Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

write in a good humour, and partly because they abound, in all the comic scenes, to such an extent as almost to baffle selection. As little do we admire the introduction of Sir W. Curtis's name. The known bon hommie and respectability of the worthy Alderman might at least have saved him from being set up as a laughing-stock by the side of an overgrown ox; nay, we should have supposed that his culinary tastes would have found bim peculiar favour in the eyes of this Sam Savoury of novelists. As to the introduction of Peter Bell and Benjamin the Waggoner, these fictitious characters are fair game, and all we can say is, that the thing is in bad taste.

A rich vein of comic humour runs through the whole; as instances of which we should mention the Oxford row, and the story of the Scots bishop, as related by Macdonald. As a specimen of a different class of powers, we have only to refer the reader to Keith's description of the escape from the German coast, which we really consider very little, if at all inferior to the well known storm in the Antiquary.

In fine, we have perused Reginald Dalton with a strong predominance of favourable feeling, and a wish to see much more from the same pen. It is not its least merit to have fulfilled the end of the best moral essay in a manner interesting to the feelings and the imagination; to have given an improving picture of life and manners, instead of smuggling a Wesleyan sermon under the garb of a novel; and to have caught a large portion of the pathos peculiar to MʻKenzie, (to whom the work is dedicated) united to a more distinct and decided moral than his novels commonly contain.

Art. XII. Substance of the Speech of the Right Honourable

George Canning, in the House of Commons, on Wednesday the 30th of April, 1823, on Mr. Macdonald's Motion, respecting the Negotiations, at Verona, Paris, ånd Madrid." With an Appendix, containing Papers presented to both Houses of Parliament. 8vo. pp. 192. Hatchard

and Son. 1823. ART. XIII. The Crisis of Spain. Second Edition. 8vo. pp.

82. Murray. 1823. The war between France and Spain is at an end. The Duc d'Angouleme is on his return to Paris, and the Spanish Constitution, the pride of Arguelles and Jeremy Benthama stands a chance of being burnt by the common bangman. Throughout the whole of these unexampled events, there is only one circumstance upon which an Englishman can reflect without unmixed satisfaction--namely the conduct of his own country. Pefect neutrality too was required and has been observed. The Government and the people of Great Britain are of one mind, and their opinion is strengthened by every principle of justice and bonour. It is true that a few individuals censured Mr. Canning's negotiation, but the Opposition as a party did not venture to condemu it. Mr. Brougham would have preferred a more bullying look and haughty tone ; Mr. Wilberforce would have recommended a stronger infasion of cant; Mr. Hobhouse was prepared to open the purses of his constituents, and embark the entire wealth of Tothill Fields, and Cranbourne Alley in a crusade against the House of Bourbon. These were inconsiderable exceptions to the general rule.

But the nation which has taken so correct a view of its own situation and duiy, has much to learn respecting the state of Spain; and as the real nature of the revolution can no longer be disputed, there is a chance that our countrymen will open their eyes to facts with which they have not hitherto chosen to become acquainted. The unjustifiable aggression of France tempted us to think too favourably of the men whom France denounced; bumanity disposed us to favour the weaker side; the country believed what it wished, and endeavoured to forget what it feared. The result has been that lamentable ignorance of Spanish affairs which prevails so extensively among us; and which every one who takes an interest in the character and instruction of his fellow countrymen, is bound as far as possible to remove.

All the evils with which the Peninsula is now afflicted may be attributed in the first instance to the wretched system of government which preceded Buonaparte's invasion. The monarchs were feeble and worthless, the aristocracy corrupt and degenerate, the Priesthood powerful and ignorant, bigotted and superstitious, enslaving and enslaved. If the people were not so miserable as might have been expected, they were indebted to their own happy temperament for the escape. Buonaparte discovered the nakedness of the land. Its natural protectors failed to resist him; the institutions of the country gave way, and the most formidable resistance which Spain opposed to France, originated with men of no previous political importance. One benefit therefore Buonaparte unconsciously bestowed on Spain. By kidnapping

her kings and stealing her fortresses, he put an end to the despotism which had rendered her capable of submitting to such treatment. And the nation, which, with English assistance, gradually freed herself from the usurper, had an excellent opportunity and an indisputable right to amend her civil institutions. Speaking of this time the author of the Crisis of Spain justly remarks,

“ It was right, it was indispensable, that the more enlightened classes of the Spanish people should take advantage of the favourable moment which the period we are now considering presented, to improve their political condition. Every freeman desired to see the degraded state of Spain corrected into a better form of government; but sudden and violent measures, to this effect, should not have been attempted. The change, to be lasting, should have been gradual. Freedom, it has been truly said, enjoyed, shonld not be seized upon immaturely. The way to profit of conjunctures favorable to liberty, is not to do all that is possible at the moment, but only to attempt whut the necessities of the times require, and the state of public opinion warrants.' What did the state of public opinion in Spain warrant? To respect the prejudices which supported the constancy of the people in the memorable struggle in which they were then engaged, and to correct them by degrees. The necessities of the times required that the provisional government should occupy itself in organizing the military resources of the country, and in gaining the hearty concert of every feeling, of every class and profession, in the prosecution of the great objects of expelling the enemy from the country, and of avoiding every act that could occasion disunion.

“ To this the advocates of liberty may object, that the advantages arising from such measures might have been purchased at the monstrous price of letting Spain afterwards relapse into her former state. That, thank God! can never be; and a few fundamental acts might have regulated the nature and degree of the reformation. The abolition of the Inquisition ; the freedom of the press ; a declaration of rights, and an engagement to consider their political condition, so soon as the perfect independence of the country should be gained, would have been sufficient for this. Indeed, the emancipation of men's ininds was rapidly working, and it was clear that the Spanish people were fast awakening from their lethargy. The public debates on political subjects, and the consequent propagation of political knowledge; the common practice of sending youth to England for education; the vast number of enlightened persons whom the war brought into their country, and who visited it in all its recesses, where perhaps, heretics were never received before; the long absence of the legitimate

* Edinburgh Review.

monarch, and the consequent suspension of obedience to despotic power, promised, in good time, great and permanent political improvement to Spain, if it had been cultivated gradually." Crisis of Spain, p. 23.

It is by no means wonderful that the Spanish leaders should be ignorant or forgetful of these common-place truths. They had no experience in the art of government, they were onhappily in communication with some of the French and English Quacks, and they produced a paper Constitution which has never yet been carried into effect, and seems rather to have been invented for the use of one of Mr. Owen's parallelograms, than for the old world which he designs to regenerate. An outline of the Constitution, and a sketch of its more immediate effects afford a favourable specimen of the Crisis of Spain.

“ It is not necessary to remark further upon the genius and character of the Spanish code, the mischievous tendencies of which are, it is to be feared, about to convulse Europe. It is almost entirely a pure democracy. A mode of election whose basis is universal suffrage ;-short (biennial) parliaments ;-a legislature composed only of the commons estate ;-a King without power, without à council of his own nomination ;-in the hands of an executive council nominated and paid by the commons ;-a council without whose ' dictamen' the King can do nothing, and in which his ministers (who are also excluded from seats in the Cortes) have no voice; the monarch's will liable to be forced upon all occasions, if the Cortes persevere in pushing any bill to a third passing.-Ministers made responsible for acts which they have no share in forming (for the consejo de estado is the king's only council) and no voice in voting ;-the army and the navy under the authority of the commons house, in all that relates to regulations, discipline, order of advancement, pay, administration, and in short all that belongs to their constitution and good order. These are the discordant elements of which the Spanish constitution was formed, by which it is impoisoned, and out of which have arisen disorders which, if they be not purged, will transmit her from civil war to the greater horrors of military despotism. Those who supported the Constitution, originally, were called liberales; those who opposed it serviles; and here it was evident to close observers, a furious party-spirit was formed, which was destined, ere long, to deluge Spain with the blood of her sons, and Europe with the mischief of its principles.” P.50.

“ The nobles and the clergy soon saw how little their interests were to be considered in the new order of things. Many moderate men, of all descriptions, who would have concurred in any moderate scheme, were thrown at once into determined opposition to

2

such violent measures. The

great

limitation, or rather the com. plete annihilation of the royal prerogative,--the destruction of all feudal tenures, to the severe injury of the fortunes, rights of property, and consequence of the nobles and seniors,—the destruction of the power of the prelates, and in general of all ecclesiastical courts,—and the warning of the sanguinary contests which the constitution of 1791 led to in France, raised against the acts of the Cortes the most determined disapprobation whilst yet their work was in hand, and produced in many parts of the kingdom the most violent opposition, when it came to be promulgated. Royalists, nobles, and clergy, were every where vociferous against it. The very persons who had been mainly instrumental in exciting and sustaining the opposition of the people to the French, forsook the cause, when they discovered that the government were acting in violent disregard of the popular objects of the war. The Bishop of Orense withdrew from the Regency, when he could no longer stem this tendency to democracy. The very pulpits, and the press in many parts of the country, that had sent forth those addresses which first stirred the people to opposition, now condemned the acts of the government, and in some places the people were distinctly told, that further exertion would not, in fact, conduce to the great ends which they had taken arms to accomplish; for that a self-constituted government, though competent to administer provisionally the affairs of the country during the captivity of the Sovereign, had made a constitution which was directly in opposition to the popular objects of the war, and which had politically deposed their king; and, consequently, that further exertion for that government was rebelling against his authority.

“ We all remember how much the apathy of the Spanish people was complained of, at an advanced period of the war.

We all remember how incomprehensible it appeared, that the enthusiastic spirit, which had been displayed at the beginning of the contest, should so soon evaporate. Here then is the solution ; and it will account for the fact, that from the year 1811, the exertions of the peasantry were neutralized, and the only desultory operations which took place since that period, were those of Guerrillas, (composed chiefly of the wrecks of the Spanish armies,) the greater number of which, and certainly the most active, were commanded by persons who were then, in fact, Liberales, (constitutionalists, as is now proved by the parts which the Empecinado, Mina, Porlier, El Pastor, and many others, have since taken.” Crisis of Spain, p. 39.

It was idle to expect that such an experiment in Legislation would survive the return of Ferdinand. The best and wisest Prince would have refused to adopt it and we have no right to proņounce Ferdinand a fool or a rascal for dispensing sans ceremonie with its provisions. A greater

« ÎnapoiContinuați »