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verted. Fashion, the frivolities of which follow the temper of the times, had long indicated the change ; the light baubles which glittered on the surface of the stream were perpetually changing. Anglomania ruled the cabinet ; English fashions were universal among the people. Disdaining all the ancient usages of their country, the French set themselves seriously to copy English folly in manners, and German discipline in the army; and while the nobility ruined their fortunes in feeble imitation of English racing, the affections of the soldiery were lost by the severities of Prussian punishments. Presently sterner feelings arose : the passion for change, always more or less allied to revolution, was transferred from trifles to realities—from changes in customs or amusements to subversion of institutions and overthrow of thrones. By a delusion which, but for recent experience, would have been deemed inconceivable, not only the people, but the nobility, were foremost in the innovating passion. The Government, with the universal applause of the country, aided the Americans to throw off the rule of England, without the remotest suspicion that the example of resistance might be contagious; and the young nobility made the theatre of Versailles resound with applause, when on the stage were uttered praises of republican equality, or execrations on the rule of kings, without conceiving it possible that their privileges could be endangered by such sentiments. The few sagacious men who foresaw the consequences of these extraordinary changes met with universal derision. The StatesGeneral were assembled amidst the unanimous transports of the nation; the Age of Gold was universally expected from the regeneration of mankind; and all were astonished when, in its stead, the rule of iron commenced.
But, of all the delusions which have convulsed mankind, that which has now seized the British nation is the most extraordinary, and promises, in its future consequences, to be the most important.
The future historian, when he relates that a total alteration of the British Constitution was carried, at first by a majority of one only, but after a dissolution by a majority of 136, in the House of Commons, will ask what were the experienced grievances, the acknowledged faults, the irremediable defects, which called for so prodigious a change, and
justified the repeal of institutions which had withstood the shock of centuries of experience ?
He will be answered, that this constitution was admitted, even by its adversaries, to be the most perfect form of government which had ever appeared upon earth : that it was not the work of theorists, or framed by those who could not foresee the changes of society, but had been moulded by the hand of Time, in correspondence with the successive wants of successive generations; that under its provisions the interests of all classes were adequately attended to, and a due provision was made for the extension of freedom, with the growing intelligence of the people; that the spring of democratic ambition was restrained by the weight of ancient possession, and the rigour of aristocratic rule tempered by the influence of popular representation ; that it combined the stability of aristocratic with the occasional vigour of democratic societies; that the liberties of the people had been gradually extended with the changes of time, and were never so considerable as at the moment of its abrupt dissolution.
He will ask, what were the national disasters which had produced this dissatisfaction at institutions in their internal effect so admirable ; what had been the defects which had soured the temper of the people ; what the lost provinces which had hurt their patriotic pride ; what the national humiliation which had made them avenge upon their own government the disgrace of foreign adventure ?
He will be answered, that this irrevocable act was committed at the moment of the highest prosperity of Great Britain ; soon after the conclusion of its greatest war, and in the very zenith of its power and glory; that the generation who destroyed the institutions under which their fathers had prospered, was that which had shared in the glories of
Trafalgar and Waterloo ; that the British navy was then omnipotent on the ocean, and its standard victorious in every part of the globe; that a hundred millions of men obeyed its laws, and it outnumbered the Czar of Russia as much in the number of its subjects, as it exceeded the Roman empire in the extent of its dominions; that the sun never set on its domains, for, before his declining rays had ceased to illuminate the towers of Quebec, his rising beams glittered on the domes of Calcutta.
He will inquire what were the domestic grievances which had rendered men insensible to this weight of national glory; what the practical evils which defeated the purposes of the social union, and rendered an overthrow of ancient institutions desirable at any hazard?
He will be answered, that the last days of the British constitution were the most beneficial in legislation, and the most prosperous in the country ; that fifteen years of peace had healed the wounds of war, and augmented, to an unprecedented degree, the riches of the country ; that its citizens numbered all the sovereigns of Europe among their debtors, and enterprise over all the world was sustained by its capital; that while all the other sovereigns of Europe had augmented their revenues since the peace of Paris, the British Government had taken twenty millions from the burden of its subjects ; that its manufacturers clothed the world with their fabrics, and its commerce whitened the ocean with their sails ; that the exports of the country had never been so great, and its revenue never so flourishing ; that, under all the difficulties arising from a contest of unexampled magnitude, a sensible reduction had been made, since the peace, in the amount of the public debt; that its agriculture, keeping pace with the wants of a rapidly-increasing population, had more than doubled its produce in half a century ; that its poor were prosperous, even in spite of the influx of innumerable settlers, arising from the barbarism of the sister island ; and that the
paupers of England, maintained by a law of Christian charity, were in better condition than the peasantry of most other countries.
He will ask, what was the previous character of the people who, in such circumstances, and at such a time, hazarded all the blessings of their situation in quest of chimerical improvements; what extraordinary vacillation, or love of novelty, made them incur so desperate a hazard ; and what example of beneficial change had occurred in their previous history, to justify so gratuitous and uncalled-for an alteration?
He will be answered, that the people who, with their eyes open, and when fully warned of the consequences, took this extraordinary step, composed the nation in the world who had been most distinguished by their hereditary attachment to old institutions; who had founded their policy for eight
hundred years upon the maxim “ Nolumus leges Angliæ mutare ;" who had handed down the constitution inviolate from the Saxon Heptarchy; preserved it alike amidst Plantagenet violence, Tudor severity, and Stuart despotism ; saved it during the madness of civil dissension in the Wars of the Roses, and the fury of religious animosity in the days of the Covenant ; who had kept alive the sacred fire, equally amidst the extremities of Danish invasion, the insolence of Norman conquest, and the usurpation of republican frenzy ; who had tempered the triumph of revolution by the steadfast adherence to ancient custom, and, while they expelled a dynasty from the throne, maintained inviolate the structure of the government.
He will ask, what were the fortunate and bewitching examples of innovation, which made the English people forget all these advantages, and abandon all these principles ; which induced them to surrender their high place as the leaders of civilisation, to follow in the wake of foreign revolution ; and converted the pride of British freedom into the slavish imitation of French democracy ?
He will be answered, that these fundamental changes in the constitution took place in the very age that revolution had exhibited its most terrific features, and the perils of innovation had been most convincingly demonstrated ; during the lifetime of many who had seen the church, the nobility, and the throne of France perish in the whirlwind excited by their precipitate reforms ; among the sons of the generation who had witnessed the prostration of thirty millions of men under the guillotine of the Convention —who had beheld that great country incessantly agitated since the commencement of her Revolution, torn by years of anarchy, trembling under the reign of blood, and crushed under the car of Napoleon—who had mourned the failure of every endeavour to frame theoretical constitutions in so many other states—seen Spain, Portugal, Piedmont, Naples, and South America, convulsed by the vain attempt to establish free governments, and relapsing into closer bondage from the defeat of their efforts that the British revolution took place at the moment when France was suffering under the destruction of her recently established institutions--when the anarchy of Belgium was withering
the prosperity of her beautiful provinces, and the British manufacturers were thriving on the ruin of their democratic neighbours ; that it was this very example which overthrew the venerable fabric of the English constitution ; and that the English people relinquished their ancient post in the van of civilisation, and followed in the rear of France, because they saw that, after forty years' experience, the people of that country were inadequate to the formation of a stable government.
He will ask, whether this perilous change was adopted in consequence of a universal delusion having seized the people ; whether, as in France, the rage for innovation had destroyed the strongest intellects; whether the nobility fled on the appearance of danger, or a slavish press precluded the possibility of truth being made public?
He will be answered, that such was not the character of England ; that Talent put forth its energies in the cause of freedom, and Property remained tranquil in the midst of alarm, and Honour was to be found at the post of danger ; that, at the prospect of peril to the constitution, all the best feelings of our nature were revived in a large and gifted body; that genius, long a stranger to the Conservative party, instantly joined its ranks, and united with learning in resistance to revolution ; that names destined for immortality threw their shield over the state, and philosophy vindicated its noble destiny, and history made manifest present danger; that a House of Commons was dissolved because it refused to sacrifice the constitution, and passion appealed to in default of reason ; that the question was discussed for half a year, and all the consequences of the innovation were fully explained ; that the generosity of youth joined the perilous side, and the flower of England, at both universities, gave to patriotism what they had refused to power ; that the talent arrayed in defence of the constitution overshadowed its adversaries, and numbered among its ranks the hero who had conquered Napoleon by his arms, and the genius which had captivated the world by its fancy. *
There is no period in the English annals which, in point of general prosperity, can be compared with that which elapsed from the battle of Waterloo to the commencement
Sir Walter Scott.