Imágenes de páginas

If ever there was a war begun and carried to its close with the hearty concurrence of the nation, it was the late war with France. We appeal to every person who remembers the beginning of the French Revolution, whether, if the question of peace or war had been referred to the people of England and decided by universal suffrage, Mr. Pitt would have found one dissentient voice in a thousand ? The question completely broke up an opposition, which, till then, had vearly equipoised the weight of the mmistry; the few who remained with Mr. Fox sunk at once from the rank and character of à party to that of a faction as feeble as they were unpopular,--s0 feeble, indeed, and so utterly insignificant in the scale, that they took the memorable step of seceding from Parliament. The principle of loyalty was triumphant even to intolerance; in most parts of England the appellations of republican and jacobin were sufficient to mark a man for public odium, perhaps for personal danger, persecution and ruin: government was supported and even impelled by public opinion; and there is perhaps no instance in history wherein a nation has been more unanimous than the British nation in the great and decisive measure of declaring war against the French republic. The records of parliament, the addresses and associations are unanswerable proofs of this. None but they who are entirely unacquainted with the transactions of those times can believe that the war was undertaken against the opinion of the people ; and the writers and orators who assert it, make the impudent assertion either in utter ignorance or in utter contempt of truth.

Thus much concerning the commencement of hostilities, at which time, if the government of England had been a pure democracy, and the people had given their votes by themselves instead of their representatives, the majority in favour of that measure would have been even more apparent than it was. As for the justice of the war,

had it been undertaken for no other purpose than that of weakening France, by dismembering it, England would have been justified by the conduct of France in the struggle with America. But it rests upon better ground. It has been asserted, with reference to this subject, that one nation has no right to interfere with the internal arrangements of another; and this assertion is to this day repeated, as if it were an axiom in political morality. But as M. de Puisaye, who demolishes the arguments built upon this sandy foundation, has well observed—it is with the independence of nations as with the liberty of individuals-Ithey have a right to do every thing which involves no wrong to others. So long as my neighbour demeans himself conformably to the laws his conduct is

concern of mine: but if he convert his house into a brothel, or commence a manufactory there which should poison my family


v.ith us.

with its unwholesome stench, I prosecute him for a nuisance. If he should think proper to take an air-bath in the street before my windows, his natural liberty would be restrained by the wholesome discipline of Bedlam or of the beadle; and if he were to set his house on fire, the services of the finisher of the law would be required. Just such are the relations of one country to another. With the internal arrangements of any neighbouring people we have nothing to do, as long as their arrangements have nothing to do

Should they be seized with inadness, bite one another, and turn the whole land into one miserable Bedlam, God restore them to their senses, we cannot. But if this Bedlam breaks loose, and its inhabitants insist upon biting us, there is no alternative but that of resorting to those measures which unhappily are the only substitute for law between nations when they differ; wars, as Lord Bacon says, being suits of appeal to the tribunal of God's justice, when there is none on earth to decide the cause.' That the French were in a state of madness, is what all Frenchmen of every party have confessed since they came to their senses after the reign of terror,or of cowardice, as one of their own countrymen has more properly called it: and that they invited other nations to follow their example by a decree, promising assistance to any people who should rise to vindicate the rights of men, can be no matter of dispute, for the fact is recorded in history.

There may be some who question the policy of the war, however just the motives for which it was commenced, and there may be some ground for criticizing the manner in which it was con*ducted, with a view to what was, or ought to have been its main, or rather exclusive object; but only those persons who set truth at defiance and are incapable of shame will assert that it was unpopular. It was a war by acclamation, in which the people went with the government heart and hand. In its progress many errors were committed; so that if men had looked to the conduct of the allies, their discordant views and their deplorable counsels, they might, without hesitation, have pronounced the contest hopeless, had they not perceived on the other hand a constant and reasonable cause for hope in the condition of France itself. For in the course of the French revolution one excess succeeded another, each more extravagant than that which went before it; follies were generated by follies, crimes begot crimes, and horrors were produced by the monstrous intermixture of both, such as former times had never seen, not in the most barbarous countries, not in the fiercest ages of superstition, not under the most execrable tyrannies. If depletion be a remedy for raging madness, it might have been thought that blood enough was let by their own executioners to restore this frantic nation to its seoses. It was impossible that so unnatural a

P 3

stato the war.

state should be permanent, certain that the great body of the people must desire rest and security above all other things, more than probable that when they were wearied with sufferings and with changes they would look to a restoration of the exiled family as the easiest and surest means of putting an end to them. Many occasions offered in which this object might have been effected had there been less treachery and less imbecility in the councils of the emi grant princes, and more wisdom and more decision in the allied cabinets. These opportunities were lost; and when in the tenth year of the war, the spirit of jacobinism was burnt out in France, and in the regular progress of revolutions a military government had been established upon the wreck of principles and institutions, the peace

of Amiens was made. As the war had been eminently popular at its commencement, so was the peace of Amiens made in entire concurrence with the general wishes of the people. Not that the great majority believed it would be permanent, but because they thought it on every account proper that the experiment should be made. The minority which followed Lord Grenville and Mr. Windham in condemning it, was even smaller than that which had sided with Mr. Fox in reprobating the war : but the weight of their arguments was felt, and they manifested a sensibility for the honour of the country, and a warmth for its interests which sunk deep in the public mind. The danger from jacobinism seemed to be gone by; there remained no other vestige of it in France than the wreck which it had brought about: the French nation was returning to its old fondness for tinsel and gold chains; the Eternal Republic had already past from the despotism of many to the despotism of one; it was evident that the First Consul might exchange his mongrel title whenever he thought fit for that of Grand Monarque, Emperor, or Arch-emperor, if it liked him better; and there was good reason for supposing, or rather no reason to doubt, that his inclinations were taking that course. There was therefore nothing to apprehend from France on the score of political contagion; the practical lectures which had been read upon jacobinism in that country might have been thought sufficient to undeceive mankind till the very end of time. But a new danger had grown out of the war to which that principle had given rise. What was the position in which France was left at its termination? What were the views of the French government, and what was the personal character of the individual by whose sole will it was directed ? The political system of Europe had been fearfully dislocated by

France had accomplished that which for a century and a half it had been the great object of English policy to prevent. She had obtained possession of the Netherlands, extended her fron


tier to the Rbine, and held Holland on one side and Italy on the other, in actual dependance. Switzerland also—unoffending and happy Switzerland, the asylum of literature, liberty and peace, which during three centuries of contention had been respected as the sacred territory of Christendom--Switzerland also had been added, by an act of atrocious aggression, to the dependencies of France. All or more than all that Louis XIV. attempted had been effected. Was it likely, was it in the nature of things that France should stop here? Ambition is one of those passions which are stimulated, not satiated by indulgence. And this nation was habilually ambitious, habitually fond of war, politic in council, acting fervently and perseveringly amid all internal changes upon one system of aggrandizement, and pursuing its purposes, even in the best ages of its history, equally without faith and without remorse. The French were now surrounded with their trophies, and intoxicated with their triumphs ; had there been no other cause, their national character and the known policy which had so long actuated all their governments, must have made reflecting persons doubt the continuance of a peace concluded under such circumstances with such a people. But to increase these appréhensions France possessed a portentous military force, the greatest which had ever been seen in the civilized world, perfectly organized, in the highest state of discipline, and under generals whose talents were believed to be incomparable, and who were at the very height of military renown. • If the clouds be full of rain,' says Solomon, they empty themselves upon the earth.' War, to which the French, more than any other people, had always been inclined, had become the national passion, the preferable—or rather the only road to wealth, honour and distinction: and there no longer existed upon the continent any counterpoise to the power of this restless, politic and elated people. Austria had come out of the struggle with loss of territory, diminished reputation, and exhausted resources. But the contest wbich had impoverished Austria and loaded England with an enormous debt, had been to France a source of revenue as well as power; for the French, beginning with bankruptcy at home, had proceeded abroad upon the maxim of Machiavelli, that men and arms will find money and provide for themselves. And as the officers and soldiers had been trained in the revolution, the principles which they had learnt in that ferocious school might render them as dangerous at home to the adventurer for monarchy as they would be powerful instruments for carrying into effect his wider plans of foreign usurpation. It was to be apprehended then, that both from motives of political and personal prudence the First Consul would employ these turbulent spirits in their vocation. Louis XVI. the most benevolent, the most truly religious, the most


conscientious of the Bourbon kings, engaged in hostilities against this country for no other reason than that the contest in America offered an opportunity for aggrandizing France by weakening England. Could we suppose that the First Consul would be more scrupulous, and let pass any occasion of gratifying the old enmity of France, and avenging himself upon the ouly people by whom he had ever been baffled in his career ? Was he so just, so pious, so humane, that we might rely upon his faithful observance of treaties, and his love of peace ?

Sir William Temple, a man of great sagacity and much political experience, observes that he never could find a better way of judging the resolutions of a state, than by the personal temper and understanding, or passions and humours of the princes or chief ministers that were for the time at the head of affairs.' This observation holds good even in free governments : with how much greater force must it apply to a country where every thing is decided by the will and pleasure of an individual! In such a country the course of its politics can be inferred solely from the character of that individual. How far then had the character of Buonaparte been developed at this time?

The English are a generous people. However much they might regret the course of adverse fortune in which they had been engaged, they did not regard the First Consul with any invidious feeling because he had been their successful enemy. They had rendered full justice to Washington under more humiliating circumstances : even those persons who disapproved in principle the cause in which he triumphed, regarded this excellent man with admiration and re

There were causes also which might make men of opposite parties agree in the wish that Buonaparte should not be found wanting in the scale; so that when they weighed him in their own judgment, there was a bias given, perhaps unconsciously, to the balance in his favour. The disciples of the revolution reconciled themselves to the disappointment of their republican hopes, by considering that the First Consul was a child of the revolution(the Jupiter of that Saturn which had devoured its elder children) that he prevented the restoration of the Bourbons, governed in the name, at least, of the people, and still talked of liberty and philosophy. The enemies of the Revolution saw more accurately that Buonaparte had destroyed republicanism in France, and as they had now given up the Bourbons, whose cause indeed they had never supported either wisely or consistently, it would be some consolation for the failure of their plans, if the man with whom they had treated should prove worthy of the rank in which they had recognized him as legitimately established. But with what aspects had this Lucifer of the age risen above the horizon? His career



« AnteriorContinuar »