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false philosophy of Bolingbroke; and on his return from France, of that of Helvetius, Voltaire, and Rousseau, to social order; he had, in his Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, animadverted on the political speculations then disseminated in this country, and had reprobated the reasoning of men, who pursued the same object with himself, because they argued from ideal notions of the Rights of Man. He had perceived the notions spreading, not only among those who had talents and learning for such disquisitions,* but into clubs and societies, of which many of the members could not be competent judges of metaphysics, and might be led by wild and misunderstood theories to the most speculatively erroneous and practically hurtful opinions and sentiments concerning the constitution of this country. He argued from the same principle respecting this country, that he had done in the case of America, and was doing in the case of France:-TRUST NOT UNTRIED SPECULA
Dr. Price and Dr, Priestley.
TIONS: ADHERE TO THE LESSONS OF EXPERI
ENCE. This was the corner-stone of his political reasoning. HE, AT THAT VÉRY
EARLY STAGE OF IT, WITH SAGACITY ALMOST
PROPHETIC, DISCOVERED, in its operations, principles, and spirit, a tendency to THOSE
VERY EFFECTS NOW KNOWN TO EUROPE BY
recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the Rights of Man. Their conduct was marked by a savage and unfeeling barbarity. They had no other system than a determination to destroy all order, subvert all arrangement, and reduce every rank and description of men to one level. Their signal of attack was the warwhoop; their liberty was licentiousness, and their religion atheism.' Burke concluded this first public discussion on the French revolution with a very high and just eulogium on the genius and dispositions of his friend Fox It was in reply to this speech that Fox, after expressing his esteem and veneration for Burke, declared, that if he were to put all
the political information that he had gained from books, all that he had learned from science, or that the knowledge of the world and its affairs had taught him, into one scale; and the improvement he had derived from Mr. Burke's conversation and instruction into the other; the latter would preponderate. Still, however, he could not agree with the opinion of his friend respecting the French revolution, at which he rejoiced, as an emancipation from despotism. He declared himself as much an enemy to democratical despotism, as to aristocratical or monarchical; but he did not apprehend that the new constitution of France would degenerate into tyranny of • He was any sort. (he said) a friend only to a mixed government like our own, in which, if the aristocracy, or indeed any of the three branches, were destroyed, the good effects of the whole, and the happiness derived under it, would, in his mind, be at an end.'
Sheridan expressed his disapprobation of the remarks and reasonings of Burke on this
subject much more strongly than Fox had done. He thought them quite inconsistent with the general principles and conduct of so constant and powerful a friend of liberty ; and one who so highly valued the British government and revolution. Indignation and abhorrence of the revolution in France he thought not consonant with the admiration of that of England. Detesting the cruelties that had been committed, he imputed them to the natural resentment of a populace for long suffered and long felt oppression. He praised the National Assembly as the dispensers of good to their own country and other nations. The National Assembly (he said) had exerted a firmness and perseverance, hitherto unexampled, that had secured the liberty of France, and vindicated the cause of mankind. What action of theirs authorised the appellation of a bloody, ferocious, and tyrannical democracy?' Burke perceiving Sheridan's view of affairs in France to be totally different from his, disapproving particularly of the opinion, that there was a resemblance between the principles of the
revolutions in France and in England, and thinking his friend's construction of his observations uncandid, declared, that Mr. Sheridan and he were from that moment separated for ever in politics. Mr. Sheridan (he said) has sacrificed my frindship in exchange for the applause of clubs and associations: I assure him he will find the acquisition too insignificant to be worth the price at which it is purchased.'
With a mind, from such a range of knowledge, and such powers of investigation and induction, so principled, as he possessed, Burke had, from the beginning, betaken himself to consider the series of the French proceedings; and to procure from every quarter such information as could enable him to understand the several parts, and comprehend the whole. The accurate Editor of his Posthumous Works informs us, that he desired all persons of his acquaintance, who were going to Paris (and curiosity attracted many) to bring him whatever they could collect, of the greatest circulation,