must have blunted his moral feelings, and wearied out his indignation. In so far as we acquit the intention of the writer, his work becomes a weightier evidence of the depravity which surrounded him. In this state of things, after the final disappointment of all his hopes, when Florence was subjected to tyrants, and Italy lay under the yoke of foreigners,—having undergone torture for the freedom of his country, and doomed to beggary in his old age, after a life of public service, it is not absolutely unnatural that he should have resolved to compose a theory of the tyranny under which he had fallen, and that he should have manifested his indignation against the cowardly slaves who had yielded to it, by a stern and cold description of its maxims.
His last chapter, in which he seems once more to breathe a free air, has a character totally different from all the preceding ones. His exhortation to the Medici to deliver Italy from foreigners, again speaks out his ancient feelings. Perhaps he might have thought it possible to pardon any means employed by an Italian usurper to expel the foreign masters of his country. This ray of hope might have supported him in delineating the means of usurpation; by doing which he might have had some faint expectation that he could entice the usurper to become a deliverer.—Knowing that the native governments were too base to defend Italy, and that all others were leagued to enslave her, he might, in his despair of all legitimate rulers, have hoped something for independence, and perhaps at last even for liberty, from the energy and genius of an illustrious tyrant.
From Petrarch, with some of whose pathetic verses Machiavel concludes, to Alfieri, the national feeling of Italy seems to have taken refuge in the minds of her writers. They write more tenderly of their country as it is more basely abandoned by their countrymen. Nowhere has so much been well said, or so little nobly done. While we blame the character of the nation, or lament the fortune which in some measure produced it, we must, in equity, excuse some irregularities in the indignation of men of genius, when they see the ingenious inhabitants of their beautiful and renowned country now apparently for ever robbed of that independence which is enjoyed by obscure and barbarous communities.
The dispute about the intention of The Prince has thrown into the shade the merit of the Discourses on Livy. The praise bestowed on them by Mr. Stewart* is scanty, that “they furnish lights to the school of Montesquieu” is surely inadequate commendation. They are the first attempts in a new science—the philosophy of history; and, as such, they form a brilliant point in the progress of reason. For this Lord Bacon commends him:—“the form of writing which is the fittest for this variable argument of negotiation, is that which Machiavel chose wisely and aptly for government, namely, discourse upon histories or examples: for, knowledge drawn freshly, and in our view, out of particulars, findeth its way best to particulars again; and it hath much greater life on practice when the discourse attendeth upon the example, than when the example attendeth upon the discourse.” It is observable, that the Florentine Secretary is the only modern writer who is named in that part of the Advancement of Learning which relates to civil knowledge. The apology of Albericus Gentilis for the morality of The Prince, has been often quoted, and is certainly weighty as a testimony, when we consider that the writer was born within twenty years of the death of Machiavel, and educated at no great distance from Florence. It is somewhat singular, that the context of this passage should never have been quoted:—“To the knowledge of history must be added that part of philosophy which treats of morals and politics; for this is the soul of history, which explains the causes of the actions and sayings of men, and of the events which befall them: and on this subject I am not afraid to name Nicholas Machiavel, as the most excellent of all writers, in his golden Observations on Livy. He is the writer whom I now seek, because he reads history not with the eyes of a grammarian, but with those of a philosopher.”*
It is a just and refined observation of Mr. Hume, that the mere theory of Machiavel (to waive the more important consideration of morality) was perverted by the atrocities which, among the Italians, then passed under the name of ‘policy.’ The number of men who took a part in political measures in the republican governments of Italy, spread the taint of this pretended policy farther, and made it a more national quality than in the Transalpine monarchies. But neither the civil wars of France and England, nor the administrations of Henry the Seventh, Ferdinand and Louis the Eleventh (to say nothing of the succeeding religious wars), will allow us to consider it as peculiarly Italian. It arose from the circumstances of Europe in those times. In every age in which contests are long maintained by chiefs too strong, or bodies of men too numerous for the ordinary control of law, for power, or privileges, or possessions, or opinions to which they are ardently attached, the passions excited by such interests, heated by sympathy, and inflamed to madness by resistance, soon throw off moral restraint in the treatment of enemies. Retaliation, which deters individuals, provokes multitudes to new cruelty; and the atrocities which originated in the rage of ambition and fanaticism, are at length thought necessary for safety. Each party adopts the cruelties of the enemy, as we now adopt a new discovery in the art of war. The craft and violence thought necessary for existence are admitted into the established policy of such deplorable times.
But though this be the tendency of such circumstances in all times, it must be owned that these evils prevail among different nations, and in different ages, in a very unequal degree. Some part of these differences may depend on national peculiarities, which cannot be satisfactorily explained, but, in the greater part of them, experience is striking and uniform. Civil wars are comparatively regular and humane, under circumstances that may be pretty exactly defined,—among nations long accustomed to popular government, to free speakers and to free writers; familiar with all the boldness and turbulence of numerous assemblies; not afraid of examining any matter human or divine; where great numbers take an interest in the conduct of their superiors of every sort, watch it, and often censure it; where there is a public, and where that public boldly utters decisive opinions, where no impassable lines of demarcation destine the lower classes to eternal servitude, and the higher to envy and hatred and deep curses from their inferiors; where the administration of law is so purified by the participation and eye of the public, as to become a grand school of humanity and justice; and where, as the consequence of all, there is a general diffusion of the comforts of life, a general cultivation of reason, and a widely diffused feeling of equality and moral pride. The species seems to become gentler as all galling curbs are gradually disused. Quiet, or at least comparative order, is promoted by the absence of all the expedients once thought essential to preserve tranquillity. Compare Asia with Europe;—the extremes are there seen. But if all the immediate degrees be examined, it will be found that civil wars are milder, in proportion to the progress of the body of the people in importance and well-being Compare the civil wars of the two Roses with those under Charles the First: compare these, again, with the humanity and wisdom of the Revolution of sixteen hundred and eighty-eight. Examine the civil war which led to the American Revolution: we there see anarchy without confusion, and governments abolished and established without spilling a drop of blood. Even the progress of civilization, when unattended by the blessings of civil liberty, produces many of the same effects. When Mr. Hume wrote the excellent observations quoted by Mr. Stew art, Europe had for more than a century been exempt from those general convulsions which try the moral character of nations, and ascertain their progress towards a more civilized state of mind. We have since been visited by one of the most tremendous of these tempests; and our minds are yet filled with the dreadful calamities, and the ambiguous and precarious benefits, which have sprung from it. The contemporaries of such terrific scenes are seldom in a temper to contemplate them calmly: and yet, though the events of this age have disappointed the expectations of sanguine benevolence concerning the state of civilization in Europe, a dispassionate posterity will probably decide that it has stood the test of general commotions, and proved its progress by their comparative mildness. One period of frenzy has been, indeed, horribly distinguished, perhaps beyond any equal time in history, by popular massacres and judicial murders, among a people peculiarly susceptible of a momentary fanaticism. This has been followed by a war in which one party contended for universal dominion, and all the rest of Europe struggled for existence. But how soon did the ancient laws of war between European adversaries resume the ascendant, which had indeed beer suspended more in form than in fact! How slight are the traces which the atrocities of faction and the manners of twenty years’ invasion and conquest have left on the sentiments of Europe! On a review of the disturbed period of the French Revolution, the mind is struck by the disappearance of classes of crimes which have often attended such convulsions;—no charge of poison; few assassinations, properly so called; no case hitherto authenticated of secret execution! If any crimes of this nature can be proved, the truth of history requires that the proof should be produced. But those who assert them without proof must be considered as calumniating their age, and bringing into question the humanizing effects of order and good government.
REVIEW OF MR. GODWIN’S LIVES OF EDWARD AND JOHN PHILIPS, &c. &c.*
The public would have perhaps welcomed Mr. Godwin’s reappearance as an author, most heartily, if he had chosen the part of a novelist. In that character his name is high, and his eminence undisputed. The time is long past since this would have been thought a slight, or even secondary praise. No addition of more unquestionable value has been made by the moderns, to the treasures of literature inherited from antiquity, than those fictions which paint the manners and character of the body of mankind, and affect the reader by the relation of misfortunes which may befall himself. The English nation would have more to lose than any other, by undervaluing this species of composition. Richardson has perhaps lost, though unjustly, a part of his popularity at home; but he still contributes to support the fame of his country abroad. The small blemishes of his diction are lost in translation; and the changes of English manners, and the occasional homeliness of some of his representations, are unfelt by foreigners. Fielding will for ever remain the delight of his country, and will always retain his place in the libraries of Europe, notwithstanding the unfortunate grossness,—the mark of an uncultivated taste,—which if not yet entirely excluded from conversation, has been for some time banished from our writings, where, during the best age of our national genius, it prevailed more than in those of any other polished nation. It is impossible in a Scottish journal, to omit Smollett, even if there had not been much better reasons for the mention of his name, than for the sake of observing, that he and Arbuthnot are sufficient to rescue Scotland from the imputation of wanting talent for pleasantry: though, it must be owned, we are grave people, happily educated under an austere system of morals; possessing, perhaps, some humour, in our peculiar dialect, but fearful of taking the liberty of jesting in a foreign language like the English; prone to abstruse speculation, to vehement dispute, to eagerness in the pursuit of business and ambition, and to all those intent occupations of mind which rather indispose it to unbend in easy playfulness.
Since the beautiful tales of Goldsmith and Mackenzie, the composition of novels has been almost left to women; and, in the distribution of literary labour, nothing seems more natural, than that, as soon as the talents of women are sufficiently cultivated, this task should be assigned to the sex which has most leisure for the delicate observation of manners, and whose importance depends on the sentiments which most usually checker common life with poetical incidents. They have performed their part with such signal success, that the literary works of women, instead of receiving the humiliating praise of being gazed at as wonders and prodigies, have, for the first time, composed a considerable part of the reputation of an ingenious nation in a lettered age. It ought to be added, that their delicacy, co-operating with the progress of refinement, has contributed to efface from these important fictions the remains of barbarism which had disgraced the vigorous genius of our ancestors.
Mr. Godwin has preserved the place of men in this branch of literature. Caleb Williams is probably the finest novel produced by a man,—at least since the Vicar of Wakefield. The sentiments, if not the opinions, from which it arose, were transient. Local usages and institutions were the subjects of its satire, exaggerated beyond the usual privilege of that species of writing. Yet it has been translated into most languages; and it has appeared in various forms, on the theatres, not only in England, but of France and Germany. There is scarcely a Continental circulating library in which it is not one of the books which most quickly require to be replaced. Though written with a temporary purpose, it will be read with intense interest, and with a painful impatience for the issue, long after the circumstances which produced its original composition shall cease to be known to all but to those who are well read in history. There is scarcely a fiction in any language which it is so difficult to lay by. A young person of understanding and sensibility, not familiar with the history of its origin, nor forewarned of its connection with peculiar opinions, in whose hands it is now put for the first time, will peruse it with perhaps more ardent sympathy and trembling curiosity, than those who read it when their attention was divided, and their feelings disturbed by controversy and speculation. A building thrown up for a season, has become, by the skill of the builder, a durable edifice. It is a striking, but not a solitary example, of the purpose of the writer being swallowed up by the interest of the work,—of a man of ability intending to take part in the disputes of the moment, but led by the instinct of his talent to address himself to the permanent feelings of human nature. It must not, however, be denied, that the marks of temporary origin and peculiar opinion, are still the vulnerable part of the book. A fiction contrived to support an opinion is a vicious composition. Even a fiction contrived to enforce a maxim of conduct is not of the highest class. And though the vigorous powers of Mr. Godwin raised him above his own intention, still the marks of that intention ought to be effaced as marks of mortality; and nothing ought to remain in the book which will not always interest the reader. The passages which betray the metaphysician, more than the novelist, ought to be weeded out with more than ordinary care. The character of Falkland is a beautiful invention. That such a man could have become an assassin, is perhaps an improbability; and if such a crime be possible for a soul so elevated, it may be due to the dignity of human nature to throw a veil over so humiliating a possibility, except when we are compelled to expose it by its real occurrence. In a merely literary view, however, the improbability of this leading incident is more than compensated, by all those agitating and terrible scenes of which it is the parent: and if the colours had been delicately shaded, if all the steps in the long progress from chivalrous sentiment to assassination had been more patiently traced, and more distinctly brought into view, more might have been lost by weakening the contrast, than would have been gained by softening or removing the improbability. The character of Tyrrel, is a grosser exaggeration; and his conduct is such as neither our manners would produce, nor our laws tolerate. One or two monstrous examples of tyranny, nursed and armed by immense wealth, are no authority for fiction, which is a picture of general nature. The descriptive power of several parts of this novel is of the highest order. The landscape in the morning of Caleb’s escape from prison, and a similar escape from a Spanish prison in St. Leon, are among the scenes of fiction which must the most frequently and vividly reappear in the imagination of a reader of sensibility. His disguises and escapes in London, though detailed at too great length, have a frightful reality, perhaps nowhere paralleled in our language, unless it be in some paintings of Daniel De Foe,* with whom it is distinction enough to bear comparison. There are several somewhat similar scenes in the Colonel Jack of that admirable writer, which, among his novels, is indeed only the second; but which could be second to none but Robinson Crusoe,—one of those very few books which are equally popular in every country of Europe, and which delight every reader from the philosopher to the child. Caleb Williams resembles the novels of De Foe, in the austerity with which it rejects the agency of women and the power of love.
It would be affectation to pass over in silence so remarkable a work as the Inquiry into Political Justice; but it is not the time to say much of it. The season of controversy is past, and the period of history is not yet arrived. Whatever may be its mistakes, which we shall be the last to underrate, it is certain that works in which errors equally dangerous are maintained with far less ingenuity, have obtained for their authors a conspicuous place in the philosophical history of the eighteenth century. But books, as well as men, are subject to what is called ‘fortune.’ The same circumstances which favoured its sudden popularity, have since unduly depressed its reputation. Had it appeared in a metaphysical age, and in a period of tranquillity, it would have been discussed by philosophers, and might have excited acrimonious disputes; but these would have ended, after the correction of erroneous speculations, in assigning to the author that station to which his eminent talents had entitled him. It would soon have been acknowledged, that the author of one of the most deeply interesting fictions of his age, and of a treatise on metaphysical morals which excited general alarm, whatever else he might be, must be a person of vigorous and versatile powers. But the circumstances of the times, in spite of the author’s intention, transmuted a philosophical treatise into a political pamphlet. It seemed to be thrown up by the vortext of the French Revolution, and it sunk accordingly as that whirlpool subsided; while by a perverse fortune, the honesty of the author’s intentions contributed to the prejudice against his work. With the simplicity and good faith of a retired speculator, conscious of no object but the pursuit of truth, he followed his reasonings wherever they seemed to him to lead, without looking up to examine the array of sentiment and institution, as well as of interest and prejudice, which he was about to encounter. Intending no mischief, he considered no consequences; and, in the eye of the multitude, was transformed into an incendiary, only because he was an undesigning speculator. The ordinary clamour was excited against him: even the liberal sacrificed him to their character for liberality,—a fate not very uncommon for those who, in critical times, are supposed to go too far; and many of his own disciples, returning into the world, and, as usual, recoiling most violently from their visions, to the grossest worldlymindedness, offered the fame of their master as an atonement for their own faults. For a time it required courage to brave the prejudice excited by his name. It may, even now perhaps, need some fortitude of a different kind to write, though in the most impartial temper, the small fragment of literary history which relates to it. The moment for doing full and exact justice will come.
All observation on the personal conduct of a writer, when that conduct is not of a public nature, is of dangerous example; and, when it leads to blame, is severely reprehensible. But it is but common justice to say, that there are few instances of more respectable conduct among writers, than is apparent in the subsequent works of Mr. Godwin. He calmly corrected what appeared to him to be his own mistakes; and he proved the perfect disinterestedness of his corrections, by adhering to opinions as obnoxious to the powerful as those which he relinquished. Untempted by the success of his scholars in paying their court to the dispensers of favour, he adhered to the old and rational principles of liberty,—violently shaken as these venerable principles had been, by the tempest which had beaten down the neighbouring erections of anarchy. He continued to seek independence and reputation, with that various success to which the fashions of literature subject professed writers; and to struggle with the difficulties incident to other modes of industry, for which his previous habits had not prepared him. He has thus, in our humble opinion, deserved the respect of all those, whatever may be their opinions, who still wish that some men in England may think for themselves, even at the risk of thinking wrong; but more especially of the friends of liberty, to whose cause he has courageously adhered.
The work before us, is a contribution to the literary history of the seventeenth century. It arose from that well-grounded reverence for the morality, as well as the genius, of Milton, which gives importance to every circumstance connected with him. After all that had been written about him, it appeared to Mr. Godwin, that there was still an unapproached point of view, from which Milton’s character might be surveyed,—the history of those nephews to whom he had been a preceptor and a father. “It was accident,” he tells us, “that first threw in my way two or three productions of these writers, that my literary acquaintance,* whom I consulted, had never heard of. Dr. Johnson had told me, that the pupils of Milton had given to the world ‘only one genuine production.’ Persons better informed than Dr. Johnson, could tell me perhaps of half a dozen. How great was my surprise, when I found my collection swelling to forty or fifty!” Chiefly from these publications, but from a considerable variety of little-known sources, he has collected, with singular industry, all the notices, generally incidental, concerning these two persons, which are scattered over the writings of their age.
Their lives are not only interesting as a fragment of the history of Milton, but curious as a specimen of the condition of professed authors in the seventeenth century. If they had been men of genius, or contemptible scribblers, they would not in either case have been fair specimens of their class. Dryden and Flecknoe are equally exceptions. The nephews of Milton belonged to that large body of literary men who are destined to minister to the general curiosity; to keep up the stock of public information; to compile, to abridge, to translate;—a body of importance in a great country, being necessary to maintain, though they cannot advance, its literature. The degree of good sense, good taste, and sound opinions diffused among this class of writers, is of no small moment to the public reason and morals; and we know not where we should find so exact a representation of the literary life of two authors, of the period between the Restoration and the Revolution, as in this volume. The complaint, that the details are too multiplied and minute for the importance of the subject, will be ungracious in an age distinguished by a passion for bibliography, and a voracious appetite for anecdote. It cannot be denied, that great acuteness is shown in assembling and weighing all the very minute circumstances, from which their history must often be rather conjectured than inferred. It may appear singular, that we, in this speculative part of the island, should consider the digressions from the biography, and the passages of general speculation, as the part of the work which might, with the greatest advantage, be retrenched: but they are certainly episodes too large for the action, and have sometimes the air of openings of chapters in an intended history of England. These two faults, of digressions too expanded, and details too minute, are the principal defects of the volume; which, however, must be considered hereafter as a necessary part of all collections respecting the biography of Milton.
Edward and John Philips were the sons of Edward Philips of Shrewsbury, Secondary of the Crown Office in the Court of Chancery, by Anne, sister of John Milton. Edward was born in London in 1630, and John in 1631. To this sister the first original English verses of Milton were addressed,—which he composed before the age of seventeen,—to soothe her sorrow for the loss of an infant son. His first published verses were the Epitaph on Shakespeare. To perform the offices of domestic tenderness, and to render due honour to kindred genius, were the noble purposes by which he consecrated his poetical power at the opening of a life, every moment of which corresponded to this early promise. On his return from his travels, he found his nephews, by the death of their father, become orphans. He took them into his house, supporting and educating them; which he was enabled to do by the recompense which he received for the instruction of other pupils. And for this act of respectable industry, and generous affection, in thus remembering the humblest claims of prudence and kindness amidst the lofty ambition and sublime contemplations of his mature powers, he has been sneered at by a moralist, in a work which, being a system of our poetical biography, ought especially to have recommended this most moral example to the imitation of British youth.
John published very early a vindication of his uncle’s Defence of the People of England. Both brothers, in a very few years, weary of the austere morals of the Republicans, quitted the party of Milton, and adopted the politics, with the wit and festivity, of the young Cavaliers: but the elder, a person of gentle disposition and amiable manners, more a man of letters than a politician, retained at least due reverence and gratitude for his benefactor, and is conjectured by Mr. Godwin, upon grounds that do not seem improbable, to have contributed to save his uncle at the Restoration. Twenty years after the death of Milton, the first Life of him was published by Edward Philips; upon which all succeeding narratives have been built. This Theatrum Poetarum will be always read with interest, as containing the opinions concerning poetry and poets, which he probably imbibed from Milton. This amiable writer died between 1694 and 1698.
John Philips, a coarse buffoon, and a vulgar debauchee, was, throughout life, chiefly a political pamphleteer, who turned with every change of fortune and breath of popular clamour, but on all sides preserved a consistency in violence, scurrility, and servility to his masters, whether they were the favourites of the Court, or the leaders of the rabble. Having cried out for the blood of his former friends at the Restoration, he insulted the memory of Milton, within two years of his death. He adhered to the cause of Charles II. till it became unpopular; and disgraced the then new name of Whig by associating with the atrocious Titus Oates. In his vindication of that execrable wretch, he adopts the maxim, “that the attestations of a hundred Catholics cannot be put in balance with the oath of one Protestant;”—which, if ‘our own party’ were substituted for ‘Protestant,’ and ‘the opposite one’ for ‘Catholic,’ may be regarded as the general principle of the jurisprudence of most triumphant factions. He was silenced, or driven to literary compilation, by those fatal events in 1683, which seemed to be the final triumph of the Court over public liberty. His servile voice, however, hailed the accession of James II. The Revolution produced a new turn of this weathercock; but, happily for the kingdom, no second Restoration gave occasion to another display of his inconstancy. In 1681 he had been the associate of Oates, and the tool of Shaftesbury: in 1685 he thus addresses James II. in doggerel scurrility:
“Must the Faith’s true Defender bleed to death. A sacrifice to Cooper’s wrath?”
In 1695 he took a part in that vast mass of bad verse occasioned by the death of Queen Mary; and in 1697 he celebrated King William as Augustus Britannicus, in a poem on the Peace of Ryswick. From the Revolution to his death, about 1704, he was usefully employed as editor of the Monthly Mercury, a journal which was wholly, or principally, a translation from Le Mercure Historique, published at the Hague, by some of those ingenious and excellent Protestant refugees, whose writings contributed to excite all Europe against Louis XIV. Mr. Godwin at last, very naturally, relents a little towards him: he is unwilling to part on bad terms with one who has been so long a companion. All, however, that indulgent ingenuity can discover in his favour is, that he was an indefatigable writer; and that, during his last years, he rested, after so many vibrations, in the opinions of a constitutional Whig. But, in a man like John Philips, the latter circumstance is only one of the signs of the times, and proves no more than that the principles of English liberty were patronized by a government which owed to these principles its existence.
The above is a very slight sketch of the lives of these two persons, which Mr. Godwin, with equal patience and acuteness of research, has gleaned from publications, of which it required a much more than ordinary familiarity with the literature of the last century, even to know the existence. It is somewhat singular, that no inquiries seem to have been made respecting the history of the descendants of Milton’s brother, Sir Christopher; and that it has not been ascertained whether either of his nephews left children. Thomas Milton, the son of Sir Christopher, was, it seems, Secondary to the Crown Office in Chancery; and it could not be very difficult for a resident in London to ascertain the period of his death, and perhaps to discover his residence and the state of his family.
Milton’s direct descendants can only exist, if they exist at all, among the posterity of his youngest and favourite daughter Deborah, afterwards Mrs. Clarke, a woman of cultivated understanding, and not unpleasing manners, who was known to Richardson and Professor Ward, and was patronized by Addison.* Her affecting exclamation is well known, on seeing her father’s portrait for the first time more than thirty years after his death:—“Oh my father, my dear father!” “She spoke of him,” says Richardson, “with great tenderness; she said he was delightful company, the life of the conversation, not only by a flow of subject, but by unaffected cheerfulness and civility.” This is the character of one whom Dr. Johnson represents as a morose tyrant, drawn by a supposed victim of his domestic oppression. Her daughter, Mrs. Foster, for whose benefit Dr. Newton and Dr. Birch procured Comus to be acted, survived all her children. The only child of Deborah Milton, of whom we have any accounts besides Mrs. Foster, was Caleb Clarke, who went to Madras in the first years of the eighteenth century, and who then vanishes from the view of the biographers of Milton. We have been enabled, by accident, to enlarge a very little this appendage to his history. It appears from an examination of the parish register of Fort St. George, that Caleb Clarke, who seems to have been parish-clerk of that place from 1717 to 1719, was buried there on the 26th of October of the latter year. By his wife Mary, whose original surname does not appear, he had three children born at Madras;—Abraham, baptized on the 2d of June, 1703; Mary, baptized on the 17th of March, 1706, and buried on December 15th of the same year; and Isaac, baptized 13th of February, 1711. Of Isaac no farther account appears. Abraham, the great-grandson of Milton, in September, 1725, married Anna Clarke; and the baptism of their daughter Mary is registered on the 2d of April, 1727. With this all notices of this family cease. But as neither Abraham, nor any of his family, nor his brother Isaac, died at Madras, and as he was only twenty-four years of age at the baptism of his daughter, it is probable that the family migrated to some other part of India, and that some trace of them might yet be discovered by examination of the parish registers of Calcutta and Bombay. If they had returned to England, they could not have escaped the curiosity of the admirers and historians of Milton. We cannot apologize for the minuteness of this genealogy, or for the eagerness of our desire that it should be enlarged. We profess that superstitious veneration for the memory of the greatest of poets, which would regard the slightest relic of him as sacred; and we cannot conceive either true poetical sensibility, or a just sense of the glory of England, to belong to that Englishman, who would not feel the strongest emotions at the sight of a descendant of Milton, discovered in the person even of the most humble and unlettered of human beings.
While the grandson of Milton resided at Madras, in a condition so humble as to make the office of parish-clerk an object of ambition, it is somewhat remarkable that the elder brother of Addison should have been the Governor of that settlement. The honourable Galston Addison died there in the year 1709. Thomas Pitt, grandfather to Lord Chatham, had been his immediate predecessor in the government.
It was in the same year that Mr. Addison began those contributions to periodical essays, which, as long as any sensibility to the beauties of English style remains, must be considered as its purest and most perfect models. But it was not until eighteen months afterwards,—when, influenced by fidelity to his friends, and attachment to the cause of liberty, he had retired from office, and when, with his usual judgment, he resolved to resume the more active cultivation of literature, as the elegant employment of his leisure,—that he undertook the series of essays on Paradise Lost;—not, as has been weakly supposed, with the presumptuous hope of exalting Milton, but with the more reasonable intention of cultivating the public taste, and instructing the nation in the principles of just criticism, by observations on a work already acknowledged to be the first of English poems. If any doubt could be entertained respecting the purpose of this excellent writer, it must be silenced by the language in which he announces his criticism:—“As the first place among our English poets is due to Milton,” says he, “I shall enter into a regular criticism upon his Paradise Lost,” &c. It is clear that he takes for granted the paramount greatness of Milton; and that his object was not to disinter a poet who had been buried in unjust oblivion, but to illustrate the rules of criticism by observations on the writings of him whom all his readers revered as the greatest poet of their country. This passage might have been added by Mr. Godwin to the numerous proofs by which he has demonstrated the ignorance and negligence, if not the malice, of those who would persuade us that the English nation could have suspended their admiration of a poem,—the glory of their country, and the boast of human genius,—till they were taught its excellences by critics, and enabled by political revolutions to indulge their feelings with safety. It was indeed worthy of Lord Somers to have been one of its earliest admirers; and to his influence and conversation it is not improbable that we owe, though indirectly, the essays of Addison. The latter’s criticism manifests and inspires a more genuine sense of poetical beauty than others of more ambitious pretensions, and now of greater name. But it must not be forgotten that Milton had subdued the adverse prejudices of Dryden and Atterbury, long before he had extorted from a more acrimonious hostility, that unwilling but noble tribute of justice to the poet, for which Dr. Johnson seems to have made satisfaction to his hatred by a virulent libel on the man.*
It is an excellence of Mr. Godwin’s narrative, that he thinks and feels about the men and events of the age of Milton, in some measure as Milton himself felt and thought. Exact conformity of sentiment is neither possible nor desirable: but a Life of Milton, written by a zealous opponent of his principles, in the relation of events which so much exasperate the passions, almost inevitably degenerates into a libel. The constant hostility of a biographer to the subject of his narrative, whether it be just or not, is teazing and vexatious: the natural frailty of overpartiality is a thousand times more agreeable.
REVIEW OF ROGERS’ POEMS.
It seems very doubtful, whether the progress and the vicissitudes of the elegant arts can be referred to the operation of general laws, with the same plausibility as the exertions of the more robust faculties of the human mind, in the severer forms of science and of useful art. The action of fancy and of taste seems to be affected by causes too various and minute to be enumerated with sufficient completeness for the purposes of philosophical theory. To explain them, may appear to be as hopeless an attempt, as to account for one summer being more warm and genial than another. The difficulty would be insurmountable, even in framing the most general outline of a theory, if the various forms assumed by imagination, in the fine arts, did not depend on some of the most conspicuous, as well as powerful agents in the moral world. But these arise from revolutions of popular sentiments, and are connected with the opinions of the age, and with the manners of the refined class, as certainly, though not in so great a degree, as with the passions of the multitude. The comedy of a polished monarchy never can be of the same character with that of a bold and tumultuous democracy. Changes of religion and of government, civil or foreign wars, conquests which derive splendour from distance, or extent, or difficulty, long tranquillity,—all these, and indeed every conceivable modification of the state of a community, show themselves in the tone of its poetry, and leave long and deep traces on every part of its literature. Geometry is the same, not only at London and Paris, but in the extremes of Athens and Samarcand: but the state of the general feeling in England, at this moment, requires a different poetry from that which delighted our ancestors in the time of Luther or Alfred.
During the greater part of the eighteenth century, the connection of the character of English poetry with the state of the country, was very easily traced. The period which extended from the English to the French Revolution, was the golden age of authentic history. Governments were secure, nations tranquil, improvements rapid, manners mild beyond the example of any former age. The English nation which possessed the greatest of all human blessings,—a wisely constructed popular government, necessarily enjoyed the largest share of every other benefit. The tranquillity of that fortunate period was not disturbed by any of those calamitous, or even extraordinary events, which excite the imagination and inflame the passions. No age was more exempt from the prevalence of any species of popular enthusiasm. Poetry, in this state of things, partook of that calm, argumentative, moral, and directly useful character into which it naturally subsides, when there are no events to call up the higher passions,—when every talent is allured into the immediate service of a prosperous and improving society,—and when wit, taste, diffused literature, and fastidious criticism, combine to deter the young writer from the more arduous enterprises of poetical genius. In such an age, every art becomes rational. Reason is the power which presides in a calm. But reason guides, rather than impels; and, though it must regulate every exertion of genius, it never can rouse it to vigorous action.
The school of Dryden and Pope, which prevailed till a very late period of the last century, is neither the most poetical nor the most national part of our literary annals. These great poets sometimes indeed ventured into the regions of pure poetry: but their general character is, that “not in fancy’s maze they wandered long;” and that they rather approached the elegant correctness of our Continental neighbours, than supported the daring flight, which, in the former age, had borne English poetry to a sublimer elevation than that of any other modern people of the West.
Towards the middle of the century, great, though quiet changes, began to manifest themselves in the republic of letters in every European nation which retained any portion of mental activity. About that time, the exclusive authority of our great rhyming poets began to be weakened; while new tastes and fashions began to show themselves in the political world. A school of poetry must have prevailed long enough, to be probably on the verge of downfal, before its practice is embodied in a correspondent system of criticism.
Johnson was the critic of our second poetical school. As far as his prejudices of a political or religious kind did not disqualify him for all criticism, he was admirably fitted by nature to be the critic of this species of poetry. Without more imagination, sensibility, or delicacy than it required,—not always with perhaps quite enough for its higher parts,—he possessed sagacity, shrewdness, experience, knowledge of mankind, a taste for rational and orderly compositions, and a disposition to accept, instead of poetry, that lofty and vigorous declamation in harmonious verse, of which he himself was capable, and to which his great master sometimes descended. His spontaneous admiration scarcely soared above Dryden. “Merit of a loftier class he rather saw than felt.” Shakespeare has transcendent excellence of every sort, and for every critic, except those who are repelled by the faults which usually attend sublime virtues,—character and manners, morality and prudence, as well as imagery and passion. Johnson did indeed perform a vigorous act of reluctant justice towards Milton: but it was a proof, to use his own words, that
The deformities of the Life of Gray ought not to be ascribed to jealousy,—for Johnson’s mind, though coarse, was not mean,—but to the prejudices of his university, his political faction, and his poetical sect: and this last bigotry is the more remarkable, because it is exerted against the most skilful and tasteful of innovators, who, in reviving more poetical subjects and a more splendid diction, has employed more care and finish than those who aimed only at correctness.
The interval which elapsed between the death of Goldsmith and the rise of Cowper, is perhaps more barren than any other twelve years in the history of our poetry since the accession of Elizabeth. It seemed as if the fertile soil was at length exhausted. But it had in fact only ceased to exhibit its accustomed produce. The established poetry had worn out either its own resources, or the constancy of its readers. Former attempts to introduce novelty had been either too weak or too early. Neither the beautiful fancy of Collins, nor the learned and ingenious indus try of Warton, nor even the union of sublime genius with consummate art in Gray, had produced a general change in poetical composition. But the fulness of time was approaching; and a revolution has been accomplished, of which the commencement nearly coincides—not, as we conceive, accidentally—with that of the political revolution which has changed the character as well as the condition of Europe. It has been a thousand times observed, that nations become weary even of excellence, and seek a new way of writing, though it should be a worse. But besides the operation of satiety—the general cause of literary revolutions—several particular circumstances seem to have affected the late changes of our poetical taste; of which, two are more conspicuous than the rest.
In the natural progress of society, the songs which are the effusion of the feelings of a rude tribe, are gradually polished into a form of poetry still retaining the marks of the national opinions, sentiments, and manners, from which it originally sprung. The plants are improved by cultivation; but they are still the native produce of the soil. The only perfect example which we know, of this sort, is Greece. Knowledge and useful art, and perhaps in a great measure religion, the Greeks received from the East: but as they studied no foreign language, it was impossible that any foreign literature should influence the progress of theirs. Not even the name of a Persian, Assyrian, Phenician, or Egyptian poet is alluded to by any Greek writer: The Greek poetry was, therefore, wholly national. The Pelasgic ballads were insensibly formed into Epic, and Tragic, and Lyric poems: but the heroes, the opinions, and the customs, continued as exclusively Grecian, as they had been when the Hellenic minstrels knew little beyond the Adriatic and the Ægean. The literature of Rome was a copy from that of Greece. When the classical studies revived amid the chivalrous manners and feudal institutions of Gothic Europe, the imitation of ancient poets struggled against the power of modern sentiments, with various event, in different times and countries,—but every where in such a manner, as to give somewhat of an artificial and exotic character to poetry. Jupiter and the Muses appeared in the poems of Christian nations. The feelings and principles of democracies were copied by the gentlemen of Teutonic monarchies or aristocracies. The sentiments of the poet in his verse, were not those which actuated him in his conduct. The forms and rules of composition were borrowed from antiquity, instead of spontaneously arising from the manner of thinking of modern communities. In Italy, when letters first revived, the chivalrous principle was too near the period of its full vigour, to be oppressed by his foreign learning. Ancient ornaments were borrowed; but the romantic form was prevalent: and where the forms were classical, the spirit continued to be romantic. The structure of Tasso’s poem was that of the Grecian epic; but his heroes were Christian knights. French poetry having been somewhat unaccountably late in its rise, and slow in its progress, reached its most brilliant period, when all Europe had considerably lost its ancient characteristic principles, and was fully imbued with classical ideas. Hence it acquired faultless elegance:—hence also it became less natural,—more timid and more imitative,—more like a feeble translation of Roman poetry. The first age of English poetry, in the reign of Elizabeth, displayed a combination,—fantastic enough,—of chivalrous fancy and feeling with classical pedantry; but, upon the whole, its native genius was unsubdued. The poems of that age, with all their faults, and partly perhaps from their faults, are the most national part of our poetry, as they undoubtedly contain its highest beauties. From the accession of James, to the Civil War, the glory of Shakespeare turned the whole national genius to the drama; and, after the Restoration, a new and classical school arose, under whom our old and peculiar literature was abandoned, and almost forgotten. But all imported tastes in literature must be in some measure superficial. The poetry which once grew in the bosoms of a people, is always capable of being revived by a skilful hand. When the brilliant and poignant lines of Pope began to pall on the public ear, it was natural that we should revert to the cultivation of our indigenous poetry.
Nor was this the sole, or perhaps the chief agent which was working a poetical change. As the condition and character of the former age had produced an argumentative, didactic, sententious, prudential, and satirical poetry; so the approaches to a new order (or rather at first disorder) in political society, were attended by correspondent movements in the poetical world. Bolder speculations began to prevail. A combination of the science and art of the tranquil period, with the hardy enterprises of that which succeeded, gave rise to scientific poems, in which a bold attempt was made, by the mere force of diction, to give a political interest and elevation to the coldest parts of knowledge, and to those arts which have been hitherto considered as the meanest. Having been forced above their natural place by the wonder at first elicited, they have not yet recovered from the subsequent depression. Nor will a similar attempt be successful, without a more temperate use of power over style, till the diffusion of physical knowledge renders it familiar to the popular imagination, and till the prodigies worked by the mechanical arts shall have bestowed on them a character of grandeur.
As the agitation of men’s minds approached the period of an explosion, its effects on literature became more visible. The desire of strong emotion succeeded to the solicitude to avoid disgust. Fictions, both dramatic and narrative, were formed according to the school of Rousseau and Goethe. The mixture of comic and tragic pictures once more displayed itself, as in the ancient and national drama. The sublime and energetic feelings of devotion began to be more frequently associated with poetry. The tendency of political speculation concurred in directing the mind of the poet to the intense and undisguised passions of the uneducated; which fastidious politeness had excluded from the subjects of poetical imitation. The history of nations unlike ourselves, the fantastic mythology and ferocious superstition of distant times and countries, or the legends of our own antique faith, and the romances of our fabulous and heroic ages, became themes of poetry. Traces of a higher order of feeling appeared in the contemplations in which the poet indulged, and in the events and scenes which he delighted to describe. The fire with which a chivalrous tale was told, made the reader inattentive to negligences in the story or the style. Poetry became more devout, more contemplative, more mystical, more visionary,—more alien from the taste of those whose poetry is only a polished prosaic verse,—more full of antique superstition, and more prone to daring innovation,—painting both coarser realities and purer imaginations, than she had before hazarded,—sometimes buried in the profound quiet required by the dreams of fancy,—sometimes turbulent and martial,—seeking “fierce wars and faithful loves” in those times long past, when the frequency of the most dreadful dangers produced heroic energy and the ardour of faithful affection.
Even the direction given to the traveller by the accidents of war has not been without its influence. Greece, the mother of freedom and of poetry in the West, which had long employed only the antiquary, the artist, and the philologist, was at length destined, after an interval of many silent and inglorious ages, to awaken the genius of a poet. Full of enthusiasm for those perfect forms of heroism and liberty, which his imagination had placed in the recesses of antiquity, he gave vent to his impatience of the imperfections of living men and real institutions, in an original strain of sublime satire, which clothes moral anger in imagery of an almost horrible grandeur; and which, though it cannot coincide with the estimate of reason, yet could only flow from that worship of perfection, which is the soul of all true poetry.
The tendency of poetry to become national, was in more than one case remarkable. While the Scottish middle age inspired the most popular poet perhaps of the eighteenth century, the national genius of Ireland at length found a poetical representative, whose exquisite ear, and flexible fancy, wantoned in all the varieties of poetical luxury, from the levities to the fondness of love, from polished pleasantry to ardent passion, and from the social joys of private life to a tender and mournful patriotism, taught by the melancholy fortunes of an illustrious country,—with a range adapted to every nerve in the composition of a people susceptible of all feelings which have the colour of generosity, and more exempt probably than any other from degrading and unpoetical vices.
The failure of innumerable adventurers is inevitable, in literary, as well as in political, revolutions. The inventor seldom perfects his invention. The uncouthness of the novelty, the clumsiness with which it is managed by an unpractised hand, and the dogmatical contempt of criticism natural to the pride and enthusiasm of the innovator, combine to expose him to ridicule, and generally terminate in his being admired (though warmly) by a few of his contemporaries,—remembered only occasionally in after times,—and supplanted in general estimation by more cautious and skilful imitators. With the very reverse of unfriendly feelings, we observe that erroneous theories respecting poetical diction,—exclusive and proscriptive notions in criticism, which in adding new provinces to poetry would deprive her of ancient dominions and lawful instruments of rule,—and a neglect of that extreme regard to general sympathy, and even accidental prejudice, which is necessary to guard poetical novelties against their natural enemy the satirist,—have powerfully counteracted an attempt, equally moral and philosophical, made by a writer of undisputed poetical genius, to enlarge the territories of art, by unfolding the poetical interest which lies latent in the common acts of the humblest men, and in the most ordinary modes of feeling, as well as in the most familiar scenes of nature.
The various opinions which may naturally be formed of the merit of individual writers, form no necessary part of our consideration. We consider the present as one of the most flourishing periods of English poetry: but those who condemn all contemporary poets, need not on that account dissent from our speculations. It is sufficient to have proved the reality, and in part perhaps to have explained the origin, of a literary revolution. At no time does the success of writers bear so uncertain a proportion to their genius, as when the rules of judging and the habits of feeling are unsettled.
It is not uninteresting, even as a matter of speculation, to observe the fortune of a poem which, like the Pleasures of Memory, appeared at the commencement of this literary revolution, without paying court to the revolutionary tastes, or seeking distinction by resistance to them. It borrowed no aid either from prejudice or innovation. It neither copied the fashion of the age which was passing away, nor offered any homage to the rising novelties. It resembles, only in measure, the poems of the eighteenth century, which were written in heroic rhyme. Neither the brilliant sententiousness of Pope, nor the frequent languor and negligence perhaps inseparable from the exquisite nature of Goldsmith, could be traced in a poem, from which taste and labour equally banished mannerism and inequality. It was patronized by no sect or faction. It was neither imposed on the public by any literary cabal, nor forced into notice by the noisy anger of conspicuous enemies. Yet, destitute as it was of every foreign help, it acquired a popularity originally very great; and which has not only continued amidst extraordinary fluctuation of general taste, but has increased amid a succession of formidable competitors. No production, so popular, was probably ever so little censured by criticism: and thus is combined the applause of contemporaries with the suffrage of the representatives of posterity.
It is needless to make extracts from a poem which is familiar to every reader. In selection, indeed, no two readers would probably agree: but the description of the Gipsies,—of the Boy quitting his Father’s house,—and of the Savoyard recalling the mountainous scenery of his country,—and the descriptive commencement of the tale in Cumberland, have remained most deeply impressed on our minds. We should be disposed to quote the following verses, as not surpassed, in pure and chaste elegance, by any English lines:—
The conclusion of the fine passage on the Veterans at Greenwich and Chelsea, has a pensive dignity which beautifully corresponds with the scene:—
And we cannot resist the pleasure of quoting the moral, tender, and elegant lines which close the Poem:—
The descriptive passages require indeed a closer inspection, and a more exercised eye, than those of some celebrated contemporaries who sacrifice elegance to effect, and whose figures stand out in bold relief, from the general roughness of their more unfinished compositions: and in the moral parts, there is often discoverable a Virgilian art, which suggests, rather than displays, the various and contrasted scenes of human life, and adds to the power of language by a certain air of reflection and modesty, in the preference of measured terms to those of more apparent energy.
In the View from the House,* the scene is neither delightful from very superior beauty, nor striking by singularity, nor powerful from reminding us of terrible passions or memorable deeds. It consists of the more ordinary of the beautiful features of nature, neither exaggerated nor represented with curious minuteness, but exhibited with picturesque elegance, in connection with those tranquil emotions which they call up in the calm order of a virtuous mind, in every condition of society and of life. The verses on the Torso, are in a more severe style. The Fragment of a divine artist, which awakened the genius of Michael Angelo, seems to disdain ornament. It would be difficult to name two small poems, by the same writer, in which he has attained such high degrees of kinds of excellence so dissimilar, as are seen in the Sick Chamber and the Butterfly. The first has a truth of detail, which, considered merely as painting, is admirable; but assumes a higher character, when it is felt to be that minute remembrance, with which affection recollects every circumstance that could have affected a beloved sufferer. Though the morality which concludes the second, be in itself very beautiful, it may be doubted whether the verses would not have left a more unmixed delight, if the address had remained as a mere sport of fancy, without the seriousness of an object, or an application. The verses written in Westminster Abbey are surrounded by dangerous recollections; they aspire to commemorate Fox, and to copy some of the grandest thoughts in the most sublime work of Bossuet. Nothing can satisfy the expectation awakened by such names: yet we are assured that there are some of them which would be envied by the best writers of this age. The scenery of Loch Long is among the grandest in Scotland; and the description of it shows the power of feeling and painting. In this island, the taste for nature has grown with the progress of refinement. It is most alive in those who are most brilliantly distinguished in social and active life. It elevates the mind above the meanness which it might contract in the rivalship for praise; and preserves those habits of reflection and sensibility, which receive so many rude shocks in the coarse contests of the world. Not many summer hours can be passed in the most mountainous solitudes of Scotland, without meeting some who are worthy to be remembered with the sublime objects of nature, which they had travelled so far to admire.
The most conspicuous of the novelties of this volume is the poem or poems, entitled “Fragments of the Voyage of Columbus.” The subject of this poem is, politically or philosophically considered, among the most important in the annals of mankind. The introduction of Christianity (humanly viewed), the irruption of the Northern barbarians, the contest between the Christian and Mussulman nations in Syria, the two inventions of gunpowder and printing, the emancipation of the human understanding by the Reformation, the discovery of America, and of a maritime passage to Asia in the last ten years of the fifteenth century, are the events which have produced the greatest and most durable effects, since the establishment of civilization, and the consequent commencement of authentic history. But the poetical capabilities of an event bear no proportion to historical importance. None of the consequences that do not strike the senses or the fancy can interest the poet. The greatest of the transactions above enumerated is obviously incapable of entering into poetry. The Crusades were not without permanent effects on the state of men: but their poetical interest does not arise from these effects; and it immeasurably surpasses them.
Whether the voyage of Columbus be destined to be for ever incapable of becoming the subject of an epic poem, is a question which we have scarcely the means of answering. The success of great writers has often so little corresponded with the promise of their subject, that we might be almost tempted to think the choice of a subject indifferent. The story of Hamlet, or of Paradise Lost, would beforehand have been pronounced to be unmanageable. Perhaps the genius of Shakespeare and of Milton has rather compensated for the incorrigible defects of ungrateful subjects, than conquered them. The course of ages may produce the poetical genius, the historical materials and the national feelings, for an American epic poem. There is yet but one state in America, and that state is hardly become a nation. At some future period, when every part of the continent has been the scene of memorable events, when the discovery and conquest have receded into that legendary dimness which allows fancy to mould them at her pleasure, the early history of America may afford scope for the genius of a thousand national poets; and while some may soften the cruelty which darkens the daring energy of Cortez and Pizarro,—while others may, in perhaps new forms of poetry, ennoble the pacific conquests of Penn,—and while the genius, the exploits, and the fate of Raleigh, may render his establishments probably the most alluring of American subjects, every inhabitant of the new world will turn his eyes with filial reverence towards Columbus, and regard, with equal enthusiasm, the voyage which laid the foundation of so many states, and peopled a continent with civilized men. Most epic subjects, but especially such a subject as Columbus, require either the fire of an actor in the scene, or the religious reverence of a very distant posterity. Homer, as well as Erçilla and Camoens, show what may be done by an epic poet who himself feels the passions of his heroes. It must not be denied that Virgil has borrowed a colour of refinement from the court of Augustus, in painting the age of Priam and of Dido. Evander is a solitary and exquisite model of primitive manners, divested of grossness, without losing their simplicity. But to an European poet, in this age of the world, the Voyage of Columbus is too naked and too exactly defined by history. It has no variety,—scarcely any succession of events. It consists of one scene, during which two or three simple passions continue in a state of the highest excitement. It is a voyage with intense anxiety in every bosom, controlled by magnanimous fortitude in the leader, and producing among his followers a fear,—sometimes submissive, sometimes mutinous, always ignoble. It admits of no variety of character,—no unexpected revolutions. And even the issue, though of unspeakable importance, and admirably adapted to some kinds of poetry, is not an event of such outward dignity and splendour as ought naturally to close the active and brilliant course of an epic poem.
It is natural that the Fragments should give a specimen of the marvellous as well as of the other constituents of epic fiction. We may observe, that it is neither the intention nor the tendency of poetical machinery to supersede secondary causes, to fetter the will, and to make human creatures appear as the mere instruments of destiny. It is introduced to satisfy that insatiable demand for a nature more exalted than that which we know by experience, which creates all poetry, and which is most active in its highest species, and in its most perfect productions. It is not to account for thoughts and feelings, that superhuman agents are brought down upon earth: it is rather for the contrary purpose, of lifting them into a mysterious dignity beyond the cognizance of reason. There is a material difference between the acts which superior beings perform, and the sentiments which they inspire. It is true, that when a god fights against men, there can be no uncertainty or anxiety, and consequently no interest about the event,—unless indeed in the rude theology of Homer, where Minerva may animate the Greeks, while Mars excites the Trojans: but it is quite otherwise with these divine persons inspiring passion, or represented as agents in the great phenomena of nature. Venus and Mars inspire love or valour; they give a noble origin and a dignified character to these sentiments: but the sentiments themselves act according to the laws of our nature; and their celestial source has no tendency to impair their power over human sympathy. No event, which has not too much modern vulgarity to be susceptible of alliance with poetry, can be incapable of being ennobled by that eminently poetical art which ascribes it either to the Supreme Will, or to the agency of beings who are greater than human. The wisdom of Columbus is neither less venerable, nor less his own, because it is supposed to flow more directly than that of other wise men, from the inspiration of heaven. The mutiny of his seamen is not less interesting or formidable because the poet traces it to the suggestion of those malignant spirits, in whom the imagination, independent of all theological doctrines, is naturally prone to personify and embody the causes of evil.
Unless, indeed, the marvellous be a part of the popular creed at the period of the action, the reader of a subsequent age will refuse to sympathize with it. His poetical faith is founded in sympathy with that of the poetical personages. Still more objectionable is a marvellous influence, neither believed in by the reader nor by the hero;—like a great part of the machinery of the Henriade and the Lusiad, which indeed is not only absolutely ineffective, but rather disennobles heroic fiction, by association with light and frivolous ideas. Allegorical persons (if the expression may be allowed) are only in the way to become agents. The abstraction has received a faint outline of form; but it has not yet acquired those individual marks and characteristic peculiarities, which render it a really existing being. On the other hand, the more sublime parts of our own religion, and more especially those which are common to all religion, are too awful and too philosophical for poetical effect. If we except Paradise Lost, where all is supernatural, and where the ancestors of the human race are not strictly human beings, it must be owned that no successful attempt has been made to ally a human action with the sublimer principles of the Christian theology. Some opinions, which may perhaps, without irreverence, be said to be rather appendages to the Christian system, than essential parts of it, are in that sort of intermediate state which fits them for the purposes of poetry;—sufficiently exalted to ennoble the human actions with which they are blended, but not so exactly defined, nor so deeply revered, as to be inconsistent with the liberty of imagination. The guardian angels, in the project of Dryden, had the inconvenience of having never taken any deep root in popular belief: the agency of evil spirits was firmly believed in the age of Columbus. With the truth of facts poetry can have no concern; but the truth of manners is necessary to its persons. If the minute investigations of the Notes to this poem had related to historical details, they would have been insignificant; but they are intended to justify the human and the supernatural parts of it, by an appeal to the manners and to the opinions of the age.
Perhaps there is no volume in our language of which it can be so truly said, as of the present, that it is equally exempt from the frailties of negligence and the vices of affectation. Exquisite polish of style is indeed more admired by the artist than by the people. The gentle and elegant pleasure which it imparts, can only be felt by a calm reason, an exercised taste, and a mind free from turbulent passions. But these beauties of execution can exist only in combination with much of the primary beauties of thought and feeling; and poets of the first rank depend on them for no small part of the perpetuity of their fame. In poetry, though not in eloquence, it is less to rouse the passions of a moment, than to satisfy the taste of all ages.
In estimating the poetical rank of Mr. Rogers, it must not be forgotten that popularity never can arise from elegance alone. The vices of a poem may render it popular; and virtues of a faint character may be sufficient to preserve a languishing and cold reputation. But to be both popular poets and classical writers, is the rare lot of those few who are released from all solicitude about their literary fame. It often happens to successful writers, that the lustre of their first productions throws a temporary cloud over some of those which follow. Of all literary misfortunes, this is the most easily endured, and the most speedily repaired. It is generally no more than a momentary illusion produced by disappointed admiration, which expected more from the talents of the admired writer than any talents could perform. Mr. Rogers has long passed that period of probation, during which it may be excusable to feel some painful solicitude about the reception of every new work. Whatever may be the rank assigned hereafter to his writings, when compared with each other, the writer has most certainly taken his place among the classical poets of his country.
REVIEW OF MADAME DE STAËL’S ‘DE L’ALLEMAGNE.’*
Till the middle of the eighteenth century, Germany was, in one important respect, singular among the great nations of Christendom. She had attained a high rank in Europe by discoveries and inventions, by science, by abstract speculation as well as positive knowledge, by the genius and the art of war, and above all, by the theological revolution, which unfettered the understanding in one part of Europe, and loosened its chains in the other; but she was without a national literature. The country of Guttenberg, of Copernicus, of Luther, of Kepler, and of Leibnitz, had no writer in her own language, whose name was known to the neighbouring nations. German captains and statesmen, philosophers and scholars, were celebrated; but German writers were unknown. The nations of the Spanish peninsula formed the exact contrast to Germany. She had every mark of mental cultivation but a vernacular literature: they, since the Reformation, had ceased to exercise their reason; and they retained only their poets, whom they were content to admire, without daring any longer to emulate. In Italy, Metastasio was the only renowned poet; and sensibility to the arts of design had survived genius: but the monuments of ancient times still kept alive the pursuits of antiquities and philology; and the rivalship of small states, and the glory of former ages, preserved an interest in literary history. The national mind retained that tendency towards experimental science, which it perhaps principally owed to the fame of Galileo; and began also to take some part in those attempts to discover the means of bettering the human condition, by inquiries into the principles of legislation and political economy, which form the most honourable distinction of the eighteenth century. France and England abated nothing of their activity. Whatever may be thought of the purity of taste, or of the soundness of opinion of Montesquieu and Voltaire, Buffon and Rousseau, no man will dispute the vigour of their genius. The same period among us was not marked by the loss of any of our ancient titles to fame; and it was splendidly distinguished by the rise of the arts, of history, of oratory, and (shall we not add?) of painting. But Germany remained a solitary example of a civilized, learned, and scientific nation, without a literature. The chivalrous ballads of the middle age, and the efforts of the Silesian poets in the beginning of the seventeenth century, were just sufficient to render the general defect more striking. French was the language of every court; and the number of courts in Germany rendered this circumstance almost equivalent to the exclusion of German from every society of rank. Philosophers employed a barbarous Latin,—as they had throughout all Europe, till the Reformation had given dignity to the vernacular tongues, by employing them in the service of Religion, and till Montaigne, Galileo, and Bacon, broke down the barrier between the learned and the people, by philosophizing in a popular language; and the German language continued to be the mere instrument of the most vulgar intercourse of life. Germany had, therefore, no exclusive mental possession: for poetry and eloquence may, and in some measure must be national; but knowledge, which is the common patrimony of civilized men, can be appropriated by no people.
A great revolution, however, at length began, which in the course of half a century terminated in bestowing on Germany a literature, perhaps the most characteristic possessed by any European nation. It had the important peculiarity of being the first which had its birth in an enlightened age. The imagination and sensibility of an infant poetry were in it singularly blended with the refinements of philosophy. A studious and learned people, familiar with the poets of other nations, with the first simplicity of nature and feeling, were too often tempted to pursue the singular, the excessive, and the monstrous. Their fancy was attracted towards the deformities and diseases of moral nature;—the wildness of an infant literature, combined with the eccentric and fearless speculations of a philosophical age. Some of the qualities of the childhood of art were united to others which usually attend its decline. German literature, various, rich, bold, and at length, by an inversion of the usual progress, working itself into originality, was tainted with the exaggeration natural to the imitator, and to all those who know the passions rather by study than by feeling.
Another cause concurred to widen the chasm which separated the German writers from the most polite nations of Europe. While England and France had almost relinquished those more abstruse speculations which had employed them in the age of Gassendi and Hobbes, and, with a confused mixture of contempt and despair, had tacitly abandoned questions which seemed alike inscrutable and unprofitable, a metaphysical passion arose in Germany, stronger and more extensive than had been known in Europe since the downfall of the Scholastic philosophy. A system of metaphysics appeared, which, with the ambition natural to that science, aspired to dictate principles to every part of human knowledge. It was for a long time universally adopted. Other systems, derived from it, succeeded each other with the rapidity of fashions in dress. Metaphysical publications were multiplied almost to the same degree, as political tracts in the most factious period of a popular government. The subject was soon exhausted, and the metaphysical passion seems to be nearly extinguished: for the small circle of dispute respecting first principles, must be always rapidly described; and the speculator, who thought his course infinite, finds himself almost instantaneously returned to the point from which he began. But the language of abstruse research spread over the whole German style. Allusions to the most subtile speculations were common in popular writings. Bold metaphors, derived from their peculiar philosophy, became familiar in observations on literature and manners. The style of Germany at length differed from that of France, and even of England, more as the literature of the East differs from that of the West, than as that of one European people from that of their neighbours.
Hence it partly arose, that while physical and political Germany was so familiar to foreigners, intellectual and literary Germany continued almost unknown. Thirty years ago,* there were probably in London as many Persian as German scholars. Neither Goethe nor Schiller conquered the repugnance. Political confusions, a timid and exclusive taste, and the habitual neglect of foreign languages, excluded German literature from France. Temporary and permanent causes contributed to banish it, after a short period of success, from England. Dramas, more remarkable for theatrical effect, than dramatical genius, exhibited scenes and characters of a paradoxical morality (on which no writer has animadverted with more philosophical and moral eloquence than Mad. de Stael),—unsafe even in the quiet of the schools, but peculiarly dangerous in the theatre, where it comes into contact with the inflammable passions of ignorant multitudes,—and justly alarming to those who, with great reason, considered domestic virtue as one of the privileges and safeguards of the English nation. These moral paradoxes, which were chiefly found among the inferior poets of Germany, appeared at the same time with the political novelties of the French Revolution, and underwent the same fate. German literature was branded as the accomplice of freethinking philosophy and revolutionary politics. It happened rather whimsically, that we now began to throw out the same reproaches against other nations, which the French had directed against us in the beginning of the eighteenth century. We were then charged by our polite neighbours with the vulgarity and turbulence of rebellious upstarts, who held nothing sacred in religion, or stable in government; whom—
“No king could govern, and no God could please;”*
and whose coarse and barbarous literature could excite only the ridicule of cultivated nations. The political part of these charges we applied to America, which had retained as much as she could of our government and laws; and the literary part to Germany, where literature had either been formed on our models, or moved by a kindred impulse, even where it assumed somewhat of a different form. The same persons who applauded wit, and pardoned the shocking licentiousness of English comedy, were loudest in their clamours against the immorality of the German theatre. In our zeal against a few scenes, dangerous only by over-refinement, we seemed to have forgotten the vulgar grossness which tainted the whole brilliant period from Fletcher to Congreve. Nor did we sufficiently remember, that the most daring and fantastical combinations of the German stage, did not approach to that union of taste and sense in the thought and expression, with wildness and extravagance in the invention of monstrous character and horrible incident, to be found in some of our earlier dramas, which, for their energy and beauty, the public taste has lately called from oblivion.
The more permanent causes of the slow and small progress of German literature in France and England, are philosophically developed in two beautiful chapters of the present work.† A translation from German into a language so different in its structure and origin as French, fails, as a piece of music composed for one sort of instrument when performed on another. In Germany, style, and even language, are not yet fixed. In France, rules are despotic: “the reader will not be amused at the expense of his literary conscience; there alone he is scrupulous.” A German writer is above his public, and forms it: a French writer dreads a public already enlightened and severe; he constantly thinks of immediate effect; he is in society, even while he is composing; and never loses sight of the effect of his writings on those whose opinions and pleasantries he is accustomed to fear. The German writers have, in a higher degree, the first requisite for writing—the power of feeling with vivacity and force. In France, a book is read to be spoken of, and must therefore catch the spirit of society: in Germany, it is read by solitary students, who seek instruction or emotion; and, “in the silence of retirement, nothing seems more melancholy than the spirit of the world.” The French require a clearness which may sometimes render their writers superficial: and the Germans, in the pursuit of originality and depth, often convey obvious thoughts in an obscure style. In the dramatic art, the most national part of literature, the French are distinguished in whatever relates to the action, the intrigue, and the interest of events: but the Germans surpass them in representing the impressions of the heart, and the secret storms of the strong passions.
This work will make known to future ages the state of Germany in the highest degree of its philosophical and poetical activity, at the moment before the pride of genius was humbled by foreign conquest, or the national mind turned from literary enthusiasm by struggles for the restoration of independence. The fleeting opportunity of observation at so extraordinary a moment, has happily been seized by one of those very few persons, who are capable at once of observing and painting manners,—of estimating and expounding philosophical systems,—of feeling the beauties of the most dissimilar forms of literature,—of tracing the peculiarities of usages, arts, and even speculations, to their common principle in national character,—and of disposing them in their natural place as features in the great portrait of a people.
The attainments of a respectable traveller of the second class, are, in the present age, not uncommon. Many persons are perfectly well qualified to convey exact information, wherever the subject can be exactly known. But the most important objects in a country can neither be numbered nor measured. The naturalist gives no picture of scenery by the most accurate catalogue of mineral and vegetable produce; and, after all that the political arithmetician can tell us of wealth and population, we continue ignorant of the spirit which actuates them, and of the character which modifies their application. The genius of the philosophical and poetical traveller is of a higher order. It is founded in the power of catching, at a rapid glance, the physiognomy of man and of nature. It is, in one of its parts, an expansion of that sagacity which seizes the character of an individual, in his features, in his expression, in his gestures, in his tones,—in every outward sign of his thoughts and feelings. The application of this intuitive power to the varied mass called a “nation,” is one of the most rare efforts of the human intellect. The mind and the eye must co-operate, with electrical rapidity, to recall what a nation has been, to sympathize with their present sentiments and passions, and to trace the workings of national character in amusements, in habits, in institutions and opinions. There appears to be an extemporaneous facility of theorizing, necessary to catch the first aspect of a new country,—the features of which would enter the mind in absolute confusion, if they were not immediately referred to some principle, and reduced to some system. To embody this conception, there must exist the power of painting both scenery and character,—of combining the vivacity of first impression with the accuracy of minute examination,—of placing a nation, strongly individualized by every mark of its mind and disposition, in the midst of ancient monuments, clothed in its own apparel, engaged in its ordinary occupations and pastimes amidst its native scenes, like a grand historical painting, with appropriate drapery, and with the accompaniments of architecture and landscape, which illustrate and characterize, as well as adorn.
The voice of Europe has already applauded the genius of a national painter in the author of Corinne. But it was there aided by the power of a pathetic fiction, by the variety and opposition of national character, and by the charm of a country which unites beauty to renown. In the work before us, she has thrown off the aid of fiction; she delineates a less poetical character, and a country more interesting by expectation than by recollection. But it is not the less certain that it is the most vigorous effort of her genius, and probably the most elaborate and masculine production of the faculties of woman. What other woman, indeed, (and we may add how many men,) could have preserved all the grace and brilliancy of Parisian society in analyzing its nature,—explained the most abstruse metaphysical theories of Germany precisely, yet perspicuously and agreeably,—and combined the eloquence which inspires exalted sentiments of virtue, with the enviable talent of gently indicating the defects of men or of nations, by the skilfully softened touches of a polite and merciful pleasantry?
In a short introduction, the principal nations of Europe are derived from three races,—the Sclavonic, the Latin, and the Teutonic. The imitative and feeble literature,—the recent precipitate and superficial civilization of the Sclavonic nations, sufficiently distinguish them from the two great races. The Latin nations, who inhabit the south of Europe, are the most anciently civilized: social institutions, blended with Paganism, preceded their reception of Christianity. They have less disposition than their northern neighbours to abstract reflection, they understand better the business and pleasures of the world; they inherit the sagacity of the Romans in civil affairs, and “they alone, like those ancient masters, know how to practice the art of domination.” The Germanic nations, who inhabit the north of Europe and the British islands, received their civilization with Christianity: chivalry and the middle ages are the subjects of their traditions and legends; their natural genius is more Gothic than classical; they are distinguished by independence and good faith,—by seriousness both in their talents and character, rather than by address or vivacity. “The social dignity which the English owe to their political constitution, places them at the head of Teutonic nations, but does not exempt them from the character of the race.” The literature of the Latin nations is copied from the ancients, and retains the original colour of their polytheism: that of the nations of Germanic origin has a chivalrous basis, and is modified by a spiritual religion. The French and Germans are at the two extremities of the chain; the French considering outward objects, and the Germans thought and feeling, as the prime movers of the moral world. “The French, the most cultivated of Latin nations, inclines to a classical poetry: the English, the most illustrious of Germanic ones, delights in a poetry more romantic and chivalrous.”
The theory which we have thus abridged is most ingenious, and exhibits in the liveliest form the distinction between different systems of literature and manners. It is partly true; for the principle of race is doubtless one of the most important in the history of mankind; and the first impressions on the susceptible character of rude tribes may be traced in the qualities of their most civilized descendants. But, considered as an exclusive and universal theory, it is not secure against the attacks of sceptical ingenuity. The facts do not seem entirely to correspond with it. It was among the Latin nations of the South, that chivalry and romance first flourished. Provence was the earliest seat of romantic poetry. A chivalrous literature predominated in Italy during the most brilliant period of Italian genius. The poetry of the Spanish peninsula seems to have been more romantic and less subjected to classical bondage than that of any other part of Europe. On the contrary, chivalry, which was the refinement of the middle age, penetrated more slowly into the countries of the North. In general, the character of the literature of each European nation seems extremely to depend upon the period at which it had reached its highest point of cultivation. Spanish and Italian poetry flourished while Europe was still chivalrous. French literature attained its highest splendour after the Grecian and Roman writers had become the object of universal reverence. The Germans cultivated their poetry a hundred years later, when the study of antiquity had revived the knowledge of the Gothic sentiments and principles. Nature produced a chivalrous poetry in the sixteenth century;—learning in the eighteenth. Perhaps the history of English poetry reflects the revolution of European taste more distinctly than that of any other nation. We have successively cultivated a Gothic poetry from nature, a classical poetry from imitation, and a second Gothic from the study of our own ancient poets.
To this consideration it must be added, that Catholic and Protestant nations must differ in their poetical system. The festal shows and legendary polytheism of the Catholics had the effect of a sort of Christian Paganism. The Protestant poetry was spiritualized by the genius of their worship, and was undoubtedly exalted by the daily perusal of translations of the sublime poems of the Hebrews,—a discipline, without which it is probable that the nations of the West never could have been prepared to endure Oriental poetry. In justice, however, to the ingenious theory of Mad. de Stael, it ought to be observed, that the original character ascribed by her to the Northern nations, must have disposed them to the adoption of a Protestant faith and worship; while the Popery of the South was naturally preserved by an early disposition to a splendid ceremonial, and a various and flexible mythology.
The work is divided into four parts:—on Germany and German Manners; on Literature and the Arts; on Philosophy and Morals; on Religion and Enthusiasm.
The first is the most perfect in its kind, belongs the most entirely to the genius of the writer, and affords the best example of the talent for painting nations which we have attempted to describe. It seems also, as far as foreign critics can presume to decide, to be in the most finished style of any composition of the author, and more securely to bid defiance to that minute criticism, which, in other works, her genius rather disdained than propitiated. The Germans are a just, constant, and sincere people; with great power of imagination and reflection; without brilliancy in society, or address in affairs; slow, and easily intimidated in action; adventurous and fearless in speculation; often uniting enthusiasm for the elegant arts with little progress in the manners and refinements of life; more capable of being inflamed by opinions than by interests; obedient to authority, rather from an orderly and mechanical character than from servility; having learned to value liberty neither by the enjoyment of it, nor by severe oppression; divested by the nature of their governments, and the division of their territories, of patriotic pride; too prone in the relations of domestic life, to substitute fancy and feeling for positive duty; not unfrequently combining a natural character with artificial manners, and much real feeling with affected enthusiasm; divided by the sternness of feudal demarcation into an unlettered nobility, unpolished scholar, and a depressed commonalty; and exposing themselves to derision, when, with their grave and clumsy honesty, they attempt to copy the lively and dexterous profligacy of their Southern neighbours.
In the plentiful provinces of Southern Germany, where religion, as well as government, shackle the activity of speculation, the people have sunk into a sort of lethaigic comfort and stupid enjoyment. It is a heavy and monotonous country, with no arts, except the national art of instrumental music,—no literature,—a rude utterance,—no society, or only crowded assemblies, which seemed to be brought together for ceremonial, more than for pleasure,—“an obsequious politeness towards an aristocracy without elegance.” In Austria, more especially, are seen a calm and languid mediocrity in sensations and desires,—a people mechanical in their very sports, “whose existence is neither disturbed nor exalted by guilt or genius, by intolerance or enthusiasm,”—a phlegmatic administration, inflexibly adhering to its ancient course, and repelling knowledge, on which the vigour of states must now depend,—great societies of amiable and respectable persons—which suggest the reflection, that “in retirement monotony composes the soul, but in the world it wearies the mind.”
In the rigorous climate and gloomy towns of Protestant Germany only, the national mind is displayed. There the whole literature and philosophy are assembled. Berlin is slowly rising to be the capital of enlightened Germany. The Duchess of Weimar, who compelled Napoleon to respect her in the intoxication of victory, has changed her little capital into a seat of knowledge and elegance, under the auspices of Goethe, Wieland, and Schiller. No European palace has assembled so refined a society since some of the small Italian courts of the sixteenth century. It is only by the Protestant provinces of the North that Germany is known as a lettered and philosophical country.
Moralists and philosophers have often remarked, that licentious gallantry is fatal to love, and destructive of the importance of women. “I will venture to assert,” says Mad. de Stael, “against the received opinion, that France was perhaps, of all the countries of the world, that in which women had the least happiness in love. It was called the ‘paradise’ of women, because they enjoyed the greatest liberty; but that liberty arose from the negligent profligacy of the other sex.” The observations* which follow this remarkable testimony are so beautiful and forcible, that they ought to be engraven on the mind of every woman disposed to murmur at those restraints which maintain the dignity of womanhood.
Some enthusiasm, says Mad. de Stael, or, in other words, some high passion, capable of actuating multitudes, has been felt by every people, at those epochs of their national existence, which are distinguished by great acts. Four periods are very remarkable in the progress of the European world: the heroic ages which founded civilization; republican patriotism, which was the glory of antiquity; chivalry, the martial religion of Europe; and the love of liberty, of which the history began about the period of the Reformation. The chivalrous impression is worn out in Germany; and, in future, says this generous and enlightened writer, “nothing great will be accomplished in that country, but by the liberal impulse which has in Europe succeeded to chivalry.”
The society and manners of Germany are continually illustrated by comparison or contrast with those of France. Some passages and chapters on this subject, together with the author’s brilliant preface to the thoughts of the Prince de Ligne, may be considered as the first contributions towards a theory of the talent—if we must not say of the art—of conversation, which affords so considerable a part of the most liberal enjoyments of refined life. Those, indeed, who affect a Spartan or monastic severity in their estimate of the society of capitals, may almost condemn a talent, which in their opinion only adorns vice. But that must have a moral tendency which raises society from slander or intoxication, to any contest and rivalship of mental power. Wit and grace are perhaps the only means which could allure the thoughtless into the neighbourhood of reflection, and inspire them with some admiration for superiority of mind. Society is the only school in which the indolence of the great will submit to learn. Refined conversation is at least sprinkled with literature, and directed, more often than the talk of the vulgar, to objects of general interest. That talent cannot really be frivolous which affoids the channel through which some knowledge, or even some respect for knowledge, may be insinuated into minds incapable of labour, and whose tastes so materially influence the community. Satirical pictures of the vices of a great society create a vulgar prejudice against their most blameless and virtuous pleasures. But, whatever may be the vice of London or Paris, it is lessened, not increased, by the cultivation of every liberal talent which innocently fills their time, and tends, in some measure, to raise them above malice and sensuality. And there is a considerable illusion in the provincial estimate of the immoralities of the capital. These immoralities are public, from the rank of the parties; and they are rendered more conspicuous by the celebrity, or perhaps by the talents, of some of them. Men of letters, and women of wit, describe their own sufferings with eloquence,—the faults of others, and sometimes their own, with energy: their descriptions interest every reader, and are circulated throughout Europe. But it does not follow that the miseries or the faults are greater or more frequent than those of obscure and vulgar persons, whose sufferings and vices are known to nobody, and would be uninteresting if they were known.
The second, and most generally amusing, as well as the largest part of this work, is an animated sketch of the literary history of Germany, with criticisms on the most celebrated German poets and poems, interspersed with reflections equally original and beautiful, tending to cultivate a comprehensive taste in the fine arts, and to ingraft the love of virtue on the sense of beauty. Of the poems criticised, some are well known to most of our readers. The earlier pieces of Schiller are generally read in translations of various merit, though, except the Robbers, they are not by the present taste of Germany placed in the first class of his works. The versions of Leonora, of Oberon, of Wallenstein, of Nathan, and of Iphigenia in Tauris, are among those which do the most honour to English literature. Goetz of Berlichingen has been vigorously rendered by a writer, whose chivalrous genius, exerted upon somewhat similar scenes of British history, has since rendered him the most popular poet of his age.
An epic poem, or a poetical romance, has lately been discovered in Germany, entitled ‘Niebelungen,’ on the Destruction of the Burgundians by Attila; and it is believed, that at least some parts of it were composed not long after the event, though the whole did not assume its present shape till the completion of the vernacular languages about the beginning of the thirteenth century. Lu ther’s version of the Scriptures was an epoch in German literature. One of the innumerable blessings of the Reformation was to make reading popular by such translations, and to accustom the people to weekly attempts at some sort of argument or declamation in their native tongue. The vigorous mind of the great Reformer gave to his tianslation an energy and conciseness, which made it a model in style, as well as an authority in language. Hagedorn, Weiss, and Gellert, copied the French without vivacity; and Bodmer imitated the English without genius.
At length Klopstock, an imitator of Milton, formed a German poetry, and Wieland improved the language and versification, though this last accomplished writer has somewhat suffered in his reputation, by the recent zeal of the Germans against the imitation of any foreign, but especially of the French school. “The genius of Klopstock was inflamed by the perusal of Milton and Young.” This combination of names is astonishing to an English ear. It creates a presumption against the poetical sensibility of Klopstock, to find that he combined two poets, placed at an immeasurable distance from each other; and whose whole superficial resemblance arises from some part of Milton’s subject, and from the doctrines of their theology, rather than the spirit of their religion. Through all the works of Young, written with such a variety of temper and manner, there predominates one talent,—inexhaustible wit, with little soundness of reason or depth of sensibility. His melancholy is artificial, and his combinations are as grotesque and fantastic in his Night Thoughts as in his Satires. How exactly does a poet characterise his own talent, who opens a series of poetical meditations on death and immortality, by a satirical epigram against the selfishness of the world? Wit and ingenuity are the only talents which Milton disdained. He is simple in his conceptions, even when his diction is overloaded with gorgeous learning. He is never gloomy but when he is grand. He is the painter of love, as well as of terror. He did not aim at mirth; but he is cheerful whenever he descends from higher feelings: and nothing tends more to inspire a calm and constant delight, than the contemplation of that ideal purity and grandeur which he, above all poets, had the faculty of bestowing on every form of moral nature. Klopstock’s ode on the rivalship of the muse of Germany with the muse of Albion, is elegantly translated by Mad de Stael; and we applaud her taste for preferring prose to verse in French translations of German poems.
After having spoken of Winkelmann and Lessing, the most perspicuous, concise, and lively of German prose-writers, she proceeds to Schiller and Goethe, the greatest of German poets. Schiller presents only the genius of a great poet, and the character of a virtuous man. The original, singular, and rather admirable than amiable mind of Goethe,—his dictatorial power over national literature,—his inequality, caprice, originality, and fire in conversation,—his union of a youthful imagination with exhausted sensibility, and the impartiality of a stern sagacity, neither influenced by opinions nor predilections, are painted with extraordinary skill.
Among the tragedies of Schiller which have appeared since we have ceased to translate German dramas, the most celebrated are, Mary Stuart, Joan of Arc, and William Tell. Such subjects as Mary Stuart generally excite an expectation which cannot be gratified. We agree with Madame de Stael in admiring many scenes of Schiller’s Mary, and especially her noble farewell to Leicester. But the tragedy would probably displease English readers, to say nothing of spectators. Our political disputes have given a more inflexible reality to the events of Elizabeth’s reign, than history would otherwise have bestowed on facts equally modern. Neither of our parties could endure a Mary who confesses the murder of her husband, or an Elizabeth who instigates the assassination of her prisoner. In William Tell, Schiller has avoided the commonplaces of a republican conspiracy, and faithfully represented the indignation of an oppressed Helvetian Highlander.
Egmont is considered by Mad de Stael as the finest of Goethe’s tragedies, written, like Werther, in the enthusiasm of his youth. It is rather singular that poets have availed themselves so little of the chivalrous character, the illustrious love, and the awful malady of Tasso. The Torquato Tasso of Goethe is the only attempt to convert this subject to the purposes of the drama. Two men of genius, of very modern times, have suffered in a somewhat similar manner: but the habits of Rousseau’s life were vulgar, and the sufferings of Cowper are both recent and sacred. The scenes translated from Faust well represent the terrible energy of that most odious of the works of genius, in which the whole power of imagination is employed to dispel the charms which poetry bestows on human life,—where the punishment of vice proceeds from cruelty without justice, and “where the remorse seems as infernal as the guilt.”
Since the death of Schiller, and the desertion of the drama by Goethe, several tragic writers have appeared, the most celebrated of whom are Werner, the author of Luther and of Attila, Gerstenberg, Klinger, Tieck, Collin, and Oehlenschlager, a Dane, who has introduced into his poetry the terrible mythology of Scandinavia.
The result of the chapter on Comedy seems to be, that the comic genius has not yet arisen in Germany German novels have been more translated into English than other works of literature; and a novel by Tieck, entitled ‘Sternbald,’ seems to deserve translation. Jean Paul Richter, a popular novelist, but too national to bear translation, said, “that the French had the empire of the land, the English that of the sea, and the Germans that of the air.”
Though Schiller wrote the History of the Belgic Revolt, and of the Thirty Years’ War, with eloquence and the spirit of liberty, the only classical writer in this department is J. de Muller, the historian of Switzerland. Though born in a speculative age, he has chosen the picturesque and dramatic manner of ancient historians; and his minute erudition in the annals of the Middle Ages supplies his imagination with the particulars which characterise persons and actions. He abuses his extent of knowledge and power of detail; he sometimes affects the sententiousness of Tacitus; and his pursuit of antique phraseology occasionally degenerates into affectation. But his diction is in general grave and severe; and in his posthumous Abridgment of Universal History, he has shown great talents for that difficult sort of composition,—the power of comprehensive outline, of compression without obscurity, of painting characters by few and grand strokes, and of disposing events so skilfully, that their causes and effects are seen without being pointed out. Like Sallust, another affecter of archaism, and declaimer against his age, his private and political life is said to have been repugnant to his historical morality. “The reader of Muller is desirous of believing that of all the virtues which he strongly felt in the composition of his works, there were at least some which he permanently possessed.”
The estimate of literary Germany would not be complete, without the observation that it possesses a greater number of laborious scholars, and of useful books, than any other country. The possession of other languages may open more literary enjoyment: the German is assuredly the key to most knowledge. The works of Fulleborn, Buhle, Tiedemann, and Tennemann, are the first attempts to form a philosophical history of philosophy, of which the learned compiler Brucker had no more conception than a monkish annalist of rivalling Hume. The philosophy of literary history is one of the most recently opened fields of speculation. A few beautiful fragments of it are among the happiest parts of Hume’s Essays. The great work of Madame de Stael On Literature, was the first attempt on a bold and extensive scale. In the neighbourhood of her late residence,* and perhaps not uninfluenced by her spirit, two writers of great merit, though of dissimilar character, have very recently treated various parts of this wide subject; M. de Sismondi, in his History of the Literature of the South, and M. de Barante, in his Picture of French Literature during the Eighteenth Century. Sismondi, guided by Bouterweck and Schlegel, hazards larger views, indulges his talent for speculation, and seems with difficulty to suppress that bolder spirit, and those more liberal principles, which breathe in his History of the Italian Republics. Barante, more thoroughly imbued with the elegancies and the prejudices of his national literature, feels more delicately the peculiarities of great writers, and traces with a more refined sagacity the immediate effects of their writings. But his work, under a very ingenious disguise of literary criticism, is an attack on the opinions of the eighteenth century; and it will assuredly never be honoured by the displeasure either of Napoleon, or of any of his successors in absolute power.
One of our authoress’ chapters is chiefly employed on the works and system of William and Frederic Schlegel;—of whom William is celebrated for his Lectures on Dramatic Poetry, for his admirable translation of Shakespeare, and for versions, said to be of equal excellence, of the Spanish dramatic poets; and Frederic, besides his other merits, has the very singular distinction of having acquired the Sanscrit language, and studied the Indian learning and science in Europe, chiefly by the aid of a British Orientalist, long detained as a prisoner at Paris. The general tendency of the literary system of these critics, is towards the manners, poetry, and religion of the Middle Ages. They have reached the extreme point towards which the general sentiment of Europe has been impelled by the calamities of a philosophical revolution, and the various fortunes of a twenty years’ universal war. They are peculiarly adverse to French literature, which, since the age of Louis XIV., has, in their opinion, weakened the primitive principles common to all Christendom, as well as divested the poetry of each people of its originality and character. Their system is exaggerated and exclusive: in pursuit of national originality, they lose sight of the primary and universal beauties of art. The imitation of our own antiquities may be as artificial as the copy of a foreign literature. Nothing is less natural than a modern antique. In a comprehensive system of literature, there is sufficient place for the irregular works of sublime genius, and for the faultless models of classical taste. From age to age, the multitude fluctuates between various and sometimes opposite fashions of literary activity. These are not all of equal value; but the philosophical critic discovers and admires the common principles of beauty, from which they all derive their power over human nature.
The Third Part of this work is the most singular. An account of metaphysical systems by a woman, is a novelty in the history of the human mind; and whatever may be thought of its success in some of its parts, it must be regarded on the whole as the boldest effort of the female intellect. It must, however, not be forgotten, that it is a contribution rather to the history of human nature, than to that of speculation; and that it considers the source, spirit, and moral influence of metaphysical opinions, more than their truth or falsehood. “Metaphysics are at least the gymnastics of the understanding.” The common-place clamour of mediocrity will naturally be excited by the sex, and even by the genius of the author. Every example of vivacity and grace, every exertion of fancy, every display of eloquence, every effusion of sensibility, will be cited as a presumption against the depth of her researches, and the accuracy of her statements. On such principles, the evidence against her would doubtless be conclusive. But dulness is not accuracy; nor are ingenious and elegant writers therefore superficial: and those who are best acquainted with the philosophical revolutions of Germany, will be most astonished at the general correctness of this short, clear, and agreeable exposition.
The character of Lord Bacon is a just and noble tribute to his genius. Several eminent writers of the Continent have, however, lately fallen into the mistake of ascribing to him a system of opinions respecting the origin and first principles of human knowledge. What distinguishes him among great philosophers is, that he taught no peculiar opinions, but wholly devoted himself to the improvement of the method of philosophising. He belongs neither to the English nor any other school of metaphysics; for he was not a metaphysician. Mr. Locke was not a moralist; and his collateral discussions of ethical subjects are not among the valuable parts of his great work. “The works of Dugald Stewart contain so perfect a theory of the intellectual faculties, that it may be considered as the natural history of a moral being.” The French metaphysicians of the eighteenth century, since Condillac, deserve the contempt expressed for them, by their shallow, precipitate, and degrading misapplications of the Lockian philosophy. It is impossible to abridge the abridgment here given of the Kantian philosophy, or of those systems which have arisen from it, and which continue to dispute the supremacy of the speculative world. The opinions of Kant are more fully stated, because he has changed the general manner of thinking, and has given a new direction to the national mind. Those of Fichte, Schelling, and his other successors, it is of less importance to the proper purpose of this work to detail; because, though their doctrines be new, they continue and produce the same effect on national character, and the same influence on sciences and arts. The manner of philosophising remains the same in the Idealism of Fichte, and in the Pantheism of Schelling. Under various names and forms, it is the general tendency of the German philosophy to consider thought not as the produce of objects, or as one of the classes of phenomena, but as the agent which exhibits the appearance of the outward world, and which regulates those operations which it seems only to represent. The philosophy of the human understanding is, in all countries, acknowledged to contain the principles of all sciences; but in Germany, metaphysical speculation pervades their application to particulars.
The subject of the Fourth Part is the state of religion, and the nature of all those disinterested and exalted sentiments which are here comprehended under the name of ‘enthusiasm.’ A contemplative people like the Germans have in their character the principle which disposes men to religion. The Reformation, which was their Revolution, arose from ideas. “Of all the great men whom Germany has produced, Luther has the most German character. His firmness had something rude; his conviction made him opinionated; intellectual boldness was the source of his courage; in action, the ardour of his passions did not divert him from abstract studies; and though he attacked certain dogmas and practices, he was not urged to the attack by incredulity, but by enthusiasm.”
“The right of examining what we ought to believe, is the foundation of Protestanism.” Though each of the first Reformers established a practical Popery in his own church, opinions were gradually liberalised, and the temper of sects was softened. Little open incredulity had appeared in Germany; and even Lessing speculated with far more circumspection than had been observed by a series of English writers from Hobbes to Bolingbroke. Secret unbelievers were friendly to Christianity and Protestantism, as institutions beneficial to mankind, and far removed from that anti-religious fanaticism which was more naturally provoked in France by the intolerant spirit and invidious splendour of a Catholic hierarchy.
The reaction of the French Revolution has been felt throughout Europe, in religion as well as in politics. Many of the higher classes adopted some portion of those religious sentiments of which they at first assumed the exterior, as a badge of their hostility to the fashions of France. The sensibility of the multitude, impatient of cold dogmatism and morality, eagerly sought to be once more roused by a religion which employed popular eloquence, and spoke to imagination and emotion. The gloom of general convulsions and calamities created a disposition to seriousness, and to the consolations of piety; and the disasters of a revolution allied to incredulity, threw a more than usual discredit and odium on irreligious opinions. In Great Britain, these causes have acted most conspicuously on the inferior classes; though they have also powerfully affected many enlightened and accomplished individuals of a higher condition. In France, they have produced in some men of letters the play of a sort of poetical religion round the fancy: but the general effect seems to have been a disposition to establish a double doctrine,—a system of infidelity for the initiated, with a contemptuous indulgence and even active encouragement of superstition among the vulgar, like that which prevailed among the ancients before the rise of Christianity. This sentiment (from the revival of which the Lutheran Reformation seems to have preserved Europe), though not so furious and frantic as the atheistical fanaticism of the Reign of Terror, is, beyond any permanent condition of human society, destructive of ingenuousness, good faith, and probity,—of intellectual courage, and manly character,—and of that respect for all human beings, without which there can be no justice or humanity from the powerful towards the humble.
In Germany the effects have been also very remarkable. Some men of eminence in literature have become Catholics. In general, their tendency is towards a pious mysticism, which almost equally loves every sect where a devotional spirit prevails. They have returned rather to sentiment than to dogma,—more to religion than to theology. Their disposition to religious feeling, which they call ‘religiosity,’ is, to use the words of a strictly orthodox English theologian, “a love of divine things for the beauty of their moral qualities.” It is the love of the good and fair, wherever it exists, but chiefly when absolute and boundless excellence is contemplated in “the first good, first perfect, first fair.” This moral enthusiasm easily adapts itself to the various ceremonies of worship, and even systems of opinion prevalent among mankind. The devotional spirit, contemplating different parts of the order of nature, or influenced by a different temper of mind, may give rise to very different and apparently repugnant theological doctrines. These doctrines are considered as modifications of human nature, under the influence of the religious principle,—not as propositions which argument can either establish or confute, or reconcile with each other. The Ideal philosophy favours this singular manner of considering the subject. As it leaves no reality but in the mind, it lessens the distance between belief and imagination; and disposes its adherents to regard opinions as the mere play of the understanding,—incapable of being measured by any outward standard, and important chiefly from reference to the sentiment, from which they spring, and on which they powerfully react. The union of a mystical piety, with a philosophy verging towards idealism, has accordingly been observed in periods of the history of the human understanding, very distant from each other, and, in most of their other circumstances, extremely dissimilar. The same language, respecting the annihilation of self, and of the world, may be used by the sceptic and by the enthusiast. Among the Hindu philosophers in the most ancient times,—among the Sufis in modern Persia,—during the ferment of Eastern and Western opinions, which produced the latter Platonism,—in Malebranche and his English disciple Norris,—and in Berkeley himself, though in a tempered and mitigated state,—the tendency to this union may be distinctly traced. It seems, however, to be fitted only for few men; and for them not long. Sentiments so sublime, and so distant from the vulgar affairs and boisterous passions of men, may be preserved for a time, in the calm solitude of a contemplative visionary; but in the bustle of the world they are likely soon to evaporate, when they are neither embodied in opinions, nor adorned by ceremonies, nor animated by the attack and defence of controversy. When the ardour of a short-lived enthusiasm has subsided, the poetical philosophy which exalted fancy to the level of belief, may probably leave the same ultimate result with the argumentative scepticism which lowered belief to the level of fancy.
An ardent susceptibility of every disinterested sentiment,—more especially of every social affection,—blended by the power of imagination with a passionate love of the beautiful, the grand, and the good, is, under the name of ‘enthusiasm,’ the subject of the conclusion,—the most eloquent part (if we perhaps except the incomparable chapter on ‘Conjugal Love,) of a work which, for variety of knowledge, flexibility of power, elevation of view, and comprehension of mind, is unequal among the works of women; and which, in the union of the graces of society and literature with the genius of philosophy, is not surpassed by many among those of men. To affect any tenderness in pointing out its defects or faults, would be an absurd assumption of superiority: it has no need of mercy. The most obvious and general objection will be, that the Germans are too much praised. But every writer must be allowed to value his subject somewhat higher than the spectator: unless the German feelings had been adopted, they could not have been forcibly represented. It will also be found, that the objection is more apparent than real. Mad. de Staël is indeed the most generous of critics; but she almost always speaks the whole truth to intelligent ears; though she often hints the unfavourable parts of it so gently and politely, that they may escape the notice of a hasty reader, and be scarcely perceived by a gross understanding. A careful reader, who brings together all the observations intentionally scattered over various parts of the book, will find sufficient justice (though administered in mercy) in whatever respects manners or literature. It is on subjects of philosophy that the admiration will perhaps justly be considered as more undistinguishing. Something of the wonder excited by novelty in language and opinion still influences her mind. Many writers have acquired philosophical celebrity in Germany, who, if they had written with equal power, would have been unnoticed or soon forgotten in England. Our theosophists, the Hutchinsonians, had as many men of talent among them, as those whom M. de Staël has honoured by her mention among the Germans: but they have long since irrecoverably sunk into oblivion. There is a writer now alive in England,* who has published doctrines not dissimilar to those which Mad. de Staël ascribes to Schelling. Not withstanding the allurements of a singular character, and an unintelligible style, his paradoxes are probably not known to a dozen persons in this busy country of industry and ambition. In a bigoted age, he might have suffered the martyrdom of Vanini or Bruno: in a metaphysical country, where a new publication was the most interesting event, and where twenty universities, unfettered by Church or State, were hotbeds of speculation, he might have acquired celebrity as the founder of a sect.
In this as in the other writings of Mad. de Staël, the reader (or at least the lazy English reader) is apt to be wearied by too constant a demand upon his admiration. It seems to be part of her literary system, that the pauses of eloquence must be filled up by ingenuity. Nothing plain and unornamented is left in composition. But we desire a plain groundwork, from which wit or eloquence is to arise, when the occasion calls them forth, The effect would be often greater if the talent were less. The natural power of interesting scenes or events over the heart, is somewhat disturbed by too uniform a colour of sentiment, and by the constant pursuit of uncommon reflections or ingenious turns. The eye is dazzled by unvaried brilliancy. We long for the grateful vicissitude of repose.
In the statement of facts and reasonings, no style is more clear than that of Mad. de Staël;—what is so lively must indeed be clear: but in the expression of sentiment she has been often thought to use vague language. In expressing either intense degrees, or delicate shades, or intricate combinations of feeling, the common reader will seldom understand that of which he has never been conscious; and the writer placed on the extreme frontiers of human nature, is in danger of mistaking chimeras for realities, or of failing in a struggle to express what language does not afford the means of describing. There is also a vagueness incident to the language of feeling, which is not so properly a defect, as a quality which distinguishes it from the language of thought. Very often in poetry, and sometimes in eloquence, it is the office of words, not so much to denote a succession of separate ideas, as, like musical sounds, to inspire a series of emotions, or to produce a durable tone of sentiment. The terms ‘perspicuity’ and ‘precision,’ which denote the relations of language to intellectual discernment, are inapplicable to it when employed as the mere vehicle of a succession of feelings. A series of words may, in this manner, be very expressive, where few of them singly convey a precise meaning: and men of greater intellect than susceptibility, in such passages as those of Mad. de Staël,—where eloquence is employed chiefly to inspire feeling,—unjustly charge their own defects to that deep, moral, and poetical sensibility with which they are unable to sympathise.
The few persons in Great Britain who continue to take an interest in speculative philosophy, will certainly complain of some injustice in her estimate of German metaphysical systems. The moral painter of nations is indeed more authorised than the speculative philosopher to try these opinions by their tendencies and results. When the logical consequences of an opinion are false, the opinion itself must also be false: but whether the supposed pernicious influence of the adoption, or habitual contemplation of an opinion, be a legitimate objection to the opinion itself, is a question which has not yet been decided to the general satisfaction, nor perhaps even stated with sufficient precision.
There are certain facts in human nature, derived either from immediate consciousness or unvarying observation, which are more certain than the conclusions of any abstract reasoning, and which metaphysical theories are destined only to explain. That a theory is at variance with such facts, and logically leads to the denial of their existence, is a strictly philosophical objection to the theory:—that there is a real distinction between right and wrong, in some measure apprehended and felt by all men,—that moral sentiments and disinterested affections, however originating, are actually a part of our nature,—that praise and blame, reward and punishment, may be properly bestowed on actions according to their moral character,—are principles as much more indubitable as they are more important than any theoretical conclusions. Whether they be demonstrated by reason, or perceived by intuition, or revealed by a primitive sentiment, they are equally indispensable parts of every sound mind. But the mere inconvenience or danger of an opinion can never be allowed as an argument against its truth. It is indeed the duty of every good man to present to the public what he believes to be truth, in such a manner as may least wound the feelings, or disturb the principles of the simple and the ignorant: and that duty is not always easily reconcilable with the duties of sincerity and free inquiry. The collision of such conflicting duties is the painful and inevitable consequence of the ignorance of the multitude, and of the immature state, even in the highest minds, of the great talent for presenting truth under all its aspects, and adapting it to all the degrees of capacity or varieties of prejudice which distinguish men. That talent must one day be formed; and we may be perfectly assured that the whole of truth can never be injurious to the whole of virtue. In the mean time philosophers would act more magnanimously, and therefore, perhaps, more wisely, if they were to suspend, during discussion,* their moral anger against doctrines which they deem pernicious; and, while they estimate actions, habits, and institutions, by their tendency, to weigh opinions in the mere balance of reason. Virtue in action may require the impulse of sentiment, and even of enthusiasm: but in theoretical researches, her champions must not appear to decline the combat on any ground chosen by their adversaries, and least of all on that of intellect. To call in the aid of popular feelings in philosophical contests, is some avowal of weakness. It seems a more magnanimous wisdom to defy attack from every quarter, and by every weapon; and to use no topics which can be thought to imply an unworthy doubt whether the principles of virtue be impregnable by argument, or to betray an irreverent distrust of the final and perfect harmony between morality and truth.
REVIEW OF THE CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION OF 1688.
[* ] Lectures, vol. iv. p. 45. The unphilosophical word “perhaps” must be struck out of the proposition, unless the whole be considered as a mere conjecture; it limits no affirmation, but destroys it, by converting it into a guess. See the like concession, vol. iv. p. 33, with some words interlarded, which betray a sort of reluctance and fluctuation, indicative of the difficulty with which Brown struggled to withhold his assent from truths which he unreasonably dreaded.
[† ] Ibid. vol. iii. p. 567.
[‡ ] Ibid. vol. iii. p. 621.
[* ] Lectures, vol. iv. p. 38.
[† ] See suprà, p. 97.
[* ] Mémoires de Montlosier, vol. i. p. 50.
[* ] See suprà, p. 142.
[* ] See suprà p. 149, et seq.
[* ] See the Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties, a discourse forming the first part of the third volume of the Library of Entertaining Knowledge, London, 1829. The author of this essay, for it can be no other than Mr. Brougham, will by others be placed at the head of those who, in the midst of arduous employments, and surrounded by all the allurements of society, yet find leisure for exerting the unwearied vigour of their minds in every mode of rendering permanent service to the human species; more especially in spreading a love of knowledge, and diffusing useful truth among all classes of men. These voluntary occupations deserve our attention still less as examples of prodigious power than as proofs of an intimate conviction, which binds them by unity of purpose with his public duties, that (to use the almost dying words of an excellent person) “man can neither be happy without virtue, nor actively virtuous without liberty, nor securely free without rational knowledge.”—Close of Sir W. Jones’ last Discourse to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta.
[* ] See suprà, p. 178.
[* ] See suprà, p. 151.
[* ] Lord Kames, in his Essays on Morality and Natural Religion, and in his Sketches of the History of Man.
[* ] From the Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxvii., p. 163.
[* ] The information on this subject in Lengnich (Jus Publicum Poloniæ) is vague and unsatisfactory.
[* ] Mémoires de Frederic II. 1763—1775. Introduction. Frederick charges the new Administration of Geo. III., not with breach of treaty in making peace without him, but with secretly offering to regain Silesia for Maria Theresa, and with labouring to embroil Peter III. with Prussia.
[† ] Rulhière, Histoire de l’Anarchie de Pologne, vol. ii. p. 41.
[‡ ] Ibid. p. 151.
[* ] Ferrand, Histoire des trois Demembrements de la Pologne (Paris, 1820), p. 1.
[* ] Martens, Recueil de Traités, vol. i. p. 340.
[† ] Rulhière, vol. ii. pp. 466, 470.
[‡ ] Martens, vol. iv. p. 582.
[* ] See their Manifesto, Martens, vol. i. p. 456.
[† ] Rulhière, vol. iii. p. 55.
[* ] Rulhière, vol. iii. p. 124.
[† ] Ferrand, vol. i. p. 76. The failure of this perfidious project is to be ascribed to the decline of Choiseul’s influence. The affair of the Falkland Islands was a fragment of the design.
[‡ ] Despatch from M. de Choiseul to M. D’Ossun at Madrid, 5th April. Flassan. Histoire de la Diplomatie Française, vol. vi. p. 466. About thirty years afterwards, the French monarchy was destroyed!
[* ] Rulhière, vol. ii. p. 310. Ferrand, vol. i. p. 75.
[† ] Flassan, vol. iii. p. 83. Vergennes was immediately recalled, notwithstanding this success, for having lowered (deconsideré) himself by marrying the daughter of a physician. He brought back with him the three millions which had been remitted to him to bribe the Divan. Catharine called him “Mustapha’s Prompter.”
[* ] Mémoires de Frederic II.
[† ] It was at one time believed, that the project of Partition was first suggested to Joseph by Frederic at Neustadt, if not at Neiss. Goertz’s papers (Mémoires et Actes Authentiques relatifs aux Negotiations qui ont précédées le Partage de la Pologne, Weimar, 1810) demonstrate the contrary. These papers are supported by Viomenil (Lettres), by the testimony of Prince Henry, by Rulhière, and by the narrative of Frederic. Dohm (Denkwürdigkeiten meiner Zeit) and Schoell (Histoire Abrégée des Traités des Paix) have also shown the impossibility of this supposition. Mr. Coxe (History of the House of Austria, vol. iii. p. 499) has indeed adopted it, and endeavours to support it by the declarations of Hertzberg to himself: but when he examines the above authorities, the greater part of which have appeared since his work, he will probably be satisfied that he must have misunderstood the Prussian minister; and he may perhaps follow the example of the excellent abbreviator Koch, who, in the last edition of his useful work, has altered that part of his narrative which ascribed the first plan of partition to Frederic.
[* ] Frederic to Count Solms, his Minister at Petersburgh, 12th Sept. and 13th Oct. 1770. Goertz, pp. 100—105.
[† ] Ibid. pp. 107, 128. The French alliance is evidently meant.
[‡ ] Ibid. pp. 129—146.
[§ ] Ibid. p. 9.
[* ] Rulhière, vol. iv. p. 209.
[† ] Ferrand, vol. i. p. 140.
[* ] Mémoires. This account is very much confirmed by the well-informed writer who has prefixed his Recollections to the Letters of Viomenil, who probably was General Grimouard. His account is from Prince Henry, who told it to him at Paris in 1788, calling the news of the Austrian proceedings in Poland, and Catharine’s observations on it, a fortunate accident, which suggested the plan of partition.
[† ] Ferrand, vol. i. p. 149.
[* ] This fact was communicated by Sabatier, the French resident at Petersburgh, to his Court in a despatch of the 11th February, 1774. (Ferrand, vol. i. p. 152.) It transpired at that time, on occasion of an angry correspondence between the two Sovereigns, in which the King reproached the Empress with having desired the Partition, and quoted the letter in which she had offered to take on herself the whole blame.
[† ] Ferrand, vol. i. p. 149.
[‡ ] Mémoires de Frederic II. The King does not give the dates of this communication. It probably was in April, 1771.
[* ] Rulhière, vol. iv. p. 167.
[† ] The want of dates in the King of Prussia’s narrative is the more unfortunate, because the Count de Goertz has not published the papers relating to the negotiations between Austria and Prussia,—an omission which must be owned to be somewhat suspicious.
[* ] Goertz, p. 75.
[† ] Ibid. p. 93.
[* ] Mémoires de l’Abbé Georgel, vol. i. p. 219.
[† ] The Abbé Georgel ascribes the detection to his master the ambassador; but it is more probably ascribed by M. Shoell (Histoire de Traités, vol. xiv. p. 76,) to a young native of Strasburg, named Barth, the second secretary of the French Legation, who, by his knowledge of German, and intimacy with persons in inferior office, detected the project, but required the ambassador to conceal it even from Georgel. Schoell quotes a passage of a letter from Barth to a friend at Strasburg, which puts his early knowledge of it beyond dispute.
[‡ ] Georgel, vol. i. p. 264. The letter produced some remarkable effects. Madame du Barri got possession of it, and read the above passage aloud at one of her supper parties. An enemy of Rohan, who was present, immediately told the Danphiness of this attack on her mother. The young Princess was naturally incensed at such language, especially as she had been given to understand that the letter was written to Madame du Barri. She became the irreconcilable enemy of the Prince, afterwards Cardinal de Rohan, who, in hopes of conquering her hostility, engaged in the strange adventure of the Diamond Necklace, one of the secondary agents in promoting the French Revolution, and not the least considerable source of the popular prejudices against the Queen.
[* ] Martens, vol. i. p. 461.
[† ] It has been said that Austria did not accede to the Partition till France had refused to co-operate against it. Of this M. de Segur tells us, that he was assured by Kaunitz, Cobentzel, and Vergennes. The only circumstance which approaches to a confirmation of his statement is, that there are traces in Ferrand of secret intimations conveyed by D’Aiguillon to Frederic, that there was no likelihood of France proceeding to extremities in favour of Poland. This clandestine treachery is, however, very different from a public refusal. It has, on the other hand, been stated (Coxe, vol. ii. p. 516.) that the Duc d’Aiguillon proposed to Lord Rochfort, that an English or French fleet should be sent to the Baltic to prevent the dismemberment. But such a proposal, if it occurred at all, must have related to transactions long antecedent to the Partition, and to the administration of D’Aiguillon, for Lord Rochfort was recalled from the French embassy in 1768, to be made Secretary of State, on the resignation of Lord Shelburne. Neither can the application have been to him as Secretary of State; for France was not in his department. It is to be regretted that Mr. Coxe should, in the same place, have quoted a writer so discredited as the Abbé Soulavie (Mémoires de Louis XVI.), from whom he quotes a memorial, without doubt altogether imaginary, [Editor: illegible word] D’Aiguillon to Louis XV.
[* ] Flassan. vol. vii. p. 125.
[* ] Dohm, vol. ii. p. 45.
[† ] It was about this time that Goertz gave an account of the Court of Russia to the Prince Royal of Prussia, who was about to visit Petersbugh, of which the following passage is a curious specimen:—“Le Prince Bariatinski est reconnu scélérat, et mème comme tel emplové encore de tems en tems.”—Dohm, vol. ii. p. 32.
[* ] Schoell, vol. xiv. p. 473.
[† ] Ferrand, vol. ii. p. 336.
[* ] Schoell. vol. xiv. p. 117. On the 12th of October 1788, the King of Prussia had offered, by Buckholz, his minister at Warsaw, to guarantes the integrity of the Polish territory.—Ferrand, vol. ii. p. 452. On the 19th of November, he advises them not to be diverted from “ameliorating their form of government;” and declares, “that he will guarantee their independence without mixing in their internal affairs, or restraining the liberty of their discussions, which, on the contrary, he will guarantee.”—Ibid. p. 457. The negotiations of Prince Czartorinski at Berlin, and the other notes of Buckholz, seconded by Mr. Hailes, the English minister, agree entirely in language and principles with the passages which have been cited.
[* ] Ferrand, vol. iii. p. 55. The absence of dates in this writer obliges us to fix the time of this decree by conjecture.
[† ] The particular events of the 3d of May are related fully by Ferrand, and shortly in the Annual Register of 1791,—a valuable narrative, though not without considerable mistakes.
[* ] Martens, vol. iii. pp. 161—165.
[† ] Ferrand, vol. iii. p. 121. See the letter of the King of Prussia to Goltz, expressing his admiration and applause of the new constitution. Segur, vol. iii. p. 252.
[* ] Ferrand, vol. iii. p. 217.
[† ] A curious passage of De Thou shows the apprehension early entertained of the Russian power. “Livonis prudentè et reipublicæ Christianæ utili consilio navigatio illuc interdicta fuerat, ne commercio nostrorum Barbari varias artes ipsis ignotas, et quæ ad rem navalem et militarem pertinent, edocerentur. Sic enim eximistabant Moscos, qui maximam Septentrionis partem tenerent, Narvæ condito emporio, et constructo armamentario, non solum in Livoniam, sed etiam in Germaniam effuso exercitu penetraturos.”—Lib. xxxix. cap. 8.
[‡ ] Prince Henry and Count Hertzberg, who agree perhaps in nothing else.—Vie du Prince Henri, p. 297. In the same place, we have a very curious extract from a letter of Prince Henry, of the 1st of November, 1792, in which he says, that “every year of war will make the conditions of peace worse for the Allies.” Henry was not a Democrat, nor even a Whig. His opinions were confirmed by all the events of the first war, and are certainly not contradicted by occurrences towards the close of a second war, twenty years afterwards, and in totally new circumstances.
[* ] Ferrand, vol. iii. pp. 252—255.
[* ] Ferrand, vol. iii. p. 369.
[† ] Ibid. p. 372.
[‡ ] Martens, vol. v. pp. 162, 202.
[* ] Segur, Règne de Frederic-Guillaume II., tome iii. p. 169. These important measures are not mentioned in any other narration which I have read.
[† ] Segur, vol. iii. p. 171.
[* ] The sentiments of wise men on the first Partition are admirably stated in the Annual Register of 1772, in the Introduction to the History of Europe, which could scarcely have been written by any man but Mr. Burke.
[* ] Schöell, vol. x. p. 129.
[† ] Ibid. p. 139.
[* ] Julien, Notice Biographique sur Kosciusko.
[† ] Published in M. Julien’s interesting little work.
[* ] From the Edinburgh Review, vol. xliv. p. 366.—Ed.
[* ] General Falkenskiold was a Danish gentleman of respectable family, who, after having served in the French army during the Seven Years’ War, and in the Russian army during the first war of Catharine II. against the Turks, was recalled to his country under the administration of Struensee, to take a part in the reform of the military establishment, and to conduct the negotiation at Petersburgh, respecting the claims of the Imperial family to the dutchy of Holstein. He was involved in the fall of Struensee, and was, without trial, doomed to imprisonment for life at Munkholm, a fortress situated on a rock opposite to Drontheim. After five years’ imprisonment he was released, and permitted to live, first at Montpellier, and afterwards at Lausanne, at which last city (with the exception of one journey to Copenhagen) he past the latter part of his life, and where he died in September, 1820, in the eighty-third year of his age. He left his Memoirs for publication to his friend, M. Secretan, First Judge of the canton of Vaud.
[* ] Reprinted by the late learned and exemplary Mr. Rennell of Kensington. London, 1824.
[* ] Communicated by him to M. Secretan on the 7th of March, 1780.
[* ] An affection of the throat which precluded the passage of all nourishment.—Ed.
[* ] These particulars are not to be found in the printed debate, which copies the account of this discussion given in the Annual Register by Mr. Burke, written, like his other abstracts of Parliamentary proceedings, with the brevity and reserve, produced by his situation as one of the most important parties in the argument, and by the severe nations then prevalent on such publications.
[* ] This was written in 1826.—Ed.
[† ] They were re-established four years afterwards: but as this arose, not from the spirit of the nation, but from the advisers of the young King, who had full power to grant or withhold their restoration, the want of foresight is rather apparent than substantial.
[* ] From the Edinburgh Review, vol. xlv. p. 202.—Ed.
[* ] Note of Don Joseph Torrero and Don Jacques O’Dun, Lisbon, 1st April, 1762.—Annual Register.
[† ] Portugal did indeed accede to the Armed Neutrality; but it was not till the 15th of July, 1782 on the eve of a general peace.—Martens, Recueil de Traités, vol. ii. p. 208.
[‡ ] By the Treaty between France and Spain of the 19th August, 1796.—Martens, vol. vi. p. 656.
[* ] Treaties of Badajoz, 6th of June; of Madrid, 20th of September, 1801.—Martens, Supplément, vol. ii. pp. 340, 539.
[† ] Schoëll, Histoire Abrégée des Traités de Paix, &c., vol. ix. p. 110.
[* ] Count Palmella.—Ed.
[* ] Proclamations from Villa Francha of the 31st of May and 3d of June.
[† ] Of the 18th of June.
[* ] Gazeta de Lisbon, of the 15th of November.
[* ] Gazeta de Lisbon, of the 7th of March.
[* ] This was written in the month of December, 1826, before the plan for conciliating the two opposite political parties by means of a matrimonial alliance between Donna Maria and her uncle was abandoned.—Ed.
[* ] Diario Fluminense, of the 20th of May.
[† ] Ibid. 3d of May.
[* ] This character formed the chief part of a discourse delivered at Bombay soon after the decease of Lord Cornwallis.
[* ] The facility with which he applied his sound and strong understanding to subjects the most distant from those which usually employed it is proved in a very striking manner by a fact which ought not to be forgotten by those who wish to form an accurate estimate of this venerable nobleman. The Company’s extensive investment from Bengal depended in a great measure on manufactures, which had fallen into such a state of decay as to be almost hopeless. The Court of Directors warmly recommended this very important part of their interest to Marquis Cornwallis. He applied his mind to the subject with that conscientious zeal which always distinguished him as a servant of the public. He became as familiarly acquainted with its most minute details as most of those who had made it the business of their lives; and he has the undisputed merit of having retrieved these manufactures from a condition in which they were thought desperate.
[* ] Of Amiens.
[* ] Contributed to the “Keepsake of 1828, under the title of “Sketch of a Fragment of the History of the Nineteenth Century,” in which, as the Author announces in a notice prefixed to it, the temper of the future historian of the present times is affected.—Ed.
[* ] Lycidas.
[* ] Mr. (now Lord) Brougham is the person alruded to.—Ed.
[* ] Paradise Lost, Book II.—Ed.
[* ] It may be proper to remind the reader, that here the word “wit” is used in its ancient sense.
[* ] Iter ad Meccam, Oxford, 1789.
[* ] Published in 1816.—Ed.
[* ] Letter to the Editor, at the end of the volume.
[* ] He is usually placed with Languet and Althusen among the Monarchomists.
[* ] “The precious spark of liberty had been kindled and was preserved by the Puritans alone: and it was to this sect, whose principles appear so frivolous and habits so ridiculous, that the English owe the whole freedom of their constitution.”—Hume, History of England, chap. xl. This testimony to the merits of the Puritans, from the mouth of their enemy, must be owned to be founded in exaggeration. But if we allow them to have materially contributed to the preservation of English liberty, we must acknowledge that the world owes more to the ancient Puritans than to any other sect or party among men.
[* ] From the Edinburgh Review, vol. xxvii. p. 207.—Ed.
[* ] Politics, lib. v. c. iii.
[† ] Among other proofs of the esteem in which he was held by those who knew his character, we may refer to the affectionate letters of Guicciardini, who, however independent his own opinions were, became, by his employment under the Popes of the House of Medici, the supporter of their authority, and consequently a political opponent of Machiavel, the most zealous of the Republicans.
[* ] In the Dissertation prefixed to the Encyclopædia Britannica.—Ed.
[* ] De Legat. lib. iii. c. ix.
[* ] From the Edinb. Rev. vol. xxv. p. 485.—Ed.
[* ] A great-grandson of Daniel De Foe, of the same name, is now a creditable tradesman in Hungerford Market in London. His manners give a favourable impression of his sense and morals. He is neither unconscious of his ancestor’s fame, nor ostentatious of it.
[* ] This plural use of ‘acquaintance’ is no doubt abundantly warranted by the example of Dryden, the highest authority in a case of diction, of any single English writer: but as the usage is divided, the convenience of distinguishing the plural from the singular at first sight seems to determine, that the preferable plural is “acquaintances.”
[* ] Who intended to have procured a permanent provision for her. She was presented with fifty guineas by Queen Caroline.
[* ] The strange misrepresentations, long prevalent among ourselves respecting the slow progress of Milton’s reputation, sanctioned as they were both by Johnson and by Thomas Warton, have produced ridiculous effects abroad. On the 16th of November, 1814, a Parisian poet named Campenon was, in the present unhappy state of French literature, received at the Academy as the successor of the Abbé Delille. In his Discours de Réception, he speaks of the Abbé’s translation “de ce Paradis Perdu, dont l’Agleterre est si fière depuis qu’elle a cessé d’en ignorer le mérite.” The president M. Regnault de St. Jean d’Angely said that M. Delille repaid our hospitality by translating Milton,—“en doublant ainsi la célébrué du Poete; dont le génie a inspiré à l’Angleterre un si tardif mais si légitime orgueil.”
[* ] Prologue to Comus.—Ed.
[* ] In the Epistle to a Friend.—Ed.
[* ] From the Edinburgh Review, vol. xxii. p. 168.—Ed.
[* ] Written in 1813.—Ed.
[* ] Absalom and Achitophel.—Ed.
[† ] Part ii., chap. 1, 2.
[* ] Part i. chap. 4.
[* ] Coppet, near Geneva.
[* ] Probably Mr. William Taylor, of Norwich.—Ed.
[* ] The observation may be applied to Cicero and Stewart, as well as to Mad. de. Staël.