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But enough of the Introduction. It would have occupied less attention, had it not enabled us to discover the principles of a writer with whom we are to undertake a long journey. If his principles had been simply bad, they would not have detained us a moment; the mixture of good and evil which we have endeavoured to point out required a more particular notice. The body of the work is less debateable ground. Lord John has studied the French memoir-writers, and engrafted their anecdotes upon the public history of the country with considerable tact. The character and court of Louis XIV. are well pourtrayed, though the abilities of the monarch are decidedly under-rated. He appears before us in his declining years, and fails to substantiate his right to the title even of a vulgar great man. It is true, that he was not really great. His ambition was mean and selfish. He loved power for its own sake, and renounced glory that he might enjoy flattery. His views were narrow, and his virtues and his vices were at a great distance from the sublime. Still, the Prince who so long governed Europe must have possessed a greater capacity than the present Memoirs assign to him; and it would be as fair to judge of Bonaparte by the retreat from Moscow, or the battle of Leipsic, as to overlook the early wars of Louis, and dwell upon the victories which the genius of Marlborough won from the old age of the King of France. We extract some of the concluding remarks upon, his reign.
"If we endeavour to sum up in our minds, the different parts of the government we have gone over, we shall be inclined to draw, as a result from the whole, that Louis the Fourteenth was an industrious, and even a benevolent ruler, but not endowed with genius to direct his industry or wisdom in the application of his benevolence. He excelled in those parts of administration, which are at the same time the least difficult and the least important; in equipping troops, in expending large sums upon magazines of war, in holding magnificent courts, and building sumptuous palaces. He failed in those larger and more lofty functions of sovereign power, which consist in providing for the happiness of a people; in giving equal protection to all classes; in allaying religious dissentions; in extending industry and commerce by liberal principles; in making taxation as light as certain, and as justly proportioned as possible; in laying the foundations of future prosperity to his kingdom, when he himself should If he augmented the territory of France, it was by destroying the sinews of her internal strength, and leaving his successors embarrassed by the obligations he had contracted. If he maintained domestic peace, he at the same time sowed the seeds of future discord, by augmenting the importance of his plebeian, and preserving at the same time the privileges of his noble subjects.
be no more.
The manufacturing and commercial classes, who in the course of a long internal tranquillity, acquired riches, intelligence, and knowledge, formed no part of the constitution of the monarchy; they were excluded from the pale of power, and became the natural favourers of those writers, who towards the end of the reign of Louis, were preparing to attack his fame, and ridicule the frame of government he had formed and established. This was a great and very obvious defect in his policy. All his attention had been directed to please, and at the same time depress his nobility; but in so doing, he raised another great body by their side, which he forgot to conciliate by privileges, and could no longer terrify by a display of force and authority.
"There are some measures, certainly, which it would be unjust to blame Louis for not effecting, as they required either the knowledge of a posterior age, or the intuition of a man of genius. But there are others which it is astonishing he should not have effected. He might have established a wise and certain system of taxation, that would have deprived his intendants of the arbitrary power they so much abused. He might, when in the summit of his power, have laid a foundation for taxing the nobles and the clergy, in due proportion to their wealth. He might have abolished the taille, the gabelle, and the corvées, and have subjected his people to the burdens of the state, in proportion, not to their rank, but to their wealth. He might have introduced a more humane code of laws, and assumed to the state the whole administration of justice, abolishing the authority and peculation of the petty lords. He would thus have united all classes in support of the monarchy, and paved the way for the tranquil introduction of those changes, which progressive time, and increased civilization might require." P. 235.
In the greater part of these observations we heartily
The second book commences with a sketch of the History of England, from the peace of Utrecht to the suppression of the rebellion in 1715. It is a period which requires to be treated with great delicacy by modern Whigs; and Lord John Russell approaches it with due caution. Having presented us with a summary of the reign of Louis, we expected that his Lordship would also furnish an account of the foreign politics of King William and Queen Anne, distinguishing them from the apparently similar course pursued in our own times, and by which his Lordship conceives that England became the victim of Mr. Burke ;-but we are disappointed. The condemnation of the Peace of Utrecht may be inferred from several observations, but the war which preceded it is not examined. Another ticklish question, the state of religion, is dismissed in the same way. The factions of the Jesuits and Jansenists are described with minuteness in the Memoirs of Louis; the state of the church and its opponents under Anne and George
is not taken into consideration. The Schism Bill gives óccasion for a passing sneer; the clergy are represented as halting between the Stuarts and the Georges, because the former were Catholics, and the latter were suspected of favouring the Dissenters; and a handsome panegyric upon Bishop Burnet is turned into a satire upon the rest of his order: And this is the whole that Lord John Russell knows, or chooses to know, of an age in which more injury was done to religion, than in the fanatical days of Barebones, or the profligate reign of Charles the IIď. But it was done by his own beloved Whigs, and their champion, too honest to deny the fact, contents himself with saying nothing about it.
In fact, he has business enough upon his hands from other quarters. By securing the Protestant succession, the Whigs of the last century performed an essential service; but it is the duty of an historian to state the means by which they performed it and we compassionate the noble author's distress, when he is obliged to allow, that the Whigs brought in their King against the sense of the nation, and secured him on his throne by proscription and impeachments. The Riot Act and the Septennial Act were necessary, as his Lordship proves, for the preservation of the country; yet it is entertaining to hear the question gravely discussed by a parliamentary reformer, and carried, as a matter of course, in the affirmative. The simple truth is, and the perusal of Lord John Russell's book will render it clearer than before, that the Whigs of Queen Anne, with the exception of their great tendency to infidelity and irreligion, exhibit a very close resemblance to the Tories of King George the IVth. Their continental war, their contempt of mobs, their strong measures for securing domestic tranquillity, and their determination to serve the people without yielding to popular clamour, are the best features of Lord Halifax's administration, as well as of Mr. Pitt's and the despicable Peace of Utrecht, the love of French alliance, the discordant views of Jacobites, Tories, and placemen, who served under Harley and Bolingbroke, and met the fate which they deserved, may find their counterpart in an opposition, of which some were genuine Whigs, and others radical Jacobins; of which some wanted power, and others wanted place; of which some loved France, either republican or Napoleonised, far better than a limited English monarchy, and which was ready in a body to sacrifice the honour of Britain and the independence of Europe, to a tyrant who had no merit, except his ability to do mischief. Lord John Russell's history of the Accession of the House of Hanover redounds to the credit of his party. At the same
time, however, it reminds them of "glory gone," of principles deserted, and of consideration and respect for ever lost.
Some of his reflections upon the occurrences he relates are judicious, and we have much pleasure in submitting them to the reader's attention.
"The events of the few years which we have gone over in this chapter, are of the greatest importance in the history of England. Three great changes may be said to have been made, if not in the constitution, yet in the mode of administering it; changes which some will think equally beneficial, others equally pernicious, but which all tended to the establishment of the kind of government under which we now live.
"The first principle established at this time, is that of conducting the government by one party, During the reign of William the Third, and the greater part of that of Anne, the offices of state were divided between the members of the two parties, with a view to conciliate both, and to exclude the more haughty and presumptuous leaders, from acquiring a dictation over the sovereign. In the middle of the reign of Anne, the Whigs obtained something like exclusive power; and towards the end of that reign the Tories possessed unbalanced authority; but their hesitation and misconduct totally deprived them of the confidence of the new king, and the Whigs found themselves strong enough to keep out their opponents for nearly half a century. From this time we may observe in the ministry of England greater unity of views, a more complete confidence among the members of it, and a more uniform policy towards foreign powers.
"The second change made at this time, was the transfer of the seat of power from the House of Lords to the House of Commons. During the two previous reigns, the House of Commons was still kept in a dependent station, and the great peers of the governing parties, confided to their deputies the management of that assembly. Their complete emancipation from their former bondage, is attributed by Speaker Onslow to the Septennial Bill, which, as I have already said, was calculated to produce this effect. It may be objected, however, that the appearance of Walpole on the stage of politics, at the time when the great men of the reign of Queen Anne were retiring from it, is sufficient to account for the power which the Commons at this period acquired. But had the House of Commons remained what it was, and Walpole obtained an equal ascendency in the government, there can be little doubt that he would have been made a peer, and governed his party in the House of Lords in the place of the Duke of Newcastle. His continuing a commoner, when at the head of the ministry of England, is the test and proof of the increased consequence of the assembly to which he belonged.
"The greatest change of all, however, was the establishment of a dynasty grounded on a parliamentary title. As long as a Stuart was upon the throne, it seemed not improbable that the crown might revert to the elder branch of the family the succession of
At the time
the House of Hanover closed their prospect for ever. when this great event happened, it is said that two hundred persons, with a preferable hereditary claim, were excluded; nor, when we consider that the Electress Sophia was the youngest daughter of the Elector Palatine, does this calculation appear much exaggerated. The advantage of this revolution to the cause of freedom cannot be too highly estimated. The old doctrine of the Tories always supposed that the king had a property in the prerogatives of the crown, independent of the consent and overbearing the interests of his people. But here was a king who had no other claim to his power, than that created by an act passed by the Lords and Commons of Great Britain. Consequently, the great modern charters of our liberty, the Habeas Corpus Act and the Bill of Rights, were at once lifted out of the debateable ground on which they stood, and placed by the side of the sovereign upon the throne; from this time resting on the same foundation, and exposed to no other dangers than those which equally menaced the existence of the dynasty. With such a protection, the laws which secure the personal freedom of Englishmen had time to take deep root in the country; and when, half a century afterwards, the Tories were restored to power, they found our liberties guarded not only by the zeal of a party, but by the veneration of a people. Nay, in the course of this half cen tury, the ideas of the Tories themselves were changed, and instead of a legitimate king, and an uncurbed prerogative, they became satisfied with a title granted, and a government controlled by parliament." P. 372.
The chapter upon the regency of the Duke of Orleans, and the administration of Cardinal Alberoni, is the best and most entertaining part of the volume. The subject is neither so threadbare as the court of Louis XIV. nor so dry as the Missisippi scheme, nor so fatal to the Whiggism of the writer as the accession of George I. The story, particularly Alberoni's portion of it, is well told, and the summary of his character deserves to be extracted.
"Alberoni was in person of low stature; his features were far from handsome, and his head was too large for his body. His voice was melodious, his look piercing, and he acquired among the Spanish grandees an air of dignity, which suited ill with the original coarseness and vulgarity of his manners. He was proud, hot and revengeful by nature, but extremely skilful in modulating his passions to the key which his interests required. Indefatigable in application, he frequently employed himself in business for nineteen hours out of the twenty-four. He is remarkable for having united the most lofty designs, with a strange degree of low cunning in carrying them into effect; and perhaps merits better than any one the title of Jupiter Scapin, which has been applied to a far greater man of our own day. Although capable of conceiving the most vast and magnificent projects by the vigour of his imagination, he