« PoprzedniaDalej »
and pensive cultivators of science and literature *.
* These hints, though unacceptable, may yet prove of some service to certain persons whom I could name, and who are employing every art and low contrivance to procure themselves an admission, as foreign associates, into this club of scoundrels.
The Central Museum of the Arts Gallery of
WHEN the French Republic first took up arms, they protested in the presence of God and man, that they had renounced every idea of conquest, that their triumphs should be those of philosophy only, and that wherever their victorious standards were spread, the liberty and property of nations should he respected. They never kept their promise, and at the time of making it, they knew it was not their intention to keep it. Their first campaigns, like those of the ancient Romans, were directed against their warlike neighbours, who, as Florus observes, hovered round their frontiers; but when by the sacrifice of innumerable legions, they succeeded in repulsing the veteran troops of the continental powers, they began a career of robbery, pillage, and destruction, which has no parallel in the history of disciplined nations, or of predatory hordes of barbarians.
But the conduct of the ancient Romans and the modern French will not bear the test of comparison. The forner, after having made themselves masters of Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, a part of Spain and Africa, preserved with all this new accession of power, the greatest purity of manners. Their brilliant fortune had not then destroyed their primitive virtue, nor engendered new vices among them. They had contended against nations more valiant than wealthy, and whose courage had not been subdued by corruption; they had fought for their safety and the honor of their name, and they would never have conquered the people to whom they gave laws, if their superior virtues had not rendered them worthy to command. The French, on the contrary, opened their conquests with the invention of new vices and follies. After having demolished the monuments of the genius and industry of their own countrymen, they went forth to ransack other countries, and to destroy what they could not carry away with them. Whatever had been raised or collected by the talents, the piety, or the care of the lovers of science, arts, and literature, became objects of their peculation; Licentiæque huic sacra profanaque omnia vulgò spoliandi factum est *.
After the second Punic war, the ancient Roman character gradually melted away, and they became almost as great robbers as the French. When once a people have obtained an ascendancy over other nations, it is extremely difficult to retain them within the limits to which they have arrived, and
* Livy, l. 25.
to prevent their encroachments on their weaker neighbours. They resemble a river, whose banks not being sufficiently strong to preserve its waters from flowing within their accustomed bed, breaks down every opposition, and desolates the surrounding plains. Scarcely had the Romans concluded peace with Carthage, than they stretched forth their arms over those fine countries, in which were gathered all the treasures of the earth, and which nature and art had ornamented as objects of envy to the rest of the world. In the sixteen years that followed, they overcame Philip, king of Macedon, Antiochus, king of Syria, the proud and warlike Etolians, and the Galatians, who, though degenerated from their ancient origin, had proved themselves formidable to the other powers of Asia *. They not only transported to Rome the treasures and chef-d'æuvres which those kings and nations possessed, but they also imposed upon them the most burthensome tributes, by which millions passed every year into Italy f. The chefd'oeuvres which Marcellus sent to Rome from Syracuse, demonstrated the same spirit of rapacity and robbery which had began to display itself at Tarentum 5. But neither during the ten years
Livy, l. 33. c. 9, 10. 1. 37. c. 43, 44. 1. 38. c. 9. 11. 27.
+ The details of the treasures amassed by their victorious generals are to be found in Pliny, l. 33. c. il. | Florus 1. c. 18.
which elapsed from the capture of Syracuse, to the end of that war; nor even for more than fifty years after, did any individual appropriate to his own use, the least master-piece of Grecian art, or decorate his house with it; on the contrary, they were consecrated to the gods, and placed in their temples, as objects set apart to religion. If in the sixty following years, the Roman generals and magistrates had never made a worse use of those wonders of art, than Marcellus, and other celebrated conquerors, so many státues, paintings, and treasures of gold and silver would never have extorted from Livy, the pointed animadversion which he made on the subject of the temple built by Marcellus. Quæ (licentia) postremò in Romanos deos, templum ipsum primum; quod à Mar. cello erimie ornatum est, vertit. Visebantur enim ab exteris ad portam Capenam dedicata à Marcello templa, propter excellentia ejus generis ornamenta quorum pererigua pars apparet.
The principle on which the robberies of the French have been conducted, is by no means with a view to preserve the arts, but to aggrandize France by the utter impoverishment of other countries. Their policy has no other element but to divide in order to conquer, no other end but to arrive at universal domination by universal confusion, and no other restraint than the dread to which theyhave reduced all the actions of other governments. Occupied constantly on the de