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 14, 1818
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The Yellow Dwarf,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY
"A stirring DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion."—SHAKSPEARE.
NUMBER 11. SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 1818. PRICE 4d.
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
INDEMNITY BILL.—This Bill has been carried hitherto with triumphant majorities, on the avowed principle, that one encroachment upon liberty must lead to another, and that a suspension of one part of our legal rights must be necessarily followed by a temporary annihilation of the whole. When the Suspension Act passed, the people were told, that though for a time the power of detaining them without bringing them to trial was vested in one great Magistrate, no new powers of arrest were conferred on him, and the protection which the subject enjoyed against false accusation, as well as against the cruelty of underlings, was undiminished. The people are now treacherously told that this was a mistake,—that the right of detaining without bringing to trial implied the power of arresting without legal proof, without any evidence which would bear to be adduced in open Court; and that as, to those who have once ventured into the plain broad path of arbitrary rule, the ways of the Law of England are intricate and tedious, the sufferers are to be precluded by one sweeping Act of Parliament, from any remedy against those who have exceeded even the extraordinary powers which were confided to them. This Bill of Indemnity was indeed foreseen as a possible consequence, but it was studiously kept in the shade. The House, out of its infinite respect for the regularity of its proceedings, would not discuss the tendency of a Bill of Indemnity during the debates on the Suspension, because the time was not come, and now it declares that it cannot discuss it, because the time is gone by. There are, indeed, some impudent pretexts now put forward, which in our former Numbers we have exposed almost by anticipation. There is no proof, it is said, of the misconduct of the Secretary and his Spies, or rather of the Spies and their Secretary. And how is this assertion verified? By the refusal of trial or enquiry; and, as proof must always be the result of enquiry, and can never precede it, by denying the liberty of enquiring, they have excluded the possibility of proof. While they have gagged witnesses and accusers, they have adduced all that they think is of consequence to their defence,—whether the declarations of felons, under the hopes of pardon, or the affidavits of gaolers, under fear of dismissal; and they ridicule and contemn those who doubt the result of a trial founded on such a system of judicature. A main expedient has been to blacken the character of some of those by whom the complaints of cruelty have been preferred, or the proofs offered of the machinations of Ministerial Agents. If this course had been taken for the purposes of lessening the value of their testimony, no one could object to it. When it was made an argument for rejecting their testimony, it was absurd; but when it was offered as a reason not only for rejecting their evidence, but for rejecting that of persons quite unconnected with them, there is no assembly, we think, but the House of Commons, where it would not have been received as in insult on the understanding of the hearers.
Was the question of the evil produced by the employment of spies? Were the hardships complained of by the persons arrested, matters respecting which it was desirable to get at the truth? It has not been denied that they were. It has been admitted by the production of affidavits and confessions, by the exculpatory narration concerning Oliver, and the long speeches, the laboured jokes and the attempts to excite prejudice on the subject, or to divert attention from it. They think fit to talk about it till their hearers are tired: they think fit to make bold assertions they give the result of their unbiased judgment and minute investigation: Hut why not have such an open enquiry as may enable the people, and those of the House of Commons who want information on the subject, to judge for themselves? But it is said, one party will assert the thing, and the opposite party will contradict it, therefore an enquiry can produce no good results. But unless this had happened, there would be no need of enquiry. If all parties were agreed as to the facts which had occurred, an inquiry would not be necessary to ascertain them; and this notable argument therefore amounts to an assertion, that there never should be a trial in cases when, a trial is necessary. But even in the way of assertion, those petitions which hear most strongly on the conduct of Oliver remain, uncontradicted. We refer particularly to that of Scholes, who was arrested immediately after he had exposed the proceedings of that miscreant. Till that moment he had never been thought dangerous; he was then thrown into prison, ruined in health, in property, and in character, and is now deprived of any legal remedy, or of a fair compensation,—he asks no more,—for the injuries he has suffered. This Oliver, too, was seen in the Park on the first day of last Session, when the unfortunate pebble was thrown at the glass of the royal carriage. "We are assured," says the Times, "by a gentleman of undoubted veracity and respectability, that on the day of the opening of the last Session of Parliament, he met Oliver at the entrance of the Horse Guards, a very short time before the Prince passed through on his way to the House. They had no sooner saluted each other, than Oliver, elevating his voice so as to attract a very numerous groupe of the bye-standers, poured forth a torrent of abuse upon the Government in general, and his Royal Highness in particular. The gentleman to whom we allude, surprised at this conduct on the part of a man who had been formerly most clamorous in his profession of loyalty, exclaimed. How much you are changed since you were a Serjeant in the Whitechapel Volunteers! To this Mr. Oliver made no reply, but continued his harangue. The gentleman parted from him, but remarked just as he was going away, that Oliver and a little dark-complexioned man among the crowd, recognized each other as old acquaintance;." This statement Mr. Lambton has offered to support at the bar of the House, by evidence perfectly unexceptionable; and what is the answer that is made to it?— ' Why did not the person who witnessed this scene immediately give information to the Magistrates?*—This is one of those questions which would not be asked but by those who are in a constant round of self-delusion. Do they suppose that it is the custom of this country for every man to give information to the
[p. 302] | [Page Image]Magistrate, of every old acquaintance who abuses the Government? He had no right to conclude that because his acquaintance had been indiscreet in his language, that he would throw stones at the Prince Regent; nor is the fact now adduced for any other purpose than to elucidate his character, and,—coupled with his former profession of loyalty, and his subsequent profession as a spy,—to establish such grounds of suspicion as demand enquiry. It has been also said, that at that time Oliver was not in the pay of Lord Sidmouth; but this, though, if it be proved, it exculpates Lord Sidmouth from the charge of instigating not on the first day of the Session,—from the charge of getting the glass broken, and then getting persons to swear that a bullet might make a clear round hole in an upright pane of glass, bound off, jump to it again, make another round hole, and never go through after all;—though it would exculpate him from the charge of inventing this story, which so many Courtiers, like the good Father of the Church [note], were ready to believe because it was impossible;—though it will clear him from the suspicion of having done this, it will be of use to shew the tendency of that spy system which Mr. Wilberforce attacks in his speeches and defends in his votes, and which Mr. Canning maintains both in word and deed. Oliver, perhaps, had not begun his labour as a spy, but he may have been cutting out work in another character; like his superiors, he thought he might make plots, in order to profit by destroying them, with this additional advantage on his part, that he might profit either by their success or by their discovery. The trial of Robert Watt, who was. executed for high treason at Edinburgh in 1794, showed that he was, at one time, for money, communicating information to the Government, and that, as well before and after as at that very time, he was hatching plots which he concealed from their knowledge, but probably with the view of ultimately discovering them, when his information became to valuable as to be worth purchasing at a dearer rate.
Forcible as the arguments have been by which the Indemnity Bill has been opposed, and shallow as the assertions were by which enquiry has been resisted, the Ministers have had a cause of triumph which should be noticed. It is the manner in which the Whig Party in Parliament has been divided, and the still wider division between the Reform Party in the House and the Reformers in the Country. It is useful to look to the origin of this, not for the purposes of crimination but of warning. Before the opening of the last Session, Mr. Cobbett and the party which followed him were violent in their attacks upon all Reformers who did not approve both of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage. It is no exaggeration to say, that more labour was bestowed upon these who differed respecting the duration of Parliaments, than upon those who differed us to the whole question of Reform. The matter in dispute was in fact only, whether Parliaments should be annul or triennial; for Mr. Cobbett at that time thought, that the right of voting should be confined to householders, and so thought the great body of those who called themselves moderate Reformers. Now, if there be no difference as to the constitution of Parliaments, we do not think their duration would be a matter of consequence. Triennial, Biennial, or Annual Parliaments, would lo very well, if the right of suffrage wore extended to all householders; though in our opinion Biennial would be better than Triennial, and Annual perhaps better than either. We have a paper before us, in which Mr. Waithman[note] is ridiculed by Mr. Cobbett, for proposing Triennial Parliaments: it was hinted that he was an insincere friend of Reform,—though if there be one man in the country who deserves better of the cause than another, by his long perseverance, and by the entire change which he has produced, by manly and fair discussion in the Corporation of London, it is he. This paper was published on January 25, 1817. The Parliament soon after met; the moderate Reformers in the House revenged themselves by harangues against the doctrines of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage; and the effect was, to encourage the Ministers in their plans for the preservation of abuses and the alarm of the country. But it was not the resentment towards Cobbett and his party which alone produced this effect, it was the desire of keeping on good terms with some of those persons who call themselves Whigs, but abhor all sort of Reform, and who, as the country now well sees, have no other difference of opinion with the Ministers than as to the meritorious persons who should hold certain places and pensions, each party very naturally thinking that their hands are best suited to the fingering of the public money. These persons, who by some accident which no one can lament more than themselves, are in opposition; they of course wished to come into place, but not by means of Reform. They had rather delay the possession than waste the substance of that estate in perpetuity of peculation and corruption, of which they deemed themselves the natural, though for a time, excluded inheritors.— Their pride would not allow them to come into power as underlings of the present Ministers, and both pride and interest prevented them from appealing to the people. Their endeavour was to discover the minimum divisibile, the most trifling cause of dispute with the Ministers, and were astonished that the people did not take an interest in their ingenious and subtle disputations. They have joined with heart and hand in all the measures against the people, and as their pride has diminished by the continuance of privation, they have been gradually sideling towards the warm side of the House. It is by compromising with this party,—the Grenville party,—the party of the Lambs, and Elliots, and Grenfells, that the Reform party in the House has injured its own character, and weakened the effect of its opposition to the late deplorable measures. If those who have any thing of the Old Whig feeling in them do not perceive this,—if they do not perceive that the question of Reform is the only one on which the people feel any interest; that it is only as advocates of Reform, and not as proposers of the reduction of one Lord of the Admiralty, or half a Lord of the Treasury, that the people can wish or ought to wish for their success; they are worthy of the names of "dolts and idiots," which Mr. Canning bestowed on them. They constantly tell us that the House does not speak the sense of the country, and we know it is true; they say that the Ministers are suffered to pack Committees, that they disregard the plainest demands of economy, and that they are protected in it. They appeal to the people, and conceive that by an expression of the voice of the people the House will be compelled to do its duty. But experience belies them. The voice of the people cannot be raised against every passing act of extravagance and injustice,— but it can be raised against the state of non-representation by which extravagance becomes habitual, and by which injustice is sanctioned. And if they are sincere in their declarations, why do they not avail themselves of this great power, give it unity and direction, and render its operation at once more speedy and most safe? Let them beware of the charge of hypocrisy; let them not degrade themselves from the character of a party acting on fixed principles, for the attainment of a great and openly-avowed object, to that of a faction cavilling at matters in themselves indifferent, for the gratification of vanity, and of an ambition which they dare not disclose. If Reform be necessary, it cannot be a secondary question; it should be kept always in the foreground, and scarcely any thing else can be of importance but as illustrating the necessity of it. If the Liberal Party in the House of Commons remember this and act upon it, casting aside with contempt those who, under the name of Whigs, repel every reinforcement of the popular part of our
[p. 303] | [Page Image]Constitution, and support every addition to the power of the Crown, they will be strong;—if not, they will be nothing.
WHAT IS THE PEOPLE?
(Concluded from our last.)
IT is not denied that the people are best acquainted with their own wants, and most attached to their own interests. But then a question is started, as if the persons asking it were at a great loss for the answer,-—Where are we to find the intellect of the people? Why, all the intellect that ever was is theirs. The public opinion expresses not only the collective sense of the whole people, but of all ages and nations, of all those minds that have devoted themselves to the love of truth and the good of mankind,—who have bequeathed their instructions, their hopes, and their example to posterity,—who have thought, spoke, written, acted, and suffered in the name and on the behalf of our common nature. All the greatest ports, sages, heroes, are ours originally, and by right. But surely Lord Bacon was a great man. Yes; but not because he was a Lord. There is nothing of hereditary growth but pride and prejudice. That " fine word legitimate" never produced anything but bastard philosophy and patriotism! Even Burke was one of the people, and would have remained with the people to the last, if there had been no Court-side for him to go over to. The King gave him his pension, not his understanding or his eloquence. It would have been better for him and for mankind if he had kept to his principles, and gone without his pension. It is thus that the tide of power constantly setting in against the people, swallows up natural genius and acquired knowledge in the voxtex of corruption, and then they reproach us with our want of leaders of weight and intellect, to stem the torrent. All that has ever been done for society, has, however, been done for it by this intellect, before it was cheapened to be a cat's-paw of divine right. All discoveries and all improvements in arts, in science, in legislation, in civilization, in every thing dear and valuable to the heart of man, have been made by this intellect— all the triumphs of human genius over the rudest barbarism, the darkest ignorance, the grossest and most inhuman superstition, the most unmitigated and remorseless tyranny, have been gained for themselves by the people. Great Kings, great law-givers, great founders, and great reformers of religion, have almost all arisen from among the people. What have hereditary Monarchs, or regular Governments, or established priesthoods, ever done for the people? Did the Pope and the Cardinals first set on foot the reformation? Did the Jesuits attempt to abolish the Inquisition?. For what one measure of civil or religious liberty did our own Bench of Bishops ever put themselves forward? What judge ever proposed a reform in the laws?— Have not the House of Commons, with all their "tried wisdom," voted for every measure of Ministers for the last twenty-five years, except the Income-tax? It is the press that has done every thing for the people, and even for Governments.— " If they had not ploughed with our heifer, they would not have found out our riddle." And it has done this by slow degrees, by repeated, incessant, and incredible struggles with the oldest, most inveterate, powerful, and active enemies of the freedom of the press and of the people, who wish, in spite of the nature of things and of society, to retain the idle and mischievous privileges they possess as the relics of barbarous and feudal times, who have an exclusive interest as a separate cast in the continuance of all existing abuses, and who plead a permanent vested right in the prevention of the progress of reason, liberty, and civilization. Yet they tax us with our want of intellect; and we ask them in return for their Court-list of great names in arts or philosophy, for the coats of arms of their heroic vanquishers of error and intolerance, for their devout benefactors and royal martyrs of humanity. We will take four names familiar to the reader, Franklin, Howard, Clarkson, and Bentham, and ask them to match them with any four names out of the Red Book, or Collins's Peerage. What are the claims of the people—the obvious, undoubted rights of common justice and humanity, forcibly withheld from them by pride, bigotry, and selfishness,—demanded for them, age after ago, year after year, by the wisdom and virtue of the enlightened and disinterested part of mankind, and only grudgingly yielded up, with indecent, disgusting excuses and sickening delays, when the burning shame of their refusal can be no longer concealed by fear or favour from the whole world. What did it not cost to abolish the Stave Trade? How long will the Catholic Claims. be withheld by our State-jugglers? How long, and for what purpose? We may appeal, in behalf of the people, from the interested verdict of the worst and weakest men now living, to the disinterested reason of the best and wisest men among the living and the dead. We appeal from the corruption of Courts, the hypocrisy of zealots, and the dotage of hereditary imbecility, to the innate love of liberty in the human breast, and to the growing intellect of the world. We appeal to the pen, and they answer us with the point of the bayonet; and, at one time, when that had failed, they were for recommending the dagger.[note][note] They quote Burke, but rely on the Attorney-General. They hold Universal Suffrage to be the most dreadful of all things, and a Standing Army the best representatives of the people abroad and at home. They think Church and King mobs good things, for the same reason that they are alarmed at a meeting to petition for a Reform of Parliament. They consider the cry of No Popery a sound, excellent, and constitutional cry,—but the cry of a starving population for food, strange and unnatural. They exalt the war-whoop of the Stock Exchange into the voice of undissembled patriotism, while they set down the cry for peace as the work of the Jacobins, the ventriloquism of the secret enemies of their country. The writers on the popular side of the question are factious, designing demagogues, who delude the people to make tools of them: but the government-writers, who echo every calumny, and justify every encroachment on the people, are profound philosophers and very honest men.— Thus when Mr. John Gifford, the Editor of the Anti-Jacobin (not Mr. William Gifford, who at present holds the same office under Government, as the Editor of the Quarterly Review), denounced Mr. Coleridge as a person, who had "left his wife destitute and his children fatherless," and proceeded to add— " Ex hoc disce his friends Lamb and Southey"—we are to suppose that he was influenced in this gratuitous statement purely by his love for his King and country. Loyalty, patriotism, and religion, are regarded as the natural virtues and plain unerring instincts of the common people: the mixture of ignorance or prejudice is never objected to in these: it is only their love of liberty or hatred of oppression that are discovered, by the same liberal-minded junto, to be proofs of a base and vulgar disposition. The Bourbons are set over the immense majority of the French people against their will, because a talent for governing does not go with numbers. This argument was not thought of when Bonaparte tried to shew his talent for governing the people of the Continent against their will, though he had quite as much talent as the Bourbons, Mr. Canning rejoiced that the first successful resistance to Bonaparte was made in Russia, a country of barbarians and slaves. The heroic struggles of "the universal Spanish nation" in the cause of freedom and independence, have ended in the destruction of the Cortes and the restoration of the Inquisition, bat without making the Duke of Wellington look thoughtful:—not a single renegado poet has vented his indignation in a single ode, elegy, or sonnet; nor does Mr. Southey "make him a willow cabin at its gate, write loyal cantos of contemned love, and sing them loud even in the dead of the night[note] !" He indeed
[p. 304] | [Page Image]assures us in the Quarterly Review[note] , that the Inquisition was restored by the voice of the Spanish people. He also asks, in the same place, "whether the voice of God was heard in the voice of the people at Jerusalem, when they cried, 'Crucify him, crucify him?'" We do not know: but we suppose, he would hardly go to the Chief Priests and Pharisees to find it. This great historian, politician, and logician, breaks out into a rhapsody against the old maxim, vox populi vox Dei, in the midst of an article of 55 pages, writtes expressly to prove that the last war was "the most popular, because the most just and necessary war that ever was ca ried on." He shrewdly asks, "Has the vox populi been the vox Dei in France for the last twenty-five years?" But, at least, according to his own showing, it has been so in this country for all tint period. We, however, do not think so. The voice of the country has been for war, because the voice of the King was for it, which was echoed by Parliament, both Lords and Commons, by Clergy and Gentry, and by the populace, till, as Mr. Southey himself states in the same connected chain of reasoning, the cry for war became so popular, that all those who did not join in it (of which number the poet-laureate himself was one) were "persecuted, insulted, and injured in their persons, fame, and fortune." This is the true way of accounting for the fact, but it unfortunately knocks the poet's inference on the head. Mr. Locke has observed, that there are not so many wrong opinions in the world as we are apt to believe, because most people take their opinions on trust from others. Neither are the opinions of the people their own, when they have been bribed or bullied into them by a mob of Lords and Gentlemen, following in full cry at the heels of the Court. The vox populi is the vox D i only when it springs from the individual, unbiased feelings and unfettered, independent opinion of the people. Air. Southey does not understand the terms of this good old adage, now that he is so furious against it: we fear, he understood them no better when he was as loudly in favour of it.
All the objections indeed to the voice of the people being the best rule for Government to attend to, arise from the stops and impediments to the expression of that voice, from the attempts to stifle or to give it a false bias, and to cut off its free and open communication with the head and heart of the people,—by the Government itself. The sincere expression of the feelings of the people must be true; the full and free development of the public opinion must lead to truth, to the gradual discovery and diffusion of knowledge in this as in all other departments of human inquiry. It is the interests of Governments in general to keep the people in a state of vassalage as long as they can—to prevent the expression of their sentiments, and the exercise and improvement of their understandings, by all the means in their power. They have a patent, and a monopoly, which they do not like to have looked into or to share with others. The argument for keeping the people in a state of lasting wardship, or for treating them as lunatics, incapable of self-government, wears a very suspicious aspect as it comes from those who are trustees to the estate, or keepers of insane asylums. The long minority of the people would at this rate never expire, while those who had an interest had also the power to prevent them from arriving at years of discretion: their government-keepers have nothing to do but to drive the people mad by ill-treatment, and to keep them so by worse, in order to retain the pretence for applying the gag, the strait waistcoat, and the whip as long as they please. It is like the dispute between Mr. Epps, the ham-shop keeper in the Strand, and his journeyman, whom he would restrict from setting up for himself. Shall we never serve out our apprenticeship to liberty? Must our indentures to slavery bind us for life? It is well, it is perfectly well. You teach us nothing, and you will not let us learn. You deny us education like Orlando's eldest brother, and then "stying us," in the den of legitimacy, you refuse to let us take the management of our own affairs into our own hands, or to seek our fortunes in the world ourselves. You found a right to treat us with indignity on the plea of your own neglect and injustice. You abuse a trust in order to make it perpetual. You profit of our ignorance and of your own wrong. You degrade and then enslave us: and by enslaving, you degrade us more, to make us more and more incapable of ever escaping from your selfish, sordid yoke. There is no end of this. It is the fear of the progress of knowledge and a Reading Public that has produced all the fuss and bustle and cant about Bell and Lancaster's plans, Bible and Missionary and Auxiliary and Cheap Tract Societies, and that, when it was impossible to prevent our reading something, made the Church and State so anxious to provide us with that sort of food for our stomachs, which they thought best. The Bible is an excellent book; and when it becomes the Statesman's Manual, in its precepts of charity,—not of beggerly alms-giving, but of peace on earth and good will to man, the people may read nothing else. It reveals the glories of the world to come, and records the preternatural dispensations of Providence to mankind two thousand years ago. But it does not describe the present state of Europe, or give an account of the measures of the last or of the next reign, which yet it is important the people of England should look to. We cannot learn from Moses and the Prophets what Mr. Vansittart and the Jews are about in 'Change-alley. Those who prescribe us the study of the miracles and prophecies, themselves laugh to scorn the promised deliverance of Joanna Southcott and the Millennium. Yet they would have us learn patience and resignation from the miraculous interpositions of Providence recorded in the Scriptures. " When the sky falls"—the proverb is somewhat musty. The worst compliment ever paid to the Bible was the recommendation of it as a political palliative by the Lay Preachers of the day.
To put this question in a clearer light, we might ask, What is the public? and examine what would be the result of depriving the people of the use of their understandings in other matters as well as government,—to put them into the go-cart of prescriptive prejudice and hereditary pretension. Take the stage as an example. Suppose Mr. Kean should have a son, a little crook-kneed, raven-voiced, disagreeable, mischievous, stupid urchin, with the faults of his father's acting exaggerated tenfold, and none of his fine qualities,—what if Mr. Kean should take it into his head to get out letters-patent to empower him and his heirs for ever, with tins hopeful commencement, to play all the chief parts in tragedy by the grace of God and the favour of the Prince Regent! What a precious race of tragedy kings and heroes we should have! They would not even play the villain with a good grace. The theatres would soon be deserted, and the race of the Keans would "hold a barren sceptre" over empty houses, to be "wrenched from them by an unlineal hand!"— But no! For it would be necessary to uphold theatrical order, the cause of the legitimate drama, and so to levy a tax on all those who staid away from the theatre, or to drag them into it by force. Every one seeing the bayonet at the door would be compelled to applaud the hoarse tones and lengthened pauses of the illustrious house of Kean, the newspaper critics would grow wanton in their praise, and all those would be held as rancorous enemies of their country, and of the prosperity of the stage, who did not join in the praises of the best of actors. What a falling off would there be from the present system of universal suffrage and open competition among the candidates, the frequency of rows in the pit, the noise in the gallery, the whispers in the boxes, and the lashing in the newspapers the next day!
In fact, the argument drawn from the supposed incapacity of the people against a representative Government, comes with the worst grace in the world from the patrons and admirers of hereditary government. Surely, if government were a thing requiring
[p. 305] | [Page Image]the utmost stretch of genius, wisdom, and virtue, to carry it on, the office of King would never even have been dreamt of as hereditary, any more than that of poet, painter, or philosopher. It is easy here "for the Son to tread in the Sire's steady steps." It requires nothing but the will to do it. Extraordinary talents are not once looked for. Nay, a person, who would never have risen by natural abilities to the situation of churchwarden or parish beadle, succeeds by unquestionable right to the possession of a throne, and wields the energies of an empire, or decides the fate of the world, with the smallest possible share of human understanding. The line of distinction which separates the regal purple from the slabbering-bib is sometimes fine indeed; as we see in the case of the two Ferdinands. Any one above the rank of an idiot is supposed capable of exercising the highest functions of royal state. Yet these are the persons who talk of the people as a swinish multitude, and taunt them with their want of refinement and philosophy.
" It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul[note] ."
The great problem of political science is not of so profoundly metaphysical or highly poetical a cast as Mr. Burke represents it. It is simply a question on the one part, with how little expence of liberty and property the Government, "that complex constable," as it has been quaintly called, can keep the peace; and on the other part, for how great a sacrifice of both, the splendour of the throne and the safety of the state can be made a pretext. Kings and their Ministers generally strive to get their hands in our pockets, and their feet on our necks; the people and their representatives will be wise enough, if they can only contrive to prevent them; but this, it must be confessed, they do not always succeed in. For a people to be free, it is sufficient that they will to be free. But the love of liberty is less strong than the love of power, and is guided by a less sure instinct in attaining its object. Milton only spoke the sentiments of the English people of his day (sentiments too which they had acted upon), in strong language, when he said, in answer to a foreign pedant, —Liceat, queso populo qui servilulis jugum in cervicibus grave senlit, tam sapienti esse, tam docto, temque nobili, ut sciat quid faciendum sit, eliamsi neque exteros neque grammaticos, scistitatum millat[note]."—(Defensio pro populo Anglicano, cup. I.) Happily the whole of the passage is not applicable to their descendants in the present day; but at all times a people may be allowed to know when they are oppressed, enslaved, and miserable, to feel their wrongs and to demand a remedy—from the superior knowledge and humanity of Ministers, who if they cannot cure the State-malady, ought in decency, like other doctors, to resign their authority over the patient. The people are not subject to fanciful wants, speculative longings, or hypochondriacal complaints. Their disorders are real their complaints substantial and well-founded. Their grumblings are in general seditions of the belly. They do not cry out till they are hurt. They do not stand upon nice questions, or trouble themselves with Mr. Burke's Sublime and Beautiful: but when they find the money conjured clean out of their pockets, and the Constitution suspended over their heads, they think it time to look about them. For example, poor Evans, that amateur of music and politics (strange combination of tastes), thought it hard, no doubt, to be sent to prison and deprived of his flute by a State-warrant, because there was no ground for doing it by law; and Mr. Hiley Addington, being himself a flute-player, thought so too: though, in spite of this romantic sympathy, the Minister prevailed over the musician, and Mr. Evans has, we believe, never got back his flute. For an act of injustice, by the new system, if complained of "forsooth," becomes justifiable by the very resistance to it: if not complained of, nobody knows any thing about it, and so it goes equally unredressed in either way. Or to take another obvious instance and sign of the tunes: a tenant or small farmer who has been distrained upon and sent to gaol or to the workhouse, probably thinks, and with some appearance of reason, that he was better off before this change of circumstances; and Mr. Cobbett, in his two penny Registers, proves to him so clearly, that this change for the worse is owing to the war and taxes, which have driven him out of his house and home, that Mr. Cobbett himself has been forced to quit the country to argue the question, whether two and two make four, with Mr. Vansittart, upon safer ground, to himself, and more equal ground to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such questions as these are, one would think, within the verge of common sense and reason. For any thing we could ever find, the people have as much common sense and sound judgment as any other class of the community. Their folly is second-hand, derived, from their being the dupe of the passions, interests, and prejudices of their superiors. When they judge for themselves, they in general judge right. At any rate, the way to improve their judgment in their own concerns (and if they do not judge for themselves, they will infallibly be cheated both of liberty and property, by those who kindly insist on relieving them of that trouble) is not to deny them the use and exercise of their judgment altogether. Nothing can be pleasanter than one of the impositions thus attempted to be put upon the people, by persuading them that economy is no part of a wise Government.— The people must be pretty competent judges of the cheapness of a Government. But it is pretended by our high-flying sine-curists and pensioners, that this is a low and vulgar view of the subject, taken up by interested knaves, like Paine and Cobbett, to delude, and in the end make their market of the people.— With all the writers and orators who compose the hand of gentlemen pensioners and their patrons, politics is entirely a thing of sentiment and imagination. To speak of the expences of Government as if it were a little paltry huckstering calculation of profit and loss, quite shocks their lofty, liberal, and disinterested notions. They have no patience with the people if they are not ready to sacrifice their all for the public good! This is something like a little recruiting cavalry-lieutenant we once met with. who, sorely annoyed at being so often dunned for the arrears of board and lodging by the people where he took up his quarters, exclaimed with the true broad Irish accent and emphasis— " Vulgar ideas! These wretches always expect one to pay for what one his of them!" Our modest lieutenant thought, that while he was employed on his Majesty's service, he had aright to pick the pockets of his subjects, and that if they complained of being fobbed of what was their own, they were blackguards and no gentlemen! Mr. Canning hit upon nothing so good as this, in his luminous defence of his Lisbon Job!
But allow the people to be as gross and ignorant as you please, as base and stupid as you can make them or keep them, "duller. than the fat weed that roots itself at ease on Lethe's wharf,"— is nothing ever to rouse them? Grant that they are slow of apprehension,— that they do not see till they feel. Is that a reason that they are not to feel then, neither? Would you blindfold them with the double bandages of bigotry, or quench their understandings with "the dim suffusion," "the-drop serene," of Legitimacy, that "they may roll in vain and find no dawn" of liberty, no ray of hope? Because they do not see tyranny-till it is mountain-high, "making Ossa like a wart," are they not to feel its weight when, it is heaped upon them, or to throw it off with giant strength and a convulsive effort? If they do not see the evil till it has grown enormous, palpable, and undeniable, is that a reason why others should then deny that it exists, or why it should not be removed? They do not snuff arbitrary power a century off; they are not shocked at it on the other side of the globe, or of the Channel: are they not therefore to see it, could it in time be supposed to stalk over their heads, to trample and grind them to the earth? If in their uncertainty how to deal with it, they sometimes strike random
[p. 306] | [Page Image]blows,—if their despair makes them dangerous, why do not they who, from their elevated situation, see so much farther and deeper into the principles and consequences of things—in their boasted widom, prevent the causes of complaint in the people before they accumulate to a terrific height, and (...)rst upon, the heads of their oppressors? The higher classes, who would disqualify the people from taking the cure of their disorders into their own hands, might do this very effectually, by preventing the first symptoms of their disorders. They would do well, instead of abusing the blunders and brutishness of the multitude, to shew their superior penetration and zeal in detecting the first approaches of mischief, in withstanding every encroachment on the comforts and rights of the people, in guarding every bulwark against the influence and machinations of arbitrary power, as a precious, inviolable, sacred trust. Instead of this, they are the first to be lulled into security, a security "as gross as ignorance made drunk"—the last to believe the consequences, because they are the last to feel them. Instead of this, the patience of the lower classes, in submitting to privations and insults, is only surpassed by the callousness of their betters in witnessing them. The one never set about the repress of grievances or the reform of abuses till they are no longer to be borne, the others will not hear of it even then. It is for this reason among others that the vox populi is the vox Dei, that it is the agonizing cry of human nature raised, and only raised, against intolerable oppression and the utmost extremity of human suffering. The people do not rise up till they are trod down. They do not turn upon their tormentors till they are goaded to madness. They do not complain till the thumbscrews have been applied, and have been strained to the last turn. Nothing can ever wean the affections or confidence of a people from a Government (to which habit, prejudice, natural pride, perhaps old benefits and joint struggles for liberty have attached them) but an excessive degree of irritation and disgust, occasioned either by a sudden and violent stretch of power contrary to the spirit and forms of the established Government, or by a blind and wilful adherence to old abuses and established forms, when the changes in the state of manners and opinion have rendered them as odious as they are ridiculous. The Revolutions of Switzerland, the Low Countries, and of America, are examples of the former,—the French Revolution of the latter: our own Revolution of 1688 was a mixture of the two. As a general rule, it might be laid down, that for every instance of national resistance to tyranny there ought to have been many more, and that all those which have been attempted ought to have succeeded. In the case of Wat Tyler, for instance, which has been so naturally dramatised by the poet-laureate, the rebellion was crushed, and the ringleaders hanged by the treachery of the Government, but the grievances of which they had complained were removed a few years after, and the rights they had claimed granted to the people, from the necessary progress of civilization and knowledge. Did not Mr. Southey know, when he applied for an injunction against Wat Tyler, that the feudal system had been abolished long ago?—Again, as nothing rouses the people to resistance but extreme and aggravated injustice, so nothing can make them persevere in it, or push their efforts to a successful and triumphal issue, but the most open and unequivocal determination to brave their cries and insult their misery. They have no principle of union in themselves, and nothing brings or holds them together but the strong pressure of want, the stern hand of necessity—" a necessity that is not chosen, but chuses,—a necessity paramount to deliberation, that admits of no discussion and demands no evidence, that can alone (according to Mr. Burke's theory) justify a resort to anarchy," and that alone ever did or can produce it. In fine, there are but two things in the world, might and right. Whenever one of these is overcome, it is by the other. The triumphs of the people, or the stand which they at any time make against arbitrary sway, are the triumphs of reason and justice over the insolence of individual power and authority, which, unless as it is restrained, curbed, and corrected by popular feeling or public opinion, can be guided only by its own drunken, besotted, mad pride, selfishness and caprice, and must be productive of all the mischief, which it can wantonly or deliberately commit with impunity.
The people are not apt, like a fine lady, to affect the vapours of discontent; nor to volunteer a rebellion for the theatrical eclat of the thing. But the least plausible excuse, one kind word, one squeeze of the hand, one hollow profession of good will subdues the soft heart of rebellion (which is "too foolish fond and pitiful" to be a match for the callous hypocrisy opposed to it), dissolves and melts the whole fabric of popular innovation like butter in the sun, Wat Tyler is a case in point again. The instant the effeminate King and his unprincipled courtiers gave them fair words, they dispersed, relying in their infatuation on the word of the King as binding, on the oath of his officers as sincere; and no sooner were they dispersed than they cut off their leaders' heads, and poor John Ball's along with them, in spite of all his texts of Scripture. The story is to be seen in all the shop-windows, written in very choice blank verse. That the people are rash in trusting to tins promises of their friends, is true; they are more rash in believing their enemies. If they are led to expect too much in theory, they are satisfied with too little in reality. Their anger is sometimes fatal while it lasts, but it is not roused very soon, nor does it last very long. Of all dynasties, anarchy is the shortest lived. They are violent in their revenge, no doubt; but it is because justice has been long denied them, and they have to pay off a very long score at a very short notice. What Cæsar says of himself, might be applied well enough to the people, that they "did never wrong but with just cause." The errors of the people are the crimes of Governments. They apply sharp remedies to lingering diseases, and when they get sudden power in their hands, frighten their enemies, and wound themselves with it. They rely on brute force and the fury of despair, in proportion to the treachery which surrounds them, and to the degradation, the want of general information and mutual co-operation, in which they have been kept, on purpose to prevent them from ever acting in concert, with wisdom, energy, confidence, and calmness, for the public good. The American Revolution produced no horrors, because its enemies could not succeed in sowing the seeds of terror, hatred, mutual treachery, and universal dismay in the hearts of the people. The French Revolution, under the auspices of Mr. Burke and other friends of social order, was tolerably prolific of these horrors. But that should not be charged as the fault of the Revolution or of the people. Timely Reforms are the best preventives of violent Revolutions. If Governments are determined that the people shall have no redress, no remedies for their acknowledged grievances, but violent and desperate ones, they may thank themselves for the obvious consequences. Despotism must always have the most to fear from the re-action of popular fury, where it has been guilty of the greatest abuses of power, and where it has shewn the greatest tenaciousness of those abuses, putting an end to all prospect of amicable arrangements, and provoking the utmost vengeance of its oppressed and insulted victims. This tenaciousness of power is the chief obstacle to improvement, and the cause of the revulsions which follow the attempts at it. In America, a free Government was easy of accomplishment, because it was not necessary, in building up, to pull down: there were no nuisances to abate. The thing is plain. Reform in old Governments is just like the new improvements in the front of Carlton-house, that would go on fast enough but for the vile, old, dark, dirty, crooked streets, which cannot be removed without giving the inhabitants notice to quit. Mr. Burke, in regretting these old
[p. 307] | [Page Image]institutions as the result of the wisdom of ages, and not the remains of Gothic ignorance and barbarism, played the part of Crockery, in the force of Exit by Mistake[note], who sheds tears of affection over the loss of the old windows and buttresses of the houses that no longer jut out to meet one another, and stop up the way.
There is one other consideration which may induce hereditary Sovereigns to allow some weight to the arguments in favour of popular feeling and public opinion. They are the only security which they themselves possess individually for the continuance of their splendour and power. Absolute Monarchs have nothing to fear from the people, but they have every thing to fear from their slaves and one another. Where power is lifted beyond the reach of the law or of public opinion, there is no principle to oppose it, and he who can obtain possession of the throne (by whatever means) is always the rightful possessor of it, till he is supplanted by a more fortunate or artful successor, and so on in a perpetual round of treasons, conspiracies, murders, usurpations, regicides, and rebellions, with which the people have nothing to do, but as passive, unconcerned spectators.— Where the son succeeds to the father's throne by assassination, without being amenable to public justice, he is liable to be cut off himself by the same means, and with the same impunity.— The only thing that can give stability or confidence to power, is that very will of the people, and public censure exercised upon public acts, of which legitimate Sovereigns are so disproportionately apprehensive. For one regicide committed by the people, there have been thousands committed by Kings themselves. A Constitutional King of England reigns in greater security than the Persian Sophi, or the Great Mogul; and the Emperor of Turkey, or the Autocrat of all the Russias, has much more to fear from a cup of coffee or the bowstring, than the Prince Regent from the speeches and writings of all the Revolutionists in Europe. By removing the barrier of public opinion which interferes with their own lawless acts, despotic Kings lay themselves open to the hand of the assassin,—and while they reign in contempt of the will, the voice, the heart and mind of a whole people, hold their crowns and every moment of their lives at the mercy of the meanest of their slaves.
PRESENT STATE OF GERMANY.
(Continued from our last.)
THE Constitution of the German Empire was one of the most complicated perhaps that ever existed. The comments and controversies to which this Constitution has at different times given rise, are innumerable. It has been observed of it, that, like some others, it gave many rights and privileges to the people, which they were prohibited from ever enjoying. Those German rights, though of little use for the protection of the weak, afforded always an admirable handle far the aggressions of the powerful. The disputes of the different Princes have made Germany the theatre of perpetual wars, and have exposed it to the depredations of the neighbouring States, which, on one pretence or other, never failed to take a part in them. The people used to esteem themselves happy, if they were allowed to enjoy peace for twenty years; and it has been calculated, that the average duration of these periods of peace did not exceed ten years. Whole tracts of fertile country have often, in consequence of these wars, been left in a state of the most dreadful devastation. One might be led to suppose, that the perpetual recurrence of war and its horrors would have extinguished in the breasts of the inhabitants every thing like enterprize, and that the country would have been sunk in the apathy and despondency of a Turkish province. Such, however, is the sanguineness of human nature, and such in particular the eagerness with which men, in whom the desire of improvement has been implanted, avail themselves of every circumstance which appears to favour the improvement of their condition, that the devastations of war are seldom found capable of repressing exertion, which can only be permanently checked by an impediment of permanent operation. France has till lately been long freed from the presence of an army within its bounds; but, according to M. Fievée, who, from the offices he has filled, ought to be well qualified to give an opinion on the subject, France is, of all the fertile countries of Europe, that in which the people are least easy in their circumstances. The manner of living and the dress, he says, of the peasants in most of the countries of Germany, are more splendid, than the living and dress of the French peasantry. The houses of the people in the North of Germany are said, by the late Mary Wollstonecroft, to display "the comfort and cleanliness of easy, if not the elegance of opulent circumstances;" and the people struck her " as having arrived at that period when the faculties will unfold themselves, looking alive to improvement, neither congealed by indolence, nor beat down by wretchedness to servility.
Up to a recent period, the peasantry in the North of Germany were in a state of villainage; and they are yet in that degrading condition in Mecklenburg, and one or two small States. It must be owned, however, that villainage, where it does exist, has been so softened down, that it has little in common with the villainage of Poland and Russia, for instance, but the name.— The Nobles remained in possession of many of the privileges and immunities which belong to the feudal form of Government; their estates were exempted from taxation, and they were not amenable to the ordinary Courts of Law. We must not confound the Nobility of this country with the Nobility of the Continent. Here the Nobility enjoy few exemptions, and the title and privileges descend only to one individual; there the whole of the descendants of a Noble share the distinction. The consequence is, that the Nobility here are few in number, while on the Continent they form no small proportion of the population. Germany swarms with a beggarly Nobility, who, in most of the States, in addition to their legal privileges, claim and enjoy many advantages over their fellow-citizens. They arrogate to themselves an exclusive right to military preferment, and to all civil offices of distinction; and they would consider themselves degraded, by mixing in the society of men who had not the advantage of noble extraction. The male Nobles of only a part of the Austrian dominions amount, according to the conscription lists, to 239,505 in number. At most of the Courts, the Nobles alone are entitled to admission; and this is still the case in Weimar, which has long been considered the most liberal of all the German States. In Hanover, Mecklenburg, and Hesse, the Nobility are every thing, and the people nothing.— In Prussia, down to the battle of Jena, the Nobility alone could hold commissions in the army; but the misconduct of many of the officers on that memorable day, and more particularly the disgraceful surrender of Magdeburg, threw a discredit on Nobility in that kingdom from which it will never recover, and opened the door of military promotion to all classes of subjects. A great proportion of the Prussian officers am now of plebeian extraction; the Order of the Iron Crown is bestowed according to merit, on all classes of the people. A vigorous war is now carried on throughout a great part of Germany, against the claims and pretensions of the Nobles; and the period is probably not far distant, when the Caste System, which has no longer any support in public opinion, and which is so ranch at variance with the principles of good government, will be completely overturned.
The division of Germany into such a number of petty States, though it threw many obstacles in the way of the internal commerce
[p. 308] | [Page Image]of the country, has been thought to have been attended with many advantages, which more than counterbalanced this evil. If Germany had formed one State, it is probable that canals would ere this have joined the Rhine and the Weser, the Weser and the Elbe, the Elbe and the Danube, and that great roads would both have been more numerous and in a more improved condition. But it has been, objected to great States, that they enrich their capitals at the expense of the provinces. In the distant provinces, there are few establishments from which a man who is desirous of mental improvement can derive any benefit. It is otherwise with a confederation of small States: each of these is anxious to contain all the establishment of which an example is to be found in other Status, within itself. Hence in Germany there were perhaps more public libraries, museums and scientific institutions, than in all the rest of Europe. "Take your departure from Constantinople," said Mirabeau, "proceed through Hungary,—go to Vienna, and from thence by Prague to Dresden; purchase, on your way, books and mathematical instruments; inquire for men capable of giving you instruction on any subject of physics, mechanics, or the like; and count the cities where, in the course of your journey through such a vast extent of countries, enlightened and greatly frequented, you will have an opportunity of obtaining the satisfaction you want. Continue your journey,—go to Dresden, or Meissen, Leipzic, Wemiar, Jena, Ersurt, Gotha, Guttingen, Brunswick, Lunenburg, and Hamburgh; measure the cities here on the same scale, and then pronounce." The minute division of this country was equally favourable to the improvement and to the liberty of the people; and even without the sanction of laws, the German writers have, up to the present day, enjoyed a liberty equalled only by that of the writers in Great Britain. If the ruler of one State imposed severe restrictions on the press, a neighbouring State probably, at a short distance, allowed the utmost literary freedom; and as the subject of one State could publish in any other, the regulations of his own Sovereign were of the less importance to him. It is also much more easy for a man to remove his property and family from one small State into another, possessing the same customs and language, than from one great State into another, when both are different.
Of Germany it has been with justice said, "that it possesses a greater number of laborious scholars, and of useful books, than any other country. The possession of other languages may open more literary enjoyment; the German is assuredly the key to most knowledge." In no nation is education so generally diffused,—and its institutions for education are both the most numerous and decidedly the best in Europe. Before 1802, the number of Universities amounted to 36: the number at present is 19; of which five are Catholic, two Catholic and Protestant, and 12 Protestant. But the number of Colleges, Gymnasiums, and Academies, which, though they often contain a number of Professors, do not give any degrees is also very great. It would lead us far beyond our limits to enter into any detail respecting the state of education of Germany in general. The system is pretty nearly the same throughout all the Protestant States, and we may therefore content ourselves with selecting the small State of Brunswick as a specimen. In this State, of which the population amounted on the 1st of January, 1813, to 209,527 souls, after the dissolution of the University of Helmstadt, which took place during the Westphalian Government, and of two institutions for theological instruction, there still remain the Collegium Carolinum, with 18 professors and teachers; one Institution for surgery and anatomy, two Seminaries for Schoolmasters, six Gymnasiums, several Schools of Industry, and 435 town and country Schools. When we compare the number of institutions for education in this State with the number in Scotland, the part of the British dominions which will best bear the comparison, we shall at once see the superiority of Germany. The extent of Scotland is twenty times greater than that of Brunswick, and the population nine times greater; but the parish schools (forming by far the greatest part of the schools of the country) are only somewhat above 900.— the German Universities have also been hitherto characterised by greater freedom than those of other countries; for, from the competition among the different Universities to obtain the most able Professors, as a means of drawing to them the greatest number of scholars, however desirous a Prince might be of imposing restrictions on academical freedom, the ruin of the University, with which this could hardly fail to be attended, necessarily deterred him. The emigration of a Professor of eminence, has often been accompanied by the emigration of the greatest part of his scholars. For instance, an emigration of students from Pragne, in the sixteenth century, founded the University or Leipzic. A similar emigration from Leipzic gave rise to the foundation of that of Halle, in the latter end of the seventeenth century. Again, in the eighteenth century, two-thirds of the University of Halle followed Professor Wolf to Marpurg. The consequence of this academic liberty has been the destruction, in a great measure, in most of the German Universities, of that monastic system which still flourishes in so many other countries, and no where perhaps more than in the Universities of England.
The writers of Germany, as we have already observed, were in the enjoyment of more liberty than the writers of any other country, our own excepted; but, up to the period of the French Revolution, religion and philosophy were the subjects on which they principally employed their pens. Lessing, the ablest perhaps of all the German writers, in his early life applied himself to the study of antiquities, to the drama, and to criticism; but on attaining the maturity of manhood, he laid aside all these pursuits, and gave himself intirely up to the philosophical investigation of truth, as the only object seriously deserving of his attention. It was his opinion, that it never can be useful to conceal the truth; and that the double doctrine, as it is called, the object of which is to hoodwink the multitude, and which is now so much in vogue in this country, is attended with much more mischief than advantage to the world. It was his opinion, that doubts, and whatever other objections subsist, ought no longer to be kept back, but, for the sake of truth, ought to be urged in all their force. He began by openly calling the truth of religion in question; a number of writers followed his example. Lessing is said, by Frederick Sehlegel, to have in some degree finished the Reformation begun by Luther, and to have carried Protestantism completely through. No uniformity of creed could subsist with this unconditional freedom. Another writer of some name among his countrymen, Arndt, broadly asserts, that the Protestant Clergymen of Germany have long ceased to have any serious belief in the doctrines of their sect, and that the Catholics are now the only true believers. However that may be, we believe it will be some time before a Professor of Theology venture, in this country, to give to the world an edition of the works of Spinosa, a writer often before openly defended, which was done in 1802 by Dr. Paulus of Jena, without exciting, as far as we have heard, any particular notice or animosity.
[To be continued]
The Article on, UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, &c. in our next.—Many
thanks for the Papers concerning America.