Chap. antagonist. A simple stone of great size was placed over IX* his remains, and the solitary willows wept over the tomb 1821' of him for whom the earth itself had once hardly seemed a fitting mausoleum.

The death of Napoleon made a prodigious sensation in Immense Europe, and caused a greater change of opinion, especially McUedTn in England, than any event which had occurred since that Europe- of Louis XVI. There was something in the circumstances of the decease of so great a man, alone, unbefriended, on a solitary rock in the midst of the ocean, and in the contrast which such a reverse presented to his former grandeur and prosperity, which fascinated and subdued the minds of men. All ranks were affected, all imaginations kindled, all sympathies awakened by it. In England, in particular, where the antipathy to him had been most violent, and the resistance most persevering, the reaction 'was the most general. The great qualities of their awful antagonist, long concealed by enmity, misrepresented by hatred, misunderstood by passion, broke upon them in their full lustre, when death had rendered him no longer an object of terror. The admiration for him in many exceeded what had been felt in France itself. The prophecy of the Emperor proved true, that the first vindication of his memory would come from those who in life had been his most determined enemies. Time, however, has moderated these transports; it has dispelled the illusions of imagination, calmed the effervescence of generosity, as much as it has dissipated the prejudices and softened the rancour of hostility. It has taken nothing from the great qualities of the Emperor; on the contrary, it has brought them out in still more colossal proportions than was at first imagined. But it has revealed, at the same time, the inherent weaknesses and faults of his nature, and shown that "the most mighty breath of life," in the words of genius, " that ever had animated the human clay, was not without the frailties which are the common inheritance of the children of Adam."

With Napoleon terminated, for the present at least, Chap.

the generation of ruling men—of those who impress their —

Bignet on the age, not receive its impression from it. "He sleeps," says Chateaubriand, " like a hermit at the iiowas'the extremity of a solitary valley at the end of a desert path, men who He did not die under the eye of France ; he disappeared ^their on the distant horizon of the torrid zone. The grandeur of the silence which shrouds his remains, equals the immensity of the din which once environed them. The nations are absent, their crowds have retired." The terrible spirit of innovation which has overspread the earth, and to which Napoleon had opposed the barrier of his genius, and which he for a time arrested, has resumed its course. His institutions failed, but he was the last of the great existences. The shadow of Napoleon rises on the frontier of the old destroyed world, and the most distant posterity will gaze on that gigantic spectre over 1 chateanb. the gulf into which entire ages have fallen, until the iGtjjf".' appointed day of social resurrection.1


DERRY IN 1822.

The contest between parties in France was directed Chap, to different ends, and was of an entirely different charac

x' for from that in Great Britain. At Paris the object

1!j19- was to overthrow a dynasty, in London it was to gain a Difference subsistence. The contest in the one country was politijccts of the cal, in the other it was social. All the discontented in partyln France, however much disunited upon ulterior objects, England?"1 were agreed in their hatred of the Bourbons, and their desire to dispossess them. The multitude of ambitions which had been thwarted, of interests injured, of glories tarnished, of prospects blasted, by the disasters in which the war had terminated, and the visions which it had overthrown, rendered this party very numerous and fearfully energetic. In En^hnd, although there were, doubtless, not a few, especially in the manufacturing towns, who desired a change of government, and dreamt of a British or Hibernian Republic, the great majority of the discontented were set upon very different objects. The contest of dynasties was over: no one thought of supplanting the house of Hanover by that of Stuart. Few, comparatively, wished a change in the form of government: there were some hundred thousands of ardent republicans in the great towns; but those in the country who were satisfied, and desired to live on under the rule Chap. of King, Lords, and Commons, were millions to these.

i 1819

But all wished, and most reasonably and properly, to live comfortably under their direction; and when any social evils assumed an alarming aspect, or distress prevailed to an unusual degree among them, they became discontented, and lent a ready ear to any demagogue who promised them, by the popularising of the national institutions, a relief from all the evils under which the country laboured.

From this difference in the prevailing disposition and objects of the people in the two countries, there resulted Difference a most important distinction in the causes which, on the fuse's opposite sides of the Channel, inflamed the public mind, J£T or endangered the stability of existing institutions. In t^0in France, the objects of the opposition in the Chambers, countrfe* the discontented in the country, being the subversion of the Government and a change of dynasty, whatever tended to make the people more anxious for that change, and ready to support it, rendered civil war and revolution more imminent. Hence, general prosperity and social welfare, ordinarily so powerful in allaying discontent, were there the most powerful causes in creating it; because they put the people, as it might be said, into fighting trim, and inspired them, like a well-fed and rested army, with the ardour requisite for success in hazardous enterprises. In England, on the other hand, as the contest of dynasties was over, and the decided republicans who aimed at an entire change of institutions were comparatively few in number, nothing could enlist the great body of the people, even in the manufacturing towns, on the side of sedition, but the experience of suffering. So strong, however, is the desire for individual comfort, and the wish to better their condition, in the Anglo-Saxon race, that general distress never fails to excite general disaffection, at least in the great cities ; and whatever tends to induce it,in the end threatens the publictranquillity. Thus,in

Chap. France at that period, at least, general prosperity augment

.— ed the danger of revolution; iu England, it averted it.

1819- A cause, however, had now come into operation, which, Greater- more than any other recorded in its modern annals, pro* change^6 duced long-coutinued and periodically returning distress among the British people 5 and at length, from the sheer force of suffering, broke the bonds of loyalty and patriotism, and induced a revolution attended with lasting and irremediable consequences on the future prospects of the empire. It need not be said what that cause was: a great alteration in the monetary laws, ever affecting the life-blood of a commercial state, is alone adequate to the explanation of so great an effect. The author need not be told that this is a subject exceedingly distasteful to the great bulk of readers: he is well aware that the vast majority of them turn over the pages the moment they see the subject of the currency commenced. He is not to be deterred, however, by that consideration from entering upon it. All attempts to unfold the real history of the British empire, during the thirty years which followed the peace, will be nugatory, and the views they exhibit fallacious, if this, the main-spring which put all the movements at work, is not steadily kept in view. History loses its chief utility, departs from its noblest object, when, to avoid risk to popularity, it deviates from the great duty of furnishing the materials for improvement: the nation has little shown itself prepared for self-government, when in the search of amusement it forgets inquiry. Enough of exciting and interesting topics remain for this history, and for this volume, to induce even the most inconsiderate readers to submit for half an hour to the elucidation of a subject on which, more than on any other, their own fortunes and those of their children depend. It may the more readily be submitted to at this time, as this is the turning-point of the two systems, and the subject now explained need not be again reverted to in the whole remainder of the work.

« ForrigeFortsett »