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is the most of it. And of all this, there is good reason to think, the men of the Cowgate were already beginning to have some slight suspicion, and sundry manifestations had occurred of an incipient distrust, spreading widely and surely among the servum pecus, and the general superintendents of all disaffection perceived that it was necessary, by some “great show of circumstance,” to dazzle the eyes that had begun to be too piercing, and deafen the ears that had begun to swallow with more caution. And some happy spirit suggested the spectacle of the Pantheon ; and the rabble, if not their panem, had at least their circenses administered to them : and even the sternest and most aristocratical of the old Lauderdale faction, did not abstain from this mockery, with whatever secret qualms they may have first embraced it; but finding in the Edinburgh Reviewers the convenient middle term, the proper bonds of cohesion, they leant boldly on those all-agreeable worthies, “gratos supremis Deorum gratos et imis," and shook hands with the Radicals. A little airy sportive chat about independence, and scorn of power, will not suffice to wipe out the least of the stains which this uphallowed connexion has fixed upon all that partook in its symbols.a
In common justice, however, we should speak gently on this occasion; for it is already sufficiently visible that the effect of the spectacle has been exactly the reverse of what its devisers and principal performers must have had in view. It is quite right that they who are in should be in all things more moderate than they who are out ; but in the case of our friends the Tories, (as they are absurdly enough called, for want of a better name, we do think this system of moderation is sometimes carried not a little farther than it ought to be. Their enemies never confer any favour on them willingly, but if they were desirous of finding out a favour of real moment to confer upon them—they could not light on any thing more admirably adapted for their interests than the holding of such a meeting as this. It binds people visibly, who are too often apt to forget the real bonds that always subsist between them. It brings Whigs and Radicals together-but it brings the Tories together too, and then there is no reason to fear for the issue. We conclude as we began, with the words of Coriolanus,
“STAND FAST! WE HAVE AS MANY FRIENDS AS ENEMIES!"
a We are most happy to learn, however, that the “facile princeps” of the Scottish Whigs, Mr. Cranstqun, although he did sign the requisition for this meeting, did not attend it.
2. [From the same Magazine—for Jan. 1821.] An association, on a scale of great extent, in number, principle, and public influence, has lately been formed in London, for the purpose of resisting to the utmost, the progress of revolutionary fanaticism. The names already comprehend the chief of that class which forms the sinew of the public strength members of the different learned professions-commercial men of known respectability—and persons of independent private income.....A meeting has been already held; and the “Constitutional Association” has properly begun, by publishing a statement of its views. The following are the principal passages. [We extract two of them.]
• The press has unhappily become, in the hands of evil men, a lever to sbake the very foundations of social and moral order. It cannot but be matter of serious alarm to observe that a very large proportion of our periodical publications is under the direction either of avowed enemies of the Constitution, or of persons whose sole principle of action is their own selfish interest. By these, and by occasional writers of a like character and description, every artifice is employed, with daily increasing boldness, to render the people discontented with the Government and disobedient to the Laws ; to persuade them that they are betrayed by those who should protect them ; to seduce them from their affection and allegiance to their sovereigns; and, finally, to bring about a Revolution, to which the wealth, the prosperity, the internal happiness, and the political greatness of the Empire, must inevitably be sacrificed.
As it is clear that isolated, individual exertion, would be utterly inadequate to cope with all the evil energies now arrayed against public order and the public peace ; so it is to be feared, that the Government and Legislature themselves might find the contest difficult, without the active, zealous, and persevering co-operation of the loyal and well-disposed part of the community, which co-ope. ration, to be effectual, must be the result of a regular and systematic union of individuals.'
The essence of the authority of government is opinion. Without the national reliance, the most powerful administration is feebleness; it is met, at every step by some new obstacle ; it may carry on, for a time, a heartless, tormenting, losing warfare, against the embittered and pursuing animosity of the nation ; but it must finally, and that at no great interval, find its resources cut off, and its only hope in a degrading capitulation. With the public faith for its ally, there is, humanly speaking, no limit to its power; it is the Giant, with the hundred hands, yet lifted and mighty only for the purposes of preservation ; it has found the spot from which the realm, and with it the world, is to be
moved; it stands a conspicuous and magnificent concentration of the mind, and soul, and strength of the commonwealth, resistless for good, weak only for evil; an image of an earthly providence, perhaps as perfect as it may be permitted to our intellects to form. No ministry has ever been able to despise the national feeling with impunity.[a] It is their business to lead; but, to make their power perfect, it must be shared; to lead, they must in some degree follow; the noble equipment and tackling of the ship of the state will not carry it forward over the first surge, without the mighty impulse, the “popularis aura.” Their system, stately and illustrious as it may be, must stop, in all its orbits, with the first stoppage of that invisible and fluctuating ocean in which they float, which they impel, and by which they are impelled. It is in the spirit of that wisdom which built up the constitution, that the national mind should govern itself ; that administration should chiefly display its high opportunities in hints and suggestions of good, in clearing away the obstructions to the view of the general interests, rather than in the absolute compulsion of the public mind, to whatever rank of virtue. And this wisdom works well, for it is grounded in a knowledge of that human nature which will act vigorously only where it acts upon conviction, and which feels no conviction complete but the result of its own labours.
The charge of corruption in the popular heart is fully made out. On what other principle are we to account for the sudden insolence of the agitators of the rabble, the power of every outcast to raise a popular ferment, the new faculty of ignorance to wage battle against knowledge ;-of beggary and shame to shake honourable opulence and ancient dignity ;-of blasted tergiversation and vulgar ferocity, in all its shapes of burlesque and terror, to stir up rebellion in the bosom of the land. Can there be a more singular, or more fearful phenomenon than this, to see the multitude suddenly giving unlimited reliance to individuals, to whom pot the most trusting Reformist of the hundred thousand would lend five shillings on his personal faith ; to see offences against the state and religion registered among the first claims to confidence, until the very brand of the law becomes a badge of distinction, and Newgate a necessary step to the power of inflaming the people?
That there should be candidates for those desperate and guilty distinctions, is to be wondered at only by those who are ignorant of the cravings of poverty and vice, or how rapidly they are maddened by gross ambition and personal hostility. From the beginning of bistory, the temptation, the mind, and the means
[a Aristocrats appear to have just discovered the value of public opinion.]
of all demagogues, have identified the family. The casual difference in their close, makes but slight distinction in this long pedigree of guilt. The same habits of flagitiousness and profligacy,
black falsehood and thirsty cupidity, stooping to any prostration to slake its throat in the sacred well of the national freedom, property and blood, are characteristics of the race. But of those men, some have been of a rank of accomplishment and ability, that might almost excuse their influence on the national fates,-potent and lofty spirits, made to wield the elements of disorder, and awing men into a brief admiration even of their violence, by its splendour. But our disturbance is fated to come from a lower source; we are to have none of the excuses of a vague wonder at the noble influences convertible to our misfortune. We are not to be withered by the lightning ; no generous future superstition is to dignify our raiments, as of the victims of what in the moral world might be looked on as little less than a resistless destiny,—a stroke of the lightning that makes the spot memorable, if not hallowed. We are to be consumed by the steams of the marsh, that nothing but our own indolence suffers to remain, offending Earth and Heaven. It is this strange submission to an influence which it requires only the common feeling of a manly mind to extinguish, this shrinking before baseness, disgrace, and imposture, that marks the peculiarity of the moment, and with it makes the necessity for the union of all honest men. The keys of our Citadel are not to be given up to the requisition of the first insolent outlaw that comes with a troop recruited from the jail and the highway, and dares to beard the armed and lawful strength within.
If Associations in this spirit had been fixed in the more important towns, it is impossible to doubt that the libel, outrage, and treason against church and state, which have, for the last two years, covered a large portion of England with all but open insurrection, would have been crushed at once. Would the corrupring and infamous caricatures against the King have stared upon us from every stall in every village ? Would the missionaries of plunder and massacre have made their regular visitations, through the land, not simply untouched by authority, but in its defiance? Would the whole Host of Rebellion have been suffered to muster and equip itself
in the face of day, and receive its hourly orders from the Staff in London, without the seizure of a despatch ? If those things have been done, and are doing, even while my pen is tracing this paper, it is because there have not been Associations to put a stop to the system at once. Government have been vigilant, but it must again be said, that the direction of its services must be rather to suggest than to act. They are the grand jury of the constitution.
They examine in the first instance; but beyond that brief office, the greater part of their duty is devolved into other hands. The true court is the nation; and there is passed the only sentence that can be enforced without reproach or fear.
We have before our eyes a remarkable instance of the superior advantage with which the rights of the community may sometimes be vindicated by an Association. The government prosecutions for blasphemy bad failed to an alarming extent; something scarcely less than a conspiracy to acquit, seemed to have grown up in the jury box, and the officers of government were avowedly repelled from prosecutions where no verdict was to be found, and where the simple fact of having been thought culpable by the legislature made the fortune of the culprit. There is a fashion in all things; the fashion of acquittal in all cases of blasphemy was advancing into an established rule; and the outrageous menaces, mixed with outrageous panegyrics, which were used to break down the timid, or bring over the fools of popularity, were on the eve of destroying all confidence in the administration of the laws. The whole transaction is matter of history, and of the most instructive nature to those who would judge of the force of fanaticism, and of its fitting remedy. The evil of the blasphemy was notorious; it glared upon the public eye from every corner of the realm. The Hydra had ten thousand heads, all alike armed and active, but not one was cut away.
To the remonstrances against this course, and some of those remonstrances were made by the very men who had “fed the dragon, and worshipped before it;" the answer, even in Parliament, was given, by asking, “ Are we to throw down the law before this new madness ? Are we to assist in raising bankrupt villany to wealth and popular notice? Are we to give loathsome imposture and brutal atrocity a direct claim to the subscriptions of Radical Baronets, Peers, and Dukes, by proving the criminal to be deserving of the severest exercise of justice? No,—we must wait for better times, the delusion of the day will expire with the day. We will not hazard all that remains of dignity to British Legislation, by committing it in a struggle with offences which look to our prosecution as their necessary seal of reward.”
In this exigency, and nothing could be more pregnant with alarm to the well-wishers of English freedom, an Association, unconnected with Government, honourably came forward, and, with wbatever hopelessness, dragged a notorious trafficker in impiety and sedition before the tribunal. It can be no aspersion to a jury who did their duty, to say, that the private nature of the prosecution was of advantage to the soundness of their judgment. Politics were not standing on the table to overawe or corrupt. It was a decision of scarcely more than private quarrel. Carlile,