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INTRODUCTION. - 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 late opinions of Mr. Burke furnished more matter of astonishment to those who had distantly observed, than to those who had correctly examined, the system of his former political life. An abhorrence for abstract politics, a predilection for aristocracy, and a dread of innovation, have ever been among the most sacred articles of his public creed: and it was not likely that at his age he should abandon, to the invasion of audacious novelties, opinions which he had received so early, and maintained so long,—which had been fortified by the applause of the great, and the assent of the wise,—which he had dictated to so many illustrious pupils, and supported against so many distinguished opponents. Men who early attain eminence, repose in their first creed, to the neglect of the progress of the human mind subsequent to its adoption; and when, as in the present case, it has burst forth into action, they regard it as a transient madness, worthy only of pity or derison. They mistake it for a mountain torrent that will pass away with the storm that gave it birth: they know not that it is the stream of human opinion in omne volubilis ævum, which the accession of every day will swell, and which is destined to sweep into the same oblivion the resistance of learned sophistry, and of powerful oppression.
But there still remained ample matter of astonishment in the Philippic of Mr. Burke.* He might deplore the sanguinary excesses,—he might deride the visionary policy, that seemed to him to tarnish the lustre of the Revolution; but it was hard to suppose that he would exhaust against it every epithet of contumely and opprobrium that language can furnish to indignation; that the rage of his declamation would not for one moment be suspended, and that his heart would not betray one faint glow of triumph, at the splendid and glorious delivery of so great a people. All was invective: the authors and admirers of the Revolution,—every man who did not execrate it, even his own most enlightened and accomplished friends,—were devoted to odium and ignominy. The speech did not stoop to argument; the whole was dogmatical and authoritative: the cause seemed decided without discussion,—the anathema fulminated before trial.
But the ground of the opinions of this famous speech, which, if we may believe a foreign journalist, will form an epoch in the history of the eccentricities of the human mind, was impatiently expected in a work soon after announced. The name of the author, the importance of the subject, and the singularity of his opinions, all contributed to inflame the public curiosity, which, though it languished in a subsequent delay, has been revived by the appearance, and will be rewarded by the perusal of the work.*
It is certainly in every respect a performance, of which to form a correct estimate would prove one of the most arduous efforts of critical skill.
“We scarcely can praise it, or blame it too much.”†
Argument, every where dexterous and specious, sometimes grave and profound, clothed in the most rich and various imagery, and aided by the most pathetic and picturesque description, speaks the opulence and the powers of that mind, of which age has neither dimmed the discernment, nor enfeebled the fancy—neither repressed the ardour, nor narrowed the range. Virulent encomiums on urbanity and inflammatory harangues against violence, homilies of moral and religious mysticism, better adapted to the amusement than to the conviction of an incredulous age, though they may rouse the languor of attention, can never be dignified by the approbation of the understanding.
Of the senate and people of France, Mr. Burke’s language is such as might have been expected towards a country which his fancy has peopled only with plots, assassinations, and massacres, and all the brood of dire chimeras which are the offspring of a prolific imagination, goaded by an ardent and deluded sensibility. The glimpses of benevolence, which irradiate this gloom of invective, arise only from generous illusion,—from misguided and misplaced compassion. His eloquence is not at leisure to deplore the fate of beggared artisans, and famished peasants,—the victims of suspended industry, and languishing commerce. The sensibility which seems scared by the homely miseries of the vulgar, is attracted only by the splendid sorrows of royalty, and agonises at the slenderest pang that assails the heart of sottishness or prostitution, if they are placed by fortune on a throne.* To the English friends of French freedom, his language is contemptuous, illiberal, and scurrilous. In one of the ebbings of his fervour, he is disposed not to dispute “their good intentions:” but he abounds in intemperate sallies and ungenerous insinuations, which wisdom ought to have checked, as ebullitions of passion,—which genius ought to have disdained, as weapons of controversy.
The arrangement of his work is as singular as the matter. Availing himself of all the privileges of epistolary effusion, in their utmost latitude and laxity, he interrupts, dismisses, and resumes argument at pleasure. His subject is as extensive as political science: his allusions and excursions reach almost every region of human knowledge. It must be confessed that in this miscellaneous and desultory warfare, the superiority of a man of genius over common men is infinite. He can cover the most ignominious retreat by a brilliant allusion; he can parade his arguments with masterly generalship, where they are strong; he can escape from an untenable position into a splendid declamation; he can sap the most impregnable conviction by pathos, and put to flight a host of syllogisms with a sneer; absolved from the laws of vulgar method, he can advance a group of magnificent horrors to make a breach in our hearts, through which the most undisciplined rabble of arguments may enter in triumph.
Analysis and method, like the discipline and armour of modern nations, correct in some measure the inequalities of controversial dexterity, and level on the intellectual field the giant and the dwarf. Let us then analyse the production of Mr. Burke, and, dismissing what is extraneous and ornamental, we shall discover certain leading questions, of which the decision is indispensable to the point at issue. The natural order of these topics will dictate the method of reply. Mr. Burke, availing himself of the indefinite and equivocal term ‘Revolution,’ has altogether reprobated that transaction. The first question, therefore, that arises, regards the general expediency and necessity of a Revolution in France. This is followed by the discussion of the composition and conduct of the National Assembly, of the popular excesses which attended the Revolution, and of the new Constitution that is to result from it. The conduct of its English admirers forms the last topic, though it is with rhetorical inversion first treated by Mr. Burke; as if the propriety of approbation should be determined before the discussion of the merit or demerit of what was approved. In pursuance of this analysis, the following sections will comprise the substance of our refutation.
With this reply to Mr. Burke will be mingled some strictures on the late publication of M. de Calonne.* That minister, who has for some time exhibited to the eyes of indignant Europe the spectacle of an exiled robber living in the most splendid impunity, has, with an effrontery that beggars invective, assumed in his work the tone of afflicted patriotism, and delivers his polluted Philippics as the oracles of persecuted virtue. His work is more methodical than that of his coadjutor.* Of his financial calculations it may be remarked, that in a work professedly popular they afford the strongest presumption of fraud. Their extent and intricacy seem contrived to extort assent from public indolence; for men will rather believe than examine them. His inferences are so outrageously incredible, that most men of sense will think it more safe to trust their own plain conclusions than to enter such a labyrinth of financial sophistry. The only part of his production that here demands reply, is that which relates to general political questions. Remarks on what he has offered concerning them will naturally find a place under the corresponding sections of the reply to Mr. Burke. Its most important view is neither literary nor argumentative: it appeals to judgments more decisive than those of criticism, and aims at wielding weapons more formidable than those of logic. It is the manifesto of a Counter-Revolution, and its obvious object is to inflame every passion and interest, real or supposed, that has received any shock in the establishment of freedom. He probes the bleeding wounds of the princes, the nobility, the priesthood, and the great judicial aristocracy: he adjures one body by its dignity degraded, another by its inheritance plundered, and a third by its authority destroyed, to repair to the holy banner of his philanthropic crusade. Confident in the protection of all the monarchs of Europe, whom he alarms for the security of their thrones, and, having insured the moderation of a fanatical rabble, by giving out among them the savage war-whoop of atheism, he already fancies himself in full march to Paris, not to re-instate the deposed despotism (for he disclaims the purpose, and who would not trust such virtuous disavowals!) but at the head of this army of priests, mercenaries, and fanatics, to dictate, as the tutelary genius of France, the establishment of a just and temperate freedom, obtained without commotion and without carnage, and equally hostile to the interested ambition of demagogues and the lawless authority of kings. Crusades were an effervescence of chivalry, and the modern St. Francis has a knight for the conduct of these crusaders, who will convince Mr. Burke, that the age of chivalry is not past, nor the glory of Europe gone for ever. The Compte d’ Artois,† that scion worthy of Henry the Great, the rival of the Bayards and Sidneys, the new model of French knighthood, is to issue from Turin with ten thousand cavaliers, to deliver the peerless and immaculate Antoinetta of Austria from the durance vile in which she has so long been immured in the Tuilleries, from the swords of the discourteous knights of Paris, and the spells of the sable wizards of democracy.
[* ] The speech on the Army Estimates, 9th Feb. 1790.—Ed.
[* ] The Reflections on the Revolution in France published in 1790.—Ed.
[† ] Retaliation.—Ed.
[* ] “The vulgar clamour which has been raised with such malignant art against the friends of freedom, as the apostles of turbulence and sedition, has not even spared the obscurity of my name. To strangers I can only vindicate myself by defying the authors of such clamours to discover one passage in this volume not in the highest degree favourable to peace and stable government: those to whom I am known would, I believe, be slow to impute any sentiments of violence to a temper which the partiality of my friends must confess to be indolent, and the hostility of enemies will not deny to be mild. I have been accused, by valuable friends, of treating with ungenerous levity the misfortunes of the Royal Family of France. They will not however suppose me capable of deliberately violating the sacredness of misery in a palace or a cottage; and I sincerely lament that I should have been betrayed into expressions which admitted that construction.”—(Advertisement to the third edition.)—Ed.
[* ] De l’Etat de la France. London, 1790.—Ed.
[* ] It cannot be denied that the production of M. de Calonne is ‘eloquent, able,’ and certainly very ‘instructive’ in what regards his own character and designs. But it contains one instance of historical ignorance so egregious, that I cannot resist quoting it. In his long discussion of the pretensions of the Assembly to the title of a ‘National Convention,’ he deduces the origin of that word from Scotland, where he informs us (p. 328), “On lui donna le nom de Convention Ecossoise; le résultat de ses déliberations fut appellé ‘Covenant,’ et ceux qui l’avoient souscrit ou qui y adheroient ‘Covenanters!”’
[† ] ‘Ce digne rejeton du grand Henri.’—Calonne. Un nouveau modèle de la Chevalerie Françoise.’
Ibid. pp. 413—114.