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motionless features of the painted we think the present state of the Madonna, when looking for some British empire, and of all Europe, is a token that she has listened to the phenomenon unlike anything which is prayer. And when the physician recorded in history; yet we are as. looks cheerfully, as he drops the sured that an attentive observation of hand of his patient, and returns the those points in which it agrees with watch more briskly to its place, the former events, as well as of those in first thrill of delight which shoots which it differs from all past experithrough the hearts of the reanimated ence, is the best and most successful circle, is soon succeeded by the timid mode of arriving at a probable conjecinquiry, how soon may the sufferer be ture, as to the result of events not yet expected to throw off the effects of the matured to a conclusion. disease. It is in this sense of the ex The history of the world presents an pression, that we say, the present state immense variety of revolutions differof the British empire is not a crisis; ing in their causes, circumstances, and for we confidently hope, and trust, that events. These seem in general to that empire, nay, even the world at have owed their origin to the enterlarge, will never be restored to its prising ambition of individuals ; to the foriner state-will never throw off the temporary power and active zeal of a effects of the present and the past party; to some remarkable coincidence events. We tell our conservative of events, bringing about results wholly friends that they need not flatter them- unforeseen ; or to some one accident selves with the hope that the present which overset an unnatural or impotent is a crisis which will pass over, or that form of government. To some one or the present is an alternative whether more of these causes, acting on a parall is to be lost, or all so secured that ticular state of national morals or opithey may relapse again into their nions, revolutions in general may be former supineness.
traced; but in all these cases the actWell would it be for the infidel ing body has been a minority. Radical, or the latetudinarian Whig, if Many revolutions have been prosuch were to be the result of the pre- duced, it is true, by the physical power sent struggle ; but such a result is, we of foreign nations; but these are not fearlessly assert, almost, if not alto- so well applicable to the subject we gether, impossible.
have at present before us, as those However conclusive the struggle proceeding from the internal causes we may at present appear to be, between have mentioned ; and the phenomenon the conservative and revolutionary of revolutions produced by the moral partics, the only two divisions whose influence of nations upon each other, existence as parties we acknowledge; is, we think, one of exclusively modern it is not the result of a disease which appearance. has now attacked the empire, but of It is certainly easy to point out the remedy which is now applied, and several comparatively recent causes to has, though with less violence, for which to attribute the present state of above forty years been applied to that the British empire; but a little attention latitudinarian lethargy which is the to the events of the last half century only foe this empire has ever had just will suffice to show, if our view of the reason to fear.
subject be correct, that this nation has It is the natural disposition of man been, if we may so speak, undergoing to judge of the present from the past ; a system of preparation for the present it is an instinct, if we may so speak, events, which from its long continuwhich has been given him for his pre- ance, as well as the singular adaptation servation ; but which, in order to be of a series of events, to produce a effectually useful, must be applied as particular and ultimate effect, would well to past causes as to past events ; seem to denote a design on the part of and certainly although every day will Providence, that the result should be present cases, where we cannot adduce of an importance and permanence to direct, yet we can never find an in- which all past events, even the French stance where we may not fairly argue revolutions themselves, should have from circumstantial experience. been merely subservient and auxiliary.
On this principle it is, that while It will, perhaps, be necessary, in the
illustration of our view of this most im- been the results of despotism. Such portant subject, to notice briefly some of they doubtless were ; but were they the chief causes which produced, and not also its cause? The effect of a circumstances which attended, the great state of national education, if we may revolutions recorded in history, and to so speak, such as we have described, is observe the principles on which govern- to leave the mind entirely dependments have been formerly founded, and ent, as the lawyers say, on precedents; the means to which they owed their consequently, to start a new principle, support. This may alarm the patience to propose a new system, or to originate of our readers; as to go at any length an important alteration, was an idea into such complicated subjects, would quite as foreign to the minds of the occupy as many columns as we can subjects of an Asiatic empire, as the devote pages.
But our readers speed of the steam carriage to the capaneed not be alarmed; it is not city of a Kalmuck Tartar. Whether this our design to do more than notice state of things preceded or followed ; these subjects as far as they directly whether it was the cause or the cffect tend to elucidate the proposition we of despotisın, it matters not to our dehave laid down, viz., that the present sign. Certain it is, that as far back as state of Europe, and of the British we are able to trace the history of those empire in particular, is not one, nor empires, we find the despotism of ex. likely to be one, of a series of revolu- perience as absolute as that of governtions ; but the finishing stroke of a ment. great design, which these revolutions The nation, which, from its situation were, in their respective periods and and circumstances, has exemplified this circumstances, intended to promote. principle to the highest degree is
Of the revolutions of the more an- China. Never having been subject to cient Asiatic empires, we have not such extensive or formidable attacks from accurate or distinct records as of without, entertaining as the fundamenEurope ; but those which have been tal principle of its constitution, that banded down to us in history, appear the son should follow the profession of to have originated, rather in the ex- his father; and possessing, at the earternal force of other nations, or in the liest period of its history, nearly the singular talents or ambition of indivi. same degree and diffusion of skill, induals, than in any exertion on the part formation, and civilization, among its of the people themselves. These re- people, that we discover at this day, volutions consequently effected in ge- China has never suffered a revolution. neral only a change in the persons to Of the history of the Nomades, or whom power was committed, not any wandering tribes, we can trace but material alteration in the nature or little ; nor would it be of any important limits of that power. What may have service to this enquiry to know more, been the causes which have affixed the as their petty revolutions were too character of despotism on the govern- much the effect of accident to serve as ments of Asia, and of liberty on those a guide to those of more settled goof Europe, however useful and in- vernment. Those parts of Asia imteresting such an inquiry would be, it mediately bordering upon Europe, were is not our object here to examine. It more or less influenced by European is, however, worthy of remark, that customs and opinions; but the great while the arts subservient to luxury, powers and divisions of Asia retain, to and the more abstruse sciences were this day, much the same forms and found in considerable perfection in principles of government that we find Asia ; yet we have few, if any, traces in the times of Xerxes or of Cyrus. of the cultivation of classics, ethics, or So inherently fixed, indeed, do their the popular and practical sciences. ideas of government appear to be, that Their improvements seem rather to the conquests of Alexander and the have been the effect of hereditary and Romans, although placing on their technical experience, than of active thrones European princes, and forcing thought, or enterprising talent; and upon their observation European senthere exist few traces of the im- timents and manners, yet seem to have porting of discoveries from other coun- produced no important or permaneut tries. These facts may be said to have effect.
In the little that is worth recording empire would not infer the destruction in the history of Africa, we find few, if of the whole. any revolutions produced by any other In the first of these classes, revolumeans than that of external force; we tions are easily and frequently effected shall, therefore, proceed to take a cur. by the people; in the second, they are sory view, as far as it is requisite to also easy but not frequent, as they feel our purpose, of the earlier revolutions the danger of weakening their authoof Europe, merely requesting our read- rity; and a certain regularity of pracers to bear in mind, that as we are only tise and principle is essential to the concerned with these events, so far management of large dominions; in they may throw some light on the pre- the last class, great and sudden alterasent state of European political society, tions in the form of government are we shall only dwell on such of them as comparatively rare. appear to have been the result of the Revolutions in the two first classes internal operation of parties advocating of states we have mentioned, can only particular principles.
afford a precedent for those in the last, Greece claims the first place amongst when large nations have, either through nations affording examples of political ignorance or apathy, suffered themdissension, revolution, and civil war. selves to be ruled by a small but active Here we have numerous instances of faction. The former motive accounts the people destroying one form of go- for most of the revolutions which took vernment, and placing another in its place before the discovery and diffusioa room ; we have every system of social of the art of printing; the latter, for organization, from democracy to des- the most of those which have since ocpotism, successively displayed. The curred. states which were the scenes of these The revolution which branded it. revolutions, however, were exceedingly self with infamy, by the murder of small and highly civilized ; so, that in Charles the First of England, was an comparison with the first-class nations instance of the success of a violent and of Europe or America, they deserved consistent, but small faction, assuming rather the name of oligarchies than the name and authority of a whole republics; as, although, Athens, for nation, in an age when information instance, called itself for a long time a was thinly spread and slowly condemocracy, yet the onuss, or people veyed ; and when the people, not prothemselves were so few, that they could vided with the guide of experience, act with as much concert as the Ame were acquainted with the disadvanrican congress or British House of tages of no other system of governCommons; and if a change in the form ment but that under which they lived. of government was proposed in the The government, also, at that period, evening of one day, the new system was supported merely by prescription. might be quietly established before the It did not attempt to bring reason or noon of the next.
philosophy to its aid; it governed the It will, we think, assist our design, nation on precisely the principles, to consider nations, with respect to re when beginning to attain a commercial volutions, as divided into three classes; and literary eminence, which had been first, those of very small extent, as the applied to the coercion of a multitude states of Greece, Italy, Asia Minor, of military and chivalrous, but barbaNorthern Africa, South America, &c.; rously illiterate feudalists. Consesecondly, those of great extent, but quently, its authority was derived from deriving their name from, and go- principles, which, to shake, or even to verned by a metropolitan city or dis- examine, was to destroy; and even trict, as 'Rome and Carthage ; and, the most trifling success of its oppothirdly, such empires as Great Britain, nents was a species of argument against Holland, Spain, and Austria, in which that divine right, on which the monarno particular city or district possesses chy, at that period, rested its defence. any greater share of influence than Thie people at large had little attachwhat naturally results from its extent ment to the sovereign, were scarcely or circumstances, and in which the acquainted with the history of their destruction of any one part of the own or other nations, with the reasons
for preferring any one system of go- of England has always been a stranger. vernment to another; or, indeed, with The privileges of the “ noblesse" were any political events beyond the circle actual burthens inflicting poverty and of each man's immediate vicinity. It suffering on those below them ; there was comparatively easy, under these was, in fact, one law for the great, circumstances, for a handful of able another for the poor. In other reand desperate inen, calling to their aid, spects, the circumstances of the two the name of religion, so to act on the revolutions were not dissimilar. The passions of the multitude at hand, as purpose effected by puritanism in Engto acquire a scarcely controllable land, was performed by infidelity in power, ere the body of the nation was France. The former avowed that it clearly aware either of their acts or considered itself absolved from obetheir designs. The form of govern- dience to law, by reason of its superior ment bad also been almost absolute, in sanctity; the latter took the more conwhich, consequently, the people pos- cise course of denying the authority of sessed little share and less interest; the law altogether. and the mere idea of change contained The revolutions of Holland, in the in it nothing formidable. Abuses were time of Philip the Second; England, also exceedingly numerous and bur- in that of James the Second ; and that thensome, and those institutions which which secured the independence of the had not been corrupted, were no longer United States of America, were quite suited to relieve the wants or protect of different character; they were, in the rights of a people, whom long peacefact, of a nature purely conservative ; had changed in a great degree from their motive was resistance to usurping military to civil characters and pursuits. innovation. Charles the Fifth, and his If we compare the numbers actively dark and gloomy son, had attempted engaged in the struggles of that period, to reduce Holland to the state of subwith the population of the empire, we jection to which they had subdued shall, accordingly, find that the whole Spain. The Flemings fought in debody of actual partizans, bore the fence of their ancient constitution ; but most insignificant proportion to the they knew full well the vanity of an multitude of indifferent and passive attempt to oppose to innovation a spectators.
more negative resistance; they felt The state of the French nation, at there was no alternative but to submit the commencement of the famous re- wholly, and at once, to the tyranny of volution, signalized by a similar na a despot, or to throw off altogether tional parricide, resembled, in most their allegiance to Spain. They waited respects, that to which we have just till action became imperative, and then alluded. It is true, that the people they acted with eqnal moderation and were not, quite so ignorant; but, on decision. the other hand, that domination of a The exclusion of the popish descendsmall party which was facilitated in ants of James the Second, from the crown England by this cause, was rendered of England, scarcely deserves to be as easy in France, by the fact, that the called a revolution ; since no change capital had been so long the ruler and was made in the constitution or system representative of the nation, that any of government. What it might have revolution which took place there, had become, had James remained at his as great an effect upon the provinces post and not abdicated the throne, is as would have been the case in ancient another question. As the events Roine herself. In France, also, the were, however, it was, with the excepvarious classes were more distinct from tion of introducing the condition of each other ; there was no community Protestantism into the descent of the of interest or feeling between property crown, of a character merely declaand birth; no connection between ratory. wealth and power ; no possibility by
The establishment of the United which talent, virtue, or heroism could States of America, as an independent ascend from any one rank to that above nation, can never be cited as a preceit. In addition to these negative in- dent for an attempt to alter the constiducements to change, there were many tution of any country already settled. positive grievances to which the law America had been at first possessed by
England, merely or the purpose of a member of the legislature they repenal colony, which could not be ex- tained. pected to owe much gratitude for its The direct effect of all revolutions compulsory population. Just at the is to weaken the reverence for governperiod when it gained sufficient strength ment in general; but there can be to secure independence, an imprudentlittle question that the monarchy is and unjust attempt was made to im- less injured in the abstract by the pose upon it a share of the burdens of more desperate revolutions which disEngland. This innovation the Ame- grace the cause of democracy, and ilricans resisted, justly and with mode- lustrate the evils of anarchy, than by ration ; and we will do them the justice those, which, begun in a just cause, to say, that even after its proposition effected with moderation, and ending had excited their resentment, yet, had in public advantage, tbrow a halo it been in a manly way withdrawn, the around the name of revolution, and war which followed would have been, furnish mankind with an excuse for at least for that occasion, prevented. disguising their native disposition to It was not only a necessary conse- rebellion under the specious epithets quence of the growing power of of public spirited abhorrence of abuses, America, that she should become in- and patriotic love of liberty. dependent of the mother country; but The effect of a revolution was, beit was a consequence, which, if it had fore the diffusion of literature, almost been wisely and candidly looked for- confined to the countries which were ward to by England, might have been the scene and the subject of its operarendered the greatest benefit to both tions : its example bad little effect on countries. Had Great Britain reared other nations scarcely acquainted with the colony, if we may so speak, as a and not interested in its politics. But wise parent will educate a child, on the as learning became more common, clasavowed understanding that she only sical studies spread a “beau ideal" of claimed the services of the colony in ancient republics. Mankind, novices return for the protection it required in reflection, and without experience, from her, and that she would be wil- overlooked, in their admiration for the ling, as soon as it was able to support fine principles and glowing sentiments itself, to establish and to enable it to of the old republicans, the real and sccure its independence, she might practical operations of those baseless have implanted in it all the principles theories, and were more willing to of the British constitution by degrees, eulogise a system which gave birth to and at length have placed one of her an Aristides or a Socrates than to own royal family on the throne, and reflect that the practical and natural raised up to herself an ally, bound to operation of that system banished the her by an union as indissoluble as any one and murdered the other. The union of nations can be. As it was, natural consequence of a taste for the their parting was like that of a lion and dead languages was a desire to be his full grown cub, when the first quar- acquainted with the living. Thus, the rel over their prey has discovered to sentiments of the subjects of each them that they are no longer safe com country were communicated to the panions for each other. Let us hope, rest; and, preposterous as it may seem, however, that now that time has ef at the very time when a citizen of the faced the wounds inflicted in that con- Swiss republic was writing an able test, all the numerous natural reasons work to prove the constitution of Great which would tend to unite the two Britain the most perfect in the world, countries in the bonds of friendship, multitudes among the very natives of will take effect for the advantage and Great Britain were impatient to eximprovement of both. But, in fact, change that constitution for the demothe United States made a very slight cracy of Switzerland. Modern literaalteration in their constitution ; the ture rendered travelling more easy, monarchy, which they had lost by the and induced men to think and coiiwar, they did not replace; an aristo verse concerning governments to which cracy they had not lasted long enough they owed no allegiance, and which lo possess ; and the only remaining they not only felt themselves entitled,