Table of Contents
|Editor/Translator:||Keen, Paul, fl. 2003|
|Editor/Translator Alternative Name:||Paul Keen|
|First Published Date:||1818|
|Genre:||Social and Political Writings|
SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 1818
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The Yellow Dwarf,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY.
"A stirring DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion."—SHAKSPEARE.
NUMBER 10. SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 1818 PRICE 4d
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
LIBEL LAW AND PARODIES.—A discussion has taken place, again on these subjects, in the House of Commons, which, though not calculated to change the opinion of the country on the late prosecutions against Mr. Hone, is in itself a curiosity. The occasion which gave rise to it was this;—On the 3d inst. Petitions were presented by Mr. Bennet from two persons who had beén arrested by the Magistrates, in pursuance of the advice of Lord Sidmouth's Circular, thrown into prison, loaded with irons, and treated much in the same manner as the vilest and most notorious felons, on an accusation for selling one of those parodies, which Mr. Hone originally published, and to the publication of which three Juries declared that no guilt attached. If there had been any guilt in the case, these men would have been infinitely less guilty than Mr. Hone; yet bail was demanded from them as well as from Mr. Hone, and as they could not procure the bail demanded, they were sent to gaol in the manner we have described.. The use of bail is, that some security should be afforded that a man shall appear to take his trial. But it has very rarely been the practice, before the reign of the Sidmouths and Castlereaghs, to demand bail in cases of libel; nor is there any reason why it should be demanded ,—because, if a man against whom a charge is preferred does not appear to answer to it, but leaves his property and his country, he thereby inflicts upon himself a punishment more severe than the law would have inflicted, if he had been found guilty. Besides, it is often proved, and was found in the case of Mr. Hone, that a man is accused of a libel, when not only he is innocent, but when no libel has been published. And if this reasoning applies to the original publisher of libels, it applies much more strongly to the venders. But on the principle which Lord Sidmouth recommends, and his Magistrates act upon, if any one choose to accuse the publisher of the Morning Chronicle or the Times of a libel, they might not only hold to bail the publisher himself, but demand bail from all the venders who had sold a copy of the Paper, and fill Newgate with newsmen and with the boys who hawk the Papers about the streets; and after all this a Jury might reject with indignation the charge against the principals. In the case of other crimes, a Magistrate, before he demands bail or commits to prison, ascertains that some mischief has been done; but in the case of libel he only learns that a paper has been published,—an act in itself neither good nor bad, and which a Jury may think not only innocent but laudable. The conversation which passed on this occasion will serve more strongly to show the danger of this discretionary power in Magistrates, from the vagueness of the law of libel, if the unwritten usage of Courts, and the sayings of Judges and Counsel, may be dignified with that respectable name. The Petitioners, be it remembered, had been thrown into prison, and if there was any plausible reason for this, it was (a very insufficient one as we have shown) the fear that they would not stay and take their trials. Yet after some severe suffering, they were liberated on their recognizances, it being thus proved that the demand of bail was wholly unnecessary and unjustifiable. Mr. Bennet having asked the Attorney-General whether he did not feel it his duty to discharge the recognizances and abandon the prosecution, the Attorney-General made this answer:—" Whether he should proceed in the prosecution of these men would be determined by a variety of other considerations; but he did not feel it duty to forego the prosecution of what appeared to him to be a libel, because a person had been acquitted for publishing a similar libel, in another place..... Did it follow," he then said, "that men vending this publication, which if not a libel was literally poison— (Hew!)—through the country, should be suffered to proceed to circulate them at the corner of every street." What is here remarkable is, that as by the looseness of the law it is impossible to know what is a libel, so it is impossible to know what is not. We should have thought that the verdict of a Jury was one of the most satisfactory proofs; but this the Attorney-General says is of no use. Well then, we will follow up his opinion, and as he will not allow that the verdict of a Jury in acquittal will not determine that a publication is not a libel, so when they find a verdict of guilty, we have a right to say that the guilt is not established. But a main ingredient of a libel, in the Attorney-General's opinion, is here to be noted,—it is extensive circulation:—" Should the men vending these publications," which though acquitted by a Jury were; obnoxious to, the Ministers, "be suffered to circulate them at the corner of every street?"—but more of this as we proceed. Mr.. Brougham ' said that though the publications were reprehensible and disgusting (in his opinion), yet if he had been on the Jury, he should have joined in a verdict of acquittal, becaúse a long course of impunity had, been secured to similar publications. This opinion, which was briefly expressed, is in itself perfectly consistent, and agrees with the principles and objects of law. It is not every thing which is reprehensible or disgusting that should be punished by law, but only such acts as the person committing them knows to be forbidden. It is necessary that the will of the Legislature should be known before it can be conformed to. Therefore ex post facto laws, that is, laws for the punishment of acts committed previously to the passing of those laws, have always been held in abhorrence, as instances of revenge and malignity, and not of justice. On this subject there was no written law,—there is nothing written which is pretended to be law on the subject of parodies. It was necessary Mr. Hone should guide himself by the usage of Courts of Justice, and the still more uncertain usage of Attorney-Generals. When he saw, therefore, that thousands of parodies had been openly published, by men under the wings of Attorney-Generals, and never once prosecuted, he had as good an assurance, as in the present uncertain state of the law he can have, that he was acting
[p. 294] | [Page Image]legally; and to have punished him, would have been worse than an ex post facto law,—it would have been an act of illegal and wanton revenge. And was it not very fit that the Jury should consider this? To this Lord Castlereagh made an answer, which would astonish those who do not know what trash a man will talk who has some hundreds of men at his beck, to assert thus every thing he said is the perfection of reason—" He had never heard," he said, "a doctrine which, if it were sanctioned, would be more fatal than thus,—that Jones, acting on their oaths, should travel out of the questions before them, and elect themselves into political tribunals to judge the motives of the prosecution. This would he fatal to law and justice, and public tranquillity. The parallel which the Honourable and Learned Gentleman had mentioned of publications of this kind (meaning the parodies which were published under the sanction of the Ministers, a few years ago), did not hold good. Publications of this nature, and very reprehensible ones, might have been published, but they were not circulated to persons of the lower orders for the purpose of deluding them, and eradicating all feelings of religion. He did not know the publications to which the Honourable Gentleman referred (meaning the same Ministerial parodies), but they were not addressed to the lower orders of the country (in the newspapers, said Mr. Brougham). But there was not that systematic circulation of them in cheap publications. However, he would not go into that subject." No, he had better not. It would be hard for a better casuist than this, to draw the line between the impunity of Ministerial and the prosecution of Reformist parodies. But what does he here say? First, the Juries are not to travel out of the questions before them,—not to erect themselves into political tribunals, in a question which has always been made purely political. But far from being satisfied with this, in the very breath in which he declared that the Jury should not travel out of the question before them, he goes on to say, that without travelling out of that question, the mischievous nature of a publication cannot be determined. It is the circulation of a work among the lower orders, not the nature of the work itself, which, in his opinion, determines the guilt; and what is strangest of all, "its systematic circulation in cheap publications;" which means of course the circulation of them, by many persons at the same time,—for what other system there was in the circulation of the parodies, it would puzzle his Lordship to discover. So that though the Jurors must not consider the constant usage of this country, and thence determine the intention of the person accused, and the tendency of his acts,—though they must not "travel out" to consider this,—they may, with his Lordship's good-will, "travel out" of the question before them, to find matter to criminate the defendant, and, on the strength of what has been done by others over whom he has no controul, find him guilty for doing that which was in itself innocent. But this is the sort of stuff which his Lordship talks when he attempts to stung two sentences together. Mr. Wilberforce, too, came forward;—he, indeed, was too knowing to contradict himself in the course of three or four minutes, but he pressed the necessity of punishing Mr. Hone, because his parodies were cheap; and Mr. Lyttleton, a Whig, called them detestable libels, and said "he should have been glad to have had an earlier opportunity to have called them so." Mr. Wilberforce indeed asked whether religion was not to be supported as a part of the State —and whether these publications did not tend to desecrate, as he called it, subjects which should be treated with delicacy" Now if we were to admit these propositions to be true, it might be fit for the House of Commons to make a law on the subject, but it was no reason for attempting to punish a man under a law which did not exist; it was no reason for putting a lie to the Jury, and praying them to affirm it to be truth; it was no reason for telling them that Mr. Hone intended to bring religion into contempt, when, from the example of hundreds before him, they knew he had no such intention. And as for Mr. Lyttleton, if he will look at the history of one of those disgusting contests between Whig and Tory parties in Westminster, which are now for ever put an end to, he will find more of "these detestable libels" than were ever published by Mr. Hone. The prime movers in that transaction were the particular friends of Mr. Wilberforce.
———"Earth is sick,
And Heaven is weary of these hollow sounds[note] ."
Such is the state of the Law of Libel, and such is the state of the legislative wisdom of the House of Commons. None of the Members of that House, who were earnest against these productions, proposed any attempt to make the law more plain. It would have been pleasant to see them reduce their ideas into the form of a law. We should have seen, that a paper which would pass unpunished if sold for a shilling, would be "reprehensible" at sixpence-halfpenny, and "literally poison" if sold for a penny;—that any thing which the people chose to read must be libellous, but that Ministerial parodies, which were stupid and did not circulate, should not be punished;—that the Lottery puffs, because they were distributed gratis, and began with a grave subject and ended with a low one, tended to bring the State into ridicule, and were the most criminal productions of misdirected ingenuity:—that blasphemy could not exist on hotpressed paper, or even in Treasury Journals;—that nothing which was read by the rich alone could be mischievous,—and that for this favoured class should be reserved, not only the power of fattening on law and religion, but the liberty of laughing at both.
SECRET COMMITTEES' REPORTS.—We have not left ourselves room to notice these productions, nor do they need any. The only question would be as to their comparative demerits; and it would be hard to say which is the most vague, evasive, and unsatisfactory.
WHAT IS THE PEOPLE?
—AND who are you that ask the question? One of the people. And yet you would be something! Then you would not have the People nothing. For what is the People? Millions of men, like you, with hearts beating in" their bosoms, with thoughts) stirring in then minds., with the blood circulating in their veins, with wants and appetites, and passions and anxious cares, and busy purposes and affections for others and a respect for themselves, and a desire of happiness, and a right to freedom and a will to be free. And yet you would tear out this mighty heart of a nation and lay it bare and bleeding at the foot of despotism: you would slay the mind of a country to fill up the dreary aching void with the old, obscene, drivelling prejudices of superstition and tyranny: you would tread out the eye of Liberty (the light of nations) like "a ville jelly," that mankind may be led about darkling to its endless drudgery, like the Hebrew Sampson (shorn of his strength and blind), by his insulting taskmasters: you would make the throne every thing, and the people nothing, to be yourself less than nothing, a very slave, a reptile, a creeping cringing sycophant, a court favourite, a pander to Legitimacy—that detestable fiction, which would make you and me and all mankind its slaves or victims; which would, of right and with all the sanctions of religion and morality, sacrifice the lives of millions to the least of its caprices; which subjects the rights, the happiness, and liberty of nations, to the will of some of the lowest of the species; which rears its bloated hideous form to brave the will of a whole people; that claims mankind as its property, and allows human nature to exist only upon sufferance; that haunts the understanding like a frightful spectre,
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and oppresses the very air with a weight that is not to be borne; that like a witch's spell covers the earth with a dim and envious mist, and makes us turn our eyes from the light of heaven which we have no light to look at without its leave; robs us of "the unbought grace of life," the pure delight and conscious pride in works of art or nature; leaves us no thought or feeling that we dare call our own; makes genius its lacquey, and virtue its easy prey; sports with human happiness and mocks at human misery; suspends the breath of liberty, and almost of life; exenterates us of our affections, blinds our understandings, debases our imaginations, converts the very hope of emancipation from us yoke into sacrilege, binds the successive countless generations of men together in its chains like a stung of felons or galley-slaves, lest they should "resemble the flies of a summer," considers any remission of its absolute claims as a gracious boon, an act of royal clemency and favour, and confounds all sense of justice, reason, truth, liberty, humanity, in one low servile deathlike dread of power without limit and without remoise!
Such is the old doctrine of Divine Right, new-ramped up under the style and title of Legitimacy. "Fine word, Legitimate!" We wonder where our English politicians picked it up. Is it an echo from the tomb of the martyred monarch, Charles the First? Or was it the last word which his son, James the Second, left behind him in his flight, and bequeathed with his abdication, to his legitimate successors? It is not written in our annals in the years 1688, in 1715, or 1745 [note]. It was not sterling then, which was only fifteen years before his present Majesty's accession to the throne. Has it become so since? Is the Revolution of 1688 at length acknowledged to be a blot in the family escutcheon of the Prince of Orange or the Elector of Hanover? It the choice of the people, which raised them to the throne, found to be the only flaw in their title to the succession; the sense of royal gratitude growing more uneasy with the distance of the obligation? Is the alloy of liberty, mixed up with it, thought to debase that fine carrat, which should compose the regal diadem? Are the fire-new specimens of the principles of the Right-Liners, and of Sir Robert Filmer's patriarchal scheme, to be met with in the Courier, the Day, the Sun, and some time back, in the Times, handed about to be admired in the highest circle, like the new gold coinage of sovereigns and half-sovereigns? We do not know. It may seem to be Latter Lammas with this doctrine at this time of day; but better late than never. By taking root in the soil of France, from which it was expelled (not quite so long as from our own), it may in time stretch out its feelers and strong suckers to this country; and present an altogether curious and novel aspect, by ingrafting the principles of the House of Stuart on the illustrious stock of the House of Brunswick.
" Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma "
What then is the People? We will answer first, by saying what it is not; and this we cannot do better than in the words of a certain author, whose testimony on this subject is not to be despised. That infatuated drudge of despotism, who at one moment asks, "Where is the mad man that maintains the doctrine of divine light?" and the next affirms, that "Louis XVIII. has the same right to the throne of France, independently of his merits or conduct, that Mr. Coke of Norfolk has to his estate at Holkham [note]," has given us a tolerable clue to what we have to expect from that mild paternal sway to which he would so kindly make us and the rest of the world over in hopeless perpetuity. In a violent philippic against the author of the Political Register, he thus inadvertently expresses himself:—" Mr. Cobbett had been sentenced to two years imprisonment for a libel, and during the time that he was in Newgate, it was discovered that he had been in treaty with Government to avoid the sentence passed upon him; and that he had proposed to certain of the agents of Ministers, that if they would let him off, they might make what future use they pleased of him; he would entirely betray the cause of the people, he would either write or not write, or write against them, as he had once done before, just as Ministers thought proper. To this, however, it was replied, that 'Cobbett had written on too many sides already to be worth a great for the service of Government;' and he accordingly suffered his confinement!"'—We here then see plainly enough what it is that, in the opinion of this very competent judge, alone renders any writer "worth a great for the service of Government," viz —that he shall be able and willing entirely to betray the cause of the people. It follows from this principle (by which he seems to estimate the value of his own lucubrations in the service of Government—we do not know whether the Government judge of them in the same way), that the cause of the people and the cause of the Government, who are represented as thus anxious to suborn their creatures to write against the people, are not the same, but the reverse of one another. This slip of the pen in our professional retainer of legitimacy, though a libel on our own Government, is, notwithstanding, a general philosophic truth (the only one he ever hit upon), and an axiom in political mechanics, which we shall make the text of the following commentary.—What are the interests of the people? Not the interests of those who would betray them. Who is to judge of those interests? Not those who would suborn others to betray them.
That Government is instituted for the benefit of the governed, there can be little doubt; but the interests of the Government (when once it becomes absolute and independent of the people) must be directly at variance with those of the governed. The interests of the one are common and equal rights: of the other, exclusive and invidious privileges. The essence of the first is to be shaded alike by all, and to benefit the community in proportion as they are spread: the essence of the last is to be destroyed by communication, and to subsist only—in wrong of the people. Rights and privileges are a contradiction in terms: for if one has more than his right, others must have less. The latter are the deadly nightshade of the commonwealth, near which no wholesome plant can thrive,—the ivy clinging round the trunk of the British oak, blighting its verdure, drying up its sap, and oppressing its stately growth. The insufficient checks and balances opposed to the overbearing influence of hereditary rank and power in our own Constitution, and in every Government which retains the least trace of freedom, as so many illustrations of this principle, if it needed any. The tendency in arbitray power to encroach upon the liberties and comforts of the people, and to convert the public good into a stalking-horse to its own pride and avarice, has never (that we know) been denied by any one but "the professional gentleman," who writes in the Day and New Times.[note] The great and powerful, in order to be what they aspire to be, and what this gentleman would have them, perfectly independent of the will of the people, ought also to be perfectly independent of the assistance of the people. To be formally invested with the attributes of Gods upon earth, they ought first to be raised above its petty wants and appetites: they ought to give proofs of the beneficence and wisdom of Gods, before they can be trusted with the power. When we find them seated above the world, sympathising with the welfare, but not feeling the passions of men, receiving neither good nor hurt, neither tilth nor tythe from them, but bestowing their benefits
[p. 296] | [Page Image]as free gifts on all, they may then be expected, but not till then, to rule over us like another Providence. We may make them a present of all the taxes, they do not apply to their own use: they are perfectly welcome to all the power, to the possession of which they are perfectly indifferent, and to the abuse of which they can have no possible temptation. But Legitimate Governments (flatter them as we will) are not another Heathen mythology. They are neither so cheap nor so splendid as the Delphin edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses. They are indeed " Gods to punish," but in other respects "men of our infirmity." They do not feed on ambrosia or drink nectar; but live on the common fruits of the earth, of which they get the largest share, and the best. The wine they drink is made of grapes: the blood they shed is that of their subjects: the laws they make are not against themselves: the taxes they vote, they afterwards devour. They have the same wants that we have; and having the option, very naturally help themselves first, out of the common stock, without thinking that others are to come after them. "With the same natural necessities, they have a thousand artificial ones besides; and with a thousand times the means to gratify them, they are still voracious, importunate, unsatisfied. Our State-paupers have their hands in every man's dish, and fare sumptuously every day. They live in palaces, and loll in coaches. In spite of Mr. Malthus, their studs of horses consume the produce of our fields, their dog-kennels are glutted with the food which would maintain the children of the poor. They cost us so much a year in dress and furniture, so much in stars and garters, blue ribbons, and grand crosses,—so much in dinners, breakfasts, and suppers, and so much in suppers, breakfasts, and dinners.[note] These Heroes of the Income-tax, Worthies of the Civil List, Saints of the Court-calendar (compagnous du lys), have their naturals and non-naturals, like the rest of the world, but at a dearer rate. They are real bona fide personages, and do not live upon air. You will find it easier to keep them a week than a month; and at the end of that time, waking from the sweet dream of legitimacy, you may say with Caliban," "Why, what a fool was I to take tins drunken monster for a God!" In fact, the case on the part of the people is so far self-evident. There is but a limited earth and a limited fertility to supply the demands both of Government and people; and what the one gains in the division of the spoil, beyond its average proportion, the other must needs go without. Do you suppose that our gentlemen-placemen and pensioners would suffer so many wretches to be persisting in our streets and high-ways, if they could relieve their extreme misery without parting with any of "their own superfluities?—If the Government take a fourth of the produce of the poor man's labour, they will be rich, and he will be in want. If they can contrive to take one half of it by legal means, or by a stretch of arbitrary power. they will be just twice as rich, twice as insolent and tyrannical, and he will be twice as poor, twice as miserable and oppressed, in a mathematical ratio to the end of the chapter, that is, till the one can extort and the other endure no more. It is the same with respect to power. The will and passions of the great are not exerted in regulating the seasons, or rolling the planets round their orbits for our good, without fee or reward, but in controuling the will and passions of others, in making the follies and vices of mankind subservient to their own, and marring,
" Because men suffer it, their toy, the world[note] ."
This is self-evident, like the former. Their will cannot be paramount, while any one in the community, or the whole community together, has the power to thwart it. A King cannot attain absolute power, while the people remain perfectly free; yet what King would not attain absolute power? While any trace of liberty is left among a people, ambitious Princes will never be easy, never at peace, never of sound mind; nor will they ever rest or leave one stone unturned, till they have succeeded in destroying the very name of liberty, or making it into a bye-word, and in rooting out the germs of every popular right and liberal principle from a soil once sacred to liberty. It is not enough that they have secured the whole power of the state in their hands,—that they carry every measure they please without the chance of an effectual opposition to it: but a word uttered against it is torture to their ears,—a thought that questions their wanton exercise of the royal prerogative rankles in their breasts like poison. Till all distinctions of right and wrong, liberty and slavery, happiness and misery, are looked upon as matters of indifference, or as saucy, insolent pretensions,—are sunk and merged in their idle caprice and pampered self-will, they will still feel themselves "cribbed, confined, and cabin'd in:" but if they can once more set up the doctrine of Legitimacy, "the right divine of Kings to govern wrong," and set mankind at defiance with impunity, they will then be "broad and casing as the general air, whole as the rock." This is the point from which they set out, and to which by the grace of God and the help of man they may return again. Liberty is short and fleeting, a transient grace that lights upon the earth by stealth and at long intervals—
" Like the rainbow's lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm;
Or like the Borealis race,
That shift ere you can point their place;
Or like the snow, falls in the river,
A moment white, then melts for ever."
But power is eternal; it is "enthroned in the hearts of Kings." If you want the proofs, look at history, look at geography, look abroad; but do not look at home!
The power of an arbitrary King or an aspiring Minister does not increase with the liberty of the subject, but must be circumscribed by it. It is aggrandized by perpetual systematic, insidious, or violent encroachments on popular freedom and natural rights, as the sea gains upon the land by swallowing it up.— What then can we expect from the mild paternal sway of absolute power, and its sleek minions? What the world has always received ats hands, an abuse of power as vexatious, cowardly, and unrelenting, as the power itself was unprincipled, preposterous, and unjust. They who get wealth and power from the people, who drive them like cattle to slaughter or to market, " and levy cruel wars, wasting the earth;" they who wallow in luxury, while the people are "steeped in poverty to the very lips," and bowed to the earth with unremitting labour, can have hut little sympathy with those whose loss of liberty and property is their gain. What is it that the wealth of thousands is composed of? The tears, and sweat, and blood of millions. What is it that constitutes the glory of the Sovereigns of the earth? To have millions of men their slaves. Wherever the Government does not emanate (as in our own excellent Constitution) from the people, the principle of the Government, the esprit de corps, the point of honour, in all those connected with it, and raised by it to privileges above the law and above humanity, will be hatred of the people. Kings who would be thought to reign in contempt of the people, will shew their contempt of them in every act of their lives. Parliaments, not chosen by the people, will only be instruments of Kings, who do net reign in the hearts of the people, "to betray the cause of the people." Ministers, not resposible to the people, will squeeze the last shilling out of them, Charity begins at home, is a maxim as true of Governments as of individuals. When the English Parliament insisted on its right of taxing the Americans without their consent, it was not from an apprehension that the Americans would, by being left to themselves, lay such heavy duties on their own produce and manufactures, as would afflict the generosity of the mother-country, and put the mild paternal sentiments
[p. 297] | [Page Image]of Lord North to the blush. If any future King of England should keep a wistful eye on the map of that country, it would rather be to hang it up as a trophy of legitimacy, and to "punish the last successful example or a democratic rebellion," than from any yearnings of fatherly goodwill to the American people, or from finding his "large heart" and capacity for good government, "confined in too narrow room" in the united kingdoms of Great Britain, Ireland, and Hanover. If Ferdmand VII. refuses the South American Patriots leave to plant the olive or the vine, throughout that vast continent, it is his pride, not his humanity, that steeds his royal resolution.[note]
In 1781, the Controller-General of France, under Louis XVI. Monsieur Joh de Fleuri, defined the people of France to be un people serf, corveable et baillable, a merci et misericorde. When Louis XVIII. as the Count de Lille, protested against his brother's accepting the Constitution of 1792 (he has since become an accepter of Constitutions himself, if not an observer of them), as compromising the rights and privileges of the noblesse and clergy as well as of the crown, he was right in considering the Bastile, or "King's castle," with the picturesque episode of the Man in the Iron Mask, the fifteen thousand lettres de cachet, issued in the mild reign of Louis XV., corvees, tythes, game-laws, holy water, the right of pillaging, imprisoning, massacring, persecuting, harassing, insulting, and ingeniously tormenting the minds and bodies of the whole French people at every moment of their lives, on every possible pretence, and without any check or controul but their own mild paternal sentiments towards them, as among the menus plastics the chief points of etiquette, the immemorial privileges, and favourite amusements of Kings, Priests, and Nobles, from the beginning to the end of time, without which the bare title of King, Priest, or Noble would not have been worth a farthing!
The breasts of Kings and Courtiers then are not the safest depositary of the interests of the people. But they know best what is for their good? Yes—to prevent it! The people may indeed feel the grievance, but their betters, it is said, must apply the remedy—which they take good care never to do! If the people want judgment in their own affairs (which is not certain, for they only meddle with their own affairs when they are forcibly brought home to them in a way which they can hardly misunderstand), this is at any rate better than the want of sincerity, which would constantly and systematically lead their superiors to betray those interests, from their having other ends of their own to serve. It is better to trust to ignorance than malice—to run the risk of sometimes miscalculating the odds than to play against loaded dice. The people would in this way stand as little chance in defending their purses or their persons against Mr. C———or Lord C———, as an honest country gentleman would have had in playing at put or hazard with Count Fathom or Jonatham Wild. A certain degree of folly, or rashness, or indecision, on even violence in attaining an object, is surely less to be dreaded than a malignant, deliberate, mercenary intention in others to deprive us of it. If the people must have attorneys, and the advice of counsel, let them have attorneys and counsel of their own chusing, not those who are employed by special retainer against them, or who regularly hue others to betray their cause.
———" O silly sheep,
Come ye to seek the lamb here of the wolf?"
This then is the cause of the people, the good of the people, judged of by common feeling and public opinion. Mr. Burke contemptuously defines the people to be "any faction that at the time can get the power of the sword into its hands." No: that may be a description of the Government, but it is not of the people. The people is the hand, heart, and head of the whole community acting to one purpose, and with a mutual and thorough consent. The hand of the people so employed to execute what the heart feels, and the head thinks, must be employed more beneficially for the cause of the people, than in executing any measures which the cold hearts, and contriving heads of any faction, with distinct privileges and interests, may dictate to betray their cause. The will of the people necessarily tends to the general good as its end; and it must attain that end, and can only attain it, in proportion as it is guided—First, by popular feeling, as arising out of the immediate wants and wishes of the great mass of the people,—secondly, by public opinion, as arising out of the impartial reason and, enlightened intellect of the community. "What is it that determines the opinion of any number of persons in things they actually feel in their practical and home results? Their common interest. What is it that determines, their opinion in things of general inquiry, beyond their immediate experience or interest? Abstract reason. In matters of feeling and common sense, of which each individual is the best judge, the majority are in the right; in things requiring a greater strength of mind to comprehend them, the greatest power of understanding will prevail, if it has but fair play. These two, taken together, as the test of the practical measures or general principles of Government, must be right, cannot be wrong. It is an absurdity to suppose that there can be any better criterion of national grievances, or the proper remedies for them, than the aggregate amount of the actual, dear-bought experience, the honest feelings, and heart-felt wishes of a whole people, informed and directed by the greatest power of understanding in the community, unbiassed by any sinister motive. Any other standard of public good or ill must, in proportion as it deviates from this, be vitiated in principle, and fatal in its effects. Vox populi vox dei is the rule of all good Government: for in that voice, truly collected and freely expressed (not when it is made the servile echo of a corrupt Court, or a designing Minister), we have all the sincerity and all the wisdom of the community. If we could suppose society to be transformed into one great animal (like Hobbes's Leviathan), each member of which had an intimate connection with the head or Government, so that every want or intention of ever[note] y individual in it could be made known and have its due weight, the State would have the same consciousness of its own wants and feelings, and the same interest in providing for them, as an individual has with respect to his own welfare. Can any one doubt that such a state of society in which the greatest knowledge of its interests was thus combined with the greatest sympathy with its wants, would realise the idea of a perfect common-wealth? But such a Government would be the precise idea of a truly popular or representative Government. The opposite extreme is the purely hereditary and despotic form of Government, where the people are an inert, torpid mass, without the power, scarcely with the will, to make its wants or wishes known: and where the feelings of those who are at the head of the State, centre in their own exclusive interests, pride, passions, prejudices; and all their thoughts are employed in defeating the happiness and undermining the liberties of a country.
[To be concluded in our next.]
PRESENT STATE OF GERMANY.
THE state of most of the countries of the-European Continent is but very imperfectly known in England. France, indeed, was surveyed at the commencement of the Revolution, in a very masterly
[p. 298] | [Page Image]manner, by Arthur Young; but our information with respect to the present state of that country is extremely defective; and of the other influential States of Europe, we know still less We send out indeed abundance of tourists in all directions, but they generally return as wise, with respect to the condition and character of the nations they may have visited, as they were when they left home.
The following sketch of the present state of Germany, a country interesting in the highest degree, from its position and the influence which it has long had, and which it must continue to have, on the affairs of Europe, may not be unacceptable at the present moment to our readers.
The Empire of Germany, in the year 1789, contained 258,640 square English statute miles. It was computed of 286 States, including fifty free imperial towns.
The States included in the German federation contain 235,740 square miles. The greatest part of the Austrian Netherlands, which formed a part of the Empire, is not included in the federation, and this accounts for the difference in extent.
The German federation comprehends the following States:—
|Population in 1816.|
|German possessions of Austria||9,115,000|
|German possessions of Prussia||7,616,500|
|Holstein (to Denmark||360,700|
|Luxemburg (to the Netherlands||203,500|
|Frankfort on the Mayne||47,000|
Of this population, the number of individuals of the German race amounts to 23,845,700; the number of those of the Sclavonic race, who generally speak dialects of the Sclavonic language, amounts to 4,790,200. The Jews, the refugee French, and Italians, in Istria and the Tyrol, make up the remaining number. With respect to religion, again, we may divide this population into Catholics, 15,027,000; Lutherans, 11,734,400; and Calvinists, about 2,030,000. The numbers of the other persuasions it is unnecessary to mention.
So far with respect to the States included in the German federation. But this federation, as we have seen, includes some States where the German language is not spoken, and it does not include others where it is spoken. In East Prussia, and along the coast of West Prussia, German is generally spoken; and there are many settlements of Germans in Hungary and other parts of Austria, not in the federation. German is also spoken by 1,800,000 of people in France, and by nearly the whole of Switzerland, which contains 1,713,800 inhabitants.— It is not, therefore, an easy matter to determine accurately what are the real limits of Germany.
Again, we must always keep in view the connection of the States of the German federation with other States. This connection, it is obvious, must always have a powerful influence on the States of the Federation, and must therefore be taken into account, in any political calculation we may form with respect to them.
|The population of the Federation, exclusive of the Austrian, Prussian, Danish, and Netherland territories, is||11,703,000|
Without, therefore, including Great Britain, because Hanover is not a British possession, though it has been, and will continue to be, the cause of the sacrifice of much British blood and treasure, if we take the whole of the European population at what it has been stated to be by the latest statistical writers of authority, namely, 178,720,700, we shall find that the German federation contains about one-sixth; and the Federation and States connected with it, about one-third of that population.
The whole extent of Europe has been stated to be 3,253,407 square miles: the countries of the Federation therefore constitute about a thirteenth part of all Europe. If we leave out of tile amount the European part of Russia, of which the population is so disproportionately thin, being only 36,433,400, for a space of 1,546,916 square miles, the States of the Federation may be said to contain, in round numbers, one seventh part of the extent of the rest of Europe, and one fifth part of its population.
But the mere number of men in any country, its extent, and its natural barrenness or fertility, form alone a very insufficient criterion for forming a correct judgment respecting it. This criterion might do well enough with the Sovereigns at Vienna, who shared among themselves the profits by the head, like so many cattle. It requires, however, but little acquaintance either with history or the present state of the world to know that power, the only thing valuable in the eyes of Sovereigns, is not to be measured by either population or extent of terntory. The world has always been ruled by a very small part of its inhabitants. Power and civilization are nearly the same thing; and the civilization of the world may be said to be yet in a great measure confined to the coast of the United States of America, and to a circle of two or three hundred miles radius, of which the centre may be placed at Dover or Calais. If within that circle we include the north of France, the Netherlands, and the north of Germany and England, we shall have nearly the whole of the civilization of Europe. Holland affords perhaps the most remarkable instance in history, of the power of industry and civilization. This
[p. 299] | [Page Image]country, not exceeding an eighth part of the extent of this island, by nature a morass, and only rendered fit for human habitation by immense labour, has been rendered, by the skill and industry of its inhabitants, one of the most productive in Europe, and the Dutch, with all their natural disadvantages, were long able to make head against England, and to form and maintain powerful settlements in every quarter of the world; while five millions of men in Ireland, a country highly favoured in soil and situation, from the very low state of the civilization of the greatest part of them, occasioned chiefly by the misgovernment of which they have been so long the victims, add very little to the real strength, though they add so much to the population of the British empire
A country like Germany, which has ports in the Baltic, the North Sea, and the Adriatic,—which was broken up formerly by nearly 300 Governments, and still contains 39 separate States, and which is besides divided so much by religion, must necessarily present great diversities in the character of its inhabitants The truth is, that Germany exhibits nearly the two extremes of European culture and civilization. The present political divisions will not assist us very much in forming an estimate of the relative advancement of the people. Bavaria, for instance, the inhabitants of which were proverbial throughout Germany for their ignorance, from various recent accessions, now contains a great body of inhabitants of a very different character. Several of the other States are not less incongruously formed. The people who speak the same dialect, and are popularly known by the same name, though they may belong to different Governments, may be considered as having nearly the same character; and of these diversities the principal are the Saxons, Swabians, Bavarians, Francomans, Westphahans, Austrians, Tyrolese, and Hessians. In general it may be asserted that the Protestants, who form nearly one half of the population, are greatly superior in knowledge and cultivation to the other half. The inhabitants of Old Bavaria, and of nearly the whole of the Austrian dominions, are yet in a state which differs little from that of the people throughout Europe in the middle ages. On the other hand, the inhabitants of the countries which formed the circles or Upper and Lower Saxony (with some exceptions, such as Mecklenburg, where slavery still prevails), have teamed a very high degree of civilization. We do not exaggerate when we rank the inhabitants of Royal and Ducal Saxony, in particular, among the most civilized and enlightened people in Europe.— The Saxon agriculture has long been in a nourishing state, and the woollen, cotton, iron, and porcelain manufactures, are formidable rivals of our own. To give an idea of the prosperity which the skill and industry of its inhabitants gave to the small kingdom of Saxony, we may mention, that in a late publication of authority it is stated, when the French proceeded through it in 1806, many of them declared they had never before been in so rich a country, and had no where made richer booty. It was not unusual at that time to find farmers who could give portions to their daughters of from ten to twenty thousand dollars, without injuring their sons. Most of the peasantry were in easy circumstances, and building and other improvement were frequent in every village. Their expenditure in articles of convenience and enjoyment was very considerable. Their houses were well furnished, and they were dressed in the best stuffs. After the battle of Jena, a contribution of seven millions of dollars was imposed on this small country. Leipzie alone was forced to pay seven millions of francs, to ransom it. English goods. Saxony was, from 1806 to 1810, continually traversed by a great part of the French and Allied army its miseries were renewed in 1812; and in 1813, it was an arena for all the armies of Europe; above half a million of men were drawn up against each other on the plains of Leipzie. The total loss sustained by that small State, in the course of three years, was calculated at forty millions of dollars; yet already few traces of war and devastation are visible, and the country again enjoys a considerable degree of prosperity.
The Reformation greatly promoted the civilization of Germany, but the Reformation itself was the consequence as well as the cause of civilization. The States that embraced the Reformation, from the freedom of discussion to which it gave rise, made necessarily the greatest advances in improvement; but the warm support which Luther received from the very outset of his opposition to Rome, throughout the Lowlands of Germany, was a proof of their previous superiority in civilization. The Reformation originated and struck root immediately in the low parts of Germany, because they had long been the seat of trade and industry; and trade and industry, by bringing men together, tend necessarily to sharpen and invigorate their mental faculties. So early as the latter end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century, Hamburgh, Lubeck, and Bremen had, by trade and commerce, attained to great opulence: and the Hanseatic League, which was first entered into by these towns, and to which, in 1494, no fewer than 72 cities belonged, kept up at their joint expense soldiers and vessels for s the protection of their trade, possessed magazines in most of the countries of Europe, and was so powerful as to be able to prescribe laws to all the Northern Powers. Machiavel states, that in his time all Italy was full of the manufactures of these cities; and in one or other of them originated, to speak in the language of a great French writer, almost all the inventions truly useful to the human race.
ON THE LAKE SCHOOL OF POETRY.
[From Mr. Hazhll's Lecture, delivered on Tuesday last at the Surrey
MR. WORDSWORTH is at the head of that which has been denominated the Lake School of Poetry, a school which, with all my respect for it, I do not think sacred from criticism or exempt from faults. Of some of which faults I shall speak with becoming frankness; for I do not see that the liberty of the press ought to be shackled, or freedom of speech curtailed, to screen either its revolutionary or renegado extravagances. This School of Poetry had its origin in the French Revolution, or rather in those sentiments and opinions which produced that Revolution, and which sentiments and opinions were indirectly imported into this country, in translations from the German, about that period. Our poetical literature had, in the latter part of the last century, degenerated into the most trite, insipid, and mechanical of all things, in the hands of the followers of Pope and the old French School of Poetry. It wanted something to stir it up, and it found that something in the principles and events of the French Revolution. From the impulse it thus received, it rose at once from the most servile imitation and tamest common-place, to the utmost pitch of singularity and paradox. The change in the belle-lettres was as complete and, to many persons, as startling as the change in politics, with which it went hand in hand.— There was a mighty ferment in the heads of statesmen and poets, kings and people. According to the prevailing notions, all was to be natural and new. Nothing that was established was to be tolerated. All the common-place figures of poetry, tropes, allegories, personifications, with the whole Heathen mythology, were instantly discarded; a classical allusion was considered as a piece of antiquated foppery; capital letters Were no more allowed in print, than letters-patent of nobility were permitted in real life; Kings and Queens were dethroned from their rank and station in legitimate tragedy or epic poetry, as they were decapitated elsewhere; rhyme was looked upon as a relic of the feudal system, and regular metre was abolished along with regular government. Authority and fashion, elegance or arrangement, were hooted out of countenance as pedantry and prejudice.
[p. 300] | [Page Image]Every one did that which was good in his own eyes. The object was to reduce all things to their natural level, and a singularly affected and outrageous simplicity prevailed in dress and manners, in style and sentiment. A striking effect produced where it was least expected,—something new and original, no matter whether good, bad, or indifferent,—whether mean or lofty, extravagant or childish, was all that was aimed at, or considered as compatible with sound philosophy and an age of reason. The licentiousness grew extreme. Coryate's Crudities[note] were nothing to it. The world was to be turned topsy-turvy; and poetry, by the good will of our Adam-wits, was to share its fate, and begin de novo. It was a time of promise, a renewal of the world and of letters; and the Deucalions who were to perform this feat of regeneration, were the present Poet Laureat and the authors of the Lyrical Ballads. The Germans, who made heroes of robbers, and honest women of cast-off mistresses, had already exhausted the extravagant and marvellous in sentiment and situation. Our native writers adopted a wonderful simplicity of style and matter. The paradox they set out with was, that all things are by nature equally fit subjects for poetry; or that if there is any preference to be given, those that are the meanest and most unpromising are the best, as they leave the greatest scope for the unbounded stores of thought and fancy in the writer's own mind. Poetry had with them "neither buttress nor corgne of vantage to make its pendant bed and procreant cradle." It was not "born so high: its aiery buildeth in the cedar's top, and dallies with the wind, and scorns the sun." It grew like a mushroom, out of the ground; or was hidden in it like a truffle, which it required a particular sagacity and industry to find out and dig up. They founded the new school on a principle of sheer humanity, on pure nature void of art. It could not be said of these reformers and dictators in the republic of letters, that "in their train walked crowns and crownets; that realms and islands like plates dropt from their pockets:" but they were surrounded, in company with the Muses, by a mixed rabble of idle apprentices and Botany Bay convicts, female vagrants, gypsies, meek daughters in the family of Christ, of idiot boys, and mad mothers; and after them, "owls and night-ravens flew." They scorned degrees, priority, and place. "Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, office, and custom, in all line of order,"—the distinctions of birth, the vicissitudes of fortune, did not enter into their abstracted, lofty, and levelling calculation of human nature. He who was more than man, with them was none. They claimed kindred only with the commonest of the people: peasants, pedlars, and village-barbers were their oracles and bosom friends. Their poetry, in the extreme to which it professedly tended, and was in effect carried, levels all distinctions of nature and society; has "no figures nor no fantasies," which the prejudices of superstition or the customs of the world draw in the brains of men; no trivial fond records of all that has existed in the past history of man; it has no adventitious pride, pomp, or circumstance, to set it off; " the Marshal's truncheon, nor the Judge's robe; neither tradition, reverence, or ceremony, "that to great ones 'longs;" it breaks in pieces the golden images of poetry, and defaces its armorial bearings, to cast them anew in the mould of common humanity, or of its own upstart self-sufficiency. They took the method, in their new fangled "metre-balladmongering" scheme, which Rousseau did in his prose paradoxes, of exciting attention by reversing the established standards of opinion and estimation in the world. They were for bringing poetry back to its primitive simplicity and state of nature, as he was for bringing society bank to the savage state; so that the only thing remarkable left in the world by this change, would be the person who had produced it. A thorough adept in this school of poetry and philanthropy, is jealous of all excellence but his own. He does not even like to share his reputation with his subject; he would have it all proceed from his own power and originality of mind. Such a one is slow to admire any thing that is admirable,—feels no interest in what is most interesting to others, —no grandeur in anything grand,—no beauty in any thing beautiful. He tolerates only what he himself creates; he sympathises only with what can enter into no competition with him; with "the bare trees and mountains bare, and grass in the green field." He sees nothing but himself and the universe. He hates all greatness, and all pretensions to it. His egotism is in this respect sometimes a madness; for he scorns even the admiration of himself, thinking it a presumption in any one to suppose that he has taste or sense enough to understand him. He hates all science and all art,—he hates chemistry, he hates conchology; he hates Voltaire,—he hates Sir Isaac Newton,—he hates wisdom,—he hates wit,—he hates prose,—he hates all poetry but his own,—he hates the dialogues in Shakespear,—he hates music, dancing, and painting,—he hates Rubens, he hates Rembrandt, he hates Raphael,—he hates Titian, he hates Vandyke,—he hates the antique,—he hates the Apollo Belvidere,— he hates the Venus de Medicis. This is the reason why so few people take an interest in his writings, because he takes an interest in nothing that they do. The effect has been perceived as something odd, but the cause or principle has never been distinctly traced to its source before, as far as I know. The proofs are to be found every where—in Mr. Southey's Botany Bay Eclogues,—in his book of Songs and Sonnets, his Odes and Inscriptions, so well parodied in the Anti-Jacobin Review,—in his Joan of Arc,—and last though not least, in his Wat Tyler.
" When Adam delved, and Eve span,
Where was then the gentleman?"
(Or the poet-Laureat either, we may ask.) In Mr. Coleridge's Ode to an Ass's Foal,—in his Lines to Sara,—his Religious Musings,—his Ode on the Departing Year; and in his and Mr. Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, passim.
A MAGNANIMOUS MINISTER.—Ministry now-a-days pursue a very different course to that taken by Colbert, upon whom Haynault wrote a sonnet, describing him as a griping and base Statesman. That Minister being told of the satire, which made a noise at the time, asked whether there was any tiling in it against the King. Being told there was not, he said, then it mattered not, and he should bear the author no ill will. Is not this, asks Bayle, a nobler thing than the Sonnet?
Porthaile, a celebrated preacher at Poictiers, having heard of the irregularities of a physician named Lurveau, who, though he had a handsome wife, could not be satisfied without change; pointing at him one day very pleasantly in the pulpit, when, having spoken against this vice in general, he came to particulars, he said, "Nay, we have heard with great concern that there are some men who are so profligate as to commit adultery, though they have wives in their own houses, who are such, that for our part we should be well enough contented with them."— Scaligerana.
The Article on Sir J. MACKINTOSH and Universal Suffrage, in our next.
Further Extracts from Mr. MIEL'S Work on British India, as soon as possible.