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The Rev. Dr. Russel, of Leith, is preparing for the press, two Octavo Volumes, to fill up the Interval between the Works of Shuckford and Prideaux, on the Sacred and Profane History of the World Connected.
FOR FEBRUARY, 1825.
ART. I.-Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe from the Peace of Utrecht. 4to. 571 pp. 27. 10s. Murray. 1824.
THIS handsome volume is attributed to Lord John Russell; and the aristocratical appearance of the book, as well as its sensible and gentlemanlike contents, are worthy of the reputed father. The dimensions, both of the paper and the narrative, are too gigantic for our taste: the former will ensure Lord John Russell a niche in the next edition of the "Library Companion;" the latter, devoting nearly six hundred pages to the events of eight years, lead us to apprehend that it will require fifty formidable quartos to complete his Lordship's undertaking. But not to dwell upon this magnificent prospect, we hasten to introduce our readers to the quarto of the day; and if they wish to improve their acquaintance with Louis XIV. and Cardinal Alberoni, if they wish to know a little about Queen Anne, and George the 1st, and a great deal about the Regent Duke of Orleans; if they are desirous of seeing what can be made of modern whiggism in the hands of a well-informed and amiable young nobleman, they cannot do better than apply to the volume before us.
The Introduction is not encouraging. It resembles a dissertation in the Edinburgh Review, or the substance of a speech against the Holy Alliance. It wants originality, and it wants compression. By teaching us what inferences to draw from the history of modern Europe, it gives a political, not to say a partial air, to the whole volume. And if the evil is counteracted by the writer's moderation and good sense, we still could be contented to dispense with the remedy, provided we might also dispense with the disease. There is an evident bias in the noble author's mind; and if it is to his honour as a man, that he avows and defends his predilections, it would have been to his honour as an historian, to renounce them. Take, for example, the accounts of
VOL. XXIII. FEBRUARY, 1895.
the French revolution, and the consequences of the monarchical principle, as professed by the continental sovereigns.
Unhappily, England joined, though doubtingly and tardily, in this crusade. She was influenced to do so by a great orator and great writer, who was not extremely unlike the apostle of the French revolution. For there are some points of resemblance between Rousseau and Burke. Both were men whose imagination outstripped their judgment; both had the faculty of dressing their thoughts in the most harmonious style ever employed in their respective languages. If Burke is more rich in imagery, Rousseau is more fraught with feeling; if Burke surprises and carries away by his splendid diction, Rousseau seems more natural, and has been more successful in contriving that art which does so much should appear to do nothing. Both Rousseau and Burke exalted the idols of their own fancy; Rousseau painted with brilliant colours an age of savage simplicity which in his sober hours he knew never had existed: Burke took for his favourite illusion the happiness of an age of chivalry, whose best features live only in romance. The one called upon the world in its manhood to regret that period of its infancy when arts were unknown, and the hides of wild beasts were the only covering for the body; the other endeavoured to restore and to preserve the remains of the dark and dismal times of the middle ages, when Europe was barbarous and miserable. Yet both these authors could call to their assistance the soundest maxims of reason; the most profound doctrines of philosophy: Rousseau availed himself of sentiments which nature inspires, and good sense approves; Burke combined with his most extravagant speculations, the most solemn decisions of law, and the practical lessons which a long contest for liberty had taught an enlightened nation. Thus each had a people for his proselytes, I fear I must add his victims. France, seduced by the visions of the Swiss philosopher, sunk into the most abominable vices in attempting to realize an unattainable pitch of virtue: England, rouzing at the trumpet of the Irish orator, made war upon a neighbouring country, because their people had become too frantic and too wicked to be amicably treated with. Thus, at the close of the eighteenth century, when the oracles of Delphi were laughed at, the leaves of the Sybil considered fabulous, and our rude ancestors despised for following the call of Peter the Hermit; death and havoc made their harvest in every quarter of the world, because the two most enlightened nations of Europe abandoned themselves to the guidance of two splendid enthusiasts, of whom the one was evidently insane, and the other totally wanting in sound discretion." P. 53.
"While the means proposed by the sovereigns are thus inefficient for the purpose of promoting improvement, they are mighty and almost irresistible for the purpose of preventing it. If a people worn out by suffering, at length rise against their rulers, and demand a constitution in the only way it can be demanded with effect, videlicet, in arms, the allied monarchs have a million of troops ready
to restore despotic authority. The troops of the three great combined powers are always prepared to march to the assistance of any despotic monarch who may have lost his power by cruelty, or bigotry, or vice.
"Let us now pass to the consequences that flow from the adoption of principles so absurd and tyrannical. They are, as might have been expected, in contradiction to the maxims of common sense, dangerous to the repose of Europe, hostile to the rights of nations, and lead directly to a general confusion of all interests, laws, principles, and securities. A nation is to be incapable of deciding for itself upon its own grievances and wants. A sovereign at a thousand miles distance is to pronounce an infallible judgment upon them. A congress is to be held in Moravia or Carinthia or Lombardy, to discuss what are the best remedies for the abuses of power at Naples or Madrid. Three absolute sovereigns are to decide infallibly on the various forms and regulations of free government. The cabinets of Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Berlin, are to be entitled to judge, without appeal, of the real sentiments of the people at Genoa and Cadiz. Armies of Croats and Cossacks are to be marched from the most savage parts of the globe, to reform civilized nations, and put down in all extremities of Europe the example of revolution effected by military force. Excommunication, forfeiture, servitude, and proscription, are the penalties to be pronounced against legislative assemblies which do not conform in their political institutions to the standard of Muscovy, Brandenburgh, and Bohemia.
"It is impossible to say how far such a doctrine as this may be carried. The present sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, are not immortal. It is quite uncertain whether their successors may not have still more extravagant notions of the omnipotence of legitimate monarchy, and the duty of passive obedience; but with the example of their progenitors before them, they can entertain no doubt of the justice of forcing their opinions on other nations at the point of the bayonet. Nations, on the other hand, desirous of becoming or remaining free, will find that they have no chance of success unless they can excite the subjects of despotic monarchs to ask at the same time for liberal institutions. Their only hope of remaining in peace at home will be to excite insurrection abroad. Thus the whole family of Europe will be engaged in a dreadful species of hostilities, marked with all the calamities of civil war. Blood will flow not only in the field, but on the scaffold, and the victorious party will join the insolence of a foreign enemy, to the rancour of a domestic faction.
"Such is the melancholy prospect which the mistaken policy of the allies opens to Europe. They are about to renew the scenes of horror with which the bigotry of Philip the IInd and Charles the IXth afflicted mankind during the progress of the Reformation." P. 60.
In attributing the revolution to Rousseau, Lord John Russell merely mistakes a part for the whole; but in attributing the revolution-war to Burke alone, in calling the
people of England his victims, and in charging him with an endeavour to restore the remains of the dark and dismal ages, the author commits a graver fault, by indulging party prejudices or family spleen.
The account of the holy alliance is a caricature; and while we praise the caricaturist for speaking of the sovereigns themselves in very different language from that which has disgraced the House of Commons, we have still to regret that he personates an opposition member rather than a wellinformed independent thinker. Nobody defends the state papers of the allies. The monarchical principle in the hands of Prince Metternich, is as absurd as the republican principle in the hands of Mr. Bentham; and the consequences of either, legitimate and illegitimate, may be set down as equally mischievous. The Croats and Cossacks are fair game for Mr. Brougham, who delighted his hearers for a whole afternoon, by calling the Emperor of Russia a Calmuck. But the pupil of Mackintosh, and the ally of Lansdowne, ought not to have tarnished an historical treatise by the introduction of such vulgar wit. Lord John Russell might be expected to know, how little the principles of rational liberty are understood, out of Britain. The dislike of the monarchs to Spanish and Neapolitan constitutions, is the natural result of what they have suffered from French constitutions. The Foxes and the Russells of the last generation proclaimed the democracy of jacobin France to be the most glorious work of man. And when the fallacy of such assertions is discovered and admitted, when our Whigs are content to recommend limited monarchies, ought they to expect an immediate and unanimous assent to their proposal? With patience and moderation, we may convince the sovereigns of Europe that English liberty is not the forerunner of revolution. Violence will only tend to confirm the prejudices of the master, and rivet the chains of the slave. The present season of peace should be employed in communicating our wisdom to other nations; and they will not listen to our lessons, or submit to our reprehension, unless due allowance is made for their natural backwardness to learn, and our advice is conveyed in respectful terms. The sarcastic invectives of Brougham, and the dogged insolence of Hobhouse, alienate and disgust the monarchical party on the Continent. Lord John goes to work in a much better spirit, and sets his party an example of temper and dignity which they will do well to follow. But if he expects to instruct foreign princes, he must cease to be a party-man, and think with as much candour and moderation, as he now writes and speaks.