Imatges de pÓgina

powers of change have at all times mark, leading to such frightful conbeen at work, still it can scarcely be vulsions, and, for some time, to an denied, that, with one exception, no issue so opposite to its original aim, modern age can come in competi- caused, for some time, a strong retion, for the greatness of its changes, vulsion of opinion towards any syswith the one which has passed over tem that was regular and established. our heads. That one-the age of The tempest, however, passed by; Charles V., marked by the downfal and Europe, on regaining its tranquil of feudal power—the Reformation, attitude, was found throughout imand the discovery of both Indies, bued with the desire and determinascarcely produced so great an altera- tion of obtaining representative gotion in the aspect and frame of society. vernments. Ancient power, indeed, Long periods have elapsed, in which has mustered all its energies to reonly the observant eye of the philo- press this rising spirit; and, in some sopher can trace any sensible change, instances, with success. But we may or the seeds of future revolution. At confidently predict, that the attempt other times, the waves of conflict and to maintain the principles of absolute revolution have rolled back and for- monarchy, is too contrary to the spiward in tumultuous succession, yet rit of the age, to be attended with have finally subsided into a surface more than temporary success. Withnearly as tranquil as at first. Europe out entering deep into questions of has certainly, in its late agitations, European policy, we may content presented a sort of cycle, performing ourselves with holding it certain, that its circuit, and returning into itself; the period in which the principles of but in the course of this revolution, simple monarchy were tranquilly acit has left traces much too deep to be quiesced in by the nations of Europe, ever effaced. The late changes, more- is departed, without any possibility of over, differ essentially from those pro- its ever returning. duced by the inhabitants of one part Another change, closely connected of the globe, conquering, colonizing, in every way with the above, is the and giving their tone and character decline of that aristocratic influence to another. The movement here was and character, which formed the preentirely interior-burst forth from its dominant feature in modern Euroown bosom, and arose therefore from pean society. Several centuries, inimpulses more permanent and more deed, had elapsed since feudal power deeply seated.

and privilege had yielded to the suThe most prominent change, and premacy of the Monarch. Still, a the main source of the troubles which lofty sense of honour, a studied pohave shaken the world, is one which lish of manners, and a paramount imBritain

may view with pride, amid all portance attached to the distinctions the alarms to which it has given rise. of birth, maintained throughout EuThat supreme representative legisla- rope a privileged order, superior to, ture, which, considered by the other and strongly distinguished from, the nations as essentially and exclusively mass of the people. The importance British, was viewed by them with attached to commerce and the moadmiration and wonder, but without nied interest—the ruin of many great hope, is now possessed, expected, or families by reigning profusion-the at least

eagerly desired, by all conti- diffusion of literature, and of a spirit nental Europe. The first effort to at- of bold inquiry, shook greatly this tain it, shooting so far beyond the ancient veneration for rank, and rendered more prevalent the habit of kind, but no less decisive and imconsidering man as man. But it was portant. The ages which preceded the French Revolution which was had seen America trampled beneath first seen sweeping away, as with a the foot of an invading power. Eu. food, all the distinctions which had rope had crushed the western world been held sacred in Europe for ages. with a yoke of iron; and she still It is true, the returning tide brought considered her settlements there only back the fragments, and even the re- as distant plantations, to be admini. volutionary dynasty was seen eager- stered for the sole behoof of the moly collecting, and attempting to re- ther state. In the course of this arplace them. In the rest of Europe, rangement, the population of Amethe rights and titles of the privileged rica became European ; the manners orders remained untouched, and seem- and habits of Europe-all its arts of ed even to have gained a triumph war and peace, were diffused over over the efforts to overthrow them. the boundless regions of the new conStill, over all Europe, the founda- tinent. Hence, by degrees, the detions of the great aristocratic edifice scendants of the early colonists, born were permanently loosened. Talents and bred in America, and seeing noand wealth-the one a higher, the thing about them that was not Ameother, perhaps, a meaner distinction, rican, lost sight of their ties with the have every where, in the estimation old world. A mother, who exercised of mankind, supplanted birth and ti. her rights only to impose the most tle. Nor does there seem any thing degrading fetters, and to make them likely to occur, for a long period, the devoted instruments of her avawhich will not tend to confirm and rice and ambition, appeared to them extend the superior sway of these to have little claim on filial duty. new principles.

Yet, as too often happens in such If we consider the past aspect of cases, the power which had acted on Europe in a moral point of view, it is the mildest and most liberal system, difficult to appreciate an age which was the first to suffer England had has exhibited itself under such vari. infused her own liberal spirit and inous aspects, and shone so prominent, stitutions into her Trans-atlantic subboth in virtue and crime. Few ages jects ; hence, exercises of authority have been marked by higher displays that were comparatively mild, excited of heroism and patriotism, or have there a spirit of resistance never witnessed more extensive exertions roused by the cruel and oppressive of universal philanthropy. None, despotism, which tyrannized over on the other hand, have exhibited South America. The distant situamore daring guilt, and all the dark- tion of these states, the rude extent est powers of the human soul met in of their territory, and the support of fiercer conflict. All the great land- European powers, the jealous rivals marks of human thought and conduct of Britain enabled them to establish have been moved from their places ; complete independence. Then was and every one has been left at liberty first seen in the new world, and on to follow the impulse which hurried the spot formerly covered by huts of him into the extremes either of good Indian savages, a great, civilized, and or of evil.

independent empire, possessing reIf we pass beyond the limits of sources that will enable her ere long Europe, we shall find the new world to outrival Europe itself. The emanundergoing a change of a different cipation of the Spanish colonies came later, and was worked out with great- desolate her borders. The changes er difficulty, in consequence of the which took place in her political mind jealous care with which their chains and character were gradual ; insensihad been rivetted ; still there can be bly springing from her own interior no longer any doubt of its being com- action, and from sympathy with those plete. Indeed, the entire political se- mightier changes with which all the paration of the two continents is an surrounding nations were shaken. The event which cannot now be at a great higher orders lost none of their titles distance. Too happy for the powers or honours ; and their place in the poof Europe if they tranquilly yield to litical system was supported by habits an issue inevitably prepared by the and acquirements superior to those course of human events, and do not possessed by the same rank in other again waste their blood and treasure in countries. Still, during the present abortive attempts to counteract them. period, there had insensibly taken

In the eastern extremity of the place a decline of the reverence with globe, a revolution as complete, but which rank and titles were viewed very opposite in its character, mark- a continually augmenting energy of ed the reign of George III. The most the popular spirit; and an eagerness, splendid of the empires of Asia, the even in the lowest ranks, to obtain an empire of Sandracottus, of Timur, influence in the direction of public and of Aurengzebe, an empire con- affairs. From the Revolution to the taining a hundred millions of men, commencement of the present reign, has been subjected to the absolute all the tendencies to public commosway of a company of merchants, who tion had been to support the rights of can reach it only by a navigation of birth and hereditary succession; and fifteen thousand miles. Yet strange the established government had been and anomalous as this arrangement under no danger, unless from the reappears, it is so strongly supported storation of a dynasty invested with by the great superiority of energy absolute power.' Under George III. and character on one side, and on the this tendency disappeared, and danger other by long habits of foreign sub- arose from an opposite quarter. All jection, that, without some very un- the disturbances and alarms felt by the foreseen event, it is likely to endure nation, during its lapse, have arisen for several generations. If such dis- from the eruptions of the popular spitant possessions yield any solid bene- rit; and the only government which fit, this oriental empire may well com- it has been ever proposed to substipensate Britain for all that she has tute for the existing one, has been one lost in the occidental regions. Pro- consisting, or at least containing a bably, however, the real benefit is not larger portion than now, of democrayery great ; and Britain, when the tic elements. Not unconnected prohour of separation at last comes, may bably with this change in public opisuffer as little as by the loss of her nion, has been another in the position western colonies.

taken by the crown. William, and While the civilized world, and all the early princes of the house of the regions connected with it, were Hanover, though disposed, like other shaken by these violent convulsions, kings, to push their actual power as Britain enjoyed a deep internal tran- far as it would go, yet professed quillity. No foreign enemy set foot whig principles; those by which alone upon her soil ; nor did civil conflict they did or could continue to sit on the British throne. After the extinc- duly seconded by the industry and tion of the Stuarts, and of all interest skill of the British capitalist, produin, or favour for, that unfortunate ced manufactures that seemed suffihouse; and after the dangers which cient for the supply of a world. To began to arise from a new quarter, the old English staples of wood and its views were likely to undergo a iron, another was added, which soon change. Nothing now separated the eclipsed both, though with materials crown from its natural friends—from drawn from an opposite hemisphere. those who were disposed to support This manufacture, which in a few to the utmost the cause of authority years converted villages into cities, and of hereditary right. This party and covered barren tracts with an were now disposed to transfer to the immense population, may probably Hanover succession that fealty which boast a superiority, in regard to the their ancestors had felt for the hope- amount of its products, over any ever less cause of the abdicated race. Per- established in the world. We forbear haps, had there been as deep a root to make any observations on the stagof toryism in the country, as under nation which this, still more than the William, or even under George II., other branches of industry, has so rés the consequences might have been markably experienced ; being yet undangerous to public liberty. But able to determine whether it is to be tories, even the most zealous, no ascribed to a permanent decline, or longer supported monarchical power merely to the temporary exhaustion with the same blind zeal as their ja- produced by over excitement. cobite ancestors. They supported it, The foreign trade of England has not on the principles of divine right been in full proportion to its manuand passive obedience, but simply as factures ; many of which were destitending to support the welfare of so- ned for the supply of the most distant ciety, and the place which they them- regions. The forced carrying trade selves held in it. When to this cold. of the United States, which it lost by ness of the supporters of the crown, their attainment of independence, has we add the increased numbers and been much more than compensated zeal of those who seek to reduce its by the valuable trade of consumption prerogative, there seems very little with that flourishing quarter of the reason to suppose or apprehend any world. The carrying trade, which general increase of the regal influ- Britain gained during the revolutionence.

ary war by the annihilation of rival. If, from political arrangements, we navies, was not perhaps of so much proceed to public economy and the value as has been supposed. pursuits of national industry, we shall Meantime, the present age has been find the reign of George III. consti- more peculiarly distinguished by imtuting a truly remarkable era. Bri- provements in a different direction. tain presented then a progress, un- From the fifteenth century down. paralleled in any other age or nation, wards, commerce had been the idol either as to its rapidity, or the height before which the nations bowed. Agriwhich it reached. Science came forth cultural industry and internal comfrom her closet, and taught the me- munication were considered as obchanic, with instruments before un- jects humbly useful indeed, but not known, to ply the loom and the wheel as those in which the splendour and with tenfold effect. Its instructions, greatness of a nation consisted. The

present age took a sounder view of ported by a crowd of great names, of the subject. Agriculture was at length which the northern part of the isowned as the grand and solid basis of land contributed a large proportion. - national prosperity; its advancement The poetic muse, after having probecame the object of general solici- duced, in the first part of the reign, tude ; societies for its improvement only scanty and humble effusions, were instituted, over which the most burst forth latterly in a series of vaillustrious personages in the nation ried and splendid efforts, which have made it their pride to preside. In surpassed the age of Anne, and perhaps short, with such effect were know. rivalled the more brilliant one of Eliledge, skill, and capital, employed by zabeth. In this respect, England is the farmer, that in the course of this now pre-eminent over the rest of Eureign, the rents over the kingdom rope. Mathematical, physical, above were generally tripled ; and in the all, chemical science, has been distinnorthern and previously less-impro- guished by so many illustrious names ved districts, were raised in a much and great discoveries, as would have greater proportion. For reasons al- raised England above any other counready mentioned, we shall say no- try, had not France, in this one rething of the existing stagnation, till spect, been so very pre-eminent, as it shall appear to what extent it is perhaps to claim some degree of su. likely to be permanent. We can- periority. not, however, forbear alluding to But the circumstance, perhaps, the vast works undertaken during which characterizes the present age this period for the promotion of in- beyond any other, is the general difternal trade. Those carried on by fusion of knowledge among all classes government, though very extensive, of the community. First, ignorance bear but a very small proportion to has ceased to be any glory among the numberless millions expended by the classes distinguished by wealth private adventurers ; so that England and opulence. Among the gentry of máy now be considered as rivalling the old school, although it was consiChina in this species of improvement, dered requisite to possess the first the most valuable and permanent of elements of education, yet any habit any.

of literary pursuit appeared unsuita· Qur limits scarcely admit of con- ble to a man of rank and of the world, sidering this age in a literary and in- and what should be left to those tellectual view. A volume would be whose special business it was. The necessary to do justice to so vast a same principle was applied still more subject. Suffice it to say, that no pe- rigorously to the fairer part of the creriod in the history of the world has ation; who, it was supposed, could been witness to more varied or more no longer form the ornament of our splendid exertions. In this reign, the societies, or the careful guardians of muse of history, which had almost our household, if their science exslumbered in modern times, and more tended much beyond the kitchen and particularly in England, produced, in the drawing-room. The last half cenRobertson, Hume, and Gibbon, mo- tury has effaced these prejudices. At dels rivalling the most classic produc- present, with respect to both these tions of antiquity. Moral and meta- classes, a certain measure of knowphysical science was not new to this ledge is considered indispensable ; a country ; but it has been amply sup- much larger as an ornament; and

« AnteriorContinua »