Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

forced on the West India proprietors. By these means, either the flame of revolt will be spread among the slave population, and 130 millions of British capital perish in the flames which have consumed St Domingo, and rendered that flourishing colony a desert, or the planters will throw themselves into the arms of the Americans. In either view, the West Indies, one great nursery of our seamen, will be for ever lost to England. The mother country, distracted with its own troubles, will be as unable to preserve its dominion over those distant possessions, as the French revolutionary government was to save the wreck of its once-flourishing West India colonies.

3. India, and the China trade, will be thrown open to the clamorous multitudes, who will seek in the Eastern world that subsistence which the passions of the demagogues have denied them in their own country. They will carry with them to the shores of the Ganges the fierce passions and unbending democracy of the mother state ; and the airy fabric of our Indian empire, now upheld only by the steady rule of a stable and despotic government, will be overthrown. Fifty thousand men can never maintain their sway over 100 millions, but by the firm hand of absolute power. The passions of a democracy will speedily tear that splendid, but unstable and flimsy empire, in pieces. The loss of all our colonies may be looked forward to as the inevitable result of the Reform Bill. How can it be otherwise with a measure which at once disfranchises all the colonial interests, which closes the door by which they have hitherto been represented ?

Such extreme disasters will for certain produce one effect. All parties will become weary of distraction and suffering; the period, the inevitable period, will arrive, when the dominion of a firm hand will be required to stanch the wounds of the state. A Cæsar, a Cromwell, Napoleon, will seize the sceptre, and military despotism close the drama of British Reform. It will close it after years of anguish and suffering ; after the empire has lost its colonies, and with them its naval supremacy ; after unheard-of suffering has tamed our people, and the glories of the British name have ceased for ever.

a

In the preceding view, melancholy and overcharged as it may appear to many, we have yet carefully omitted the darker, but not improbable parts of the picture. We have not supposed a civil war in the empire ; we have not supposed any guilty ambition, or insane passions, either in our Government or Legislature ; we have presumed that they are to do everything to stem the torrent after it has been put in motion. In truth, that is the most probable course of events. It is not so much by the guilt of ambition, as the irresistible force of events, that great national catastrophes arise. Cromwell said, that no man ever rises so high as he who does not know where he is going ; and the observation is true of the leaders in all popular movements. It is the pressure from below which pushes them forward ; the fatal consequences of one irretrievable step, which precipitates nations, as well as individuals, into a career of guilt. The authors of the most terrible measures are, generally, not by nature worse than most other men ; they are carried onward by the course of events, because they feel that to recede is impossible.

When the disunion among his adherents had brought the constitution into the highest peril ; when public opinion was violently shaken, and the press, as usual, was fanning the flame, there was one man who dared in Parliament to front the danger ; who threw away unequalled popularity, and abandoned supreme power to discharge his duty ; who greatly dared to tell an insane nation that they were rushing on destruction—that man was the Duke of Wellington. Again we repeat what we said on 1st January last, There never was a determination of a minister so much the subject of obloquy at the time, as his declaration against Reform in November last. There is none to which posterity will point with more exultation :

Justum, et tenacem propositi virum,
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni,

Mente quatit solidà, neque auster,
Dux inquieti turbidus Iladriæ,
Nec fulminan magna manus Jovis :
Si fractus illabatur orbis,

Impavidum ferient ruina."

The ultimate success or rejection of this measure is altogether immaterial in the estimate of the moral grandeur of this conduct. We contemplate with more admiration the firmness of Cato at Utica, than the triumph of Cæsar at Pharsalia.

“Victrix causa Deis placuit, sed victa Catoni.”

MILITARY TREASON AND NATIONAL GUARDS

(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, APRIL 1831]

Of the numerous delusions which have overspread the world in such profusion during the last nine months, there is none so extraordinary and so dangerous as the opinion incessantly inculcated by the revolutionary press, that the noblest virtue in regular soldiers is to prove themselves traitors to their oaths, and that a national guard is the only safe and constitutional force to which arms can be intrusted. The troops of the line, whose revolt decided the three days in July in favour of the revolutionary party, have been the subject of the most extravagant eulogium from the liberal press throughout Europe ; and even in this country, the Government journals have not hesitated to condemn, in no measured terms, the Royal Guard, merely because they adhered, amidst a nation's treason, to their honour and their oaths.

Hitherto it has been held the first duty of soldiers to adhere with implicit devotion to that fidelity which is the foundation of military duties. Treason to his colours has been considered as foul a blot on the soldier's scutcheon as cowardice in the field. Even in the most republican states, this principle of military subordination has been felt to be the vital principle of national strength. It was during the rigorous days of Roman discipline, that their legions conquered the world ; and the decline of the empire began at the time that the Prætorian Guards veered with the mutable populace, and sold the Empire for a gratuity to themselves. Albeit placed in power by the insurrection of the people, no men knew better than the French Republican leaders, that their salvation depended on crushing the military insubordination to which they had owed their elevation. When the Parisian levies began to evince the mutinous spirit in the camp at St Menehould, in Champagne, which they had imbibed during the license of the capital, Dumourier drew them up in the centre of his intrenchments, and, showing them a powerful line of cavalry in front, with their sabres drawn, ready to charge, and a stern array of artillery and cannoneers in rear, with their matches in their hands, soon convinced the most licentious that the boasted independence of the soldier must yield to the dangers of actual warfare.* “ The armed force,” said Carnot, " is essentially obedient ;” and in all his commands, that great man incessantly inculcated upon his soldiers the absolute necessity of implicit submission to the power which employed them.+ When the recreant Constable de Bourbon, at the head of a victorious squadron of Spanish cavalry, approached the spot where the rear-guard, under the Chevalier Bayard, was covering the retreat of the French army in the valley of Aosta, he found him seated, mortally wounded, under a tree, with his eyes fixed on the cross which formed the hilt of his sword. Bourbon began to express pity for his fate. “Pity not me," said the high-minded Chevalier ; “ pity those who fight against their king, their country, and their oath!”

These generous feelings, common alike to republican antiquity and modern chivalry, have disappeared during the fumes of the French Revolution. The soldier who is now honoured is not he who keeps, but he who violates his oath; the rewards of valour are showered, not upon those who defend, but on those who overturn the government; the incense of popular applause is offered, not at the altar of fidelity, but at that of treason. Honours, rewards, promotion, and adulation, have been lavished on the troops of the line, who overthrew the government of Charles X. in July last; while the Royal Guard, who adhered to the fortune of the fallen monarch with exemplary fidelity, have been reduced to beg their bread from the bounty of strangers in a foreign land. A subscription has recently been opened in London for the most destitute of these defenders of royalty ; but * Mém. de Dumourier, iii. 172.

+ Carnot's Memoirs.

« EdellinenJatka »