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We ought, perhaps, to make objection to the great bulk of these volumes. The tendency of our age is to excess. Our author has fallen into this error. There is not a little in the volumes which might well have been omitted—not that it is worthless, but that it is cumulative. We submit, that it had been wise to have left out of the volumes the various journeyings recorded. They are cumbrous accidents of the work. not as a traveller the public wished to relearn of Dr. Chalmers, but as a philosopher and Christian orator. Too much drapery, however beautifully folded, takes off from the grace of a statue. However, we are quite willing to read, if the public are willing to buy.
We must make serious objection to the pointing of these volumes, which is, to the last degree, slovenly and misplaced. With this exception, however, and the error is both clerical and venial, we cannot conclude without earnestly commending this record of much of a truly great man's life for the serious perusal of all who make Theology a study, in contemplation of the Christian ministry, and of all who are engaged as pastors and teachers. This Life' will be found suggestive of much that is good. Above all, it teaches how irresistible is a hallowed energy, and how triumphant is genius devoted to God. We thank the accomplished author for these happy results of his industry; and when this work is completed, we shall hope to see him gathering fresh laurels from the field of literary fame.
ART. VII.-1. The Historic Lands of England. By J. Bernard Burke,
Esq. London: Churton. 2. Anecdotes of the Aristocracy, and Episodes of Ancestral Story.
Second Series. By J. Bernard Burke, Esq. London: Churton. 3. Celebrated Trials connected with the Aristocracy, in the Relations of
Private Life. By Peter Burke, Esq., of the Inner Temple, Bar
rister-at-Law. It is a significant fact, considering the character of the times, that they who are so versed in all matters touching the nobility and gentry of England, as are the authors of the above-mentioned works, should have felt nothing like a shrinking delicacy, or nervous apprehension, in presenting to special gaze and inspection, the class which, conventionally speaking, we call the
aristocracy. Necessarily indebted, as writers on such subjects must be, for much of their original information to individuals more or less directly connected with the class intended to be described, it would have been no matter of surprise or blame if we should, here and there, have discovered signs of discreet obliviousness and forbearance. But, on the whole, our authors have shown no undue timidity. They cannot have forgotten that, possessing and exercising, as we do, in this happy country, the inestimable right of the liberty of the press, not only their own works, but the somewhat envied class that forms the subject of them, would be open to the most free and independent scrutiny and comment. With all their faults, the aristocracy are treated as they are, and have been. While, in the beautiful ' library' work, so aptly styled. The Historic Lands of England, Mr. Bernard Burke has, in his graphic pictures of the residences of our "mighty dead,' reminded us—but with naught of obtrusive boastfulness—of the famous deeds of gallantry, patriotism, and public virtue, which are the constituent elements of the glory of our common country, his learned brother, Mr. Peter Burke, has felt that, with candid judges, he could do no injustice to the aristocracy, as a class, by publishing a provokingly interesting and readable volume, detailing, minutely, the facinora of some particular individuals.
The · Anecdotes of the Aristocracy'-we speak more especially of the Second Series—are judiciously selected and well told. Incidents in themselves extremely interesting, but which hitherto have, perhaps, been somewhat overlaid by their connexion with the facts of elaborated history, are, in these agreeable volumes, brought out into scenic relief. The work may be described as a small, well-selected gallery of pictures, correctly entitled according to the subjects, and arranged in their proper relative position. We thus have the lights and shadows of aristocratic life.
We do not pretend to concur in all the sentiments, political or politico-religious, either with regard to facts or individuals, which incidentally occur in these works. But, on the whole, we think that the authors have written, not only without betraying party bigotry or prejudice, but with the moderation and impartiality which are demanded of all professed narrators of history. Leaving them, then, to the favourable estimation of the reading public as we think we may confidently do—we avail ourselves of this occasion of alluding to their works, to submit some brief general remarks on the subject of the aristocracy.
If we refer to the two words of which the Greek word åplotorparia is compounded, it appears that the elementary ideas or qualities which it imports, are goodness or excellence, to a super
lative extent, in the moral, social, and general sense of the terms, and successful and dominant power. And, in the course of time necessary for any considerable or complete development of language, the two ideas would become, as a consequence of the facts of social history, so interfused the one in the other, that they would be liable, especially in days when nice moral distinctions were not characteristically strong in the public mind, to be unduly confounded. Superior moral virtue and intelligence are in themselves right and good. These qualities, called into action for the resistance of wrong, in the face of personal danger, or at the risk of life, would be bravery; the successful exertion of this would lead to power-power to rule or dominance. All these would thus gradually come to be considered as partaking of the original or primal quality of goodness. Homer uses the word ápotoç in the sense of the best, bravest, noblest, though it has been doubted whether the plural word, åploto, was used to signify chiefs or nobles, as if mere birth or relative social station were necessarily indicative of the true ideal, best. Some Greek writers, in referring to an ideal constitution, have used the word dplotokparia in the sense of the rule of the best, strictly so called, as opposed to óltyapxia. A similar distinction, as to the use or acceptation of the word aristocracy, has naturally obtained in the languages of civilized nations. The word has thus a general and a specific application. In the former and more ideal sense of the term, aristocracy has been something that has been held in due admiration and honour. Individuals whose character and position have brought them within the limits of what has been implied in the idea, have, speaking generally, so far from being envied, unpopular, or disliked, been the social and political favourites of the people. It has been only when, from the corruption of the times, the dominancy of mere brute force, and the relative weakness or ignoble servility of the mass of the population, a selfish, designing oligarchy has been able to hold a country in undue subjection, that the word aristocracy, as well as the thing which it then implied, became justly odious to all the sincere friends of social and political freedom.
The commonly accepted sense, however, of the word aristocracy, is that which has been given by our own English lexicographers—that form of government which places the supreme power in the nobles.' Here, a superior class or caste is supposed to exist, to whom has been given, or who have socially usurped, the name and position of the nobles; and the dominant rule of this body forms that political aristocracy or oligarchy of which the ardent lovers of liberty, in the brightest periods of history, have been so naturally and worthily jealous. We need but refer, by way of exemplification, to the interesting tale of the long and patriotic struggles of the plebeian order against the unyielding pride and haughty tyranny of the patricians of Rome, terminating, as it did, in a period of comparative liberty and consequent political grandeur and prosperity.
We have said enough to show that we are no friends to a political aristocracy. On the contrary, we hold that the influential, if not the formal and organical, dominance, should be with the people, nationally so considered, inclusive, of course, of the aristocratic classes. In this sense, we approve of democracy, not only in preference to, but to the exclusion of, any other dominant form of government, monarchical or aristocratic. We maintain, in this respect, most heartily the doctrines of Somers, of Locke, and of Charles James Fox, that political power can rightfully only come from, or be delegated by, the people; and that in them, of right, is deposited original and ultimate sovereignty in every state that is, or deserves to call itself-free.
It may, therefore, well be maintained, that aristocracy never was, and is not now, the legal and rightful form of government in this country. Whenever, in effect, the aristocracy have been unduly powerful among us, much more when they have been dominant, it has been by usurpation, and not of right. While this has been the case, we have not had the practical enjoyment of the British constitution, as it has been described and eulogized by our most learned, as well as most patriotic statesmen, lawyers, and historians. The country, in such a case, is suffering under injustice and wrong. If it should be, that we are, even now, practically so situated, we shall be unworthy of our illustrious fathers, and forfeit all claim to the character of patriots, if we do not speedily and thoroughly redress the evil, and take good security for the future, that the balance of political power shall never again be against the people.
The immortal Locke, in speaking of the right of the people, in case of a dissolution of one form of government,' to provide for themselves by electing a new legislative different from the other,' seems to have been jealous lest it might be supposed that he here intended only to assert a simple truism resulting from the mere necessity of the case. To prevent this misconstruction, he adds this noble passage—' But the state of mankind is not so miserable that they are not capable of using this remedy till it be too late to look for any. To tell people they may provide for themselves by erecting a new legislative, when by oppression, artifice, or being delivered over to a foreign power, their old is gone, is only to tell them they may expect relief when it is too late, and the evil is past cure. This is in effect no more than to bid them first be slaves, and then to take care of their liberty; and when their chains are on, tell them they may act like freemen. This, if barely so, is rather mockery than relief; and men can never be secure from tyranny, if there be no means to escape it till they are perfectly under it; and therefore it is that they have not only a right to get out of it, but to prevent it."
The general structure and fundamental principle of our constitution, as consisting of King, Lords, and Commons, we still think to be sound and good ; and we have so much faith in the ultimately prevailing intelligence and patriotism of our countrymen-not altogether excluding, in this respect, the aristocracy so-called, itself—that we cannot but cherish the hope and belief, that the true theory of the constitution is not only capable of being reduced into practice, but that it may, ere very long, become a happy reality. We were glad to see, according to the report of the speech of that veteran reformer, Mr. Hume, at a late meeting of the National Reform Association, that he gave the sanction of his patriotic name in favour of a similar sentiment. Yet it must be frankly admitted, that we have been a long time in arriving within a visible distance of a realization so devoutly to be wished. It has been the fashion to describe the British constitution as a wisely-adjusted system of mutual checks, resulting in a conservative and salutary balance of forces, characteristically varied, if not essentially opponent. There is, no doubt, some truth in this notion, as descriptive of the actual operation and result of facts and events, occurring in connexion with certain memorable passages of our history. But we are inclined to think that this doctrine of checks, considered as a constitutional theory, has worked more harm than good. It became, as it were, a matter of course, that with regard to certain great questions of national policy, particularly any legislative measures designed to promote political improvement, the opinions and wishes of the people, as expressed, more generally, on the hustings and in the press, or more formally, by the Lower House of Parliament, should, in the first instance, at least, be opposed. Many a trimming, hesitating politician, who more than half saw the propriety of certain popular demands, satisfied his official or parliamentary conscience, by reflecting, and perhaps saying, that, at any rate, the principle of the constitutional check must be allowed its full time to operate. The real meaning of this among interested statesmen naturally enough came to be, that whatever does not, at first sight, seem acceptable to those holding the aristocratic checking power, might be opposed,
* Locke on Government, chapter xix.