Imágenes de páginas

had recently formed concerning French affairs. People in general, he asserted, did not know the change.speedily about to take place in that country.

The French, he averred, were determined to surpass every nation in liberty, and to establish a pure democracy. Mr. Burke saw that this was not an opinion resulting from Paine's

penetration into principles and their probable effects, but from his knowledge of actually declared intentions. He was therefore the more certain that attempts' would be made to carry these designs into effect. Paine prophesied that the same species of liberty would be extended to other countries; and, led away by his wishes, fancied all Europe would unite in overturning monarchy. Whether of himself, or from the suggestion of his French friends, Paine expressed his wishes that the British Opposition should coincide in the republican views, and use parliamentary reform as the prelext. Burke answered to him, 'Do you mean to propose that I, who have all my life fought for the

constitution, should devote the wretched remains of my days to conspire its destruction ? Do not you know that I have always opposed the things called reform; to be sure, because I did not think them reform?' Paine, seeing Burke totally averse to his projects, forbore repetition. Burke, however, saw that Paine was well acquainted with the designs of the innovators; and from him learned many important facts, all tending to make a totally different impression on philosophic wisdom from that which they made on turbulent violence. The earliest particular information respecting the mischievous designs of the republican agitators communicated to Edmund Burke was by Thomas Paine.

Paine went to France early in 1789, and wrote several letters from Paris to Burke, explaining to him the schemes of the popular leaders. In one of these, dated July 11th, he copied a note just received from a distinguished American gentleman, at whose house the republican chiefs held their most confi

dential meetings. • The leaders (said the note) of the assembly surpass in patriotism; they are resolved to set fire to the four corners of France, rather than not reduce their principles to practice, to the last iota. Do not fear the army, we have gained them.' Here we see Mr. Burke learned from Paine, not only that they were determined to overthrow the existing orders, but that they had provided the most effectual means by debauching the

army from their duty. From Paine, indeed, he learned enough to render him inimical to the French revolution, even if his knowledge of it had been confined to the result of that person's communications. Paine left nothing in his power undone to show Mr. Burke how-odious and destructive a system might be expected from the French revolution. These are facts which I did not know when I wrote the first edition. The evidence by which they are supported is such as to render their authenticity incontrovertible; and it is certainly a singular circumstance in political biography, that so great a portion of Burke's dislike to the French revolution originated in the narratives of Thomas Paine.

But in considering the French revolution, Burke's expansive mind did not view parts only, but the whole. Had his consideration of it been partial, his sensibility might have been gratified by the emancipation of millions : but a sagacity, as penetrating as his views were comprehensive, had discovered to him the nature of those principles which guided the revolutionists, as well as the characters on which they were operating. The notions of liberty that were cherished by the French philosophy he knew to be speculative and visionary, and in no country to be reducible to salutary practice: that they proposed much less restraint than was necessary

govern any community of men, however hall, such as men are known from experience to be : he knew also that the volatile, impetuous, and violent character of the French required, in so great a nation, much closer restraints than that of many other states. Infused into their liberty was another


ingredient, which tended to make it much worse than it would have been in itself. From the same philosophy from which they had derived their extravagant. notions of freedom, they also received infidelity. Burke had, many years before, predicted that their joint operation, unless steadily guarded against, would overturn civil and religious establishments, and destroy all social order. This was the opinion which he had maintained of infidelity and speculative politics in general, in his Vindication of Natural Society, and in his Letter to the Sherif's of Bristol; and of French infidelity and speculative politics in particular, in his speech after returning from France in 177.3, and in all his speeches and writings, whenever the occasion required his admonition. With religion he foresaw that morals would fall; and that instead of, the old arbitrary government, which he thought might have been IMPROVED into a limited monarchy, at once combining religion, liberty, order, and virtue, a compound of impiety, anarchy, and wickedness would

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »