Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to locally distant. They have given to all Europe the rights of

vicinage, by making it experience its wrongs.

Were France, indeed, an insulated country, instead of being planted in the very centre of Europe; were it wholly detached from that great body-politic, instead of being the very heart of its influence, giving life, determination, and direction to all its general movements; were it, in short, some remote section of any: other quarter of the globe instead of a grand central division of

our own, there would be some ground to dispute the right of o interference. But still it might not be amiss to consider, who it

was that complained; whether a peaceable sovereign in the peaceable exercise of the lawful functions of his office, or a fierce and unquiet usurper, who had not hesitated with or without plea to trespass on every neighbouring nation, who had long entertained and avowed a flagitious project of general conquest and unjustifiable interference with other communities?

It is rather singular, indeed, that in all this outcry against interference, we have heard so little in reprobation of the interferences of the usurper himself. It looks as if there were persons in this country more willing to palliate his wrongs, than even to to tolerate our rights. But the truth is, that Buonaparte never delayed for one moment to debate any question of right, and for that very reason the rectitude of his conduct has the seldomer been brought into question. Sometimes a scrupulous justice will excite more opposition than unhesitating violence.

It is a remark, as old as Thucydides, that oppression is more easily endured than just inflictions; for, in the one case, we treat the victims of our power as wretched inferiors without a right even to complain; but in the other, we consider the subjects of our chastisement as our equals, in whom we acknowledge a right to

Buonaparte is an undoubted usurper; for let it be granted

that we did partially sanction his original usurpation, yet that + fanction, such as it was, he had certainly waved by the treaty of Paris

, and his resumption of power was in the nature of a new act. Was he chosen by the people? When and where did the people elect; and who are the people? Surely not the army

alone; surely not the persons assembled at Paris for the acceptIance of the additional act. We can only hear the voice of the

people in the voice of its constituted organs. It is not in the amy, it is not in the majority, but in an acknowledged preponderance of wisdom, that

we discern the people. Whatever right people may have to bestow their allegiance, they can have no * night without cause to transfer it: the French people had pledged

their allegiance to. Louis; 'it was already betrothed.
how far an act of positive usurpation can ever be purged by

Besides,

remonstrate.

any declaration of a subsequent choice, is a very problematical question. But the right of election, exercised as it was, was itself a mischievous innovation, it constituted a just ground of interference. We presume all along, that no one will pretend a right in Buonaparte to the French crown by conquest, for it cannot but occur, that Louis was conquered by means of his own troops. He came there in the unequívocal character of an usurper ; he appealed to his partisans as to his fellow-countrymen ; he descended from his legitimate title as a first step to that which he unlawfully aimed at acquiring.

The breach of the treaty alone was a just cause of war; but we are persuaded that it was not the true one, and, thinking the real cause defensible, we were unwilling to leave it by implication defenceless, under cover even of a legitimate pretext. It was not the breach of the treaty that engendered the war, but the physical and moral evils which the breach of the treaty again let loose upon the world.

But the question of actual danger still remains; the nature and extent of which were to be gathered; first, from the dispositions of the party himself; and, secondly, from his means of aggression. In so far as past conduct was a just criterion of present dispositions, we could be at no loss to interpret the dispositions of the usurper. The evidence of his actions was unequivocal. His avowed pursuit was universal conquest ; and had his success been commensurate with his views, the rest of Europe would have been a mere annexation to France

an imperial province. He had afterwards professed himself desirous of peace, a profession which it was not in his power to fulfil. He was no longer master of his own actions. He was the feodal tenant of the French soldiery, and the aggrandisement of the power and glory of France was the knightservice by which he held of them his crown. Foreign peace was to him domestic war.

But he might have been bound by a treaty. What! he who had just violated the treaty of Paris, and who in his confidential correspondence has now told us, a fact of which his actions informed us long before, that convenience was with him the only rule of his actions, and that men are to be amused with treaties as children with toys. There has been, however, a sort of whimsical inconsistency in the arguments upon this head, as urged by the same persons, which for the pleasantry of it we are unwilling to omit. The substance of them is as follows: Buonaparte in the island of Elba ought to have been most strictly watched. Why? Because he was not to be trusted. Buonaparte on the French throne ought to have been treated with; and it is in yain to remind them, that he was not a fit person to be trusted. Such is the different measure of confidence, which in the opinion of some of our countrymen was due to this man, in a sort of inverted proportion to his capacities of mischief. Such is, in their minds, the expiatory influence of power, the regenerating and transforming efficacy of criminal success.

It was surmised, indeed, that his maturer age, his retirement, and, above all, his reverses, might have wrought some change in his disposition; but, not to say that there was no evidence of any such change, these surmises were directly. contradicted by bis own subsequent and positive act. He was older forsooth by one year than he was a twelvemonth before, but he was only wiser in mischief. He had time for reflection, but his reflections had turned exclusively on new schemes of aggrandisement; and, with respect to his reverses, the argument itself was reversed by the re novation of his fortunes, which was only a prelude to the revival of his ambition. Still was it expedient, at such a price as we have paid for the destruction of Buonaparte, to attempt it? The loss of lives, indeed, is to be sincerely deplored : but look at the alternative, The question for every nation of Europe to consider, was between an energetic resistance or a submission most absolute. Stimulated by the most implacable revenge, and ever most inordinately avaricious of power, nothing short of even a tribulary subjection would in all probability have satisfied the despot. Such was the evil to be averted. As for the means of averting it, there were the congregated armies of Europe against the single forces of France, stripped even of its Italian resources, a confederation such as was never likely again to be arrayed against that nefarious power, nor ever likely again to find it so entirely, deserted.

All these considerations taken together we think were quite sufficient to place both the propriety and the expediency of the war at that particular time out of all controversy, and we think further, that if ever there was a question on which unanimity in the British Parliament might have been expected, and the voice of patriotism ought to have silenced the voice of party contention, it was undoubtedly this. Peace would have been only a perpetuation of war. Io have made peace with Buonaparte would, indeed, have been a deprecation of all peace-war was to him the only peace,

Šo much for the justness of the war as a war against Buonaparte. It is but a short step further to justify it as a war for the restoration of Louis. The French people were themselves a party to that treaty by which Louis was restored, and we as another party had a right to enforce it. We say, also, that the French people have no option of any other dynasty then that of Louis; because any other would open the floodgates to the torrent of mischiefs which have already deluged Europe. Behind the power of Buonaparte couched the demon of jacobinism,

“ And in his hand a burning brond he had,
The which he brandished about his hed;
His eyes did hurle forth sparkles fiery red,
And stared sterne on all that him beheld;
As ashes pale of hew and seeming ded;

And on his dagger still his hand he held.” SPENCER. Nor does it matter whether it be territorial aggression or & constitutional inroad, a propagation of principles or an extension of power, which is to be dreaded. The imminence of danger is that which founds the right of interference. The degree of that danger may raise the right into an obligation. Europe and the cause of humanity demand that France should be coerced into repose; and even supposing that any innoxious person could be raised to the throne, usurpation itself, in the present irritable condition of that country, would be a serious mischief to every surrounding state. It would be a nuisance and a contagious nuisance. But to denounce usurpation is in effect to maintain the principle of claim hy law and constitutional right. We therefore see no impropriety in a direct interference for the restoration of the legitimate monarch, always protesting against any endeavours to set up a resemblance between the constitutional revolution in our own country and the military overthrow of a legitimate government like that of which we have

The problem of interference with the internal settlement of a foreign independent state being practically resolved, as it always must be, by the duty of self-preservation, we next pass to the consideration of the means whereby the peace of the world and the independence of nations are, under the present circumstances, to be best secured. If during a period of great excitement, while the dazzling work of deliverance from military despotism was in process, high expectations were formed and even encouraged, of universal restitution, all sober and reflecting men, on the other hand, perceived that ancient barriers had been 50 broken down, and political relations had been so altered and confounded, during the storm which had for so long an interval shaken the civilized world, that the theory of a status quo was neither easy, expedient, nor even safe to be adopted. The same elements of which the system of European states was formerly composed were no longer visible, and the same geographical divisions would be found to comprise within their respective limits very different proportions of moral efficiency. Experience also had furnished sufficient proofs of the inadequacy of the old arrangement to effectuate an approach to that general happiness

been treating

which could only be realized by a plan of division that would make it the obvious interest of a prevailing majority to repress the exorbitance of each particular power.

A speculative balance of power has a tendency to perpetuate hostility. It serves as a fund of jealousy, from which ambition may draw perpetual supplies. It keeps the tone of political feeling at too irascible a point, and reconciles the conscience of the aggressor by affording him all the decent pretexts of quarrel with his weaker neighbour. This has been for the most part the unfortunate posture of human affairs. Where the notion of a balance of power has prevailed, the impression has produced nothing but sudden combinations against individual violence and casual success. It has rarely, if ever, produced any scheme of limitation and mutual adjustment founded on a preventive principle and sanctioned by general recognition. The dispositions and circumstances of mankind have never yielded an opportunity so favourable to its happiness. Confederacies of the weak against the strong were common enough among the republics of Greece, but these have been properly described as the fruit rather of “ jealous emulation” than of " cautious politics ;"' and every effort against a powerful ascendency, if successful in its immediate object, by developing the resources of some new oppressor, has ended only in shifting the danger. A multiplicity of small states crowded together, like fowls in a coop, are always gratuitously wounding and tormenting each other. In such a state the mind is strongly actuated, and its energies strained to the highest compass of nature; but if social happiness is the proper end of human action, and wide views and extended relations are necessary to mental dignity and substantial greatness, man can scarcely be said, under such circumstances, to feel the extent of his own character, to embrace the circuit of his affinities, or to know himself in all his moral expansion.

The quarrels of the Greek republics, fomented by the Persian monarchs, suspended the fate of that tottering power; and, instead of affording a specimen of a wise and liberal balance among themselves, or a generous opposition tempered by a common sympathy, and acknowledging an ultimate correspondence of interest, they presented themselves to the designs of foreign ambition as fit agents of their own destruction.

The generals who divided among themselves the patrimony and conquests of Alexander exhibited a pretty correct notion of a balance of power in their vast allotments of empire; and in the combination against Antigonus, acted upon the principle of their first establishment. But the distances of these great monarchies from each other was too great to admit of any conventional

« FöregåendeFortsätt »