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succeeding age to show how egregious has been our folly, and how blind our fury.
The leading principles that belong to subjects of this nature have been introduced to the notice and to the assent of the more intelligent part of mankind in two different modes, by experience and by the reasonings of philosophers.
When nations are connected with each other, they can find causes of offence and hostility in three different points; in their religion, their laws and customs, their trade and manufactures.
Now experience has tolerably well taught mankind (however slowly), that with respect to the two former, toleration is the best and only policy; that it is best to suffer colonies or inferior nations to retain their own particular creeds and rites and ceremonies in religion, and their own particular modes of administering justice in civil or criminal matters; that improvements may be proposed to them, but not enforced ; that till they can be properly enlightened, they must be left to indulge their own particular notions.
But on the last question, of trade and manufactures, the world is entirely indebted to the labours of the French writers on political economy, and to the works of Hume and Adam Smith. It is from these two last distinguished masters of political science that this country more particularly has acquired any enlarged views which it possesses on such extensive and difficult subjects; and an acquaintance with their doctrines is indispensably necessary before we can approach any such questions, as the unions of kingdoms or the management of colonies.
To illustrate this part of my subject: a reader of history will see all the statesmen of Europe, from the first period of the existence of statesmen, proceed upon the supposition that nations could only be enriched by what is called the balance of trade ; i. e. if England has sent to Portugal a greater value of manufactures than she received of wine, that Portugal must pay the difference in bullion, and that this bullion was the measure of the advantage which England derived from this trade. Mr. Hume has an essay on the balance of trade, and another on the jealousy of trade; and, after successfully combating the natural reasonings of mankind on
these subjects, he concludes thus:-“I shall, therefore, venture to acknowledge that not only as a man, but as a British subject, I pray for the flourishing commerce of Germany, Spain, Italy, and even France itself. I am at least certain that
I Great Britain and all those nations would flourish more did their sovereigns and ministers adopt such enlarged and benevolent sentiments towards each other.”
Now it is to be observed, that no reasoner would at this time of day think it necessary to say that “ he would venture to acknowledge” the labours of Hume and Smith have been so far successful; and he would not “venture to acknowledge,” but he would affirm without hesitation. It is now admitted that the whole doctrine of the balance of trade is a mistake, and that nations are necessarily benefited by any commercial intercourse, of whatever kind, provided it is not artificially produced by the mere operation of laws or any species of extraneous necessity and force.
We have now, then, an adjustment of the whole of the case. What difficulty, it might be said, can remain ? If nations are to be connected together, let the one allow to the other its own religion, its own laws, and the most free and unrestrained imports and exports; what cause of contention can remain? Let the supreme legislature be the same; and the countries being thus in every respect identified, the interests of both will be entirely served and secured, and every thing that philosophy can prescribe, or human affairs admit of, be at once accomplished.
But the conduct and even the reasonings of mankind have on all such occasions been widely different, and the result has been at all times fatal to their happiness.
We will take the simplest case, that of a mother country and her colonies. The religion has been here generally the same, and laws and customs similar; in these points there was little room for mistakes. But in questions of trade and commerce greater opportunity for errors was afforded, and the mistakes committed have in fact been very numerous and important. The most narrow jealousy, the most blighting systems of superintendence and control, have been continually exercised; no market allowed to the colonies till the supposed interests of the mother country were first secured ; no manufactures to be imported, nor even to be used, but those that came from the land and labour of the parent state ; and if ill-humour in the colonies was the consequence, troops were to be sent, and a policy, ultimately injurious to both countries, was to be supported by force.
In other cases that have occurred, cases of connected nations, as the real difficulties have been greater, the mistakes have been still more multiplied and fatal. For instance :
Two nations may be completely connected together by proximity of situation, and yet be, by fortune, placed under different governments; England and Scotland, for instance: each kingdom possessing an independent sovereignty, and therefore each strongly affected by all those associations of national dignity and ancient renown which are so immediately derived from the noblest and best feelings of our nature. This is the most difficult case of all. Nations thus situated are of all others the most unfortunately situated, particularly the inferior nation ; and what a reasoner would even now, at the present day, propose, would, in a case like this, be accompanied with the most intolerable difficulties,difficulties such as the worst passions and the best passions of our nature would equally conspire to render almost insurmountable.
In the first place, nations so situated will be in a state of eternal hostility with each other; not only of hostility, but of petty warfare: and they will not only have their own quarrels to adjust, but the inferior state will attach itself to some third state for the benefit of its assistance; and thus become the tool of the one, and the victim of the other.
For evils like these, the first remedy that might be attempted would be a federal union ; that is, each country to retain its own legislature, but both to have the same king or executive power. This sort of federal union took place by the union of the two crowns of England and Scotland under our James I. The same was in later years understood to be the situation of England and Ireland, but admitted by our government only at a very late period. Now this alteration, this federal union, will be on the whole beneficial, but not a remedy. In the first place, the two legislatures may disagree, and it will always be, therefore, the labour of the
superior or more powerful country to influence by bribes the legislature of the inferior, to render all such disagreement impossible; and this will be the source of eternal indignation to all the intelligent and independent men of the state that is thus corrupted and ruled.
Again: the inferior country (meaning by superior and inferior the more or less powerful) will appear to itself of less consequence than it was before. It will see its nobles and its aristocracy move away to the seat of government, its rents follow them; its agriculture and manufactures will seem deprived of their natural encouragement and protection; dissatisfaction, jealousy, hatred, will be deeply felt; and as the inferior country will always compare itself with its more fortunate neighbour, such unhappy effects can never cease.
In the mean time the superior country will exercise no arts of conciliation, and adopt no measures of general policy. It will draw a fence around its own trade and manufactures ; admit the inferior state to no markets, no colonies, no sources of affluence, which are within its own influence; neglect the laws of the inferior state, corrupt its statesmen, perhaps interfere with its religion, and in short exhibit an abuse of power in every possible mode and direction.
Of this situation of things the natural crisis is either a sort of civil war and a total rupture, or the application of a new remedy, the measure of an incorporating union.
This last would have been always the best expedient, but it would not have appeared so to those concerned. The superior state would have conceived that it was thus called upon to give away its affluence, and injure the sources of its own prosperity; the inferior, that it was to lose its sovereignty, independence, and dignity; see its nobles and aristocracy resort to the capital; and feel most of the evils which have been already mentioned, as inseparable from a federal union, without any adequate return. A century would probably elapse before time had produced its happy effects on both kingdoms; and, depriving the one of its insolence, and the other of its unreasonableness, put each into possession of all the benefits which nature, from their different soil and climate, evidently intended for both.
Of principles like these, and of situations like these, we see a full exemplification, as I have already intimated, in the relative history of Scotland and England. Nothing can be more afflicting than the evils of the first situation, that of entire independence of each other. Tyranny, injustice, lawless ambition in the superior state, as in the instance of our Edward I., on a large scale ; on a smaller, devastations, cruelties, unceasing alarm, malignity, and revenge, as in the instances of the border laws and the border wars. Nothing can be more dreadful than both these consequences, particularly the latter, the border wars. Never sure was the art by which poetry is distinguished, the art of withdrawing the repulsive and presenting the attractive parts of a picture, displayed in a manner so striking, as in reconciling to our imagination, as the great minstrel of the north has done, the marauders and moss troopers, the inroads and outrages of these unhappy times.
These evils of eternal warfare and ferocious depredation could not but be deplored even by our fierce ancestors at the time ; and through the whole history of England and Scotland there seems to have been a series of negotiations, with an intent, if possible, to terminate such calamities by an union of the two crowns.
The marriage of the two royal families was frequently proposed; sometimes the union of the two kingdoms. But after all, the union of the crowns took place not till the reign of our James I., a late period; and the union of the kingdoms not till the reign of Queen Anne. It was then only accomplished by force and fraud; so incurable are the bad passions, so impracticable are sometimes the good passions, of our nature; so perverse are the selfish interests and temporary reasonings of mankind.
Having proposed these general principles to your consideration, I must now endeavour to draw your attention to the more particular circumstances that attended the union.
There was a book published by Defoe; it has been lately republished, and a life of the author prefixed.
The name of Defoe is already familiar, and even dear to us, though not on account of his book on the union, but of a work that to the writer himself might perhaps have appeared