Page images

a minute investigation into the disputes which led to hostilities with that great and prosperous nation. The writer displays an accurate knowledge of the principles of international law, and accurately lays down the rights of Hokade. The orders in council of 1807 are proved to be indefensible, eren on the principle of retaliation; and a learned enquiry is instituted into their legality. The essay is replete with valuable information, and the highest authorities are cited in support of the author's views.

This Essay should be perused by all who are desirous of obtaining a correct knowledge of the origin of the American war, and the grounds upon which it is usually justified.

There is no topic on which the Edinburgh Reviewers have expatiated with more spirit and energy than the sufferings of Poland. From the commencement of their labours to the present time, the treatment to which that ill-fated nation has been doomed by her oppressors, called forth their sympathy, and elicited many appeals to the justice and honour of England. The article under consideration is entitled an “ Appeal to the Poles," and is written with all the fire and patriotic enthusiasm which the subject is calculated to inspire. The causes are investigated to which may be ascribed the apathy of Englishmen with regard to the persecutions of the Poles. The line of policy is pointed out which the Allies should have pursued in 1014, in their arrangements for the distribution of territory; and the restoration of Polish independence is shown to be one of the first meaures that should have occupied their attention. Various objections are answered to the general argument, why some decisive means should have been adopted in behalf of the most injured nation in Europe. The Allied Sovereigns were called upon to re-establish the independence of Europe upon a lasting foundation. This is only to be accomplished," says the writer of the article, “ by recurring to those principles which, in former times, secured national independence, and made the neighbourhood of the greatest state sale to the most insignificant ; which consist in the universal persuasion among statesmen, constantly in view and acted on, that every aggression by one power affects all; and that not an acre of territory may be taken with impunity from any member of the European Commonwealth.” Many conclusive reasons are urged why Poland should have been treated, at the period alluded to, in accordance with the principles of national justice and honour. Her constitution and government, after the partition in 1772, are graphically delineated ; and an affecting detail is given of the cruelties perpetrated by the Russians upon the bravest of her sons. The advantages are there stated which would have resulted to the Allied Powers, in a commercial point of view, from giving freedom to the Poles. Those who wish to see a comprehensive and accurate view of the Polish Question, in all its bearings, should read this eloquent dissertation. It is, perhaps, the most vivid pictore ever drawn of the wrongs and miseries of that heroic people. It may also be referred to as a gratifying instance of the zealand enthusiasm which the Edinburgh Review has invariably evinced when vindicating the rights of nations, and the best interests of humanity. The generous spirit by which the writer was animated is visible in the observation with which he concludes his strictures :- “We belong not to the number of those, who can feel no indignation at injustice, unless committed by our enemies; por pity for public misfortunes, unless suffered by Africans or Spaniards. But the interests of the Polish people, however important, are only a subordinate part of the present question. The restoration of European indepen


dence is the object of every statesman's anxious hopes; the revival of sound and consistent principle alone can effect it; and this cannot be thought possible, by any reflecting mind, without the complete re-establishment of Poland as an independent state.”

The discussion of the American war is resumed in the fifth article under the present head. Its purpose is to enforce the necessity and expediency of terminating the hostilities which then existed between England and America. It was written in 1814, a period when the question of entering into negociations of a pacificatory nature with the government of that country excited considerable interest, and produced a great diversity of opinion. The introduction to this essay is designed to trace to their original source those rancorous feelings which a large portion of the inhabitants of both nations seem desirous to cherish. The first war, which led to the separation of the two countries, is assigned as one cause of the jealousies and antipathies existing on both sides; but the writer adopts the opinion that the Americans were more excusable in allowing hostile feelings to survive the contest than the English. The British orders in council are adduced as another natural reason for the animosity felt by our transatlantic brethren. It is shown that those obnoxious laws were the immediate cause of the war; and that peace would have been preserved if they had never been enacted, or been rescinded at an earlier period. Of several other grounds of dissension, that of impressing American seamen is specified as of sufficient magnitude to justify a resistance to the abuses of which it was productive. The right to reclaim the services and secure the persons of British sailors found in American vessels is admitted; but it is, at the same time, contended, that proper means were not employed to guard against the annoyances to which such a practice is liable. The advantages claimed by the English government of a territorial kind, arising out of the war, are lucidly explained, and the justice of the demands unequivocally denied. The writer proceeds to establish, by a powerful train of argument, the position, that although it could be proved those claims were founded on the principles of justice, it would not be expedient to continue hostilities for the acquisition of such an object; that the chance of success was at least doubtful; and that disgrace and disaster would be the inevitable result of persevering in a contest against the most powerful obstacles. Supposing ihe object attained, it is next considered what would be the compensation to Great Britain for the blood and treasure by which she had purchased her victory. A vivid picture is here drawn of the consequences that would accrue from her success, - in increasing the hostility of the Americans, in rendering insecure our Canadian colonies, in creating a feeling favourable to America among the different European powers; and, lastly, in augmenting to an inconceivable extent the financial burdens of England, and, consequently, adding to the discontents of the people. The article is composed in a nervous and impressive style; every point is ably elucidaied; and the reasoning, throughout, is clear and convincing. One passage may be quoted, as it embodies those liberal and sound opinions, with regard to the policy that England should pursue towards America, which the Edinburgh Review has at all times supported :-“Within no very great distance of time, America will be one of the most powerful and important nations of the earth; and her friendship and commerce will be more valued, and of greater consequence, in all probability, than that of any one European slale. England had-we even think that she still has-great and peculiar advantages all

{ for securing to herself this friendship and this commerce. A common origin, a common language, a common law, a common enjoyment of freedom,

I seem to point them out to each other as natural friends and allies. What, then, shall we say of that short-sighted and fatal policy, that, for such an object as we have been endeavouring to expose, should saw the seeds of incurable hostility between two such countries, put rancour in the vessel of their peace, and fix in the deep foundations and venerable archives of their history, to which for centuries their eyes will be reverted, the monuments of English enmity and American valour, on the same conspicuous tablet; binding up together the sentiments of hate to England and love to America, as counterparts of the same patriotic feeling, and mingling in indissoluble association the memory of all that is odious in our history with all that is glorious in theirs ?”

The three succeeding articles refer to France; and, even at this distance of time, will, no doubt, be read with interest. The introductory one, .on the state of Europe, appeared immediately after the downfall of Bonaparte, and excited no ordinary sensation. It will be observed, that some of the anticipations it contains have not been realised; but, upon the whole, the sentiments and composition of the essay are worthy of the supposed author. In some of the most spirited passages the reader will find a decisive refulation of the calumnies so industriously circulated against the Edinburgh Review, of being too lenient to the vices of Napoleon, and secretely indulging a wish that England might be prostrated at his feet. His character is drawn with fidelity and power; and the grounds upon which it was filting the world should rejoice at his downfall are stated without exaggeration or undue severity. Ample justice is done to the magnanimous conduct of the Allied Powers; and to the English ministry the praise is awarded of having conducted the most difficult negotiations with prudence and moderation. In the discussion of the question, whether the “ restoration of the Bourbons was the best possible issue of the long struggle that preceded it," there is much ingenuity, though subsequent occurrences have proved that some of the speculations were founded upon too favourable an opinion of their character. There is one part of the writer's prophecies, however, which has, happily for France, been completely fulfilled.

“ With temper and circumspection, they may in time establish the solid foundations of a splendid, though limited, throne : if they aspire again to be absolute, they till soon cease to reign.The reflections on the government of Napoleon, -on the state of parties in France,-on the probable consequences of giving her a free constitution,-on the influence her possession of rational liberiy would exercise upon the destinies of Europe in general,—on the grand moral to be derived from the French Revolution, and the long and bloody contest to which it gave rise,-display a comprehensive knowledge of the events which agitated Europe for a period of twenty years, and a sagacious delineation of the principal characters who occupied a place in that lerrible though instructive drama which terminated on the plains of Waterloo. The immediate consequences to England from the peace are described with a masterly hand; and will, at present, be perused with a more lively curiosity, since the predictions of the author have been in every instance verified. This brilliant dissertation very appropriately closes with an eloquent appeal to the justice and magnanimity of the Allied Powers on behalf of the Poles. In justice to the Edinburgh Review, which has been the consistent advocale of that brave people through every varying change of political fortune, the subjoined passage is quoted. Its applicability to recent events its too obvious to be pointed out:-" While Poland remains oppressed and discontented, the peace of Europe will always be at the mercy of any intriguing or ambitious power that may think fit to rouse its vast and warlike population with the vain promise of independence; while it is perfectly manifest that those, by whom alone that promise could be effectually kept, would gain prodigiously, both in security and in substantial influence, by its faithful performance. It is not, however, for mere independence, nor for the lost glories an ancient and honourable existence, that the people of Poland are thus eager to array themselves in any desperate strise of which this may be proclaimed as the prize. We have shown the substantial and intolerable evils which the extinction of the national dignily—the sore and unmerited wound to their national pride-has necessarily occasioned; and thinking, as we do, that a people without the feelings of national pride, and public duty, must be a people without energy and without enjoyments, we apprehend it to be at any rate indisputable, in the present instance, that the circumstances which have dissolved their political being have struck also at the root of their individual happiness and prosperity; and that it is not merely the unjust destruction of one ancient kingdom that we lament, but the condemnation of fifteen millions of human beings to unprofitable and unparalleled misery. But though these are the considerations by which we are most naturally affected, it should never be forgotlen, that all the principles on which the just fabric of national independence confessedly resis in Europe, are involved in the decision of this question; and that no one nation can be secure in its separate existence, if all the rest do not concur in disavowing the maxims which were acted upon in the partition of Poland. It is not only mournful to see the scattered and bleeding members of thal unhappy state still palpitating and agonising on the spot where it lately stood erect in youthsul vigour and beauty, but it is unsafe to breathe the noxious vapours which this melancholy spectacle exhales. The wholesome neighbourhood is poisoned by their diffusion; and every independence within their range sickens and is endangered by the contagion.”

The next important article that appeared in the Edinburgh Review, on the affairs of France, was published on the announcement of the extraordinary intelligence, that Bonaparte had escaped from Elba and arrived at Paris. It is remarkable for strength of thought , vigour of style, and overpowering invective. It comprises some acute remarks on the Treaty of Paris, on the Congress of Vienna, and on the causes which produced so sudden a change in the opinion of the army as well as of the people, subsequently to the abdication of Napoleon. An able analysis is given of the causes which produced his restoration. Evidence of the most convincing kind is brought forward to prove, that the most important of those causes were referrible to the "condition and character of the French people, to the administration of the French government,—to the example of other restored governments,-to the state of the French army,—and to the policy of the Congress of Vienna, which is designated as the most powerful agent in subverting the throne of the Bourbons.” The extensive division of landed property in France,-the character of Bonaparte's nobility,--the various political parties which existed during the progress of the Revolution, -the principles of the Marquis de la Fayette, and of Benjamin Constant, --the effects of the conscription in making the government of Napoleon detested by the great majority of the French people, the impressive lesson

inculcated upon all nations by the example of the French Revolution, and the imbecile policy of Louis XVIII, after his restoration-furnish matter for many profound observations, and enable the writer to display the wide range of his knowledge, and the depth of his political views. This essay may be justly regarded as a model of political writing.

A few months after it, appeared another article on the “ State of Public Feeling in France after the rst and Second Restoration of the Bourbons." It contains a sketch of the government of Louis XVIII, during that interesting period, and of those acts, sanctioned by his authority, which occasioned the general and deep-rooted discontent of his people. The conduct of some of the members of the King's family is condemned, and their designs against the liberties of France exposed. The concluding part of the article is devoted to a discussion of the question, —what ought to be the conduct of England in the event of another change in the dynasty of France? In accordance with the principles so frequently maintained in the Edinburgh Review, the writer advocates the doctrine of neutrality : and contends that although there are obvious limits to the principle of non-interference, yet, any hostile step on the part of the British government for the purpose of keeping Louis on the throne, or of opposing the pretensions of any competitor whom the voice of the nation might call to supply his place, would be a gross violation of the principles of justice, and a manifest departure from that system of policy which it would be equally the interest and the duty of England to adopt. The reasonings on this interesting topic, and on the course France was called upon to pursue, in the circumstances in which she was then placed, are cogent and persuasive, and may be pefused with satisfaction even by those opposed to the opinions which it is the object of the essay to uphold.

The Aggressions of France against Spain,” in 1821, form the subject of the next article. The introductory paragraph expresses concisely the purpose for which it was written ; viz., “ to give a short statement of such facts and arguments as would enable the public to estimate the justice of the threatened interference of the French government with the internal affairs of the Spanish nation; the consistency of the principles held by the UltraRoyalisis with the general law of nations, or even with any exception from those rules which has been acted on without universal reprobation in civilised times; the influence of the success of such a war on the independence of states, and the circumstances which would render that success more formidable to the security of Great Britain than to that of any other state." These important subjects are discussed with eminent talent; and, it will be seen, that the conclusion to which the author comes, after having considered the question in all its bearings, is, that it was the imperative duty of England, at all hazards and sacrifices, to assume an attitude of hostility, and to fight nobly and resolutely against those detestable principles avowed by France, and which threatened to "extirpate all liberal institutions from the consecrated soil of Europe.”

It will not be necessary to give an outline of the next article, on the “Policy and future Fate of Arbitrary Governments." It is an elaborate review of the policy adopted by the different governments of Europe for some time after the general peace, and of the results to which it was likely to lead.

It has been intimated, in another part of this Dissertation, that the Holy

« PreviousContinue »