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.-. ' TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE .. ..
. ON :
ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND THE NETHERLANDS.
. BY AN ENGLISHMAN.. ".
LONDON:-1828. [The following letter was written before the resignation of Lord Goderich was contemplated as probable. The letter is, however, addressed to him as the recognised head of a liberal Ministry, and not in his individual capacity; and the address has, therefore, been permitted to remain unaltered.]
So be there 'twixt your kingdoms such a spousal,
Henry V., Act 5.
MY LORD, In addressing your Lordship on a subject of the most vital impor. tance to the interests of this country, I am anxious to avoid all appearance either of servility or of presumption. The observations which I venture to offer to your Lordship's notice are such as must have suggested themselves to many others, who, like myself, have remained in the humble station of spectators, without being called on to bear any part in the varied scenes of the political drama. It cannot, therefore, be supposed that I venture to obtrude my sentiments on one, whose experience and information must far exceed mine own under the delusion of self-conceit; and still less probable must it be deemed, that an obscure individual should endeavor to ingratiate himself with one whose situation in life is not only far above, but also most widely separated from his own. My real motives can be thus briefly stated. It is not sufficient that a large proportion,-nay, even that the majority of the community, -should think rightly, while others are to be found who, either designedly or from ignorance, are actively engaged in dissemi. nating error, and at the present moment ample employment appears to have been found both for the malevolent and the weak. . '
The overthrow of a party originally formed during a conflict of
opposite prejudices, and which continued to regard the defeat of their opponents as the test of their own wisdom, was an event anticipated by all who had not suffered themselves to despair of that natural good sense which has been fostered by the institutions of our country; whilst at the same time it could not be expected that the enjoyment of power would be quietly relinquished, or that the eyes which had been dazzled with its charms should be imme. diately opened to the milder but less seductive prospect of a liberal and conciliating policy. Fortunately, however, for the present generation, it appears to be now admitted that the happiness of the governed is the object of Government; and not less fortunate is the recognition of some degree of capacity in the people of every country to decide on the best mode of securing that happiness.
I address you, therefore, my Lord, as the successor of Mr. Canning, who had the manliness to carry into execution those measures of liberal policy which had long been recommended in vain by the most illustrious opponents of his former colleagues. By giving him your support, you have shared his fame ; and what is of more importance to the people of England, I might say to the civilised world, you have identified your principles with those which he adopted. The domestic difficulties to which he was exposed, already offer a less stubborn resistance; and Europe anxiously looks forward to the conduct of an Administration which may so far act in unison with the general feelings of their countrymen, as to afford a security against any return of the vacillation which disgraced their predecessors.
The subject of the present letter is intimately connected with the above prefatory remarks, since the prejudice that led to the formation of the late Ministry operated principally on our foreign policy; and the change which became perceptible in our relations with the continent of Europe, soon after the death of the late Lord Londonderry, does not yet appear to have effected a sufficiently determinate reaction. In order to express myself more clearly, and to set forth in the most striking point of view the urgent necessity of adopting a system which shall be at once enlightened, efficient, and uniform, I must recur briefly to the events which succeeded the termination of our late contest with France, and the settlement of Europe by the Allied Powers at the Congress of Vienna.
Had we been told that it was intended to select, as Plenipotentiaries of the different Powers then assembled in Congress, some young inexperienced statesmen, impressed with a vivid imagination of that which had recently passed before their eyes, and, like children before a mirror, fancying that they saw distinctly the straightforward course for the future, in the reflection of the past, we should probably have formed some such conjectures as these with regard to the conduct of our juvenile diplomatists. “France (they would have said) exhibited such a persevering spirit of domination under every form of government, her resources are so inexhaustible, her population so restless, and her frontier so extended, that it is impossible to adjust the balance of European power, unless we confine with the most watchful and rigorous severity this mercurial make-weight, which is perpetually disturbing the equilibrium.” This fundamental maxim being once adopted, and the situation of France being most favorable for any experiment which might be suggested, every artifice which policy could devise, every means of restraint which alarm could command, would occupy the almost exclusive attention of the victorious deliberators. Adde cicuta Nodosi tabulas centum, mille adde catenas, Effigiat tamen bac scaeleratus vincula Proteus.
But should there be present, besides the novices we have alluded to, some crafty speculators versed in the old Machiavelian theory of power, and incapable of appreciating any advantage less tangible than an extended territory, watching and fomenting with an assiduity resembling that of the owl in the fable the fears and jealousies of their neighbors, it would be difficult to imagine a more favorable opportunity for the development of their ingenuity.
Now, it cannot be denied, that although our first hypothesis appear at first sight extravagant, yet the arrangements which took place at the Congress of Vienna present us with results similar to these above deduced from it. Experience and wisdom are not always acquired by years, and those who have been nurtured amid the mists of prejudice will with difficulty become capable of adapting their vision to a more extended horizon. The principle of alarm had effected such wonders in this country, that it now seemed irresistibly to hurry on its votaries, at a period when the master-conjuror, who first raised the perturbed spirit, would have quietly consigned it to its natural abode of darkness. The exhausted state of France after the continued campaigns of Napoleon, and especially after the last disastrous effort of his ambition, —the gradual change which had been effected in the disposition of the people by the harassing levies of the conscription, and in that of the higher classes of the community by the unconcealed despotism of their ruler, were at all events sufficient guarantees for the
' The lamentable effects of the alarm-phrensy on such a mind as Burke's, are feelingly commented on by the author of the article on the correspondence between Burke and Lawrence, in the last number of the Edinburgh Review.
VOL. XXIX. Pam. NO. LVII. B
present of the peaceable intentions of her future Government under any other form. The restoration of the Bourbons, which it would be difficult to justify according to the strictest rules of morality, was nevertheless, under the existing circumstances, one of the best expedients which could be adopted. France had, by the revolution,' succeeded in overthrowing the tremendous obstructions which presented themselves at the very commencement of her career towards civilisation; in which term I include all that tends to diffuse information, vigor, and happiness, throughout the whole mass of mankind, and not exclusively either the polish of the drawing-room, or the combined utility and elegance of science and literature. But although her path was now clear, her progress was retarded by the selfish efforts of one individual, who attempted to misdirect energies which he could not repress, and by assuming to himself the merit of improvements irresistibly dictated by the spirit of the age, affected to lead where he was in reality impelled, until he had acquired the confidence of the most reflecting, and had become the idol of the multitude. The period had, however, at length arrived when the former were undeceived, and the patience of the latter nearly worn out; and by placing the Bourbons on the throne, it might fairly be hoped that the strong tie of mutual interest would unite those who had equal cause to dread the return of the despot and the re-establishment of despotism. A full development might thus be given to the civilising principle which had hitherto been confined in its operations to the improvement of the social relations between individuals, but had not been applied under Napoleon to any hazardous experiments in Government.
The only mode, however, of deriving any advantage from the first step was one which does not appear even to have been thought of; and we must thence conclude that the restoration of the Bourbons, as far as the Government of this country had any share in the measure, was resolved on under the influence of the principle of alarm,-if indeed any principle whatever actuated the minister who then directed our foreign policy. A current suggestion (which, I confess, seems to afford a more natural solution of the many inconsistencies with which that policy has amused the rest of Europe) has asserted, that the idea of the restoration was one of the cabala derived from the mystical stores of the great wizard him
1 “La Revolution Francaise, a remplace l'arbitraire par la loi, le privilege par l'egalite; elle a delivre les hommes des distinctions des classes, le sol des barrieres de provinces; l'industrie des entraves des corporations et des jurandes ; l'agriculture des sujections feodals et de l'oppression des Dimes; la propriete des genes des substitutions; et elle a tout ramene a un seul etat a un seul droit, a un seul peuple." - Mignet on the French Revolution.
self; that it was on this talisman he relied as a means of weathering the storm, in the midst of which he was snatched from the helm : but if the case were so, we have been exposed to the same danger as the hero of the fairy tale, who, when he had witnessed the charm by which twelve dervises were made to shower wealth from their left hands, unfortunately erred in the application of it, and narrowly escaped being beaten to death with their right. There was, as I think, my Lord, it will now be admitted, one real object to which this country had to direct its attention,-namely, the firm and undaunted opposition of the civilising to the despotic principle. And for this purpose the readiest means would have been the erection of a barrier physically impervious to the latter, with the firm conviction that nothing but that violence can check, even for a time, the mild and insensible, but beneficent progress of the former. Let us examine, therefore, how far such an object was pursued. France, as we have observed, was in every respect predisposed in favor of the civilising principle; the influence of her neighborhood to Spain, combined with that which had been acquired by England, owing to the splendid achievements of our army in the support of the Sovereign recognised by the Spanish nation, and the almost filial respect of Portugal, opened at once a wide field for the exertion of our best energies in the behalf of rational liberty. On the north-western frontier of France, the spirit of freedom in Holland and the Netherlands, dating from a period anterior to that of its effectual display in our own country, still held out the promise of future triumphs : and we must acknowlege, that by some lucky hit, we, in the fervor of our spleen against France, fell on the fortunate expedient of consolidating the two former countries, and subjecting them to a Sovereign who appears worthy of the important charge thus reposed in him. The unhappy effects, however, of the consternation which had once, more or less, appalled every state in Europe, still prevailed. The sole object to which the attention of the English Minister was directed was the crushing of the once formidable enemy. Nor do I mean to insinuate that any more enlightened motives actuated the other members of the Congress; on the contrary, the selfishness of their proceedings, whilst it availed itself of the prevailing error to secure permanent aggrandisement, did not exhibit any proof of greater discernment or foresight. A partition-treaty was, indeed, out of the question, although the proceedings of the Congress sufficiently evince that no moral restraint withheld its rulers from the spoil. Neither can we suppose that Burke's prophecy with regard to the celebrated conspiracy against Poland was yet sufficiently intelligible to those whom it denounced. But Poland was only in the second stage of civilisation, and had yet to pass from