Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

nation. Little real difference of opinion can exist as to Burke's analysis of the initial stages of the French Revolution. It was masterly in its kind, and unanswerable in its logic. Wholesale abolition of institutions, and massacres upon a large scale, do not usually pave the way for stability in government, still less confiscation of property, and a free use of the printing press to meet financial necessities. But what really robbed the French Revolution of all immediate, though not potential benefit, was the execrable personnel of that section which obtained supreme power. That there was a party of order in France who will deny? But as this party was, until the advent of Napoleon, invariably defeated by the anarchical forces of the clubs and sections, it is useless to reckon it amongst the effective factors in the struggle. The organised sections of Paris, or in other words, mob law, practically governed France until Napoleon blew them away from the muzzles of his guns. Its government was effective as against a foreign foe, but its immediate effects upon the internal condition of the country were deplorable in the extreme. It is just upon this question of foreign interference that Burke goes far beyond either cool philosophic analysis or even a genuine attempt at reasonable persuasion. He indulges in diatribes of astounding force and vehemence, and urges a crusade for the repression of French revolutionary principles. Looking coolly backward after a hundred years of reflection, we can all see that while Burke was right in criticising the methods of the French Revolution, he failed to gauge the dynamic forces which lay behind it. He did not allow enough for the record of past provocation and misery endured in silence, nor could he discern the real striving after freedom and social regeneration which lay concealed under the mask of a bloody ferocity.

It must, however, be borne in mind that England was eventually compelled by France to act exactly as Burke insisted she should act. It is hardly to be supposed that Burke seriously contributed to bring about this result, and therefore it is only fair to conclude that some factor was working in his direction when he cried out for war as the eternal argument against the demon of French anarchy. That factor was the National Convention itself. It was on the 15th December, 1792, that the National Convention passed its celebrated decree—“That the French nation will treat as enemies any people which, refusing liberty and equality, desires to preserve its prince and privileged castes, or to make any accommodation with them."

This, of course, was revolution gone mad. Not content with destroying its own institutions, and doing away with their very foundation, it insisted that all other nations should adopt the same wholesome methods. England was thereby compelled to enter upon her supreme mission of compressing into reasonable limits the spirit of the French Revolution of reducing it by a slow process of exhaustion, of wearing down its anarchical frenzy, of forcing the French people to comprehend the great lesson that conquest of the mind is not to be wrought by the sword. An appeal to arms, however essential in order to prevent the emancipated ideas of Frenchmen from being strangled by their own delirious excess, is not a pleasant subject for philosophic contemplation. Burke beating the war-drum does not please us. It is strange, however, that in this capacity he has arrested most attention; while those earlier monuments of his genius are rather taken for granted than fully discussed.

I had hoped to have said something at length on Burke's literary style, but time and your patience forbid. It was seldom terse or epigrammatic, and accomplished but little by antithesis. It was noble, free-flowing, eloquent, and carried along in its bosom, like some mighty river, those obstructions which a less powerful stream is content to evade by artifice. Occasionally we find a striking antithesis. When speaking of the two Indian princesses, female victims of cupidity, how tersely he indicates the motives of their oppressors in the sentence“They were accused of treason, they were convicted of wealth." His power over adjectives was very great. Witness his description of Charles Townshend, whose one desire was to please all parties, as a candidate for contradictory honours. In metaphor he was supreme, and drew largely from those stores with which a close contact with man and nature had endowed his capacious intellect.

That may be said of him which was inscribed upon the tomb of one of his famous contemporaries by a common friend, Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit, or rather, illuminavit. Differ as we may upon his merits as a thinker, or his methods as a statesman, we can all, at any rate, unite in a tribute to his terrible devotion, his unflinching patriotism, the bright light with which his inflexible industry suffused all the objects of research.

Burke once referred to that venerable rust which rather adorns and preserves than destroys the metal. He was speaking of a preamble with whose wording he was loth to tamper. No speck of rust ever stained for a moment the brightness of his own blade. When, shortly after the death of his son, he descended to the tomb in, as he pathetically put it, an inverted order, he left the record of a robust life-energy consumed in the service of his country.

FOUR YEARS AT AN INDIAN COURT.

By J, ERNEST NEVINS, M.B. LOND. Of India, including Burma, rather more than one-third belongs to native states, of which there are about 450, ranging in importance from one (Hyderabad, 71,771 square miles) about the size of England, Wales, and a third of Scotland to one (Khangarh, in Scindia's territory) consisting only of seventeen villages, bringing in an income of about £80 a year in our money.

In their relations with the British, the larger ones are in a condition of “subsidiary alliance.” They cannot declare war or send ambassadors to other states or to foreign powers, and they may not employ any Europeans in India without the consent of the supreme power. In all internal affairs they have independent control. They have power of life and death, of coining money, levying taxes, and maintaining an army the size of which is, however, regulated by the supreme government. To all the larger states, and to groups of the smaller ones, a British officer, called the Resident or Agent, is appointed, whose duties are to watch what is going on, and, if possible, to influence the officials, including the prince, for good, but he has no control, and his advice need not be asked or accepted. Nearly all the states pay tribute in one form or another to England; that of the Maharaja of Cashmere including a certain number of shawls yearly, so that his tribute serves a double purpose. It acknowledges the sovereignty of our gracious Queen, and also supplies her with a fund of wedding presents.

When the chiefs go to any of the great British towns in state, they are received with honour. The larger ones with a salute of twenty-one guns, a guard of honour with a British officer, and the band and colours of the regiment. A smaller chief gets a smaller number of guns, and his guard is commanded by a native officer, and so on. Also when visiting the Viceroy or a governor, that official comes to the edge of the State carpet to receive some; only to the edge of the dais to receive others.

Theoretically, all these powers and honours are the hereditary right of the native prince, but practically they are like the rights of the small boy at school to eat all his cake himself and look as important as he likes as long as the big boy chooses to let him. If a prince persists in governing his state badly, the British advise and caution, and, if necessary, depose him; as in the case of the King of Oude just before the mutiny, and the Gaikwar of Baroda in 1875. In the former case the British confiscated the state; in the latter they allowed the widow of a previous good Maharaja to adopt an heir.

The amount of interference in internal affairs varies with the Resident a good deal, and sometimes reaches a degree which becomes, in my humble opinion, simply impertinence on the part of the British, or rather the British representative. In one case the Maharaja had invited a number of British to dinner at his own palace, and was informed by the Resident that he had no right to invite the British unless the invitations went through the Residency. As the Resident reports to the supreme government on the conduct of the Maharaja and his officials, and his report is confidential and undisputed, you may imagine the power for good or evil that is in his hands. As the princes vary in their importance, so do they in their degrees of social and intellectual advancement. The one

« ForrigeFortsett »