Imatges de pÓgina
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later, and was worked out with greater difficulty, in consequence of the jealous care with which their chains had been rivetted; still there can be no longer any doubt of its being complete. Indeed, the entire political separation of the two continents is an event which cannot now be at a great distance. Too happy for the powers of Europe if they tranquilly yield to an issue inevitably prepared by the course of human events, and do not again waste their blood and treasure in abortive attempts to counteract them.

In the eastern extremity of the globe, a revolution as complete, but very opposite in its character, marked the reign of George III. The most splendid of the empires of Asia, the empire of Sandracottus, of Timur, and of Aurengzebe, an empire containing a hundred millions of men, has been subjected to the absolute sway of a company of merchants, who can reach it only by a navigation of fifteen thousand miles. Yet strange and anomalous as this arrangement appears, it is so strongly supported by the great superiority of energy and character on one side, and on the other by long habits of foreign subjection, that, without some very unforeseen event, it is likely to endure for several generations. If such distant possessions yield any solid benefit, this oriental empire may well compensate Britain for all that she has lost in the occidental regions. Probably, however, the real benefit is not very great; and Britain, when the hour of separation at last comes, may suffer as little as by the loss of her western colonies.

While the civilized world, and all the regions connected with it, were shaken by these violent convulsions, Britain enjoyed a deep internal tranquillity. No foreign enemy set foot upon her soil; nor did civil conflict

desolate her borders. The changes which took place in her political mind and character were gradual; insensibly springing from her own interior action, and from sympathy with those mightier changes with which all the surrounding nations were shaken. The higher orders lost none of their titles or honours; and their place in the political system was supported by habits and acquirements superior to those possessed by the same rank in other countries. Still, during the present period, there had insensibly taken place a decline of the reverence with which rank and titles were vieweda continually augmenting energy of the popular spirit; and an eagerness, even in the lowest ranks, to obtain an influence in the direction of public affairs. From the Revolution to the commencement of the present reign, all the tendencies to public commotion had been to support the rights of birth and hereditary succession; and the established government had been under no danger, unless from the restoration of a dynasty invested with absolute power. Under George III. this tendency disappeared, and danger arose from an opposite quarter. All the disturbances and alarms felt by the nation, during its lapse, have arisen from the eruptions of the popular spirit; and the only government which it has been ever proposed to substitute for the existing one, has been one consisting, or at least containing a larger portion than now, of democratic elements. Not unconnected probably with this change in public opinion, has been another in the position taken by the crown. William, and the early princes of the house of Hanover, though disposed, like other kings, to push their actual power as far as it would go, yet professed whig principles; those by which alone they did or could continue to sit on

the British throne. After the extinction of the Stuarts, and of all interest in, or favour for, that unfortunate house; and after the dangers which began to arise from a new quarter, its views were likely to undergo a change. Nothing now separated the crown from its natural friends-from those who were disposed to support to the utmost the cause of authority and of hereditary right. This party were now disposed to transfer to the Hanover succession that fealty which their ancestors had felt for the hopeless cause of the abdicated race. Perhaps, had there been as deep a root of toryism in the country, as under William, or even under George II., the consequences might have been dangerous to public liberty. But tories, even the most zealous, no longer supported monarchical power with the same blind zeal as their jacobite ancestors. They supported it, not on the principles of divine right and passive obedience, but simply as tending to support the welfare of society, and the place which they themselves held in it. When to this coldness of the supporters of the crown, we add the increased numbers and zeal of those who seek to reduce its prerogative, there seems very little reason to suppose or apprehend any general increase of the regal influ

duly seconded by the industry and skill of the British capitalist, produced manufactures that seemed sufficient for the supply of a world. To the old English staples of wood and iron, another was added, which soon eclipsed both, though with materials drawn from an opposite hemisphere. This manufacture, which in a few years converted villages into cities, and covered barren tracts with an immense population, may probably boast a superiority, in regard to the amount of its products, over any ever established in the world. We forbear to make any observations on the stagnation which this, still more than the other branches of industry, has so remarkably experienced; being yet unable to determine whether it is to be ascribed to a permanent decline, or merely to the temporary exhaustion produced by over excitement.

The foreign trade of England has been in full proportion to its manufactures; many of which were destined for the supply of the most distant regions. The forced carrying trade of the United States, which it lost by their attainment of independence, has been much more than compensated by the valuable trade of consumption with that flourishing quarter of the world. The carrying trade, which Britain gained during the revolutionary war by the annihilation of rival navies, was not perhaps of so much value as has been supposed.

ence.

If, from political arrangements, we proceed to public economy and the pursuits of national industry, we shall find the reign of George III. constituting a truly remarkable era. Britain presented then a progress, unparalleled in any other age or nation, either as to its rapidity, or the height which it reached. Science came forth from her closet, and taught the mechanic, with instruments before unknown, to ply the loom and the wheel with tenfold effect. Its instructions,

Meantime, the present age has been more peculiarly distinguished by improvements in a different direction. From the fifteenth century downwards, commerce had been the idol before which the nations bowed. Agricultural industry and internal communication were considered as objects humbly useful indeed, but not as those in which the splendour and greatness of a nation consisted. The

present age took a sounder view of the subject. Agriculture was at length owned as the grand and solid basis of national prosperity; its advancement became the object of general solicitude; societies for its improvement were instituted, over which the most illustrious personages in the nation made it their pride to preside. In short, with such effect were knowledge, skill, and capital, employed by the farmer, that in the course of this reign, the rents over the kingdom were generally tripled; and in the northern and previously less-improved districts, were raised in a much greater proportion. For reasons already mentioned, we shall say nothing of the existing stagnation, till it shall appear to what extent it is likely to be permanent. We cannot, however, forbear alluding to the vast works undertaken during this period for the promotion of internal trade. Those carried on by government, though very extensive, bear but a very small proportion to the numberless millions expended by private adventurers; so that England may now be considered as rivalling China in this species of improvement, the most valuable and permanent of any.

ported by a crowd of great names, of which the northern part of the island contributed a large proportion. The poetic muse, after having produced, in the first part of the reign, only scanty and humble effusions, burst forth latterly in a series of varied and splendid efforts, which have surpassed the age of Anne, and perhaps rivalled the more brilliant one of Elizabeth. In this respect, England is now pre-eminent over the rest of Europe. Mathematical, physical, above all, chemical science, has been distinguished by so many illustrious names and great discoveries, as would have raised England above any other country, had not France, in this one respect, been so very pre-eminent, as perhaps to claim some degree of superiority.

But the circumstance, perhaps, which characterizes the present age beyond any other, is the general diffusion of knowledge among all classes of the community. First, ignorance has ceased to be any glory among the classes distinguished by wealth and opulence. Among the gentry of the old school, although it was considered requisite to possess the first elements of education, yet any habit of literary pursuit appeared unsuitable to a man of rank and of the world, and what should be left to those whose special business it was. The same principle was applied still more rigorously to the fairer part of the creation; who, it was supposed, could no longer form the ornament of our societies, or the careful guardians of our household, if their science extended much beyond the kitchen and the drawing-room. The last half century has effaced these prejudices. At present, with respect to both these classes, a certain measure of knowledge is considered indispensable; a much larger as an ornament; and

Our limits scarcely admit of considering this age in a literary and intellectual view. A volume would be necessary to do justice to so vast a subject. Suffice it to say, that no period in the history of the world has been witness to more varied or more splendid exertions. In this reign, the muse of history, which had almost slumbered in modern times, and more particularly in England, produced, in Robertson, Hume, and Gibbon, models rivalling the most classic productions of antiquity. Moral and metaphysical science was not new to this country; but it has been amply sup

the very highest scarcely as a blemish. The proficiency of our lords and ladies is duly attested by the valuable works which they have produced, and by the number who stand at the very head of our literature. With respect to the latter, also, we are happy to understand that this qualification has not been found to interfere either with their agreeableness in society, or with the regulations of domestic economy.

After all, however, the most important revolution, and that which seems pregnant with the greatest changes, consists in the extension of knowledge in quite a different direction-in the diffusion of its elements among that humbler and more numerous class, who were formerly supposed to be shut out entirely from the pale of intellectual existence-destined to be the mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for the more fortunate part of their species. In Scotland, indeed, for more than a century, the valuable institution of parish schools had diffused, at least through all its rural districts, benefits which were universally acknowledged. But in England, and the rest of the empire, the first principles of education could be obtained only at a higher price than the labouring class had the means, or at least the inclination, to afford. The English labourer, even when receiving ample wages, remained usually sunk in fat contented ignorance, and did not even care to collect that scanty measure of knowledge which circumstances would have allowed. He fell into that stupified and benumbed state to which the labouring class is liable in a commercial state of society; when the division of labour, reducing the occupation of every individual to a narrow mechanical routine, withdraws all daily demands upon his intellect. In

this respect, the most marked change has now taken place. All the efforts of ingenuity and philanthropy have been exhausted, that even the humblest British subject may attain those first principles of knowledge, which are essential to his moral and religious welfare. The religious, the literary, and the political worlds, have combined their efforts in this great purpose. With the means, the desire of knowledge has also become general. The political events of the present day, peculiarly calculated to act on the mind of the lower orders, had no doubt a wonderful effect in rousing them from their apathy. Knowledge, besides, possesses so many attractions for the human mind, that when placed within view and within reach, the desire of attainment can scarcely fail to be excited. Thus, it is no longer doubtful, that all the subjects of the crown of Great Britain, will, in the next age, be a reading generation. The consequences may not be of that wholly unmixed good which sanguine philanthropists are apt to conceive. We have no doubt that evils will arise; perhaps we have already experienced some, and others may follow, which cannot now be discerned by the narrow range of human intellect. But none of these considerations can, we apprehend, deter the well-wisher of his species from putting his hand to a work which cannot now be arrested, and must, in its ultimate efforts, be productive of a general improvement.

In closing this hasty survey, it is impossible not to remark, that Britain, at the end of the reign of George III., occupied a more conspicuous place in the system of Europe, and of the world in general, than at any former period of her history. She held that which France had taken since the reign of Lewis XIV., and

which Spain had held before-as the centre of power and civilization-the model upon which other nations seek to form themselves-the hinge round which all the great changes in the world revolve. How long she may retain this proud pre-eminence, so dearly purchased, while so great a ferment prevails in the world, and revolutions are every where afloat, cannot be too confidently predicted. It can only be said, that there is no present appearance of rivalry to it among any other European power or people; and that it may probably be expected to last till Europe itself be eclipsed by the mighty empires rising beyond the Atlantic.

The question now arises, amid these great changes which marked the fate of Britain during this reign, what the Monarch himself was, and what influence he exercised? It must first be admitted, that there can be no room for ascribing to George III. that energy and originality of mind which could enable him, like Lewis XIV., or Charles V., to stamp his own character on the age. In the great events which took place in Britain, or which she effected in the nations around, it never could be said that the Monarch himself gave the main impulse. But the fact is, that this is a quality under the want of which the nation has in no degree suffered; and which it is neither desirable nor desired that a British King should display. That principle, the necessary basis of a limited monarchy, which imposes upon ministers all the responsibility of public measures, vests in them the actual direction of these measures, and establishes the King rather as an ornament and central support of the political system, than an active member of it. To do well the honours of his situation to exhibit the virtues of private life-to make dignity, moral

purity, and respect for religion, leading features in his external deportment, without forbidding austerity, to guard the gaieties of a court from degenerating into licentiousness; these, which in an absolute prince are only secondary qualities, become of the first value in the head of a limited monarchy. The eminent degree in which they were displayed by our late venerable Sovereign, has extorted universal applause.

In regard to public measures, the King gave some striking proofs of willingness to remain in his place as a member of a constitutional monarchy; and even where obvious expediency dictated, to extend the powers of those branches which were independent of himself. This appeared conspicuously in the measure recommended by himself from the throne, within six months after his accession, of rendering the office of judge independent of the executive. The nation was thus indebted to the spontaneous act of its King, for the most important accession to public liberty which the constitution has received since the Revolution. Lord North was accustomed to say, "The King would live on bread and water to preserve the constitution of his country. He would sacrifice his life to maintain it inviolate."-" Born and educated in this country," said he, "I glory in the name of Briton." And he had accordingly shaken off entirely that preference of Hanover, which had been felt as odious in the former monarchs of that race. It could never, indeed, be expected, that, steering through his whole life between opposite parties, and shewing preferences to one or another, he should escape severe strictures on his public career. There are not wanting those who charge upon himself, personally, all the measures of his reign which have had an unfor

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