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It is not to such obvious discrepancies that we owe the fact that the connexion between the present treatise and those contained in the former volume is less easily traced by points of resemblance than by points of contrast. The differencing causes lie deeper and spread wider. In the first place, Burke in the present volume is appealing to a larger public. He is appealing directly to the whole English Nation, and indirectly to every citizen of the civilised world.
In his early denunciations of the French Revolution, Burke stood almost alone. At first sight he appeared to have the most cherished of English traditions against him. If there was one word which for a century had been sacred to Englishmen, it was the word Revolution. Those to whom it was an offence were almost wholly extinct: and a hundred years' prescription had sanctified the English Revolution even in the eyes of the bitterest adversaries of Whiggism. The King, around whom the discontented Whigs and the remnant of the Tories had rallied, was himself the creature of the Revolution. Now the party of Fox recognised a lawful relation between the Revolution of 1688, and that which was entering daily on some new stage of its mighty development in France. There was really but little connexion between the two. Burke never said a truer thing than that the Revolution of 1688 was “a revolution not made, but prevented.' The vast convulsions of 1789 and the following years were ill-understood by the Foxite Whigs. Pent in their own narrow circle, they could form no idca of a political movement on a bigger scale than a coalition: to them the French Revolution seemed merely an ordinary Whiggish rearrangement of affairs which would soon settle down into their places, the King, as in England, accepting a position subordinate to his ministers. Nor were Pitt and his party, with the strength of Parliament and the nation at their back, disposed to censure it. There was a double reason for favouring it, on the part of the English Premier. On the one hand, it was a surprise and a satisfaction to see the terrible monarchy of France collapse without a blow, and England's hereditary foe deprived, to all appearance, of all power of injury or retaliation. On the other, Mr. Pitt conceived that the new Government would naturally be favourable to those liberal principles of commercial intercourse which he had with so much difficulty forced on the old one. Neither side saw, as Burke saw it, the real magnitude of the political movement in France, and how deep and extensive were the interests it involved. Burke, in the unfavourable impression which he conceived of the Revolution, was outside of both parties. He could find no audience in the House of Commons, where leading politicians had long looked askance upon him. They laughed, not altogether without reason, when he told them that he looked upon France as 'not politically existing.' Discouraged in the atmosphere of Parliament, Burke resolved to appeal to the whole nation. He had in his portfolio the commencement of a letter to a young Frenchman who had solicited from him an expression of opinion, and this letter he resolved to enlarge and give to the world. He thus appealed from the narrow tribunal of the House of Commons to the Nation at large. It was the first important instance of the recognition, on the part of a great statesman, of the power of public opinion in England in its modern form. Burke here addresses his arguments to a much wider public than of old. He recognises, what is now obvious enough, that English policy rests on the opinion of a reasonable democracy.
The reader, in comparing the two volumes, will notice this difference in the tribunal to which the appeal is made. Public
เ“ opinion in the last twenty years had gone through rapid changes. The difference between the condition of public opinion in 1770 and in 1790 was greater than between 1790 and 1874. In 1770 it was necessary to rouse it into life: in 1790 it was already living, watching, and speaking for itself. The immorality of the politicians of the day had awakened the distrust of the people: and the people and the King were united in supporting a popular minister. There was more activity, more public spirit, and more organisation. In England, as in France, communication with the capital from the remotest parts of the kingdom had become frequent and regular. London had in 1790 no less than fourteen daily newspapers; and many others appeared once or twice a week. No one can look over the files of these newspapers without perceiving the magnitude of the France at this time occupied in the eye of the English world. The rivalry of the two nations was already at its height. The Bourbon kingdoms summed up, for the Englishman, the idea of foreign Powers : and disturbances in France told on England with much greater effect than now. In England there prevailed a deceptive tranquillity. Burke and many others knew that the England of 1790 was not the England of 1770. The results of the American War were slowly convincing people that something more was possible than had hitherto been practised in modern English policy. Democracy had grown from a possibility into a power. Whiggism, as a principle, had long been distrusted and discredited. With its decline had begun the discredit of all that it had idolised. The English Constitution, against which in 1770 hardly a breath had been raised, was in the succeeding twenty years exposed to general ridicule. Under a minister who proclaimed himself a Reformer, the newly awakened sentiment for political change was extending in all directions. Seats in Parliament had always been bought and sord; but, owing to the increased wealth of the community, prices had now undergone a preposterous advance Five thousand pounds was the average figure at which a wealthy merchant or rising lawyer had to purchase his seat from the patron of a borough. The disgraceful history of the Coalition made people call for reform in the Executive as well as the Legislative. Montesquieu had said that England must perish as soon as the Legislative power became more corrupt than the Executive; but it now seemed as if both branches of the government were competing in a race for degradation. Corrupt as the Legislative was in its making, its material, drawn from the body of the nation, and not from a corps of professed intriguers, saved it from the moral disgrace which attended the Executive. Many were in favour of restoring soundness to the Executive as a preliminary reform; and many were the schemes proposed for effecting it. One very shrewd thinker, who sat in the House, proposed an annual Ministry, chosen by lot. Others proposed an elective Ministry: others wished to develop the House of Lords into something like the Grand Council of Venice. No political scheme was too absurd to lack an advocate. Universal suffrage, annual parlia- . ments, and electoral districts were loudly demanded, and Dukes were counted among their warmest supporters. The people, as in the times of Charles I, called for the 'ancient Saxon constitution. What it was, and what they had to it, or how it was to be adapted to modern requirements, they did not very well know, but the lawyers were able to tell them. The
lawyers demonstrated how greatly the liberties of the nation had fallen off, and how grossly their nature was misunderstood. They proved it to be the duty of the People to reclaim them, and that no obstacle stood in the way. In this cry many Whigs and Tories, members of both Houses of Parliament, were found to join.
This liberal movement was not confined to England. It spread, in a greater or ess degree, all over Europe, even to St. Petersburg and Constantinople. In England, Reform was rather a cry than a political movement; but in France and Austria it was a movement as well as a cry. In the latter country, indeed, the Reform was supplied before the demand, and the Emperor Joseph was forced by an ignorant people to reverse projects in which he had vainly tried to precede his age. But the demands abroad were for organic reforms, such as had long been effected in England. England, after the reign of Charles II, is a completely modern nation; society is reorganised on the basis which still subsists. But France and Germany in 1789 were still what they had been in the Middle Ages. The icy fetters which England had long ago broken up had on the Continent hardened until nothing would break them up but a convulsion. In France this had been demonstrated by the failures of Turgot. The body of oppressive interests which time and usage had legalised was too strong to give way to a moderate pressure. A convulsion, a mighty shock, a disturbance of normal forces, was necessary: and the French people had long been collecting themselves for the task. Forty years a Revolution had been foreseen, and ten years at least it had been despaired of. But it came at last, and came unexpectedly; the Revolution shook down the feudalism of France, and the great general of the Revolution trampled to dust the tottering relics of it in the rest of Western Europe. Conspicuous among the agencies which effected it was the new power of public opinion, which wrought an obvious effect, by means of the Gazettes of Paris, throughout the western world. Burke saw this, and to public opinion he appealed against the movement, and so far as this country was concerned, successfully. It was he whose (shrilling trumpet' sounded the first alarm of the twenty years' European war against the French Revolution.
It was hard, at such a crisis, to sever general ideas from the
immediate occasion. Burke tells us less about the French Revolution than about English thought and feeling on the subject of Revolutions in general. On the applicability of these general views to the occasion of their enunciation, it is not necessary for the reader to form any definite judgment. Properly speaking, indeed, the question depends only in a small degree on grounds which demand or justify such a mode of treatment. To condemn all Revolutions is monstrous. To say categorically that the French Revolution was absolutely a good thing or a bad thing conveys no useful idea. Either may be said with some degree of truth, but neither can be said without qualifications which almost neutralise the primary thesis. No student of history by this time needs to be told that the French Revolution was, in a more or less extended sense, a very good thing. Consequently, the student is not advised to assent, further than is necessary to gain an idea of Burke's standpoint, to the summary and ignominious condemnation with which the Revolution is treated by Burke. But it must be remembered that whatever may have been its good side, it was not Burke's business to exhibit it. No one was better qualified than Burke to compose an apologetic for the final appeal of a people against tyranny: but nunc non erat his locus. Burke's business was not to cool the pot, but to make it boil : to raise a strong counter-cry, and make the most of the bad side of the Revolution. Burke appears here in the character of an advocate : like all advocates, he says less than he knows. It was his cue to represent the Revolution as a piece of voluntary and malicious folly; he could not well admit that it was the result of deep-seated and irresistible causes. Not that the Revolution could not have been avoided-every one knew that it might; but it could only have been avoided by an equally sweeping Revolution from above. In default of this there came to pass a Revolution from below. Though the Revolution brought with it mistakes in policy, crimes, and injuries, it involved no more of each than the fair average of human affairs will allow, if we consider its character and magnitude; and we must pay less than usual heed to Burke when he insists that these were produced wholly by the ignorance and wickedness of the Revolutionary leaders. The sufferers in a large measure brought them on themselves by ill-timed resistance and vacillating counsels.