Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

mother-country, can only be safely committed to the slow efficacy of time, and of that increasing intimacy with England, which will inevitably make both nations love and respect each other, and will supply the Portugueze with the best, the safest, and most practical models of improvement and liberty.

The rest of Mr. Southey's volume is occupied with the comparatively obscure and uninteresting, but necessary details of the domestic annals of the several colonies; the differences which now first arose, and have never terminated, between the Portugueze and Spaniards respecting their boundaries towards the Plata; and the premature and abortive attempt at rebellion, set on foot by one Beckman, a colonist of Maranham, of foreign extraction, but himself a native of Lisbon, and quelled by the wisdom, courage, and generosity of Gomes Freyre, one of Mr. Southey's principal favourites, and one of the best and greatest men, of one of the best and ablest families, that either Portugal or Europe can boast. It is lamentable to reflect how the name has been tarnished by their descendants! For the character of Gomes himself the following anecdote speaks more than the most formal eulogium. On the eve of Beck man's execution, after he had exerted remarkable talent in subduing, and no less mercy in labouring to preserve his forfeited life, he received a visit from the wife and the two unmarried daughters of the criminal.

'They were in mourning, with their hair loose, and they fell and embraced his knees. When the wife could sufficiently repress her sorrow to speak intelligibly, she said she was not come to entreat for her husband's life, because she knew that if it had been in the governor's power to spare him, he would do it without entreaties; but she came to present two orphans to his compassion, and to beseech that he would send them to Portugal, in the- ship which was about to sail, that they might be taken into his house, and wait upon his wife and daughters, and thus preserve their honour: for in Maranham, where wealth was more esteemed than birth or virtue, destitute as they now were, and regarded as the children of one who suffered death upon a gallows would be, their situation would be deplorable indeed! The unhappy girls themselves seconded this wretched petition, praying that he who in his public capacity made them orphans, would, as an individual and a Christian, so far supply the place of their father, as to grant them an asylum in his own family, even as slaves. The situation was singularly tragic, nor would such an appeal have been made to Gomes Freyre if he had been a man of ordinary character. He promised to serve them in the best manner he could, and dismissed them with an assurance which they could not doubt, from the emotion which he discovered. Accordingly, when Beckman's property, being confiscated, was put up to sale, he at his own private expense purchased the whole, and restored it immediately to the daughters, to be divided between them as their dower.'—p. 6'30.

The

The volume concludes with a review of the progress which had been made in wealth and civilization, by the different Portugueze colonies, down to the year 168.5. This account is far more favourable than might have been expected ; so favourable, in truth, as to induce a suspicion, that from that time to the present century, Brazil rather retrograded than advanced in real and substantial prosperity. The government, indeed, or rather the waut of government, was as calamitous at this time as at any subsequent period; and the natural effects of anarchy prevailed, if we believe Frezier, in all the horrors of assassination and unbridled licentiousness. The negroes smarted beneath the lash, and the Indians pined away under innumerable oppressions, while, in the utter absence of morality, superstition exhibited itself in its wildest and most disgusting forms. But the population was increasing rapidly, and the planters were thriving: strangers from all parts of the world were allowed and encouraged to trade and settle. Though the monks were valued in proportion to the tortures which they inflicted on their own bodies, (of which an almost incredible instance is given, p. 684, in the case of Joam d'Almeida,) they were not allowed to torture Jews and heretics; and ' the holy office,' though its introduction was frequently attempted, has never yet planted its bloody standard on the Brazilian soil. Vieyra the Jesuit, who was, in every instance, no less enlightened as a patriot than he was distinguished as an orator, a saint, and a philanthropist, had introduced, in extreme old age, the cultivation of those spices, of which Holland has since preserved the monopoly; and Charles the Second of England boasted that his brother-in-law, the king of Portugal, had the means in his power of ruining the Dutch. But about this time the great gold mines were discovered; the whole industry and attention of both people and government were turned to this dazzling prospect, from the surer gains of commerce and agriculture; strangers were excluded, or admitted with jealousy; and though Brazil has ever maintained a remarkable pre-eminence in prosperity and population over the neighbouring states of Spanish America, it has, certainly, as yet, by no means realized the promise which it held out in the times of Flecknoe and Frezier.

On the execution of the present volume, so far as Mr. Southey is himself concerned, very few remarks need be made. On his characteristic style, his numerous merits, and what, in the honest severity of criticism, we must still conceive his defects as an historian, we have already spoken, and the publie are too well acquainted with his works, (though they have hardly, as yet, attained the degree of popularity to which they are entitled,) to require to be informed by us. His defects are, in some degree, incidental

t<# to the nature of the subject which he has chosen, in which unity of design is almost impossible, and which, from the vast extent, and remarkable independence of its several members on one another, becomes more naturally the work of a chronicler, than of that connecting and pervading glance which is the privilege of those who write the history of a single nation, a single hero, a single war. While, indeed, we recollect the life of Nelson, a small, but brilliant specimen of what, in history properly so called, Mr. Southey might accomplish, we have hardly been able to repress a murmur at the predilections which have detained him so long, amid the woods and wastes of Paraguay and Pernambuco, from the theme to which, of all men now living, he is best qualified to do justice—the deliverance of Spain by Wellington, and the hurried and eventful scenes of that Great Drama whose curtain fell at Waterloo.

[ocr errors]

Art. V. Plan of Parliamentary Reform, in the form of a Catechism, with reasons for each Article; with an Introduction, shewing the necessity of radical, and the inadequacy of moderate Reform. By Jeremy Bentham, Esq. pp. 400. London. 1817. 'E congratulate the public on the production of what has long been a desideratum in political science, a scientific and detailed plan of radical reform, conceived in contempt of all projects of a moderate kind, by one to whom the moderate reformers have decreed the palm of superior acuteness and comprehension of mind. It comes fresh and unadulterated from the author's own pen; an advantage which it is supposed his former productions did not possess. They are said to have passed through the hands of M. M. Dumont, a French writer, and must, if we may judge from this undiluted performance, have been very much weakened in the process.

Nothing can be more commendable than the modesty of Mr. Bentham, who, whilst professing but one kind of reform, does, in' reality, present us with two; the latter recommended by his own example. This is no less than a reform in the English language which is practically illustrated in this book, with an effect which we despair of conveying properly to the comprehension of our readers. No detached quotatipns will give an adequate sample of the merits of Mr. Bentham in this new and peculiar branch of the great art of regeneration.

A well-known precursor of Mr. Bentham in the paths of reform, Mr. Home Tooke, followed an opposite course to that which Mr. Bentham has so judiciously struck out. Home Tooke, in a book professedly upon philology, most pertinently introduced

his principles of parliamentary reform. Mr. Bentham, in a work of which the professed object is parliamentary reform, has availed himself of the occasion to introduce, incidentally, and without notice or alarm, the most extensive and salutary innovations in philological science. The Roman emperor of old, though absolute in the disposal of the lives and fortunes of the Roman citizens, could not naturalize a new word into the Latin language. Mr. Bentham is alike absolute in both provinces; and while he scatters all existing civil rights, and franchises, and institutions of Englishmen with one hand, with the other he implants into the English tongue, mutuality, trienniality, beneficialness, interest-comprehension, pleasurably-operating, potential-impermanence, competitionexcluding, undangerousness, deceptiously-evidential, knowable, rton-spuriousness, maximization, and minimization, and various other simples and compounds of equal significance, which it may require no ordinary degree of ' appropriate intellectual aptitude to understand. It is delightful to think what an accession of strength is thus furnished to every patriotic writer or orator who has occasion to exercise his pen or his lungs in addressing the sovereign people.

To come to the professed object of Mr. Bentliam's book—a reform in the Commons House of Parliament; for, as to the other two branches of our constitution, as the corruptionisls call it, they are unworthy any other notice than a sneer. The idea of a mixed government, with powers counteracting each other when proceeding to excess, which our vulgar politicians call a balance of powers, is most happily ridiculed in the following passage, (p. 51.)

'Talk of mixture; yes, this may serve, and must serve: but then, the intrinsically noxious ingredient—the ingredients which must be kept in, though for no better reason than we are used to them, and being so used to them could not bear—(for who is there that could bear?) to part with .them—these ingredients—of which the greater praise would be that they were inoperative—must not be in any such proportion of force as to destroy, or materially to impair, the efficiency of the only essentially useful one.

'Talk of balance, never will it do: leave that to Mother Goose and Mother Blackstone. Balance—balance—politicians upon roses—to whom, to save the toil of thinking on questions most wide in extent, and most high in importance—an allusion—an emblem—an1 any thing —so as it has been accepted by others, is accepted as conclusive evidence: what mean ye by this your balance f Know ye not, that in a machine of any kind, when forces balance each other, the machine is at a stand? Well, and in the machine of government, immobility—the perpetual absence of all motion—is that the thing which is wanted?'

Having destroyed the vulgar prejudices in favour of those antiquated institutions, monarchy and nobility, the next step is to the • sole remedy in principle, democratic ascendancy;' owing to the want of which, ' our present most prominent grievances' are in Vol. xvni, Jjo. xxxv. i existence, existence, especially the quartering a military force on the frontiers of France, (p. 4.)

'The plains, or heights, or whatsoever they are, of Waterloo, will one day be pointed to by the historian as the grave—not only as the grave of French, but of English liberties. Not of France alone, but of Britain with her, was the conquest consummated in the Netherlands. Whatsoever has been done, and is doing in France, will be done in Britain. Reader, would you wish to know the lot designed for you, look to France, there you may behold it.

'The same causes will produce the same effects; the same great characters by which the monster of anarchy has so happily been crushed in France—by these same exalted persons will the same monster be crushed in Britain.

'There they are, our fifty thousand men, with the conqueror of French and English liberties, the protector of the Bourbons, the worthy vanquisher and successor of Buonaparte at the head of them. There they are; and, until every idea of good government, every idea of any thing better than the most absolute despotism, has been weeded out— once more as thoroughly weeded out by the Bourbons, as ever it was by Buonaparte—tliere it is that the whole of them, or whatsoever part may be deemed sufficient for the purpose, are destined to remain.'

It is impossible to avoid admiring the penetration which our anthor has discovered in this passage. Had ' the remedy in'principle, the democratic ascendancy,' existed at the period of Buonaparte's return from Elba, the fatal field of Waterloo would not have been the grave of liberty; nor would Wellington, the successor of that great man, have been able to keep the liberated French from liberating the rest of Europe, in the same manner as they had been doing it for the last twenty preceding years. Thus our ' present most prominent grievance' might have been avoided by the substitution of that 'simple remedy in principle, democratic ascendancy,' instead of what has been called the English Constitution. Verily, we believe that this is true; nay, we believe further, that as democratic ascendancy in France generated Buonaparte,, this same democratic ascendancy in England would have produced characters analogous to that'vanquisher of liberty' whom the Duke of Wellington subdued and, according to Mr. Bentham, has succeeded.

It is a singular fact that this Mr. Bentham,.now decisively a radical, was himself only a moderate reformer till the year 180y. The mental process by which he became emancipated from darkness is described very copiously in page 106; and though the passage is too long for insertion, we recommend it to the perusal of all whowish to study the 'phenomena of mind;' contenting ourselves with transcribing the result of his 'reason, or, if that be too assuming, of his ratiocination, as elicited by severe and external pressure:'—

< Turn

« AnteriorContinuar »