Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ܪ

which furnish sure correctives to any violent to the events which had happened in France, spirit which may prevail in any of the orders. where the abstract principle was clothed with These balances existed in their oldest consti- its circumstances, he thought that his friend tution; and in the constitution of this country; would agree with him, that what was done and in the constitution of all the countries in there furnished no matter of exultation, either Europe. These they rashly destroyed, and then in the act or the example. These soldiers they melted down the whole into one incongru- were not citizens; but base hireling mutineers, ous, ill-connected mass.

and mercenary sordid deserters, wholly destiWhen they had done this, they instantly, tute of any honourable principle. Their con and with the most atrocious perfidy and breach duct was one of the fruits of that anarchic of all faith among men, laid the axe to the root spirit, from the evils of which a democracy of all property, and consequently of all national itself was to be resorted to, by those who were prosperity, by the principles they established, the least disposed to that form, as a sort of and the example they set, in confiscating all refuge. It was not an army in corps and with the possessions of the church. They made discipline, and embodied under the respectable and recorded a sort of institute and digest of patriot citizens of the state in resisting tyranny. anarchy, called the rights of man, in such a Nothing like it. It was the case of common pedantic abuse of elementary principles as soldiers deserting from their officers, to join a would have disgraced boys at school; but this furious, licentious populace. It was a deserdeclaration of rights was worse than trifling tion to a cause, the real object of which was to and pedantic in them; as their name and level all those institutions, and to break all authority they systematically destroyed every those connections, natural and civil, that regu hold of authority by opinion, religious or civil, late and hold together the community by a chain on the minds of the people. By this mad de- of subordination ; to raise soldiers against their claration they subverted the state ; and brought officers; servants against their masters; tradeson such calamities as no country, without a men against their customers ; artificers against long war, has ever been known to suffer, and their employers ; tenants against their landwhich may in the end produce such a war, lords; curates against their bishops; and chiland perhaps, many such.

dren against their parents. That this cause With them the question was not between of theirs was not an enemy to servitude, but to despotism and liberty. The sacrifice they made society. of the peace and power of their country was He wished the house to consider, how the not made on the altar of freedom. Freedom, members would like to have their mansions and a better security for freedom than that pulled down and pillaged, their persons abused, they have taken, they might have had without insulted, and destroyed; their title deeds any sacrifice at all. They brought themselves brought out and burned before their faces, and into all the calamities they suffer, not that themselves and their families driven to seek rethrough them they might obtain a British con- fuge in every nation throughout Europe, for no stitution; they plunged themselves headlong other reason than this; that without any fault into those calamities, to prevent themselves of theirs, they were born gentlemen, and men from settling into that constitution, or into any of property, and were suspected of a desire to thing resembling it.

preserve their consideration and their estates. That if they should perfectly succeed in what The desertion in France was to aid an abomithey propose, as they are likely enough to do, nable sedition, the very professed principle of and establish a democracy, or a mob of demo which was an implacable hostility to nobility cracies, in a country circumstanced like France, and gentry, and whose savage war-whoop was they will establish a very bad government--a “à ľ' Aristocrate," by which senseless, bloody very bad species of tyranny.

cry, they animated one another to rapine and That, the worst effect of all their procee- murder; whilst abelled by ambitious men of ding was on their military, which was rendered another class, they were crushing every thing an army for every purpose but that of defence. respectable and virtuous in their nation, and v That, if the question was, whether soldiers their power disgracing almost every name, by were to forget they were citizens, as an ab- which we formerly knew there was such a stract proposition, he could have no diffe- country in the world as France. rence about it; though as it is usual, when He knew too well, and he felt as much as abstract principles are to be applied, much any man, how difficult it was to accommodate was to be thought on the manner of uniting the a standing army to a free constitution, or to character of citizen and soldier. But as applied any constitution. An armed, disciplined body

is, in its essence, dangerous to liberty ; undis- To this prince, so invited, the aristocrati ciplined it is ruinous to society. Its compo- leaders who commanded the troops went over nent parts are, in the latter case, neither good with their several corps, in bodies, to the decitizens nor good soldiers. What have they liverer of their country. Aristocratic leaders thought of in France, under such a difficulty as brought up the corps of citizens who newly almost puts the human faculties to a stand? enlisted in this cause. Military obedience They have put their army under such a variety changed its object; but military discipline was of principles of duty, that it is more likely to not for a moment interrupted in its principle. breed litigants, pettifoggers, and mutincers, The troops were ready for war, but indisposed than suldiers.* They have set up, to balance to mutiny. their crown army, another army, deriving un- But as the conduct of the English armies der another authority, called a municipal army was different, so was that of the whole English -a balance of armies, not of orders. These nation at that time. In truth, the circumlátter they have destroyed with crery mark of stances of our revolution (as it is called) and insult and oppression. States may, and they that of France are just the reverse of each will best, exist with a partition of civil powers. other in almost every particular, and in the Armies cannot exist under a divided command. whole spirit of the transaction. With us in This state of things he thought, in effect, a was the case of a legal monarch attempting state of war, or, at best, but a truce instead arbitrary power in France it is the case of of peace, in the country.

an arbitrary monarch, beginning, from whatWhat a dreadful thing is a standing army, ever cause, to legalise his authority. The one for the conduct of the whole or any part of was to be resisted, the other was to be manawhich, no man is responsible! In the present ged and directed; but in neither case was the state of the French crown army, is the crown order of the state to be changed, leet govern responsible for the whole of it? Is there any ment might be ruined, which ought only to be general who can be responsible for the obe corrected and legalised. With us we go rid of dience of a brigade ? any colonel for that of a the man, and preserved the constituent paris regiment? Any captain for that of a company? of the state. There they get rid of the conAnd as to the municipal army, reinforced as it is stituent parts of the state, and keep the man. by the new citizen-deserters, under whose com- What we did was in truth and substance, and mand are they? Have we not seen them, not in a constitutional light, a revolution, not led by, but draggiug their nominal commander made, but prevented. We took solid secuwith a rope about his neck, when they, or those rities; we settled doubtful questions; we corwhom they accompanied, proceeded to the most rected anomalies in our law. In the stable atrocious acts of treason and murder? Are any fundamental parts of our constitution we made of these armies ? Are any of these citizens ? no revolution; no, nor any alteration at all

We have in such a difficulty as that of fitting We did not impair the monarchy. Perhaps it ą standing army lo the state, he conceived, might be shewn that we strengthened it very done much better. We have not distracted considerably. The nation kept the same ranks, our army by divided principles of obedience. the same orders, the same privileges, the same We have put them under a single authority, franchises, the same rules for property, the with a siniple (our common) oath of fidelity; same subordinations, the same order in the law, and we keep the whole under our annual in- in the revenue, and in the magistracy; the spection. This was doing all that could be same lords, the same commons, the same corsafely done.

porations, the same electors. He felt some concern that this strange thing The church was not impaired. Her estates, called a Revolution in France, should be com- her majesty, her splendour, her orders and gra. pared with the glorious event commonly called dations continued the same. She was preserthe Revolution in England; and the conduct ved in her full efficiency, and cleared only of of the soldiery, on that occasion, compared a certain intolerance, which was her weakwith the behaviour of some of tho troops of ness and disgrace. The church and the state France in the present instance. At that period were the same after the revolution that they the Prince of Orange, a prince of the blood were before, but better secured in every part. royal in England, was called in by the flower Was little done because a revolution war of the English aristocracy to defend its ancient not made in the constitution ? No! Every constitution, and not to level all distinctions. thing was done ; because we commenced with

reparation not with ruin. Accordingly the state * They are sworn to obey the king, the nation, flourished. Instead of lying as dead, in a sort and the law

of trance, or exposed as some others, in an epileptic fil, to the pity or derision of the the particulars of their conduct. He declared, wirld, for her wild, ridiculous, convulsive that he did not affect a democracy. That he nivoments, impotent to every purpose but that always thought any of the simple, unbalanced of olishing out her brains against the pave- governments bad; simple monarchy, simple mort, Great Britain rose above the standard, aristocracy, simple democracy; he held them even of her former self. An æra of a more all imperfect or vicious: all were bad by themimprored'domestic prosperity then commenced, selves: the composition alone was good. That and sti'l continues, not only unimpaired, but these had been always his principles, in which growing, under the wasting hand of time. All he had agreed with his friend Mr. Burke, of the energies of the country were awakened. whom he said many kind and flattering things, England never preserved a firmer countenance, which Mr. Burke, I take it for granted, will or a more vigorous arm, to all her enemies, and know himself too well to think he merits, from to all her rituls. Europe under her respired any thing but Mr. Fox's acknowledged goodand revived. Every where she appeared as nature. Mr. Fox thought, however, that, in the protector, assertor, or avenger of liberty. many cases, Mr. Burke was rather carried too A war was made and supported against fortune far by his hatred to innovation. tself. The troaly of Ryswick, which first Mr. Burke said, he well knew that those had imited the power of France, was soon after been Mr. Fox's invariable opinions ; that they made: the grand altance very shortly followed, were a sure ground for the confidence of his which shook to the foundations the dreadful country. But he had been fearful, that cabals power which menaced the independence of of very different intentions, would be ready to mankind. The states of Europe lay happy make use of his great name, against his chaunder the shade of a great and free monarchy, racter and sentiments, in order to derive a which knew how to be great without endan- credit to their destructive machinations. gering its own peace at home, or the mternal Mr. Sheridan then rose, and made a lively or external peace of any of its neighbours. and eloquent speech against Mr. Bushe; in

Mr. Burke said he should have felt very un- which, among other things, he said whal Mr pleasantly if he had not delivered these senti- Burke had libelled the national assembly of ments. He was near the end of his natural, France, and had cast ont pofluctions 07 such probably still nearer the end of his political haracters as those of the Murpis career; that he was weak and weary; and yette and Mr. Bailly. wished for rest. That he was little disposed Mr. Burke said that lie did not libe! :lie nato controversies, or what is called a detailed tional assembly of France, whom he cou sdered opposition. That at his time of life, if he very little ir. ihe discussion of these inatters. could not do something by some sort of weight That he thought all the substantial power reof opinion, natural or acquired, it was useless sided in the republic of Paris, whoso authoand indecorous to attempt any thing by mere rily guided, or whose example was followed struggle. Turpe senex miles. That he had by, all the republics of France. The refor that reason little attended the army busi- public of Paris had an army under their ness, or that of the revenue, or almost any or'ers, and not under those of the nationa. other matter of detail for some years past. , assembly. That he had, however, his task. He was far N. B. As to the particular gentlemen, I do from condemning such opposition; on the con- not remember that Mr. Burke mentioned either trary, he most highly applauded it, where a of them—certainly not Mr. Bailly. He allujust occasion existed for it, and gentlemen had ded, undoubtedly, to the case of the Marquis vigour and capacity to pursue it. Where a de la Fayette ; but whether what he asserted great occasion occurred, he was, and while he of him be a libel on him, must be left to those continued in parliament, would be among the who are acquainted with the business. most active and die most earnest, as ho hoped Mr. Pitt concluded the debate with becohe had shewn on a late event. With respect ming gravity and dignity, and a reserve on to the constitution itself, he wished few alte- both sides of the question, as related to France, rations in it. Happy if he left it not the worse fit for a person in a ministerial situation. He for any share he had taken in its service. said, that what he had spoken only regarded

Mr. Fox then rose, and declared, in sub- France when she should unite, which he rather stance, that so far as regarded the French thought she soon might, with the liberty she army, he went no farther than the general had acquired, the blessings of law and order. principle, by which that army shewed itself He, too, said several civil things concerning indisposed to be an instrument in the servitude the sentiments of Mr. Burke, as applied to this of their fellow-citizens, but did not enter into country.

MR. BURKE'S REFLECTIONS

UN THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE, AND ON TIIC PROCEEDINGS

IN CERTAIN SOCIETIES IN LONDON, RELATIVE TO THAT EVENT. IN A LETTER INTENDED TO HAVE BEEN SENT TO A GENTLEMAN IN PARIS. 1790.

Ir may not be unnecessary to inform the reason to imagine that I think my sentiments Reader, that the following Reflections had of such value as to wish myself to be solicited their origin in a correspondence between the about them. They are of too little conseAuthor and a very young gentleman at Paris, quence to be very anxiously either communiwho did him the honour of desiring his opi- cated or withheld. It was from attention to nion upon the important transactions, which you, and to you only, that I hesitated at the then, and ever since, have so much occupied time when you first desired to receive them. the attention of all men. An answer was In the first letter I had the honour to write to written some time in the month of October you, and which at length I send, I wote nei1789; but it was kept back upon prudential ther for, nor from, any description of men; considerations. That letter is alluded to in nor shall I in this. My errours, if any, are the beginning of the following sheets. It has my own. My reputation alone is to answer been since forwarded to the person to whom it for them. was addressed. The reasons for the delay in You see, Sir, by the long letter I havo sending it were assigned in a short letter to transmitted to you, that, though I do most the same gentleman. This produced on his heartily wish that France may be animated part a new and pressing application for the by a spirit of rational liberty, and that I think Author's sentiments,

you bound, in all honest policy, to provide a The author began a second and more full permanent body, in which that spirit may ra discussion on the subject. This he had some side, and an effectual organ, by which it may thoughts of publishing early in the last spring; act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubt but the matter gaining upon him, he found that concerning several material points in your late what he had undertaken not only far exceeded transactions. the measure of a letter, but that its importance You imagined, when you wrote last, that I required rather a more detailed consideration might possibly be reckoned among the apthan at that time he had any leisure to bestow provers of certain proceedings in France, from upon it. However, having thrown down his the solemn public seal of sanction they have first thoughts in the form of a letter, and in- received from two clubs of gentlemen in Londeed when he sat down to write, having don, called the Constitutional Society, and the intended it for a private letter, he found it Revolution Society. difficult to change the form of address, when I certainly have the honour to belong to moro his sentiments had grown into a greater ex- clubs than one, in which the constitution of tent, and had received another direction. A this kingdom, and the principles of the glodifferent plan, he is sensible, might be more rious revolution are held in high reverence favourable to a commodious division and dis and I reckon myself among the most forward tribution of his matter.

in my zeal for maintaining that constitution and those principles in their utmost purity and vigour. It is because I do so, that I think it

necessary for me, that there should be no mis REFLECTIONS, &c.

take. Those who cultivate the memory of our

revolution, and those who are attached to the DEAR SIR,

constitution of this kingdom, will take good You are pleased to call again, and with care how they are involved with persons who, some earnestness, for my thoughts on the late under the pretext of zeal towards the revo proceedings in France. I will not give you lution and constitution, too frequently wander from their true principles; and are ready on given splendour to obscurity, and distinction every occasion to depart from the firm but to undiscerned merit. Until very lately I do cautious and deliberate spirit which produced not recollect to have heard of this club. I am the one, and which presides in the other. quite sure that it never occupied a moment Before I proceed to answer the more material of my thoughts; nor, I believe, those of any particulars in your letter, I shall beg leave to person out of their own set. I find, upon ingive you such information as I have been able quiry, that on the anniversary of the revoluto obtain of the two clubs which have thought tion in 1688, a club of dissenters, but of what proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns denomination I know not, have long had the of France; first assuring you, that I am not, custom of hearing a sermon in one of their and that I have never been, a member of either churches; and that afterwards they spent the of those societies.

day cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern. The first, calling itself the Constitutional But I never heard that any public measure, or Society, or Society for Constitutional Infor- political system, much less that the merits of mation, or by some such title, is, I believe, of ihe constitution of any foreign nation, had been seven or eight years standing. The institu- the subject of a formal proceeding at their festion of this society appears to be of a charita.. tivals ; until, to my inexpressible surprise, I ble, and so far of a laudable, nature : it was found them in a sort of public capacity, by a intended for the circulation, at the expense of congratulatory address, giving an authoritative the members, of many books, which few others sanction to the proceedings of the national would be at the expense of buying; and which assembly in France. might be on the hands of the booksellers, to In the ancient principles and conduct of the the great loss of an useful body of men. Whe- club, so far at least as they were declared, I ther the books so charitably circulated, were see nothing to which I could take exception ever as charitably read, is more than I know. I think it very probable, that for some purpose, Possibly several of them have been exported new members may have entered among them; to France; and, like goods not in request here, and that some truiy Christian politicians, who may with you have found a market. I have love to dispense benefits, but are careful to heari much talk of the lights to be drawn from conceal the band which distributes the dole, books that are sent from hence. What im- may have made them the instruments of their provements they have had in their passage (as pious designs. Whatever I may have reason it is said some liquors are meliorated by cros- to suspect concerning private management, I sing the sea) I cannot tell: but I never heard shall speak of nothing as of a certainty but a man of common judgment, or the least de- what is public. gree of information, speak a word in praise of For one, I should be sorry to be thought, the greater part of the publications circulated directly or indirectly, concerned in their proby that society; nor have their proceedings ceedings. I certainly take my full share, along been accounted, except by some of themselves, with the rest of the world, in my individual as of any serious consequence.

and private capacity, in speculating on what Your national assembly seems to entertain has been done, or is doing, on the public inuch the same opinion that I do of this poor stage; in any place ancient or modern ; in charitable club. As a nation, you reserved the the republic of Rome, or the republic of Paris, whole stock of your eloquent acknowledgments but having no general apostolical mission, be for the Revolution Society; when their fellowsing a citizen of a particular state, and being in the Constitutional were, in equity, entitled bound up in a considerable degree, by its pubto some share. Since you have selected the lic will, I should think it at least improper and Revolution Society as the great object of your irregular for me to open a formal public cornational thanks and praises, you will think me respondence with the actual government of a excusable in making its late conduct the sub- foreign nation, without the express authority ject of my observations. The national assem- of the government under which I live. bly of France has given importance to these I should be still more unwilling to enter into gentlemen by adopting them; and they return that correspondence, under any thing like an the favour, by acting as a committee in Eng- equivocal description, which to many, unac land for extending the principles of the national quainted with our usages, might make the assembly. Henceforward we must consider address, in which I joined, appear as the act them as a kind of privileged persons; as no of persons in some sort of corporate capacity, inconsiderable members in the diplomatic body. acknowledged by the laws of this kingdom, and This is one among the revolutions which have authorized to speak the sense of sume part of

« ForrigeFortsett »