« AnteriorContinuar »
And here let me express my zealous thanks for the spirit and beauty with which you have pursued, through all its details, the course of martial policy which you recommend. Too much praise cannot be given to this which is the great body of your work. I hope that it will not be lost upon your countrymen. But (as I said before) I rather wish to dwell upon those points in which I am dissatisfied with your Let me then come at once to a fundamental principle. You maintain, that as the military power of France is in progress, ours must be so also, or we must perish. In this I agree with you. Yet you contend also, that this increase or progress can only be brought about by conquests permanently established upon the Continent; and, calling in the doctrines of the writers upon the law of nations to your aid, you are for beginning with the conquest of Sicily, and so on, through Italy, Switzerland, etc. etc. Now it does not appear to me, though I should rejoice heartily to see a British army march from Calabria, triumphantly, to the heart of the Alps, and from Holland to the centre of Germany,—yet it does not appear to me that the conquest and permanent possession of these countries is necessary either to produce those resources of men or money which the security and prosperity of our country requires. All that is absolutely needful, for either the one or the other, is a large, experienced, and seasoned army, which we cannot possess without a field to fight in, and that field must be somewhere upon the Continent. Therefore, as far as concerns ourselves and our security, I do not think that so wide a space of conquered country is desirable; and, as a patriot, I have no wish for it. If I desire it, it is not for our sakes directly, but for the benefit of those unhappy nations whom we should rescue, and whose prosperity would be reflected back upon ourselves. Holding these notions, it is natural, highly as I rate the importance of military power, and deeply as I feel its necessity for the protec
tion of every excellence and virtue, that I should rest my hopes with respect to the emancipation of Europe more upon moral influence, and the wishes and opinions of the people of the respective nations, than you appear to do. As I have written in my pamphlet, "on the moral qualities of a people must its salvation ultimately depend. Something higher than military excellence must be taught as higher; something more fundamental, as more fundamental." Adopting the opinion of the writers upon the laws of nations, you treat of conquest as if conquest could in itself, nakedly and abstractedly considered, confer rights. If we once admit this proposition, all morality is driven out of the world. We conquer Italy—that is, we raise the British standard in Italy, and, by the aid of the inhabitants, we expel the French from the country, and have a right to keep it for ourselves. This, if I am not mistaken, is not only implied, but explicitly maintained in your book. Undoubtedly, if it be clear that the possession of Italy is necessary for our security, we have a right to keep possession of it, if we should ever be able to master it by the sword. But not because we have gained it by conquest, therefore may we keep it; no; the sword, as the sword, can give no rights; but because a great and noble nation, like ours, cannot prosper or exist without such possession. If the fact were so, we should then have a right to keep possession of what by our valour we had acquired-not otherwise. If these things were matter of mere speculation, they would not be worth talking about; but they are not so. The spirit of conquest, and the ambition of the sword, never can confer true glory and happiness upon a nation that has attained power sufficient to protect itself. Your favourites, the Romans, though no doubt having the fear of the Carthaginians before their eyes, yet were impelled to carry their arms out of Italy by ambition far more than by a rational apprehension of the danger of their condition. And how did they enter upon their career?
By an act of atrocious injustice. You are too well read in history for me to remind you what that act was. The same disregard of morality followed too closely their steps everywhere. Their ruling passion, and sole steady guide, was the glory of the Roman name, and the wish to spread the Roman power. No wonder, then, if their armies and military leaders, as soon as they had destroyed all foreign enemies from whom anything was to be dreaded, turned their swords upon each other. The ferocious cruelties of Sylla and Marius, of Catiline, and of Antony and Octavius, and the despotism of the empire, were the necessary consequences of a long course of action pursued upon such blind and selfish principles. Therefore, admiring as I do your scheme of martial policy, and agreeing with you that a British military power may, and that the present state of the world requires that it ought to be, predominant in Italy, and Germany, and Spain; yet still, I am afraid that you look with too much complacency upon conquest by British arms, and upon British military influence upon the Continent, for its own sake. Accordingly, you seem to regard Italy with more satisfaction than Spain. I mean you contemplate our possible exertions in Italy with more pleasure, merely because its dismembered state would probably keep it more under our sway-in other words, more at our mercy. Now, I think there is nothing more unfortunate for Europe than the condition of Germany and Italy in these respects. Could the barriers be dissolved which have divided the one nation into Neapolitans, Tuscans, Venetians, etc., and the other into Prussians, Hanoverians, etc., and could they once be taught to feel their strength, the French would be driven back into their own land immediately. I wish to see Spain, Italy, France, Germany, formed into independent nations; nor have I any desire to reduce the power of France further than may be necessary for that end. Woe be to that country whose military power is irresistible! I
deprecate such an event for Great Britain scarcely less than for any other Land. Scipio foresaw the evils with which Rome would be visited when no Carthage should be in existence for her to contend with. If a nation have nothing to oppose or to fear without, it cannot escape decay and concussion within. Universal triumph and absolute security soon betray a State into abandonment of that discipline, civil and military, by which its victories were secured. If the time should ever come when this island shall have no more formidable enemies by land than it has at this moment by sea, the extinction of all that it previously contained of good and great would soon follow. Indefinite progress, undoubtedly, there ought to be somewhere; but let that be in knowledge, in science, in civilization, in the increase of the numbers of the people, and in the augmentation of their virtue and happiness. But progress in conquest cannot be indefinite; and for that very reason, if for no other, it cannot be a fit object for the exertions of a people, I mean beyond certain limits, which, of course, will vary with circumstances. My prayer, as a patriot, is, that we may always have, somewhere or other, enemies capable of resisting us, and keeping us at arm's length. Do I, then, object that our arms shall be carried into every part of the Continent? No such is the present condition of Europe, that I earnestly pray for what I deem would be a mighty blessing. France has already destroyed, in almost every part of the Continent, the detestable governments with which the nations have been afflicted; she has extinguished one sort of tyranny, but only to substitute another. Thus, then, have the countries of Europe been taught, that domestic oppression, if not manfully and zealously repelled, must sooner or later be succeeded by subjugation from without; they have tasted the bitterness of both cups, have drunk deeply of both. Their spirits are prepared for resistance to the foreign tyrant, and with our help I think they may shake him off, and,
under our countenance, and following (as far as they are capable) our example, they may fashion to themselves, making use of what is best in their own ancient laws and institutions, new forms of government, which may secure posterity from a repetition of such calamities as the present age has brought forth. The materials of a new balance of power exist in the language, and name, and territory of Spain, in those of France, and those of Italy, Germany, Russia, and the British Isles. The smaller States must disappear, and merge in the large nations and wide-spread languages. The possibility of this remodelling of Europe I see clearly; earnestly do I pray for it; and I have in my mind a strong conviction that your invaluable work will be a powerful instrument in preparing the way for that happy issue. Yet, still, we must go deeper than the nature of your labour requires you to penetrate. Military policy merely will not perform all that is needful, nor mere military virtues. If the Roman state was saved from overthrow, by the attack of the slaves and of the gladiators, through the excellence of its armies, yet this was not without great difficulty; and Rome would have been destroyed by Carthage, had she not been preserved by a civic fortitude in which she surpassed all the nations of the earth. The reception which the Senate gave to Terentius Varro, after the battle of Cannae, is the sublimest event in human history. What a contrast to the wretched conduct of the Austrian government after the battle at Wagram! England requires, as you have shown so eloquently and ably, a new system of martial policy; but England, as well as the rest of Europe, requires what is more difficult to give it, a new course of education, a higher tone of moral feeling, more of the grandeur of the imaginative faculties, and less of the petty processes of the unfeeling
Totis imperii viribus consurgitur," says the historian, speaking of the war of the gladiators.-W. W.