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the aggressions of France on this country and other nations to the corrupt ambition of a court; and anticipating tranquillity from her renovated state, rejoiced at a change that foreboded peace to Britain and to Europe. *
The first avowed censurers of the French revolution were men whose talents and characters did not give much authority to their opinions, and they had not discovered strong arguments. The ablest men on the side of Administration abstained from delivering any opinion concerning the internal proceedings of a foreign state, which had not then interfered with our's. Ability was chiefly in support of the change among our neighbours, as far as opinions had been declared. While men of generous sentiments in Britain favoured the liberty of France; while men of genius approved of what they conceived consonant to their own political theories, or habits of reasoning; while sanguine statesmen prognosticated a new and
See Fox's Speech on the Army Estimates, Feb. 1790.'
happy order of things to the nations whose interests were the subjects of their thoughts, WISDOM attempted to correct the errors and restrain the excesses of benevolent sentiments, to prevent the prevalence of partial theories, to make not metaphysics, but experience the guide to judgment; and to teach men, from the whole circumstances of the case, what judgment to form.
Burke, as the friend of mankind, had reprobated the old government of France: although he thought it in the reign of Louis the Sixteenth softened in its exercise by the progress of civilization, and the personal character of the monarch, still he deemed the welfare of the people to rest on an unstable basis, and to require very considerable reform before it could be a good government. But esteeming arbitrary power a great evil, he knew that unwise efforts to shake it off might produce greater calamities. Respecting the spirit of liberty, as, when well directed and regulated, a means of human happiness, his respect for it in every indi
vidual case was proportionate to its probable tendency to produce that end, where he had not actual experience to ascertain its effects. From principle and habit, guided by EXPERIENCE in his judgments and conduct, he considered liberty as a matter of moral enjoyment, and not of metaphysical disquisition. It was not merely the possession of it that constituted it a blessing, but the possession of it in such a degree, and with such regulations, as could make it subsidiary to virtue and happiness, without being able to produce vice and misery. Its operation as a blessing or a curse depended, he thought, partly on its intrinsic nature, partly on the character of its subjects, and partly on more extrinsic causes. He uniformly controverted those doctrines of the Rights of Man, which would allow the same degree of liberty to all persons and in all circumstances. Like Livy, he did not think a horde of barbarians equally fitted for the contests of freedom, as men in a more advanced state of knowledge and civilization. Neither did he conceive that every one state, though refined, was
equally fit for the beneficial exercise of liberty, as every other state not more refined. The controul, he thought, must be strong in the direct ratio of passion, as well as the inverse of knowledge and reason.‘I DO NOT (he said) REJOICE TO HEAR THAT MEN MAY
DO WHAT THEY PLEASE, UNLESS I KNOW WHAT IT PLEASES THEM TO DO. And in another place, SOCIETY CANNOT EXIST UN
LESS A CONTROULING POWER UPON WILL AND APPETITE BE PLACED SOMEWHERE; AND THE LESS OF IT THERE IS WITHIN, THE MORE THERE MUST BE WITHOUT. IT IS ORDAINED IN THE ETERNAL CONSTITUTION OF THINGS, THAT MEN OF INTEMPERATE MINDS CANNOT BE FREE. THEIR PASSIONS FORGE THEIR FETTERS.
Mr. Burke having long viewed with anxiety the new philosophy become fashionable in France, bestowed the most accurate attention on the designs of its votaries as they gradually unfolded themselves. In 1787 the noted Mr. Thomas Paine had been introduced to him by a letter from Mr. Henry
Lawrence, and was treated by Burke with the hospitality which he thought due to an American stranger so recommended. was frequently a visitor at Beaconsfield, and then informed his host that he had entirely given up politics, and was devoting his attention to mechanical enquiries. He had a model of an iron bridge, which he wished to be seen by eminent characters of Mr. Burke's acquaintance: Burke introduced him to Mr. Windham, Lord Fitzwilliam, the Duke of Bedford, and, during a summer's excursion to Yorkshire, he went with him to Rotheram's original manufactory at Sheffield. Not long after he spent the day with him at Lord Fitzwilliam's.
At this time Paine continued to abstain from political discussions. The following winter he went over to France, and became deeply connected with the anti-monarchical partisans at Paris. Returning in 1788 to England, his discourse took a new turn. Calling frequently on Burke, he endeavoured to impress on him the views which he himself