Слике страница
PDF
ePub

quarter of the globe, much less a single nation, will eventually be able to dispute the empire of the seas, with the new world.

We shall devote the remainder of this article to a consideration of events which have occurred in Europe since the publication of the work before us, which richly merits a better translation, as well as a republication in this country. This course is necessary to our purpose, although it is our humble opinion, that the writers and publications of this country, give a disproportionate attention to the affairs of other people, and of consequence, neglect our own. Let us look to ourselves ; preserve the purity of the national manners and institutions—foster our natural and accidental advantages, and observe, and gather lessons of wisdom as well as moderation from the folly and excesses of rulers and people in the old superannuated world. Above all, let us ever bear in mind and continue to act upon the sentiment of Daniel Webster, and be careful that " while other nations are moulding their governments after ours, we do not break the pattern."

The present state of Europe, we think, offers additional probabilities to the theory laid down in the work of the Danish philosopher. Two great principles are now approaching to a struggle, which will, in all human probability, ere long, produce not only wars, but the worst of wars, internal dissensions, aggravated by external struggles with foreign powers. Although the principle of emancipation is eommon to the revolution of Ameriea, and the revolutionary spirit now at work in Europe, all other circumstances are essentially different. With us, it was throwing off a dominion seated at a vast distance beyond the seas, and only known among us by its representatives. In Europe, on the contrary, it is a central power existing in the heart, and pervading every portion of the body politic. A revolution then, must overturn thrones, church establishments, standing armies, hereditary orders, and prejudices hallowed by ages of reverence and submission. The whole frame and organization of society must be dissolved, changed into new elements, and be arranged into new forms.

The enemies of statu quo, and the genius of change, are now arraying their respective powers, and in proportion as the people have been debarred from all participation in the government, will be their ardour to govern without controul. Such a struggle cannot end in a day, or in a year,-nor will it be decided in all probability, except through a long series of gradations, which will finally rest at last on a basis suitable to the present state of the human mind. We cannot, therefore, but anticipate heavy times for Europe. A long course of internal and external wars, is fatal to the great interests of a state. Commerce decays, and seeks other more peaceful climes-agriculture is robbed of its labourers, and of the products of labour,

to recruit and feed the armies,--and manufacturers are deprived of their foreign purchasers. The powers of the intellect, too, are diverted from the pursuits of science and literature, into the bloody paths of warfare,--and thus it has ever happened, that a long continuance of national struggles, produces a neglect of the arts of peace, and an approach to barbarism.

Insecurity of property is one of the inevitable consequences of civil wars. The products of the land are the common stock of plunder for both parties, and the land itself becomes a prey to confiscation. At this day, a vast portion of the wealth of Europe is vested in stocks, which are still more fatally operated upon by civil wars. Their value, in fact, becomes, in such a state of things, merely nominal; and it depends upon the success of one or other of the parties in the struggle, whether they again attain to their original prices, or become worthless. Such a crisis seems fast approaching in Europe. When once the conflicting elements of anarchy and despotism commence their warfare, who shall say where and when it will end? Prophecy, in this case, would be presumption,--when it does end, the result will be equally uncertain. Whether a chastened freedom, guarantied by a fair representation of the people in the governments, a despotism without limits, or an anarchy without controul, is beyond the reach of human foresight to predict.

One thing, however, we think, is certain. This unsettled state of life, liberty and property, in Europe, will produce a vast accession of wealth and population in the new world, and accelerate its progress to the sceptre of intellect and power, hitherto, for so long a time, wielded by the old. The neighbouring nations of Europe, being all nearly in the same state of internal insecurity, afford 'no safe refuge to fugitives or property, from each other---even if their national antipathies did not present a barrier to emigration. The United States, on the contrary, with nothing to disturb their tranquillity, but the peaceable struggles of an election, and stretching out a hand of welcome to all nations, and all ranks of mankind, from the exiled monarch to the mechanic or peasant, coming in search of employment and bread, will present a safe deposit for the wealth of Europe, -a sanctuary where the persecuted, the harassed, and the timid spirit, may find repose from the storms that vex his native land.

Thus, to our native energy, intelligence, and resources, will be added a large portion of those of the other quarter of the world, and the united result, in all human probability, must be the fulfilment of the great prophecy, that the empire of the world was travelling towards the setting sun. The sceptre will depart from the east, and be wielded by the west. Power, dominion, science, literature, and the arts, hitherto the satellites of despotism, will become the bright and beautiful handmaids of a brighter goddess than themselves, and the glory of Europe, like that of Asia, be preserved in her history and her traditions.

The anticipation is as rational as glorious to an American. Look at the state of Europe once more, and separate it into its constituent parts. Let us begin with France. What has she gained by her revolution of July but a branch of the same tree, in the room of the rotten trunk? Has she won freedom or repose? Not even the freedom of complaint,—nor any other repose, but the repose of the National Guards. What is the cry of the people of Paris? Not liberty alone, but “give us employment and bread.” Thus irritated by a feeling of disappointment on one hand, and goaded on by hunger, can they stop where they are? Certainly not; it is not in the nature of man, nor the nature of things. Two such impulses can only be satisfied by the grant of their demands, and only quelled by force.

Look at the great rival of France on the opposite side of the channel. The same mighty evils are at work there-discontent aggravated by hunger. At the moment we are writing, a question is depending in the Parliament of England, which agitates the island to its centre, and the decision of which, either one way or other, is acknowledged by both parties to amount to the signal of a revolution. The opponents of the Bill of Reform maintain, that, if carried, it will destroy the basis of the government; and the advocates assert, that, if not carried, it will produce a revolution, originating in the disappointment and indignation of the people.

Will the aristocracy of England—the most wealthy and powerful aristocracy in the world-voluntarily, and without a mighty struggle, divest themselves of one of their chief sources of power in the state. Will they sacrifice their parliamentary influence, which constitutes one of the regular modes and means of providing for younger sons and poor relations ? Nay, which enables them to dictate to their sovereign ? We believe not. Will the people remain quiet under the disappointment of their newborn hopes, aggravated as it will be by poverty and distress, among so large a number? Perhaps they will, so long as there is an army of sixty or eighty thousand men, disposed so happily for the protection of order in the United Kingdom, that every breath of discontent is met by a bayonet. But let the monarchs who maintain order in Europe, by means of standing armies, recollect the lesson of history, which teaches us, that throughout all ages, and countries, the power which sustained the throne by force, in the end by force overthrew it. There is but one solid permanent support of power, and that is, the attachment of the people.

In the present state of Europe, we incline to the opinion that the safest course for kings to take, would be to identify themselves with the people, and become, the organs of their wishes. We see no other means for the present King of England to make head successfully against the weight of the opposition of the church and nobility, in case he decisively sustains the present ministry in their plans of parliamentary reform, than to make common cause with his people, and say to them honestly, “I have become your champion, do you become my supporters.” The government of England is acknowledged on all hands to be a mixed government of king, lords, and commons. Who represents the commons of England ? The House of Commons. But can it do this effectually, while a large portion of the members are returned by the House of Lords? We should think not. The spirit and purity of the system can only be preserved by the commons, and the commons alone, selecting their representatives in their own house, and not the nobility. Does the House of Commons interfere in the same way in the creation of the members of the House of Lords? They have no voice or influence in the business. Why, then, should the House of Lords interfere in the election, or appointment rather, of the members of the House of Commons? In this point of view, therefore, we can perceive no sort of foundation for the argument of the opponents of reform, that the measure will operate to destroy the balance of the government. We rather think it will restore the balance, and bring it back to the true old theory of three distinct powers-king, lords, and commons.

We believe that the people will be satisfied with this reform for a time, if it take place. When they shall see, as no doubt they will see, that the burthens of the state, and consequently their own, remain the same, or perhaps increase with the increase of those who require relief, and the decrease of those who are able to bestow it'; when they shall find that a reform in Parliament will not give them liberal wages, or feed their suffering families, then will they become more dissatisfied than ever. Then, too, will the result disclose where the shoe of reform pinched the opponents of reform. The increased representation of the people will then enable the people to make themselves heard and felt, and to force the government into measures that may indeed destroy the constitution of England, if there be any such invisible being. Whichever way we look, therefore, we perceive the same causes of discontent, the same spirit of emancipation at work, that agitates the continent of Europe ; and so long as this state of things continues, it requires no spirit of prophecy to predict, that England, so far from advancing in power or intelligence, will, in all probability, invincibly slide from the summit of power, and become the victim of internal weakness at last.

The state of Holland and Belgium, of Italy and Germany, and Russia and Prussia, and Spain and Poland, is still more unfavourable to arts, science, commerce, literature, and agriculture. The rulers are employed in schemes for keeping the peoplein subjugation, and the people in wresting the promised privileges from their rulers. In such a state of things, the one party has no time to devise schemes for enriching or enlightening the people, but is employed, on the contrary, in placing them, as far as possible, in ignorance and poverty. The other is so taken up with politics, that its habits of economy, steadiness, and enterprise, are forgotten by degrees in the whirlpool of turbulent excitement. Each and all of these countries, with the exception perhaps of Russia, instead of advancing, will gradually recede in wealth and intelligence, not only from internal dissensions, but on account of the large portion of both, that will from time to time, as long as this state of things shall last, direct its course to the new world.

The change from old to new times; from the inapplicable maxims of the past, to the practical truths of the present, has, every where, and in all past ages, been a period of suffering to the human race. The approaches to this state of regeneration, are marked by turbulent disaffection on one hand, inflexible severity on the other; its progress is marked by the dissolution of the social ties, and its crisis with blood and tears. The people have to encounter the most formidable difficulties, under which they probably sink many times, before they rise at last and make the great successive effort.

These evils are aggravated and perpetuated as long as possible, by the stern inflexible rigidity of old-established institutions, worthless in proportion to their obstinacy, aided by the blind besotted pride of kings, who seem never to have learnt the lesson of yielding to the changes produced by time and circumstance, and sacrificing gracefully, what will otherwise be taken from them by force.

But all that is great, or good, or valuable, in this world, must be attained by labour, perseverance, courage, and integrity. Liberty is too valuable a blessing to be gained or preserved without the exercise of these great virtues. It must have its victims, and its charter must be sealed with blood. A people afraid of a bayonet, are not likely to be free while Europe swarms with standing armies, having little or no community of interests or feeling with those who maintain them by the sweat of their brow. When the oppressed states of Switzerland, sent forth patriots who made a breach in the forest of German bayonets opposed to them, by circling them in their arms, and receiving them into their bosoms, they deserved to be free-they became free, and their liberties are still preserved. But so long

« ПретходнаНастави »