Essays for the Reviews (1815-1836)

James Mill (1773-1836)  
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[Updated: 3 July, 2023 ]
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James Mill, An Anthology of Essays written for the Reviews (1815-1836). Edited by David M. Hart (2020).http://davidmhart.com/liberty/EnglishClassicalLiberals/MillJames/Anthology/index-reviews.html

James Mill, An Anthology of Essays written for the Reviews (1815-1836). Edited by David M. Hart (2020).

Essays and reviews written for:

  • The British Review
  • Parliamentary History and Review
  • The Westminster Review
  • The London Review
  • The London and Westminster Review

This title is also available in a facsimile PDF of the original and various eBook formats - HTML, PDF, and ePub.

This book is part of a collection of works by James Mill (1773-1836).



Table of Contents

1. The British Review [1815]

The British Review, and London Critical Journal. Vol. VI. (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1815).

2. Parliamentary History and Review [London, 1826]

Parliamentary History and Review; containing Reports of the Proceedings of the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1826: - 7 Geo. IV. With Critical Remarks on the Principal Measures of the Session. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1826).

3. The Westminster Review [1824-1836]

The Westminster Review. (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1824-1836).

4. The London Review [1835-36]

The London Review (London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Company, 1835). 2 vols. James Mill signed the articles “P.Q.”




JAMES MILL, Essays for the Reviews (1815-1836)

1. The British Review [1815]

The British Review, and London Critical Journal. Vol. VI. (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1815).

  • “Dugald Stewart’s “Elements of the Philosophy of Mind”,” Aug. 1815, vol. VI. pp. 170-200.


[1.] Art. IX.—: Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind.

By Dugald Stewart, Esq. F. R. S. Edinburgh; Honorary Member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh; Member of the Royal Academy of Berlin, and of the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia; formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. Volume second, 4to. pp. 568. Edinburgh 1814. Constable and Co.; Cadell and Davies, London.

In giving an account of this volume, a task is imposed upon the critic of no ordinary magnitude, and to which the limits of a Review are very imperfectly adapted. It forms the second part of a great work, intended to exhibit a complete view of the intellectual operations of the human mind. Mr. Stewart is well known to be a faithful and distinguished disciple of that philosophy to which in this country, where philosophical pursuits have never excited much enthusiasm, the distinction has been almost exclusively confined, of rising to the reputation of a system, and being regarded as the foundation of a particular school. It is not alone to the volume before us that our attention must, therefore, be directed. This volume is but a continuation of the speculations commenced in the work which preceded it; and both are but emanations of that system of doctrines, and that plan of inquiry, which were recommended by Doctor Reid, and which have enjoyed a fortune almost new in this island.

The earliest of the works of Dr. Reid, his “Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense,” appeared, at rather a remarkable era in the history of British philosophy. Two illustrious followers, Bishop Berkeley and Mr. Hume, had succeeded Mr. Locke. Reflecting upon the sensations or feelings, communicated by the organs of sense, Bishop Berkeley was led to put to himself the question, What is their cause? The usual answer to this question is obvious; that matter and its qualities are their cause. Colour is the cause of the feeling in [171] the mind called sight, hardness is the cause of a particular modification of the feeling in the mind called touch. To the penetrating and inquisitive mind of Berkeley, this answer did not prove quite satisfactory. The feeling in the mind was totally unlike any quality in matter. What reason was there for the belief that the one depended upon the other? Upon inquiry, it appeared that the only reason was, the existence of the mental feelings. The feelings are produced in the mind, therefore they are produced by something: they are produced in a certain order, therefore they are produced by the qualities of matter.

Led to penetrate further and further into this mystery, the question was at last suggested to the Bishop, what evidence he had for the existence of those qualities of matter, to which he was taught to look as the cause of his sensations. It immediately appeared, that for the existence of the qualities of matter the had no evidence whatsoever, but the existence of these sensations themselves. With this discovery, and the conclusions which flowed from it, he was deeply impressed. With regard to these sensations, all that man really knows, is, that they come into his mind, according to a certain order, which he learns by experience. That order has two forms. The sensations come into his mind, either one after another; or several of them come into it all at once. Those which come into the mind successively have given rise to no particular mystery. The case is different with those of which the entrance into the mind is synchronous. Suppose that the mind has the feeling, which has the name sight of a yellow colour; the colour of a golden ball, for example. If a man had no other sense but that of sight, he would have no other feeling associated with this sight of yellow. He moves and applies his hand in a particular manner; that is to say, certain feelings, one after another, take place in his mind, the last of which is, that he has the ball in his hand. At the same time that the sensation called sight of a yellow colour is in the mind, the sensations called a feeling of hardness, of roundness, and of weight, are now in the mind, along with a sensation of sameness in place with respect to them all. Now this cluster of sensations is all that is in the mind of a man, when he is said to perceive a ball of gold; and the conception of these sensations is all that is in his mind when he is said to think of the ball of gold. But what, then? is nothing ever in the mind but its own feelings?[*]No, certainly; nothing whatsoever. But what evidence do the feelings of the mind afford of matter or its properties? [172] Bishop Berkeley answered the question without hesitation. They afford no evidence at all. Nothing can be like a feeling in the mind, but a correspondent feeling of the same or another mind. When we suppose external objects, we do nothing but suppose certain unknown causes of our sensations; of which we can conceive nothing but that they are an unknown something, to which our sensations are owing. This supposition Bishop Berkeley declared to be an arbitrary hypothesis, unsupported by even the shadow of a reason. He also affirmed it to be absolutely insignificant, answering no one good purpose, either of utility, or of curiosity. Nay he proceeded still further, and produced a variety of curious reasons, to prove that the supposition really involves absurdity and contradiction, and cannot be held by any man who will obey the dictates of his reason.

If feelings afford no inference to the existence of any material cause of them, another question arises, what inference do they afford to that of a mind in which they may inhere? Berkeley scruples not to start the difficulty; and appears to allow, that, if in this case there was nothing more than in that of the cause of our sensations, we should never be entitled to draw a conclusion from the existence of our feelings to the existence of any thing beyond themselves; nor could regard the mind as any thing else than a system of floating ideas, connected together in a certain order, but without any ascertainable subject in which they inhere. He asserted, however, that the existence of the mind was proved by a different process; and by a palpable inaccuracy remarkable in so acute a metaphysician, declared that he was conscious of his mind, and of its personal identity.

Of this position it was easy for Mr. Hume to show the absurdity. We are conscious of the feelings of perceiving, of remembering, of willing, of approving and disapproving, loving, hating, and such like; but we are not conscious of any thing else; we are not conscious of any substance in which these feelings inhere. If not, and if we have no knowledge of mind beyond these modifications of consciousness, by what inference do we affirm, that mind is any thing beside themselves? As the external world is an arbitrary hypothesis, assumed to aid in accounting for the existence of our sensations, the mind, in the same manner, is an arbitrary hypothesis, an unknown something, assumed to aid in accounting for all the modifications of consciousness. But it is an hypothesis which really explains nothing; for we as little understand how feelings should exist in an unknown something, as how they should exist by themselves.

Such was the state of philosophical inquiry in this country, when Reid appeared. He declares that he was satisfied at first with the reasonings of Berkeley; and might fairly be ranked [173] among the believers in the non-existence of matter. But when Mr. Hume arrived, and demonstrated to him that upon the same principles mind was not more entitled to belief than matter, he confesses that he was startled. It appears, that he was alarmed for the evidence of religion, which seemed to him to vanish, if these conclusions were just. If no evidence remained for the existence either of mind, or of matter, no evidence appeared to remain for the existence of a God; and if that article of belief was lost, along with it, of course, disappeared all that system of anticipations respecting a future life, which rested upon it as their foundation. With this loss of the prospect of a future life, Dr. Reid, who was a pious man, appears to have been much more deeply affected, then with any revolution in his ideas respecting the present life, to which the progress of his reasonings had conducted him; and he tells us that he immediately began to exert himself to discover, if possible, a flaw in the chain of reasoning which produced so unhappy a result.

He soon convinced himself that he had made the discovery of which he was in quest. It was a doctrine of the ancient philosophers that the mind perceived not external objects immediately, but by means of certain representations, or images of them, called ideas, which they sent off, and which entered the mind by the inlets of the senses. The language of this theory had become the language in which all discourse relating to the mind was carried on. Upon it the language of Mr. Locke’s Essay was in a great measure founded: and that of Dr. Berkeley and Mr. Hume followed the universal example.

According to the theory, said Dr. Reid, that the mind perceives the qualities of matter, not immediately, but by means of certain floating images, it has no evidence of matter, which it never perceives. But what if this theory be without foundation? Then it will follow that the mind perceives matter immediately, and the evidence for its existence returns. The theory was so perfectly gratuitous, that the moment it occurred to any one to inquire for its evidence, it was overthrown. Dr. Reid refuted it with scorn; and declared, that as the arguments for the non-existence of matter rested upon this foundation, they fell with it, of course, to the ground.

When Dr. Reid, however, made the declaration, that the arguments for the non-existence of matter were altogether founded upon the theory of ideas, he advanced a great deal too far. Of this he himself was aware. He perceived that immediately we really are acquainted with nothing but our own feelings. It is from these feelings that every thing else, both matter and mind, is to be inferred. But from them how is any thing to be inferred? Not by experience, because we have experience of [174] nothing but the feelings themselves; not by reasoning, because there is no medium of proof which unites the premises with the conclusion. He says expressly, “our sensations have no resemblance to external objects, nor can we discover by our reason any necessary connexion between the existence of the former, and that of the latter.” In another passage he declares, “No man can show by any good argument, that all our sensations might not have been as they are, though no body, or quality of body, had ever existed.”

To lay a foundation then for a belief in the existence of matter and mind, Dr. Reid was under the necessity of looking out for another resource. It was the doctrine of all philosophy, that some things were not to be proved. In all reasoning we at last arrive at first principles, which are assumed. To this quarter Dr. Reid betook himself for the means of establishing a belief in the existence of mind and matter. These points, he said, were not to be proved, they were to be taken for granted.

In the next place, therefore, it was incumbent upon him to show, that such a mode of determining this most important controversy was by no means unreasonable. He attempted to show, that there was a variety of cases in which belief, the most absolute, took place in the human mind, without a possibility of assigning any reason for such belief; or of giving any other account of it, than that such is the constitution of our nature.

With respect to the marks by which a belief of this sort may be known and distinguished, the most remarkable of them is the common assent of mankind. A belief which, in this manner, is common to mankind, but which can be traced to no acknowledged principle of thought, he regarded as instinctive; and he gave to it the name of common sense.

The desire to augment and strengthen his proofs naturally drew Dr. Reid into a multiplication of the instances of instinctive belief; as well as into an exaggeration of the importance of the mark by which they were made known and recommended. He seemed to be eager to collect as many propositions as possible; of which he could at one and at the same time affirm, both that they were fit to be believed, and that no reason could be given why they should be believed. He lavished also his praises upon common sense, which he endeavoured to represent as a guide far superior to philosophy, and of which the decisions, when any diversity occurred, were always to be implicitly followed. He even availed himself of an ambiguity, which he himself had created in the meaning of the term, to cast ridicule very plentifully upon every man who did not agree with him. According to the usual meaning of the word common sense, it denotes a belief founded upon some very obvious and incontrovertible [175] reasons which it requires folly either to overlook, or to question. Dr. Reid applied it to a new case, which he himself was the first to point out, the case of belief not founded upon reasons at all. Did any man call in question any proposition which he was pleased to represent as not an object of reasoning, but of instinctive belief, Dr. Reid was very apt to laugh at him, as ranking with those contemptible men who are not under the guidance of common sense; that is, men whose belief is not governed by those obvious and incontrovertible reasons, which it is folly either to overlook or controvert. This, however, was not the case. The dissent was not from any proposition supported by obvious and incontrovertible reasons, but from a poposition which according to Dr. Reid ought to be believed without any reason at all.

This doctrine had not been long before the world, when it met with a very unreserved and forward controversialist, in Dr. Priestley. Any blemish which might lie upon its surface was not very likely to escape the keen though busy eye of this critic; but he was neither sufficiently acquainted with the science, nor sufficiently capable of patient, close, and subtle thinking, to go to the bottom of the principles which he attacked; nor could he avoid such displays of ignorance and self-delusion, as afforded a colour to Dr. Reid and his followers for treating the book with contempt, and holding themselves exempt from the obligation of answering its objections.

This was a misfortune to the science. Had the philosophy of Reid been controverted at an early period, with such a degree of knowledge and skill as would have commanded the respect and attention of the public, he would have been compelled to reconsider the foundation of his belief; and, either by obviating ill founded opinions, or by abandoning untenable ground, would have left the science in a better state, and more likely to invite a succession of cultivators.

It is a remarkable proof of the little taste there still is for profound and accurate thinking in England; in other words, a remarkable proof of the coarse and vulgar footing on which the business of education in this country remains—that, from the date of Dr. Priestley’s volume in 1774, to the present day, not a single work, the object of which is to controvert the philosophy of Reid, has been presented to the public. That such has been the case is not owing to the general acceptance with which, in the southern part of the island, his doctrines have been favoured; for they are spoken of with disapprobation by all but a few. Nor yet is it owing to their want of celebrity; for scarcely any doctrines, fabricated in this country, and related to the class to which they belong, can equal them in brilliancy of reputation. [176] No! the effect is solely to be ascribed to the indifference of the people to what may be either thought or said upon a subject of so much importance.

Dr. Reid’s list of what he calls “simple, original, and therefore inexplicable” cases of belief; in other words, belief altogether independent both of reason and of experience, first engages the castigating hand of Dr. Priestley. He exhibits them in a table, which certainly swells to a formidable size; but from which a considerable deduction might be made, by throwing out cases which he has inserted as distinct, though included under other titles. Among the things which we believe by an instinctive impulse, independently both of reason and experience, one is, that every sensation of which we are conscious is caused by a material object; another is, that every thing of which we are conscious, call it feeling, call it act, or call it idea, inheres in a mind; another is, that each of us is the same person that he was yesterday, or any other day since his birth; a fourth is, that similar effects will always flow from similar causes; a fifth is, that every body will speak truth; to which another instinctive propensity is added by Dr. Reid, and that is, a propensity to speak the truth.

Upon this mode of philosophising, the following strictures were easily made. If every speculator may lay down propositions at his pleasure, which have no dependence either upon reason or experience, but which he says our nature instinctively compells us to believe, there is an end to all reasoning and of all philosophy. I lay down, says Dr. Reid, such and such a proposition. I ask your reason for it, says Dr. Priestley. Reason, says Dr. Reid, is not applicable to this proposition; it is believed by instinct. Who says so, cries Dr. Priestley? I say so, replies Dr. Reid. This much being said, it is evident the dispute is at an end. Dr. Reid assumes that the proposition is to be believed merely because he calls it an original principle, that is became he says it is to believed. The ipse dixit of Dr. Reid is the standard of reason and philosophy. He solves every thing by the infallible method of declaring that it is just as he pleases, and because he so pleases; and in the true stile of Lord Peter, he finishes, by calling every body fool and rogue that dissents from him.

No, says Dr. Reid, it is not upon the ground of my ipse dixit alone that I say you ought to believe; but upon the ground of my ipse dixit, along with the general opinion of mankind. But Dr. Priestly found no difficulty in replying, that if the ipse dixit of Dr. Reid be a very insufficient ground for the establishment of any fundamental article of belief, the ordinary opinion of mankind is, if possible, still less a criterion of truth. Surely [177] if we have no reason for believing in the existence either of matter or of mind, but the vulgar impression of the mass of mankind, joined to the ipse dixit of Dr. Reid, it is a belief which no rational mind will entertain with great confidence. The mass of mankind believe with perfect assurance, that what is in the mind when they see a ball of gold is a perfect image of the ball itself. Dr. Reid will tell them it is only a feeling; which has no more resemblance to a ball of gold, than the pain of the colic to the sound of a trumpet. The mass of mankind believe that extension is essentially coloured; and no man will pretend that he can think of extension without colour, yet Dr. Reid will allow that no necessary connexion exists between them. Of such illusions, to which mankind are subject, and which universally prevail till philosophy slowly disentangles one groundless association after another, it were superfluous to multiply instances. In the same manner the supposition of some external cause resembling the feelings communicated by our senses, and the supposition of some feeling substance to which all our feelings belong, is so naturally suggested by those feelings, that if we could be ever so completely assured that those feelings offered no ground of inference either to matter as a cause, or to mind as a subject, we can conceive how it might have been even traced a priori that man would form the very conclusions respecting those points which hitherto have exhibited a prevalence so nearly universal.

Had Dr. Priestley confined himself to the task of enforcing these strictures, and of fixing the attention of mankind upon the conclusion to which they lead; that the philosophy of Dr. Reid completely fails in providing that antidote which it pretends to provide, to the scepticism of Bishop Berkeley and Mr. Hume; he would have performed an essential service to the progress of this species of philosophy, because he would have stimulated Dr. Reid himself, as well as others, to a more vigorous prosecution of the inquiry; and so important a branch of science would not have been left in the disgraceful condition in which it has so long been treated, presenting conclusions of the utmost moment which nobody is willing to believe, supported by a chain of reasoning which we feel to be wrong, but which nobody has answered.

But Dr. Priestley was ambitious of providing the antidote himself, and by the impotence of his attempt discredited the criticism by which he had disclosed the failure of his predecessor. As, for instance, so ignorant was he of the reasonings of Berkeley and Hume; reasonings which Dr. Reid declares to be demonstrative, and in which, after repeated examinations he had not discovered a flaw, as to give it as his opinion, that even according to the theory of ideas, the existence of matter may be [178] inferred. “Mr. Locke, and other advocates for ideas, supposed that they were the immediate objects of our thoughts, the things of which we are properly speaking conscious, or that we know in the first instance. From them, however, we think we can infer the real existence of other things, from which those ideas are derived.” [*]

If the soul be immaterial, Dr. Priestley affirms, we have in that case the strongest reason to conclude that a material world has no existence. Dr. Reid had said, “I take it for granted upon the testimony of common sense, that my mind is a substance, that is, a permanent subject of thought, and my reason convinces me, that it is an unextended and invisible substance: and hence I infer that there cannot be in it any thing that resembles extension.” Upon this Dr. Priestley affirms, “he might with equal appearance of truth infer, that the mind cannot be affected by any thing that has extension; for how can any thing act upon another but by means of some common property? Though, therefore, the Divine Being has thought proper to create an external world, it can be of no proper use to give us sensations or ideas. It must be he himself that impresses our minds with the notices of external things, without any real instrumentality of their own; so that the external world is quite a superfluity in the creation. If, therefore, the author of all things be a wise being, and have made nothing in vain, we may conclude that this external world, which has been the subject of so much controversy, can have no existence.” []

The following is as remarkable an instance of the ignoratio elenchi, as the history of weak reasoning probably affords. Dr. Reid had said, that when we have a certain sensation, as for example, when we hear a certain sound, we conclude immediately without reasoning, that there is some particular object by which it is produced, as for example, that a coach passes by. “There are no premises,” he adds, “by which this conclusion is inferred by any rules of logic. It is the effect of a principle of our nature common to us with the brutes.” Dr. Priestley says, “In this very mental operation or process, I think I see every part of a complete argument; and even that facility and readiness in passing from the premises to the conclusion, which argues the very perfection of intellect in the case. The process when properly unfolded, is as follows. The sound I now hear is, in all respects, such as I have formerly heard, which appeared to be occasioned by a coach passing by; ergo, this is also occasioned by a coach. Into this syllogism it appears to me that the mental process that Dr. Reid mentions may fairly be resolved.” []Dr. [179] Priestley is inadvertent enough to forget that the question is not whether a man can know the second time, after he has known the first, that it is an outward object which produces the sensation within him: but how he can know this from the beginning? Dr. Priestley’s syllogism resolves itself into an argument from the past to the present, which in no respect whatever touches the point in dispute.

But though Dr. Priestley is thus unsuccessful in his attempt to erect a barrier to the scepticism of Berkeley and Hume, his attacks bear dangerously upon that which was provided for us by the zeal and ingenuity of Dr. Reid. We have already contemplated the reasoning by which he shews, that the first argument of that philosopher, against Bishop Berkeley, namely, that we believe in the existence of matter, by “a principle of our nature common to us with the brutes,” resolves itself into the ipse dixit of its author. He also shows, that all his other arguments resolve themselves into misrepresentation. They all resolve themselves into attempts to turn the doctrine of Berkeley into ridicule, by ascribing to it the absurdities which would flow from a resolution not to believe in the testimony of our senses. That these absurdities do not, in the least degree result from the doctrine of Berkeley, is most certain. That they are ostentatiously ascribed to it by Dr. Reid is no less certain. And we are sorry to add, that after what he admits in a variety of places, it is impossible not to conclude, that he ascribed them, under a perfect knowledge that the imputation was undeserved. This is one of those disingenuous artifices in which zeal will sometimes not scruple to indulge itself; but from which it is painful to find that a man of the intellectual and moral eminence of Dr. Reid was not entirely exempt “I resolve,” says he, in a strain of mockery very usual with him, “not to believe in my senses. I break my nose against a post that comes in my way; I step into a dirty kennel; and after twenty such wise and rational actions, I am taken up and clapt into a mad-house.” No misrepresentation, it is very certain, can be more gross than language of the description applied to the conclusions of Berkeley. The order in which the feelings or ideas of the mind, some agreeable, some disagreeable, succeed one another, said Berkeley, is known to us. It is in our power to a certain degree, to pursue the one, and avoid the other. If the feeling or idea of putting my finger to the flame of the candle takes place, I know that the painful feeling of burning will follow. I therefore avoid whatever may produce the feeling of putting my finger in the flame of the candle, knowing that it will be followed by a feeling acutely painful. In like manner, the train of ideas ludicrously expressed by the terms running my nose against a post, I know will be followed [180] by a feeling of pain. I therefore do what I can to avoid that train of ideas. Upon the supposition that matter, that is, an unknown cause of our sensations, exists; it is still clear, that it is only the knowledge which an individual possesses of the order among his feelings, a knowledge that such of them are followed by such, that guides him in all his actions. When a man is said to do something, call it running his nose against a post, or any thing else, what is the real state of the facts with regard to his mind? Is it any thing else than that there passes in it a certain train of feelings? With regard to the mind, is it not this train of feelings which really constitutes the act? But if this train of feelings, which you may call an act, if you please, is followed by pain, the man will endeavour to avoid this act, or this train of feelings. The state of the mind, therefore, and its determinations, will be exactly the same, and for exactly the same reasons, whether the material world be, or be not, supposed to exist.

We have now accomplished an object of no inconsiderable importance to the end which we have in view, a clear and succinct account of the speculations of Mr. Stewart; for we have exhibited, we trust, a pretty complete view of the state of the science, at the moment when he began to exert himself for its cultivation. As a pupil of Dr. Reid, he appears to have imbibed with fondness the doctrines of his illustrious teacher; and in his different capacities of professor and author, has employed uncommon talents of persuasion, both as a speaker and as a writer, to clothe the ideas of his master in a seducing garb; to obviate objections; to clear away imperfections; and to add to the weight of evidence by new proofs and discoveries.

The first volume of the work, to which our attention has now been called by the appearance of the second, was published so long ago as the year 1792, and has passed through several editions. In that publication, after a long introductory discourse on the nature, object, and utility of the philosophy of the human mind, the author treats of his subject under the following heads:—the powers of external perception, or the operations of sense; attention; conception, which is only distinguished from memory by not having a reference to anterior time; abstraction; the association of ideas; memory; and imagination.

On the greater part of this elegant volume, we shall have no occasion to offer any remarks; because the greater part of it is employed not in the disclosure of new ideas, nor in elucidating and enforcing the peculiar principles of the philosophy of Reid: but in training the youthful mind to reflect upon the different classes of mental phenomena, by exhibiting to view the principal facts, by warning his pupil of the more seducing errors, and putting him in possession of the most useful practical rules. On the [181] subject of the memory and the imagination, this is in a peculiar manner the case. On the subject of abstraction, the author departs from the track of his master, Dr. Reid; and illustrates in a very happy and most instructive manner in the first place, the doctrine that abstraction consists in nothing but the assignment of general names,—that nothing in reality is abstract or general but the term, conceptions as well as objects being all particular; and in the next place, the purposes to which the powers of abstraction and generalization are subservient, the difference in the intellectual character of individuals arising from their different habits of abstraction and generalization, and the errors to which we are liable in speculation and the conduct of affairs, in consequence of a rash application of general principles. In the chapters on conception and attention, some curious mental phenomena are more accurately described than by any preceding author; and in speaking of those phenomena, a more accurate use of language is at once recommended and illustrated. Nothing, however, under these heads, is so connected with any of the leading doctrines of the system which he espouses, as in this place to require any particular remark. It is when he examines what he calls the powers of external perception, or the phenomena of sense, that he comes, in a more especial manner, upon the ground occupied by the characteristic principles of Reid. Even on this topic, however, though he adopts the principles, he waves all controversy in their defence; and declares that his only purpose is “to offer a few general remarks on such of the common mistakes concerning this part of our constitution, as may be most likely to mislead him and his readers in their inquiries.” For more ample satisfaction, he refers to the writings of Dr. Reid. It is not a little remarkable to find him ever declaring, “I have studiously avoided the consideration of those questions which have been agitated in the present age, between the patrons of the sceptical philosophy, and their opponents. These controversies have, in truth, no peculiar connexion with the inquiries on which I am to enter. It is indeed only by an examination of the principles of our nature, that they can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion; but supposing them to remain undecided, our sceptical doubts concerning the certainty of human knowledge would no more affect the philosophy of the mind, than they would affect any of the branches of physics; nor would our doubts concerning even the existence of mind affect this branch of science, any more than the doubts of the Berkeleian, concerning the existence of matter, affect his opinions in natural philosophy.”

Two things here are worthy of attention. The last is, that all our speculations relating to the phenomena both of sense and of consciousness, are precisely the same, whether we believe in the [182] existence or non-existence both of matter and of mind; and if our speculations, so also our actions, which have all a reference to one and the same end. The next thing in this passage worthy of observation is, that he professes to abstain from the discussion of the questions, whether we have, or have not, evidence that matter or mind exists. In this declaration seems to be implied an admission, that the questions are by no means determined; because, if determined, it belonged to him to declare, and to make it appear that they were so. But if they are not determined, the principles of Reid are unfit to be depended upon; for, surely, if the principles of Reid are worthy of our confidence, a doubt cannot be entertained about the answer which these questions ought to receive. If we really have an instinctive propensity to believe in the existence of matter and mind; and if such an instinctive propensity is a proper ground of belief, which two propositions constitute the fundamental principles of his system of philosophy, the question as to the existence of body and mind is for ever closed. If, however, an author who says he will abstain from a controversy, proceeds to take for granted all the propositions by means of which, if true, the controvery is determined on a particular side, he does by no means abstain from the controversy, he only abstains from all the difficulties of it. Now, this error is very observable in the conduct of Mr. Stewart, by whom the truth of the above-mentioned principles of Dr. Reid is uniformly assumed. Indeed, it is an art of Mr. Stewart, not rarely exemplified, to get rid of difficulties by slipping away from them.

It is, however, to the volume which has but recently appeared, and to which our attention is more particularly summoned, that he appears to have reserved the greater part of the observations which he had to make, upon the fundamental principles of that system of philosophy which he has espoused.

The subject of this volume is, “Reason, or the Understanding, properly so called; and the various faculties and operations more immediately connected with it.”

In a preliminary dissertation, he explains the meaning to which, in the course of his speculations, he proposes to restrict the term, reason. On some occasions, he remarks, it is used in a very extensive signification, to denote the exercise of all those faculties, intellectual and moral, which distinguish us from the brutes. At other times, it is confined to a very limited acceptation, to express no more than the power of ratiocination, or reasoning. Mr. Stewart proposes to use it in a sense less extensive than the former, and less restricted than the latter; to denote “the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and combine means for the attainment of our ends.” Under the [183] same title of Reason, he informs us, it is also his intention to consider “whatever faculties and operations appear to be more immediately and essentially connected with the discovery of truth, or, the attainment of the objects of our pursuit.” All the powers, then, by which we recognize and discover truth, and by which we combine means for the attainment of our ends, are the appropriated subject of the present volume.

For a man who on many occasions displays no ordinary proofs of metaphysical acumen, there is here a wonderful defect of logical distinctness. When Mr. Stewart speaks of the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood, does he mean the power of distinguishing it immediately, or the power of distinguishing it by the invention and application of media of proof? We may conjecture that he means the former, by his stating immediately afterwards, that in addition to the power of distinguishing truth from falsehood, he means to consider the faculties and operations which are connected with the discovery of truth, “more particularly the power of reasoning or deduction.” But if this really be his meaning, which may well be doubted, why did he not speak the common intelligible language, by saying that he would illustrate first, the power of distinguishing truth intuitively, next the power of discovering it by the intervention of proof. Again, when he tells us, that he is to consider the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and combine means for the attainment of our ends; are we to understand that the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and the power by which we combine means for the attainment of our ends, is one and the same power; or, in other words, that these are operations perfectly homogeneous? It is hardly possible to conceive that this should be his meaning: yet if it be not, how gross is the impropriety of uniting them under one title, and giving no where any indication of the diversities by which they are to be distinguished? The power of combining means for our ends, is, we must say, after so formal an introduction, very disrespectfully treated; for not another word is said to her while she remains in company:—in plainer language, till the volume is closed. In point, then, of real fact, two particulars exhaust the subject of the book; and the author, if he had spoken the best and simplest language, would have said, that his object was to consider, what happens in the mind when it distinguishes truth from falsehood without any medium; and what happens in the mind when it discovers truth by means of a medium.

There is another remark, however, which we deem it of great importance to make. It might have been expected, after what Mr. Stewart has so instructively written about the nature of abstract, general terms, in the chapter on abstraction in his [184] former volume, that he should have understood something more about the nature of the general term truth, than to imagine that there could be any useful meaning in a proposition, indicative of an intention to inquire into the nature of the faculty which distinguishes truth. We ask him what sorts of truth? Truths of smell? The faculty by which they are distinguished is the sense of smelling. Truths of light or colour? They are distinguished by the faculty of sight. Truth of what happened yesterday? That is distinguished by memory: and so we might proceed.

In thus plainly expressing our criticisms on the work of an author, of whom the reputation is deservedly so high as that of Mr. Stewart, and toward whom we are conscious of unfeigned respect, it might perhaps, be a sufficient apology to state, that in a work produced under the spur of the occasion, it would be unreasonable to expect that guarded phraseology which time and frequent revisal alone can ensure. It may, however, be proper still farther to declare, that, in our opinion, it is calculated to be of great benefit to the science, to which we are well assured that Mr. Stewart would gladly sacrifice any personal feelings of his own, and of great benefit even to Mr. Stewart himself, that unfavourable criticisms, if just, should be unsparingly expressed; because the praises which Mr. Stewart has so much been accustomed to hear have led him to employ his great talents rather in adorning the conclusions to which he had already conducted himself, than examining them with that jealous and persevering severity, which alone, in such difficult inquiries, can ensure the detection of mistakes.

On the subject of truths, if we must speak of them in the mass, it is surely obvious to remark, that they may be distinguished into two great classes. Of these, the one is the class of particular truths; truths relating to all the individual existences, corporeal or mental, in the universe. The second is the class of general truths. Now all truths relating to particular corporeal existences, are made known to us by the senses. All truths relating to particular mental existences, are made known to us by consciousness, or the interpretation of sensible signs. But particular existences are the only real existences in the universe. General existences there are none. Generalities are nothing but fictions, arbitrarily created by the human mind. Particular truths, then, are the only real truths. All general truths are merely fictions, of no use whatever, but to enable us to classify particular truths, to remember them, and to speak about them.

To recognize general truths is neither more nor less, if the doctrine of Mr. Stewart himself, concerning abstraction, be true, than to recognize the coincidence between one fiction of the human mind and another; or in other words, to recognize an [185] agreement in meaning between one form of expression and another. Into the illustration of this most important proposition, it must be seen to be impossible for us here to proceed. We cannot direct our readers to a better source of instruction than Mr. Stewart himself, in the chapter on abstraction, to which we have so repeatedly referred. “If the subjects of our resoning,” says Mr. Stewart, “be general (under which description I include all our reasonings, whether more or less comprehensive, which do not relate merely to individuals,) words are the sole objects about which our thoughts are employed.” It is impossible more explicitly to admit, that all general propositions, and all general reasonings are merely verbal; in other words, assert or deduce the sameness in point of meaning, in some one or more respects, between two general expressions. Even in the volume more immediately before us, he expressly says, “In the sciences of arithmetic and algebra, all our investigations amount to nothing more than to a comparison of different expressions of the same thing. Our common language, indeed, frequently supposes the case to be otherwise; as when an equation is defined to be, ‘A proposition asserting the equality of two quantities.’ It would, however, be much more correct to define it, ‘A proposition asserting the equivalence of two expressions of the same quantity.” It would imply an incapacity for consistent reasoning, of which we are far from suspecting Mr. Stewart, to suppose that he places any essential distinction between arithmetical or algebraical deductions, and other species of general reasoning at large; only because these sciences are possessed of more commodious signs than ordinary language affords. Indeed, upon turning to the chapter on abstraction, we find that Mr. Stewart himself expressly says; “The analogy of the algebraical act may be of use in illustrating these observations. The difference, in fact, between the investigations we carry on by its assistance, and other processes of reasoning, is more inconsiderable than is commonly imagined; and, if I am not mistaken, amounts only to this, that the former are expressed in an appropriate language, with which we are not accustomed to associate particular notions. Hence they exhibit the efficacy of signs as an instrument of thought, in a more distinct and palpable manner, than the speculations we carry on by words, which are continually awakening the power of conception.” It is, indeed, not a little remarkable, that an anthor who denies the existence of abstract ideas, and so completely recognizes the nature of general terms, should lose sight of this doctrine so frequently as Mr. Stewart, in all his remaining inquiries. In truth we are led to suspect, that Mr. Stewart arrived at his present opinions concerning abstraction, at a period pretty late in life, when his conclusions on the other parts of his subject [186] were already formed, and were committed to writing; and that the strength of his original associations permitted him not to discover the changes which an alteration in so fundamental a point required in the rest of his speculations.

We may now, then, draw together the conclusions at which which we seem to have arrived. If all truths are either particular or general, the powers by which we recognize and discover truth—about which Mr. Stewart writes with such an air of mystery, and which, after many pages of high sounding disquisition, he leaves unexplained—are tolerably obvious and familiar. With regard to all individual, that is, all real existences, the faculties by which we discover what in this case we mean by truth, are the senses and consciousness. With regard to all general propositions, the faculty of discovering what in this case is meant by truth is merely the faculty by which we trace the meaning of words.

Having thus seen by what course Mr. Stewart might very easily have arrived at the goal at which he professedly aimed, let us next contemplate as briefly as our limits constrain us, the course which he has actually pursued.

In this first chapter, he treats of what he calls, “The fundamental laws of human belief; or the primary elements of human reason.” This seems to be intended for the account of what he also calls, “The power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood,” adding, “and combine means for the attainment of our ends.” In the second chapter, he treats of “Reasoning and Deductive evidence,” that is, ratiocination, in the common acceptation of the term. The third chapter treats of the Aristotelian logic, that is, a more instrument of ratiocination; in propriety of arrangement, therefore, this chapter ought to have formed only a section of the former. The fourth and last chapter treats of the inductive logic, or the method of inquiry, pursued in the experimental philosophy. Attending to the nature of the subject, we shall perceive, that he thus treats in the first chapter, of what has been called the intuitive, or immediate recognition of truth; and in the three last, of its discovery by the intervention of proof, in which there are distinguishable two modes, the ratiocinative and inductive. It is to be observed that it is general, in other words, verbal propositions and reasonings, what the author has in view thoughout almost the whole of this voluminous inquiry; and that he endeavours to explain what takes place in the mind, without adverting (except casually, and in such a manner as by no means to give a turn to the current of his thoughts) to his own doctrine, that all affirmation and all reasoning in general terms, are only recognizing, or tracing the connection between, different expressions of the same thing.


In the first chapter, he treats of two things; first, of mathematical axioms; secondly, of what he calls, “Certain laws of belief, inseparably connected with the exercise of consciousness, memory, perception, and reasoning.” Mathematical axioms are here introduced, only for the purpose of stating certain opinions which help to lay the foundation of that account of the nature of mathematical evidence, which Mr. Stewart endeavours to establish in the second chapter. To this account, we fear, it will not be in our power to advert, however desirous we may be to develope some fundamental error which it appears to us to involve. We shall therefore postpone any remarks which we may have to offer on what Mr. Stewart advances on the subject of axioms, till we see whether we can find room for any of our criticisms on the subsequent disquisition, to which his observations on axioms more immediately refer.

In the two sections in which he treats of “certain laws of belief,” &c. we are peculiarly interested; because, by these laws of belief, he means the instinctive principles of Dr. Reid. We are anxious, therefore, to discover, whether he has brought any new lights to aid in showing that they are entitled to govern our belief; or whether he has left that important point as destitute of proof as he received it from Reid; and hence the scepticism of Berkeley and Hume as little provided, even at this day, with an antidote, as it was at the time of its first publication.

He begins with mind—belief in the existence of mind. He allows that mind is not an object of consciousness. “We are conscious,” he says, “of sensation, thought, desire, volition; but we are not conscious of the existence of mind itself.” He proceeds next, to the belief of personal ideality. “That we cannot, without a very blameable latitude in the use of words, be said to be conscious of our personal identity, is a proposition,” he affirms, “still more indisputable.”

Whence then is this belief—belief in the existence of mind, and belief in our personal identity, derived? “This belief,” says Mr. Stewart, “is involved in every thought and every action of the mind, and may be justly regarded as one of the simplest and most essential elements of the understanding. Indeed it is impossible to conceive either an intellectual or active being to exist without it.”

From belief in the existence of mind, and belief of personal identity, where Mr. Stewart passes to the material world, he only says, “The belief which all men entertain of the existence of the material world, and their expectation of the continued uniformity of the laws of nature, belong to the same class of ultimate or elemental laws of thought, with those which have just been mentioned.” “These different truths,” he says, “all agree [188] in this, that they are essentially involved in the exercise of our rational powers.”

If Mr. Stewart has adduced any evidence to establish the belief of these truths, we may venture to affirm without dreading contradiction, that it is all included, to the last item, in the quotations which the last two paragraphs present. “This belief,” says he, “is involved in every thought and every action of the mind.” But what does he mean by this metaphorical, mysterious, and hence, we venture to add, unphilosophical use of the word “involved?” Every act of consciousness appears to us to be simple, one, and individual. To talk of one act of consciousness as involved, that is, wrapt up in another, having another rolled round it, we cannot help regarding as that sort of jargon which an ingenious man uses only when he is placed in that unhappy situation in which he still clings to a favourite notion, without having any thing plausible to adduce in its defence. If he had affirmed that the belief of the existence of mind and of personal identity is conjoined with every act of consciousness, that is, immediately precedes, or immediately follows it, we should at least have conceived what he meant. And all which then would have remained for us to do, would have been to ask him for the proof of his assertion.

We may suppose that this is the meaning of the ill-timed metaphor; because, as far as we are able to discover, it is the only intelligible meaning which can be assigned to it, and we do ask, what evidence of the assertion Mr. Stewart has adduced? The answer is, that he has adduced none whatsoever. He has added his ipse dixit to that of Dr. Reid; and upon that foundation, as far as they are concerned, the matter rests. In truth, the language of Mr. Stewart is far more unguarded and exceptionable, than that of Dr. Reid. That philosopher only affirmed that we had the belief, without affirming that it accompanied every mental operation, which we apprehend is by no means the fact. If we interpret justly what we are conscious of in ourselves, the operations of the mind, in their ordinary and habitual train, have no such accompaniment; and we never think of the existence of our mind and our personal identity, but when some particular occasion suggests it as an object of reflection.

He calls it “an essential element of the understanding;” in another place, he gives what he calls “this class of truths,” the distinctive name of “primary elements of human reason;” in a succeeding passage he says, “they enter as essential elements into the composition of reason itself.”

Mr. Stewart defines reason, in the sense in which he professes exclusively to use it, to be “the power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood.” Now, not to speak of the difficulty we [189] find in conceiving a compound power of the mind, a power made up of parts or ingredients, we may venture to assert, that if there be such a thing as a compound power of the mind, it must be a power made up of a union of several simple powers: into the composition of a power, nothing can enter that is essentially not a power. What then shall we say of the belief in the existence of body and mind? Is that a power? Or is it any thing more than one particular act of power, the power of believing? But what kind of a proposition is that which affirms, that a particular act of one power enters into the composition of another power?

Mr. Stewart says, “It is impossible to conceive either an intellectual or an active being to exist without the belief of the existence of its own mind, and the belief of its personal identity.” When a man uses the expression, “it is impossible to conceive,” it never means, and never can mean, any thing else than that he disbelieves strongly that which is the object of the affirmation. It is, therefore, only one of the garbs in which ipse dixit enrobes itself. But when we are in the search of reasons, ipse dixit is far from an advantage; and the more ingenious the colours in which it clothes itself, the evil is still the greater. Mr. Stewart seems, also, not to be aware, that in the very terms, “an intellectual or active being,” there is an implied petitio principii. According to the terms of the question, the existence of such a being is the very point to be proved. Whether a being, the subject of sensation and consciousness, can be, or cannot be, without a belief of its own existence, is more than we can venture to affirm; but surely a train of sensations and reflections, which is Hume’s; hypothesis, may be conceived to exist, into which train the belief of matter and of mind does not enter as a part. The curious circumstance is, that on the preceding page, Mr. Stewart himself says, “We are conscious of sensation, thought, desire, volition; but we are not conscious of the existence of mind itself; nor would it be possible for us to arrive at the knowledge of it, (supposing us to be created in the full possession of all the intellectual capacities which belong to human nature,) if no impression were ever to be made on our external senses.”

Another of his favourite phrases is, that “the truths” in question “are fundamental laws of human belief.” We need hardly renew the remark, that this is only another bold assertion, in which that is assumed which ought to be proved; a species of conduct in which a man exerts an act, not of reason, but of despotism, commanding all men, on pain of his condemnation, to believe as he does. The phrase however is, on other grounds, highly objectionable. There is even a species of absurdity in calling a truth a law of belief. A truth is an object of belief. An object of belief cannot be a law. It may be agreeable [190] to a law of the human mind that such or such a truth should be an object of belief. If Mr. Stewart means that it is agreeable to any law of the human mind that the supposed truths in question should be objects of belief, let him point it out; and then he will have accomplished what we earnestly call upon him to accomplish; for what Mr. Hume pretends to have demonstrated is, that the belief of these truths can be referred to none of the acknowledged laws of the human mind; and Mr. Stewart and Dr. Reid by evading his challenge so palpably, while they have so ostentatiously pretended to a victory, instead of weakening, have rather contributed to strengthen the foundations of his scepticism. It does not follow that, because men have very generally, or even universally, believed any particular proposition, that therefore it is agreeable to any law of the human mind to believe it; for it is surely very incident to men to agree in believing errors. Yet this is the only medium of proof, to which these philosophers have so much as pretended to appeal. Because men have always believed in these propositions, it is agreeable, they affirm, to a law of the human mind to believe them; though all the acknowledged laws of the human mind relating to belief, have, one or the other, been examined before them; and though it has been proved to their avowed satisfaction, that the belief in question can be referred to none of them.

For one thing we may justly blame Mr. Stewart. Why has he not given us a list of the laws of the human mind? This, as the author of a work on the philosophy of the human mind, was his appropriate duty; the proper scope and aim of his undertaking. If the science be not yet far enough advanced to enable the speculator to produce a list which he can present as complete, it would still be of great importance to exhibit all those which may be regarded as ascertained; with respect to the rest leaving the field open for future inquiry. Had this been done, and had the belief of the propositions to which we allude, been referred to any particular item, in the list, the question would at any rate have been put in a clear and tangible shape; and there would have been no delusion practised in the case.

Upon the principles of Mr. Stewart, if he would only reason from them correctly, we think it would not be a very tedious or difficult process to arrive at a decision. There are only two classes of truths; one of particular truths; the other of general truths. With regard to particular truths, there is no dispute whatsoever. They are all referable to the senses and consciousness. But matter, as both Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart allow, is not an object of sense, nor is mind an object of consciousness. Excepting sense and consciousness, however, which are occupied about particular truths, we have no intellectual faculties but those which [191] are occupied about general truths. But we have already seen, that the only real truths with which we are acquainted are particular truths. General truths are merely fictions of the human mind, contrived to assist us in remembering and speaking about particular truths. According to Mr. Stewart’s chapter on abstraction, it therefore appears, that matter and mind belong to the class of fictions.

It shows how little Mr. Stewart is in the habit of examining the foundations of any of his pre-conceived opinions, to find him still repeating the assertion of Dr. Reid, that the conclusions of Berkeley with regard to the evidence of the existence of matter rest entirely upon the ideal theory, and fall with that theory to the ground. This is completely erroneous. They do not rest upon the ideal theory in the smallest degree, nor upon any theory. They rest upon nothing but the acknowledged fact, that the mind is conscious of nothing but its own feelings, and that there is no legitimate inference, as he pretends, from any thing within the mind, to the existence of matter. Dr. Reid most explicitly allows that there is no inference, on the ground either of reason or experience. And we believe it, he says, only because we have an instinctive propensity to believe it.

Notwithstanding the importance to which the power of instinct has thus been raised, as an importance which places it not merely on a level with reason, which may err, but far above reason, because it cannot err; an importance in short, which constitutes it the master and despot over reason, whose suggestions must all bend to its magisterial decisions, while they themselves remain unquestionable, it is to be remarked as a curious circumstance, that this class of philosophers have avoided to give us any systematic and detailed account of this instinct, which, as they allow, in so many words, we have in common with the brutes. It would have been of admirable use toward the solution of the serious difficulties, which, notwithstanding their hold assumptions, still crowd about the subject, had they given us a description, logically exact, of the field of action of this extraordinary power, to which they ascribe such new and wonderful effects; or, to describe more exactly what we mean, had they presented a complete enumeration, skilfully arranged, of its acts, and endeavoured to point out their most important relations. As their doctrine stands at present, we desire to knew wherein the ascription of a mental phenomenon to instinct really differs from the old and exploded ascription of physical phenomena to occult qualities. This instinct, or, as they like better to call it, this law of the mind, or this element of the reason, is distinguished by all the characteristic properties of an occult quality, and answers all the [192] same purposes in their writings, which the occult qualities of the schoolmen answered in theirs.

We have willingly pursued our remarks to some extent upon this particular topic, both because the doctrines relating to it form the characteristic feature of what is called the Scottish school, and because it is, in fact, by far the most important point of view in which their speculations can be regarded. An alarming system of scepticism was raised. The sect of philosophers in question erect a fortification against it, of which they loudly boast, as if it were impregnable. Their lofty pretensions deceive mankind, and prevent the anxiety which would otherwise be felt not to have a danger without a remedy. In the mean time this fortification of theirs is so little calculated to answer its purpose, that it has not strength to resist the slightest attack. It is highly important that the learned world should begin to be aware of this; and that new attempts should be speedily made to provide a real, instead of an apparent antidote to the subtle and perplexing principles of modern scepticism. We may rest assured that, if not answered, the fashion of them will one day revive. The wonder would be, had not the world been in such a state, that they should have remained without notice, and without influence, so long.

On the other topics which furnish the subjects of Mr. Stewart’s discussions in the present work, we can hardly find room to offer any remarks.

From considering mathematical axioms, and instinctive principles, he proceeds to reasoning, by which, in fact, he means, the passing from one proposition to another, by means of intermediate steps; that species of discourse, which may be resolved into a series of syllogisms. On the peculiar distinctions, however, of this class of operations he does not long remain. He departs to the consideration of mathematical demonstration, on which he conceives that he had new light of great importance to throw. His deductions do not appear to us of the same value as they did to himself: and we are sorry at being obliged to throw out an unfavourable idea, where we are precluded in a great measure from giving the reasons by which it is supported. Mathematical reasoning, Mr. Stewart informs us, is altogether founded upon hypothesis, namely the definitions of the figures, the properties of which are deduced. This he represents as a highly important discovery which he has made. And it is a property, he thinks, by which mathematical is remarkably distinguished from all other reasoning. To this conclusion, it appears to us, that Mr. Stewart has been led, by a forgetfulness, to which he is very liable, of his own doctrine respecting abstraction and general [193] terms. According to that doctrine all general reasoning is hypothetical, that is, proceeds upon hypotheses or fictions of the mind, just as much as mathematical reasoning; and even the differences which he so ostentatiously displays between mathematical and other general reasoning all resolve themselves into the greater imperfections of ordinary language. We are sorry to be obliged, in this place, to content ourselves with assertion; but we do not conceive it would be difficult to prove what we have asserted, had we left ourselves room.

From the chapter on the Aristotelian logic we are reluctantly compelled entirely to abstain; not that the observations appear to us to be exempt from error; but as, even where just they are not very important, nor where they are mistaken can far mislead, the demand for criticism on them is the less urgent.

The fourth, or concluding chapter is in no ordinary degree instructive. It is on the method of inquiry pursued in the experimental or inductive philosophy. On this subject, none of the peculiar doctrines of Mr. Stewart’s philosophical system come into play. He has formed very just and enlightened views on the real business of philosophy, and expresses them with that beauty and eloquence for which he is so remarkable. Mr. Stewart has not performed what still remains to be performed, and what it would be so eminently useful to have peformed; he has not exhibited an accurate map of the inductive process, and still less has he given, what is yet so great a desideratum in logic, a complete system of rules, as complete, for example, as those which Aristotle provided for the business of syllogistic reasoning, to direct the inquirer in the great business of interpreting nature, and adding to the stock of human instruments and powers. He has contented himself with some general observations, with some remarks on the distinction between experience and analogy, on the use and abuse of hypotheses, which may be very serviceably employed as anticipations for planning a train of experiments; he has also inserted some observations on the words induction and analogy as used in mathematics, and on certain misapplications of the words experience and induction in the phraseology of modern science, more especially those applications in politics, where the word experience, so often expressive of a single fact ill understood, is employed to discredit, under the term theory, conclusions founded upon the most enlarged induction; and finally he proceeds to a train of reflections on the speculation concerning final causes. On this concluding topic he has come out with opinions which lead to consequences so important that, great as is the length to which we have already extended this article, we cannot forbear giving hints at least of a few objections to which they appear to us to lie exposed. Before proceeding to these criticisms, we [194] may, however remark, that Mr. Stewart appears to us to have accomplished, in this part of his undertaking, the purpose at which he aimed; which was not the highest service remaining to be performed, but only, as he himself expresses it, “to concentrate, and to reflect back on the philosophy of the mind, whatever scattered lights he had been able to collect from the experimental researches to which that philosophy has given birth—aiming, at the same time (and he hopes not altogether without success), to give somewhat more of precision to the technical phraseology of the Baconian school, and of correctness to their metaphysical ideas.”

The study of final causes bears a reference to that part of his subject in which the mention of it is here introduced, only in so far as it may occasionally serve as a guide in the investigation of physical laws; and he shows, by several well chosen instances, that the consideration of the uses to which things may be subservient, has not unfrequently led to important discoveries. He observes, accordingly, that philosophers have run into two opposite errors. In the first place, they have been led astray from the consideration of physical or efficient causes, by the search after final causes, in which, after discovery of them, they have rested, as a satisfactory account of the phenomenon the cause of which it was their intention to explore. In the second place, other philosophers, among whom particularly Des Cartes, and the majority of French philosophers, may be enumerated, observing the error of the first mentioned class of inquirers, have entirely discarded final causes from the field of philosophical inquiry. The truth, however, is that all the caution which on this head it was necessary for any body to receive was so very slight, and the words necessary to convey it were so very few, that it requires the supposition of another motive to account for a whole section, consisting of two parts assigned to the doctrine of final causes, in a chapter appropriated to the explanation of the experimental or inductive mode of philosophizing.

Accordingly we find, that the author has taken this opportunity of producing to us a part of his opinions, on the two great subjects of morality, and the fundamental principle of natural religion.

Those inquirers into the subject of ethics, who have referred the origin of moral distinctions to the perception of utility, have confounded, he says, the final with the efficient cause. Because all the virtues may be useful, it by no means follows that they were originally recommended by their utility. If we proceed to inquire, What, then, is it, by which they are thus recommended? Mr. Stewart does not speak very explicitly; but if his language means any thing at all, it means only this, that we must betake ourselves, once more, to the never-failing resource of instinct. [195] Here indeed Mr. Stewart does not call it instinct. But he calls it the internal monitor, which completely answers to the description of instinct, and which, if it is not regard to utility, can be nothing else than instinct.

We are persuaded that Mr. Stewart never wilfully misrepresents an opinion from which he dissents; but he so completely misconceives, in this case, the ground of a most important system of opinions, on a subject which he professes to have profoundly studied, that we cannot help suspecting him of an extraordinary degree of partiality to his own preconceived notions; and that he hardly regards a set of opinions, differing from those which he has espoused, as worthy of a portion of his attention sufficient to enable him to understand them. The great authors who have represented utility as the principle of moral distinctions, have not founded this conclusion upon the mere discovery that virtues are useful; which is necessary to justify the criticism of Mr. Stewart. They have proceeded on a plan exactly conformable to that which is pointed out by Sir Issac Newton, as the only true mode of philosophizing. That man pursues happiness, they say, and flies from misery, in other words seeks pleasure, and avoids pain, is a known and acknowledged fact. This fact, they continue, we assert to be completely sufficient to account for all the moral phenomena of human life. We classify these phenomena, and we show that into this fact they all resolve themselves, in the most satisfactory manner. The conclusion is, therefore, established; unless our antagonists shall either show that our principle does not account for the phenomena, or that there is some other known and acknowledged fact which accounts for them in a more satisfactory manner.

Mr. Stewart completely fails in his attempt to show that the fact to which the appeal is made does not account for the phenomena. And instead of pointing out any known and acknowledged fact in human nature which accounts for them better, he supposes an occult quality, or what is equivalent to an occult quality, an instinct; a blind, unaccountable propensity to approve or disapprove, which has no dependence either upon reason or experience.

Mr. Stewart attempts to prove that the principle of utility will not account for the moral phenomena of human life, by asserting that individuals would err in the application of it. Can Mr. Stewart point out any other principle, in the application of which they are less likely to err? Is that instinct of his, to which we are so fondly referred, a principle of this description? It is the nature of an instinct to be, in each individual, that which it is, without any dependence whatsoever on that which [196] it may be in any other individual. If instinct be the ground of moral action, it must be so, as much in any one man, as in any other. If any man, therefore, has an instinct to steal, or to murder (and Dr. Spurzheim affirms that there are many instances of both, some very remarkable ones of which he produces), it is in these men as decidedly moral, upon the principles of Mr. Stewart, to steal and to murder, as it is, in other men, to abstain from these acts. Mr. Stewart will no doubt affirm that no man can have these instincts; but this will only be to produce what the philosophers of the school to which he belongs appear to have a powerful instinct to produce, that is, his own assertion instead of proof.

It is very remarkable that of the two philosophers who have to a far greater extent, than any other inquirers, traced the moral phenomena of human life to the principle of utility, Helvetius and our countryman, Mr. Bentham, Mr. Stewart, in his enumeration of the patrons of the system, has made no mention whatsoever. This can hardly have been ignorance, or inadvertence which is a kind of ignorance; and yet there is no other motive to assign, but one too unworthy to be admitted for a moment.

These philosophers have very satisfactorily shown, to whatever extent, their philosophy, in other respects, may be wrong (for we beg it may be well remembered, that throughout the whole of this article we are only exhibiting opinions, advocating none), that the very principle of human nature to which they refer, the pursuit, by each individual, of his own happiness - most completely obviates all the dangers which Mr. Stewart holds up, as involving the refutation of the system.

As soon as each individual perceives, that the pursuit of his own happiness is so liable to be thwarted by other individuals in the pursuit of theirs, one of the first results to which that very pursuit conducts them, is a general compromise. Allow me so much uninterrupted scope in the pursuit of my happiness, and I will allow you so much uninterrupted scope in the pursuit yours. In this very compromise, according to the philosophers above mentioned, will be found the origin of all the more important virtues; and also of government itself, which is only instituted for the purpose of ensuring by force the more exact performance of some of its most essential conditions.

We hope it is unnecessary, here (for we are totally deprived of space to introduce the development), to show in what manner, upon this foundation, they maintain that a moral voice arises among the people, every man approving of those acts which it is his interest that every other man should perform towards himself [197] as one of the community, and disapproving of those which it is his interest they should not perform; praising the one set of acts, blaming the other; loving in some degree the men who perform the one; hating in some degree the men who perform the other. From this origin it is abundantly plain in what manner one set of acts, and one set of men, come to be established in the mind as objects of approbation and love; another set of acts and another set of men, as objects of disapprobation and hatred.

They contend, that it is only necessary to appeal to the fact that the approbation and love, the disapprobation and hatred of his fellow creatures, operate powerfully upon the mind of man, and constitute one of the most prolific of all his motives of action. We are sure it will not be useless to remind Mr. Stewart, that a great philosopher to whose opinions he is in the habit of paying a singular deference, Dr. Adam Smith, accounts only for the origin of moral distinctions, by this approbation and love, this disapprobation and hatred, without appearing to have any clear conceptions of the source from which they are derived.

Mr. Stewart supposes, or seems to suppose, that according to the system of utility, “the conduct of man would be left to be regulated by no other principle than the private opinion of each individual concerning the expediency of his own actions.” To how shallow a consideration of the subject this reflection is owing, appears from what has just been said, that the doctrine of utility, in this respect, coincides with that of Dr. Smith, to which Mr. Stewart never ascribed any such consequence. Every man’s private interpretation of the rule of right is restrained by two powerful considerations; the approbation and love, the disapprobation and hatred, of mankind, which may be called the popular or moral sanction; and the punishments and rewards distributed by government, which may be called the political, including the legal sanction. We challenge Mr. Stewart to show that there is any other sanction, if you allow the right of private judgment in religion, which regulates the private interpretation of the rule of right, upon any supposition with respect to the origin of the notions of right and wrong which it is in his power to form.

We take notice of what Mr. Stewart, though he professes to waive the question, as not belonging to his subject, nevertheless advances, in the use of the doctrine of final causes, in laying a foundation for the truths of religion; because it appears to us that his doctrine places the evidence for the being of a God upon a foundation which cannot fail to alarm in the highest degree the friends of religion. On this subject Mr. Stewart, according to his usual method, escapes from difficulties by feigning not to perceive them. Dr. Johnson performed a great service to religion [198] when, in his review of the work of Soame Jenyns, on the origin of evil, he stript off the veil which that author had attempted to throw over the difficulties of the question, and clearly showed, and boldly avowed, that no author had yet invented a theory which accounted for them. A reviewer at the present day would perform a service no less important to religion, who should strip off the veil which Paley, and others, among whom our present author may be classed, have endeavoured to throw over the difficulties which still adhere to the argument from final causes, and should exhibit clearly and distinctly, the important objections which none of them have answered, and to which the serious attention of theologians is required. On the ground of that theory which Mr. Stewart has adopted, new difficulties, and those of the most formidable nature, arise. For the being of a God, according to this doctrine, we have no ground of assurance whatsoever beyond a blind, and unaccountable instinct; beyond the mechanical impulse of a principle which they expressly avow we have in common with the brutes. We frankly own, that this is a conclusion which we should feel the utmost repugnance to admit. Mr. Stewart appears to us to be, in some degree at least, aware of the terrible consequences of his doctrine, that our belief in the existence of a God is by no means founded upon reason or experience, when in p. 552, he says, “In the inferences drawn concerning the invisible things of God, from the things which are made, there is a perception of the understanding implied, for which neither reasoning nor experience is sufficient to account;” and where he expressly says that, without admitting the power of his instinct, this conclusion is inevitable, “That it would be perfectly impossible for the Deity, if he did exist, to exhibit to man any satisfactory evidence of design by the order and perfection of his works.”

It thus appears to what extraordinary purposes instinct is applied in the writings of those philosophers. In fact, there is nothing which does not depend upon it. In the first place, our belief in the existence of matter must rest upon instinct; so must our belief in the existence of mind. Our expectation, that the future will resemble the past, rests exclusively upon instinct. It is upon instinct that our belief in testimony depends. It is by instinct solely, that we make all moral distinctions. And, finally, it is to instinct that we must look, for the foundation of our belief in a God. In attempting to erect a barrier against scepticism, they have produced what appears to us to be the most extensive and hopeless system of scepticism that ever was offered to the human mind.

There is a curious circle in which they reason. It still requires to be mentioned. They tacitly infer that instinct is entitled to [199] our confidence, because it is the work of God; and Mr. Stewart quotes a passage from Adam Smith, in which he says, that in following instinct, “we are very apt to imagine that to be the wisdom of Man, which in reality is the wisdom of God.” Observe their train of inference. Why do we believe in instinct? Because instinct is derived from God. Why do we believe in God? Because the belief is derived from instinct.

There is yet another point of view, in which it is requisite to consider the volumes of Mr. Stewart. We must not fail to applaud the style in which they are written. It is elegant without being flowery, and animated without an approach to rant. It is surprising what interest this author contrives to throw over the driest discussions; and how usefully and how admirably calculated his writings are to captivate the youthful mind with a love of his science, and to draw it insensibly into the paths of philosophy and intellectual pursuit. In this point of view, we are acquainted with no writings which we should recommend more strongly to any young persons, in whose intellectual progress we took an interest, than the volumes of Mr. Stewart. The views in which the motives to intellectual exertion are presented are such as cannot fail to operate powerfully upon every liberal mind. In another important respect, the tone of this philosopher is entitled to peculiar applause. He does not exert himself according to a late deplorable fashion, to narrow the prospects of the human mind, and to damp its ardour in the pursuit of knowledge, by endeavouring to prove the impossibility of ever advancing beyond its present attainments. It is a maxim of Mr. Stewart, with which the temper of his writings perfectly corresponds, that “To awaken a dormant spirit of discussion, by pointing out the imperfections of accredited systems, is at least one step gained towards the farther advancement of knowledge.” And he quotes an important passage, in which he says it is justly and philosophically remarked by Burke, “that nothing tends more to the corruption of science than to suffer it to stagnate. These waters must be troubled before they can exert their virtues. A man who works beyond the surface of things, though he may be wrong himself, yet he clears the way for others, and may chance to make even his errors subservient to the cause of truth.” [*]

Even the old schoolmen were willing to say,—

Quod vetus est, juvenes, in religione sequamur:
Quod placet in logica nil vetat esse novum.

For “nourishing the ardour of the man of science, and [200] awakening the enthusiasm of youth,” he peculiarly recommends, and with admirable propriety, the inspiring pages of Lord Bacon, which are singularly adapted to enlarge and to elevate the conceptions; exhibiting those magnificent views of knowledge which, by identifying its progress with the enlargement of human powers and of human happiness, ennoble the humblest exertions of literary industry, and annihilate, before the triumphs of genius, the most dazzling objects of vulgar ambition. A judicious selection of such passages, and of some general and striking aphorisms from the Novum Organon, would form a useful manual for animating the academical tasks of the student; and for gradually conducting him, from the level of the subordinate sciences, to the vantage-ground of a higher philosophy. “Unwilling,” he adds, “as I am to touch on a topic so hopeless as that of Academical Reform, I cannot dismiss this subject, without remarking, as a fact which at some future period will figure in literary history, that two hundred years after the date of Bacon’s philosophical works, the antiquated routine of study, originally prescribed in times of scholastic barbarism and of popish superstition, should, in so many Universities, be still suffered to stand in the way of improvements, recommended at once by the present state of the sciences, and by the order which nature follows in developing the intellectual faculties.”



2. Parliamentary History and Review [London, 1826]

Parliamentary History and Review; containing Reports of the Proceedings of the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1826: - 7 Geo. IV. With Critical Remarks on the Principal Measures of the Session. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1826).

  • James Mill, “Summary Review of the Conduct and Measures of the Seventh Imperial Parliament” pp. 772-802.


[2.] Summary Review of the Conduct and Measures of the Seventh Imperial Parliament.

In taking a view of the proceedings of the late parliament, and considering effects in conjunction with their causes, we shall presume, that our readers are aware of the acknowledged principle upon which all our reasoning, with respect to the actions of men, and our rules for modelling their conduct, are founded.

That principle is, that men are governed by motives: this is only saying, in other words, that they are governed by their interests; and it will best suit the expression of those reflections, which will occupy the subsequent part of this disquisition, to use the former of these terms in place of the latter; the interest being the primary thing—the motive only secondary and derivative; the interest, the actuating ingredient—the motive, but the view which the mind takes of the interest.

We desire to avoid all controverted points on this subject, and merely to explain distinctly the sense in which we wish to be understood. Thus, if any one should insist upon it, that men are not universally governed by their interests, and that many men, in many acts of their lives, act from sympathy, and the dictates of virtue, in opposition to their interests, we are not at all disposed to controvert their opinions, because there can be no doubt, that in the sense in which they understand the words, their proposition is true, how much soever it disguises the real nature of the phenomena.

It is not less true, with respect to every man, that, of the whole actions of his life, by far the greater number are determined by views of interest, in the ordinary sense of the word; the allurements of pleasure, the aversion to pain, the desire of wealth, power, reputation, and so on: nor, with respect to a large body of men of any description, that of their actions, upon the whole, interest, in this very sense, will be the governing principle.


When men are combined into an acting body, and have a kind of principle of unity bestowed upon them, it is universally recognized, that the interest of the body is the ruling principle of action. Their sympathies are with one another, not with those exterior parties whose interests come in competition with theirs. And as for virtue, in their case, who knows not, that in most minds, virtue consists in doing good to those with whom we sympathize? If there is any class of sensitive creatures, totally removed from our sympathies, we little regard the effects which our actions may have upon them.

This doctrine, which it would be highly instructive to illustrate at greater length, we must take as conceded. In truth, to deny it, would be to deny the very principle upon which government is founded. The principle upon which government is founded, is, that men, generally taken, will not only prefer their own interests to those of other men, but, when they can, will sacrifice the interests of other men to their own. Government, in all its shapes, is but an organization of means for checking the operation of this propensity; in most instances, it is true, a wretched organization.

In considering, in a general point of view, any part of the proceedings of the parliament of England, the House of Commons, of course, is the first object of attention. It is not incumbent upon us here to explain in what manner the House of Commons has become the main spring in the government of England: it is sufficient for us to recognize it as the fact—a fact, neither disputable nor disputed.

From the mode in which the suffrage for members to the House of Commons is distributed, and in which the business of the election is performed, it has been found possible and easy, for the leading families in the country, to establish such an influence over the electors in all the counties, and in a great proportion of the towns, that they can return as members for those places, the persons of their choice. This they do for one parliament after another, without end. And this, it is evident, is nomination—hereditary nomination, under certain forms—which, though at times they are troublesome and expensive, are, nevertheless, deemed necessary, in order to disguise the reality under false appearance.

There may be some doubt as to the precise extent to which this virtual nomination is carried. But for the settling of this dispute, any portion of the time of our readers or ourselves would be unprofitably bestowed. There is no doubt that it extends to much more than a majority of the members; and this is all which it is material to know. Whether the minority consists of a few less or more, is not of the smallest consequence with regard to the general nature and tendency of the acts of the assembly.

Of that portion of the House of Commons, which is not returned by the leading families, the greater part consists of men of large fortunes, who can afford, by dint of money, to create a temporary influence in those places where no great family has established a permanent one; and, in a few places, the election is made under more or less of the real opinion of the electors; their opinion of the fitness or unfitness of the individual to whom their votes are tendered.

Of those two portions of the House of Commons—that which is nominated by the leading families, and that which is not nominated by them—the latter is that alone about the nature and force of whose actions any doubt can exist.

The matter of fact and experience is, that of the members who do not sit by the nomination of the leading families, the greater number are prone to act along with them, and pride themselves in holding a place in their ranks. As far as these men are concerned, the interest which shapes the actions of those who are nominated by the leading families, does not experience opposition, but support.

When a legislative assembly is so composed, that one interest actuates one portion of it—another, another; but one of these portions is a great majority; it necessarily follows, that the interest of the major part is that which predominates in the whole. Whatever proposition, favourable to their own interest, the major part wish to carry, they always can carry, notwithstanding any injury it may import to the minor part, and the rest of the community, and notwithstanding any opposition which it may be in the power of the minor part to make to it. On the other hand, any proposition which the minor part may introduce, however conducive to public good, the major part, if it threatens [774] any infringement of their advantages, have at once the motive and the power to throw out.

In a legislative assembly, in which the great majority are leagued in the aristocratical interest, the situation of the minority, who represent the general interest, whether, in point of numbers, they are considerable or inconsiderable, is not that of legislators. It is mere imposture to call it so. Their combined votes in favour of any measure, to which the aristocratical interest are opposed, are wholly ineffectual to carry it. Their votes, in favour of any measure to which the aristocratical interest are inclined, are useless, because the measure would be as certainly carried without their votes, as with them. Voting, in these circumstances, is wholly without effect. It is, therefore, a mere nullity. As well might a man act the farce of voting in a desert, where there is nobody to see or to hear him. But if the voting of the minor part in such an assembly be a mere nullity, their speaking is not. They may still advocate good measures. Their place, therefore, in the legislative assembly, is that of legislators in form only, and with a fraudulent effect. They have but one real function—that of advocates for the general interest; and they would be much more favourably situated for the performance of this positive service if they were relieved from their mock character of legislators.

As the character, then, of the English House of Commons is, beyond all controversy, that of an aristocratical hereditary assembly, with a few advocates of the general interest, allowed to be heard among them, we are a little prepared to judge what sort of actions are to be expected from them; and, in reviewing the proceedings of the last parliament, to shew pretty accurately the connexion between causes and effects.

It must be supposed, that by a legislature, in which the aristocratical interest had so long and so largely predominated, the machinery of government, and all its workings, would long ago have been put into the state the most favourable to the interests of the aristocracy, which aristocratical wits, matched with the circumstances of the times, could bring them to; and that in this state they were found at the commencement of the last parliament.

This being the case, it is impossible not to see what must have been the predominating purpose of that assembly, throughout: that it must have been, to keep things as nearly as possible in the state to which they had been brought; and if an appearance of doing something must be kept up, to make as much of a little as possible; to put the advocates of improvement always on a wrong scent, and to listen to the proposition of no change that implied any real alteration.

When the powers of government are placed in the hands of a few—be it an aristocracy, or a despot and his satellites—these powers are rendered subservient to the interests of those who hold them, by the command which is thence obtained over the persons and properties of the rest of the community. The main object of such governments is to carry that command to as great a height as possible.

The ancient laws of England afforded protection to the persons of the mass of the people only to a certain extent; beyond that point every thing was open to the hand of power. Manners, however, in modern times, have done more than legislation for the protection of the lower orders from outrage in their persons. The man with power does not find his gratification in offering indignity or doing harm to the person of the man without power. What he desires, with respect to him, is command over his services. But command over his services is better obtained in the indirect, than the direct way; by first taking from the man his money, and after that, with his money, purchasing his services.

The aristocracy, then, have felt but little interest in recent times in deteriorating the state of the law in regard to the protection of the persons of the people. They have shewn enough, indeed, of reluctance to part with any portion of a power capable of being abused, though now seldom turned to a wicked account, and have resisted every proposition for the improvement of the law in this respect.

In modern times, the machinery of taxation has been found the most commodious instrument for making power useful to those who hold it. The power enjoyed by a particular class, of making laws to take so much annually from the property of every man, was the power to distribute a great part of the proceeds among themselves. This is a machinery which we may conclude has every where [775] been worked to the utmost. But no where has the working been so prodigious as in England.

The great evil of this mode of satisfying the aristocracy with the property of the people is, that it takes from the people more than it gives to the aristocracy, and carries the oppression of the people to a much greater extent than the mere enriching of the aristocracy would require.

For taxation, pretexts are thought necessary. The people are not told that they must be taxed, because the aristocracy want more of their money. They are told that they must be taxed, because the wants of the state must be supplied. And then those wants must be turned to the best account, and exaggerated to the utmost. All the establishments of the state are pushed to the greatest extravagance which the spirit of the times will bear. Civil boards and civil officers are multiplied without end. Army and navy are kept at the highest amount, for which a pretence can possibly be invented. And colonies and distant possessions are multiplied, both because lucrative places may be made in them with profusion, and because they afford one of the best pretexis for keeping up an expensive army and navy.

It is through these establishments chiefly, that the aristocracy pocket what they do pocket of the public money. But for every pound which they get to themselves in this manner, many pounds are extorted from the people. A regiment of soldiers benefits the aristocracy only by the pocketings of a few of its highest officers: it grinds the people by the cost of the whole machine. In like manner, a ship has only a few good things for the aristocracy: a vast amount of charge and oppression to the people. A colony has several good places fit for the aristocracy: it almost always lays an enormous expense upon the nation.

No event in the annals of the human race ever enabled a government to carry expense to so extravagant a height, and so to glut the possessors of power with the property of the people, as the war waged against the French revolution. In the few years which had intervened from the termination of the war to the opening of the last parliament, patience had been demanded for the time necessary to wind up the affairs of the war. The grand spectacle during that parliament is, to see the struggle that was made to keep up establishments as nearly as possible to the scale even of the late destructive war, and to prevent the reduction of expense. In the year ending the 5th of January, 1820, the year in which the late parliament began to sit, the expenses of the civil list, military establishment, civil government, and collection, amounted to 26,600,519l. In the year ending the 5th January, 1826, the last of which the accounts can yet be adduced, the same expenses amounted to 29,157,171l.

The connexion here between causes and effects, is both obvious and instructive. The state of expense—that part of the working of the machinery from which more immediately the benefit of the aristocracy proceeds—had been carried, by the aid of a most extraordinary conjunction of events, to a degree of perfection altogether unexampled, and far beyond what the most sanguine hope could have anticipated. The situation of the aristocracy was the most advantageous possible: the grand concern was, to preserve it from deterioration. It is impossible for us to follow in detail the persevering efforts which were made by Mr. Hume, occasionally aided by a few others, only to curtail this expense, to cut off a few of its more monstrous deformities. Year after year did he make his expositions; year after year, not only were they met by an overwhelming opposition, but they and their author were treated with hostility. Every species of ill usage which experience had found the most successful in driving men from the post of duty in that House, and which few men indeed have had the magnanimity to withstand, was employed against him. After a time it was found, that a man had at last appeared, upon whom the ill usage of the House had little effect. This was a great point gained. This itself constitutes a new era. This is what they call a pregnant example. The spirit of Mr. Hume will pass into others. We shall have a race of Humes.

In the monstrous expense of this government, what is to be deplored, is not so much the amount of the property of the people which goes into the pockets of the aristocracy. This the people, without any very great diminution of their happiness and prosperity, could bear. This, great as it is, considered in itself, is small compared with the expense which is [776] wasted upon establishments, rendered enormous, that the places which they afford to the aristocracy may be as numerous as possible. The grand practical evil of our Government is this: that they who substantially wield the powers of it, have an interest in making its establishments too great. Establishments too great are, in modern times, and under the control of modern manners, the grand instrument of oppression to the people. It is in this, more than in any other way, that governments are bad; and that one is more or less bad than another. What was it that rendered Louis the Fourteenth the scourge of France, and before his death brought that kingdom to a state of exhaustion? Read his historians. They tell you with one voice. The extravagance of his establishments, military and civil, was the cause. The effects we know. The monarchy struggled on through a few years of languor and decrepitude; and expired in violent convulsions.

Such is the history of the late parliament, with regard to one branch of the public interests—the rate at which the people pay for the services of Government. The protection of the persons and properties of the people of England, is paid for at a cost of 57,000,000l. per annum: of which 29,000,000l. is for immediate charge; 28,000,000l. is for interest of the debt contracted for that protection at former times reputed extraordinary. Think of the end as it really is, in its own nature. Think next of the facility of the means,—justice, police, and security from foreign invaders. And then think of the oppression practised upon the people of England under the pretext of providing them. The expenses of Queen Elizabeth’s government amounted to 500,000l. per annum. The comparison is said to be ridiculous. Why? Our courts of justice in England cost even now but 65,000l. per annum. Our police costs but a trifle. And why our shores should require a single man to guard them more than in the time of Elizabeth, we shall get not one good reason from those who will use the most swaggering asseverations on the subject.

Of the great interests of the country, that which stands first in importance is the administration of justice; the perfection of the means which are employed for giving certainty and security to the rights of individuals. The means conducive to this end are comprised under three heads: diminution, to the greatest practicable extent, of doubtfulness relating to rights; a correct and prompt solution, without burthen to the parties, of such doubts as cannot be precluded; and, as often as any infringement of a right is incurred, an effectual remedy for the evil.

There is something remarkable in the history of law. We can expect nothing else than that the benefits of law in a rude age should be very imperfectly enjoyed. First of all, little is done in an age of ignorance, for narrowing the ground of doubt with respect to rights. Such an age cannot define. A few rude marks grow into authority by custom; and things are or are not recognized as rights, according as they do or do not bear the established indications. Little as a rude age is capable of defining, it is not less incapable of separating, by abstraction, the end from the means; and forming a clear and distinct conception of each. It is incapable of taking such a view of the end, as to comprehead is it every thing which belongs to it; separate from it every thing which does not belong to it: and such a view of the means, as to distinguish the steps which are necessary from those which are not necessary; and to mark in what possible order the smallest number of steps will suffice. The people of such an age employ ill comprehended means for the attainment of an ill comprehended end. They preceed in the way which wise men of the present day call practical: they see only a bit of a thing at a time. Accordingly they have a little expedient for one bit, and another little expedient for another bit. The consequences are, a want of connexion, and mutual bearing to a common end, among their expedients; a frequent clashing and counteraction among them; and a most unnecessary multiplication and complexity; one narrow expedient being provided for one narrow purpose, and another for another; when, under a comprehensive view of means and ends together, one expedient would have been found to accomplish many purposes. Such is the mode of proceeding of a rude age in all things. There are abundant reasons why it should be such in the business of law to a remarkable degree, and should produce a more absurd and fantastical product than in any other department of human affairs.


The astonishing thing with respect to law, is, that in a concern in which improvement so deeply affected the interests of all, the barbarous product of a barbarous age should have been protected from change in almost all countries, and handed down to a late and civilized age in a state of more perfect preservation, than any other monument, not physical and indestructible, of rude antiquity. Of all countries, England stands foremost in the merit or demerit of this monstrous preservation. If any one desires to have an accurate, and as it were a living image of the mode of thinking and acting among our barbarous ancestors, he has only to look carefully into the law.

It is a remarkable case of a remarkable part of our nature, that when people have never known the time in which they were without a certain suffering, they regard it as a part of their lot, and cease to think of its removal.

That the expedients of law in England do answer their end most miserably, is proved by such astonishing results, as one would imagine could not but make an impression upon the minds of the most stupid and apathetic people on the face of the earth. Whereas justice, to entitle it to the name, ought to be administered promptly, there is enormous delay in all cases: in a large class of cases such delay as amounts to a denial of justice. Whereas justice, to entitle it to the name of justice, ought to be cheap, (for dear justice is robbing justice,) the costs of law in England are ruinous, and exclude the great body of the people from its protection. And, whereas one of the great ends of law, is to remove uncertainty from rights, the uncertainty which attends them in England is such, that of the owners of land, a small proportion only know whether they hold their property by a good title or not.

The disgraceful manner in which the legislature of England have gone on from parliament to parliament, and from age to age, leaving all the load of evil, implied in such a system of law, to press upon the community, without a thought of its removal—nay, with an almost constant opposition to every attempt for relieving them of some of the more galling portions of it—has a more immediate connexion, we think, with the intellectual state of the two houses, than the moral. Though it cannot be denied that the leading classes have an interest, to a certain extent, in the badness of the law—for a perfect law by yielding protection to the poorest man, exempts him from the power of the rich, and an imperfect law which denies him protection, leaves him at their mercy—in England, in this case, manners have to a great degree supplied the place of law, and it is but rarely that such oppression, as it is always in the power of a rich man to perpetrate upon a poor man, is seen to take place. There is another feeling, however, to which we are inclined to attribute a considerable effect. When an aristocratical legislature, by the constant tendency of ages, have got the machinery of government into a state of working as favourable to themselves as circumstances will allow,—when of course the grand principle of their policy is to keep the working as it is, and prohibit change,—they are afraid that an alteration for the better in the law, though it could be made with many advantages to themselves, as well as to the community, might bring other changes after it which would be less agreeable. Not seeing any necessary connexion between changes in the law, and changes in that part of the working on which their advantages depend, they have yet so strongly associated the idea of the changes which they deprecate with that of change in any department of government, that it is never raised in their minds without calling up at the same instant the idea of the changes they detest, and all the horror with which it affects them. Nor is it in this shape alone that intellectual inaptitude has contributed to produce that aversion, manifested by the English legislature, to the discharge of one of its primary duties; that of relieving the community from the evils of a system of legal expedients, most wretchedly adapted to their end. The greater number of those who compose the legislative assemblies of England, are not accustomed to the business of thought and reflection at all. Beyond the sphere of ordinary talk, and a very narrow and superficial observation, they are conscious of mere mental vacuity. A comprehensive view of the great subject of law—distinguishing accurately the ends which it is destined to attain, and of the means for effecting these ends selecting the best, and come bining them in the most perfect order—they find a task as little suited to their [778] ability, as it is to their inclination. What is beyond their ability they are well inclined to believe is beyond every body’s ability. They are exceedingly distrustful of all mental ability; and far from friendly to those in whom it is believed to reside. They cannot but be afraid of being deceived; being incapable of comprehending the good and evil of the schemes proposed to them, and of making a choice in any other way than that of a leap in the dark. In this state of mind, intellectual indolence is always an ingredient, and along with it moral apathy. And the complex feeling is summed up in the standing formula:—We are possibly not very well as we are; but we know not how we should be if we made a change: we, therefore, will rub on.

Under the mastership of this feeling, the state of the law at the end of the last parliament remained, with alterations hardly worth being mentioned, the same as at the beginning.

Sir James Mackintosh [*]at an early period brought in six bills, founded upon the report of a committee of the preceding parliament, proposing that the punishment of death should be superseded by a milder one, in certain cases. He met with opposition, and accomplished but a part of that which he proposed. Had he accomplished the whole, the state of the law could hardly have been said to be changed. We have always felt a disposition to question the policy of motions for these minute alterations in the law: not because the change might not in some cases be an improvement; but because working in the small way is apt to be taken as a substitute for working in the great; and the show of doing something, weakens the force of the demand for doing all which is needful. It appears, also, to us, that a prodigious advantage is lost in proposing these petty reforms. To urge reluctant, to excite apathetic minds, the object must be large enough to give an interest. The conception swells with a great project of improvement. Contrariety of interest itself is often insufficient to subdue the impulse which it imparta: and no minor object has any chance of bringing to bear upon the contrariety of interest,—that to which alone it is destined to yield—the force of a strong public feeling.

The most remarkable thing which occurred in the debates on this subject, was the observation of Lord Liverpool [*] , “That the great defect in our criminal legislation in its present state, was, the want of a secondary punishment of sufficient efficacy. Several years ago, when transportation was a removal, either into a noxious climate in Africa, or to a state of servitude in the North American colonies, it excited some degree of terror. Now, however, the system was entirely changed; and the colonial office was besieged with applications without end, from persons wishing to settle in New South Wales. It was in vain, therefore, to talk of transportation, as carrying with it any degree of terror. The fact was, that to the class of offenders, to whom in general it was to be applied, it was an object of indifference, or even of desire, rather than of apprehension. The committees, with which these bills originated, had begun their inquiries at the wrong end. Before they rejected the penalty which the law now inflicted, they ought to have directed their attention to the discovery of some secondary punishment, calculated to inspire such a degree of fear, as would, in a number of cases, serve as a substitute for the punishment of death.”

Here, then, was a capital defect, fully recognized: a capital defect proclaimed by the prime minister himself. What followed? Of course the legislature proceeded immediately to remove an evil, thus known, thus acknowledged, of such magnitude! Here was a case to rouse even parliamentary apathy. From that time to this, the punishment which the prime minister declared to be wholly inefficacious, has continued to be applied to a large class of offences, only not the first in atrocity: in other words, the community have been left, as declared by the prime minister himself, left from that time to this—how much longer they are to be left we shall see—totally without protection, as far as the second great class of offences against person and property are concerned. This is a specimen of the English legislature.

There is still another thing which must be mentioned, to set this case in a proper light. At the same time that the English [779] criminal law was declared to be destitute of a secondary punishment of any efficacy; from which it followed, on the one hand, that a great many persons were punished with death, who ought not to be so punished—an atrocious barbarity; and on the other, that a much greater number, the authors of those offences which most frequently, and, by their frequency, to the greatest extent disturb the security of ordinary life, pass without a punishment, other than a name, and while, along with this disgraceful acknowledgment, the further acknowledgment was made, by the mouth of the prime minister himself, that he was ignorant of any remedy for all this evil—there was before him, and before the legislature whom he addressed, an instrument of punishment, capable of being graduated, from the least to the greatest severity, and exquisitely adapted to attain all the ends of punishment, without one exception, and with the smallest possible cost to the public—the Panopticon prison and Penitentiary House of Mr. Bentham—the nature and properties of which had been urged with perseverance upon the attention of parliament for a number of years.

The Listory and fate of Lord Althorp’s bill for the county courts, would afford important illustrations of the turn of mind which predominates in our legislative assemblies. But, as it would require to give this history in the requisite development, a space which we cannot afford, and as we have touched upon the nature of the subject both in our former and our present volume, we shall here content ourselves with one or two very general observations.

This was one of the best aimed endeavours which had ever been made for a reform in the law—a reform, which, if it had been effected as it ought to have been, would have annihilated a great mass of the evils, with which the state of the law burthened and afflicted the community. The object was to afford a cheap mode of deciding pecuniary claims, of that moderate extent, which it was better to abandon, than incur the infamous costs, which follow a suit in the courts. It was no longer time to refuse absolutely to entertain such a project. But let any reflecting man first consider within himself, how a virtuous legislature would have acted on such an occasion; with what cordiality it would have embraced the object; how heartily it would have exerted itself to render the proposed remedy as perfect as possible, and to give its remedial operation the greatest possible extent; next let him contemplate, not merely the total absence of any thing like a disposition to aid the author of the bill, but the chicanery which was employed against it, the processes of mutilation and deformation performed upon it, and the rejection which it finally experienced,—and we leave him to draw the conclusion.

The other proceedings of the late parliament, on the subject of law, were either of so little importance, as not to deserve particular mention, or took place during those two last years, which fall within the period of our annual Review, and have been made the subject of separate articles. The debates on the question—whether counsel should be allowed to prisoners on trial for felony, afford the only particulars on which a remark or two appear to be required.

In civil cases, in cases of high treason, and in all the less highly penal of criminal cases, the defendant is allowed the benefit of counsel, not only in questioning witnesses, and affording advice, but in addressing the jury, and making his defence. To this latter purpose he is not allowed the aid of counsel in cases of felony, although counsel are employed to address the jury against him. This is one of those gross anomalies in the law of England, at which Englishmen are not shocked, only because their law is made up of such things. The first motion for leave to bring in a bill to remove this anomaly, (for the motion was repeated before the end of the parliament,) was rejected by a majority of eighty to fifty. The mover announced that the body of lawyers was opposed to him, though two lawyers of eminence supported him. Sir John Copley (Attorney-General) was the prominent actor on the opposition side [*] ; and the reasons which he adduced, were those which, probably, with or without his suggestion, swayed the minds of the majority.

First of all, the number of members present, is a circumstance, the import of [780] which deserves to be well understood. The Attorney-General began his speech by declaring, “That this was indeed no light or trivial question, but one of the gravest importance.” Of the House of Commons only 130 members showed by their presence that they had the smallest concern, whether this important question was determined one way or another. Four-fifths of the House were pursuing their business, or their pleasure, elsewhere. It should seem also, that “a question of no light and trivial nature, but one of the deepest and gravest importance,” required, and deserved, some time for consideration; yet 80 members out of the 130 present, decided that none should be bestowed upon it. After hearing a little vague and superficial talk, the House came to a determinate conclusion on the spot.

The argument of the Attorney-General, divested of its amplifications, and enforcements, was, that the defendant would suffer more by the reply of the prosecutor’s counsel, than he would gain by the speech of his own. He declared that in civil cases, the speech of the defendant’s counsel, by entitling the plaintiff’s counsel to speak after him, was to such a degree an evil, that it greatly vitiated that branch of the law. And he asked, whether “it was to be desired that the defect of our civil should be introduced into our criminal system.”

The first remarkable thing to be noticed in this argument is, that it passes condemnation on the speeches of counsel, and declares that in all cases, both civil and penal, unless for questions of law, they are hostile to justice. In penal cases it is the best course, he says, that the counsel for the prosecution should open the case, that is, state to the jury the question which is to be tried before them; and that there should, after this, be no speech; nothing but the hearing of the evidence, and the summing up by the judge. He also says, that this, in civil cases, would be a course better adapted to the ends of justice, than that which is at present pursued. The only speech, therefore, not detrimental to justice, according to Sir John Copley, is that opening speech of the counsel, for the party demandant, in which the question to be decided, is stated to the jury. But the statement of the question to be decided is a function which ought not to be entrusted to the extemporary imperfection, or studied unfairness, of a party and his agent. This is an essential part of the duty of the judge, to be performed, as far as possible, by a proper instrument in writing, completed, when any thing farther is necessary, by the oral exposition of the judge.

That the speeches of counsel impede the course of justice, was, at any rate, a decision which it was not right to adopt without mature deliberation. It was not a question which ought to have been decided upon the mere ipse dixit of the Attorney-General, in opposition to all the evidence implied in the established practice of this and all other countries. The House of Commons did decide that the speeches of counsel are a nuisance in judicature. It is the duty of the House of Commons, if any thing which concerns the public be its duty, to remove nuisances from judicature. From that time to this, has any thing been done to relieve justice of what was thus voted a nuisance by the principal branch of the legislature? From that time to this, has that same branch of the legislature any farther troubled its head about the matter, than to reject the same motion, in the same manner, when brought forward once more by the same author?

One thing, at any rate, few will dare to dispute—that if speeches of counsel be good for justice, all cases ought to have the benefit of them; if bad, all ought to be delivered from them. The Parliament of England takes a course entirely its own. Till it can make up its mind upon the matter, it divides the field of law into two portions—not very equal ones, it is true—in the one of which it gives the use of speeches, as if they were good; in the other, denies the use of them, as if they were evil.

In the cases, however, in which we say, that it gives the use of speeches, we ought to say, that it gives a mutilated, lop-sided, unfair, and partial, use of them. It gives the full use to the plaintiff’s side; the garbled use to the defendant’s side. Not only two speeches are given to the plaintiff’s side, while one singly is allowed to the defendant’s side, but the plaintiff is allowed the benefit both of the first word and the last; the consequences of which are important. According to the Attorney-General, it is the last speech which decides the question. He did not indeed say, that it does so always, nor did he say how often. But unless it does so in [781] a great proportion of cases, his argument, that the speech of defendant’s counsel would do him harm, because it would allow the prosecutor’s counsel to speak after him, was nothing to the purpose.

Because none but a lop-sided use of speeches was given by English law, in other cases, the Attorney-General concluded, with true lawyer’s logic, that none but a lop-sided use could be given, if given at all, in cases of felony. Nobody asked—yet it was not a very recondite question—Why a lop-sided use of speeches in this case? If the counsel of the prosecutor has made his speech to support, and the counsel of the defendant has made his speech to invalidate the charge, why not do one of two things—either stop the speeches there; or, if the plaintiff’s counsel be allowed a second speech, allow a second to the defendant’s counsel also? There would be fair dealing in this. In the existing course there is the reverse.

If it be asked, how in our courts of justice, plaintiffs came to have so many indulgences, the answer presents itself immediately — The plaintiff was the customer. No wonder if it was thought right to give him encouragement. It was given to him to some purpose. The Attorney-General declared, that “the odds were always in favour of the plaintiff.”

On the great, the master subject—the right composition of the legislature—no proposition was discussed in the last parliament, which, even if carried, would have altered the relative state of the private and public interest in the House of Commons—would have given to the public interest that ascendancy which the private has hitherto enjoyed.

Two schemes of reform were proposed, one by Mr. Lambton, and one by Lord John Russell; and on the last there were four debates in four different years. There was, besides, the disfranchisement of Grampound.

The main provisions of Mr. Lambton’s bill were three.—1. Instead of the present election by cities and boroughs, which was to be annulled, election districts were to be formed all over England, in each of which one member was to be chosen; and all householders paying rates and taxes were to have the right of voting. 2. The representation of the counties was not to be altered, farther than by admitting leaseholders and copyholders to the right of suffrage. 3. The duration of parliaments was to be reduced to 3 from 7 years.

The plan of Lord John Russell was shortly this: to take from one hundred of the smallest boroughs sending two members, the power of sending more than one; and to supply this defalcation, by one hundred additional members for the counties and great towns, in the proportion of 60 for the counties, and 40 for the towns.

The principle of sound decision on this great question, is obvious. Government is founded upon the necessity there is of preventing one man from promoting his own interest, at the expense of other men’s. That men will do so, is not matter of doubt, it is matter of experience. The propensity is not confined to a few men out of many; to this class, and not to another. It is so nearly universal, that all our conclusions, with respect to men in bodies, are correct only in so far as they are grounded upon this experience.

The real object to be aimed at in the composition of a legislature, is to prevent the predominance of the interest of any individual, or of any class; because, if such interest predominates, the very principle on which government is founded implies, that it will be promoted at the expense of the community.

In the former part of this article, we have seen, that, in the composition of the English legislature, the predominance of the aristocracy is so complete, that whatever they wish to do, they always have it in their power to do—whatever they wish to prevent, they always have it in their power to prevent; that, by the bearing and impulsion of an aristocratical legislature for ages, in one direction, the working of the machinery has been rendered as favourable as possible to the predominant interest; and that, now, they who are in this interest have little else to do than to prevent alterations.

It follows, with the force of demonstration, from these unquestionable premises, that no change can, directly, be any improvement whatsoever in the British legislature, which does not substitute the predominance of the general interest to the existing predominance of a particular interest; and that no change can, even indirectly, be of any advantage, but such a change as leads to that substitution.


It is evident at the first glance, that the plan of Lord John Russell would detract nothing from the power of the aristocracy, who would nominate just as many members, after such a change, as before it. The chance is, that they would nominate more. The sixty members given to the counties would be theirs, without the smallest trouble, because the counties are theirs already. And can any body doubt, that of the remaining forty they would have their usual share? We deem it unnecessary to enter into farther development of the case, because we cannot conceive a man who will dispute our conclusion.

With respect to Mr. Lambton’s proposition, we think it may not less certainly be determined, that it would not diminish, but increase the power of nomination, in the hands of the aristocracy. The only part of his plan which requires consideration is the first—the constitution of election districts, in lieu of the boroughs; for, that the annexation of leaseholders and copyholders to voters in the counties, would lessen the influence of the aristocracy in the counties, it would be ridiculous to imagine.

Now, the immediate effect of making election districts, in lieu of the boroughs and towns, would be, to add in each instance, a portion of the agricultural population to the town population. The agricultural population, the landed interest would command wholly; this would, therefore, be just so much added to that command over the town population which the aristocracy already possess. It may be said, that Mr. Lambton’s plan gives a great extension of suffrage in the districts. But, besides that the suffrage in many of the towns and boroughs is already not much less extensive, it may be affirmed generally, that giving the suffrage to a more indigent class of people, without the safe-guard of the ballot, is only to place the election more completely in the hands of the powerful classes. And, with respect to the diminution of the time of parliaments, so long as a majority of members are nominated by a particular interest, what signifies diminution of time? If the same interest always predominates, will it not work as steadily in its own favor when the farce of election is performed every year, as when it is performed only once in seven years?

But, though a reform which would substitute the prevalence of the general interest to that of a particular interest in the legislature is the only reform which can directly be of the smallest advantage—it can hardly be affirmed of any change, which would not produce confusion, that it would not indirectly be of advantage; by leading the people to reflect more keenly upon the ends which are to be attained, and the means adapted to their attainment; by lessening the fanatical attachment to wrong combinations of means, venerable solely because they have long existed; by accustoming even the aristocracy themselves to perceive, that by such a change in the composition of the legislature as would give in it that ascendancy to the public interest, without which good government would be the most absurd of all expectations, they would lose nothing but that which they ought not to desire to retain; and would receive all the advantages of good government—advantages of unspeakable importance—in return.

All that remains to be remarked respecting these propositions is, the mode in which they were entertained by the House. As the ascendant interest would not have been injured by the direct operation of the changes, even if effected, the hostility of those who share in that interest is to be accounted for wholly by the indirect operation, of which they must have formed a very high estimate, unless we suppose them so ignorant as not to understand the nature of the propositions, and to have had fears on account of the direct operation itself.

Mr. Lambton began the speech by which he introduced his motion, with the following account of the feelings of the House [*] .

“If at all times, and upon all subjects, I must be most unwilling to trespass on the attention of the House, on no occasion can I be more reluctant than on the present; and I can assure you that nothing but a deep sense of public duty, and an anxious desire to put an end to that spirit of discontent now so generally prevailing, would have induced me to take up a question, the great and important interests of which I feel that I am not competent adequately to protect. In the first place, [783] I know that I have to contend against that disinclination which has invariably been shewn by this House towards its discussion; a disinclination founded possibly on that dislike, which is inherent in all men and bodies of men, to hear accusations against themselves, and statements of faults and corruption openly laid to ther charge. If I wanted any evidence in support of this assertion—this well-known truth—I should undoubtedly find it in the state of the benches opposite to me. Perhaps, indeed, I should be justified in taking advantage of it, and at once submitting my motion to the vote. The result of that division clearly would be its adoption, for it requires no great discernment to perceive that at this moment the majority is greatly on the side of the friends of reform. But, Sir, I will not be tempted into this irregularity. If this scantiness of attendance is meant as an insult to myself, I treat it with contempt;—if it is pointed at the question, I then repel it with feelings of deep indignation; and can only hope that it will not be lost on the people of England.” And towards the end of his speech, describing the treatment, which the applications of the people, for such a change in the composition of the legislature, as would afford protection to their interests, were accustomed to receive from the majority of the House, he says—“They obstinately exclude the petitions of the present day. They heap on them every term of reproach which the ingenuity of wit, or the bitterness of sarcasm, as administered by the right honourable member for Liverpool (Mr. Canning), can supply. And then they express astonishment and alarm at the feelings which they hear repeated and re-echoed on all sides. To repress these, innumerable acts of restraints and coercion have been proposed by them; and, of course, adopted by parliament.

The speakers after Mr. Lambton were, Mr. Samuel Whitbread, Mr. Wilmot, Mr. John Cam Hobhouse, Mr. Horace Twiss, Sir Robert Wilson, Mr. Abercrombie, Mr. Fysche Palmer, Mr. Stuart Wortley, Lord Bury, Mr. Martin, (of Galway,) Lord Milton, Mr. W. Williams, Mr. Honywood, on the first night, (for the discussion was adjourned); and on the second, Mr. Wyvill, Mr. Sykes, Capt. Maberly, Mr. Ramsden, Mr. Harbord, Mr. Ricardo, Mr. D. Brown, Sir G. Robinson, Mr. T. Wilson, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There names are given for the sake of the evidence with which the list of them is fraught: though it is evidence only to a point of sufficient notoriety—the feelings of the House towards parliamentary reform. The question was decided by less than one hundred members: Ayes 43; Noes 55.

Of the allegations opposed to the motion by the Chancellor of the Exchequer [*] , the only one which bore upon the general question, in such a manner as to deserve remark, was this:—That public opinion governs the House. This seems to have become a pretty general resource with the enemies of reform. They know not the corollaries which are logically deducible from it. But they cannot be ignorant, it is not conceivable they should be ignorant, that what is thus asserted by them is not according to the fact. That public opinion is not without some influence upon the House of Commons, is true. It is not less true, that public opinion has an influence, and a great influence, upon the most despotical and barbarous governments on the face of the earth. Would it not be shameful to infer from this, that such governments are good governments? Where the powers of Government are wielded, as in England, by a particular interest, it must of course observe public opinion; it must study the arts of misleading and eluding, and, for the purpose of eluding, must occasionally obey, it; though generally, and on all important occasions, it may and does with security brave it. That the House of Commons is so governed by public opinion, as to prevent the interest of the public from being habitually sacrificed to the interest of the class which predominates in it, we should imagine is a proposition which no man in his senses would stand forth and affirm. Because, if public opinion be all-powerful to secure good government, what need have we of a House of Commons at all? Would not a House of Lords answer our purpose as well? Nay, since it is matter of notorious certainty, that the king’s ministers are far more dependent upon public opinion, than either House of Lords or House of Commons, [784] does it not follow from this doctrine, that the nation would be better governed if both House of Lords and House of Commons were put out of existence? Still farther, is it not clear, that, from the superior force with which public opinion does act upon the ministry, a revolution has taken place in the working of the Constitution? Formerly, the House of Commons was regarded as the check upon the king’s ministers. Now, it is evident to all the world that the king’s ministers are the check upon the House of Commons. And when the House has the appearance of being checked by public opinion, it is not in reality the House that is checked, but the ministers that are checked, and carry the House, by means which are no secret, along with them.—But the operation, present and future, of public opinion in the government of England, and the utter impossibility of its sufficing for good government against the established predominance of a sinister interest in the legislature, are important topics, the development of which cannot be undertaken in so limited a plan as that which at present we propose to execute.

On the first occasion on which Lord John Russell brought forward his scheme of reform (the 9th of May, 1821 [*] ,) the speaking was left to himself; for, after a few words from Mr. Whitmore, who seconded his motion, the Parliamentary History says, “there was a loud cry of, “Strangers withdraw!” and after a very few words from Mr. Bathurst, and Mr. Barham, the House divided on the previous question: Ayes, 124; Noes, 155. The second occasion on which he introduced it was the 25th of April, 1822 [] , when the speakers, after himself, were, Mr. Horace Twiss, Lord Folkestone, Mr. Duncombe, Mr. Wynn, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Canning, Mr. Denman, Mr. Peel; and the division was 164 to 269. The third time was the 24th of April, 1823 [] , when, beside the mover, the speakers were, Lord Normanby, Sir Edward Hyde East, Mr. Ricardo, Mr. Martin, (of Galway,) Sir John Newport, Sir T. Lethbridge, Sir F. Blake; and the House divided, Ayes, 169; Noes, 280. The fourth and last time was on the 27th of April, 1826 [] , that is, a few weeks before the general election. The speakers on that occasion were, the Mover, Lord Althorp, Mr. J. E. Denison, Mr. Ross, Lord Glenorchy, Mr. Hobhouse, Lord Leveson Gower, Mr. W. Lamb; and the motion was negatived by a majority of 247 to 123.

One fact there is which cannot fail to excite the curiosity of many persons, the wonder of some, and the reflections of not a few. On all these discussions, on the vital question of parliamentary reform, the great Whig organs in the House were silent. Mr. Lambton, and Lord John Russell, men of great weight in their party, were left to fight, each his own battle, alone, or with some feeble support which chance alone seems to have presented them. This is extraordinary, surely. We must be curious about its meaning. Mr. Brougham was not present at the discussion of Mr. Lambton’s plan; Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Tierney were. And these three leaders were all present at three at least of the discussions on Lord John Russell’s proposition. Their motives can only be conjectured. Did they not like to stake their reputations on inefficient reforms, which went to make change, without improvement? And did they not like to declare themselves for any such reform as would have been an improvement? The existence of such motives can easily be conjectured. But it is not easy to conceive, that such men should not have made the calculation how much it must affect the reputation of themselves individually, and of the party they lead, if a parliament of seven years should begin and end, without their having once unlocked their lips on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. Mr. Canning, with his accustomed alacrity of attack, presented them something to do. How does it happen that none of them has ever chosen to grapple with Mr. Canning on the ground of Parliamentary Reform?

Sir Francis Burdett was present, not at the discussion on Mr. Lambton’s motion, but at three at least of the discussions on three several motions of Lord John Russell. Why had he not a word to say for his own “good old cause?” Mr. Hobhouse made a speech on Mr. Lambton’s motion: from that time the example or precept, or both, of his leader, seems to have been fatal to him, and they were mute together, till the last debate,—that immediately preceding the general election, [785] when it must be allowed that the speech made by Mr. Hobhouse was a good one, by far the best that was delivered on the occasion. Are we to suppose, that the creed of Sir F. Burdett has been retrograde on the subject of parliamentary reform? Would he like to tread back some of the steps which he has taken? to disclaim some of the measures which he has recommended? If so, his abstinence from speech would not be unnatural, though it would not be very manly. Not unnatural; because recanting is not a very pleasant operation at best; and, besides, recanting, what has he to recommend him to the people of Westminster? Not manly, because, if he has changed his opinion, nothing is manly but declaring that he has done so. To shut one’s mouth, and say nothing, is only a milder sort of hypocrisy, than continuing to profess the same opinions, while one feels and acts as their opponent. If Sir Francis Burdett has sat for seven years in parliament without so much as uttering a sentence in favour of parliamentary reform, though all his opinions remain unaltered on that subject, we profess that his conduct is to us inexplicable. To be in earnest about opinions of vast importance, and to make exertions for giving them effect, appears to us to be not two things, but one and the same thing.

So much importance is attached to the exquisite fencing of Mr. Canning in defence of the predominance of the predominating interest in the House of Commons, and so much sport is afforded by the stabs and slashes which he deals to those who draw their weapon against his protégé, that we cannot refrain from noticing the present performance [*] ; though it would require much more space than we can afford, to shew at large the disproportion of the means to the end. “If Troy could have been defended, it would have been defended by this right hand;” but the best of hands cannot perform impossibilities.

At an early age, Mr. Canning proclaimed himself the champion of the power of the aristocracy; and sedulously and successfully did he cultivate the talents which were best adapted to the task he had undertaken. As a man of ambition, he chose his walk with skill. By what other career could he have attained the power and consequence to which he has ascended? This is one of the evils attached to the predominance of a particular interest in the legislature. The rewards it has to bestow, pervert, and draw off, from the service of the whole to the service of a part, some of the finest spirits which the country breeds. To how many, alas! the rebuke of Goldsmith to Edmund Burke, his friend, must continue applicable, so long as this state of the legislature endures?

——“Good Edmund, whose genius was such,
We scarcely can praise it or blame it too much;
Who, born for the universe, narrowed his mind,
And to Party gave up what was meant for mankind.
Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat,
To persuade Tommy Townsend to give him a vote.”

The evil is in the system; the men are the victims; and towards them, personally, our censure ought to be gentle, our regret sincere.

One thing remarkable on this occasion is, that Mr. Canning renounced entirely the tone of mockery and insult, which he had been accustomed to use towards the people, as often as a man was found who dared to stand up in the House, and meet the discharge of hostile feeling, which was sure to accompany the proposal of any such change as implied protection to the interests of the people. It is possible he had begun to see that, however entertaining this might be to an assembly of aristocrats, the time was come when it did very little good to their cause. It is also probable that he had become ashamed of so mean an exercise of his talent. When the people of Athens were applauding somebody for a panegyric of themselves, just delivered, Socrates asked the triumphant orator, “where the difficulty was, applauding the Athenian people, to be applauded by them? Get applause from the Spartans, (said he,) by eulogizing the Athenians, and I too shall acknowledge the power of your rhetoric.” When an assembly of aristocrats, possessing all the powers of government, are intruded upon by somebody, demanding on behalf of the powerless part of the community, a participation in those powers; where, indeed, is the difficulty of making such an assembly merry at the expense of so disagreeable an applicant? No jest, however poor, which will not on such an occasion be [786] successful; no expression of contempt, however vulgar, provided only it is strong enough, which will not be felt as a stroke of genius. Our great dramatist told us truly, “that the prosperity of a jest lies in the favour of him that hears it.” If Martin Luther, the monk, had appeared before an assembly of Leo and his cardinals, demanding the reform of the church in its head, and its members, what sport it would have yielded them to see him mocked, and evil entreated, and turned out, by the attendants. The lowest buffoon, in his holiness’s kitchen, would have exercised wit upon him, oral, manual, or pedal, with triumphant success.

All this while would there have been any thing really ridiculous and contemptible in the great Reformer? No: there would have been nothing really ridiculous and contemptible, but in the pope, his cardinals, and the buffoon.

The speech of Mr. Canning, on this occasion, consisted of two parts. In the first, he made his objections to the plans of Lord John Russell and Mr. Lambton. In the second, he made his usual display against reform itself. In the first part, it was an easy task, to shew, as he did, the futility of the plans which had been just recommended; and that, being alterations the effect of which would be nothing, they deserved rejection, on the part both of the friends, and the enemies of reform. In the second part—the attack upon reform in the abstract—there is mighty little matter, but that little exceedingly well managed.

In beginning the first part of his speech, he availed himself dexterously of an admission of his opponent, who, stating that public opinion had acquired a great influence on the House, proceeded to say, that a greater obedience to the popular voice would not be beneficial; and called to witness the revolution, at which time, if parliament had not disregarded the public voice, the Stuarts, he alleged, would not have been excluded from the throne. The suggestion was not thrown away upon Mr. Canning, The game of the aristocracy was placed on both sides. Two things were assumed: the first, that a House of Commons, which will resist public opinion as often as public opinion is wrong, is absolutely necessary; the second, that a House of Commons, so constituted as to prevent the aristocratical interest from predominating in it over the general interest, would be obedient to public opinion, even when wrong.

That a House of Commons ought to be so constituted as not to follow public opinion, when wrong, no one will deny; but they who urge the obedience of the House of Commons to public opinion, as a reason against reform, are in a dilemma. A House of Commons which can resist public opinion, when wrong, can resist it also, when right. The Present House of Commons, they say, is admirably constituted for resisting. In that House, the interest of a particular class, predominates wholly over that of the community. It follows, from the present admission, that it has the power of resisting the public voice in favour of that interest. If so, the very principle on which government is founded, assures us that it habitually will. Bitter experience shews us, that it habitually does.

The second assumption is wholly unfounded. It is clear to reason, that a House of Commons, so constituted, as to give in it the predominance to the general interest over all particular interests, would not follow public opinion, when wrong; that it would be much less likely to follow public opinion, when wrong, than the present House; and that it would have such motives and such means to guide public opinion right, that no impulse of public opinion, wrong to say considerable degree, would, under such a House of Commons, be an event to be imagined, much less to be feared. The interest of such a House of Commons, would be the general interest. If the public voice ran counter to the general interest, would not such a House of Commons have all the motives to oppose it, which ever can be in a house—its opposition to the interest of those who compose it? The difference between the two cases turns upon a single point; but that is all in all. In the supposed house, the general interest would predominate; in the present house, it is wholly subordinate. The one house would have motives to use its power of resistance to the public voice, in favour of the general interest solely. The other has motives to use it in favour of the particular, to the detriment of the public interest.

When Mr. Canning comes to debates [787] the question of parliamentary reform in general, he is provided with what Lord Normanby [*] , in seconding Lord John Russell’s motion the following year, denominated very aptly “the stock declamation of the cause; the excellence of the government as it is; and the danger of change:” and, rich in this treasure, he goes in quest of nothing farther.

Of all the arts of the orator none is of more importance to him, than the art of insinuation. Of all the orators of the present day, perhaps of modern times, Mr. Canning is the man who has carried the art of insinuation to the greatest perfection. No man approaches to him in the command over forms of expression, which deliver in the oblique, whatever it would be less convenient to deliver in the direct way.

Of the things which it is much more convenient to deliver by insinuation than directly, are—propositions insipid from their triteness—and propositions which will not bear examination, though accustomed to be received without it. If Mr. Canning were to affirm twenty times in one speech—The constitution is excellent; Alteration is dangerous,—without so much as attempting to offer any proof of his standing assumptions—not only would be produce no effect—except of weariness and disgust—but he would inevitably provoke the question, what evidence have we on which to rest our belief that these propositions are true? On the other hand, when, carefully avoiding any broad affirmation of his two indispensable postulates, Mr. Canning dexterously contrives to insinuate them twenty times in twenty different ways, and makes up a speech of these insinuations, and of nothing else; he produces a great effect, is supposed to have made, as he really has made, a very ingenious and brilliant display; and, what is of most importance, suggests no question as to the evidence of assumptions of which so extraordinary a use has been made.

It is necessary that we should shew the mode of putting the two propositions, which are the bulwarks of anti-reform, a little to the test,

The government is excellent. If by excellent, here, is only meant existent, nobody will deny the affirmation. The English government is what it is, most assuredly. If by the same phrase is meant, that the English government is better than a worse government—this may be affirmed of every government in the abstract, and in the concrete of all except one. If it is meant that the English government is better now than it was at some former time, this also may be true; and still it may be very bad. If it is meant that it is better than any other government whatsoever, this is rather a bold thing to assume; but grant it, and still it may be true that the English government is thoroughly worthless.

In giving a meaning to this thoroughly unmeaning word, the only thing to the purpose would be—to shew that the English government is a combination of means well adapted to the end of government—namely, the equal and perfect protection of all the members of the community at the smallest possible expense. A priori, and looking at the end and the means, in their own nature, Mr. Canning seems to allow, that really nobody could take upon him to say, that the one is well adapted to the other. Nevertheless, he says, it so turns out, in fact—God knows how—that these means, ugly as they do look, still accomplish the end surprisingly well. The way in which he proceeds to make people believe him is admirable.

We felt the strongest desire to produce a collection of Mr. Canning’s modes of expression on this occasion, and to shew their exquisite contrivance for making what is poor and trivial appear ingenious and strong. But we perceive to our regret, that the space which we are allowed to occupy, will by no means permit the attempt.

He affirms that under the English government, the English people have not only continued a people, but have been a happy and prosperous people. Ergo, he cries, the English government is an excellent government.

That the English people have continued a people is true. It is a dreadful government that suffices to destroy a people, This is too much for the government of Algiers itself. But the English people have been happy and prosperous. Have they so? And where is the people who have not been happy and prosperous? Is there no happiness and prosperity at Algiers? If we are told, as we shall be, that there is not so much at Algiers as in England, we desire to know what standard [788] is given us by which to judge. As it is not every degree of what may be called happiness and prosperity in a country which proves its government to be good, what degree are we to take, as the proof? Till you have settled that point, you talk in vain by repeating the word “prosperity.” The prosperity you speak of may or may not be a proof of good government.

If they tell us, which they do, though not directly, yet by fifty modes of insinuation, that the prosperity of England is exactly the degree of prosperity which proves a government to be good; what is this but asking us to believe the government of England to be good upon their simple word? All we have to say to this is, that we will not take their word. The Grand Turk gives his people his word, and all his instruments give them their’s, that they are the only happy people on earth, and his the only excellent government.

This hack pretension, which has served the purposes of mis-government for so many ages, deserves to be looked at in another point of view. The English people are the most laborious, the most enterprising, the most ingenious; in one word, the most productive people, in the world. The people of England have laboured,—the people of England have invented,—the people of England have produced,—the people of England have been saving, and have gradually accumulated the wealth, which, in this argument, is called the prosperity of England. Because the government of England has not been so execrably bad, as to take from the vast produce created annually by the people of England, so much as absolutely to prevent accumulation, though it has taken more than ever was taken by government, elsewhere, on the face of the earth, we are called upon to swallow this monstrous proposition—that what the people of England have done for themselves, their government has done for them. That produce, which is the work of the people’s own hands; that produce which, but for what the government has so excessively diminished, would have been many times greater, the people are commanded, and in terms not very mild, to believe, has all been created for them by the government—for what reason, trow ye? For this sole reason, that it has not all been annihilated by it.

Because the energy of the people, to better themselves, has not been absolutely baffled, and borne down, rendered of none effect, by the badness of the government; they are told that the working of the government, how little soever any one, from its composition, would conjecture it, is nevertheless admirable; and they (the people) ought to go on supposing, as hitherto they have done, that whatever the government does not take away from them, it is the government which gives.

We come now to the second bulwark of anti-reform, the affirmation always given with greatest effect by insinuation—that there is vast danger in change.

This pretence is now so generally seen through, that we shall not think it necessary to waste words on it.

What the people of England want, is, such a mode of placing members in the House of Commons, as will prevent the predominance in it of any particular interest, and render predominant the common—the general interest. Why should this produce any evil? Why should it produce any thing but good?

When the aristocracy of England proclaim, that making such a change will produce terrific evils, they are either not sincere, or their words have this, and can have but this meaning,—that they, the aristocracy, will make a civil war, rather than give up those powers of misrule, which they are now in possession of. And if they do make a civil war, there is no doubt that they will create evil in abundance; but it will be evil, of which they themselves will be the authors, and the sole authors. The people, however, need not count the cost of a civil war, as the price to be paid for obtaining the predominance of the common interest, instead of the predominance of a particular interest, in the legislature of their country. The aristocracy of England will have wisdom sufficient to avoid that extremity. The voice of the nation, growing louder and stronger, “will,” as Earl Grey on one occasion very happily expressed it, “in time work upon the prudence of the House;” and the requisite change will take place, with advantage to all, and evil to none; such only excepted as the very good which is aimed at implies—the loss of the profits of misrule, to those who had previously, and worthlessly, enjoyed them.

In these debates on Parliamentary reform, [789] the speech of Mr. Canning, and the silence of the whig and radical leaders, were not the only memorable events. The accession to the cause of reform was then manifested, of three remarkable men—Lord Milton, Lord Folkestone, and Lord Normanby; of which noble lords the two former had the manhood to avow an entire change of opinion on the subject; and of the two, Lord Milton, at least, on more than one occasion, has shewn that he not only recognized a defect in the composition of the legislature, but knew the very nature and kind of the defect. Of all these events, the most intrinsically important was, the speech of Mr. Ricardo [*] , on the third of the discussions on Lord John Russell’s plan of reform. That speech went simply, and modestly, but manfully, to the point. Mr. Ricardo declared, that other things might admit of various modifications, but, to render that House an instrument of good government, two things were of indispensable necessity;—annual elections—and such a mode of voting as would make the vote of each elector his own;—the reverse of such a mode as renders the elector a mere conduit-pipe for the vote of another man, who, through hope of good, or dread of evil, commands him.

We must add something on the disfranchisement of Grampound; but many words, after what has preceded, will not be required.

A display of virtue, which costs nothing; an occasion for catching at the reputation of purity, without the loss of an atom of the delights of impurity, is a god-send to an old profligate.

With the exception of a number, comparatively very small, of towns in which the choice of the people does predominate, members are sent to the House of Commons, either by the influence of great men, who, singly, or in combinations, have established a permanent influence over the electors; or, by men of wealth, who, in those places, where no great men have established a permanent influence, find the means of establishing a temporary influence, and obtain their own return, on this or that particular occasion.—Permanent influence; or temporary influence—such are the sets of means in these two sets of cases.

Now this thing, called, in these several cases, influence, what is it? By the answer to this question, the obscurity which involves the subject, will be pretty completely dispelled. The answer too is obvious and certain. Money, or money’s worth, is the motive principle in every instance. Ingenuity will torture itself in vain to give it the look of any thing else. What is the permanent influence of the great man over the occupier of his land in the country, or the occupier of his house in the town? The prospect of retaining a good thing, or the fear of losing it. And this good thing, in what way is it good, but the pecuniary way? What is the temporary influence of the man who gets a majority of the electors at a particular place to vote for him at a particular election? The benefit they expect to derive from him. That benefit takes various shapes; it is sometimes government patronage, sometimes East India patronage, sometimes the pocket of the candidate. In all cases it is money, either directly, or indirectly.

The motive of the man who receives money indirectly, and the motive of the man who receives it directly, is precisely the same. The motive of the man who gives money indirectly, and that of the man who gives it directly, is also precisely the same. The man who gets into parliament by the money given directly, and the man who gets into it by the money given indirectly, are in the same situation precisely, with respect to the motives for doing or betraying their duty to their country. The two cases, therefore, differ in nothing but the name. In no other department of human intercourse are they permitted to differ even in name. The judge who should take money indirectly, would be universally regarded as bribed just as effectually, and to the full as infamously, as if he took the money in his hand.

Why are they made to differ in name, and made to be thought different in nature, when a member of parliament is to be elected? Because it is the interest of the aristocracy that they should be so; and because the aristocracy have the power, to a great extent, of making what shall be the morality of the country; making it to serve their own turns.

The places in which the permanent influence is established, are all secured for [790] the aristocratical interest; the places still open to a temporary influence, are the places not securely within the grasp of the aristocracy; and though, of the wealthy men who procure their election by the temporary influence, the greater number are sure to range themselves under the aristocratical banners, there are some who do otherwise, and a greater number who always may. It is thus evidently the interest of the aristocracy that, in the field of influence, the temporary part should be narrowed, and the permanent enlarged. This is the effect, and the only effect, of such a proceeding as the disfranchisement of Grampound. When Grampound was to be had for money, a competition among rich men decided the election, and the man returned might act with the aristocracy or against them. When the choice was given to Yorkshire, in which the aristocratical and permanent influence is established; or, even when the choice is extended to the surrounding hundreds, in which an agricultural population, dependent on the class of landholders, predominates—the sphere of the permanent aristocratical influence is enlarged.

Making influence, by money given directly, is rarely convenient to the aristocracy. It is the instrument of their competitors. It is that whereby interlopers encroach upon their monopoly. It is their interest, therefore, to decry it; and the power they have hitherto exercised over public opinion is signally manifested by their success.

They began, very wisely, with the potent machinery of names. They bestowed a bad name on the mode in which the pecuniary motive is applied by their opponents—the direct mode; a good name on the mode in which it is applied by themselves—the indirect mode. The first they called “Bribery.” The second they called “Legitimate influence of Property.” The effect of these names has been surprising, under the advantages with which the aristocracy have worked them. The one they loaded with every term of abuse: on the other they bestowed every epithet of praise. “Bribery” was abominable, execrable. The “legimate influence of property” was every thing which was good. “The legititimate influence of property” was pure. “Bribery” was impure. These two words, pure and impure, were of singular value. “Bribing” was not merely impure, it was impurity itself. It was that which made an election impure, and an impure election was a dreadful thing. Impurity of election was the source of all political evil. On purity of election, alias, “legitimate influence of property,” the liberties of England—those blessed, thrice blessed things—absolutely and entirely depended.

Incredible was the language of ignorance, or of imposture, held upon the said purity and impurity, in the discussions regarding this glorious specimen of legislative virtue—the disfranchisement of Grampound. In the meantime it is demonstratively, almost intuitively certain, that, if the public interest be the object in view, influence in the direct mode is the least objectionable of the two. If at each election the whole of the 600 and odd seats in the house were set up to sale, and knocked down to the highest bidder, the advantage in favour of good government would not be inconsiderable. We should then have what, if we use the language of the aristocracy, we should call a very impure election; but we should have a much purer legislature.

After the great points of national interest involved in the subjects we have been thus considering, we know nothing, brought before the last parliament, of greater importance, and nothing, the mode of dealing with which affords more perfect evidence of its nature and disposition, then the scheme proposed by Mr. Brougham, in one of its early sessions, for the education of the people. We can afford to bestow upon it only a few words; but these will suffice to renew the memory of the transaction. Mr. Brougham; whose merits on the subject of education his country can never estimate too highly, and who thereby has redeemed many of the sins he commits by his connexion with a party, in whose trammels, had he known the true interest of his own glory, he never would have consented to draw; was obliged, in order to afford himself a chance of carrying his measure in parliament, to grant so large a power to the established clergy in the management of the parochial schools, as alarmed the dissenters, and, from dread of unpopularity with the dissenters, detached the leading men of his own party from his support. We shall always regret, that he was thus compelled [791] to let a measure drop, which, though it came short of the perfection which, had he been at liberty, he doubtless would have bestowed upon it, would still have been a powerful instrument of improvement among the people. A legislature, in which the general interest predominated, would not, when a scheme, thus important to the public weal, failed, from peculiar circumstances, in the hands of an individual, have allowed it to sink and be lost. The only feeling natural to an aristocratical legislature on the occasion, was a feeling of pleasure at getting rid of so disagreeable a business.

Of the other subjects which came before the last parliament, as the most important, the Corn Laws, Ireland, Negro Slavery, Colonial Trade, and others, have been included in the business of the last two sessions, and been treated of in separate dissertations in our volumes of the past and present year, little remains on any of them, to be either explained or enforced in this general sketch.

In relation to commerce, the thing of principal importance to remark is, the extraordinary change from the policy of restriction to the policy of freedom; from the policy of discouraging, in many cases prohibiting, the supply of certain commodities from our neighbours, to the policy of receiving our supply from the places from which it is obtained at the cheapest rate; from the policy of trying to keep from our neighbours the use of our inventions, to the policy of allowing individuals to consult their own interests under the direction of their own judgment. In this, we have an exemplification of the fact to which we adverted in an early part of this dissertation, and of which the effects would require a more ample development than we can here afford, that the ministers are far more sensible to the action of public opinion than the parliament. The instructed and disinterested part of the public, had, for a considerable time, spoken a strong language on the subject of freedom of trade. This reached, at last, and bore along with it, the minds of ministers. They introduced into parliament, cautiously and timidity, a few measures in the spirit of this policy; but there they found it still required all their influence to overcome the ancient bias in a set of minds, on which the opinion of the rational part of the public had produced no impression whatsoever. What the ministers have yet accomplished, is small, in comparison of what remains to be done; and all their proceedings—witness the timber trade—have not been in the right direction: but they have proclaimed the principle of freedom, as the principle of true policy; and this itself, is a great step in advance.

One question, relating to Ireland, belongs peculiarly to this general sketch. What was the state of Ireland at the beginning of the last parliament, and what was it at the end? The state of it a the end, was not better, certainly, than it was at the beginning. And the state of it, during the whole time, as well as for a long preceding time, was so bad, that no pen can convey an adequate idea of it.

What is the meaning of this? The evils of Ireland are not absolutely incapable of a remedy. The peculiar evils of Ireland are such, as might unquestionably be removed.

We have the patient on the one hand—miserable Ireland: we have the doctor on the other—the British parliament. The doctor goes on administering his remedies: the state of the patient is never improved. What opinion are we to form of the doctor?

Ireland is a mine of instruction for the people of England. The British constitution, that “tried establishment,” as Mr. Canning calls it, of which “the working,” as he tells us, is so entirely to his satisfaction, Ireland enjoys in its perfection; king, lords, commons—all balanced to a hair.

There is considerable difference, if not in the mode, at least in some of the results, of the working in Ireland. What makes the difference? Till Mr. Canning afford the solution of this question, Ireland is the answer to that argument, which he draws with so much triumph, from the working of the British constitution. Why is Ireland not to be taken as the true example of the working? England as the example of a country, in which the vices of its government have been held in check, and their effects in some degree compensated by the virtues and the spirit of the people? One thing is certain, that the constitution works not less well for the aristocracy in Ireland, than it does in England.

The state of Ireland is such as would disgrace the legislation of barbarians. [792] The conclusion is inevitable; that the British legislature, paltering with this great subject; no less than the misery of millions, and the heaviest of the burthens of England; from year to year, from parliament to parliament, and from one age to another, without producing any salutary change; have either not the will, or not the capacity, to legislate usefully for Ireland.

Ireland affords the example of an aristocratical government, working almost perfectly free from check; an example, therefore, of its genuine tendency,—of the effects which it is the very nature of it to produce.

It is a rare combination of circumstances which exhibits any government acting without a check. The patience of the people can be counted upon only to a certain extent; and the chances, in an insurrection, against a bad government, are too serious not to be carefully shunned. Our experience of the barbarous governments of the East has yielded us light upon this subject. Though the people of India are passive to an extraordinary degree, it has always been found that the native governments, when the British government in India has undertaken to supply them with the use of British troops, have become ten times more oppressive than they were before; because, before, they were under check from the dread of insurrection; dependent upon the irresistible force of the British arms, they have nothing to apprehend, and set no bounds to their pillage and extortion. The case of Ireland resembles that of India in this as in several other respects. Had the aristocracy of Ireland been solely dependent on their own power, they could have proceeded in oppression only as far as the people would bear. Having the British army to depend upon, they could go on till they met with a check from the hand which upheld them.

The misfortune of Ireland is, that England has an aristocratical government, which, instead of checking, has sympathized with, the aristocracy of Ireland. The first principle, of course, of such a government was, that all insurrections of the people were to be put down at any rate. Whoever might be in the wrong, the people, seeking to right themselves, were always to be in the wrong. This was enough for the aristocracy, unless the government of the country was placed on such a footing as to ensure order and justice, and to take the power of taxing, directly or indirectly, out of their hands. There is no one who will dare to say that this has been done in Ireland. The consequences are inevitable: the strong man has had the power of oppressing the weak; the strong men in conjunction have had the means of organizing a system of oppression, which has made Ireland, what it is; a spectacle of wretchedness, of immorality, of lawlessness, the like to which exists no where on the civilized earth. The aristocratical workings in Ireland, traced through their channels, small as well as great, exhibit our nature in one of the states physically the most deplorable, morally the most detestable, in which it is possible for it to appear.

On the one hand, power at work, sometimes with force, sometimes with fraud, to possess itself to the utmost of the produce of the people’s labour, and to command their wills and services—on the other hand, weakness at work to protect itself from the ravages of power, or take vengeance on it for the evils it has made to be endured; at work, most frequently by fraud, by all the arts of disguise and mendacity, occasionally by terrible eruptions of force, put down by terrible exertions of force; with malignity and hatred continually engendered in the breasts of the oppressors against the oppressed, and in the breasts of the oppressed against the oppressors—produce a tissue of evils, the conception of which is surpassed by nothing but the conception of hell, and of the torments and passions of the damned. This is the point to which all bad governments tend; this is the end at which they certainly arrive, if they are not stopped in their course by some exterior cause.

It is a shallow view of the Catholic question, to take it in whole, or in the greatest part, as a religious question. It is an aristocratical question. The aristocracy, wholly Protestant, have been in the habit of considering the power of converting the mass of the people into a sort of outcasts, on the pretext of their religion, as an instrument of their ascendancy; and they contend accordingly with feet and hands for the preservation of it. They labour under a great mistake; for, however the pretext may have been useful at first in the consolidation of their power, they now would enjoy the [793] means of oppressing the population, emancipated, as they call it, in full as great perfection as non-emancipated. Would emancipation alter the state of rent?—would it alter the state of tithe?—two means, which, by the admirable working of the machinery in Ireland, enable its aristocracy to tax the people for their own benefit, without any limitation but what is physical; to take from them every thing but the potatoe, which is necessary to keep the wretches alive; often to leave them not so much of the potatoe as is necessary to keep them alive.

Why do we call the drawing of rent and tithe in Ireland the power of taxing? Because such is the state of the circumstances in Ireland that taxation is thus actually performed. We know rigidly what rent is. The poorest land in cultivation pays no rent; the land which is more fertile than this, yields a greater produce; and the difference between the greater produce and the least is the rent. In whatever country the landlords and tithelords have the power of taking more from the cultivators than this excess, they have the power of taxing. They do, in Ireland, take more. How is this proved? By this,—that the profits of cultivating the land, when more than this excess is not taken, suffice to maintain the cultivators in comfort, and enable them to accumulate stock. As this is not the case in Ireland, it is clear that the landlords and tithelords take from the cultivators in Ireland more than the rent; in other words, that they tax them; and we see to what a pitch of oppression their taxation is pushed. That there are remarkable exceptions to the general rule, is creditable to the individuals who make them—nothing at all to the system.

How the working of the machinery brings about this important result, it is not very difficult to understand. An ignorant, an over-crowded, and lawless population, (need we stop to explain how the Irish are ignorant, over-crowded, and lawless?) are always eager to possess a bit of land; for, miserable as the prospect which it yields, it is rather less precarious than any other property or source of subsistence. Such a people have no regard to their word, and never intend to fulfil more of any engagement than what is useful to themselves, if they can possibly avoid it. They care little, therefore, what they promise; and they are always willing (such is the matter of fact) to promise more for the favourite bit of land than it can possibly pay. It is easy to see what power this bestows upon the landlord; it enables him not only to take the rent, but as much more as he pleases.

The state of the case between the tithelord and the landlord is this:—The tithelord comes first, and takes his share; and the landlord gets only as much as he leaves. It is said, that the tithelord seldom gets his full share. True; the matter is settled by a scramble between the tithelords and the landlords: a compromise is the result; and the tithelords, as being the weaker party, are obliged to allow something of a lion’s share to their more powerful brethren in the chace. It is of no consequence to the cultivator. Taking every thing but the most miserable pittance, they can get no more from him: all being taken, a question of division only remains between themselves. If the tithelords were annihilated to-morrow, the landlords would get, in whole, that which they now get only in greater part. The condition of the cultivator would experience no improvement.

We look upon the propositions which have been made in Parliament for violating the contract between the nation and its creditors, and the countenance which such propositions have there received, in a very serious light.

At all times it was easy to foresee, that if ever an iniquitous legislature should harbour the design of cancelling the national debt, and committing a state bankruptcy, it would not perpetrate the deed at once; the shock would be too violent: it would accomplish its design by steps; first one, then another; and would always find some pretext, as plausible as possible, for proceeding to each.

Precisely in the way in which the first movement, if ever it were made, might have been expected to be made, have the incidents in Parliament fallen out. A defalcation from the payments due to the national creditor, not an entire abolition of his right, has alone been hinted at. To be sure, the defalcation is a large one,—very nearly one-third of all that is due to him; so that only two steps more would be required to take all, and cancel his claim entirely. An occasion, too, so little understood, and so easily [794] misinterpreted, as to be well adapted for furnishing a fraudulent pretext; a pretext which would wear a plausible outside, and could not without some patience be seen through, has been adroltly seized as the motive and reason of the first, and, of course, the leading, and most difficult step, in a national bankruptcy. One of the many odious products of the late most extraordinary war, is that to which we owe this pretext, and the precipitation, at least, of the proposition which it is employed to recommend. At a certain period of the war, parliament thought proper to suspend payment in cash of the notes of the Bank of England; and, under the fancy that great advantage was thence obtained in prosecuting the war, to pass a law continuing the suspension till six months after the conclusion of peace. The consequence was, that the Bank, no longer afraid of excess, so increased the quantity of its circulating paper as to depreciate the currency. Some time after the conclusion of peace, parliament applied itself to consider the state of the currency, and finally resolved on the resumption of cash payments, and the elevation of the currency to its pristine value.

It is from this last measure that a reason is sought for deducting 30 per cent—(we do not give this as the only, but as the most accredited proposal)—from the interest due to the national creditors. A good-looking name was needed. A name that shews the ill-favoured side of a project is injudicious. For the first step in the state-bankruptcy of England, a convenient name has been found in the words, equitable adjustment. The allegation is, that whereas the loans contracted since the suspension of cash-payments, were paid, some in a currency more, some in a currency less, depreciated,—a deduction equivalent to the greatest depreciation should be made from the interest, paid in the restored currency, not only on the loans advanced in the more, but those advanced in the less depreciated currency, and even on those advanced before the suspension, when there was no depreciation at all.

There is something at variance with moral feeling, and singularly discreditable, in this pretence. When a government is foolish enough, or wicked enough without the folly, to make a depreciation of the currency, it alters the state of pecuniary contracts, enabling the man who has a payment to make, to satisfy the demand against him, with a less value than be contracted to pay. It thus produces a great amount of evil; but an amount many times less than what would be produced, if all contracts were on that account to be dissolved, and re-drawn on a computation of the value of the currency at different periods. This would throw society into an embarrassment and confusion inferior only to that which the dissolution of the hands of government would produce. The literal fulfilment of the contracts is therefore enforced, as infinitely the smaller evil of the two. Acting on the doctrine of the equitable adjustment, the legislature would relieve itself from those obligations which it binds upon the community. It would make a law in its own favour, in direct opposition to the law which it makes for all other parties in the like situation. It would stamp, by its own hand, the brand of iniquity upon one or another part of its own proceedings. It would exhibit the odious spectacle of a government holding one weight and one measure for itself, another for the community which it guides, and to which it ought to serve as a pattern of every kind of virtue; frugality, wisdom, benevolence, justice; not an example and incitement of every description of vice; prodigality, folly, disregard of public good, and injustice.

The pretence is as worthless, as the measure, which it is proposed to found upon it, would be flagitious. The fundholders, it is said, being paid interest in a restored currency, receive more than their due. This is wholly untrue. First of all, a great proportion of the national debt was contracted before the suspension of payments; and advanced in a currency of the full value. During the time of the depreciation, the interest of this debt was paid in the depreciated currency; was not paid in full; and on the principle of an equitable adjustment, a compensation is due. Mr. Mushet has computed that compensation; and has shown that it would exceed the deduction which, on the same pretence, could be made from the interest payable on the debt contracted during the period of depreciation; that more, in fact, would be due to the first set of creditors, than from the second; that, allowing the principle of the equitable adjustment to be correct, government owes to the national [795] creditors, as a body, more than it pays: so thoroughly unfounded and fraudulent is the allegation, that government may justly cut off 30 per cent from the interest of the national debt: in other words, commit a fraudulent bankruptcy, at fourteen shillings in the pound. We need not repeat, how easy the step is from fourteen to seven, and from seven to nothing.

The second reason, which shows that the equitable adjustment is founded in imposture, is as follows:—

When a contract is made by open competition, as were all the contracts for loans during the last war, the terms are of course as low as the circumstances of the case, all taken together, will permit. During the time when loans in the depreciated currency were made, it was the law of England that cash payments should be restored six months after the conclusion of peace. An act of parliament ordained the resumption. The faith of parliament was pledged for the resumption. When the legislature entered into contract for all the loans which were raised during the period of depreciation, it stood bound, it had strictly engaged itself, not rashly, not unadvisedly, but by one of its most solemn proceedings—a law of king, lords, and commons—to pay the parties who thus became the creditors of the nation, not in a depreciated currency, but in cash, six months after the termination of the war. To pretend, after this, that one-third may be taken from the interest of the debt, as more than due because paid in cash, is not merely to propose a violation of contract; it is to make one of the most impudent attempts to defeat the meaning of a contract by false construction, that was ever exposed to the indignation of the honest part of mankind. It is chicanery which would disgrace the lowest pettifogger.

Of the class in parliament, who show their disinclination to pay the public creditors, there is one portion, who assume a different ground. They say that it would be a dreadful thing not to pay our debts. No event is more to be deprecated. The nation ought to pay its creditors as long as ever it can. But a time may come when ability will cease. And the case is made out clearly by a scrap of lawyers’ Latin: Nemo tenetur ad impossibile.

The first remark to be made upon this apology, propounded by anticipation, for the non-payment of the national creditor, is, that it disclaims and condemns the preceding pretence, that we have now a right to deduct any thing from the interest of the debt, on the score of over-payment; since it declares that it would be a dreadful crime to deduct any thing, so long as we have the means of paying.

A disgraceful proceeding, founded upon a silly pretence, gives evidence both against the intellects and morals of the parties who figure in such a scene.

What would be thought of the honour of a man in ordinary life, who, having contracted a greater debt than he liked to pay, should begin to desire his creditors to make up their minds to a time when he would be unable to pay them, though it were obvious to all the world that he had ample means of paying, and never, without the most disgraceful conduct, could be destitute of such means? Would not all the world say that the man was a villain, and was already in wait for a plausible occasion to defraud his creditors; more especially if the state of the law, or the state of the contract with his creditors was such, that they could never enforce repayment of the principal, and must remain content, unless at his own choice, with the perpetual receipt of interest?

But to know the nature of this inability of the English nation to pay its debts—this prophetic inability, the forerunner of a prophetic bankruptcy—we ought to examine it a little more narrowly. The nation must, at any rate, not speak of inability, so long as it has one farthing of extravagant expenditure. The man, who pretends a want of ability to pay his debts, without confining his expenditure within the limits of rigid necessity, is a dishonest man, and ought to receive the punishment of a knave. The expenditure of the English Government is perfectly enormous. Every useless penny must be deducted from it; the services which it is necessary to receive from government, must be paid for at the lowest rate; and every article of [796] national property must be set to sale, and applied to the liquidation of the debt, before we can allege inability, without all the disgrace which belongs to the proceedings of a fraudulent bankrupt. We must not leave one sinecure in existence. We must not have one agent of government in any department more than is needed, and every agent must be paid at the lowest rate at which a competent person will consent to serve. In regard to soldiers and sailors we must make a rigid estimate of the number for which we have real occasion, and not allow the existence of an individual more. If it should even be found upon an honest scrutiny, that if ever we have enemies, it will be our own fault, we need have no defenders, and must discharge them every one. If we have any foreign dependency which does not pay its own expenses, we must relinquish it. The crown lands are no inconsiderable resource. They must all be sold to the last acre; and every public building, house, and palace, not absolutely necessary—not required for the real service of the state—must be converted into money for the payment of our debts. The teachers of religion are a class of public servants, who, in proportion to what they do, are more extravagantly paid than any other. There can be no doubt, that with proper management, religion might be much better taught at one quarter of the expense. All the rest must go to the discharge of the debt, before we can pretend that we have reduced our expenditure to the utmost, and are still unable to meet the just demands of our creditors. On this subject we might go into much greater detail, but this may show the nature of the case.

Still we have not ascertained what meaning can really be annexed to the term inability, when the inability is alleged of the English nation to pay its debts. In the way in which it is used, it is a vague, equivocal term, unavoidably subservient to delusion, and very apt to be made subservient to fraud. Inability very often means nothing more than disinclination. Let us examine if it can be any thing different here.

The annual produce of the nation is the fund from which all its expenses are defrayed. Of this, that portion which is necessary for the maintenance of the labourers, can never be reckoned, because it can never be diverted from that use. The rest is all distributed to the receivers of rent, the receivers of profit, or the receivers of the taxes. Now, let us suppose, for a moment, that the national creditors are the only receivers of the taxes. The net annual produce would then be distributed in proportions, among three parties—the landlords, the capitalists, and the national creditors. How can the inability ever arise of continuing to distribute it in those proportions? Or how could the proportions be altered otherwise than by giving more to one, less to another? This would not be inability, it would be design.

If the allegation be, that by the legislature’s adding more and more to the national debt, and thus entitling the national creditors to a greater and greater share of the annual produce, the time will come when the nation will be unable to pay, the very hypothesis is revolting. Why should we take it for granted, that we are to have in future a wicked legislature? and that the English nation is never to be without a government, driving it on to its ruin? Above all things, why should this strange anticipation be proclaimed by the legislature itself? Why should we not suppose, as far more probable, that sooner or later we shall have a legislature, which will pursue the opposite course; and by cutting off all unnecessary expense, gradually diminish, and, at no distant day, extinguish the debt?

But in the loose talk, which we are commonly condemned to hear on this subject, and in which it is supposed, and taken for granted, that a bad government will go on adding to the debt, and of course entitling the national creditor to a greater and greater share of the annual produce, we must not permit one consequence, which is regularly overlooked, to pass without being duly estimated.

It is obvious, that just in the same proportion, and in the same degree, as the income of the landlord and the capitalist is reduced, in order to pay the fundholder, the income of the fundholder is reduced in order to pay himself. The fundholders contribute to their own payment, [797] in the same proportion as any body else, and pay a greater and a greater share of what they themselves receive, according as the payments due to them are increased. The want of means to pay is therefore a contradiction in terms.

But we confer too much honour on this prophetic inability, by treating it as worthy of analysis. We have already seen that the pretence of a nation’s inability to pay itself, that is, to make a particular distribution of its annual produce, is impostrous on the face of it. To say, or to insinuate, that England is in the state, or approaching to the state, of a nation unable to pay its debts, is an impudent denial of notorious matter of fact. The annual charge on account of the national debt is below 30,000,000l. Much more than double that amount is raised in taxes of all sorts; and of this vast sum, a large proportion is unprofitably spent. One word more is superfluous.

It is, however, easy to understand the feeling of an aristocratic legislature on this subject. It is by the share which the aristocracy receive of the taxes, that they derive advantage from wielding the powers of government. From that portion which is detached for the payment of the national creditor, they have the means of drawing little or no advantage to themselves. The people of England, as experience proves, may be made to submit, in time of peace, to a taxation of more than 70,000,000l. per annum. But if one half of this goes to the national creditors, the aristocracy are obliged to make their profit out of the other half. How much more would they make if they had both halves? And with what an evil eye, therefore, are they tempted to look upon a class of men by whom this golden stream, which ought to be their’s, is intercepted!

That a class of men, who, possessing power by a firm tenure, find little occasion for intellect, should be short-sighted and inconsistent, is in the natural order of things. The aristocracy of England, in order to frighten every man who possesses a little property into an enemy of improvement, have, with a prodigious display of fear and ardour, taught, that all attempts at improvement lead to revolution, and all revolutions to the confiscation of property. Both propositions are false. But they, by defrauding the national creditors, and thereby committing one of the most enormous acts of confiscation that ever was perpetrated on earth, would set an example of disregard to the laws of property, the bitter fruits of which they would deserve to be the first to feel. Why should the rest of the community, they to whom the interests of the fundholding class, and the interests of the landholding class, are equal, be more willing to sacrifice the fundholders to the landholders, than the landholders to the fundholders? If it be very inconvenient to the nation to pay the interest of the national debt, why not take the land to discharge the principal? This would be spoliation and injustice, most assuredly; but not one atom worse than taking the property of the national creditors.

In the growing contrariety between the state of the government, and the state of the public mind, in every country in Europe, and not least in England, there is no attentive observer of the signs of the times, who does not anticipate considerable alteration at no very distant day, in the mode of administering public affairs in that quarter of the globe. These changes, perfectly inevitable, will, it is probable, all be comparatively quiet; but that they may be so, it is of primary importance that the utmost reverence should be attached to the laws of property. The people, whom the aristocratical class are always accusing of being enemies to property, are the reverse. In the annals of mankind, there is not an instance of any great spoliation or iniquitous transfer of property, of which the people have been the authors. All such atrocities, without any exception, have been the work—as the confiscation of the property of the national creditors in England would be the work—of an aristocracy.

While property remains secure, and every one is satisfied, that what is his will be inviolably preserved to him, changes in the hands which hold the powers of government affect not the bosom of society. They may be more, they may be less, expedient; the arrangements adopted may be found perfect, they may be found susceptible of amelioration; all this experience may go on, as it ought to go on, without disturbing the peace or arresting the prosperity of the nation, till its social and political institutions [798] are brought to perfection; provided the rights of property are held inviolable. But if, in the present state of the world, the leading class, in any country, gives the signal for a convulsion, by a shameless act of confiscation, who could wonder, if the class whom they have robbed should seek for vengeance, and if the justice of their complaints should gain to them a host of abettors?

A country’s principal interests are those which are involved in its internal government. To a certain degree, its interests are also involved in its situation with regard to its neighbours; more involved, generally, in proportion as its government is bad; less involved in proportion as its government is good. The interests of a country are involved in its situation with regard to its neighbours, in two ways; by its exposure to foreign attacks; and by its external commerce.

In the present state of the civilized world, a country, wisely governed, is so little exposed to attacks from its neighbours, that nothing but an extraordinary combination of circumstances could bring such an event within the range of a rational anticipation. A well-governed country would never afford any provocation; and it would be defended with such bravery and judgment by its happy people, as would render an attack upon it, unless it were a petty country indeed, an unpromising speculation. With respect to external commerce, a country, wisely governed, would adopt the only policy good for itself, that of perfect freedom; and would wait without concern till other governments were wise enough to follow its example. Between a well-governed country and its neighbours, there would be hardly any other relation than that of good behaviour, which costs nothing.

An ill-governed country, which engages at every turn in wars with its neighbours, does, indeed, involve its interests deeply in its external relations. The expense arising from its establishments and wars burthens cruelly, if it does not finally overwhelm, it.

A great improvement took place in our foreign policy, between the beginning and end of the last parliament, for which parliament has no title to our acknowledgements. Till the death of Lord Londonderry we were in the Holy Alliance. From that time we have been gradually withdrawing from it. The opposition party in parliament made strong objections to the principle and policy of the Holy Alliance, during the administration of Lord Londonderry, with a potent majority constantly against them. We owe the change to Mr. Canning and his associates, who appear to have disengaged the nation with prudence and felicity.

The principle of the Holy Alliance is something perfectly new in the world. It is true that it was invented to meet a perfectly new emergency. That contrariety which, as we have already intimated, is now apparent in perhaps every country in Europe, between the state of the public mind and the state of the government, had excited the apprehensions of the different governments; and the Holy Alliance was set up as a bulwark against the consequences which it portended. It was an engagement among the different governments to afford protection to one another against their own subjects; and to prevent the changes for which the altered state of the public mind was expected to present an importunate, if not an irresistible, demand.

A scheme which bore upon the very surface of it more conspicuous marks of folly, or rather of insanity, was never thought of, even by bad governments. Going upon the supposition that the public mind in each country, taken separately, was becoming too strong for its own government, taken separately, they nevertheless concluded, that the governments of all the countries taken together would be too strong for the public mind in all the countries taken together. Let us permit them to assume—to take for granted, all the effect which fancy can ascribe to their scheme; that it would check the movements towards change, which the state of the public mind should prompt in one country at a time. What would be the consequence? Only to retard the countries which were more advanced, till all were ripe for a simultaneous movement; when, of course, the impulse would be far more violent, and the changes more unsparing. That governments, with or without combination, can now turn back the tide of public opinion, it would require more than the blindness of bad governments, amid all that is passing around us, to believe; and to suppose that public opinion, still rolling on, can be always successfully resisted, would be only to [799] suppose that of two things, the one growing always greater, the other less, the one growing always greater will never surpass the one growing always less.

The Alien Act, the subject of declamation on both sides of both houses in the last parliament, was part and parcel of the Holy Alliance system. The war against public opinion would have been incomplete without it. When the principle of the Holy Alliance was given up, the Alien Act, after a decent period of delay, and a becoming shew of regard for an old connexion, was quietly allowed to expire.

Giving the ministry applause, for renouncing the Holy Alliance; and willing to believe that they deserve it for their conduct regarding Greece, and the new states in South America, we are doubtful with respect to Spain. We have not data on which to ground a positive conclusion. And we concur most fully in the declaration of Mr. Canning, that if, by permitting the occupation of Spain by the troops of France, one of the most impudent proceedings in the history of modern Europe, and directly insulting to the government of England, we avoided that dreadful calamity, a war; it was expedient to pocket the insult, and cherish the advantages of peace.

The two questions are, whether this act of the French Government, on which Mr. Canning now bestows abundant reprobation, might not have been prevented without a war? And whether, if permitted, it would not bring war at an early date, as its natural consequence? Mr. Canning says, No. But Mr. Canning, with the advantage of more knowledge of the circumstances than other men, has the disadvantage of his situation, which plays with many blinding influences on his understanding. At the time of which we speak, the situation of the French government was so precarious, it had so much to apprehend, and did apprehend so much, from the contrariety between itself and the public mind, that it could not have looked upon the dangers involved in a struggle with this country without the utmost apprehension. It is true the French Government had one ground of security. On this it is probable that it rested; and the event discovered the sagacity of its anticipation. It knew that the aristocracy of England had a dread of the contrariety between the state of public opinion and the state of government in France, from the effect which it might have in England, not much less intense than that which agitated the French government itself. It concluded, therefore, that the English ministry would be deterred from risking a war with France, not so much from any aversion to the burthens it was to load upon the people of England, which it had never seen an English ministry much to dislike, as from the prospect of a new revolution in France, which it had abundant reason to know was the object of their perfect horror. The French government, therefore, put on a bold face; and dread of the state of the public mind in France, made dupes of the English ministry. Without affirming that this was the case, we affirm the strong probability that it was; and we confess our apprehensions, that the same poor game will be played over again, in the circumstances to which the occupation of Spain by the troops of France has recently given birth. France may continue to lend the most effectual support to the Spanish government, maintaining garrisons in all its strong places, saving it from all apprehension on account of its disaffected population, thereby enabling it to send every Spanish soldier to fight the English, and supplying it secretly with the sinews of war; and, doing all this, if it only avoids notorious acts of hostility, and gives fair words, to which it seems inclined, our ministry will not dare to attack it. The French government knows that the hands of the English ministry are tied up by their trembling dread of revolutions. And we therefore expect to see it treating all their remonstrances with perfect indifference; and them, notwithstanding their talk about English honour and power, submitting tamely, and only anxious about the means of hiding the truth from the English people.

The terms of our treaty with Portugal may have required our interference. This we shall not dispute. But one thing we take upon us to affirm, with unhesitating conviction, that it will be worse than childish to commence a war against Spain, if that be the fruit of our late pacific policy, without ordering the French government, under all the consequences of being considered a partner in the war, to withdraw its soldiers, to the last man, [800] from the peninsula; and to abstain from every act, open or clandestine, of support to our enemy, under pain of its being treated as an act of hostility.

Notwithstanding the improvements, which we are happy to acknowledge, in the maxims of our international policy, we perceive that our ministers still adhere to one principle, of fatal import to the interests of every country the counsels of which it infects. They boast of the high rank which we hold among surrounding nations. They speak magnificently of the maintaining of that rank. If this high rank meant a high reputation for wisdom—a high reputation for virtue—a high reputation for the goodness of our government—for the integrity of our dealings, and the happiness of our people; even a high reputation for internal strength, and for the energy with which any attack upon our shores would be repelled—we desire to see that sort of rank as high as it can be desired by any body. But if this rank mean nothing but the weight with which we interfere in the arrangements, amicable or hostile, of other nations with one another—that is to say, the fear with which we inspire them; in other words—the proximity of the prospect we bring to them of the evils of war, to be inflicted by our hands; we say, that of all the curses, which ever befel a nation, this said rank is one of the greatest. Of all successful pretences for unnecessary wars—of all successful pretences for exorbitant establishments, military and naval—for the waste and ruin of the substance of the people—this is, beyond comparison, the most fertile in mischief. To the aristocracy of England this has been the grand resource for keeping up that immense taxation out of which they have drawn their profit. And, accordingly, both sections of that aristocracy, both the section in place, and the section out of place, have always applauded it to the skies. This was national glory—this was national honour. What so admirable as honour and glory? What honourable and glorious man but would part with life and fortune to preserve honour and glory? Let us then have great fleets, great armies; let us interfere in every dispute between every two nations in Europe; and let us always make war upon those who will not do as we bid them; all for honour and glory! The pretence, which is sometimes set up, that this is the cheapest way of defending our own shores from hostile attacks, we cannot regard as worthy of a serious exposure.

We are told that it keeps danger at a distance. We should rather say, that it makes it continually present. What is the danger we have to dread? The expense of repelling an attack from our shores. This, which would be an expense of rare occurrence—which rather, under a good government, we should say, would not occur at all—and which, when the occasion arose, would be proportioned to it, and no more; we are told that we ought to replace, by an expense never intermitted, which never ends—not proportioned to the defence of ourselves, but to the attack of others—the continental attack; an expense so threatening—continually threatening, to other nations—that our word should hold with them the place of a command. This is to defend ourselves at an expense many thousand times greater than needful.

Would we then, it is asked, have no foresight in our counsels? O, yes! of real foresight as much as you please—as much as possible. But not a foresight which makes the remedy many times worse than the disease. Not a foresight which would make a disease, not very likely to happen at all, but sure, at the very worst, to happen rarely, perpetual. Not a foresight, which would set up a great present evil, to fence against one which is not only distant and problematical, but which can always be provided for time enough, when there is some reason to apprehend its approach.

In tracing, as we have done, in this review of the proceedings of the last parliament, the workings of the aristocratical interest; adducing the evidence of its ascendancy, and marking the consequences which flow from it; we shall be told, that we have omitted in our calculations an element which greatly modifies and corrects the tendency of the aristocratical preponderance; to wit—the opposition party in parliament. It appears perfectly certain to us, that the modification derived from this element is too small to be worth including in the calculation.

It is an historical fact, worthy of being better understood than it generally is, that wherever the powers of government have been engrossed by an aristocracy, they have almost always broken themselves into two sections—the one more [801] immediately wielding the powers of the body—the other angry that it is not wielding them. What are the consequences of this? Not that either section ever loses sight of those interests which it has in common with the other, and which belong to the whole aristocratical body. These the section out of power is as deeply concerned to preserve and to improve, as the section which it wishes to supplant. Whatever other points they may differ in, here their differences will be more apparent then real; or if, from accident, there should be occasional contrariety, there is sure to be general concurrence. This is enough:—the aristocratical interest has little to dread from such an opposition as this.

There are two cases of the division of a governing aristocracy. One case is, when the people have no idea of taking power from the aristocratical body, though they may assist in taking it from one section to give it to another. The other case is, when the aristocracy are aware of a wish on the part of the people to diminish their power, and to give that ascendancy in the legislature to the general interest, which is held by the aristocratical interest.

The nature of the contest between the two sections of an aristocratical body, is very different in these different cases. In the first case, in which as a body they have nothing to apprehend from the people, they set no bounds to their animosities; they rush on to bloodshed; and inflict upon one another the greatest atrocities. Witness the contests in Greece and Rome; witness the civil wars in every part of Europe, up completely to the period at which a real public opinion made itself felt in that part of the world. So much already does society owe to the check which apprehension of the people has imposed on the aristocracy!

In the case in which the body of the aristocracy dread the sentiments of the people, and consider the probability, that, in a desperate struggle between two parties of themselves, the people will find the means of stripping them of all that portion of their power which is inconsistent with good government, both sections find motives exceedingly to modify and restrain their exertions; and whether to get place, or retain it, never venture farther than a certain moderate excitement of public opinion.

The section not in place, the section weakest, atleast for the time, seeks to make itself a match for its antagonist. It can obtain the needful accession of strength only by gaining the people on its side. It can gain them on its side only by making them expect advantages from its ascendancy. The only real permanent good which the people can receive at the hands of any existing set of administrators, is the rectification of the state of interests in the legislature; the all important change from the predominance of the partial, to that of the general interest. No aristocratical section will hold out this prospect, at least in earnest. It holds out the prospect of some other petty advantages, which it tries by every artifice to make the people admire as great; or, if it does throw out an appearance of intending the substantial good, it is an appearance only, well contrived to be explained away, or forgotten, when the period for the congruent action arrives.

The consequences are easily anticipated. So long as the people are dimsighted enough to be imposed upon by delusive appearances, and take small advantages for great, they may be caught by the promises of an opposition, and being warmed by degrees into enthusiasm, may call for a change of administration. This call, in this country, has in former times been so importunate as to render it convenient to comply with it. When, however, the people become sufficiently clear-sighted to distinguish appearance from reality, and a great advantage from a little one, the promises of one section of the aristocracy, trying to turn out another, lose their effect.

Things have very nearly come to this pass in England: the consequence is, that the out-section of the aristocracy, ceasing to draw any hopes from the people, manifest sentiments towards them hardly less hostile than those of their opponents. “His Majesty’s opposition” is a name which has been recognized as well adapted to them, ipsis non recusantibus. This is a name which proclaims their equipment for court service, and the dissolution of their connexion with the people. Disjoined from the people, an opposition section of the aristocracy is perfectly insignificant. We see accordingly with what rapidity our opposition party is melting away. In a short time, there [802] will be no such thing. The British aristocracy will form one homogeneous body, at once the masters and creatures of the ministry, soliciting and intriguing for the good things in distribution, but never going into opposition, with a view to force a greater share into their hands. This was the state of the French aristocracy, from the time of Louis XIV. to the revolution. And it is the natural state of a ruling aristocracy in every country in which the people are either unable or unwilling to force, by their aid, a discontented section of it into power. No: from this time onwards, or till an adequate reform of the parliament has place, the ministers of the king, as the part of the legislature on which public opinion acts with the greatest force, will be the best part of the legislature, with the exception of a small number of independent, enlightened men, hated by both parties, and persecuted by them, as far as it can be done quietly and by stealth.

The proportion of the time and attention of the last parliament, which was absorbed by the memorable inquiry, of which it pleased them to become the instruments, respecting the late Queen, may render it, to some persons, a matter of surprise, that we have not enlarged upon this subject at a proportionate length. We deemed it unnecessary. All England—all Europe—and the world, have pronounced an opinion upon that affair, and the matters connected with it (the manly revenge, for example, taken on Sir Robert Wilson) so decided, and so nearly correct, that there is very little in the existing impression, which we have a desire to see altered. The sort of intellect, and the sort of morality, which reside in the two houses, found on that occasion, a most felicitous opportunity of displaying themselves. The time was come, when the lookers-on could benefit by the exhibition. The time is come, indeed, when nothing can hinder the accumulation of evidence; and nothing can hinder the effect which it is calculated to produce.




3. The Westminster Review [1824-1836]

The Westminster Review. (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1824-1836).

  • “Periodical Literature 1 (Edinburgh Review and Quarterly Review),” Jan. 1824, vol. I, no. I, pp. 206-68.
  • “Periodical Literature 2 (Quarterly Review and Edinburgh Review),” Oct. 1824, vol. II, no. IV, pp. 463-553.
  • “Robert Southey’s Book of the Church,” Jan. 1825, vol. III, no. V, pp. 167-213.
  • “Ecclesiastical Establishments,” Apr. 1826, vol. V, no. X, pp. 504-48
  • “Formation of Opinions,” Jul. 1826, vol. VI, no. XI, pp. 1-23.
  • “State of the Nation,” Oct. 1826, vol. VI, no. XII, pp. 249-78.
  • “The Ballot,” Jul. 1830, vol. XIII, no. XXV, pp. 1-37.



1.: Edinburgh Review. Vol.1, 2, &c.

IF periodical criticism is good for any thing, it cannot be less needed in the case of periodical literature, than of any other class of the productions of the press. It is indeed a subject of wonder, that periodical publications should have existed so long, and have come at last to occupy so great a portion of the time and attention of the largest class of readers, without having become subject to a regular and systematic course of criticism. We trust it will appear that we shall have rendered an important service to the progress of the human mind, in setting at least an example of this species of control; in showing how great has been the need of it before it existed, how much of evil it is calculated to prevent, and how much of positive advantage it cannot fail to secure.

Periodical literature is so wide a field, that though we shall not interdict ourselves from any part of it, we shall select for our province more particularly that portion, with respect to which the demand for the service which we thus desire to see rendered, will, to every intelligent mind, appear to be the strongest. The review of books, with the influence which it has in giving direction to the taste for reading, has long been a department of literature the effect of which has been very imperfectly appreciated. For a considerable number of years this field has been to such a degree occupied by two rival, celebrated, and successful publications, that the old have sunk into insignificance: the attempt to elevate new ones, has hitherto proved abortive; and it will hardly be incumbent on us, unless with casual exceptions, to bestow much of our attention upon the rest.

Another circumstance renders criticism peculiarly necessary in the case of the publications to which we have alluded; we mean, the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews: under the guise of reviewing books, these publications have introduced the practice of publishing dissertations, not only upon the topics of the day, but upon all the most important questions of morals and legislation, in the most extensive acceptation of these terms. Whatever occasion, therefore, there can be for that species of censorship which criticism exercises over those who assume the task of supplying nourishment to the human mind, it is presented by the publications in question, and with peculiar circumstances of aggravation.


Of these circumstances, some they have in common with other periodical publications; some are peculiar to themselves. One law to which periodical literature is subject is attended with consequences, the good and evil of which have never yet been sufficiently analysed, though it is of the highest importance that they should be familiarised to the public mind. If a work is published, not periodical, and possesses real merit, it can afford to be overlooked for a time; and though it may be little noticed for the first year, or years, may count with tolerable certainty upon that degree of ultimate fame to which it is entitled. Not so with periodical literature. That must have immediate success, to secure so much as existence. A periodical production must sell immediately, at least to a certain extent, otherwise it cannot be carried on. A periodical production must be read the next day, or month, or quarter, otherwise it will not be read at all. Every motive, therefore, which prompts to the production of any thing periodical, prompts to the study of immediate effect, of unpostponed popularity, of the applause of the moment. To catch at this applause is then to be regarded as a grand characteristic of periodical literature; and the good and evil consequences which arise from it deserve to be diligently traced, and correctly estimated.

On the favourable side it may be affirmed, that as the diffusion of all the good which is derived from reading, must be in proportion to the diffusion of this which is its instrument, this peculiarity in periodical literature is an eminent advantage. By consulting the public taste with continual anxiety, the pleasures of reading are perpetually supplied to the greatest possible number. The number of those who love reading and the number of those who derive pleasure from periodical literature, are the same. To it, therefore, we are, it may be said, indebted, for the grand source of general intelligence; that is, the grand source of the greatest possible good.

The most effectual mode of doing good to mankind by reading, is, to correct their errors; to expose their prejudices; to refute opinions which are generated only by partial interests, but to which men are, for that reason, so much the more attached; to censure whatever is mean and selfish in their behaviour, and attach honour to actions solely in proportion to their tendency to increase the sum of happiness, lessen the sum of misery.

But this is a course which periodical literature cannot pursue. To please the great body of men, which is the object of the periodical writer, he must flatter their prejudices. Instead of calling in question the opinions to which they are wedded, he [208] must applaud them; and the more he can furnish such men with reasons for being more in love with their opinions than before, the more he is sure of commanding their approbation, and of increasing their zeal to promote the reputation of his work.

The most mischievous of all erroneous opinions are those which lead to the injury of the great number of mankind, for the benefit of the small number; which tend to make it the interest of the small number, by giving them the power, to oppress the great number in all practicable ways, and to brutalise them for the purpose of rendering the oppression more easy, and more secure. That these are the most mischievous of all opinions, is proved by merely telling what they are. That literature is useful only as it contributes to the extirpation of these detestable opinions, is so far true, that deprive it of this tendency, and it is doubtful whether it would not be more of a curse than a blessing. These, however, are the very opinions which periodical literature is under the strongest inducements to promote, and the discouragement of which it is utterly unsafe to undertake. It is obvious what is the general course it will pursue.

The opinions, on the propagation of which the success of periodical writings depends,—immediate success, that success which is essential to their existence,—are the opinions in vogue; the opinions of those whose influence is the most extensive, who can go farthest in creating or hindering a reputation. But what is the class most instrumental in setting the fashion, which exercises the greatest control over the opinions of other men? The answer is not uncertain. The people of power compose it. The favourite opinions of people in power are the opinions which favour their own power; those opinions which we have already characterised as being the grand instruments of evil in this world, the ultimate and real cause of the degradation and misery of the great mass of mankind. To these opinions periodical literature is under a sort of necessity, under an inducement which generally operates as necessity, of serving as a pandar.

It is a common observation, that notwithstanding the influence of error in the world, arising partly from ignorance, partly from the influence of interested opinions in high quarters, the opinion of the wise and distinterested, though they are small in number, always, or at least generally, prevails at last, and becomes the opinion of the world. That there is this tendency in the opinions of the wise, is certain; and it is the ground of all our hopes for the amelioration of mankind. When an opinion, founded on truth, and tending to good, is once declared, and when there is the means of making it generally [209] known, and of calling to it continually the attention of mankind, it is sure to make its way, and by degrees to bear down all that opposes it.

Here, however, the characteristic malady of periodical literature is most clearly seen. Instead of aiding this beneficent progress, it is opposed to it. The success of those important opinions, the progress of which involves the overthrow of the opinions which are dearest to the classes by whom power is exercised for their own benefit over the rest of the community, and dear to them for this reason, that they tend to the support of the power which they so employ, is slow. Periodical literature depends upon immediate success. It must, therefore, patronise the opinions which are now in vogue, the opinions of those who are now in power. It will obtain applause, and will receive reward, in proportion as it is successful in finding plausible reasons for the maintenance of the favourite opinions of the powerful classes, and plausible reasons for the discountenance and rejection of the opinions which tend to rescue the interests of the greater number from the subjection under which they lie to the interests of the small number. In this view, it is evident, that, so long as the interest of the smaller number is the predominating interest in any community; so long periodical literature is the natural enemy of the most important and beneficent class of opinions, and so long may the balance of its effects be expected to be decidedly in opposition to them. We say the balance of its effects, because there is no doubt that occasionally, from various motives, the more important of which we shall think it expedient to describe, the periodical press displays exertions both in opposition to the opinions which tend to confirm abusive powers in the hands of the few, and in favour of the opinions which tend to rescue from these powers the interests of the greater number.

After the mass of the people have become a reading people, a reward is held out for writings addressed peculiarly to them. The opinions of the people will, of course, be consulted in such writings; and those opinions which are peculiarly recommended to the powerful classes by the circumstance of their favouring the existence of those powers of theirs, which may be used for their personal purposes, will not be the peculiar objects of applause. But it is with the more numerous, as it is with the less numerous classes; they have some opinions which are just as well as important, and they have others which are erroneous.

It is of very little importance, in addressing the people, to continue recommending to them right opinions, which they [210] already possess. Labour of such a kind is labour thrown away. The really useful effort, in the case of the people, as in the case of any other class, is to contend against erroneous opinions, and introduce to them ideas which, though full of important consequences, are as yet strange, and perhaps revolting, to their minds. From this undertaking it is now sufficiently evident to our readers that the periodical press is debarred. It cannot wait for that success which depends upon the slow progress of just opinions, and the slow removal of prevalent errors. It must aim at that immediate applause which is bestowed only for immediate pleasure; for gratification administered to the mind in its present state; for encouragement of the favourite idea, flattery of the reigning prejudice.

We have seen, during some late years, in this country, since the talent of reading has become more general, periodical publications, addressed in a particular manner to the more numerous class. They are cheap publications, from the circumstances of the purchasers; and they have been worse than they otherwise might have been, from the characters of those who have been the principal instruments in their production, and who, had they been wiser and better men (for, with little exception, they have been very defective in one or other, or both, of these requisites), might have obtained as much success, with less subservience to the errors of those whom they have addressed. It is abundantly apparent, however, even on a cursory inspection of the writings to which we have thus alluded, that the principal influence to which they bend is that of the favourite opinions, right or wrong, of those to whom they look for their reward. That writings produced under this influence can hardly fail, where men are as ill instructed as they still are in this country, and where partial and sinister interests so greatly preponderate, to have a greater tendency to evil than good, we imagine cannot, after what we have stated, be regarded as matter of doubt.

The two publications which we have already pointed out as destined to be the principal objects of our attention in this department, are addressed to the aristocratical classes. From the circumstances belonging to them it will appear that they may be regarded as almost exclusively addressed to those classes. To what degree they have been subservient to the interests of those classes, in other words, hostile to the interests of the more numerous class, it would be premature in us, and perhaps hardly fair, as yet, to pronounce. That can be properly determined only by evidence adduced; and that evidence will be among the results of the examination to which we mean to subject them. It is enough in the meantime to estimate correctly the inducements [211] to this fatal subserviency under which they have been placed.

Assuming that they agree in this main and characteristic circumstance, of being addressed to the aristocratical classes, upon what principle, we may be asked, do we account for the great diversity which appears in their tone and character; a diversity so remarkable, that they are not regarded as competitors, but as enemies, as tending not to the same, but to opposite ends; as promoting irreconcilable opinions, the one upholding what the other endeavours to destroy? The elucidation of this point is of great importance, in laying the ground-work to our future labours in this department. It is in fact a point, the elucidation of which goes far into the philosophy of British history, and will therefore, if we can perform it satisfactorily, demand a rather more than ordinary portion of attention, on the part both of our readers and of ourselves.

We use the term “aristocracy” in a somewhat extended signification; and as we shall for the most part adhere to that use of it, we are under the necessity of expounding somewhat carefully the sense we thus attach to it, and of requesting our readers to bestow attention enough upon this explanation to retain it in their memory for future purposes. We do not use it in the mere sense of a titled nobility; nor in that of the families possessed of large fortunes. These are connected circumstances, but of secondary, rather than primary import. Wherever a government is not so constituted as to exist solely for the good of the community, aggregately considered, its powers are distributed into a certain number of hands, in some cases bearing a greater, in some a less proportion to the whole community; but a number always small in comparison with the population at large. This body, sharing among them the powers of government, and sharing among themselves also the profits of misrule, we denominate the aristocratical body; and by this term, or the aristocratical class, or in one word, the aristocracy, we shall be careful to distinguish them. The comparatively small number possessing political power compose the real aristocracy, by whatever circumstances, birth, or riches, or other accident, the different portions of them become possessed of it.

The aristocracy in some countries consists almost entirely of the lords of the soil. This in former times was the case in almost all the countries of Europe. And in those which have made the smallest progress in knowledge and civilisation, it is to a great degree the case at the present moment. In countries still more sunk in barbarism, as in Turkey, and in most Asiatic [212] countries, the military hordes compose almost the whole of the efficient aristocracy, and are not hereditary. In our own country, the aristocracy is a motley body; and it imports us to be familiarly acquainted with the ingredients of the compound. If we assent to the doctrine of the Edinburgh Review,—and we are willing, for the present, to take it upon their showing,—we must conclude that the powers of government are centered in the House of Commons, and are there substantially and ultimately exercised. [*]If this be the case, it is only necessary to enquire, of whom the House of Commons is composed, and by whom the members are sent there; because in their hands, of course, the powers of government are efficiently lodged. It will not be necessary for us to go into the minute details, or indeed into any disputed subjects. For the conclusions which concern our present purpose the broad and incontrovertible matters of fact will suffice. The owners of the great landed estates have the principal influence in sending members into the House of Commons. They possess the representation of the counties exclusively. The members for the counties (Middlesex has more of the nature of a town) are returned by a combination among the leading families, and commonly by a compromise between the two parties, the one being a Whig and the other a Tory. In respect to the boroughs it is not necessary that we should descend to a particular enumeration. Mere notoriety will suffice for our present purpose. That a large proportion of them are in the hands of the same great families, either to nominate or effectually to influence the return of the members, will not be denied; because men in their senses do not make affirmations with respect to matters of fact which every body who knows them possesses sufficient grounds to deny.

There is a certain number of the boroughs, the constitution of which is such, that the electors find it for their interest to sell their votes on each occasion to the highest bidder. It is proper, though it is somewhat of a deviation from the present purpose, to remark, that this class of the boroughs is a general subject of vituperation, to those who, from their influence as landed proprietors, determine the election in counties, and in the boroughs over which their influence extends. Unhappily their influence sets the fashion in morality as well as in dress; and their long-continued cries have made it be regarded as peculiarly infamous in the electors in boroughs to sell their votes. But why should it be more infamous in a poor elector to sell his vote in a borough, than for a rich lord of the soil to sell his vote in parliament? [213] “Why is the one traffic infamous, the other honourable?” For this reason, and this alone, that the great men influence public opinion more than the little men: the case would otherwise have been directly the reverse; the conduct of the rich lord would have been the most infamous, as in degree it is unquestionably the most highly mischievous. The case of the elector in the borough who sells his vote to the highest bidder, and that of the man who in a borough or a county gives it habitually to the lord, are essentially the same. Each, with little or no regard to the fitness of the man for whom the vote is given, follows his own interest. The elector who places his vote habitually at the disposal of his landlord, does so because his landlord could, and he fears would, do him injury, if he acted otherwise. The elector who takes money for his vote, does so for the immediate benefit which it yields. It is the part of men who are not legislators, but drivellers, to whine against people for following their interest. In legislation the only enquiry is, how to make the interest of men and their duty coincide. What we desire is, to place the right of voting for members of parliament on such a footing, that it shall not be for the interest of the voter to give his suffrage from any other motive than the verdict of his conscience, preferring the fittest man. And for that we are called Radicals, and other names intended to be opprobrious, by those whose interest it is that the right of voting should never be placed on any better than the present foundation.

To return to the mode in which the boroughs, so constituted as to make it the interest of the electors to sell their votes to the highest bidder, affect the composition of the British aristocracy;—it is evident that they open a door of admission into the governing body to monied men. Such men, in considerable numbers, do by such means, as well as by what is called the purchase of a borough, that is, of the means of intimidation over the wretched electors, originally possessed by some neighbouring lord of the soil, become members of the House of Commons; and thus the class of monied men become sharers in the possession of the powers of government, and form a portion, though a minor, and hence a subordinate, portion, of the aristocracy of England.

In the composition of the aristocracy of England, the importance of its two props deserves much and careful consideration. Its two props are, the Church, and the Law; by the Law, we mean here the professional body.

We need not lengthen our investigation by representing the influence which religion exercises over the minds of men. It will be allowed to be great. It is evident of what importance it [214] is to an aristocracy, that is, a small number, exercising, and for their own advantage, power over the great number, to be able to turn this influence, the influence of religion, to their own purposes. It is manifest how great a support to their power they may derive from it. Now it is obvious, that the short and effectual method of being able to turn the influence of religion to their own purposes, is to obtain an influence over the teachers of religion. It is equally easy to discover a sure expedient for their obtaining an influence over the teachers of religion. It is to form them into a corporate and dependent body, with gradation of emoluments and power, from something small, to something very great; retaining the nomination to the enjoyment of those emoluments principally in their hands, and admitting the body to a share in the power and profits of the aristocracy. In the aristocracy of England, accordingly, the church, or the organised priesthood of the state, is to be regarded as a real and efficient part. Of the mode in which it acts as a portion of the aristocracy, and receives its share of the profits of misrule, the details must be left for future opportunities.

As the security for person and property, the things most dear to men, depends upon the law, to be sure of possessing the requisite knowledge of the law, is to every individual a matter of the last importance. If the law were as simple and clear as it might be made, every man of competent understanding might have all the knowledge of it requisite for his guidance and security. But where the law has been rendered exceedingly complex and obscure, nobody understands it but those who devote themselves professionally to the study of it. The class of lawyers become, in such circumstances, a class of very great importance. Men look to their knowledge as the principal ground of their security; they acquire a habit of trusting to them in almost every important transaction of their lives. In proportion as they have much to risk, that is, in proportion as they are rich; and in proportion as they are timid, that is, averse to run risks;—they fall into a state of absolute dependance upon the lawyers. It is evident from this explanation, that as it is of great importance to the aristocracy to be able to use the influence of the teachers of religion for their own purposes, it is of great importance to them also, to be able to use the influence of the lawyers for their own purposes. To this end they are obliged to admit them to a requisite share in all the advantages of the aristocracy. It is known to every body how unintelligible a mass the English law is; how extensive a sway the tribe of lawyers exercise over the actions of their countrymen; and to how considerable a share in all the distinctions of the aristocracy, and all the profits of misrule, they are [215] admitted. Details we reserve for occasions as they arise. The general facts, as we have stated them, are too notorious to admit of dispute. Accordingly, the share, which the Church and the Law are treated with, in the good things of the aristocracy, insures their strenuous exertions in its support; and, at all times, whatever is noxious in aristocratical opinions and prejudices has had the great majority of both those bodies for its zealous supporters: all those doctrines which have for their object to secure the interests of the great number against the usurpations of the small number, and all the individuals who promote those doctrines, have been, at all times, to the great majority of lawyers and churchmen, the objects of the most bitter persecution.

From the developments which we have thus afforded, we think a pretty clear conception of what is meant by the aristocracy of this country, politically considered, may easily be drawn. The more efficient part of it is undoubtedly that small number of leading families, probably not two hundred in all, which return a majority of the members of the House of Commons. This oligarchy is really and truly the governing power of the country. This governing power, like other governing powers, is obliged to make sacrifices to convenience; and in order to have instruments, and secure the services of those who would be dangerous enemies, is constrained to make a partnership concern, and to deal out certain minor shares: those are the shares of the monied interest, the church, and the law. Men of talent, as a class, have been sometimes represented as a constituent part of the House of Commons, and thence of the aristocracy; but, we think, erroneously. If they come in independently, by the purchase of a seat, they come in as monied men. If they come in as the nominees of this or the other great landlord, they come in as mere attornies of the aristocracy. They are servants in an office; they are not a part of the aristocracy, any more than their butlers or stewards.

We are now drawing to a close with that development which we have deemed necessary, as enabling us to characterise two publications which are addressed to the aristocracy of this country, and which, notwithstanding their agreement in this leading circumstance, exhibit so much diversity in their more obvious appearances.

There is only one particular more into the analysis of which, as a preliminary explanation, it will be necessary for us to enter. The aristocracy of this country are naturally, in their political proceedings, divided, under the guidance of their interests, into two sections. The Quarterly Review follows the one section: the Edinburgh Review follows the other. The [216] one of these sections is commonly known under the title of the ministerial party. The other is known under that of the opposition party. What are the interests which preside over the formation of the ministerial party are sufficiently obvious; and as they are in general correctly estimated, we are under no inducement to spend many words in explaining them.

As the benefits, periodically arising from the engrossment of the powers of government in the hands of the few and the consequent employment of them for the benefit of that few, have to be divided; and as the division in this country is confided to a fixed individual, called the King, who thus acts as the head of the aristocratical and governing body to whose interest it is more conducive to give up the division to such a functionary, than to run the risk of those destructive contests, which, but for such an expedient, it would be apt to occasion;—all that part of the aristocracy, who either are satisfied with the share which they receive, or think they have a better chance of such a share by meriting the favour of the present distributors than by any other course they can pursue, range themselves under the King’s immediate advisers, and lend their influence to the promotion of all their designs. This class of motives is so obvious, and the operation of them so well understood, that we may now pass to the consideration of the interests which operate to the formation of the other section of the British aristocracy.

To all candid and intelligent readers it is unnecessary to remark, that we are here tracing the interests which predominate in the several situations which it is our object to explain. It is obvious, that all enlightened legislation proceeds upon a calculation of those interests, and that it is the business of true philosophy to form that calculation exactly. It is not therefore necessary for us here to enter into the motives of a different sort, which may bear a share in ranging this or that individual in the one or the other party. One man may adhere to the ministry, because he approves of their conduct; another may join the opposition, because the conduct of the ministry appears to him to be wrong. All that is necessary here is, to caution unwary reasoners against allowing those motives which may predominate in the breast of individuals, from occupying that place in their reasonings which belongs to those motives which act upon the class as a class, and by which, as a class, they must be governed. It would be absurd to say that a comparatively small number of men formed into a class by possessing all the powers of government over the great number, and the means of using those powers for their own advantage, will not, as a class, be actuated by the [217] desire to render that advantage as great as possible. This being admitted, and it being clear that a man would render himself contemptible by denying it, the only care of the rational man is, to ascertain the course of action to which that desire must conduct the class; and having done so, to make it known to others. This is the course which it is now our endeavour to pursue; and our anxiety is to guard our readers against the delusion which is so often practised, of turning away the attention from the consideration of the motives which must govern the class, by holding up to attention the other motives, which always may, and very often do, actuate individuals. There is not a more fertile source of false reasoning, in matters of government, than this.

If, in the class who share among them the powers of government, there is one part who are pleased with the share which they receive of the advantages, or prefer the prospect which they have of sharing under the favour of the existing distributors; there is also, naturally, a part who are not pleased with the share which they receive, and who are willing to prefer any tolerable chance of sharing by other hands. These are they who, in this country, form themselves into what is called the opposition. The interest which actuates the conduct of this section of the aristrocacy, are somewhat less obvious, from the modifications they undergo, than those which actuate the ministerial section. The immediate object of the opposition is to effect a change of the hands by which the distribution of the advantages is made—to obtain hands through which their share will be enlarged. The means which these interests prescribe to them for the attainment of this object, afford a clue to the labyrinth of their conduct. The grand expedient for driving a minister from his situation is, to deprive him of support in the House of Commons; to lessen as much as possible the number of those who vote for, increase as much as possible the number of those who vote against him. There are minor expedients, court intrigues, and others, but this is so much the leading and established course, that we may, for the present purpose, overlook the remainder. The plan, therefore, is, to excite disapprobation of the principles and conduct of those who retain the distribution, and to excite approbation of the principles and conduct of those whom they wish to hold it in their stead. In this the Opposition are under the necessity of endeavouring to reconcile courses which are rather opposed to one another.

The primary object, of course, is, to discredit the ministry, and augment the favour of their own leaders with the aristocratical class. But in order to do this the more effectually, it is expedient to [218] produce as much as possible of the same effects upon the public at large, including the middling and lower classes. Public opinion operates in various ways upon the aristocratical class, partly by contagion, partly by conviction, partly by intimidation: and the principal strength of that current is derived from the greatness of the mass by which it is swelled. It is the interest of the Opposition, therefore, to act, in such a manner, or rather to speak,—for speaking is their action,—so as to gain favour from both the few and the many. This they are obliged to endeavour by a perpetual system of compromise, a perpetual trimming between the two interests. To the aristocratical class they aim at making it appear, that the conduct of their leaders would be more advantageous even to that class, than the conduct of the ministry, which they paint in colours as odious to the aristocracy as they can. On the other hand, to gain the favour of the popular class, they are obliged to put forth principles which appear to be favourable to their interests, and to condemn such measures of conduct as tend to injure the many for the benefit of the few. In their speeches and writings, therefore, we commonly find them playing at seesaw. If a portion of the discourse has been employed in recommending the interests of the people, another must be employed in recommending the interests of the aristocracy. Having spoken a while on the one side, they must speak a while on the other. Having written a few pages on the one side, they must write as many on the other. It matters not how much the one set of principles are really at variance with the other, provided the discordance is not very visible, or not likely to be clearly seen by the party on whom it is wished that the delusion should pass.

In this game, of aristocratical, and popular, it is sufficiently evident on which side, at last, the winnings remain. There are two sufficient reasons which determine the point. In the first place, it is the aristocracy through whose decision exclusively the object of the Opposition must be attained,—that of ejecting the ministerial party, and giving possession to them. They must, therefore, be very careful not to excite any suspicion that they are in reality less favourable to the aristocratical side of the account than those whom they wish to supplant. And, therefore, whatever the zeal of which they make show in favour of the people, it must still appear to the aristrocacy, that it bears upon no points of which they have any occasion to be afraid; that it leads to the diminution of none of the advantages which the monopoly of the powers of government bestows upon them. There is another, and a perfectly sufficient reason in favour of the same tendency, that the opposition themselves are a section [219] of the aristocracy; a section that wishes, and hopes, to be the leading section; and which, therefore, cannot be expected to aim at the diminution of advantages which are its own.

From this development of the interests and views of the two sections of the aristocracy in this country, it is clearly seen what may be expected to be the aim and tendency of the publications, particularly periodical, which look for success to the favour and applause of the one or the other. Those on the ministerial side have, as far as the interests of the aristocracy are concerned, a more simple course to pursue. They advocate them directly, and with enthusiasm, affected, or real. The aristocracy are spoken of as the country. Whenever the interests of the country are named, it is the interests of the aristocracy that are meant. The aristocracy are all in all. Compared with them, every thing is of trifling importance. With respect to the interests of the ministerial section, the business of the writers on that side is, to beat down the pretensions both of the opposition section of the aristocracy, and of the people. The people are represented as altogether vile, and any desires which they may exhibit to see the powers of government so disposed of, that they may have some security that these powers shall not be employed for the benefit of the aristocracy at their expense, as inconceivably wicked; as contrary, above all things, to religion; also contrary to law, and to order. The opposition section of the aristocracy are arraigned on two accounts; first, as attaching blame to the ministers for factious purposes, namely, to put their leaders in, and the ministers out, without being able to show, that the conduct of the ministers is not as good for the country, that is, the aristocracy, as that of the opposition leaders would be; and secondly, a still more dreadful odium is endeavoured to be cast upon them, by representing the professions which they are obliged to make in favour of the people as acts of support to these hideous pretensions of the people about securities for good government, which tend to the overthrow of the church and the state.

The course which is necessary to be pursued, by such periodical publications as adopt the vocation of promoting the cause of the opposition section of the aristocracy, will be easily understood, after what has been already said, without many words for its elucidation. The seesaw of the party must be recommended; and the more of skill and pains is bestowed upon this object, the more of approbation may be expected. It is called the middle course. Every art is used to gain it reputation, under the title of moderation, and by the application of bad names to the two sets of opinions, between which the party oscillates, and which it is in reality putting forward by turns. The set of opinions, purely on [220] the side of aristocratical power, are called despotical. Those which support the demand of effectual securities in favour of the people are declared anarchical, and are commonly stigmatised by some nickname in the slang of the day; jacobinical, for instance, at one time; radical, at another. They have a method worth observing, by which they prove that the party holds a middle course; by which term middle they always desire to be understood wise. When the people blame the party as aristocratical, and produce actual declarations of opinion on the part of its leaders which go the full length of the aristocratical pretensions, the writers ask how you can misinterpret their words so far, when they can produce you other declarations of opinion which go to as great an extent in favour of the popular demands. This proceeding they reverse, when charged as democratical, on the part of the aristocracy. They do not allow that two contradictory opinions on one and the same point, destroy one another, and should be regarded as no opinion at all. They hold that two contradictory opinions are good for nothing, each of them by itself; but that, both together, they form another nice opinion, exactly in the middle way between both.

It is essential, in writing upon this plan, to deal as much as possible in vague language, and cultivate the skilful use of it. Words which appear to mean much, and may by those to whom they are addressed be interpreted to mean much, but which may also, when it suits the convenience of those who have used them, be shown to mean little or nothing, are of singular importance to those whose business it is to play the game of compromise, to trim between irreconcileable interests, to seesaw between contradictory opinions.

Language of this description is peculiarly needed in making declarations which are meant to gain favour with the people. A party which is itself a section of the aristocracy, which desires to please the aristocracy, and by means of pleasing them to become the distributors of the good things which the possession of the powers of the government bestows upon the aristocracy, risk nothing by speaking explicitly in favour of their privileges. What is requisite is to have vague terms at command, when it is necessary to speak in opposition to these privileges. Aristocratical domination, in the abstract, may be spoken of as something exceedingly hateful, or pregnant with the worst of consequences. The people may be exhorted to be on their guard against it. They may even be told that the ministers have no other object than to introduce it; and that this alone is a sufficient reason for hating them, and for using every exertion to turn them out. In the meantime, great care must be used not [221] to remove any part of the veil which conceals from the view of the people, the real amount of aristocratical power in this country. When any specific measure is proposed, which would really operate to the diminution of that power,—choosing the members of parliament by ballot, for instance,—it must be loudly decried, and every thing must be done to attach to it, if possible, the apprehension of evil consequences. On the other hand, if a measure is proposed which has the appearance of being calculated to diminish the power of the aristocracy, but which in reality has no such tendency, perhaps the very reverse, such as the disfranchisement of the boroughs called rotten, giving the representation to the counties, then the epithets of praise must be collected. The man who brings forward such a measure as this, must be hailed as the first of men; the man who should accomplish it, must be described as the most happy.

One important part of the business of writers on the side of the opposition section of the aristocracy, one of the qualities by which they can most effectually recommend themselves, is, being ingenious in the invention of schemes of this description; schemes which may have the appearance to the people of being calculated to add to their securities, but which would, even if accomplished, leave the power of the aristocracy untouched. Of this class of plans one example is seen in that which we have already mentioned, diminishing the number of borough members to augment that of county members. Another example is seen in the doctrine about representation by classes; by which it is attempted to persuade the people, that they have securities enough, provided every class is represented in the House of Commons; that is to say, the landed interest represented, the mercantile interest represented, the army, the navy, the law, the people represented; though it should appear that the people have no real, efficient control over one man in this composition; that they have not the choice of so much as six, out of six hundred; and that even a bare majority, chosen and influenced by the aristocracy, would determine in the long run, and on the real balance of the account, the nature of the government.

Having thus seen what are the motives which operate upon the two sets of periodical writers who address themselves to the two sections of the aristocracy, we have anticipated much of the general matter which will be applicable in criticising, in detail, the Edinburgh and the Quarterly Reviews. We have already stated, that the Edinburgh Review is addressed to the aristocracy on the side of the opposition section; the Quarterly Review is addressed to it on the side of the ministerial section. We shall see in our progress how truly they have obeyed the [222] springs which we have represented as operating generally upon the conduct of publications produced in similar circumstances.

It will be understood that we have been speaking of the political part of these two publications; including, in the political pale, the two props of the aristocratical polity, the political religion of the country, and the law, in both senses of the term. As to the literature of the Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews, in the more confined sense of the term,—the poetry, and other works of imagination and entertainment, the mathematics, chemistry, and so on,—these publications have lain under no peculiar bias from situation; and the goodness or badness of their articles on these subjects must be ascribed to the accidental qualities, moral or intellectual, of the writers. As far as their criticisms on these subjects may appear worthy of notice, they will be reviewed in other departments of this section of our work.

One word of a personal nature seems to be required. We have described the interests which operate to withdraw periodical writers from the line of utility, and we have represented it as nearly impossible for them to keep true to it. What! Are we, it may be asked, superior to seducements to which all other men succumb? If periodical writing is by its nature so imbued with evil, why is it that we propose to add to the supply of a noxious commodity? Do we promise to keep out the poison which all other men yield to the temptation of putting in? If we made such a pretension, our countrymen would do right in laughing it to scorn; and we hope they would not fail to adopt so proper a course. We have no claim to be trusted, any more than any one among our contemporaries: but we have a claim to be tried. Men have diversities of taste; and it is not impossible that a man should exist who really has a taste for the establishment of the securities for good government, and would derive more pleasure from the success of this pursuit, than of any other pursuit in which he could engage, wealth or power not excepted. All that we desire is, that it may not be reckoned impossible that we may belong to a class of this description.

There is another motive, as selfish as that which we ascribe to any body, by which we may be actuated. We may be sanguine enough, or silly enough, or clear-sighted enough, to believe, that intellectual and moral qualities have made a great progress among the people of this country; and that the class who will really approve endeavours, in favour of good government, and of the happiness and intelligence of men, are a class sufficiently numerous to reward our endeavours. No matter what our motives may be, the public will soon see whether our actions continue true to the ends which we profess; and that is all by which their interests can be affected; all, therefore, about which they need to care.


Of the two works which are to form the principal objects of our attention in this department, the Edinburgh, and Quarterly Reviews, we shall begin with the Edinburgh Review, both as it was the first in its commencement, and as it is by far the first in importance.

It originated at Edinburgh in the social studies of a small number of men, then mostly young, whose pursuits were literary, and who had already excited great expectation of future eminence. The reputation of the parties attracted attention; and the superiority of the performance to the mean articles which then filled the pages of the existing reviews, the novelty of mixing disquisitions of the reviewer with the notice of books, the tone of severity naturally piquant, and the wit and irony by which it was frequently enlivened, go far in accounting for the extensive circulation which it speedily acquired.

When it first appeared, and for some time afterwards, it was not decidedly attached to the opposition section of the aristocracy. At that time indeed the opposition party had only begun to effect a resurrection from that inhumation which it suffered from the aristocratical terrors engendered by the French revolution. It showed, however, from the beginning, that disposition to compromise which suited exactly the purposes of an opposition section, as soon as it renewed its strength. At first the seesaw was performed between those opinions which were necessary for obtaining the favour of the aristocracy, and those opinions which had obtained the sanction of philosophy, and which, without renouncing the character of philosophers, men could not abjure. To obtain, if possible, the good opinion of both aristocrats and philosophers, the doctrines of both were put forth. High examples, in this country, had already been set, and most successfully, of this species of authorcraft. With as servile doctrines as ever had been propagated under the guise of law, Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries, had mixed a portion of the liberal opinions which philosophy had not only sanctioned, but to which at that time, preceding the French revolution, it had given reputation and fashion. The other instructive example to which we allude, is that of Paley, in his Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy; where, with many liberal doctrines, to which the progress of the human mind had given birth, there is a predominating mixture of opinions, the object and tendency of which is to keep the human mind for ever shackled and debased. And to this mixture, there is no doubt that a great portion of the splendid success of these celebrated works is to be ascribed.

In proof of this observation with respect to the Edinburgh [224] Review, we may appeal to the first article in the first number. It is a Review of Mounier, de l’Influence des Philosophes. For the aristocrats, a great part of it is in the Antijacobin tone; concurring with the fashionable opinion, that of the Revolution and all its imputed evils, the cause is in a great measure to be ascribed to the philosophers. For the philosophical part of the public, again, a portion of it is employed in representing philosophy as perhaps the foremost among the causes of good. We quote but one passage:—

‘That there were defects and abuses, and some of these very gross too, in the old system of government in France, we presume will scarcely be denied. That it was lawful to wish for their removal will probably be as readily admitted; and that the peaceful influence of philosophy, while confined to this object, was laudably and properly exerted, seems to follow as a necessary conclusion. It would not be easy, therefore, to blame those writers who have confined themselves to a dispassionate and candid statement of the advantages of a better institution; and it must seem hard to involve in the guilt of Robespierre and the Jacobins, those persons in France who aimed at nothing more than the abolition of absurd privileges, and the limitation of arbitrary power. Montesquieu, Turgot, and Raynal, were probably, in some degree, dissatisfied with the government of their country, and would have rejoiced in the prospect of a reform; but it can only be the delirium of party prejudice that would suspect them of wishing for the downfal of royalty, and for the proscriptions and equality of a reign of terror. It would be treating their accusers too much like men in their senses, to justify such men any farther on the score of intention: yet it is possible that they may have been instrumental in the Revolution, and that their writings may have begun that motion, that terminated in ungovernable violence. We will not go over the commonplace arguments that may be stated to convict them of imprudence. Every step that is taken towards the destruction of prejudice, is attended with the danger of an opposite excess: but it is no less clearly our duty to advance against prejudices; and they deserve the highest praise who unite the greatest steadiness with the greatest precaution. At the time when the writings we are speaking of were published, there was not a man in Europe who could discern in them the seeds of future danger. So far from denouncing them as the harbingers of regicide and confusion, the public received them as hostages and guides to security. It was long thought that their effects were inadequate to their merits: nothing but the event could have instructed us that it was too powerful for our tranquillity. To such men, the reproach of improvidence can be made only because their foresight was not prophetic; and those alone are entitled to call them imprudent, who could have predicted the tempest in the calm, and foretold those consequences by which the whole world has since been astonished.

If it be true, therefore, that writers of this description have facilitated and promoted the Revolution, it is a truth which should detract [225] but little either from their merit or their reputation. Their designs were pure and honourable; and the natural tendency and promise of their labours was exalted and fair. They failed, by a fatality which they were not bound to foresee; and a concurrence of events, against which it was impossible for them to provide, turned that to mischief which was planned out by wisdom for good. We do not tax the builder with imprudence, because the fortress which he erected for our protection is thrown down by an earthquake on our heads.

There is another set of writers, however, for whom it will not be so easy to find an apology, who, instead of sober reasoning and practical observation, have intruded upon the public with every species of extravagance and absurdity. The presumptuous theories and audacious maxims of Rousseau, Mably, Condorcet, &c. had a necessary tendency to do harm. They unsettled all the foundations of political duty, and taught the citizens of every existing community that they were enslaved and had the power of being free. M. Mounier has too much moderation himself, to approve of the doctrines of these reformers; but he assures us, that instead of promoting the revolution, it was the revolution that raised him into celebrity; that they rose into reputation, after it became necessary to quote them as apologists or authorities; but that, before that time, their speculations were looked upon as brilliant absurdities, that no more deserved a serious confutaion, than the Polity of Plato, or the Utopia of Sir Thomas More.—With all our respect for M. Mounier, we have some difficulty in believing this assertion. Rousseau, in particular, was universally read and admired, long before he was exalted into the Revolutionary Pantheon; and his political sagacity must have had some serious admirers, when he was himself invited to legislate for an existing community. Whatever influence he had, however, was unquestionably pernicious; and though some apology may be found for him in the enthusiasm of his disordered imagination, he is chargeable with the highest presumption, and the most blameable imprudence. Of some of the other writers who have inculcated the same doctrines, we must speak rather in charity than in justice, if we say nothing more severe.’

We must leave this passage, though it is plausibly worded, to speak for itself. That Raynal should be enumerated among the sober-minded writers, Condorcet among the inflammatory, must surprise any one who has read them. Though two classes of writers are here spoken of, one with praise, the other with blame, it is really not easy to say to which of them, in point of consequence, the greatest quantity of evil is ascribed.

Observe, however, the real doctrine. It is laudable to put forth such writings as those of Montesquieu, Turgot, and Raynal: this is for the philosophers. It is wicked to put forth such writings as those of Rousseau, Mably, and Condorcet: this is for the aristocrats.—Observe also the implied consequence of what is here said, the restraint upon [226] freedom of discussion which is covertly recommended. To put forth enlarged theories respecting government, pointing out what is really necessary to afford securities to the people, and how much, under every existing government, those securities are wanting, ought to be prohibited. “Presumptuous theories and audacious maxims have a necessary tendency to do harm.” But who is to judge what theories are presumptuous, what maxims audacious? All must be permitted, or none; or government, that is, the party interested against the people, must judge. Upon what principle the classification of the writers is made, it would be absurd to attempt to divine. Any classification answered the purpose of seesaw. It was enough to have one cluster to praise, another to blame.

There is another remarkable specimen of the seesaw, in the same number.

‘In a subsequent part of his pamphlet, Mr. Godwin sets the doctrine of the particular and general affections in so clear and masterly a light, and in a manner so very superior to any thing we find in Dr. Parr’s sermon on the same subject, that we have great pleasure in laying the passage before our readers.

“For, after all, though I admit that the assiduities we employ for our children ought to be, and must be, the result of private and domestic affections, yet it is not these affections that determine them to be virtuous. They must, as has been already said, be brought to a standard, and tried by a criterion of virtue.

This criterion has been above described, and it is not perhaps of the utmost importance whether we call it utility, or justice, or, more periphrastically, the production of the greatest general good, the greatest public sum of pleasurable sensation. Call it by what name you please, it will still be true, that this is the law by which our actions must be tried. I must be attentive to the welfare of my child; because he is one in the great congregation of the family of the whole earth. I must be attentive to the welfare of my child; because I can, in many portions of the never-ceasing current of human life, be conferring pleasure and benefit on him, when I cannot be directly employed in conferring benefit on others. I best understand his character and his wants; I possess a greater power of modelling his disposition and influencing his fortune; and, as was observed in Political Justice (p. 132.), he is the individual, in the great distribution of the class needing superintendance and supply among the class capable of affording them, whom it falls to my lot to protect and cherish. I do not require that, when a man is employed in benefitting his child, he should constantly recollect the abstract principle of utility; but I do maintain, that his actions in prosecuting that benefit are no further virtuous than in proportion as they square with that principle.” ’

This is going a great way for philosophy. What follows is a devout offering at the shrine of aristocratical bigotry and insolence.


‘Aware of the very superior manner in which Mr. Godwin’s complaint is now accustomed to be treated, we had great hopes, upon reading so far, that a radical cure had been effected: but we had no sooner entered upon his remarks on population, than this pleasing delusion was dispelled, and we were convinced it was a case for life. The great expedients which this philosopher has in store to counteract the bad effects of excessive population (so ably pointed out by Mr. Malthus), are, abortion and child-murder. In gratitude for these noble remedies of social disorder, may we take the liberty of suggesting to Mr. Godwin, the infinite importance of shaving and blistering the crown of his head, of keeping the primæ viæ open, and of strictly pursuing an antiphlogistic regimen. By these means we have sometimes seen the understandings of great philosophers wonderfully and rapidly improved.’

There is one doctrine, to which we shall have frequent occasion to advert, because it is a favourite with the Edinburgh Review. It is a doctrine expected to please both aristocracy and people; and ample use is accordingly made of it. The doctrine is, that irregular and tumultuary ebullitions of the people in favour of liberty, are of singular importance.

It is not from such irrational effervescence, that the aristocracy have any thing to fear. It is not a mobbing populace that can act with perseverance and consistency sufficient to overcome the defences which guard the undue powers of an aristocracy. If, then, the people can be gulled, by these false demonstrations of liberty, into a belief that they possess good government, the security of the aristocracy is increased; and the doctrine which leads to support this delusion, is a doctrine entirely to their taste.

On the other hand, by pompous talking about the public spirit of the people, about independence of mind, and so forth, displayed and generated in the turbulence of an election, it is expected that the vanity of the people will be piqued; and that they will be persuaded to believe they are something, by that which effectually proves they are nothing. The passage where we find this doctrine first set forth in the Edinburgh Review, is an early one. It is in the first volume (p. 384.), in the article on Dernieres Vuës de Politique et de Finance par M. Neckar.

‘The only foundation of political liberty is the spirit of the people; and the only circumstance which makes a lively impression upon their senses, and powerfully reminds them of their importance, their power, and their rights, is the periodical choice of their representatives. How easily that spirit may be totally extinguished, and of the degree of abject fear and slavery to which the human race may be reduced for ages, every man of reflection is sufficiently aware; and he knows that the preservation of that feeling is, of all other objects of political science, the most delicate and the most difficult. It appears to us, that a people who did not choose their representatives, but only those [228] who chose their representatives, would very soon become indifferent to their elections altogether. To deprive them of their power of nominating their own candidate would be still worse. The eagerness of the people to vote is kept alive by their occasional expulsion of a candidate who has rendered himself objectionable, or the adoption of one who knows how to render himself agreeable to them. They are proud of being solicited personally by a man of family or wealth. The uproar even, and the confusion and the clamour of a popular election in England, have their use: they give a stamp to the names Liberty, Constitution, and People: they infuse sentiments which nothing but violent passions, and gross objects of sense could infuse; and which would never exist, perhaps, if the sober constituents were to sneak, one by one, into a notary’s office to deliver their votes for a representative, or were to form the first link in that long chain of causes and effects, which, in this compound kind of elections, ends with choosing a member of Parliament.’

The first article in the second volume is a specimen of the sacrifices which are made to the taste of the aristocracy. It is almost wholly antijacobin. It is a review of the work entitled Etat de l’Europe, by that instrument of the Holy Alliance, Gentz. It is an elaborate display, and a general adoption, of his views, respecting the admirable governments and the prosperous condition, of the several countries of Europe, before the French Revolution; and respecting the weakness in the design, and the misery in the effects, of that great convulsion. “There was nothing in the internal situation of the European kingdoms that required such a stormy reformation, as the Revolution threatened to accomplish; and this revolution, so far from being the last link in a long chain of disasters and abuses, was, in fact, a most grievous and unexpected interruption to their career of prosperity, and can in no degree be justified by the pretended disorder and desperation of their affairs.” Even in this article the other scale is not entirely forgotten. Something is thrown into it by a pointed condemnation of that popular object of attack, the partition of Poland.

A most singular species of morality is preached in the Edinburgh Review, at times: as, for instance, in the article on Belsham’s Philosophy of the Mind, in the first volume.

‘Mr. Belsham has one short argument, that whatever is true cannot be hurtful. It is the motto of his title-page, and is afterwards repeated, with equal emphasis, at every time of need. “If the doctrine be true,” he contends, “the diffusion of it can do no harm. It is an established and undeniable principle, that truth must be favourable to virtue.” (P. 312.) To us, however, this principle, instead of being undeniable, has always appeared the most questionable of postulates. In the declamation of Plato, or the poetry of Akenside, we admit it with little scruple, because we do not read [229] Plato or Akenside for the truths they may chance to contain; but we always feel more than scepticism, when we are assailed by it in a treatise of pure philosophy: nor can we account for an almost universal assent it has received, from any other circumstance, than the profession and habits of the first teachers of morals in our schools, and of the greater number of their successors. It was a maxim of religion, before it became a maxim of philosophy; though, even as a religious maxim, it formed a very inconsistent part of the optimism in which it was combined. The Deity wills happiness; he loves truth: truth therefore must be productive of good. Such is the reasoning of the optimist. But he forgets, that, in his system, error too must have been beneficial, because error has been; and that the employment of falsehood for the production of good, cannot be more unworthy of the Divine Being, than the acknowledged employment of rapine and murder for the same purpose. There is, therefore, nothing in the abstract consideration of truth and Deity, which justifies the adoption of such a maxim; and as little is it justified by our practical experience. In the small events of that familiar and hourly intercourse which forms almost the whole of human life, how much is happiness increased by the general adoption of a system of concerted and limited deceit! for it is either in that actual falsehood, which must, as falsehood, be productive of evil, or in the suppression of that truth, which, as truth, must have been productive of good, that the chief happiness of civilized manners consists; and he from whose doctrine it flows, that we are to be in no case hypocrites, would, in mere manners, reduce us to a degree of barbarism beyond that of the rudest savage, who, in the simple hospitalities of his hut, or the ceremonial of the public assemblies of his tribe, has still some courtesies, which he fulfils with all the exactness of polite dissimulation. In the greater events of life, how often might the advantage of erroneous belief be felt! If, for example, it were a superstition of every mind, that the murderer, immediately on the perpetration of his guilt, must himself expire by sympathy, a new motive would be added to the side of virtue; and the only circumstance to be regretted would be, not that the falsehood would produce effect, since that effect could be only serviceable, but that perhaps the good effect would not be of long duration, as it would be destroyed for ever by the rashness of the first daring experimenter. The visitation of the murderer by the nightly ghost, which exists in the superstition of so many countries, and which forms a great part of that complex and unanalysed horror with which the crime continues to be considered after the belief of the superstition itself has ceased, has probably been of more service to mankind than the truths of all the sermons that have been preached on the corresponding prohibition in the Decalogue. It is unfortunate that with this beneficial awe unnecessary horrors have been connected; for the place continues to be haunted, as well as the person; and the dread of our infancy is thus directed, rather to the supernatural appearance, than to the crime. But if superstition could exist, and be modified, at the will of an enlightened legislator, so as to be deprived of its terrors to the [230] innocent, and turned wholly against the guilty, we know no principle of our nature on which it would be so much for the interest of mankind to operate. It would be a species of prohibitive religion, more impressive, at the moment of beginning crime, than religion itself; because its penalties would be more conceivable and immediate. Innumerable cases may be imagined, in which other errors of belief would be of moral advantage; and we may therefore assume, as established and undeniable, that there is nothing in the nature of truth which makes it necessarily good; that, in the greater number of instances, truth is beneficial; but that, of the whole number of truths and falsehoods, a certain number are productive of good, and others of evil. To which number any particular truth or falsehood belongs, must be shown, in the usual way, by reasonings of direct experience or analogy; and hence, in a question of utility, the demonstration of mere logical truth cannot justly be adduced as superseding the necessity of other inquiries. Even though the contrary of that postulate which Mr. Belsham has assumed could not have been shown from other cases, it would not therefore have been applicable, without proof, to the great questions which he discusses; for these questions comprehend all the truths that are of most importance in human life, which are thus the very truths from which the justness of the assumed principle is most fully to be demonstrated or denied.’

We shall hereafter have various occasions to examine this doctrine, and to show the applications of which it is found to be susceptible, in defiance of all the jesuitry of party. We may leave it safely, at present, when we cannot afford so many words as would be necessary for its exposure, to the reflections of our readers. The public mind has now certainly got beyond this standard of ethics. On the other side, the actions consecrated as virtues by the prevailing cant, whether they have or have not any connection with the sources of human happiness, are spoken of with a reverence truly edifying: as in the article in this same volume on M. Neckar’s Reflections sur la Divorce, where the ancients are considered very immoral for not including all the conditions, included by us, in the marriage contract; as also in the article on Madame de Stael’s Delphine, in the second volume, where we may remark, by the way, the singular contrast between the mode in which the same lady is there treated, and in an article in a subsequent volume, in which we shall hereafter see she is held up as nearly the first of all human beings. At the latter period, however, she was in England, and in fashion too, especially with the opposition part of the fashionable world. In 1803, about ten years preceding the laudation, the language was as follows:—

‘This dismal trash, which has nearly dislocated the jaws of every critic among us with gaping, has so alarmed Bonaparte, that he has seized the whole impression, sent Madame de Stael out of Paris, and, [231] for aught we know, sleeps in a nightcap of steel, and dagger-proof blankets. To us it appears rather an attack against the Ten Commandments, than the government of Bonaparte, and calculated not so much to enforce the rights of the Bourbons, as the benefits of adultery, murder, and a great number of other vices, which have been somehow or other strangely neglected in this country, and too much so (according to the apparent opinion of Madame de Stael) even in France.

It happens, however, fortunately enough, that her book is as dull as it could have been if her intentions had been good; for wit, dexterity, and the pleasant energies of the mind, seldom rank themselves on the side of virtue and social order; while vice is spiritual, eloquent, and alert, ever choice in expression, happy in allusion, and judicious in arrangement.

To conclude.—Our general opinion of this book is, that it is calculated to shed a mild lustre over adultery; by gentle and convenient gradation, to destroy the modesty and the caution of women; to facilitate the acquisition of easy vices, and encumber the difficulty of virtue. What a wretched qualification of this censure to add, that the badness of the principles is alone corrected by the badness of the style, and that this celebrated lady would have been very guilty, if she had not been very dull!’

The second volume is, we think, distinguished, by its contributions to the aristocratical politics and morality. Among the more remarkable specimens, the article on Belsham’s Memoirs of George III. have attracted our attention. We quote the two first paragraphs, to show the indignation with which the writing of party pamphlets under the guise of history is deemed worthy. We presume it will not be reckoned much more laudable to write party pamphlets under the guise of reviews.

‘The preceding volumes of this history had created in our minds so little expectation of merit in those which are now presented to the world, that we cannot with propriety say that we have been disappointed. There is a fraud in the very title-page of this work; for if the reader expects to find in the “Memoirs of the Reign of George III.” any thing like an history of that period, he will soon find himself dolefully mistaken. By the illiberality, party spirit, and intemperate ardour for the propagation of his political opinions, which Mr. Belsham displays, he has forfeited the title of historian, for the more appropriate, though less respectable, name of zealot, or pamphleteer. The bitter and licentious spirit in which he had indulged his pen throughout his former volumes, has now risen to a height more intolerable to the reader and disgraceful to the writer. It appears that Mr. Belsham’s habits of writing, like all other evil habits, increase in virulence, in proportion as they proceed; and unless the wholesome discipline of criticism be administered, the press may, at some future day, groan under a still more highly accumulated mass of personal abuse and intolerant zeal.


By stripping these volumes, however, of their title to the rank of history, to which they have assuredly no more claim than a book made up of political registers and party pamphlets can pretend to, we have greatly abridged to ourselves the unpleasant task of censure; and by thus bringing their merits and defects to the decision of an inferior standard, we have allowed greater latitude to the author’s eccentric excursions, and greater indulgence to his violations of decency and propriety. It may be proper, however, to hint, that the former are always observable, when a low factious citizen comes under the cognizance of the law; and the latter, whenever a prime minister, a Tory, or an alarmist, is honoured by a mention in his annals.’

Observe with attention the notion relative to freedom of discussion inculcated in the following use of the term “libellous.”

‘After detailing the principal articles of the petition for reform of Parliament, presented by the “Society of the Friends of the People,” this libellous oracle thus delivers itself:—

“Whoever reads this celebrated petition, and still retains the opinion, that the Parliamentary representation of this kingdom needs no reform, may be regarded as in a state of mind far beyond the reach of facts or of argument.” ’

When it is remembered what that petition was—a petition to be allowed to prove at the bar of the House, a fact which is in reality too notorious to be denied, that a decided majority of the House of Commons is chosen by somewhat less than two hundred great families; and when the state of mind, which in the teeth of such a fact can deny the need of reform, is described as inaccessible to the evidence of facts or argument;—to hold forth such a description as libellous, that is, according to the law of England, punishable, worthy of fine and imprisonment, is to propagate a doctrine, the character of which we wish not to pronounce.

We request attention to the acts which in the following passage are presented to the reader under the title of “exertions” of government.

‘We admire, too, the lofty and contemptuous style in which Mr. Belsham treats the exertions of government at that period.

“Notwithstanding the great predominance of the spirit of loyalty, and the numberless addresses of duty and allegiance transmitted from all parts of the united kingdom, and the perfect security of the government, a mean and merciless spirit of revenge displayed itself in the prosecution and punishment of very many petty offenders, accused of the vague and indefinable crime of sedition—amongst whom were several printers and booksellers; so that it became extremely dangerous to publish any tract or pamphlet reflecting in any manner upon the measures of government: and the liberty of the press was silently and virtually annihilated.” ’

We should have been happy to find something in this volume, [233] which we could have placed in the popular, to balance the mighty weight in the opposite scale; but after turning over the pages with some attention, we have found nothing that would answer the purpose. This, be it remembered, was a period in which the aristocratical tide was running very high. When the war was just renewed with France, when the courage of volunteering, and the fear of a French invasion, were the passions of the day, aristocratical opinions alone were a marketable commodity.

It is curious to observe on what occasions the Edinburgh Review sometimes chooses to introduce a favourite portion of the aristocratical creed: the occasion, for example, of Bishop Watson’s proposal for paying the national debt, where is inculcated the importance of keeping a large fund of the matter of corruption at the disposal of the crown.

‘Besides, we confess that, sincere as our attachment is to the ancient privileges of the people, we cannot contemplate, without some alarm, so sudden a shock as the power of the crown must necessarily receive by the change. We can call the projected reduction of patronage by no other name than a violent change in the balance of the constitution; and this consideration alone should have no small weight with us, in these times, when the unhappy experience of our neighbours has so strongly recommended to practical statesmen that predilection, which every wholesome theory had long before encouraged, for the most gradual alterations in political systems.’

At this time much respect was professed for the old government of the Bourbons. Mr. Stephens, the author of “A History of the late War,” is blamed for calling it tyranny and despotism. Such language is stigmatised as “revolutionary verbiage.” In the article on the correspondence of Louis XVI., he is represented as having been always a friend to reform. It is affirmed, that designs against his crown had been avowed from the beginning of the Revolution; and his Christian charity is celebrated in the same sort of strain, commonly denominated cant, as would have become the class of fops described in the article in the first volume on Rennel’s Sermons.

‘A class of fops not usually designated by that epithet—men clothed in profound black, with large canes, and strange amorphous hats—of big speech, and imperative presence—talkers about Plato—great affecters of senility—despisers of women, and all the graces of life—fierce foes to common sense—abusive of the living, and approving no one who has not been dead for at least a century. Such fops, as vain, and as shallow as their fraternity in Bond-street, differ from these only as Gorgonius differed from Rusillus.’

We pass over the fourth and fifth volumes, which are in much the same spirit with the second and third, except that there seems [234] a disposition to avoid grappling with any important and tender subject. Political economy, indeed, obtains a due share of attention; and the abolition of the slave trade begins to be recommended,—two subjects upon which the Edinburgh Review has rendered important service. And upon these subjects, as well as upon that of Catholic emancipation, which has been laboriously handled, a remark is required.

These are precisely the description of subjects which suit a publication, pursuing the career which has been pursued by the Edinburgh Review. The hold possessed by the aristocracy upon the powers of government, was not likely to be weakened, by any opinions propagated on the subjects of political economy, and the slave trade; not even on that of Catholic emancipation; for though the anile and priest-ridden portion would certainly make a clamour, and feel apprehension for the consecrated prop, the more manly portion, having some respect for the reputation of good sense, would have little respect for matronly fears, and would neither cry down nor discard a publication which attacked them. These were subjects, therefore, on which a reputation with the liberal, the enlightened, and the disinterested part of the public, might be courted, without risking much with the aristocratical and the prejudiced.

It is curious that at this time the Edinburgh Review forced even political economy occasionally into prostitution to the aristocratical system. An instance is afforded, which we must briefly notice, even in one of the volumes which we said we should overlook.

At the period in question, the favourite object with the aristocracy was the pursuit of war, even with an expenditure which laughed to scorn every other specimen of national prodigality which the world had ever beheld. Towards a new argument in favour of this unparalleled waste, thousands were situated nearly like the Eastern sovereign in respect to a new pleasure; they were ready to give mines for it.

It will not be denied that a bold attempt was made to furnish such an argument in the following memorable passage:—

‘But the evils of increasing capital, like the evils of increasing population, are felt long before the case has become extreme; and a nation, it may be observed, is much more likely (at least in the present state of commercial policy) to suffer from increasing wealth than from increasing numbers of people. Are there no checks provided by the constitution of human nature, and the construction of civil society, for the one, as well as for the other of these evils? Mr. Malthus has pointed out the manner in which the principle of population is counteracted; and we apprehend that causes nearly analogous will be found to check the progressive increase of capital. Luxurious [235] living, and other kinds of unnecessary expenditure—above all, political expenses, and chiefly the expenses of war—appear to us to furnish those necessary checks to the indefinite augmentation of wealth, which there was reason a priori to suppose would be somewhere provided by the wise regulations of nature.’

It is not the incorrect political economy which we here mean to expose. Other occasions will present themselves for that purpose. What we wish should obtain attention is, the spirit which is manifested by the declaration, that “a nation, situated as ours, is much more likely to suffer from increasing wealth, than from increasing numbers of people:” and that in such circumstances, the expenses of war are a blessing!

We shall have many occasions to point out where the Edinburgh Review has lavished the language of condemnation upon the extravagance of ministers. Can we contemplate a more perfect specimen of seesaw, than this?

In the sixth volume, and in the year 1805, (we think it material to notice the time) a counterpoise begins to be placed in the popular scale, which had long remained so unequally supplied.

In reviewing Talleyrand Sur les Colonies, &c., they introduce a paragraph in favour of that which the few, by whom the powers of government are usurped, have so much occasion to dread; the prevalence of enlightened principles, persecuted, under the name of theory, by the said few, the patrons of practice, and eulogisers of “things as they are.”

‘The papers now before us, are evidently dictated by this train of reflection; but they have assumed a more general form, and contain a variety of discussions upon the principles of colonization. Independent of the epigrammatic force and eloquence of their style, and of their more substantial merits as sound and ingenious speculations upon a subject of equal difficulty and importance, they cannot fail to interest us in their practical applications. They were the result of actual observation in countries where the author had access to the best information, or was actually engaged in affairs. They were drawn up with a view to influence the conduct of France, under a government in which he soon after bore an active part. Subsequent events prove, that they were not without effect in shaping the measures of that ambitious power. These tracts, it should be observed, however, appear in a form purely speculative; their reasonings are general and philosophical; formed indeed upon facts, but guided by large, scientific views; by an appeal to principles at every step; and by the kind of argument that inferior statesmen deride as theoretical, while their adversaries are conquering the world by the combinations to which it leads. The views of political economy by which our author seems to have been guided, are liberal and enlightened. He knows thoroughly the best doctrines of the science, and is fully impressed with their truth. It will be difficult indeed for our readers to believe that [236] the writer of some of the passages which we mean to extract, is a leading personage in the present fiscal administration of France. And, however much the recollection may lead us to lament so striking an instance of talents and knowledge enslaved by sordid principles, it is comfortable to think, that there are, among the rulers of that country, some whose lights are superior to their conduct, and that the justness of their original views may one day triumph over the gross ignorance and petty ambition of their more powerful coadjutors.’

The article on “Bailly’s Memoirs” is in a tone much more in opposition to the antijacobin spirit, than any thing which occurs before. The following passage seesaws pretty remarkably with some already produced. Having spoken of the occasion which had been taken from the French Revolution to “involve in discredit the principles of political philosophy, to give strength to prejudices, and to sanction abuses,” it goes on:—

‘The same circumstances which have thus led us to confound what is salutary with what is pernicious in our establishments, have also perverted our judgments as to the characters of those who were connected with these memorable occurrences. The tide of popular favour, which ran at one time with a dangerous and headlong violence to the side of innovation and political experiment, has now set, perhaps too strongly, in an opposite direction; and the same misguiding passions that placed factious and selfish men on a level with patriots and heroes, has now ranked the blameless and the enlightened in the herd of murderers and madmen.

There are two classes of men, in particular, to whom it appears to us that the Revolution has thus done injustice, and who have been made to share in some measure the infamy of its most detestable agents, in consequence of venial errors, and in spite of extraordinary merits. There are none indeed who made a figure in its more advanced stages, that may not be left without any great breach of charity, to the vengeance of public opinion: and both the descriptions of persons to whom we have alluded only existed, accordingly, at the period of its commencement. These were the philosophers or speculative men, who inculcated a love of liberty and a desire of reform by their writings and conversation; and the virtuous and moderate, who attempted to act upon these principles, at the outset of the Revolution, and countenanced or suggested those measures by which the ancient frame of the government was eventually dissolved. To confound either of these classes of men with the monsters by whom they were succeeded, it would be necessary to forget that they were in reality their most strenuous opponents, and their earliest victims. If they were instrumental in conjuring up the tempest, we may at least presume that their co-operation was granted in ignorance, since they were the first to fall before it; and can scarcely be supposed to have either foreseen or intended those consequences, in which their own ruin was so inevitably involved. That they are chargeable with imprudence and with presumption, may be affirmed, perhaps, without fear of contradiction; [237] though, with regard to many of them, it would be no easy task, perhaps, to point out by what conduct they could have avoided such an imputation; and this charge, it is manifest, ought at any rate to be kept carefully separate from that of guilt or atrocity. Benevolent intentions, though alloyed by vanity, and misguided by ignorance, can never become the objects of the highest moral reprobation; and enthusiasm itself, though it does the work of the demons, ought still to be distinguished from treachery or malice. The knightly adventurer, who broke the chains of the galley-slaves, purely that they might enjoy their deliverance from bondage, will always be regarded with other feelings than the robber who freed them to recruit the ranks of his banditti.’

This article is in itself as instructive an example as can be found, of the craft and mystery of compromise; of trimming, and seesaw. If one sentence is in favour of truth and freedom, another is in favour of prejudice and servility. To balance such passages as the former, we have others, in the following strain:—

‘We are very much inclined to do justice to the virtuous and enlightened men who abounded in the constituent assembly of France. We believe that the motives of many of them were pure, and their patriotism unaffected: their talents are still more indisputable; but we cannot acquit them of blameable presumption and inexcusable imprudence. There are three points, it appears to us, in particular, in which they were bound to have foreseen the consequences of their proceedings.

In the first place, the spirit of exasperation, defiance, and intimidation, with which from the beginning they carried on their opposition to the schemes of the court, the clergy, and the nobility, appears to us to have been as impolitic with a view to their ultimate success, as it was suspicious perhaps as to their immediate motives. The parade which they made of their popularity; the support which they submitted to receive from the menaces and acclamations of the mob; the joy which they testified at the desertion of the royal armies; and the anomalous military force, of which they patronised the formation in the city of Paris, were so many preparations for actual hostility, and led almost inevitably to that appeal to force, by which all prospect of establishing an equitable government was finally cut off. Sanguine as the patriots of that assembly undoubtedly were, they might still have been able to remember the most obvious and important lesson in the whole volume of history, that the nation which has recourse to arms for the settlement of its internal affairs necessarily falls under the iron yoke of a military government in the end, and that nothing but the most evident necessity can justify the lovers of freedom in forcing it from the hands of their governors. In France, there certainly was no such necessity.’

The following passage is a laboured panegyric upon the actual composition of the English House of Commons: with the declaration of a general principle worthy of all admiration:


‘No representative legislature, it appears to us, can ever be respectable or secure, unless it contain within itself a great proportion of those who form the natural aristocracy of the country, and are able, as individuals, to influence the conduct and opinions of the greater part of its inhabitants. Unless the power, and weight, and authority of the assembly, in short, be really made up of the power, and weight, and authority of the individuals who compose it, the factitious dignity they may derive from their situation can never be of long endurance; and the dangerous power with which they may be invested, will become the subject of scrambling and contention among the factions of the metropolis, and be employed for any purpose but the general good of the community.

In England, the House of Commons is made up of the individuals who, by birth, by fortune, or by talents, possess singly the greatest influence over the rest of the people. The most certain and the most permanent influence, is that of rank and of riches; and these are the qualifications, accordingly, which return the greatest number of members. Men submit to be governed by the united will of those, to whose will, as individuals, the greater part of them have been previously accustomed to submit themselves; and an act of parliament is reverenced and obeyed, not because the people are impressed with a constitutional veneration for an institution called a Parliament, but because it has been passed by the authority of those who are recognised as their natural superiors, and by whose influence, as individuals, the same measures might have been enforced over the greater part of the kingdom. Scarcely any new power is acquired, therefore, by the combination of those persons into a legislature: they carry each their share of influence and authority into the senate along with them; and it is by adding the items of it together, that the influence and authority of the senate itself is made up. From such a senate, therefore, it is obvious that their power can never be wrested, and that it would not even attach to those who might succeed in supplanting them in the legislature, by violence or intrigue, or by any other means than those by which they themselves had originally secured their nomination. In such a state of representation, in short, the influence of the representatives is not borrowed from their office, but the influence of the office is supported by that which is personal to its members; and Parliament is only regarded as the great depositary of all the authority which formerly existed, in a scattered state, among its members. This authority, therefore, belonging to the men, and not to their places, can neither be lost by them, if they are forced from their places, nor found by those who may supplant them. The Long Parliament, after it was purged by the Independents, and the assemblies that met under that name, during the Protectorate of Cromwell, held the place, and enjoyed all the form of power that had belonged to their predecessors; but as they no longer contained those individuals who were able to sway and influence the opinion of the body of the people, they were without respect or authority, and speedily came to be the objects of public derision and contempt.


As the power and authority of a legislature thus constituted is perfectly secure and inalienable on the one hand, so, on the other, the moderation of its proceedings is guaranteed by a consciousness of the basis upon which this authority is founded. Every individual being aware of the extent to which his own influence is likely to reach among his constituents and dependants, is anxious that the mandates of the body shall never pass beyond that limit within which obedience may be easily secured. He will not hazard the loss of his own power, therefore, by any attempt to enlarge that of the legislature; and feeling, at every step, the weight and resistance of the people, the whole assembly proceeds with a due regard to their opinions and prejudices, and can never do any thing very injurious or very distasteful to the majority. From the very nature of the authority with which they are invested, they are in fact consubstantiated with the people for whom they are to legislate. They do not sit loose upon them, like riders on inferior animals; nor speculate nor project experiments upon their welfare, like operators upon a foreign substance. They are the natural organs of a great living body; and are not only warned, by their own feelings, of any injury which they may be tempted to inflict on it, but would become incapable of performing their functions, if they were to proceed far in debilitating the general system.

Such, it appears to us, though delivered perhaps in too abstract and elementary a form, is the just conception of a free representative legislature.’

There is a return to the malignant language of antijacobinism, in the review of the “Continuation of Belsham’s History of Great Britain,” in the same sixth volume.

‘The events which took place in the Neapolitan territory, after the French armies had been driven from Italy by the victorious Suvaroff, are narrated with considerable spirit; but in a manner which betrays the author’s decided predilection for the Revolutionists, and his detestation of all by whom the interests of the Royal party were espoused. His narrative is faithfully taken from the “Sketches” of the excellent Helen Maria Williams; of course he becomes quite impassioned, and by far too noisy, for the propriety of history. That the Neapolitans were incapable of enjoying a free government, he is, however, obliged to admit: it follows, therefore, that the project of a republican constitution was as absurd as it was wicked; and that the only remedy against greater evils, was the re-establishment of the government which had been unwarrantably pulled down. But although we are not disposed to weep with Mr. Belsham over the prostrate democracy of Naples, we are not therefore inclined either to justify or palliate the excesses of those by whom it was overthrown. It must, however, be recollected, that the Royal government, in a justificatory memorial which it afterwards published, strongly disavows the charge of proscription; but our author neither adverts to this or any other document,—having gone no farther, apparently, in search of authorities, than to the said Sketches of Miss Williams.


From these excursive details our historian then returns to objects more immediately connected with British annals; but it is only for a little while that he stops to shed the lights of history upon our dark and disordered political system; for he soon starts away to expatiate upon topics which seem to have greater charms for him. Meantime, he adverts to the expedition to Holland in 1799; the account of which is done up from the disaffected newspapers of that time, in Mr. Belsham’s own happy manner. It seems, indeed, not to be so much the intention of our historian to give a just account of the objects of that expedition, and the real causes of its failure, as to sneer at the military talents, and ridicule the despatches of the British commander-in-chief.’

Think of “disaffected newspapers,” and “the military talents of the British commander-in-chief”! It seems as if a page of a ministerial daily paper, had slipped into our hands.

From the sixth to the ninth volume, there is nearly a blank with regard to the great branch of politics, the securities for good government. In the ninth volume, there is an article which goes over a great part of the field of government, and which, beside the usual characteristic of being on both sides of the question, is one of the most remarkable specimens of the use of words without ideas, and of forms of expression covering ignorance with the semblance of knowledge, that we could at present point out, fashionable, and popular, and of course prevalent, as this mode of composition is. We present the following passage in proof of our remark:—

‘It has sometimes struck us, that the bias which is found in some theoretical writers upon legislation in favour of established systems, and in others towards changes, may partly be accounted for by the character of the country and government for which their labours were designed. In the ancient republics, the sovereignty was generally exercised by the whole body of the people, liable to the natural turbulence and instability of all democracies, and, in those of Greece, to a certain constitutional levity in the national character. The beautiful fabrics of civil polity might be swept away by the surge of a moment, whenever the factious, who loved sedition, or the ambitious, who aimed at tyranny, should rouse the madness of the multitude. Against these perils of innovation it was difficult to devise a barrier compatible with the supremacy of the public will. The legislators of antiquity were not, however, deficient in their endeavours to secure the stability of their institutions. The proposer of a new law among the Locrians, we are told by Demosthenes, wore a rope about his neck; if it failed of adoption, his life was an instant sacrifice to the sanctity of the established constitution. Less violent, yet powerful, checks were imposed by the laws of Athens and Rome. The people, jealous as they were in the extreme of their legislative rights, submitted to a previous negative in the Nomothetæ of the one, and in the senate of the other. At Rome, indeed, this corrective of [241] innovation was, in a great degree, done away by the plebiscita, which passed by a vote of the tribes, without the authority of the senate, and acquired, at a pretty early period, the complete force of what were more strictly called laws. But there was yet another tie by which the prudence of ancient legislators bound together the systems they had framed. This was superstition. They called in a force to which the physical power of the multitude must yield, and appealed to an authority by which its acknowledged sovereignty might be lawfully controlled. For them the voice of the gods was raised in oracles; for them the mysterious symbols of fate were displayed in auguries: to them the divinities of woods and fountains taught more than fallible wisdom could have discovered. The worship, the ceremonies, and processions of antiquity, were mingled with the laws of civil regimen, and cast over them a veil of reverence and regard that made innovation sacrilege. None but the patrician families could tend the sacred chickens of the augural college. The privilege may not seem invaluable. But if it was declared that these chickens refused to eat, an assembly of the people was that instant dissolved, their clamours silenced, their leaders appalled, and not a wreck left behind of the clouds that hung over the public tranquillity. And this distinction was the last to fall before the gradual progress of the plebeian claims.

In absolute monarchies, on the contrary, the genius of the constitution, and commonly the prejudices of the people, resist with a sort of inert force every species of innovation. Theoretical writers are therefore led to throw their weight into the opposite scale, and to counteract that ‘froward retention of custom’ which baffles all their schemes of public improvement. The abuses likewise of such governments are commonly much more flagrant, and the grievances more substantial, than in those of a republican form; and while these naturally rouse the indignation of enlightened and patriotic men, the dangers of that turbulent fermentation, which is apt to attend political change, seem generally far less, where the prince, and not the people, administers the remedy. During part of the last century kings aspired to be philosophers, or listened at least to those who bore the name; some looked for power, and some for reputation, in the destruction of ancient usages. The fancy of the theorist was inflamed; his projects became more extensive and less gradual, when he had but to persuade a single man of their possibility and excellence. It may be noted, that although innovations are rare in absolute monarchies, yet when they do take place, they are likely to be almost as sweeping and as sudden as in democracies themselves. For these forms of government, as Mr. Burke has well remarked from Aristotle, have striking points of resemblance in their arbitrary nature and their disregard of private rights. The promulgation of a legislative code by a single edict, changing at once, upon however specious principles, the ancient customs of a nation, associated with all their notions of right, especially as to property;—prejudices which it is so dangerous to disturb; interwoven with the plans of so many individuals for their domestic happiness; familiar, by long habit, to the popular understanding, [242] and accommodated, in all those petty occasions which cannot be foreseen, to the exigencies of social life;—is a piece of infatuation and tyranny which none, one would think, but a prince in the barren ignorance of the purple, or a ‘bookish theorique’ in the presumptuousness of speculation, could approve. Yet Filangieri admires the celebrated project of Catharine, her philosophical code of Russian laws, and the absurd mockery of delegation from the dispersed and ignorant boors of her vast empire. ‘She left to her kingdom the choice of its delegates, and consequently of its legislators. Under such circumstances, not a single peasant could doubt of the value of the new code, or could hesitate a moment on the preference between it and the ancient system.’ The total neglect into which we understand this code to have fallen, is an answer to such an absurdity. We are far from charging Filangieri with that infatuated abhorrence of existing institutions which distinguished the early times of the French revolution. In certain passages he appears aware that reformations cannot be hastily taken up or suddenly executed. But the general bias of his schemes is, to make all provision against the sluggish spirit which adheres to every thing that is old, and very little against the turbulent spirit which grasps at every thing that is new. His institutions are laid out for a free government; but he lived under arbitrary power, and naturally thought most of the evils which he saw around him. From this error, and from one very common with speculative men, that of attributing more wisdom, and virtue, and influence, to the imaginary magistrate, than a real individual will ever possess, we find positions advanced, from which we shrink as wild and dangerous, and projects brought forward which appear visionary and absurd. Let the following be a specimen.

“The first step to be taken is to create in the public a wish for the proposed reformation. A change in the constitution of a country is not the work of a moment; and to prepare the way for it, the inclinations of the people should be gradually led towards it. They should be made fully sensible of the inefficacy of their established laws, and be convinced their hardships and oppressions are owing to them. The ablest writers should be employed to state the errors and inconveniences of the old system, and the propriety as well as the necessity of abolishing it, and adopting a more advantageous one. When these efforts are successful, and the public wish is united with the force of government, one of the greatest obstacles is surmounted, and there is no reason for any further apprehensions from a passionate and ungovernable attachment of the multitude to their ancient usages. * * * * * When this first step is taken, another naturally follows. Having prejudiced the public opinion against its ancient laws, it should be inspired with a confidence in the proposed ones; and the arguments intended to produce this necessary predilection, ought to be plain and striking, and, in some degree, flowing from the public sentiments,” &c.

(Vol. I. 57.)

We invite our readers to try, as a useful exercise, what ideas they can extract from this passage: or what explicit principle of [243] approbation or disapprobation for any species of institution. The seesaw here is so rapid, that, as in the swift succession of the prismatic colours, the mixture becomes confusion. The ancient republics are “beautiful fabrics of civil polity,” but nevertheless such wretched fabrics, that “they might be swept away by the surge of a moment, whenever the factious who loved sedition, or the ambitious who aimed at tyranny, should rouse the madness of the multitude.” There is a class of writers who love change, and a class who hate it, seemingly for its own sake. We are sorry the writer did not inform us where they are to be found. From habit, and from the love of ease, all men are averse to change, where the prospect of some considerable good is not presented to them. Under a long-continued system of misrule, those who profit by it are averse to change from self-interest, those who suffer by it from bad education. Men of no description are anxious for a change, but from the hope of advantage. Is the prospect of advantage not a legitimate principle of action? Why does the Edinburgh Review endeavour by vague imputations to throw discredit upon that which is the source of every benefit to man? Every improvement is change. Why, instead of language which deserves no better name than that of aristocratical slang, did it not give us some principle by which to distinguish the advantages which are yet to be pursued, and which ought to engage all our ardour, from those which are more imaginary than real, and which may not be worth what must be risked in the pursuit of them?

We quote the following passage for the sake of contrasting it with an opinion, the support of which is exceedingly laboured in the next volume.

‘The predominant character of the British system of government, though it is essentially republican, is certainly rather adverse than favourable to innovation. It partakes, indeed, rather of the nature of an aristocracy, on a very large and liberal basis, than of any other polity; and the genius of an aristocratic commonwealth is of all others the most hostile to any change. Though the direct share of the monarch in legislation has become nominal, that of the House of Peers is very real and effective; and, on looking narrowly into the spirit which has generally actuated that assembly, we shall perceive, that new projects in legislation have encountered a very marked discouragement within its walls.’

Hear now what is said, at p. 413. of vol. x.—

‘The balance of the constitution now exists, in a great degree, in the House of Commons; and that assembly possesses nearly the whole legislative authority.’


The following is the same idea more expanded—

‘The advantages of this arrangement are, as we have already intimated,—that the collision and shock of the three rival principles, is either prevented or prodigiously softened by this early mixture of their elements,—that by converting those sudden and successive checks into one regulating and graduated pressure, their operation becomes infinitely more smooth and manageable, and no longer proceeds by jerks and bounds that might endanger the safety of the machine,—while its movements, instead of being fractured and impeded by the irregular impulses of opposite forces, slide quietly to the mark, in the diagonal produced by their original combination.’

We have stated already, that the prospect of these advantages probably operated, in part, to produce the arrangement which ensured them; but it was dictated, no doubt, by more urgent considerations, and indeed, as we think, by a necessity which could not be resisted. The great object to be accomplished, was not so much to save the House of Commons from the mortification of having their bills stopped by the Lords, or rejected by the Sovereign, as to protect these two estates from the hazard to which they might be exposed from the direct exercise of this privilege. By the vast and rapid increase of wealth and intelligence in the country at large, the consideration and relative authority of that branch of the government which stands most in connexion with it, was suddenly and prodigiously enlarged. The very circumstance of its being open to talent and ambition, ensured a greater proportion of ability and exertion in its members; and their numbers and the popularity of their name and character, all contributed to give their determinations a degree of weight and authority, against which it would no longer have been safe for any other power to have risked an opposition. No ministry, for a hundred years back, has had courage to interpose the royal negative to any measure which has passed through the Houses of Parliament, even by narrow majorities; and there is no thinking man, who can contemplate, without dismay, the probable consequences of such a resistance, where the House of Commons had been zealous and nearly unanimous. It is needless to say, that the House of Lords would oppose a still feebler barrier to such a measure of popular legislation. In order to exercise their constitutional functions with safety, therefore, it became necessary for the king and the great families to exercise them in the lower house,—not against the united commons of England, but among them; and not in their own character, and directly,—but covertly, and mingled with those whom it was substantially their interest and their duty to control.

It is thus, as it appears to us, that the balance which was in danger of being lost through the increasing power and influence of the lower house, has been saved by being transferred into that assembly; and that all that was essentially valuable in the constitution, has been secured by a silent but very important change in its mode of operation. This change we take to be, that the influence of the crown, and of the old aristocracy, is now exerted in that house by means of members sent there to support that influence; and that, in that [245] house, as the great depository of the political power of the nation, and the virtual representative of the whole three estates, the chief virtue and force of the government is now habitually resident.

This last conclusion, we are persuaded, will not appear either rash or hazardous to those who consider the exclusive power which is now almost formally yielded to the House of Commons, with regard to the supplies; and the admitted impossibility of going on in the ad-administration of the government, without the support of a decided and permanent majority of its members.’

To the last sentence is appended the following note:—

‘See Hume’s Essay on the Independency of Parliament; the very basis of which is, that the House of Commons absolutely commands all the other parts of the government, and may, when it pleases, swallow up the rest, and engross the whole power of the constitution.’

To this theory of the constitution, and the consequences which these reviewers deduce from it, namely, that the usurpation which has been effected upon the people’s rights to place and displace, and exercise an efficient control over, the members of the house of commons, is salutary and desirable, we shall take a future opportunity of replying. On this, above all subjects, delusion is fatal; proportional pains will therefore be requisite both to discover true principles, and to make them clearly seen by the public. The little which we can afford to add to the present article, must be employed in exhibiting a few specimens more of that leading feature in the character of the Review which has occupied our attention in several of the more immediately preceding pages.

We shall pass on to a period when the Review thought expedient a much higher language on the side of the people, than it had ventured on before. The whole of the article entitled “On the Rights and Duties of the People,” in the twentieth volume, though much of the language is still vague and slippery, may be given as a specimen of the new lengths which it was not scrupled, at this particular time, to go in opposition to aristocratical interests.

According to the following passage, though it had, in the previous paragraph, been allowed, that the principle of representation is the grand secret for good government, yet it is maintained, that for the people to let the powers of government out of their own hands, even to real representatives, is attended with imminent danger.

‘With all these blessings, however, and they are as undeniable as they are important, the plan of delegated authority is liable to several objections—not, indeed, such as greatly to detract from its merits—but such as are well adapted to keep our jealousy awake to its abuses. It may be enough to mention one, into which indeed [246] almost all the others resolve themselves. The delegation of the greatest of all trusts, that of government, necessarily implies a surrender of the function itself, and with the function much of the power—and leaves the people, in some degree, at the mercy of those whom they choose for their trustees, during the whole term of the appointment. Hence the danger of those trustees abusing their delegated authority in such a manner as to weaken the control of the people over them—and, by rendering themselves more powerful and less accountable, to make the resumption of the trust more difficult. It is quite manifest, therefore, that there is nothing of which the Constitution, in a state like England, ought to be more jealous, than any step towards independence on the part of the representatives—any attempt of theirs to acquire a substantive and separate authority—either an existence not created, or attributes not bestowed by the people. From so self-evident a maxim we may deduce all the arguments in favour of parliamentary reform—all the observations which place in the strongest light the abuses in our representative system—the principles which render the septennial act by far the greatest mockery of popular rights, and breach of common good faith that ever was committed by the governors to the governed—the grounds upon which the exclusion of so many of the community from all share in the government, and the usurpation of the elective franchise by the few, are demonstrably shown to be a mere subversion of the very purpose and meaning of representation.’

The main object of the article is to maintain the utility of meetings of the people in large bodies, to declare their opinions on public measures and men. The following is a curious passage:—

‘It is quite true that the adoption or rejection of specific measures ought in no case to be left with the bulk of the people. But it is equally true, that the people have a right to deliberate on specific measures—to discuss them individually and in bodies—to express the result of those deliberations, and to tender to the Legislature and the Executive Government their opinion, their advice, nay, the free expression of their wishes upon all matters of public import. This is the sacred inalienable right of the English people—it is theirs as they are freemen—it is theirs as they are both the fountain and the object of all government—it is a right, the invasion of which we conscientiously hold to form an extreme case—a case, perhaps, more easy than safe to discuss; and one which all lovers of their country, and friends to the peace and good order of society, must fervently pray against ever living to see practically moved. This right, however, was actually violated by Mr. Pitt—by the very man who did not scruple to invade the first principles of the representative system on the opposite quarter, by taking the sense of the country on a particular measure. He was the first minister who ever dared abridge the rights of Englishmen to discuss their own affairs.’


The people of England, according to this paragraph, ought to have taken arms against the government, and to have appealed to Heaven, when their rights were invaded as they were by Mr. Pitt.

After various observations to shew the importance of meetings held by the people to overawe their representatives, however purely elected, comes the following picture of the actual state.

‘We have all along been reasoning upon the supposition that the parliament is really, and not in name only, a representation of the people—that its members are chosen by the nation at large—that its deliberations are the result of discussions among delegates appointed by those whose business they are to manage—that the choice of them is free, and the trust so often renewed, as to give the elector, by the mere act of election or rejection, some control over the deputy—that the representative body consists of persons sent, on the part of the nation, to resist the encroachments of the crown and the aristocracy, and not in any considerable number, of persons chosen by the crown and Aristocracy to play into their hands, and betray the people under the disguise of their trustees. But how greatly is the force of the argument increased by the actual state of the representation? Who shall say that a parliament, chosen as ours really is, requires no looking after? Who shall tell us that the crown requires no watching from the people themselves, when their regular watchmen are some of them named, and more of them paid, by the crown itself? Who shall be permitted to question the necessity of the people deliberating about their own affairs in their own persons, when such vast masses of them are wholly deprived of the elective franchise, and destitute of any semblance of representatives to speak their wishes, or to transact their business?

The history of last session, fruitful as it is in lessons of political wisdom, offers none more striking than the one which it reads to us upon this important subject. The most weighty interests discussed in parliament were those of the manufacturing districts. The bread of hundreds of thousands was in question; and the two houses were occupied for many weeks in discussing their grievances. Those persons composed the population of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Wakefield, Halifax, Boulton, Bury, Glasgow, and other places. Not one of those towns, some of them containing 100,000 inhabitants, has a single representative in parliament, except Glasgow;—and Glasgow is represented (if the abuse of language may be tolerated) by its corporation uniting with three other corporations, and the whole four sets of magistrates chusing one member; but so that the other three at all times (and two of them every other parliament) may return the member, and leave Glasgow wholly out of the question. Now, in what manner could those great and most important bodies of men have made themselves heard but through the public meetings, which they wisely and constitutionally held to discuss their grievances? In no other way could they have each obtained a hearing, or established a correspondence with [248] a temporary representative:—But surely in no other way could they have gained the point, which they did so nobly carry with the legislature and the executive government. In specifying these towns, we have enumerated the greater part, by far, of the manufacturing interests of England;—and they are all without local representatives in parliament. Is it asking too much, to demand that they may use freely the only means left them of sharing in the public councils—of influencing the measures for which they pay so dearly in all ways—and assemble from time to time in order to communicate with each other, and with the government, upon the matters so imminently affecting them? In truth, while so many vast branches of the community are wholly deprived of all share in the representation—while so many members of parliament owe their existence to private nomination—while the electors, who exercise their franchise the most amply, have only an opportunity once in six or seven years of changing their delegate—and while the enormous patronage vested in the crown, strews with tempting baits the whole floor of the House, and besets every avenue to it with promises and threats—he must be a stubborn lover of despotism indeed, who can deny that the people betray their own cause, and have themselves to blame for the mismanagement of their affairs, if they cease to discuss and speak out their own minds upon all fit occasions. Such a parliament must be aided by the watchful eyes of the country. If the people slumber themselves, let them not vainly hope that their representatives will be very vigilant, or very successful in the public cause, whatever they may be in their own.’

On the other hand, here is a passage in the very same number (xl.), which, though it is somewhat misty and oracular, nevertheless contains a view of the beau idéal in government, well calculated to administer consolation to the holders of aristocratical power.

‘The great point, then, is to ensure a free, an authoritative, and an uninterrupted communication between the ostensible administrators of the national power, and its actual constituents and depositories; and the chief distinction between a good and a bad government consists in the degree in which it affords the means of such a communication. The main end of government to be sure is, that wise laws should be enacted and enforced; but such is the condition of human infirmity, that the hazards of sanguinary contentions about the exercise of power is a muchg reater and more imminent evil, than a considerable obstruction in the making or execution of the laws; and the best government therefore is, not that which promises to make the best laws, and to enforce them most vigorously, but that which guards best against the tremendous conflicts to which all administrations of government, and all exercise of political power is apt to give rise. It happens, fortunately indeed, that the same arrangements which most effectually ensure the peace of society against those disorders, are also, on the whole, the best calculated for the purposes of wise and efficient legislation. But we do not hesitate to look upon their [249] negative or preventive virtues as of a far higher cast than their positive and active ones; and to consider a representative legislature to be incomparably of more value when it truly represents the efficient force of the nation in controlling and directing the executive, than when it merely enacts wholesome statutes in its legislative capacity.

The result of the whole then is, that in a civilized and enlightened country, the actual power of the State resides in the great body of the people, and especially among the more wealthy and intelligent in all the different ranks of which it consists; and consequently, that the administration of the government can never be either safe or happy, unless it be conformable to the wishes and sentiments of that great body; while there is little chance of its answering either of these conditions, unless the forms of the constitution provide some means for the regular, constant, and authentic expression of their sentiments,—to which, when so expressed, it is the undoubted duty and obvious interest of the executive to conform. A Parliament, therefore, which really and truly represents the sense and opinions—we mean the general and mature sense, not the occasional prejudices and fleeting passions—of the efficient body of the people, and which watches over and effectually controls every important act of the executive magistrate, is necessary, in a country like this, for the tranquillity of the government, and the ultimate safety of the monarchy itself,—much more even than for the enactment of the laws; and, in proportion as it varies from this description, or relaxes in this control, will the peace of the country and the security of the government be endangered.’

This description corresponds to what one might call a good Whig parliament; which, though it would turn out the ministry, and put in their opponents, would be much more careful to prevent any radical change, than it would be to make good laws.

The contradictions involved in this description deserve particular attention. “The main end of government, to be sure, is, that wise laws should be enacted and enforced.” The best government, however, is a government which has an end more highly valued than its main end.

Was obscurity studied, or were the ideas of the writer far from clear, when he said, “We do not hesitate to consider a representative legislature to be incomparably of more value when it truly represents the efficient force of the nation in controlling and directing the executive, than when it merely enacts wholesome statutes in its legislative capacity?”—The illustration of this topic will be completed by specimens from the succeeding numbers of the Review, in our next publication, when other characteristics of the work will come under review.


2.: The Quarterly Review, No. lviii.Faux’s Memorable Days in America.

OUR brief notice of the recent travels through the Anglo-American United States had just been printed off, when the Quarterly Review for December made its appearance; and as it contains a long article on “Faux’s Memorable Days,” a fitter opportunity could scarcely have presented itself for estimating the candour, knowledge, and integrity of that Review,—and for developing the process by which it fabricates a representation calculated to flatter the passions and prejudices of those who entertain an instinctive hatred of responsible and economical government.

The writer seems absolutely delirious with joy at finding in Mr. Faux’s journal, what any intelligent and reflecting person might easily have anticipated, and what we have distinctly admitted in our introductory remarks on emigration; viz. that every one who emigrates to or resides in a newly settled and thinly peopled country must, though assured of an adequate subsistence, submit to great physical inconvenience and privation,—that his security for person or property will not be of so high an order as in some older established communities, the slender means of the new society not admitting of an efficient judicature and police, and the absence of neighbourhood rendering character of comparatively little importance,—and that without assiduous industry he can never attain a situation of tolerable comfort.

In order that persons disposed to emigrate might know precisely what amount of inconvenience and peril they would have to encounter, we have extracted from Mr. Faux the most aggravated and best authenticated instances of both kinds of annoyance, rendering them occasionally more prominent by italic type; and, allowing for all these detractions from the advantage of ceasing to feel anxiety on the score of subsistence, or the actual pangs of hunger, we have indicated the class of persons who alone can better their situation by emigration to such a country.

After the general admissions contained in our outset, it would have been superfluous to have loaded our pages with multiplied instances in detail; but had we been disposed to do this, so many of those mentioned by Faux rest upon mere hearsay or the assertions of loose talkers, that the number of authentic facts would not have been considerably increased.

Now how has the writer in the Quarterly Review constructed [251] his article? Thirty-two pages,—the whole of this lengthy performance,—has he nearly filled with extracts from Faux, containing the details of individual instances of ferocity, violence, knavery, boasting and vulgarity, disappointment, failure, despondency, bad soils, bad climates, bad food, discomfort, dirt, and barbarism,—all on the debtor side of the account, without hinting at the existence of a single item on the creditor side. In Mr. Faux’s journal the good and evil are pretty equally blended; descriptions of kindly soils, of successful and satisfied industry, of generosity, liberal feeling, and integrity, and of the good effects of an economical form of government, are neither unfrequent nor ill attested; indications are given of the cause of failure in many cases of disappointment: but of all this, not one word from the writer in this Review,—it would not have suited his purpose; which, from his sneers at the “Land of Freedom,” and irrepressible expressions of hatred towards republican government, we may fairly assume to be, an endeavour to persuade the reader that the evils, physical and moral, inseparable from every infant state of society, are altogether the result of American institutions, or rather of the absence of a certain institution; for in the want of an established church, the Quarterly reviewer discovers the cause of every offence committed in the United States. (p. 369.) Without religion, says he, there can be no morals; without an established church there can be no religion!—at least, none that will suit this gentleman. The only religious people are those who take upon trust all that their parish priest delivers,—who, without bestowing a single thought on religion or the evidence adduced in support of it, say their prayers, go to church, nod through half the service, and pay tithes without a murmur. Those who investigate a little,—who differ from what said parish priest chooses to lay down,—who doubt the Athanasian creed, or any of the thirty-nine articles,—who are depressed with the fear of eternal flames, or elevated with the hope of eternal pleasure,—these are all, according to the charitable and expanded views of the Quarterly Review, infidels or fanatics! (p. 369.) Whatever may be the effects of religion in general as a sanction for morals, this writer himself affords a striking instance, that “that pure and reformed branch of it,” the established church, is not competent to compel the observance of truth among its acquiescent votaries. He is no doubt an eminently pious and churchgoing man, and he is sufficiently instructed to be aware that there are many modes of making a mendacious statement besides the simple process of mendacious invention. Suppressio veri est expressio falsi. There is the false by omission, as well as the false by substitution; and of all modes of falsehood, the false [252] by omission is the most deceptious, because it contains to a certain extent the elements of truth.

Now a more base and mischievous falsehood than that conveyed by the totality of the article now under consideration, it is impossible to conceive; base, because in the face of repeatedly conflicting statements contained in the very book referred to, the reader of the article is induced to believe that the book contains none but unfavourable representations, and he is told (p. 368.), that the reviewer has given “but the smallest portion of the unfavourable account of the American population;”—mischievous, because by every species of insolence and contempt, endeavours are made to exasperate against each other two nations who have the strongest interest in preserving the relations of friendship.

So much for the candour and integrity of our Tory scribe! Now for his knowledge, and the value of the materials with which he has filled his thirty-two pages.

Who—unless it be one whose intellect has been blinded by existing abuses—is ignorant of the leading principles which assign the various degrees of trustworthiness to the various species of evidence; of the difference between primary and secondary evidence, between direct testimony and hearsay? What child does not know that in passing from mouth to mouth every story either gains or loses so much, that after a certain number of transmissions it is often difficult to recognize the original narrative? Now at least one half of the facts selected with such care by the Quarterly Review from Faux’s journal, rest, not upon Faux’s own observation and direct testimony, but upon no better evidence than mere hearsay, and that of the weakest and most unsatisfactory kind,—the babble of loose talkers, tavern companions, and disappointed projectors. Great reliance is placed by the Review on general assertions hazarded at random, collected from few or inconclusive particulars, and mixed up with the foolish opinions of foolish individuals; and yet, after having been at the pains to devote four pages to the rendering contemptible and ridiculous an individual whose opinions Faux details at the greatest length, the writer concludes his article by ascribing to the opinions of others, so repeated by Faux, greater credit than to the statements and opinions of Faux himself, whose integrity and understanding are highly vaunted at the beginning of the critique.

The Quarterly reviewer extracts the story of “a poor fellow who was found lying in the street” (at Charlston) “in a hot broiling sun 110° by the thermometer, with both legs broken and dreadfully bruised, having been robbed of all he had: he had lain there all night, equally unnoticed by the nightly watch and the open-day humanity of the citizens; and had not an old Prussian [253] colonel offered a dollar to have him removed as a nuisance, he would have been suffered to roast and be devoured by the flies.”

We omitted to select this story for extraction, not only because we deemed it somewhat improbable, but because Faux does not say that he saw the sight himself, and the narrative is accompanied with one or two minute circumstances which cast an air of doubtfulness over the whole;—for instance, the person who ordered the sufferer to be removed, is said to have called out to two slaves, “Here! July and August!” do so and so. Considering the heat of the day, it struck us as somewhat singular, that the slaves should be so appositely named July and August, in such happy succession. The same circumstance probably struck the candid reviewer as a ground for distrust, for he cautiously omits it in his extract.

The following story is also extracted in the same spirit:—

‘I saw an execution lately defeated by that boasted spirit which they call liberty or independence. The property under execution was put up to sale, when the eldest son appeared with a huge herculean club, and said, “Gentlemen, you may bid for and buy these things, which were my father’s, but by G—no man living shall come on to this ground with horse and cart to fetch them away. The land is mine, and if the buyer takes any thing away, it shall be on his back.’ ”

We omitted to select this story as one of the examples to show the degree of insecurity the emigrant might have to encounter, not because we deemed it improbable,—for in our introductory remarks we had admitted and accounted for the weakness of the judicial arm in remote and thinly inhabited districts,—but because the story does not rest on the authority of Faux, but was related to him by one Squire Liddiard; of whom we know nothing, except that by his own account he was precisely the sort of person who ought not to have emigrated to the Western States,—a London merchant, with a counting-house near the Exchange and a citizen’s box at Blackheath.

Such are the stories, and so evidenced, on which the reviewer grounds his implied proposition, that the American people are so debased, and their institutions so pernicious, as to render existence among them absolutely intolerable, and our “excellent constitution in church and state” the only thing which can secure the happiness of man. These stories bear the date of 1819.

Three years have not elapsed since an aged pauper, in the middle of this metropolis of London, was thrust from parish to parish, from officer to officer, each contesting the liability to administer [254] relief, till the last on whose hands he was thrown left him famishing with cold and hunger in the open streets. The wretched sufferer, unable to crawl further, laid himself down at night in a public thoroughfare near Drury Lane, where thousands passed by him regardless of his dying groans. The next morning he was found a stiffened corpse, and a coroner’s jury brought in a verdict of “Died by Starvation!”

Three months have not elapsed since two individuals, one of them with the rank and education of a gentleman, tempted by the prospect of gaining a few pounds, made beforehand every preparation for the murder and interment of one of their familiar companions; enticed him into the vehicle which contained the sack for the concealment of his corpse; dispatched him within a few miles of this same metropolis, by beating his skull to pieces; and having deposited him in a pond close by the house at which the deceased and themselves were to have met for a convivial entertainment, sat down to supper as if nothing extraordinary had happened!

Three weeks have barely elapsed since a drama founded on this horrible assassination, was performed at a public theatre in this same metropolis; in which drama was produced on the stage, before a crowded and applauding audience, the identical vehicle and horse which had conveyed the miserable victim on his journey to eternity!

Three days have barely elapsed (Jan. 3. 1824) since, in the same county which was the scene of the preceding outrage, a special constable, James Grainge, has actually been murdered in an attempt to enforce legal process; the party who resisted being a man of education, and assisted by a beautiful woman of twenty-six! [*]

The story of the dying pauper is at least as afflicting to humanity, and a little better authenticated than the jocose appeal to July and August at Charlston;—and the story of James Grainge carries into effect what Squire Liddiard’s story only threatens.

Now suppose A. B., an American traveller through England, had stated, among other things, the four preceding facts; suppose he had also stated the recent murders of Mr. Mumford, of Mrs. Donatty, of Mr. Smith at Greenwich, of the Marrs, of the Bonars, and as many others as he could pick up in coffee-houses and stage-coaches; suppose he were to state the number of juvenile offenders every year committed to prison within the precincts of London, the number of houses annually set on fire [255] about the time of the half-yearly payments of rent, the number of paupers and amount of poor-rates, the number of bankrupts, the number of insolvents, and the amount of assets available to their creditors; suppose he had also stated such appearances as he might have observed of occasional prosperity, comfort, and cleanliness,—appearances of fertile soil, unbounded capital, and transcendent industry and skill;—

What would the Quarterly reviewer have said if a North American democratic reviewer, reviewing A. B.’s travels, should make a detailed extract of all the disparaging circumstances, omit all the favourable ones, and then exclaim, or leave the reader to imply, “These are the blessed effects of monarchical and aristocratic institutions! This is the land where King, Lords, and Commons are so happily balanced, that each plays into the hand of the other! This is the land of legitimate sway, ‘attempered liberty,’ and borough influence! This is the land of the established church! Federalists and sentimentalists, before you cross the ocean to gaze at empty pomp and factitious dignity, before you surrender your understandings to admire the antiquities of your half-civilized ancestors, listen to A. B. Mark well the facts we have laid before you, and then choose your dwelling, if you dare, among a people so heartless as to leave a fellow-creature to perish in a crowded street,—so cruel, as to view with approbation, at a play-house, objects which would most forcibly bring to their imagination all the details of an aggravated murder;—settle, if you dare, in a land where neither person nor property are secure,—where assassinations are the topic of the day, and the arm of the law is resisted by weapons of death!”

Would the Quarterly reviewer admit, that such a representation as this contained one spark of candour, integrity, or truth? Would he admit, that a reviewer who should so exclude every favourable representation in regard to England,—who should ascribe to institutions, incidents inseparable from the condition of man in the present state of society,—would he admit, that such a reviewer possessed one spark of feeling, honour, or principle? And yet this is precisely the process which, with a fiendlike exultation, this writer has pursued with regard to America.

But before we have done we shall bring home to him, yet more clearly, blind malignity against a people whose only offence, beyond the failings to which it is subject in common with his own countrymen, is the offence of having an economical and responsible government.

It is notorious, that a great proportion of those who leave this country, either for Chili or the United States, are of the lowest and most ignorant class; it is equally notorious, that they commonly [256] labour under the delusion of expecting that, when they arrive in the promised land, they shall be exempt from the common lot of humanity, the necessity of labouring for subsistence; and that they frequently waste in idleness and drinking the hours and money with which they might shortly better their condition.

No man knows this better than the writer in the Review himself: he admits it expressly in page 366.; and yet he has extracted from Faux every expression of discontent from every disappointed emigrant, without in the least adverting to the cause of each individual’s disappointment, though, in a variety of instances, Faux has clearly traced it to the imprudence or incapacity of the sufferer.

In a laboured article “On the Condition of the Negroes in our Colonies” (p. 476. in this same number), the Quarterly attacks Mr. Wilberforce for rejecting all apology for the treatment of slaves in the West Indies; and contends that they are, in many respects, better off than the labouring classes in England. (No. LVIII. pp. 479. 485.) But no sooner does he come to the United States,—where, as we have demonstrated (ante, p. 113.), the treatment of slaves is infinitely less severe than in the West Indies,—than our reviewer altogether alters his tone: “Though many of the planters treat their slaves well, and allow them as much indulgence as is consistent with their situation, yet negroes being, in the eye of the American law, a degraded class, and denied the enjoyment of equal rights, their wellbeing is entirely dependent on the personal character of their owner; and however humane their treatment may be, we cannot agree with farmer Faux in his conclusion, that their condition in any, much less in many, respects is better than that of paupers in his native land.”

If they are a degraded class in the eye of the American law, are they not equally so, and that within the writer’s knowledge, in the Anglo-West Indian law? If their condition in the West Indies is better than that of an English pauper, what should make it otherwise in America, where, according to his own admission, “many of the planters treat their slaves well, and allow them as much indulgence as is consistent with their situation?

Our reviewer’s hatred, however, is not confined to America or Americans; his own countrymen become the objects of attack for no other offence than that of preferring a residence on the other side of the Atlantic: and how is this attack conducted? Not content with filling four whole pages in the endeavour to render ridiculous and contemptible Mr. Thomas Law [*] , a man who, through a long and eventful life, has sustained the most irreproachable [257] character, this writer, with all the charity and good faith so peculiar to a moralist of the Quarterly Review, proceeds to sneer away his reputation for integrity and principle by mendacious and unfounded insinuations,—as, that he quitted England for America because he was mortified at not being a peer. Again, “This gentleman,” says this writer, “accumulated (it is not said by what means) an immense fortune in India.” True, it is not said by what means, for the history of his Indian life would have been grossly irrelevant in a book of travels through America; but we can take upon ourselves to say by what means he did not accumulate his fortune: he did not pander to the passions and prejudices of an insolent and craving aristocracy, by detailing as many as he could find recorded of those crimes and disorders which could not but have place to a certain extent in a community of ten millions, and then, with an utter disregard of truth and principle, exhibit this catalogue to the world as a representation on which men should form their opinions as to the character and condition, and the effect of the political institutions of that same community.

But we have not quite done with this reviewer. As if it were possible for any civilized society, however well organized, to exist without contribution for common purposes, as if it were not notorious to the whole world, if not to the Quarterly Review, that the several states in America receive for local purposes a revenue analagous to our county and poor’s rate, and that this revenue is raised by taxes imposed in the legislature of each state,—the general government expenses of the whole United States being defrayed chiefly by the customs,—this writer, on extracting from Faux, that land in the Illinois belonging to Orator Hunt’s brother was uncultivated, and selling for the payment of taxes, appears absolutely dancing in a transport of joy. “Avast reading, there!” he cries. (p. 365.) “Overhaul that article again! as Old Trunnion says. Taxes, did you say? Taxes, in this last retreat of suffering humanity, and the land selling to pay them!”

Yes, Taxes! With any man in his senses, the question is, not, whether there are taxes, but what is their amount. And this is a piece of information which, with regard to America, the Quarterly Review never will dare to give: still less will it dare to contrast it with the taxation endured by Great Britain. Probably the reviewer would have suppressed his mirth and transport had he anticipated that the false insinuation it was meant to convey, would have induced us to lay at once before the eyes of mankind this fearful contrast, which we should otherwise have [258] deferred for a season. Let him read what follows, and then call in, not Hawser Trunnion, but the Attorney-general to his assistance; for if, as Lord Ellenborough expressly laid it down, any thing is a libel which may hurt the feelings of any individual (meaning, of course, a dignified individual), nothing, we conceive, can be more libellous in the eyes of one of the ruling few than the columns of figures we shall forthwith deploy.

As we have before had occasion to state, the expenses of the general government of the United States;—of the army, navy, public offices, public officers; of congress; of the interest and liquidation of the public debt, and of all extensive undertakings affecting the States at large,—are defrayed, in time of peace, by a revenue derived almost exclusively from the customs and the sale of lands in the new territories of the Union.

So far, and for such extensive purposes, we have nothing beyond indirect taxation, and that to how small an amount we shall presently show.

Besides this, there is raised by direct taxation in each individual state a local revenue, called the state tax, analagous to our county and poor’s rate; which revenue is applied to the following, among other purposes, which comprehend, in addition to those before stated, almost all the possible expenses of local and general government.—Judicature, including the salaries of judges, expenses of courts, rewards to prosecutors, and expenses of trial: gaols: elections: public printing and stationery: schools: roads [*] , bridges, and fishery-encouragement: expenses of the state parliament.—The revenue for these purposes is raised in some instances by a tax on land (exceeding in no case four-pence an acre, and in many districts not exceeding one penny); in others by a capitation tax on all males above sixteen; in others by assessments on carriages, or other articles not of primary necessity; and in the older states, by the sale of lands, and by the interest arising on monies belonging to the state. (See Statistical, Political, and Historical Account of the United States, by D. B. Warden, late Consul to Paris.)

Now our county and poor’s rates, in addition to the maintenance of the poor, cover scarcely any expenses but those of gaols, bridges, and that part of the expense of judicature which is occasioned by the building and furnishing of courts, rewards to prosecutors, and some of the expenses of trial.

In addition to our county and poor’s rates, we are also saddled [259] with tithes;—paying about the fourth of the value of all the landed property of the country for the support of an established church; a blessing with which brother Jonathan has learned to dispense. [*]


But, to the point.—Direct taxes for the expenses of the general government in America we have seen there are none; tithes [261] there are none; and the figures below will prove that the state or local taxes covering so many more objects than our county and poor’s rates, do not equal those rates by nearly three quarters their amount.

The states and counties have been taken at random, the one from Warden’s book, the other from returns made to Parliament, and are offered merely as a sample.

United States. Population in 1810. Revenue. English Counties. Population in 1811. Population in 1821. Average Amount of Poor & other Rates in 1813—14—15.
Dollars. £
Massachusetts 472,040 306,333 } Devon 396,100 447,900 283,429
South Carolina 415,115 313,026 }
Maine 228,705 209,257 Cornwall 223,900 262,600 120,568
New York 959,049 317,745 } Middlesex 985,100 1,167,500 663,103
Virginia 974,622 414,133 1811 }
Connecticut 261,942 79,192 1811 Essex 260,900 295,300 328,031
Pennsylvania 810,091 601,344 1815 Lancaster 856,000 1,074,000 433,419
Delaware 72,674 72,163 1811 Bedford 73,600 85,400 74,782
Kentucky 406,511 105,180 Kent 385,600 434,600 407,459

It must be distinctly borne in mind that the whole of the above revenues, arising to the several States, is not made up of direct annual taxes, but that a considerable portion of each is acquired by the sale of lands and the interest arising from monies belonging to the state. So that it may fairly be affirmed that the whole amount of direct taxation falling in any shape upon any given amount of population in the United States, does not equal a fourth of the poor’s rates and county rates alone, paid by an equal amount of population in Great Britain.

Now for the comparison of the expenses of the general government.

The whole expense of the civil government, including the salaries of the President and Vice-President, wages of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives; the diplomatic and miscellaneous expenses, including pensions; all the public offices, post office, mint, light-houses, surveys of land, the government of those parts called territories, and every other expense whatever, [262] which does not belong to the army and navy,—were estimated for the year 1822 at 1,664,297 dollars, or 353,613l. [*]

By the British finance accounts for the year ending the 5th of January, 1821, the sum actually paid was 6,797,399l.; this sum, like the 353,613l. in America, includes all the items which do not belong to the military or naval departments. Thus the civil government here costs very nearly twenty times the amount of the civil government in America,—in other words, it costs the nation as much to be governed for one year, as it costs the Americans to be governed for twenty years; and yet America is, beyond all comparison, better governed than Great Britain and Ireland. But we do, in fact, spend more than thirty times as much as the American United States for our civil government.

In the finance accounts before alluded to, the charge for management, that is, the expense attending the collection of the revenue, is set down at £3,267,633
There are other sums also paid out of the gross receipts of the revenue, from which, when we have deducted drawbacks and discounts, there will remain upwards of 1,500,000
To which add, as before 6,797,399
And the annual expense will be £11,565,032

Which is nearly thirty-three times the amount of the annual expenditure in America. But it may be objected, that in America there are also charges for management: to which we reply, certainly; and that some of them are included in the 353,613l. which the civil government costs; and that a sum greater than all the charges of management in America, is raised in several ways for the government here at home, which is given away in pensions and payments of various kinds, and never comes into the annual finance accounts. So that the money thus raised may be set off against the expense of management in America.—Another objection which may be made is, that each of the state governments defrays its own expenses. But here again the balance will be in favour of America, the county rates, and other assessments and payments for local purposes at home, being probably several times the amount of all the state governments in America; we will, however, take them at the same sum, and then the account will remain as before stated, namely,

That the charge for the civil government here amounts to £11,565,032
In America to 353,613


or very nearly one thirty-third the sum we are compelled to pay.

But to show still more plainly the profligacy of the system here at home, we will make a few comparisons in detail.—On the 16th of March, 1819, was “published by order of the House of Commons, a paper, No. 114., being an account of the total expense of the following offices, viz.:—Privy Council, Treasury, Secretaries of State, and Messengers in the Lord Chamberlain’s department:”—

£. s. d.
1. Privy Council office—Clerks, Messengers, Coals, &c. 27,373 17 11
2. Treasury—Clerks, Messengers, Coals, &c. 103,139 17 6
3. Secretaries of State 122,880 5 0
4. Messengers in the Lord Chamberlain’s office 2,000 0 0
£255,394 0 5

This is a most monstrous sum for only three of the public offices, and the porters, or, as they are called, the messengers of a fourth office; but enormous as it is, it by no means shows the actual sum these offices cost. It is not many years since a sort of exposure took place in the trade department of the treasury, when it was discovered, that clerks of 800l. a-year kept magnificent houses, regular sets of servants, and three or four carriages, spending, in fact, the revenues of noblemen from the fees they obtained; it is enough, however, for our purpose, to take the expense of these offices at the sums furnished by ministers themselves: let us then see what our brethren in America pay for having the business done for which these offices are appointed. The whole expense for every thing which in any way relates to the Treasury, the Secretary of State, and the Exchequer of the United States, including the expense of distributing 11,000 copies of the laws passed at the preceding Congress, was 48,035l., not one-fifth part of the charge for the three offices here; and if we could ascertain the expenses of the Exchequer in addition to the three offices, as well as the pensions and sinecures, it would probably come out that the whole charge was more than a dozen times the amount paid by the people of the United States.

The expenses of the Houses of Lords and Commons cannot be accurately stated; but the finance accounts give us some items. In the session of 1822 there were voted—


For salaries to the officers of both houses £22,800
Fittings and furniture for both houses 22,500
Expenses of both houses 19,055
Printing for both houses 64,677

In the United States of North America each of the representatives in both houses receives eight dollars, or 36s. 6d. per diem wages, during the time they are going to, remaining at, and returning home from Congress, as was formerly the case here. Supposing the Congress to sit for three months, or that the member is occupied one hundred days on the public business; then as the number of representatives in the two houses is 237, the amount of their wages will be 189,600 dollars, or 40,290l.; and this is possibly the best laid out money which a people can expend, and which we of course do not expend on those who, instead of being the servants of the people, are their masters, and ought not, of course, to receive wages. On this point, then, there is nothing to which we can compare it.

The American government, however, furnishes an explicit account of all its expenses under the following heads, viz.:

1. Senate and House of Representatives, their officers and attendants 314,866 } 125,266
Deduct wages to the members 189,600 }
2. Firewood, Stationery, PRINTING, and ALL OTHER contingent expenses of the two Houses 49,000
3. Library of Congress and librarian’s salary 1,950
4. Purchase of books for the library 1,000
Dollars 177,216
In pounds sterling £37,608

Not one-third of the expenses which are paid here for the same objects, probably not one-fourth, when it is considered that the stationery, and many other items of expense, are charged to accounts not included under those for the Houses of Lords and Commons.

In our profuse way of doing business, the printing alone, it will be seen, amounts to nearly twice as much as the whole expense of the two houses in America; and if the stationery be added, to much more than twice as much.


One example in the way of printing may suffice.—In America all the public acts of the Congress are printed at length in the principal newspapers, for which the government pays at the rate of two dollars a column; and no less than Seventy newspapers actually insert the acts and receive the pay. The acts of Congress are printed in the octavo form on coarse paper, and they usually occupy about one hundred pages. Appended to these are the public treaties and other matters relating thereto; an immense number of copies are printed, of which the secretary of state for the current year causes eleven thousand copies to be distributed to the proper persons throughout the United States: the printing of these acts makes one of the items in the fore-named account.

The printing of each 1000 copies of the American acts cannot cost more than 30l.

We, however, disdain this beggarly-looking useful mode, and our acts are accordingly printed in folio on writing paper. Those of the last year occupy 1446 pages, and cannot have cost so little as 1200l. for a thousand copies.

Another pretty specimen of the way in which an irresponsible assembly can vote the public money, may be taken from what is called the Civil List; which is principally composed of the King’s household, and allowances to the other members of the royal family,

And amounted in 1821, to £1,064,877
Not, however, including further allowance to those members of the royal family, pensions, &c. of 439,229

But besides this enormous sum, this most monstrous charge, for what may be with more strictness called the civil list, there are other expenses which make the whole amount to 2,878,892l.; which is more than the whole expense of the American government, civil, military, and naval.

A considerable portion of this charge of nearly three millions is called the ordinary charge of the civil list; but besides the ordinary charge, there are enormous annual charges out of the ordinary course. In 1818 an account of these charges was printed by order of the House of Commons, in two papers, Nos. 48. and 49. of that session. The title of these papers is, “Expenses of a civil nature which do not form part of the ordinary charge of the civil list.” Look at these, John Bull, and if they do not make you sick at heart, and if your gall does not rise as your sickness comes on, your apathy is extraordinary. They are comprised under the 14 following heads:—


£. s. d.
1. Salaries, &c. to officers of the Houses of Lords and Commons 6,293 6 8
2. Expenses of the two Houses 1,043 14 5
3. Monuments erecting 3,965 5 0
4. Conveying governors and other persons of distinction to their places of destination 3,597 13 6
5. Allowances to admirals of duty on wine drunk at their tables 605 11 0
6. Salaries and expenses at the receipt of the exchequer 552 6 8
7. Contingent expense at the treasury and Secretaries of State’s offices 54,147 15 6
8. Deficiencies of fees made good in the same offices 37,673 13 9
9. Works and repairs of public buildings 50,938 4 7
10. Furniture for certain public offices 15,592 9 5
12. Extraordinary disbursements of ambassadors 64,016 14 1
13. Outfit for secretary of legation at Stockholm 214 16 6
14. Presents to ministers at foreign courts 33,565 16 7
£450,146 7 6

Thus we see that the extraordinaries, as they are called, of the civil list alone, cost 96,533l. 7s. 6d. more than the whole civil government of America.

The extraordinary disbursements of ambassadors alone cost us 64,016l.

While the whole cost of all sorts of foreign ministers, ordinary and extraordinary, cost the United States 148,500 dollars; or 31,556l.

And yet the diplomatic business of the United States is better performed than that of any other nation whatever.

On the 3d of May, 1822, the House of Commons printed a paper, No. 285., containing an account of the whole of his Majesty’s diplomatic service from 1793 to 1822; from which it appears that the charge for 1821 was £265,962
That of America, as before £31,556
Add to this agents for claims for spoliations at Paris and London 850
And for relief and protection of American seamen in foreign countries 8,500
And the total expense will be £40,906


Less than one-sixth of the money expended by the government here, much less efficaciously for good purposes, but infinitely more mischievously for bad purposes. The bare charge for diplomatic services costs us more than two-thirds the amount of the whole expense of the civil government in America. Would a House of Commons freely elected by the whole people permit such things as these to exist? Would they ever have sent a minister jobbing to the empty palace at Lisbon, and paid him upwards of 14,000l. for a sea-airing to his family?

In the finance accounts for the year 1821 are the following items:—

Charges of management, customs £1,069,280
Charges of management, excise 1,133,919
But the whole cost of the American government, including the civil government, the army, and navy, is £2,010,220
Or, 192,979

less than the cost of management of the two engines of exaction and patronage, the customs and excise, here at home.

On the 27th March, 1821, the House of Commons printed a “Report from the Committee appointed to prepare the Militia Estimates.” It consisted of two parts, viz.:—

£. s. d.
1. Estimate, charge of DISEMBODIED militia, Great Britain, for 1821 269,519 12 2
2. Estimate, charge of DISEMBODIED militia, Ireland 125,388 18 11
Total charge of DISEMBODIED militia £394,908 11 1

Being 41,395l. more than the whole of the civil government of the United States in all its branches.

For the present we purposely exclude all mention of our army, navy, and debt.

So much for taxes in America, as to which we will now leave the Quarterly reviewer to his own reflections. With respect to all the details about provincial courts of justice, we are quite willing to admit that public courts and public officers in remote and thinly-peopled districts may have some of the vices, though none of the useless parade and dignity attached to their fellows in England. We have no time to pursue the subject further, but recommending to this writer and all his tribe [268] the diligent perusal of the President’s last address to Congress, we shall conclude with the following striking passage from the introduction to Mr. Warden’s statistical work:—

“Doubtless the government of the United States is not exempt from the errors and imperfections that adhere to all human institutions. But compare its public conduct with that of the old governments of Europe. How calm and reasonable is its language; always addressing itself to the understanding and the solid interests of the people, never to their passions or prejudices. It seeks no aid from superstition, supports no gainful impostures, and uses none of that disgusting cant with which the old governments of Europe varnish over the degradation of the people. It is a stranger to state craft and mystery. All its acts are done in the face of day. It promotes knowledge, religion, and learning, without the preference of particular sects, and without debasing them by falsehoods beneficial to the ruling powers. It is the only government in the world that dares to put arms freely into the hands of all its citizens. From Maine to Mississipi, it commands a prompt and ready obedience without any other weapon than a constable’s staff. In a word, it secures property, satisfies opinion, promotes the development of industry and talent with a rapidity hitherto unexampled; and with the smallest sacrifice of individual rights and property on the part of the people, it accomplishes all that the most expensive and powerful governments pretend to.”





Art. IX.: The Quarterly Review.

IN the article on Periodical Literature, in our first number, we commenced an inquiry into the motives which operate upon the conductors of Periodical Publications, in a direction opposite to the public good. In illustration of these general remarks, we selected the two Reviews, known by the titles of the Edinburgh, and the Quarterly, as furnishing specimens of the mischievous endeavours to which these motives lead, and the most instructive specimens which we could find—on account both of the extensive circulation of those journals, and the superior abilities of those who write in them.

Agreeing in subservience to all those motives which spring from the importunate demand of immediate success, and to all those which spring from the important circumstance of their being addressed chiefly to the aristocracy, and aiming chiefly at their approbation and applause, the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews differed, we saw, in their being addressed to different sections of the aristocracy, the one to the section of the ministerialists, the other to the section of the oppositionists. We shall see, by the examination of the Quarterly Review which we now propose to institute, to what divergence in their lines of operation, and what diversity of artifice, this original difference gives occasion.

There are other differences, of some importance, which are rather to be regarded as accidental.

The Quarterly Review has always displayed much more of the character of a bookseller’s catch-penny, than the Edinburgh Review. On looking it over from the beginning, it really is surprising to what a degree it has absolutely renounced the character of being a vehicle of instruction, and has aimed at nothing higher than furnishing amusement and subject of prattle to loungers, and gossips. It is not merely that it has handled subjects of importance feebly and lamely, but that it has very rarely encountered them. Its main resources have been books of travels, and books of poetry and amusement. Books of travels are regularly pillaged of all that is most entertaining in them, to make a compilation for the Quarterly Review. The most interesting passages in books of poetry and amusement supply extracts for the same critical journal; [464] and it will amuse any one who will take the trouble to look over only a few numbers, as we have done the whole, to observe how large a proportion of its pages are filled directly from the pages of books of travels, and books of poetry, with little other trouble or talent, than what goes to the making of extracts.

Another difference between the Edinburgh Review and the Quarterly Review is, that a much higher kind of intellect has always appeared in the Edinburgh Review. This we may pronounce to be the public opinion, not contested even by those who would wish that it were otherwise.

A majority of the articles in the Edinburgh Review proves that they are from men with ideas; men of stored and cultivated minds, even when the reasonings they employ are fallacious, and the conclusions to be rejected. An article to which similar praise can be applied, rarely, and at long intervals, appears in the Quarterly Review. The writers in that journal are almost wholly of two sorts, compilers from books of travels, and mere litterateurs, men, who almost rank with the lowest class of artizans; who know little of literature, but the merely mechanical part; whose highest ambition is that of polishing a sentence; and who, feeling themselves incapable of making any impression by the weight and importance of their ideas, are perpetually on the strain to do so by mere language, pomp and glitter of expression.

We remark another, and still more radical difference between the Edinburgh and Quarterly Review. There is something in the writers in the Edinburgh Review, at least some of the most distinguished of them, which shows that they are fit for, and have a leaning towards better things, even when they are lending themselves to the sinister interest which assails them. They do not indeed attempt to go before the public mind, to take the lead of it; and by doing so, to hasten its progress. They are too much afraid of losing favour to adventure any thing like this. But no sooner do they perceive a turning in the public mind towards any thing that is good, than they are commonly ready to fall in with the happy current; and have often lent to it additional velocity and force.

The writers in the Quarterly Review pursue the directly opposite course. They seem to watch the earliest symptoms of any tendency in the public mind towards improvement in any shape, in order to fall upon it with determined hostility. They decry it with all the terms of reprobation. They endeavour to make it ridiculous, they endeavour to make it odious. They employ every artifice of which they are masters to prevent [465] it. Whatever in their situation would be done by cold-blooded, remorseless enemies of mankind, that, in almost every instance, they will be found to do.

It has already been seen, by our remarks upon the Edinburgh Review, what is the line of artifice into which a publication is drawn, that lends itself to the interest of that section of the aristocracy, which is aiming at the powers of government without possessing them. The necessity of finding something to say which will please both the people and the aristocracy, leads to a perpetual shifting of position; but some skill is necessary to hide the operation. Something of ability is required in the conduct of the see-saw.

The position of those who write for the party in power is much more favourable. Coarser instruments sufficiently answer their purpose.

This is an important topic, which deserves to be better understood than it generally is.

It is well known to be much more the disposition of power to command, and to strike, than to persuade.

The situation of a mere advocate for the party in power, does not permit him absolutely to command and to strike. But his knowledge that he has power on his side, leads him to do that which, in his situation, is analogous to commanding and striking, and of all expedients within his reach, comes the nearest to these two operations. He assumes whatever he has occasion for; and he pours abuse upon those who are opposed to him.

Assumption, and Abuse; these are so uniformly, and to so extraordinary an extent, the weapons employed by those who stand on the vantage ground of power, that they may be regarded as peculiarly the logical arms of power.

Into the general illustration of this remark we need not enter far. All history, both civil and ecclesiastical, bears testimony of its truth; nor can we suppose that it will be seriously disputed.

I. Some remarkable instances of assumption are afforded by the advocates of the Catholic Church, in their arguments against the first reformers. The universal consent of Christians in all ages, they said, was with them, and against the reformers. The will of heaven, they asserted, was visibly declared in their favour, by the miracles which it had enabled the saints of the Catholic Church, to perform.

Political assumptions are not less plentifully supplied. During the reigns of our Stuarts, it was held as a principle, that kings reign by the appointment of heaven, and that it is an act [466] of opposition to the divine will, to resist whatever they command. It was equally assumed, that the people are incurably stupid, and inclined to mischief; from which it followed that arbitrary power is at once divine and indispensable.

We shall not spend time in adducing instances from authors, the most celebrated of the time, in which such positions are given as axioms; principles which need no proof; and of which, even to ask for the proof would be an act partaking equally of wickedness and folly. Every man of any reading can supply instances to himself; and will be aware, though these particular assumptions are out of credit in this country now, that there was a time when they had all the illusions of authority and power on their side; when a thousand associations gave them an influence over men’s imaginations, and a hold on their belief; and when they were wielded as terrible instruments of power.

2. The second ingredient in the logic of power is abuse. The celebrated Le Clerc, in his treatise of logic, prefixed to his Opera Philosophica, in four volumes, printed at Amsterdam, in the Year 1698, has a distinct discourse, which he calls Dissertatio Philosophica, on this one source of delusion, the argumentum ab invidia ductum, on which he bestows the title of Argumentum Theologicum; because, says he, Tantus semper ejus fuit usus apud theologos, estque etiamnum hodie tam frequens, ut mirum esset a philosophis nihil esse scriptum de hoc sophismatum genere, nisi bonos viros periculo ab ea tractatione deterritos hactenus fuisse satis constaret. At cum devenerimus ad ea tempora, quibus falso dicti theologi notiores sunt quam unquam fuerunt, socordia esset, non prudentia, de ea re diutius tacere. Qua tamen in tractatione abstinebimus ab exemplis nimium recentibus, quamvis sint frequentissima, ne se nonnulli homines peti, potius quam sua vitia, arbitrentur.

It was, however, an error in Le Clerc to suppose that this was exclusively argumentum theologicum. It is argumentum imperiosum; the argument of power, in whatever hands it is placed, lay, or ecclesiastical. It is true that, in the time of Le Clerc, the philosopher’s attention was chiefly attracted to the use which had been made of it by theologians; because up to that time any power but that of the clergy had not much been put upon its defence. As soon as it was, the argumentum ab invidia ductum was found to be the grand weapon for one species of undue power as well as another, and was turned more or less actively to account, as need required.

We shall go at somewhat greater length into the illustration of this branch of the Logic of Power, than the former, because this, in reality, includes the former. All abuse of a man for [467] holding an opinion implies the assumption, that his opinion is wrong. By illustrating this branch, therefore, of the art of defending power, we shall add to the illustration of the other also.

Le Clerc divides the argumentum ab invidia ductum, or Dirt-flinging argument, into sixteen species.

1. Sententia, quæ oppugnatur, male explicatur. This is misrepresentation; and, wherever it takes place, is mendacity and knavery, simply.

2. Nominibus invidiosis infamatur. The doctrine to be attacked (sententia quæ oppugnatur) is called by bad names.

3. Cum invisorum hominum dogmatibus confertur. Endeavour is made to connect it with the opinions of men already odious.

4. Exaggeratur momentum quæstionis. A species of misrepresentation.

5. Invisi redduntur boni, quod vocibus nonnullis, a theologis inventis, uti nolint. Ascribing wickedness to using, or not using a name, is a species of the argument ab invidia, more peculiarly belonging to theologians.

6. Studiose occultantur rationes quibus refutanda sententia nititur. Suppression of evidence; dishonesty.

7. Tacentur incommoda quibus premitur sententia defendenda. A second case of the suppression of evidence.

8. Prætermittuntur ea quæ invidiam amoliri possent. A third case of the suppression of evidence.

9. Invidiosa consectaria deducuntur ex sententia eorum qui oppugnantur. Imputation of bad consequences. This generally involves both branches of the Logic; begging the question; and calling names.

10. Malignis suspicionibus premuntur. Imputation of wicked designs. This also includes both branches.

11. Novitas illis objicitur, quasi crimen. The treating innovation as a crime is uniformly, and necessarily, assumption; and imputing a crime without ground, is the other branch of the art.

12. Consensu hominum potentiorum opprimuntur. Differing in opinion from great men, imputed as wickedness. This also implies both assumption, and dirt-flinging.

13. Miscentur in disceptationibus multa quæ ad rem nihil faciunt sed quæ invidiæ creandæ apta sunt. Dirt-flinging irrelevancies.

14. In deteriorem partem accipiuntur indifferentia. Misrepresentation.

15. Provocatio fit a peritis judicibus ad imperitos. Excite the prejudices of the ignorant, raise an outcry. This is done by assumption and dirt-flinging.


16. Adversarii denique quasi immorigeri magistratibus infamantur. Insubordination, subversion of institutions, anarchy, and a host of subsequent evils. This is the concentrated case of assumption and dirt-flinging combined.

Hi, says Le Clerc, hi sunt potissimi, nisi fallor, venenati fontes, ex quibus invidiæ liquor haustus, incautis propinatur: he adds, quo epoto, homines, ut fert dictum vetus, hominibus fiunt lupi.

What do the men become who drink from the poisoned fountains of the Logic of Power? Wolves, says Le Clerc; and seldom a truth of greater moment has issued from human lips.

The grand question between the Quarterly Review and its opponents; between the advocates of power on the one hand, and the advocates of the people on the other, is, whether there is any thing in our institutions, and how much, which operates to the detriment of the people, and ought to be changed. The Quarterly Review affirms that there is little or nothing. Its opponents contend that there is much. It will be found in a great majority of instances, that the Quarterly Review maintains its position, by the assumption of the points which are in dispute, and by endeavouring to attach an odious character to its opponents; by begging questions, and venting calumny.

It would not be of much advantage to cast into any particular order the specimens which we shall think it requisite to adduce: and therefore we shall select the passages which appear to merit notice, as they occur to us, in looking over the notes which we made during the perusal of the work. The difficulty consists in finding extracts which sufficiently exhibit the characteristics we desire to illustrate, without being too long; for lengthiness and verbosity are also among the striking properties of this advocate of aristocratical rule.

In an article on Parliamentary Reform, in the 2nd No. of the work, the most remarkable passage is as follows:—

(1.) ‘We are, however, told, by numbers of persons professing to be well-informed, that the dissatisfaction occasioned by the late proceedings is violent and universal. This assertion is mysteriously whispered in coffee-houses, proclaimed from high authority in taverns, circulated under the condensed form of resolutions in the papers, and dilated into numerous pamphlets, some of which are now on our table. Mr. Clarke communicates it in his letter to Mr. Whitbread; Mr. Cartwright states it amongst his reasons for reformation; and the writer, whom we have already quoted as a friend to the constitution and to the immortality of the Common Council, draws the same inference. He tells us, that “the cry of corruption in the state comes from every mouth; and the cry of Reform! Reform! proceeds from every tongue, and reverberates on every ear.” (2) Now we should suspect that such a description of the cries of London would not be very gratifying to the Common Council. [469] Experience must have taught them, that when, through the beneficial influence of a free press, or of non-commissioned orators in the cause of liberty, large bodies of men are assembled as parts and parcels of the nation, for the purpose of proclaiming the national will, and of redressing all national wrongs, the progress of patriotism and reform through the streets of London has occasionally spread terror and dismay amongst its worshipful citizens. Windows and heads may be broken, to a considerable amount, without exciting much alarm in the police, or at all affecting the general government of the country; and it is by no means improbable that dangers of this magnitude may at this moment be impending over us. But of very extensive evils we are not extremely apprehensive. (3) We could not easily point out, in the whole course of our recollection, a single year during which the cowardly merit of being satisfied and contented with their condition could be fairly imputed to our countrymen. We have witnessed many and heavy discontents among the people; we have seen frequent riots, some of which had a promising appearance, and afforded hopes of a tolerably extensive revolt: but we cannot even now discern a tendency to (4) that universal insurrection from which alone, as it seems to us, can be expected the hitherto untried blessing of Radical Reform. We have, perhaps, amongst us a greater number of puritans in religion, and in morals, and in politics, than at any former period, and their zeal may produce a daily accession of proselytes; but we believe that, as the mass of mankind are willing to submit to live in this bad world, however lively may be their hopes of a better (5) so the mass of the nation will for some time longer persist in their preference of the old-fashioned government of king, lords, and commons, to that perfect state of political regeneration in which the absence of all abuses must put an end to their comfortable enjoyment of hourly complaint and remonstrance.

In the mean time we are by no means disposed to wage war with those who frankly avow their (6) love of revolution, as a step towards political perfection. We consider this as a mere matter of taste, and completely harmless under a free government, because such a government being armed with the whole power of the nation, can never suffer from the shock of discordant opinions. (7) But when we find a set of persons professing to promote innovation from an attachment to the existing order of things, and to wish for reform for the sake of the constitution; when we hear them assert that the abuses of delegated power originate, not in the extent of that power, or in the temptation which it creates, but merely in the mode by which it is delegated, and that a different form of election would alter the views and passions of the elected; we cannot help suspecting them of some little insincerity; and should think it our duty to attempt an exposure of their fallacies, if this had not been already done, in one of the ablest essays of a most popular and very modern publication. We allude to the 9th article in the 20th number of the Edinburgh Review; a work, from many parts of which no feelings of competition could justify us in withholding our unqualified applause.’

We have placed figures to facilitate reference before the expressions [470] involving the particulars to which we desire the reader’s attention.

The passage to which figure (1) is prefixed, contains the allegation on which the Reviewer proceeds with his commentary. The passage following figure (2) contains the assumption, or rather triplet of assumptions; first, that the call for reform; secondly, that the use of a free press; and thirdly, that the power of holding meetings on the part of the people lead, by natural consequence, to insurrectionary violence, to the loss of all security for person and property, spoken of by the Reviewer, in mockery, under the names of broken heads and broken windows. Here, both branches of the strong man’s logic are exemplified; the assuming, and the abusing. It corresponds with the 9th and 10th articles in the list of Le Clerc. And in this first specimen, we see the pattern of nearly every thing which, in the way of language, is ever brought to resist the claims of the people to the improvement of their political institutions. The material assumes infinite variety of shape and dimension, but to this every argument or pretended argument may almost always be reduced. We shall receive strong confirmation of this statement as we proceed.

The expression to which figure (3) is prefixed, assumes the perpetual existence of a mischievous disposition in the people of England; viz. unreasonable discontent, and a fondness for revolt. This also includes both branches of the strong party’s logic, and corresponds with 9 and 10 in the list of Le Clerc.

Figure (4) is prefixed to a notable assumption, that radical reform, by which the people mean the best securities for good government, can be obtained “from universal insurrection alone.” By universal insurrection, in the language of the Reviewer, is meant, not only all the evils which man can inflict upon man, but all the evils and crimes which aristocratical eloquence can find language to express. This is assumption and abuse in a high state of concentration: aristocratical logic near its perfection; its essence, its elixir. Securities for good government cannot be obtained, but from evils which cannot be computed. The consequence is indisputable, that bad government ought to remain, and all those who ask for its amendment ought to be treated as the first of criminals. This, though differing in form, is, we see, the same in substance as the argument marked by figure (2).

Figure (5) is prefixed to an assumption, that the mass of the nation are contented. This is directly contradictory to the assumption to which figure (3) was prefixed. True; but this was necessary for the purpose of the Reviewer. And contradictions, [471] though they are contrary to the rules of ordinary logic, are by no means contrary to the logic of power. The advocate of the “old-fashioned government” wanted to make the friends of an amended government appear both odious and contemptible. He could not make them appear so odious as he wished, without making them appear formidable. He could not make them appear so contemptible as he wished, without making them appear to be not formidable. And he knew well the sort of people whom he wished to please. If he spoke strongly enough for their interests, in the way which they deemed according to their interest, they would little care for the congruity or incongruity of his ideas.

In the expression denoted by (6), the assumption and the abuse are both remarkable. By revolution, the Reviewer means a horrible aggregate of all the worst of crimes. He assumes that those who desire parliamentary reform, all, or something less than all, not only have, but avow, a love for revolution, as a step towards the attainment of their end. This involves all the atrocities included in Nos. 9, 10, and 16, in the list of Le Clerc.

The sentence which immediately follows, contains a curious opinion for the Reviewer, that the freedom of the press ought to be so complete as not to impede the recommendation even of revolution itself. But as this does not concern our present purpose, we shall leave the consideration of that doctrine till another occasion.

The passage to which figure (7) is prefixed, corresponds with No. 1, in the list of Le Clerc: Sententia, quæ oppugnatur, male explicatur. It is misrepresentation. The reformers do not assert that the abuses of delegated power (meaning the power of members of parliament, do not originate in the extent of that power, or in the temptation which it creates. They assert directly the contrary.

Nothing but a perfect certainty of having on his side all the blinding influences of power can carry a man to the pitch of impudence which acts of misrepresentation, similar to this, require.

The illustrations which Le Clerc affords of this case of the argumentum ab invidia ductum, are worthy of being transcribed.

Conflatur invidia falsa interpretatione sententiæ quæ infamanda suscipitur. Si qualis reverâ est proponeretur, sæpe bilem nulli moveret, aut leviter saltem offenderet. Si Pharisæi qui tempore Christi vivebant dixissent, ita loqui ejus discipulos, ut significarent, se perfectioris sanctimoniæ leges ab eo accepisse quam sunt Mosaicæ, nec quidquam detrahere Legi eorum quæ [472] ad veram morum sanctitatem facerent, atque ab iis solum Deum Israëlis coli, et omnia pietatis, caritatis ac temperantiæ officia observari, quanquam interdum Legis ritualia negligerent; si, inquam, ita loquuti essent, nunquam tantum odium creassent Paulo, quam cum dixerunt: Iste persuadet hominibus colere Deum contra Legem, aliaque id genus. [Vide Acts xviii. 13.]

The next of the specimens adduced by Le Clerc is from St. Jerome, the most perfect high-churchman of his age and a model for all the high-churchmen who have followed him in every age.

Nunquam etiam Hieronymus infamasset Vigilantium, quemadmodum fecit; si dixisset eum non credere colendos Martyras aliter quam fortitudinis et pietatis eorum memoriâ quas æternùm laudari apud Christianos oportebat, sed non esse orandos. At imperitorum odium in eum incendit, clamitando eum—Os fœtidum aperire et putorem spurcissimum contra sanctorum martyrum proferre reliquias, et eos qui eas suspiciunt appellare cinerarios et idolatras qui mortuorum hominum ossa venerarentur; eum contra martyrum sanguinem dimicare, contra apostolos pertonare, imò instar rabidi canis latrare contra Christi discipulos, et plurima similia.

The applause bestowed by this Quarterly Reviewer on one of the most remarkable articles on Parliamentary Reform in the Edinburgh Review, is a striking illustration and proof of what we have already stated of the devotedness of that Whig organ to the cause of aristocracy, in other words, to the existence of those undue powers by which aristocracy creates and maintains bad government. The doctrine of the Edinburgh Review upon Parliamentary Reform, is even such as to give satisfaction to those who are the declared and ostentatious enemies of all reform. Whenever it holds another language, which it sometimes does, it is but an instance of the see-saw.

We see that the passages which we had marked containing assumptions against the people, and abuse of them in the grossest strain, are exceedingly numerous. We must, however, contain ourselves within bounds, and can afford to present, in illustration of this striking application of the aristocratic logic, only one example more: and as our first specimen was taken from an early Number of the work, we have selected this from one near the middle of it; though we need not be anxious to prove that its character in this respect is uniform. The following passage is from the article on parliamentary reform in the 31st Number:—

‘During the great struggle between Charles 1st, and his parliament, the people required an appearance, at least, of devotion and morality in [473] their leaders; no man could obtain their confidence unless he observed the decencies of life, and conformed in his outward deportment to the laws of God and man. There was much hypocrisy among them as well as much fanaticism, but the great body of the nation were sincerely religious, and strict in the performance of their ordinary duties; and to this cause, more than to any other, is it owing that no civil war was ever carried on with so few excesses and so little cruelty, so that the conduct of the struggle was as honourable to the nation as the ultimate consequences have been beneficial. It is a melancholy, and, in some respects, an alarming thing, to observe the contrast at the present crisis, when the populace look for no other qualification in their heroes than effrontery and a voluble tongue. Easily deluded they have always been; but evil-minded and insidious men, who in former times endeavoured to deceive the moral feelings of the multitude, have now laboured more wickedly and more successfully in corrupting them. Their favourite shall have a plenary dispensation for as many vices as he can afford to entertain, and as many crimes as he may venture to commit. Among them sedition stands in the place of charity, and covereth a multitude of sins.

Were it not that the present state of popular knowledge is a necessary part of the process of society, a stage through which it must pass in its progress toward something better, it might reasonably be questioned whether the misinformation of these times be not worse than the ignorance of former ages. For a people who are ignorant and know themselves to be so, will often judge rightly when they are called upon to think at all, acting from common sense, and the unperverted instinct of equity. But there is a kind of half knowledge which seems to disable men even from forming a just opinion of the facts before them—a sort of squint in the understanding which prevents it from seeing straightforward, and by which all objects are distorted. Men in this state soon begin to confound the distinctions between right and wrong—farewell then to simplicity of heart, and with it farewell to rectitude of judgment! The demonstrations of geometry indeed retain their force with them, for they are gross and tangible—but to all moral propositions, to all finer truths, they are insensible—the part of their nature which should correspond with these is stricken with dead palsy. Give men a smattering of law, and they become litigious; give them a smattering of physic, and they become hypochondriacs or quacks, disordering themselves by the strength of imagination, or poisoning others in the presumptuousness of conceited ignorance. But, of all men, the smatterer in philosophy is the most intolerable and the most dangerous; he begins by unlearning his Creed and his Commandments, and in the process of eradicating what it is the business of all sound education to implant, his duty to God is discarded first, and his duty to his neighbour presently afterwards. As long as he confines himself to private practice the mischief does not extend beyond his private circle—his neighbour’s wife may be in some danger, and his neighbour’s property also, if the distinction between meum and tuum should be practically inconvenient to the man of free opinions. But when he commences professor of moral and political philosophy for the benefit of the public, the fables of old [474] credulity are then verified—his very breath becomes venomous, and every page which he sends abroad carries with it poison to the unsuspicious reader.

The begging of every question, and the atrocious accusations which, in the way of pure assumption, are brought against the people, are here so plain and undisguised, that, after the example we have exhibited of the mode of analysing such passages, we must leave the detailed exposition of them to the reader himself.

We have already stated, that “things as they are” versus “things as they ought to be,” alias, aristocratical supremacy versus securities for good government, alias, the aristocracy versus the people, is the cause at issue. We have seen how the Quarterly Review, the well-feed and highly-expectant advocate of “things as they are,” assumes every thing against the people, and endeavours to excite against them the passions of fear, hatred, and contempt. We shall next present a sample of the mode in which he assumes every thing in favour of “things as they are,” and heaps upon them mountains of applause. The first we shall select is from the Number last quoted, because we have it in our hand, and from the same article “on parliamentary reform.” We regret the length of it, but trust that the apology which we have already offered, and we have no other, the reader will accept.

‘All the reasoners, or rather the no-reasoners, in favour of parliamentary reform, proceed upon the belief of Mr. Dunning’s or Mr. Burke’s famous motion, that the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. Whether that position was true when the motion was made and carried, might with great justice be controverted. That it had ceased to be so at the beginning of the French revolution in Mr. Burke’s judgment, we know; he himself having recorded his opinion in works which will endure as long as the language in which they are written; and the converse of that proposition is now distinctly and decidedly to be maintained. (1) The three possible forms of government, each of which, when existing simply, is liable to great abuses, and naturally tends towards them, have been in this country, and only in this country, blended in one harmonious system, alike conducive to the safety, welfare, and happiness of all. That safety, welfare, and happiness depend upon the equipoise of the three component powers, and is endangered when any one begins to preponderate. (2) At present it is the influence of the democracy which has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. Whatever additional influence the crown has obtained by the increased establishments which the circumstances of the age have rendered necessary, is but as a feather in the scale, compared to the weight which the popular branch of the constitution has acquired by the publication of the parliamentary debates.

(3) ‘But what is meant by Parliamentary Reform? Whenever this [475] question has been propounded among the reformists at their meetings, it has operated like the apple of discord—the confusion of Babel has been renewed—with this difference, that the modern castle-builders are confounded in their understandings and not in their speech. One is for triennial parliaments, another for annual; and one, more simple than honest, proposes to petition for triennial only as a step towards obtaining annual. One will have a qualification for voters, another demands universal suffrage. Mr. Orator Hunt proposes voting by ballot, and one of the Penny Orators says, that if Magna Charta were made the bulwark of a General Reform the country would be speedily relieved. He knows as much about Magna Charta as about bulwarks—and as much about the philosopher’s stone as of either. They talk of restoring the constitution—what constitution? Every one must have seen a print of the mill for grinding old women young; these state-menders might as reasonably take poor old Major Cartwright to a mill, and expect to see him come out as green in years as he is in judgment, as think that any country can go back to its former state. There are things which are not possible even by miracle. But if the impossible miracle were conceded, at what age would the restorers have their renovated constitution? Would they prefer that of the Norman kings, or of the Plantagenets, with all its feudal grievances? Or the golden days of Elizabeth, when parliament trembled as the virago asserted her prerogative? Or would they have it as under James 1st, when the Commons “did on their hearts’ knees agnize” his condescension in making his royal pleasure known. Or as under William the Deliverer, and his successor Queen Anne, with all the corruption and treason which arrested Marlborough’s victories, and betrayed Europe at Utrecht? Or would they accept it as it was even at the commencement of the present reign, when the debates were published in a mutilated and fictitious form, confessedly by sufferance? The multitude being ignorant are at all times easily deceived, and therefore sin through simplicity. But if any man who possesses the slightest knowledge of English history, asserts that the people of England, at any former time, possessed so much influence as during the present reign, and more especially during the last twenty years, he asserts what is grossly and palpably false, and what he himself must know to be so.

(4) ‘The British constitution is not the creature of theory. It is not as a garment which we can deliver over to the tailors to cut and slash at pleasure, lengthen it or curtail, embroider it or strip off all the trimmings, and which we can at any moment cast aside for something in a newer fashion. It is the skin of the body politic in which is the form and the beauty and the life—or rather it is the life itself. Our constitution has arisen out of our habits and necessities; it has grown with our growth, and been gradually modified by the changes through which society is always passing in its progress. (5) Under it we are free as our own thoughts; second to no people in arts, arms, and enterprise; during prosperous times exceeding all in prosperity, and in this season of contingent, partial, and temporary distress, suffering less than any others, abounding in resources, abounding in charity, in knowledge, in piety, and in virtue. The constitution is our Ark of the Covenant; we to the sacrilegious hand that [476] would profane it,—and woe be to us if we suffer the profanation! (6) Our only danger arises from the abuse of freedom, and the supineness with which that abuse is tolerated by those whose first duty it is, to see that no evil befal the commonwealth. Accusations are heaped upon them with as little sense as truth, and as little moderation and decency as either; let them, however, take heed lest posterity have bitter reason for ratifying the charge of imbecility, which it will have, if they do not take effectual means for silencing those demagogues who are exciting the people to rebellion. Insects, that only ‘stink and sting,’ may safely be despised, but when the termites are making their regular approaches it is no time to sit idle; they must be defeated by efficacious measures, or the fabric which they attack will fall.

(7) ‘But it has been offered to be proved at the bar of the House of Commons, that the great body of the people are excluded from all share in the election of members, and that the majority of that House are returned by the proprietors of rotten boroughs, the influence of the Treasury, and a few powerful families. This has been said by all the reformers since Mr. Grey presented his memorable petition, and the Lord Mayor, with the Aldermen and Commons of his party, have repeated it in their addresses to the Prince Regent. (8) Supposing that the assertion had been proved, instead of “offered to be proved,” does the Lord Mayor, or would the Lord Mayor’s fool, if that ancient officer were still a part of the city establishment, suppose that in a country like this it would be possible to deprive wealth and power of their influence, if it were desirable? or desirable, if it were possible? That the great landholders have great influence is certain; that any practical evil arises from it is not so obvious. The great borough interests have been as often on the side of opposition as with the government; sir Francis Burdett even makes use of this notorious fact as an argument for reform, and talks of the strength which the crown would derive from diminishing the power of the aristocracy. But that influence has been greatly diminished in the natural course of things. A great division of landed property has been a necessary consequence from the increase of commercial wealth. Large estates produce much more when sold in portions than in the whole, and many have been divided in this way, owing to the high price which land bore during the war, more especially in the manufacturing and thickly-peopled counties. Thus the number of voters has increased, and the influence of the great landholders has in an equal degree been lessened. In Norfolk, for instance, though chiefly an agricultural county, the voters have been nearly doubled; in Yorkshire they are more than doubled; and in Lancashire the increase has been more than three-fold. This is mentioned not for the purpose of laying any stress upon it, but to show that such a change is going on; and that in more ways than one the wealth of the country lessens the power of the landed interest. It ought thus to do: and the purchase of seats, which is complained of as the most scandalous abuse in parliament, is one means whereby it effects this desirable object.

(9) ‘If the reformers will show in any age of history, and in any part of the world, or in this country at any former time, a body of representatives [477] better constituted than the British House of Commons—among whom more individual worth and integrity can be found, and more collective wisdom; or who have more truly represented the complicated and various interests of the community, and more thoroughly understood them, then indeed it may be yielded, that an alteration would be expedient, if such an alteration were likely to produce an amendment. But in a state of society so infinitely complicated as that wherein we exist, where so many different interests are to be represented, and such various knowledge is required in the collected body, no system of representation could be more suitable than that which circumstances have gradually and insensibly established. Of the revolutionist, secret or avowed, adventurer or fanatic, knave or dupe (for there are of all kinds), we shall say nothing here, but address ourselves to the well-meaning reformer, who has no intention farther than what he openly professes.’

It is apparent that this is not purely assumption in favour of “things as they are.” It is mixed with the usual assumptions and abuse against the people, the repetition of which seems never to tire.

Figure (1) is prefixed to an old assumption, that of the mixture and balance of the three powers; an assumption, groundless and mischievous, as has been abundantly shown, and as we shall prove on other occasions; but as it is an old, and was long an admitted assumption, as it is nothing to the purpose—for whether the government is balanced or not balanced, it still remains to be proved that it is good—we shall not at present trouble ourselves about it.

Figure (2) precedes a notable assumption. We need not enumerate the elements which constitute the increase of the influence of the crown. The man must be ignorant who knows not that some considerable time ago we had nothing which much deserved the name either of army or navy; we had no national debt; the taxes amounted to less than a million per annum; we had no colonies; for every shilling which the crown at that time had to bestow in purchase of servility it has now thousands and tens of thousands; and all the time since the Revolution something has been constantly adding to the restrictions upon the people; out of all which a mass of influence has arisen which renders the crown perfectly master of the parliament, and, by consequence, of all the powers of government. Now comes the assumption, and an astounding one it is.

All this is counterbalanced.

By what?

By the publication of the debates! Nay, all the powers of government are as a feather in the scale compared with this one circumstance!


Nothing can go beyond this.

The whole of the paragraph preceded by figure (3) is assumption against the people, mixed with abuse, and therefore needs no further comment.

Figure (4) is prefixed to two affirmations which, if any body disputes, it is certainly not the radical reformers. They do not say that the British constitution is the creature of theory: they think it is, in all those parts of it which they wish to see altered, nothing but the creature of aristocratical interest. As little do they say that it is the garment of the body politic, or like a garment. But the Quarterly Review has found out that it is something not less wonderful than a garment, namely, the skin. But what has it found that the skin is? This we may safely affirm to be its master discovery. The skin is the life. The body politic is a remarkable body; it wears its life on its outside, as a crab wears its bones. But the Quarterly Review has something still more wonderful behind. After discovering that the skin is the “life,” it goes on, and finds that it is “rather the life itself.” The “life” is “rather the life itself.” This is something exceedingly subtle. As we have had many specimens of the logic of aristocracy, this we may consider as a taste of the metaphysics of aristocracy.

(5) “Under it we are as free as our thoughts.” This is the aristocratical logic without reserve and without shame. If by “we,” the Reviewer means himself and brethren, we admit his proposition. Freedom there is, in abundance, as he well knows, and more than freedom, to applaud the aristocracy and abuse the people. The want of freedom is all on the other side. And in the next sentences, marked (6), he calls for a still further abridgment of that freedom. Nothing less will satisfy him than “silencing” his opponents, not by argument, but the brute hand of power. And this he calls being as free as our thoughts.

Such is the way in which power, when tolerably sure of its footing, deals with truth, reason, and justice.

The reader will next look at figure (7). It is curious enough that the courage even of this unabashed assertor does not carry him so far as to deny, that the majority of the House of Commons is returned by the Treasury and a few powerful families. No impudence is equal to this. But there is still enough of the brave faculty at the disposal of aristocracy, and of both sections of the aristocracy, as to make them find, here and else where, pens and tongues in abundance, which proceed, by dint of assumption, to explain away the certain consequences.

Thus our Reviewer (8), “wealth and power must have their influence:” ergo, the lord mayor or the lord mayor’s fool may [479] know that a government essentially consisting of the Treasury and a few powerful families, leaves the people, by its necessary operation, as free as their own thoughts; in danger from nothing but the “abuse of freedom.” The termites, i. e. the people, will destroy the fabric, i. e. a government beautifully composed of the Treasury and a few powerful families, unless they, the termites, are crushed, alias, euphoniæ gratia, “defeated by efficacious measures.”

The passage indicated by fig. (9) to the end of the quotation is the usual assumption of excellence, grounded upon the representation of interests, which the Reviewer goes on, through several pages to expound. This is the class, or club representation of the Edinburgh Reviewers, which we have already noticed, and shall expose to the bottom on another occasion. Here the juggle is effected by an abuse of the word representation, which the Reviewers do not apply in the sense of a security for good government, but of a show. The people represented in an assembly, the majority of which is nominated by the Treasury and a few powerful families! The proposition carries its own imposture upon the face of it. Nothing is represented in such an assembly, in the only sense in which representation is good for any thing, in the sense of a security, but the Treasury and the powerful families. They enjoy representation in the true sense of the word, and much more; they enjoy by it security not only for their own rights, but for the power of invading other people’s, with no other restraint but what their prudence, i. e. their foresight of the danger, i. e. of the people’s resentment, may impose upon them.

These specimens must suffice to illustrate our Reviewer’s mode of dealing with the people of England, and with “things as they are,” denominated in the slang dictionary “the blessings of the British constitution;” though they may depend upon it that the people do not wish to part with the blessings, but only the curses. We shall next present a few instances of the application of the characteristic logic to the people of France and of America. As these are the people of modern times who are most distinguished for their efforts to throw off the yoke of aristocracy, every thing is to be done to make them appear excessively hateful.

Against the French, the specimens we shall take are from one of the most conspicuous articles in the Review, that on the character of Pitt, in the 7th number.

‘Into the causes of the revolution, no further inquiry appears in this place necessary than may suffice to elucidate the character which it communicated to France, considered in her foreign relations. The chief of [480] those causes Mr. Gentz conceives, and, as we suspect, rightly, to have been the progress latterly made by the lower and middling classes of the French nation in knowledge and intelligence, unaccompanied, as that progress was, by a corresponding improvement in morals. The popular mind, conscious of power, and unprovided with the corrective of sound principle, became fevered and restless; and quickly acquired a degree of expansive force, which the gorgeous but slender frames of rank and privilege that inclosed it could ill resist. They were shattered to pieces, and Europe was covered with the glittering fragments. Released from their confinement, the spirits that had hitherto been struggling in common for a vent, now began to struggle mutually for the mastery. In fact, the anarchy which accompanied and precipitated the destruction of the old regime, was nothing else than a conflict of minds; a conflict, however, in which success would of course fall, not to refined talents or elegant acquirements, but to practical vigour, hardihood, and dexterity. In the result, therefore, a new energy was infused into every department of the state; but an energy which, having been originally composed of unhallowed materials and “strange fire,” was not likely to have contracted any virtuous admixture from the feculent medium of blood and discord through which it had past. Such, apparently, in its rough outline, is the natural history of the French revolution, and, agreeably to this account, that event may perhaps be correctly defined to have been the sudden development of malignant power.

The birth of such a monster as the revolutionary system could hardly come to pass, unattended with prodigies and commotions throughout the western world. Intimately connected as the European commonwealth of nations had been for upwards of a century, it might safely have been foretold, both on the general principles of human nature, and from the narrower canons of political science, that a local affection of so violent a kind would prove but “the beginning of sorrows.” It has, in effect, always appeared to us, that the revolution was not more the crisis of a previous situation of things than the war was the natural crisis of the revolution. The evil might, in all probability, have been adjourned, but it would have been adjourned, in the parliamentary phrase, only to an early day.

To verify this remark, we need only recur to the character of the revolution, already given. It was power; it was power suddenly conferred; it was power suddenly conferred on malignity. Any accession of strength that France would have gained towards the close of the last century, even by the most orderly, legitimate, and leisurely development of her resources, could not but have rendered her so far more dangerous to her neighbours. She had long shown herself too ambitious for their peace and too great for their safety, and undoubtedly was not likely, by growing greater, to become less ambitious. But that power, which, in the keeping of even monarchical France, would probably have been abused, in the hands of revolutionized France, made giddy by the whirl of the change which she had undergone, and shaken from all the holds of moral principle, could only prove pestilent. Those statesmen who had set at nought every obligation, whether of law or of [481] charity, that had contributed to bind together the polity of their own country, were ill qualified to become guarantees of the rights of nations. That spirit which, at home, had shown itself so insatiate of novelty, that, even in its crimes, it seemed to scorn all precedent, and would commit

“The oldest sins the newest kind of ways,”

could little be expected, abroad, to endure existing prejudices and venerate established forms. It seems plain, therefore, that the innovating mania, which had so thoroughly transformed the internal condition of France, must inevitably, in no very extended period, have produced a like effect on her foreign relations. Even supposing the other governments of Europe to have demeaned themselves on the occasion with more equanimity and dispassionate wisdom than, in so singular a situation of things, it would perhaps have been reasonable to demand of them, still nothing could have preserved them from being embroiled with the new state, short of an unqualified submission to its insolence and caprice.’

We cannot afford space to analyse the assumptions and abuse contained in this passage, as we have done in some preceding ones. They stand, indeed, so evident, that the example which we have set of this analysis may be easily applied to them. We shall barely advert to a few of the expressions.

“The lower and middling classes of the French nation had latterly made progress in knowledge and intelligence, unaccompanied by a corresponding improvement in morals.” How does the Reviewer know that? Are morals any thing else than a branch of intelligence? It is useless, however, to argue against a naked assumption, made for the purpose of abuse.

Take a passing glance at the rhetoric. Think of the “popular mind” being “enclosed;” and of “rank and privilege” being “frames,” and of these “frames,” namely, “rank and privilege,” which enclosed the popular mind, being “shattered to pieces” by the “popular mind,” which became steam for that purpose. Rank and privilege were the boiler, the popular mind was water within; knowledge and intelligence were the fire put under the boiler; the boiler was gorgeous but slender; and no sooner did the steam begin to form, but lo! the explosion took place; and the glittering fragments of the boiler, a gigantic boiler, “covered all Europe.” What school-boy work is this?

What is meant by “anarchy’s” being “a conflict of minds?” “A conflict, in which success would fall, not to refined talents or elegant acquirements” (the “gorgeous but slender frames,” we suppose, spoken of above), “but to practical vigour, hardihood and dexterity,” videlicet, the steam, also spoken of above, which, by its “expansive force,” shatters to pieces “glittering and slender frames.”


We shall not meddle with a “new energy, composed of strange fire,” nor with the passing of an energy through a medium, a “feculent medium;” he might have added, a very droll medium, if its composition and ingredients be considered. The sort of medium which blood would form mixed with water or mixed with earth, we can conceive: but what sort of a substance, liquid or solid, it makes in a mixture with discord, we have no idea.

We must bestow a little more attention upon the definition of the French revolution. Definitions are serious things. The Reviewer says, it may be correctly defined (indicating, of course, some peculiar excellence in the definition) “a sudden development of malignant power,” the words, for greater emphasis, printed in Italics. It would be an equally correct, and a much more intelligible definition, to say, that it was a sudden destruction of malignant power, meaning, by malignant power, the former bad government. What is meant by that most affected phrase, the development of power? Power is first created and then it is exercised; and these two things, its creation and its exercise, constitute the whole of its history. Does the development mean the one or the other of these two things, or both, or neither? Both, we shall suppose, as that affords most of the semblance of a rational meaning. The French revolution, then, was the creation and exercise of power. Why, so was the starting of the Quarterly Review. So was the making of the “gorgeous and slender frame” (thank thee, Jew, for that word!) of this article, on the “gorgeous and slender frame” of the right honourable William Pitt. This, then, is a curious definition of the French revolution, which identifies it with the forth-coming of the Quarterly Review. But we have the qualifying word “malignant.” Well, and is that inapplicable to the Quarterly Review? We have already afforded some, and as we go on shall afford additional means to the reader of answering that question satisfactorily to himself. “Agreeably to this account, that event” (viz. the publication of the Quarterly Review) “may, perhaps, be correctly defined to have been the sudden development of malignant power.

The man, however, who uses the term “malignant power” does not understand the meaning of words. Malignant is a quality of a mind. Nothing can be malignant but a mind. Power is not a mind. A man may be malignant, and, having power, may use it for the gratification of his malignity. But it would be just as congruent to call a misapplied broomstick malignant, as to call power by that name. The object, however, was to get a horror-raising and hatred-inspiring phrase, to [483] apply to the French revolution, and “malignant power” appeared to be delightfully suited to the occasion. The term malignity is repeated with a gusto again and again. “The character of the French revolution,” says the Reviewer, “was power.” This is something fine as a definition of a character; “gorgeous” it is “and slender.”

“Power suddenly conferred on malignity;” this must mean, if it has any meaning, that the men into whose hands the power of government came during the French revolution, were malignant men; and that again must mean that they made a mischievous use of their power. It is not for the interest of the Quarterly Review, nor of those for whose use it is written, to provoke too accurate a comparison of the use made of power by the revolutionary governments in France, and that made by the governments which either preceded or followed them. This discussion, which, for the present, we must wave, may occupy our attention on another occasion.

Specimens of this finery are profusely scattered in this article. We can treat the reader only to a few, and must then hurry on to another topic.

‘It now seems generally admitted, that in the moving forces which operated that mighty change, whatever was not extravagant and overweening vanity, was deliberate crime.’

Through all the utter and the middle darkness of the reign of regicide.’

It was whenever the French arms had experienced some reverse, that these fiends of blood, the infamous commissaries of the convention, the Maignets, the Lebous, the Carrères, and the Collot-d’Herbois, were observed to exercise their peculiar and most diabolical refinements of cruelty.’

Here is mentioned an important fact, entirely in accordance with that theory which ascribes the principal part of the blood that was shed by the revolutionary leaders to the terror in which they stood of a counter-revolution, and the measures necessary to prevent it.

‘The forky tongues of the popular leaders were systematically and incessantly employed in hissing forth the cant of philanthropy and cosmopolitanism,’ &c.

Let us, for the sake of brevity, concede it to have been possible, that without any predisposition to such views on the part of France, such effects should be produced on her by the conditional menaces of the sovereigns in question—that a timid whisper, of merely contingent hostility, should strike the ears of the revolutionists like the blast from the trumpet of Alecto, inspiring them with horrid recollections of war and havoc,’ &c.

Of what consequence can it be to ask, at whose bidding, or of what [484] materials, the bridge was constructed, that opened an access to Europe from the pandæmonium of robbery and murder?’ &c.

Would it have been so mighty an advantage, if, for that vague and frenzied malignity which seemed to trample down kingdoms out of pure wantonness, there had been substituted something like the cool, deep, calculating malignity, which actually impels the present government of France along its measured march of desolation.’

But enough of this; we must now afford a sample of the treatment bestowed upon the people and government of the United States.

In the 41st No. occasion is taken of Mr. Fearon’s Sketches (this gentleman went to America for the purpose of reporting to certain individuals in England on the propriety of conveying themselves to that country), to hold up the Americans and their government to hatred and contempt.

First of all, those individuals who deputed Mr. Fearon are treated with excess of contumely for harbouring the design of going to America, as if an Englishman were glebæ adscriptus, and ought to be dealt with as a slave who runs away from his master, should he harbour a thought of quitting England; where taxes, and gagging bills, and libel law, and game laws, and unpaid magistrates, and aristocratical justice, and low wages, and the having nothing to do with the laws but obey them, constitute so many admirable grounds for the amor patriæ, that “feeling which ennobled the citizens of Sparta and Athens,” whom, be it remembered, the Quarterly Review cannot, on other occasions, find terms gross enough to disparage.

‘There is a numerous set of people in this country, who, having grown inordinately rich under its protecting shield, while the rest of the civilized world lay exposed to the ravages of war, are become feverish and discontented, because the return of peace has not instantaneously, and, as it were by magic, shaken from their shoulders the burthens necessarily created by that protracted state of hostility to which their fortune is mainly due. Too selfish to endure any reduction of their extravagant profits, or to await the relief which the reestablishment of tranquillity must gradually effect, they leave their country to support its burthens as it can, and are already on the wing, with their multitudinous acquisitions, for a foreign shore.

Among others of this description, forty families, principally resident, we believe, in the neighbourhood of Southwark, gaily formed themselves into an emigrating party to the United States—

Cedere namque foro jam nec tibi deteriùs quàm
Esquilias a ferventi migrare Suburrâ—

to transfer their allegiance and their affections to another government sits as lightly upon them as to remove, in the fashionable season, from the Ward of Farringdon Without to Margate or Rotting-Dean. The [485] feeling which ennobled the citizens of Sparta and Athens, and stood them in the stead of many virtues, the love of country, once the peculiar pride and boast of Englishmen, has no residence in the bosom of these persons. The endearing charities of life, the ties of blood, of society, of early friendships, of kindred habits, are all sacrificed by them to one sordid passion, while, rudely trampling over the graves of their forefathers, they rush in crouds to deposit their wealth where it may be safe from the claims of their native land.

‘Had the amiable con-fraternity, of whom we are speaking, been agriculturists, they would have transported themselves at once, and blindly plunged into the insatiable gulf which has already swallowed up so many thousands of their countrymen; but they were traders—cold-blooded, calculating men, who, in their own language, deemed it prudent to look before they leaped, and in the usual mode of business, to send out one of their members as a kind of Rider, to examine the country, and select the most favourable spot for settling, before they trusted themselves, with their accumulations, to the winds.

The person fixed upon for this purpose was Mr. Henry Fearon:—and as there was an evident solicitude in the party to procure a favourable report from the United States, the choice could not have fallen upon a fitter agent. A democrat fieffé, Mr. Fearon joined to a sovereign contempt for the civil and religious institutions of England, of which he knew little, a blind and sottish admiration of those of America, of which he knew nothing at all. With the gullibility common to the party, he appears to have swallowed all the rancorous abuse of this country, and all the outrageous panegyrics on America, which he found in Cobbett, and Wooler, and Sherwin, with equal avidity and delight. Thus happily qualified for an impartial speculator, and furnished with “letters of introduction by Mr. Alderman Wood,” he commences his narrative and his voyage on the 4th of June, 1817. The results of his travels are contained in “Eight Reports;” transmitted as occasion offered to the persons by whom he was deputed.’

The reader, we trust, will pardon us for a reflection or two upon this new crime, got up by the Quarterly Review; the crime of not remaining in whatever country one happens to be born.

How would the Quarterly Review like to apply this doctrine to some of those whom it is most anxious to please, among others, to the royal family, who are thus converted by the Quarterly Review into criminals, and charged with “sacrificing the endearing charities of life, the ties of blood, of society, of early friendships, of kindred habits, to one sordid passion; while, rudely trampling over the graves of their forefathers, they rush to deposit, not “their wealth,” but what is much more valuable, their sacred persons and parental cares, “where they may be safe from the claims of their native land.” Sentimental trash, applied to a mischievous purpose!

The Quarterly Review commits a gigantic blunder when it [486] contrasts the amor patriæ of the Greeks with that of the English. Why had it not the sense to reflect, that if Englishmen are told they have nothing to do with the laws but obey them, the Greeks were very differently situated. The Greeks had something more to do with their laws than to obey them. This is what made men patriotic in ancient Greece. This makes men patriotic every where. Were the Helots at Sparta patriotic? Of how large a portion of the English people is it declared, of all who are not freeholders, that they are unknown to the laws? If you would obtain effects, good Mr. Reviewer, you must not forget causes.

After all, did the patriotism of the Greeks display itself in keeping at home; or was it a crime at Athens, as in the Quarterly Review, for a citizen to betake himself to another country? The Greeks were, perhaps, the most migratory of all the people upon the face of the earth. What population ever sent out so many colonies? How large a portion of the population did they form in the principal cities in Egypt, in Syria, and other countries? How many of their greatest men expatriated themselves, as Xenophon, who “trampling over the graves of his forefathers,” not only carried his wealth to Sparta, but committed another horrid crime in the eyes of the Quarterly Review, writing books which contained severe censure of the institutions of his native country. The reader may probably think that this is an extraordinary way the Reviewer has of dealing with matters of fact.

But power cares not what it says. This is one of its various properties. The consciousness of writing or speaking on the side of power, seems to create an exemption from the trammels both of truth and of reason. Not only can power silence opponents, by knocking them on the head, when they press too closely: but power dazzles the eyes, and captivates the fancy of ordinary persons, so that whatever power either does or says, commands their approbation. Is not the dress of the great the fashionable dress, their language the fashionable language, their airs and manners the fashionable air and manners, and their opinions, the fashionable creed? Writings on the side of power may, therefore, presume a great deal on the favourable sentiments of their readers; and they generally make ample use of this their privilege.

Passion is proverbially short-sighted. The hatred of the Quarterly Reviewers to a people which had set a dangerous example of throwing off the yoke of aristocracy, makes them here overlook the commission of another egregious blunder. They begin by describing Mr. Fearon as a person wholly unfit [487] to be trusted for an observation or an opinion; but finding him afterwards very much disposed to find fault with what he saw in America, they treat him as an oracle; and every thing he says that can be turned to account for making the people of the United States appear either odious or ridiculous, is embraced as text of holy writ. On the other hand, Miss Wright, to whom we are indebted for a very interesting work, and who delighted in holding up the favourable aspect of things in the United States, is not only treated as at once wicked and contemptible, but wholly unworthy of belief. Whoever speaks against the Americans, is to receive implicit credit, and no questions asked. Whoever says any thing in their favour, is to be told that he or she is a liar, and a knave, and a fool; agreeably to the most approved rules of the aristocratical logic.

The following passage which stands as the criticism on the work of Miss Wright, is an instructive specimen of the art of assumption and abuse in the hands of a master performer:

‘The fourth and last article is an impudent attempt, we conceive, to foist into public notice, under a spurious title, namely, that of an Englishwoman, a most ridiculous and extravagant panegyric on the government and people of the United States; accompanied by the grossest and most detestable calumnies against this country, that folly and malignity ever invented. An Englishwoman, with the proper spirit and feeling attached to that proud title, would blush to be thought the author of such a work. We will not, we cannot, possibly, believe that one so lost to shame exists among us; and are rather disposed, therefore, to attribute it to one of those wretched hirelings, who, under the assumed names of “travellers,” “residents in France,” “Italy,” &c. supply the radical press with the means of mischief. Our first conjecture, indeed, on opening the correspondence, was, that we were indebted for it to the consistent Mr. Walsh, who, finding that his former work had made no converts on this side the Atlantic (with the exception of our northern brethren, to whom the subject endeared it), had attempted to revive it under a more taking title. A regard to justice, however, compels us to add, that the perusal of a very few pages convinced us that the calumnies are too stupidly outrageous to come from him; and, to say a bold word, we know of no other American that could justify even a guess. Such, however, as the correspondence is, we must proceed with it. We can smile at the bloated vanity which proclaims a Solon and Lycurgus to be mere simpletons in legislation compared with a Jefferson; and Hannibal a bungler by the side of a general Jackson, whose most glorious achievement, we believe (before his unparalleled campaign in the Floridas), was that of the murder of two unarmed Englishmen: nay, we can hear without much impatience, that the American government is the perfection of all human institutions—that justice is cheaply dealt out with such an even hand to high and low that slavery even ceases to be a curse—that a spirit of universal benevolence pervades all classes of society—that poverty is unknown, oppression [488] unfelt, and dishonesty unpractised—but, when we are told, “that the people of the United States are far superior to the English in all intellectual endowments; in the decencies of life; and in their general conduct towards each other and to strangers—that they have not, like us, disgraced themselves with an established church, supported by penal laws, the work of statecraft and priestcraft united”—in short, “that relief from all the evils which the old governments of Europe had inflicted upon the poor and industrious is only to be found in America”—it becomes a duty to rise up and expose the fallacies, in order to check the ruinous consequences which they are but too well calculated to entail upon those credulous people who are liable to be deluded by them.

A single extract from the letters of the pseudo-Englishwoman will be sufficient to show the general feeling by which the writer is influenced towards England. In speaking of the affair of Frenchton, on the river Raisin, a story is told of the massacre of “a detachment of the choicest sons of Kentucky, by the Indians under colonel Proctor, after a surrender by capitulation on honourable terms,” which concludes thus:—“The British commander marched off his troops, gave his prisoners in charge to the savages, and left them, with the wounded and the dying, to be tomahawked and roasted at the stake.” A more infamous and detestable falsehood than this, was never fabricated. Colonel Proctor left no prisoners in the hands of the “savages;” and every one of those who were captured by the abused and plundered Indians themselves was brought by them to head-quarters, and taken the utmost care of until the whole were given over to their own countrymen. A detached body of Indians, indeed, falling in with some of these “choicest sons of Kentucky,” did, we believe, tomahawk a few of them.—And why? Let the Kentuckyans themselves answer the question: it has, in fact, been answered by one of their own writers, and stands unrefuted to this hour. These “choice spirits” had seized a party of Indians but a few days before, the greater part of whom they not only scalped, according to their common practice, but coolly and deliberately amused themselves by cutting razor-strops from their backs while alive! [*]

The overflowing rancour which uniformly characterises this writer’s notice of the English, is exchanged for the most abject sycophancy whenever America is mentioned; the violation of truth and decency is always the same, in both cases. She is not afraid to assert (p. 346) that, “during the late war, a British deserter was never knowingly employed on board an American ship!” Now there is not a fact on record [489] more notorious than that of the establishment of an organized system at all the American ports for the purpose of inveigling men from our service to man their ships of war. It is known—that this system of seduction was even extended to the crews of boats sent on shore with flags of truce—that the men thus obtained were triumphantly paraded through the streets with bands of music—and that the several collectors of the customs were always at hand to furnish them (for two or three dollars) with “certificates of citizenship.” Of the innumerable facts which lie before us, we will trespass on the reader’s indulgence for one or two only; and this for the sake of putting beyond question the habitual disregard of truth by this abandoned prostitutor of the name and character of an “Englishwoman.” ’

Enough! enough! even for the strongest stomach! To have told the truth, that Miss Wright, and Mr. Fearon, both apparently enthusiasts for liberty, saw things, the one with the peevishness of disappointment, because he did not find every thing so good as a heated imagination had led him to expect; the other with admiration, not perhaps sufficiently discriminating, because she found so many things better than in the country she had left behind; would not have suited the purpose of this Reviewer, anxious as he was for setting up another crime, a new sort of treason; which, instead of lèse-majesté, may be called lèse-anglicité; a crime consisting of two ingredients; first, sense enough to discern that there are many things in the institutions of England calculated to injure the people for the benefit of the aristocracy; and, secondly, spirit enough to declare a wish for a remedy. Who can be an Englishwoman with these frightful ingredients in her composition?

In the article in our first number, in which we began the analysis of the sinister interest under which writers that work for the aristocracy are laid, we have seen that nothing is of more importance to a bad government, bad by an undue mixture of aristocratical power, than a bad system of law, and a bad religion; bad, in as far as they are calculated to serve as props to the aristocratical power; but the more bad they are, sure of being the more lavishly eulogized by the advocates of aristocracy, at the same time that every friend of the people who attempts to reveal their badness, is sure to be the more violently and savagely reviled.

We cannot pass these topics without affording a slight sample of the mode in which the aristocratical instruments, assumption and abuse, are applied to them.

In the article on Bristed’s Statistical View of America, we have the following passage, which answers, as will be seen, a double purpose.

‘Among the numerous institutions to which England is indebted for [490] its comforts, its security, and its prosperity, we cannot but consider our courts of law to be the most prominent. There is a peculiar character of dignity attached to our judges, which gives them a respectability, almost allied to religious veneration. The nature of their education, which requires a considerable degree of seclusion, and their stations, which forbid them from being foremost in the circles of even innocent levity, have a tendency to raise their characters, and to inspire a confidence in their decisions, which must be unknown to the people of America. We hear of one of their judges appearing on the bench with a countenance battered in a boxing-match; of another shot because he had approached to attack his neighbour with pistols in his bosom and a concealed dagger; of some engaged in duels as principals and seconds, and of others posted as cowards for declining such contests. In the management of elections, in the fraud of substituting one set of ballots for another, on which the success of the candidate often depends, the judges are the most adroit actors.’

We add the following because it is short; and because it so coolly assumes that one of the greatest drawbacks on American prosperity, the imperfection of its civil and penal codes, copied as the Reviewer truly says, but too servilely from England, is the grand cause of that prosperity.

‘In tracing the causes which have forwarded the prosperity of North America, we shall find the foundation of them all to be laid in the English constitution and the English laws. In a country the far greater portion of whose population is planted in hamlets and villages, and whose employment is chiefly the cultivation of the soil, the security of persons and property is the most essential ingredient in public prosperity. The laws of England are the best foundation for this security, and these, throughout the United States, have regulated the decisions of their courts of justice. The trial by jury, the gratuitous administration of inferior and local law by justices of the peace, the unbought police by sheriffs, coroners, and constables, are all derived from similar institutions of the parent state, and are adhered to with a strictness, which their practical effect on both countries fully justifies.’

On its perpetual assumptions of perfection in the system of law, judges included, we cannot at present enlarge; the nature of that perfection we shall hereafter have abundantly numerous occasions of displaying.

The assumptions about religion are of two kinds; the one set regarding the ecclesiastical Establishment; the other, the Creed of the church of England.

In favour of the Establishment it is habitually assumed, that the man who questions its goodness is an enemy to the constitution, and a lover of anarchy. In favour of the Creed it is assumed, that whoever disputes it is an atheist, and being an atheist, is exempt from all moral obligation, and ready for any [491] and every crime. These are the standard assumptions, involving abuse. The few passages we shall select exhibit chiefly varieties.

‘It is a right inherent in every society, to prescribe the conditions on which its members shall be admitted to offices of trust; and when the magistrate endows and incorporates the religion professed by the most numerous part of the community, so that it becomes the religion of the state, entitled to certain honours and emoluments annexed to the discharge of certain duties, the party who contracts for the payment may lawfully stipulate as to the nature and condition of the correspondent offices to be performed. This is the original principle of articles of religion, which, under various modifications, have, in almost every age, and under every establishment of Christianity, been tendered to the acceptance of aspirants to the office of public teachers. The necessity of such a conduct is so universally admitted, that even those who dissent from all establishments, and clamour against all such impositions, as either fetters or snares to the consciences of men, virtually adopt it.—Against the doctrine of subscriptions in general, there ought, in consistency, to be no objection. The Bible, indeed, is an inspired test, and to that all are willing to conform themselves. The end of articles, however, being the preservation of religious peace and order, let it be considered how far a mere subscription to the Bible, and a declaration of conformity to the doctrines contained in it, would answer that end. According to the account of the respective parties, the Arminian and the Calvinist, the Unitarian and the Methodist, the Quaker and the disciple of Swedenborg, all find their peculiar dogmata in the Bible, and all conform to its doctrines. Such a subscription, it is obvious, would be equivalent to none—would open a door to universal confusion, and, perhaps, end in general infidelity. Ministers of opposite principles would succeed each other in the same church; the people, bewildered and distracted by contradictions, would first quarrel and separate about particular doctrines, then become indifferent to all, and, lastly, believe and practise nothing.

It is, then, not against the doctrine of subscription to articles of religion in general, but to those of specific churches, or to some individual articles among them that objections are to be made. Applying this to the articles of the church of England, it must in the first place be observed, that they were compiled in an era of religious light and knowledge, which has never since been surpassed, and from which we have certainly declined; that, amidst the incurable differences of human opinion, they have, during a period of more than two centuries and a half, obtained the cordial approbation of the learned, the pious, and the upright; that, notwithstanding the assent required to such a multitude of propositions, they have troubled the consciences of few, and excluded fewer still; and that, in the mean time, they have not only preserved their own church in a state of edifying harmony and peace, but formed a rallying point for numbers, who, from the want of such a standard, might have lost themselves in doubt and error. It cannot but be allowed then that there exists, in favour of our articles, a strong antecedent presumption.


We merely throw out this as an answer, and a sufficient answer it is, to the crude calumnies of men who affect to speak of them as the product of some barbarous age, stuffed with the metaphysical jargon of the old schoolmen, and such as no inquisitive and well-informed person, in these enlightened days, can either subscribe or teach without a certain measure of hypocrisy and prevarication.’

The assumptions and abuse contained in the above passage, the reader will perceive without any commentary of ours; but we particularly request his attention to the latter portion of the first of the paragraphs, in which, in order to make out his point, in favour of religious tests, the author is obliged to broach some most extraordinary doctrines.

“The Bible,” he says, “is an inspired test, to which all are willing to conform themselves.” But belief in the Bible, he immediately tells us, answers no purpose. He says “it is obvious that such a belief” (for he surely does not make subscription one thing, and belief another) “would be equivalent to none, and end, perhaps, in general infidelity.”

This is a declaration, as express as words can make it, of the unfitness of the Bible to serve as a standard of faith. Instead of the Bible, a composition of men must be obtained; and this must take the place of the Bible. The inspired penmen, or the inspiring Dictator of the Bible, did not accomplish what (with reverence be it spoken) they ought to have accomplished. The church of England sets aside their composition, and presents a far better composition of its own. The Romish church hold the same argument; but they hold it with consistency, and with no little show of reason. From the goodness of God, they say, we distinctly infer, that he would not leave his creatures to grope in the dark about the way of their eternal salvation; hence, the reasonableness of presuming on a revelation of his will. That revelation was made; but it pleased the divine goodness to make it in terms so vague and obscure, and hence so extremely susceptible of different interpretations, that it left the human mind in a state of nearly as great uncertainty as that in which it unhappily wandered before. To this divine book an interpreter was wanted; and the same argument which shows that it was conformable to the divine goodness to give a revelation of the divine will, shows that it was equally conformable to it, and necessary to complete the scheme, to give an infallible interpreter.

This we say is consistent doctrine; but to go the full length of the Romanists in condemning the Bible, and then to say that we are to take the composition of fallible men as a substitute for it, appears to us, what we can call by no other name than [493] rank infidelity. If this be so, the Quarterly Reviewers are, for we do not impute to them such an aberration as intentional, infidels, nay preachers of infidelity, without knowing it. This is going dangerous lengths in defence of the church.

But in the very next paragraph, the Reviewer pronounces a condemnation of his church, unwittingly, we doubt not, because most imprudently, such as, had it come from unhallowed pens, unhallowed we mean by the unction of aristocracy, would have been a proof of atheism and sedition. So utterly worthless, he says, have been the exorbitantly paid clergy of the church of England, from the time of the compiling of her articles, to this day, that while every other class of men have been advancing in knowledge, and perfecting their respective sciences, while such progression has been making in every other quarter that can be named, in the quarter of theology, there not only has been no progress, but there has been retrogression. No wonder that the clergy of the church of England are enemies of improvement. An order of men who do not improve, have the greatest interest in hating and reviling those who do.

The following passage is a short one, and a fine specimen of the assumptive branch of the logic which we have undertaken to illustrate.

‘A state is secure in proportion as the subjects are attached to the laws and institutions of their country; it ought, therefore, to be the first and paramount business of the state, to provide that the subjects shall be educated conformably to those institutions; that they shall be “trained up in the way they should go;” that is, in attachment to the national government and national religion. The system of English policy consists of church and state; they are the two pillars of the temple of our prosperity; they must stand together, or fall together; and the fall of either would draw after it the ruin of the finest fabric ever yet reared by human wisdom under divine favour.’

One of the most instructive of all the exhibitions which the Quarterly Review has made of itself, is in the case of Mr. Hone, to which, for want of space, and of time to examine the points at issue between them, we cannot do justice, but which we must not pass without conveying to the reader some idea of the actings of the Quarterly in this respect.

‘Nothing but the execution of a public duty would have tempted us to defile one line of our journal with the notice of a wretch as contemptible as he is wicked. It is indeed a source of real gratification to us, that, in proceeding to give our readers some account of the book before us, we may at once dismiss Mr. Hone from our consideration. He is described to us as a poor illiterate creature, far too ignorant to have any share in the composition either of this, or of his seditious pamphlets. [494] He only supplies the evil will, and the audacity: the venom is furnished by the dastard behind. Our future observations will, therefore, be confined to the real editor of this nefarious publication.’

The occasion of all this abuse was that of a publication by Mr. Hone, of the apocryphal gospels and epistles, with some historical notices in a preface. It is well known that various writings, to which the term apocryphal has been properly applied, have come down to us from a remote antiquity, and form a part, and an important part of the historical materials of the times. Assuredly Mr. Hone, or any other man, had a perfect right to present these documents to the public. But the Quarterly Review is pleased to assume, that Mr. Hone has made the publication with “the sole aim to destroy the credit of the New Testament, and to shew that the most silly and drivelling forgeries can be supported by the same evidence which we use to establish the authority of the Scripture.”

This the reader will observe, is pure assumption; and as it infers what the Quarterly regards or pretends to regard, as the most dreadful of crimes, the wickedness of imputing it without foundation is extreme. We believe that the accusation is false. Mr. Hone declares his belief of Christianity, in the clearest and most unequivocal terms. Most assuredly it is not upon the assumption of the Quarterly Review that we shall disbelieve him; after the proof which we have had of its habitual readiness to assume whatever it has occasion for, in matters of fact, as unscrupulously, as in matters of opinion.

But we must not pass another of these assumptions, in which the very principle of free discussion and religious liberty is involved. Supposing it were true, as it appears to be false, that Mr. Hone did not think the evidence for the truth of Christianity satisfactory, and that he did think, as the Quarterly is pleased to express it, “that the most silly and drivelling forgeries can be supported by the same evidence which we use to establish the authority of our Scripture,” who ought to have a right to say to him, that he shall not declare such his opinion? It is the spirit of persecution, in its full growth, to say that one man has not as good a right to declare that opinion as any other man to declare a different opinion. Why should these misguided advocates of Christianity perpetually insist upon the suppression of evidence in its behalf; and preach by their actions, a truer test of their sentiments, than their words, that Christianity can only be supported, if the other side is not allowed to be heard?

‘We pass from the preface to the work itself, which opens with the wretched tract called “The Gospel of the Birth of Mary.” “In the primitive ages,” says the editor, “there was a gospel extant, bearing this [495] title, attributed to St. Matthew, and received as genuine and authentic by several of the ancient Christian sects. It is to be found in the works of Jerome, a father of the church, who flourished in the fourth century, whence the present translation is made. His contemporaries Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, and Austin also quote a gospel under this title.” To each of the assertions contained in this passage, namely, that the gospel which the editor presents to his readers was received by several ancient sects—that it is to be found in St. Jerome, and that it is quoted by Epiphanius and Austin, we now proceed to give a direct denial, accompanied by proof that the editor was aware of the falsehood of them all!

Mr. Hone published a reply to this article, in which he showed, in our opinion satisfactorily, that this denial of theirs in every one of its points, remained unsupported, and that they had resorted, for their purpose, to gross misrepresentation and falsehood. Their attack upon him was wound up in the following meek and Christian language:

‘To press any further inquiry into the system pursued in this publication, and to penetrate deeper into the dark recesses of its falsehoods, is a task which we cannot inflict on ourselves, and which we are persuaded our readers will not require of us. Controversy, with a learned and candid adversary, conducted on proper principles, invigorates the mind; but the detection of the errors of hopeless ignorance, and the artifices of incurable dishonesty, is a task wearisome and revolting beyond conception. We have proceeded thus far because we conceive it a public duty to prove beyond doubt or contradiction, that Hone has a set of writers in his pay, with whom truth is an idle name, and honesty a by-word and a jest; men who, for their own evil purposes, are anxious to destroy every principle and feeling which binds the citizen to his country, and the spirit to its Creator. And assuredly no more satisfactory proof of wilful falsehood could be afforded, than we have found in the pages of the book before us. Its author has not been led into the crime of deceiving others by being the victim of deception himself; he has not produced false statements from misapprehension; he has not fallen into error through oversight or negligence. These things are the lot of human nature; and he who knows and trembles at his own weakness will be slow in condemning others, and in ascribing to an evil heart what may be the fruit of the same frailty in his brother. But in this case, charity can prompt no extenuation of the crime, and justice to others demands, that the deepest brand of shame should be stamped upon it. The pages of that work, from which Hone’s editor has borrowed all his matter, contain a clear and a distinct refutation of every statement which he has published. The poison and the antidote were placed before him at once, and he could not learn one of the falsehoods which he has uttered, without knowing, at the same time, that it was a falsehood. He has chosen, therefore, to deceive, without being deceived himself, and with a deep and desperate malignity endeavours to convince others of what he knows to be false, and to lead them away from the truth which he recognizes and hates. [496] To him we do not address ourselves: the voice of reproof and reproach would be directed in vain to one, who, before he sat down to his diabolical task, must have silenced the louder calls and admonitions of his own conscience. But we would earnestly exhort those, who, from an idle curiosity, are induced to purchase Mr. Hone’s publications, and thus supply fuel to the flame, to consider [*]“that such pernicious works would neither be published nor written, if they were discouraged, as they ought to be, by public feeling; and that every person, therefore, who purchases such books, or admits them into his house, promotes the mischief, and thereby, as far as in him lies, becomes an aider and abettor of the crime.” ’

This needs no commentary. If it were possible for the cause of Christianity to be disgraced by the misconduct of its defenders its genuine friends would have serious cause of alarm. To an exposure of the groundlessness of all these various accusations, how is it that the Quarterly Review replies? By taking up and refuting the counter allegations of Mr. Hone? No. What then? By repeating its refuted charges, and calling names. Of Mr. Hone’s reply they say;

‘Having said that the pamphlet before us, is published by this notorious person, and put together by himself, or one of his party, we need not add that it is written in a spirit of the most vulgar and contemptible ferocity.’

We affirm that it it written with temper and moderation; and when the reader has satisfied himself of that matter of fact, he will know what to think of the Reviewer. We add a few more specimens of the language, not “of the most vulgar and contemptible ferocity,” but Christian meekness, and gentleman-like delicacy, applied to Mr. Hone, on this new occasion: “A bold bad man;” he and “his coterie,” than whom “a more worthless crew never sold themselves to work wickedness;” “ignorance and falsehood;” “dishonesty, the character of the party;” “amazing audacity;” “the flagitious editor;” “impudent falsification;” “poor creature, bereft of all his senses;” “impudent falsehood;” “this poor creature;” “this wretched man’s follies;” “this miserable man;” “the wretched book by which he attempted to pervert the faith, and destroy the happiness of countless thousands;” “that monstrous compound of ignorance, sophistry, and falsehood;” “ignorance and baseness.” When we add that all these phrases, and more of the same stamp, are applied to Mr. Hone and his writings in the course of half a sheet of the Quarterly’s letter-press, we suppose we may repeat in application to this Reviewer, what this Reviewer says in application [497] to Mr. Hone, “this specimen of the taste and delicacy of this amiable person will, we judge, be sufficient.”

The Quarterly Review, on such occasions, comes up nearly to the mark of St. Jerome; who, by the by, seems to be a favourite with the Quarterly Review. It speaks of the writings of this Saint, under the title of the “Golden Stream.” We have given one specimen of the “Golden Stream;” it may be worth while to present a few more. It is still Vigilantius who is the object of abuse, for having written against the worship of reliques.

O portentum, in terras ultimas deportandum! Rides de reliquiis martyrum; et cum auctore hujus hæreseos Eunomio ecclesiis Christi calumniam struis. Spiritus iste immundus, qui hæc te cogit scribere sæpe hoc vilissimo tortus est pulvere, imo hodieque torquetur, et qui in te plagas dissimulat in cæteris confitetur; nisi forte in morem gentilium impiorumque, Porphyrii, Eunomiique, has præstigias dæmonum esse confingas, et non vere clamare dimones, sed sua sœmulare tormenta.

Vigilantius was guilty of another heresy, in questioning the sanctity of fasting and of celibacy. “Illico ab Hieronymo,” says Le Clerc, “quasi homo veneri ac gulæ deditus, invidiosissime traductus est; quemadmodum paria ab eodem eadem de causa passus jam erat Jovinianus.” Then follow the words of the Saint: “Exortus est Vigilantius, seu potius Dormitantius, qui immundo spiritu pugnet contra Christi spiritum; . . . . dicit esse . . . continentiam hæresin, pudicitiam libidinis seminarium. . . . . . In isto Joviniani (whom he had on former occasions defamed) mens prava surrexit. . . . . Ille, Romanæ Ecclesiæ auctoritate damnatus, inter phasides aves et carnes suillas non tam emisit spiritum quam eructavit. Iste caupo Calagurritanus, et in perversum propter nomen viculi mutus Quintilianus, miscet aquam vino, et de artificio pristino suæ venena perfidiæ Catholicæ fidei sociare conatur, impugnare virginitatem, odisse pudicitiam, in convivio sæcularium contra sanctorum jejunia proclamare, dum inter phialas philosophatur, et ad placentas liguriens Psalmorum modulatione mulcetur.”

Talia, et acerbiora etiam,” adds le Clerc, “contra Jovinianum acerrimus convitiator effundit.

In another place, introducing his quotations from Jerome, he says, “Solis ferme scriptis contra Vigilantium utemur, in quibus hominem, ut quidem videtur innocentem, omnibus invidiæ telis confixit. . . . Denique convitiorum plaustra in eum congerit.

It is not on theological subjects alone that the Quarterly Review is thus careful of its purity of mouth. In an article, entitled “On the Rise and Progress of Popular Disaffection” Mr. Cobbett is styled one of “a whole litter of libellers,” “an [498] incendiary,” “a miscreant,” “a villain,” “a miscreant, who eloped from his creditors,” “a brutal ruffian, endeavouring to subvert the institutions of his country by arousing the poor and the ignorant against all who were above them,” “vulgar and ferocious spirit.” All this within the compass of two pages.

The Scotsman newspaper has, from its commencement, been conducted not only with a knowledge and talent, but with a dignity and decorum which may be regarded as constituting an æra in that line of publication. As such a degree of excellence had no precedent, so (with the exception of the Morning Chronicle, which recently, during a short period, has surpassed all example) it has had no rival. But alas! it is on the side of good government, and not on that of “things as they are.” The Quarterly Review, therefore, steps out of its way to speak of it in the following terms:—

‘This paper, which, from its inveterate scowl, appears to issue from the cave of Trophonius, has the faculty of drawing to itself the worst qualities, the scum and feculence of the worst Jacobinical journals, which it doles out, from week to week, in a tone of dull unvarying malignity, at once wearisome and disgusting.

Every other disaffected journal has its moment of relaxation from spleen and ill-will, from persecuting all that is great, and ridiculing all that is high and holy; but this paper never remits its frantic warfare. Even Cobbett (its admired prototype) occasionally contrives to diversify the savage growl of the tiger with the mop and mowe of the ape; but the “Scotsman” never lays aside the sulky ferociousness of the bear.

Most of our readers, we presume, have now, for the first time, learned the existence of such a paper. In fact, its language, which is utterly abhorrent from British feelings, naturally confines it to a particular circle—and to this we leave it.’

There is but one topic more in respect to which we can afford on the present occasion to illustrate the practice of the Quarterly Review; and that is, the Liberty of the Press. On that subject, however, we shall content ourselves with a few specimens, adding very little in the way of commentary, as it has already, to a certain extent, been treated of separately, and will soon be taken up in the same way again. It may, in the meantime, be regarded as a principle which we do not think there is occasion to spend many words in proving, that every cause, or party, affords so far evidence of its being good, as it is friendly to the liberty of the press, and is willing to stand examination; so far evidence of its being bad, as it is unfavourable to the liberty of the press, and unwilling to stand examination; that is, to bear the test of unrestricted censure. The reader will now see what evidence of itself and its cause is in this respect afforded by the Quarterly Review.


We are sorry for the length of the following passage from the article on parliamentary reform, in the 31st No., but it is all instructive in the highest degree.

‘They who seek to lessen the influence of the crown, keep out of sight the increased power which has been given to public opinion by the publication of the parliamentary debates, and the prodigious activity of the press.—The first of these circumstances alone has introduced a greater change into our government than has ever been brought about by statute; and, on the whole, that change is so beneficial as to be worth more than the additional expense which it entails upon us during war. This momentous alteration gives, even in ordinary times, a preponderance to the popular branch of our constitution: but, in these times, when the main force of the press is brought to bear like a battery against the Temple of our Laws; when the head of the government is systematically insulted for the purpose of bringing him into contempt and hatred; when the established religion is assailed with all the rancour of theological hatred by its old hereditary enemies, with the fierceness of triumphant zeal by the new army of fanatics, and with all the arts of insidious infidelity by the Minute Philosophers of the age; when all our existing institutions are openly and fiercely assaulted, and mechanics are breaking stocking frames in some places, and assembling in others to deliberate upon mending the frame of the government—what wise man, and what good one, but must perceive that it is the power of the Democracy which has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished?

Of all engines of mischief which were ever yet employed for the destruction of mankind, the press is the most formidable, when perverted in its uses, as it was by the Revolutionists in France, and is at this time by the Revolutionists in England. Look at the language which is held by these men concerning the late transactions, and see if falsehood and sedition were ever more audacious! “Perhaps,” says the Examiner, “there may be a plot somewhere,—in some tap-room or other; like the plot of Despard, who was driven to frenzy by ill-treatment, and then conspired with a few bricklayers in a public-house, for which he was sent to the gallows, instead of the care of his friends!’ “We feel,” says this flagitious incendiary, “for the bodily pains undergoing by Mr. Platt, and think his assassin (unless he was mad with starvation) a scoundrel; and some of the corruptionists, who in luxury and cold blood can provoke such excesses, greater scoundrels!” As if of all “scoundrels,” the man who can in this manner attempt to palliate insurrection, treason, and murder, were not himself the greatest. Mr. Cobbett goes further than this: with an effrontery peculiar to himself, notorious as it is that the rioters were led from Spa-fields by the man who harangued them there, and that the tricolored flag which they followed was carried to Spa-fields to be hoisted there for their banner—he says, “it is well known to every one in London, that the rioters had no connexion whatever with the meeting in Spa-fields:” And though the existence of St. Paul’s Church is not more certain than that an attempt was made to murder Mr. Platt, whose recovery is at this moment doubtful, this convicted libeller has the impudence to express a doubt of [500] the fact, for the purpose of making his ignorant readers in the country disbelieve it. “The riotors,” he says, “consisting chiefly of starving sailors, though they had arms in their hands, did no violence to any body, except in the unlawful seizure of the arms, and in the wounding (if that really was so) of one man who attempted to stop them, and who laid hold of one of them!” Another of this firebrand’s twopenny papers is before us, in which he says that the ministers, the noblesse, and the clergy of France wilfully made the revolution, in order to prevent the people from being fairly represented in a national council. “It was they who produced the confusion; it was they who caused the massacres and guillotinings; it was they who destroyed the kingly government; it was they who brought the king to the block!” And in the same spirit which dictated this foul and infamous falsehood, he asks, “was there any thing too violent, any thing too severe, to be inflicted on these men?” He says that “Robespierre, who was exceeded in cruelty only by some of the Bourbons, was proved to have been in league with the open enemies of France.’ ”

We can only afford room for another sample, taken from a review of some works on England, among others, of that of Simond, in the 30th No.

‘ “The liberty of the press,” says M. Simond, “is the palladium of English liberty, and at the same time its curse—a vivifying and decomposing principle, incessantly at work in the body politic. It is the only plague, somebody has said, which Moses forgot to inflict on Egypt. This modern plague penetrates, like the vermin of old, into the interior of families, carrying with it defamation and misery.” The private nuisance, however, has been in a great degree checked by the heavy damages which were awarded some years ago in a case of flagrant slander; before that time the infamous attacks which were made upon the characters of women, married or unmarried, rendered this abuse a national disgrace. But the public evil continues, and exists in an aggravated degree. “There is not,” says the American traveller, “another government in Europe who could long withstand the attacks to which this is continually exposed;” and again: “the threatening storms of faction hovering incessantly over the British horizon,—the exaggerations of debates,—the misrepresentation of party papers,—give to this country the appearance of being perpetually on the brink of revolution.” In his judgment the danger is more apparent than real, because military usurpation is impossible in a country like England, where the people are by long habit and principle averse to a military system, and because an ambitious reformer would find himself installed as minister by his success, and must then inevitably discover that the reforms concerning which he had long and loudly declaimed are impracticable. This indeed is certain. But it is not of usurpation that we are in danger—usurpation, whether civil or military, is one of the latter stages of revolution; and overturn! overturn! overturn! is as much the maxim of the reformers, as it is the text of the Luddites, their practical disciples.’


The press has in it a decomposing as well as a vivifying principle:—let us beware how we suffer the decomposing one to predominate! It has already been at work too succesfully and too long. The outrages of the Luddites—in consequence of which the manufacturers are removing from Nottingham, and the next generation may perhaps see grass growing in the streets of that now populous city—were not occasioned by any grievances real or imaginary, nor by any actual distress; they have proceeded from a spirit of insubordination, created, fostered, and inflamed by the periodical press. The agricultural riots were not occasioned by distress—the unhappy culprits who suffered for them under the sentence of the law were men of substance. It was not “Poverty and his cousin Necessity who brought them to these doings,” and to that deplorable end,—it was the spirit of factious discontent, excited for the purposes of revolution by demagogue orators, and demagogue journalists, who now do not even affect to conceal the object at which they aim. If one man instigates another to commit murder, the instigator, as well as the instrument, is punished: here the instruments alone have suffered, and the greater criminals proceed with unabated or even increasing zeal in their endeavours to provoke fresh excesses, and hurry on fresh victims to destruction, without compunction for the past, and regardless by what means they may accomplish the consummation which they seek.’

A provincial paper is now lying before us in which it is affirmed, that a systematic revolution has been effected by the politics of Mr. Pitt. The liberties of the country having been overturned, and the whole wealth of the nation absorbed by taxation, “what the people are instigated by their sufferings to do afterwards,” the incendiary says, “is not a Revolution, it is the just and natural effort of men to recover the possession of prosperity for themselves and their posterity—it is the uncontrollable exertion of a people striving to regain their rights, to exist as men, and to act as a community. The scheme of public subscription, he says, is a specious mode of delusion, which the honest and independent poor even in the midst of their want justly regard as an insult. The alleviation of their miseries can proceed only from the restoration of their rights as men: patient endurance can never be the fate of this realm—we will not be still and die quietly while a drop of vitality remains.” This is a chance specimen of the language which is at this time preached at public meetings, and has long been promulgated by the provincial as well as the London press. The orators and journalists of this active and noisy faction tell the poor that the subscription which would alleviate their immediate necessities is a mockery and an insult; and instead of giving them bread, or devising means for employing them in public works, they advise them to cry out for such measures and pursue such conduct as lead immediately to popular revolution—of all curses the greatest which the Almighty in his anger could inflict upon this nation. One orator exhorts the people to refuse payment of the taxes; another recommends that the national debt should be extinguished by a vote of parliament—parliament of course being previously reformed, so that it may consist of representatives who [502] will not scruple at passing such a vote; a third advises that the tithes be sold and the produce funded; a fourth demands universal suffrage—and some of these united politicians engage never to cease their exertions till they shall have obtained what they call speedy, radical and effectual reform—patient endurance, they tell us, shall not be their fate, they will not be still, their cry shall be too general to be mistaken and too powerful to be resisted. Were there any limits to human folly and human wickedness, it would be incredible that there should be men erroneous enough, and criminal enough—with the example of France before their eyes (fresh and reeking as those horrors are!) to hold forth language like this, and exert themselves zealously and perseveringly to convince the mob that the physical force is in their hands, and that it is their own fault if they submit longer to be governed by the educated and intellectual part of their countrymen. Have these persons ever asked themselves what would be the consequence of the measures which they advise? if universal suffrage were established, whether it would afford universal employment for the quiet and industrious part of the people as surely as it would for the worthless, the turbulent, the mischievous and the wicked? if the church property was seized, whether the title deeds of the landholder would long be considered as giving him an indefeasible right to his estates?—if the national debt were extinguished, whether the public would be benefitted by the ruin of the funded proprietors, that is, whether the body would derive advantage from having one of the limbs paralysed, and whether national prosperity be the natural and necessary consequence of national bankruptcy, the breach of national faith and the loss of national character? finally, if the people, according to the advice of one of these popular representatives, were to refuse payment of the taxes—What then? Let these men suppose themselves successful in their projects, and following in imagination the career of their ambition, ask themselves this question at every step—What then? If they should succeed in instigating the people to resistance, to rebellion, to civil war, to revolution, What then? What might be the consequences to this great—this glorious—this venerable country, He only can tell without whose inscrutable will no calamity can befal us; the consequences to themselves may be foretold with perfect certainty—guilt, insecurity, fear, misery, ruin, unavailing repentance, violent death, and infamy everlasting. It was remarked by one of the numerous French demagogues who fell into the pit which they had digged, that Revolutions were like Saturn and devoured their own children. Should there be a Revolution in the other world, said Danton to one of his friends, when they were on their way to the guillotine—take my advice and have nothing to do with it! Danton asked pardon of God and man for having instituted the Revolutionary Tribunal: it was only on the first anniversary of its institution that he was carried before it to receive sentence himself,—so short is the reign of a Revolutionist!

Perhaps if M. Simond had seen England under its present aspect, he might have thought that the danger was real as well as apparent. But there is a vis conservatrix in the state, and the preventive means which [503] exist are easy and effectual. It is only necessary to enforce the laws and to stop the progress of sedition by such punishment as shall prevent a repetition of the offence—any other is absurdly inappropriate.’

Outcries of this sort against the press are endless in the pages of the Quarterly Review.

There are some other characteristic features of this production, which we had intended to display in this article; but it has already extended to such a length, that we must reserve them for some future occasion.

Art. X.: Edinburgh Review, Number LXXX. Art. IV.

THE disposition of his property by will has been permitted to the proprietor, in very different degrees, in different ages and nations. In some, he has been empowered to dispose of the whole. In others, his power has been restricted in favour of his children or parents, or even of his more remote relations.

By the Roman law, as finally settled by Justinian, the father might disinherit any or all of his children for certain causes defined by the legislator, provided the cause or causes were expressly mentioned in the testament. If the cause or causes were not expressly mentioned, or could not be proved, a legitimate portion, as it was called, of the father’s property went to the children, in despite of the will, in shares determined by the law of succession.

The legitimate portion thus reserved to the children varied in amount with their number. If there were four, or fewer, the legitimate portion to be divided amongst them, amounted to a third of the whole property. If there were five or more, it amounted to a half. In every case, therefore, the disposable portion (the part of his property, which the father might deal with at his pleasure) amounted, at least, to a half. [*]

In those parts of old France, in which the authority of the Roman law prevailed (pays de droit écrit), a legitimate portion, corresponding for the most part in amount with that which we [504] have described, was in like manner reserved to the children. In the districts in which the law consisted of local usages (pays de coutumes), the rule in this, as in all other respects, seems to have been infinitely various. [*]

By the law now in force in France, the gratuitous dispositions which the father may make of his property, whether they be made by gift or will, or whether they be made in favour of a child or a stranger, are limited to half of it, if he die, leaving one child; to a third, if he leave two; and to a fourth, if he leave three or more. If he leave more than one child, the two thirds, or three fourths, which are thus reserved as the legitimate portions, descend (as would be the case with the whole, if he died intestate) to his children in equal shares. []

This law has been severely censured in the last number of the Edinburgh Review; and had the writer simply contended that the restrictions which it imposes upon the power of willing ought to be withdrawn, he would have met with our hearty assent, and we should have permitted his Essay to rest in peace. To insist on the numerous and, we think, cogent reasons, which lead us to concur with him to that extent, were beside our present purpose; though we may venture to submit them to our readers on some future occasion, if we should find them not altogether intolerant of discussions of this nature. The occasion, however, which provokes the present article, calls upon us to intimate one of these reasons. In our opinion, an approximation to equality in the conditions of the children is much to be desired; and we think that the power of willing tends more certainly to this desirable end than any scheme of succession that any legislator could contrive. That the power is much abused in England to the opposite end, we admit. This abuse, however, as we shall shew presently, is not the consequence of the power, which we would leave to the proprietor, of selecting the person or persons upon whom his property shall devolve at his decease. That the cause, to which this abuse is almost universally attributable, may not only be removed by provisions of the most simple kind, but would be obviated in France by certain existing provisions of [505] her code, though the restrictions which we have mentioned were withdrawn, we shall also, we think, demonstrate, before we close our inquiry.

The view which the Edinburgh Reviewer has taken of the matter differs very widely from ours. He condemns the present French law of succession, because it tends, in his opinion, to equalize the conditions of the children, and disables the proprietor from disturbing that approximation to equality.

To secure the inequality, which he thinks desirable, he would not, indeed, cast the whole or the bulk of a man’s property, in his own despite, upon one of his children to the exclusion of the rest, but he is “fully convinced that the custom of primogeniture, or the custom of leaving the whole, or the greater part of the paternal estate to the eldest son, to the exclusion of his brothers and sisters, is a good one, and has been productive of the greatest advantage.” [P. 360.]

In a word, his arguments, so far as they are of any weight, tend to establish these positions: 1. That an unlimited power of willing ought to be permitted to the proprietor: 2. That the proprietor would exercise this power to the best advantage, by leaving the whole or the bulk of his property to his eldest son; or, as it is not uncommonly expressed, by making an eldest son: 3. That if he die intestate, the whole or the bulk of his property, ought to descend on that same son.

Positions more erroneous, and, so far as the sophistry of the writer and the authority of the Journal are likely to make an impression, more mischievous than these last, it has rarely happened to us to meet with; and we have accordingly been tempted to unmask the futility of the arguments by which they are maintained.

Before we proceed to examine his arguments, we must observe that the expressions, “Institution and Custom of Primogeniture,” are generally used by the Reviewer; and, though sufficiently incorrect, are adopted by us in our answer. By “the institution of primogeniture,” we understand him to mean any law, which carries the whole or the bulk of an intestate’s property to the eldest son. By “the custom of primogeniture,” we understand him to mean the practice of making an eldest son. In this last case, we may observe, the testator generally gives the property to his eldest son for life only; adding dispositions, which have the effect of passing it, after the death of the son, to one of the children of the latter absolutely. To this practice, known in France and England, under the various names of substituting, entailing, or tying up from alienation in strict settlement, the Reviewer’s favourite custom, as we shall shew [506] hereafter, owes its existence. If the proprietor (as is now the case in France, with a slight exception) were obliged to impart to the immediate objects of his choice, the absolute dominion of the property, the power of willing, however unlimited in other respects, would rarely, we think, be abused in favour of a single child. As compared with this power of substituting or entailing, what the Reviewer calls the institution of primogeniture is perfectly harmless. Though we think that all the property of an intestate ought to descend to all his children equally, it is obvious that a law, which carries the whole or the bulk of it to the eldest son, may be completely corrected by the power of willing. With these explanations, which to some will appear insufferably trite and tedious, but which may aid the apprehension of readers not familiar with subjects of this nature, we proceed to scrutinize the arguments by which the Reviewer endeavours to establish his erroneous and mischievous positions.

‘The institution or custom of primogeniture (says the Reviewer) by giving the estate to the eldest son, forces the others to quit the home of their father, and makes them depend for their success in the world on the fair exercise of their talents and industry. . . . . Necessity is not merely the mother of invention, but it is so in a great measure also of the passion which stimulates us to endeavour to rise in the world, and to emerge from obscurity. If you would have a man display all the native resources of his mind—if you would bring all his faculties and powers into full activity—you must deprive him of every adventitious assistance, and render him exclusively the architect of his own fortune. . . . . Security against want is, you may depend upon it, the greatest enemy to activity, and persevering and arduous exertion: and if the institution of primogeniture has, as is really the case, a tendency to deprive a large portion of society of this security, and to compel them to enter with vigour and energy on the great arena of ambition and enterprise, this single circumstance is sufficient to throw the balance of advantage greatly in its favour. . . . . But the degradation in the ideas of all classes respecting the mode in which gentlemen ought to live, would probably be the worst effect of the establishment of a system of equal inheritance. The institution of primogeniture, by giving the great bulk of the father’s property to the eldest son, not only compels the younger children to become industrious, but it also stimulates them to exert themselves to the utmost, to emerge from the depressed condition in which they are placed, and to rise to an equality with their elder brother. We are also disposed to think, that the state and magnificence in which our great landed proprietors live, act as powerful incentives to the industry and enterprise of the mercantile and manufacturing classes, who never think they have accumulated a sufficient fortune until they are able to emulate the splendor of the landlords; whereas had these great properties been frittered down by the scheme of equal [507] division amongst children, the standard of competence would have been lowered universally, and there would, in consequence, have been less exertion amongst all classes of the community.’

Ed. Rev. vol. xl. pp. 363, 364, passim.

This stale sophism (for it was long ago thrown out by Sir William Blackstone [*] ) may be distinctly expressed thus. Poverty, or the fear of poverty, is a motive to industry and frugality. Another motive to industry and frugality is the desire of obtaining wealth. But if a few be rich, and the many be poor, the desire of obtaining wealth will be stronger and less speedily satisfied than if wealth be more equally distributed. It will be stronger, because it is only in a state of great inequality that large fortunes are found: and as large fortunes yield more enjoyment to their owners than moderate fortunes, so do they set off the advantages of wealth in a way that is more alluring to the aspirants. It will be less speedily satisfied, in as much as a large fortune is not so soon got as a moderate fortune, though never so vehemently desired. Hence it follows that the industry, the frugality and, by consequence, the wealth of the community must needs be incredibly augmented by the custom of primogeniture. For, by excluding younger children from the property of their parents, it vastly enlarges the number of individuals, who, in fact or apprehension, are exposed to poverty; whilst, by preventing the division of estates, and keeping wealth together in large masses, it gives intensity and steadiness to the desire of acquiring it.

In our opinion, an institution or custom must be praised or blamed as it tends to increase or diminish the sum of happiness. In a word, the test to which it must be submitted is, utility.

Now, so far as happiness is the effect of wealth, the happiness of the community must depend upon two things: the quantity of its wealth as compared with the number of its members, and the manner in which it is distributed. That the more there is for all, the more may fall to each, is clear: and it is not less indisputable (however it may be disputed) that a portion of wealth, if distributed amongst a given number with an approach to equality, will give a greater sum of happiness, than if the bulk of it be heaped on one or a few of the number, and the residue be shared by the rest in such pittances as will [508] barely afford a subsistence. [*]So far, therefore, as happiness is the effect of wealth, those institutions and customs are most to be praised, which most conciliate augmentation in the quantity of wealth with equality in the distribution of it. These ends, perhaps, are conciliated amongst the middling class in England as far as they can be. The proprietor being invested with the absolute dominion of his property, wants no motive to industry and frugality, whilst the custom, which happily obtains amongst that rational class, of leaving their property to their children with a view to equality, is perpetually operating to impart the advantages of wealth to a large portion of the community. Admitting, what we deny, that the custom of primogeniture adds to the sum of industry and frugality, still the Reviewer’s reasoning proceeds upon the mistake of substituting the means for the end. Industry and frugality are only desirable as they tend to add to the sum of happiness; yet for the sake of augmenting industry and frugality, he recommends to proprietors a disposition of their property, which must confine the enjoyments of wealth to a small number, and reduce the many to indigence. In what respect does his reasoning differ from that celebrated fallacy, which is at the bottom of the mercantile system? With money, said the advocates of this system, every other commodity may be had. Money, therefore, must needs be a most excellent thing. But it is impossible to have too much of so excellent a thing, and the surest way of getting the most of it, is to export the produce of one’s own labour and capital, and to import nothing but money in return. This reasoning, which ends in a conclusion that forgets the beginning, is not a bit more fallacious than the Reviewer’s. As these reasoners forgot that money is only excellent as it enables one to get other commodities, and that it were absurd to forego the use of other commodities for the sake of getting money, so does the Reviewer forget that industry and frugality are only means towards the grand end of all, and that it were absurd to augment the quantity of industry and frugality by subtracting from the sum of enjoyment. Curious that he should slide into a fallacy, which he and his brother economists would handle with no great tenderness, if it happened to slip from the lips of a merchant of the good old school!

We wonder it never occurred to the Reviewer, that his darling [509] stimulus of poverty would be much more effectual to his end, if elder sons also were constantly cut off from the inheritance. Since industry is so excellent a thing that it may fairly be purchased at the expense of poverty to the many, we would have him be consistent, and augment, to the very utmost, the quantity of this excellent thing by inflicting poverty upon all. By simply destroying every man’s property at his death, poverty might soon be obtained in the requisite degree. We grant him there would be no enjoyment. But what would that matter? All would be exquisitely poor, and the industry of the community would be augmented to an extent that is scarcely credible. We believe, however, on second thoughts, that the Reviewer’s scheme has the advantage of our own. In our solicitude for his consistency, his other stimulus escaped us. In the case which we have supposed, there would be poverty to urge, in plenty; but then there would be no large fortunes to allure. We must grant it were much better if the whole of every man’s estate passed upon his death to some single successor. In a few years we should have a government, which, in spirit and practice, not less than in constitution, would be purely aristocratical. The large fortunes of the few would be an inspiring sight to the multitude; and with such an instrument in their hands as the power of taxing, these few, we dare say, would not allow the other stimulus to sleep. In candour we must concede that the scheme is most subtilely devised to bring both incentives into play.

It is truly astonishing to observe the extent to which this fallacy of sinking the end has imposed upon men’s minds. We have been assured, and with an air of conviction in the speaker, that war and war expenditure are good things, because they bring on taxation, and taxation incites to industry. An eminent economist seems to be fully satisfied, that we may actually suffer under a general glut of commodities; and this, from merely forgetting that production supposes labour, and that no man will labour unless he intend to consume. Even Mr. Ricardo, to whose piercing and comprehensive genius political economy is indebted for its pretensions to the name of a science, is sometimes entangled in this besetting sophism. When treating of the causes which accelerate or retard accumulation, he sometimes forgets, for a moment, that accumulation, like every thing else, is subordinate to the great end, happiness. A fallacy which could impose, though but once, and for an instant, upon the mind of that great man, is ceptainly pardonable in another.

Though we have been tempted to aim a blow at this hydraheaded fallacy, we might have left it to do its worst, without [510] endangering our case; for we maintain that the custom or institution of primogeniture, instead of increasing, diminishes industry and frugality. With regard to the eldest sons, the consequences are indisputable and undisputed. In this respect, it generates a class of men, who, from the want of every motive to exertion, are indolent; and who, from the craving for stimulants which indolence engenders, and from the large funds at their command, are profuse. With regard to the younger children, the consequences are equally certain. If the custom prevailed universally, the wealth of the community would be engrossed by a few, and the younger children having no capitals to begin with, would have no means of “emerging.” Reduced to earn a subsistence as drudges to their seniors, they would certainly be compelled to labour, but would not be inspired with that hope of bettering one’s condition which prompts to animated exertion. To talk of men being exclusively the architects of their own fortunes is to talk idly. A man who rises to opulence from abject poverty, is a remarkable man; and institutions or customs are not to be adapted to remarkable men or to remarkable incidents, but to common men and the common course of events. In the common course of events, wealth is made by wealth; a fortune is augmented but not created; and the man who starts with drudging, lives and dies a drudge. And here observe an absurdity with which this argumentation of his is pregnant. Why would the Reviewer expose this large portion of the community to poverty? Not because poverty is a good, but because it stimulates the poor man to the acquisition of wealth, and probably ends in his acquiring it. He must admit this, or he must admit that his scheme is nothing more, at bottom, than a pretext for heaping wealth upon the few at the expense of the many. Now, if poverty stimulates the man who has been excluded from his father’s property, it also stimulates the man whose father had no property to leave. It, therefore, stimulates all men who are poor; and, by consequence, all or most men who begin poor, end in becoming rich. We are heartily glad to find that such is the matter of fact, but we confess it had escaped our observation.

The Reviewer may say that he is not so austere as to insist upon a complete exheridation of the younger children, but would compassionately throw them a trifle—pecunia pusilla—from the mass of their father’s estate. We answer, that the portion subtracted for the younger children, would be large enough to give them effectual aid in their attempts to “emerge,” or it would not. If it would not, the Reviewer’s concession is nugatory; and he deviates from his own principles, without [511] obtaining the advantage of mitigating their rigour. If it would, an approximation to equality would be the consequence; and where would be his stimuli? This dilemma would clearly hold in the huge majority of cases; in all those cases, in which the fortune is not extremely large, or the number of children is not extremely small. The same objection holds as to any advances which the father might make in his life-time to the younger members of his family; since these could not be made without lessening the inheritance. Every attempt to elude the consequences which we have drawn from the Reviewer’s principles, must lead to their abandonment.

It is clear, therefore, that if the Reviewer’s principles were pursued to their legitimate consequences, the middling sort of people would nearly disappear, and society would be pretty distinctly divided into two classes: a few rich, and many poor. It is equally clear (though that would be a matter of subordinate importance) that his own preposterous purpose would not be obtained; and that there would be less of industry and frugality, and, by consequence, less of wealth, than if wealth were less unequally distributed.

We have seen that if the Reviewer’s principles were pursued to their consequences, the younger children of most proprietors would be condemned to poverty and labour. Confined, as his favourite custom has hitherto been, to the aristocratical classes, the consequences have been somewhat different. It has often consigned the younger children to poverty, but has rarely driven them to any useful employment. In those parts of France in which the custom prevailed extensively, such of the younger sons as could not be thrust into the church or the army, commonly dragged on a life of thorough laziness, and abject destitution. [*]In Portugal, []and in other parts of Europe, it was not uncommon for them to live upon alms. Now-a-days, the fellow of Will Wimble could scarcely, perhaps, be found in this country. But not further back than the time of Addison and Steele, not a few of the younger sons of English country gentlemen led a mendicant sort of life about the great houses. Nor is there any thing in this, that any man might not anticipate. The basis of the custom is family pride; and was it to be supposed [512] that even a younger son of a good house would descend to any useful occupation? The blood of the gentle beggar would have boiled at the suggestion. But a still more mischievous consequence of this lauded custom remains to be noticed. As it necessarily tends to perpetuate aristocratical power, so does it lead to a most terrible abuse of that power. The younger children, cut off from the bulk of the paternal estate, and excluded from the more useful occupations by the prejudices of their class, are not uncommonly provided for at the expense of the people. Nor is this all. The people might think themselves happy if they escaped so. Receptacles cannot be provided, at the public expense, for the dependants of the domineering class, without something of a pretext. Hence, larger establishments of all sorts than are needed by the community; and hence, not unfrequently, as a pretext for these overgrown establishments, unnecessary and wasteful wars. To countries which enjoy the blessings of virtual representation, the conclusion, as must be perceived, will not at all apply; but in most other countries, this is the way in which the few are instinctively led to pursue their own narrow interests at the expense of the many: and we may be sure that no small portion of these sinister interests springs directly from this vaunted custom of primogeniture. The Reviewer, indeed, says it would be very easy for him to show, that if large landed estates were gradually reduced by equal division amongst children, the consequence “on the political interests of the country” would “be fatal in the extreme:” and as a specimen of what he could do in the way of demonstration, he forthwith presents us with the following passage:

‘Far from joining in the outcry that has so frequently been raised against the magnitude of the property in the hands of the aristocracy, we consider the existence of a numerous and powerful body of landed proprietors, without artificial privileges, but possessed of great natural influence, as essentially contributing to the improvement and stability of the public institutions of such densely-peopled countries as France and England; and as forming the best attainable check to arbitrary power on the one hand, and to popular frenzy and licentiousness on the other.’

[P. 374.]

Now suppose that this “numerous and powerful body of landed proprietors” were virtually the sovereigns. Suppose, too, only suppose—for it were uncandid to pretend that the thing ever happened—just, we say, suppose that these virtual sovereigns, with a view to raise their rents, were on the point of passing a law to exclude foreign corn from the country, thereby depriving the people of cheap bread, and (as an able writer in [513] the Edinburgh Review hath it) depressing the rate of profit. Does the Reviewer mean to say that his “body of landed proprietors,” indignant at their own sinister intent, would interpose their “great natural influence” between themselves and the rest of the community? or what is it that he means to say?

To behold these “natural guardians” of our excellent constitution rushing with patriot rage between themselves and the people, and shielding the people from their own “arbitrary power,” were, doubtless, a sublime and a touching spectacle! So vulgar, however, are we—so little can we enter into the sentiments of the gentler and chivalrous classes, that we cannot help thinking the “check” would be applied to the “frenzy and licentiousness” of the hungry multitude. If the Reviewer will ease us of these suspicions, he shall find that his disinterested zeal in the cause of aristocratical government will but twinkle in the blaze of our own. Not doubting the cogency of the reasons which he withholds, but somewhat dissatisfied with those which he has advanced, we take leave for the present of our “natural representatives,” and proceed to close, with a few parting words, our examination of his boasted stimuli.

If the arguments which we have just examined were worth a straw, they would tend to prove (as we shall shew immediately) that the descent or testamentary dispositions of all property ought to be regulated by the institution or custom of primogeniture. We have, accordingly, supposed that it was the wish of the Reviewer to give the widest extension to this institution or custom, and have combated his arguments upon that supposition. We must, however, admit that his scheme of succession and disposition by will is intended to apply to landed property only. Obscurely perceiving the enormous evils of excluding younger children from all property, or fearful of shocking the sentiments which prevail upon this subject, amongst all such members of the “mercantile, manufacturing, and monied classes generally,” as have not given in to the poor affectation of aping aristocratical practices, he tacitly concedes that all property, excepting property in land, may be distributed without inconvenience amongst all the members of the deceased proprietor’s family [P. 364.] That he should make this concession, speaks well for his humanity or prudence; that he should make this concession, and yet insist on the arguments which we have just examined, speaks anything but well for his logic. These arguments apply to all property, or they are applicable to none. They tend to prove that the whole, or the bulk of every property should devolve by succession or will upon the eldest son, or they tend to prove nothing as to property in land. He cannot [514] limit these arguments to that narrower purpose for which he would make use of them. To borrow the terms of that art, which as a Scottish philosopher he has probably been taught to despise, he cannot be permitted to limit to the species, what, if predicable at all, is predicable of the whole genus. The younger child of a merchant, banker, or of any other wholesale or retail dealer, would feel the stimulus of want as keenly as the younger child of the landed proprietor; whilst the enjoyments extracted by an eldest son from a large fortune, heaped upon his head at the expense of his brothers and sisters, would hardly escape the observation of the poorer sort of men, though that favoured son might chance to be the first-born male of a fortunate and thrifty cotton-spinner. In a word, poverty urges the poor man to exertion, whatever his origin may have been; whilst the advantages of wealth will force themselves upon his attention, in whose hands soever it may happen to be placed. To maintain, therefore, for such reasons, that property in land ought to go to the eldest son, and to admit, in the same breath, that property in moveables should be distributed amongst all the children, is to talk most inconsistently and absurdly.

Having shewn that the Reviewer, as to these arguments, has reduced himself to absurdity, and (what is of more importance) having shown the emptiness of the arguments themselves, we now proceed to the examination of another argument which he has drawn from the depths of the science of political economy, and which he ushers to the notice of his readers with something of pretension and parade. This argument, which has at least the merit of being strictly applicable to the descent and testamentary dispositions of landed property, may be briefly stated thus: in every country, in which landed property is habitually divided amongst the children of the deceased proprietor, whether by virtue of the law of succession or of the customs of the people in disposing of their property by will, the land will be occupied in small portions, to the great detriment of agriculture [pp. 362, 364, 365, 366, 367, 370, 371, 372, 373, passim]. We shall be unable to refute this sophism to the complete satisfaction of our readers, unless we premise a few observations as to the advantages which really ensue from laying out the land in large farms. We must, therefore, beg their patience whilst we address ourselves to this subject in as few words as possible.

It is to be desired in agriculture, as in every other branch of production, that labour and capital should be applied as productively as possible; and, confining the position within the limits which we shall immediately suggest, we admit that the division of the land into large farms augments the productiveness [515] of agricultural labour and capital. Let us suppose two portions of land, each of the same extent (say five, four, or three hundred acres), and each of the same fertility; that one of them has been laid out in a single farm, the other divided into several farms; and that the capital actually invested in one of the portions is precisely equal, as to cost, with the capital invested in the other. Let us suppose, moreover, that the number of labourers working upon the large farm is precisely equal to the aggregate number of labourers severally working upon the small farms; including, in this last case, amongst the labourers, the farmers or occupiers themselves; each of whom, aided by some very small number of workmen for hire, would probably be compelled to labour with his own hands. Without any minute analysis, it will sufficiently appear that the labour and capital on all the small farms are less productive than the equal quantity of labour and capital engaged in the cultivation of the large one. In the first place, several sets of farm-buildings have been needed on one of the portions, whilst only one set of such buildings has been needed on the other; and although the cost of erecting and repairing the single set of buildings on the large farm, has exceeded the cost of erecting and repairing any one, or perhaps any two or three, of the several sets of buildings on the small ones, it must yet have fallen short of the aggregate cost of erecting and repairing the whole of those several sets. In consequence of this difference between the respective costs of merely laying out the two portions, more of the capital invested in the undivided portion has been applicable to stocking or to procuring working cattle, machines, and other implements. More numerous or, at any rate, more costly and efficient instruments of production have been commanded by the one capital than by the other, though the capitals expended are precisely equal. Secondly, the capital and labour on the undivided, is more productive than that on the divided portion, in consequence of a greater economy in the use of these instruments. When the farm is large, the outlay for instruments of any one sort may be more accurately apportioned to the intended effect. A pair of horses, for instance, might be absolutely required to do the business on a farm of a few acres, and yet it might be impossible to find profitable employment for all the work that they could perform; whilst on a farm of three times the size, three times the business might be done with five horses, because all the work that they could perform might be profitably employed. With that portion of his capital which has been thus saved, the occupier of the undivided portion might procure additional instruments, [516] to which there was nothing analogous on the smaller occupations of his neighbours, or might substitute more costly but more efficient instruments for the cheaper but less efficient ones with which they would be obliged to content themselves. The smaller occupiers, it is true, might purchase instruments in common, and might use them alternately; which is said to be the practice in some parts of France. This expedient, however, would not stand them in any very great stead. Many of the instruments of production are not susceptible of this joint ownership and alternate use; and as to such of them as are, the numerous arrangements for using them by turns, which the ever-varying exigencies of agriculture would render necessary, could not be devised and carried into effect without much loss of time and labour. Thirdly, the several employments carried on on the large farm might in some measure be assigned to the several labourers employed upon it; whilst each of the labourers working upon the smaller occupations, would be called upon to lend his hand to all employments, and would be obliged to pass frequently from one to another. The labour employed by the occupier of the undivided portion would not only be aided by more efficient instruments, but would also become more productive in consequence of its less imperfect division. The effects of the division of labour upon its productive power have been so completely analyzed in the celebrated dissertation of Dr. Smith, and are so familiarly known through the wonders which it has wrought in manufactures, that it would be superfluous to insist further upon this part of our subject. The analysis which we have now brought to a close is extremely imperfect, but is sufficient to establish the conclusion, that the division of land into large farms augments the productiveness of agricultural labour and capital. We will now suggest the limitations with which this conclusion must be taken.

The Reviewer seems to have formed a very exaggerated conception of the extent to which the division of labour may be advantageously introduced into agriculture: an error into which he has probably been led, by exclusively looking at the vast effects which it has produced in manufactures. To perceive that the division of labour cannot be advantageously carried to the same extent in agriculture, it is sufficient to perceive, that most of the processes in manufactures may be carried on at all times and seasons, whilst each of the more important processes in agriculture can only be carried on at a certain season of the year. This single distinction leads to the most important consequences. To pursue them, step by step, [517] through their various ramifications, were equally tedious and unnecessary. It results, in general, and that not less obviously than inevitably, that the agricultural labourer cannot be confined to the repetition of any single process, but must engage successively in a great variety of employments. The advantages, therefore, of large farms are principally derived from the use of more efficient instruments. Even in this respect, the limits to which farms may be advantageously extended are speedily arrived at. If the capital engaged will command the best instruments of production, and the farm be of such an extent that none of their productive power is lost, a further extension of the farm could do no good, and might possibly do harm. Though the capital were increased with the extension of the farm, and were as well adapted as before to its extent, the return to the capital when increased would not be much more, proportionably, than the previous return. For by the supposition none of the additional instruments procured would be of a more sufficient kind than the instruments previously in use, whilst the increase in the number of labourers, consequent upon the enlargement of the capital, would not be followed (as might happen in manufactures) by any considerable improvement on the previous distribution of employments. The extension, therefore, of the farm could do no good. It might, however, do harm. For it might happen that the capital, when increased, would be necessarily more than the extended size of the farm required; in which case, the proportional return would be diminished: and if, for this reason, the capital were not increased at all, it would be no longer competent to the due cultivation of the land. If the farm, for instance, which required five horses, were so extended as to require six, and another horse were added to the capital, the return to the work done by these six horses would not be proportionally more than the previous return to the work done by the five. But if the farm were so extended as to require the work of five horses and half the work of another, one of the disadvantages we have mentioned would be the consequence. Either the capital would be increased by an additional horse, and half the power of a horse would be thrown away; or no additional horse would be procured, and there would be less horse-power than the extended size of the farm required. The same reasoning is obviously applicable with respect to all the more important instruments of production; such, we mean, as can only be procured in certain indivisible quantities. But the grand limiting circumstance to the extension of farms with advantage, is the increasing difficulty of superintendance. The necessity of inspecting [518] the operations of workmen engaged on distant parts of an extensive surface, and of promptly making the various arrangements which the varying and pressing exigencies of the seasons require, render the superintendance of a moderately-sized farm more laborious than that of an extensive manufactory. Every body that knows any thing of farming, and of the attempts made by great landlords to cultivate portions of their own land, knows that the life of a farmer is one of incessant vigilance, and that farming will not prosper, as a commercial enterprise, if that vigilance be wanting. It results, that as soon as farms are sufficiently large to absorb such capitals as will command the best instruments of production, the productiveness of labour and capital cannot be materially augmented by any further extension of their size; and that they cannot be advantageously extended even to this limit, in those cases in which they would consequently become too extensive for the complete superintendance of the capitalist. The limits to which they can be extended with advantage must vary with the peculiarities of every individual case; but the limits in every case will be attained more speedily than the Reviewer appears to imagine. Though we have thrown out these remarks for the purpose of correcting his exaggerations as to the advantages of large farms, they were not strictly necessary to our proper purpose. The argument we are about to expose would not be less sophistical, though farms might be advantageously extended beyond the limits which we have assigned.

The argument, be it remembered, is this: That in every country, in which landed property is habitually divided amongst the children of the deceased proprietor, whether by virtue of the law of succession, or of the customs of the people in disposing of their property by will, the land will be occupied in small portions, to the great detriment of agriculture. Two suppositions are involved in this argument: 1. That in every country in which landed property is thus habitually divided, the owners of the land must be extremely numerous: 2. That the owners of the land being extremely numerous, the farms or occupations into which the land is distributed must be extremely numerous also. Both suppositions are false: false as they regard the practice of dividing amongst the children by will: false even as regards that scheme of compulsory division, which, for reasons adverted to at the beginning of the present article, we are strongly inclined to condemn. If we shew that the law, which necessitates a division, has little or no tendency to break down the land into small occupations, or even to multiply the number of land-owners, it will follow that the practice of dividing by will can have no such tendency.


We will suppose that a French farmer dies, the owner of a farm, which, partly by virtue of the law, and partly by his disposition of the disposable portion of his property, becomes divisible upon his death amongst all his children; and that we may put the case more strongly against ourselves, we will moreover suppose that these children are all sons, and have all been trained to their father’s calling. The children having acquired the property in the farm in equal shares, any of the following courses would be open to them: 1. They might divide the farm into distinct portions, occupying and cultivating these portions severally. 2. Leaving it undivided, they might carry on their father’s business in partnership. 3. One of the brothers might occupy the whole farm, paying to the other brothers a fixed remuneration for the use of their shares; or the whole farm might be let to a stranger. 4. One of the brothers might purchase and take conveyances of his brothers’ shares, paying them the purchase money at the time, or giving them a mortgage upon the farm for securing the payment of it with interest. If he had not funds of his own to pay them at the time, he might easily borrow at interest, and secure the lender by a mortgage upon the farm. 5. All the brothers might concur in selling the farm to a stranger.—The Reviewer contends that they would almost infallibly pursue the first course; that “when an estate is divided into equal portions to each child, the paternal home will be deserted by all but the eldest son, and in general there will be as many separate mansions and families as there are children.” [P. 364.] We maintain that they would almost infallibly not pursue the first course, but would resort to one of the expedients which we have suggested, or to some expedient that would be precisely tantamount in its effects. To determine what they would do, let us ascertain what it would be their interest to do. If they would not probably do what it would be their interest to do, it follows that human conduct can never be anticipated, and the proud structure of economical science falls at once to the ground.

If the farm were broken down into distinct occupations, the capital invested in the farm must also be distributed; a considerable portion of it necessarily consisting of capital and labour, which had been expended upon the soil and was inseparably united to it; and the rest, though adapted to the farm as a single occupation, being too extensive for any one of the smaller occupations into which the farm was now divided. Now it follows from what we established when insisting on the advantages of large farms, that the capital thus distributed would be [520] a less efficient aid to labour than it was when applied in mass. To obtain with it the same return that was obtained by the father, more labour must be expended. If more labour were not expended, the return would be diminished. But whether more labour were maintained out of the same return, or the same labour out of a diminished return, the nett produce—the surplus remaining after maintaining the labour—would be less than it was before the farm was divided. Each, therefore, of the brothers would obtain a smaller nett return to his share of the capital, than he would have obtained had they carried on their father’s business in partnership, and applied the capital in mass to the cultivation of the whole farm. That we may obviate all confusion in the ideas, we will remark that this conclusion would not be affected, though the labour were performed wholly or in part by themselves. Upon that supposition, they would combine the characters of labourer and capitalist, and we must deduct from the gross return the value of what they would receive as wages if they let out their services to hire. But the evil which we have suggested is not the only evil they would suffer by breaking down the farm into small occupations. The land, having been previously occupied as a single farm, could not be divided without a great destruction of the capital invested in it, and a great outlay of fresh capital. The existing fences and boundaries must make way for the new fences and boundaries, which the new division of the soil would require. The farm-house and buildings which sufficed for the whole land, as a single farm, would only suffice for one of the several occupations; and on each of the others a cottage (or as the Reviewer hath it, a mansion) and farm buildings must be erected in proportion to its size. The total loss which they would sustain by this indiscreet division would be enormous. Not only would the value of the father’s capital be reduced by the value of the fresh capital which the division would oblige them to expend, but the rate of profit upon the capital thus reduced would be greatly diminished in consequence of its disadvantageous application. It would clearly, therefore, be the interest of the children to carry on the father’s business in partnership, rather than break down the farm into distinct occupations. The Reviewer, indeed, stoutly affirms that they could not do this. “Farming,” says he, “cannot be advantageously carried on by joint-stock companies.” This assertion, unsupported as it is by the slightest attempt at a reason, is hardly worthy of notice. We will, however, remark, that farming in France was not uncommonly carried on in this manner before the introduction of the present law of succession: a fact for which we shall immediately [521] cite very good authority, and from which a vulgar reasoner would incline to infer that the thing may be practicable still.

If the children could not agree to carry on the father’s business in partnership, it would be more to their interest to let the farm in one of the ways which we have pointed out, than to occupy it severally in minute portions. If the farm, with the capital invested in it at the father’s death, were let to a single lessee, the capital in his hands would not only remain undiminished, but would continue to yield an undiminished rate of profit. But if the capital in the hands of the lessee would continue to yield an undiminished rate of profit, the rate of the interest which he would pay for the use of the capital (and which would probably be confounded, under the name of rent, with rent properly so called) would naturally be adjusted to that undiminished rate of profit; for the rate of interest depends upon the rate of profit. The consequences are, that if the farm were let to a single lessee, each of the lessors would receive interest, calculated at a higher rate of profit, upon a comparatively large capital; whilst, on the other supposition, each of them would be engaged in applying a smaller capital, yielding a lower rate of profit, to a detached portion of the land. One advantage he would certainly derive from cultivating rather than letting. On the first supposition he would obtain profit; on the second, he would only receive interest. But if the enormous loss, which he would sustain on the first supposition, both in amount of capital and rate of return, be set off against the difference between profit and interest, there will, we think, be little or no doubt as to the course which he would naturally pursue. If this consideration alone were not quite sufficient, there is another which would come in aid of it and would infallibly determine his choice. If he cultivated a detached portion of the farm, much of his time would be occupied in the business of superintendence. If he let his share of the farm, the management of his capital invested in the farm would devolve upon the lessee. But the lessor would have other capital, or he would not. If he had, he would be released, by letting, from the trouble of managing his capital invested in the farm, and could give his undivided attention to the employment of his other capital. If he had not, he could engage himself with his lessee, or with any other farmer, as a labourer for hire; and being now engaged as a labourer only, would be able to turn his labour to better account than if he partly employed his time in working with his own hands, and partly in the superintendance of capital.


The same, or nearly the same reasoning is obviously applicable as to the other expedients which we have suggested. The purchase-money payable to each child on the sale of the farm would resolve itself into two portions; one of them being the equivalent of his property in the mere soil; the other, of his property in the capital which had been invested in the cultivation of it. If his purchase-money were secured upon the farm, the interest which he would receive in respect of this last portion of it, would be tantamount, or nearly tantamount, to what he would receive in respect of his capital, if the farm were let; the only difference being, that he would receive it, in the one case, under the name of interest, whilst he would probably take it, in the other, under the denomination of rent. To apply these propositions in detail were superfluous labour. It is obvious that the same considerations, which would determine him to let rather than occupy, would also determine him to sell and leave his money upon the land, if in consequence of other considerations, he found it inconvenient to let. If he sold his share in the farm, receiving his money down, the same or precisely analogous consequences would follow. For he would either put out his money at interest in some other quarter, or would himself employ it productively. On the first supposition, he would merely receive interest from a stranger instead of receiving it from the lessee, or purchaser. On the second, the advantages he would derive from the equivalent of his capital would exceed the advantages he could have obtained from the capital itself, had he squatted himself down with it upon a corner of the paternal farm. The equivalent would constitute a larger capital, and could be invested in a more profitable employment. It is almost superfluous to observe, that if one of the brothers took the farm on lease or bought it upon credit, he would be as much benefitted by either of these arrangements as the brothers who let or sold. His share in the father’s capital would remain undiminished; and being blended with the shares of his brothers, would continue to yield an undiminished rate of profit. Being released from the care of superintending their capitals, they would be able to turn themselves to other employments; whilst he would obtain an equivalent advantage in the difference between the profits which he would extract from those capitals, and the interest which he paid for the use of them.

Some such arrangement as we have described would be so strongly recommended to the children both by family affection and personal interest, that they would hardly fail to come to it of their own accord. If the father, however, had reason to apprehend [523] that his children would break up his farm, contrary to their interest, he might provide them with an additional motive to keep it entire. Bequeathing the disposable portion of his property to his children in equal shares, he might enjoin upon them, by his will, an arrangement to the effect which we have described; and might then insert a clause, depriving of his share in the disposable portion, any of the children who should refuse to obey the command. Can any thing be imagined more obvious, easy, and effectual? Can it be believed that any of the children would injure himself doubly—would repudiate his share of the disposable portion, and reduce the value of his legitimate share by enforcing an improvident division—merely to satisfy a fantastical desire of tilling with his own hands a few of the paternal acres? So ridiculous a whim might possibly find its way into the airy head of a poet, but would never disturb the calculations of a discreet farming man, of one “who glorieth in the goad, and whose talk is of bullocks.”

We have hitherto argued upon the supposition, that the children of the deceased proprietor are all of them sons, and have all of them been trained to their father’s calling. But how numerous and powerful would be the dissuasives from a division of the land, if some of the children (as would almost infallibly happen) were infants, or women, or had been engaged in very different occupations! We cannot help conceiving (though the conceit may be something of the strangest) that the trader, manufacturer, working artizan, or seaman would hardly abandon the trade in which he had been exercised, or even embroil himself by deputy with a calling to which he was a stranger, to the mere end (for no other can be imagined) of reducing the value of his share in the paternal estate. If this recondite reflexion had occurred to the Reviewer, he would have probably inferred, with us, that the law which secures the land to the children equally, has no tendency whatever to turn them into so many landlords. He does, indeed, affirm that wherever this law obtains, the children of landed proprietors will generally be brought up to agricultural occupations.

‘Every system,’ says he, ‘which has for its object to enforce an equal division of landed property, must necessarily occasion too great an increase of agricultural population; and must also operate to reduce landed property into such minute portions as will neither afford sufficient employment to the families occupying them, nor allow of their being cultivated in the most improved and cheapest manner. The strong predilection entertained by the great bulk of mankind for the pursuits of their fathers, has been universally observed; and if this be true in general, it is particularly so in the case of those who are brought up in [524] the country. But the existence of a law, compelling every father to divide his estate equally among his children, must obviously afford the greatest possible facilities for gratifying this natural inclination. It will give most individuals the power of continuing in that line of life in which they have been educated, and which must, in consequence, be endeared to them by all those youthful associations which exert so strong an influence over future conduct.’

In a sonnet or pastoral poem, this would be merely dull. In an essay, which affects to settle a question in Economics and Legislation, it provokes to animadversion. Admitting that the mind of the farmer’s son is more thickset than is customary with these endearing associations; admitting his unusual predilection for the pursuits of his father and grandfather, this predilection, it is obvious, makes nothing towards the conclusion, unless it would prompt the farmer’s children to divide his inheritance improvidently. A man, to be sure, who has an itching predilection, will try to ease himself of it in some way or other, but when he can make his choice, between a course which will do him harm, and a course which will do him none, the odds, we fancy, are, that he will rather take the latter. That the children might appease their predilection without tearing the inheritance to rags, has been sufficiently shewn already. But we deny that civilized men have any such strong predilection for the pursuits of their fathers.

Communities in the infancy of reason—communities which are the creatures and the slaves of custom—brute communities, may be fraught with this strong predilection, just as they are bloated with an absurd conceit of their own institutions and manners, and are inspired with virulent antipathy to the institutions and manners of their neighbours. This predilection existed amongst the ancient inhabitants of Egypt. It exists to this hour amongst the people of India. But where no bad laws, no religious prejudices obstruct the distribution of labour and capital through the various trades and professions, every man, according to his means, chooses the calling which promises the most advantages, and pursues the same reasonable course in fixing the destination of his children. For be it observed, the trade or profession of the son would naturally be determined by his parents; and though the child might be blinded, by his predilection for his father’s calling, to the superior advantages presented by other callings, the father or mother of the child, who had had some experience of life, would hardly be led astray by any such delusive fancy. To say that in France the agricultural population bears a disadvantageous proportion to the population engaged in other pursuits, is to say nothing to [525] the purpose. As the division of the land into small farms (a proposition which we shall establish immediately) is not the consequence of the law of succession, but of the general poverty of the people, so the disproportion spoken of, is not the consequence of any ridiculous fancies, but of the greater demand for agricultural labour, which the general poverty engenders. As capitals of the more costly sort, as the instruments for abridging labour are accumulated, the demand for mere animal exertion decreases; a larger proportion of the community is disengaged from the necessary business of obtaining food, and is employed in preparing the comforts and the ornaments of existence. We can venture to assure the Reviewer, that the greater influx of labourers into the agricultural callings, which is to be observed in France, is not the effect of Arcadian simplicity, but of the same laws of supply and demand, which determine a greater proportion of the English people to manufacturing and commercial pursuits. Indeed, it is obvious that if this predilection existed amongst the French peasantry, it would also exist amongst the English. No difference in the rate of wages would tempt the son of an agricultural labourer from the employment of his father; and a large portion of the labour, which is now turned to other branches of production, would be wastefully expended on the soil.

Having shown that the interest of the children would lead them to concur in some such arrangement as we have described, we will now briefly shew, that the children of French proprietors, when placed in a position exactly similar to the one which we have supposed, did ever in fact pursue that reasonable course. According to the customary law, which obtained in Paris, and in many other parts of France before the Revolution, the legitimate share of the children was half of the father’s property. At Bordeaux, where the rule of the civil law obtained, the children, according to their number, were entitled to reserve a half or some smaller portion. It appears, however, that though the father was thus invested with the power of leaving at least half to any one of his children or to a stranger, it was the general practice, in those great and wealthy cities and in the neighbouring districts, to leave the disposable portion to the children equally; the effect of which practice was, that the children took equal shares of the father’s property. Did any of the Reviewer’s imaginary consequences follow? No such thing. If it happened that an occupation (une terre) could not be divided without lessening its value, one of the children bought the interest of the others, accounting to them for the value out of his own share in the whole property, [526] or, if need were, raising the purchase money by loan. Monsieur Le Conseiller Maleville (a lawyer of such eminence, that he was commissioned with the celebrated Tronchet and two others to prepare the draft of the Napoleon Code) is our authority for the law and the practice [See the Discussions on articles 913, 914, of the code, in the Conférence du Code Civil]. The testimony is of the more weight, inasmuch as M. Maleville, in the course of the discussion, insists, with the Reviewer, upon the tendency of a forced division to break down the land into small occupations; and recommends, for this reason amongst others, an increase of the disposable portion. To the decisive fact which he admits, he opposes nothing but a conjecture almost as feeble as the Reviewer’s reasonings. He thinks that in the agricultural districts, money could not be raised by loan, as at Paris or Bordeaux: and that the children, though inclined to leave the inheritance ungarbled, would consequently be obliged to divide it. The difficulty, if it ever existed, of raising money in the agricultural districts on mortgage, was probably owing to two causes: the backward state of France, before the Revolution, as to internal communication; and the detestable variety and uncertainty of the written laws and unwritten customs, which were then in force in that ill-governed country. His uncertainty as to the state of the law in a remote and obscure district, with his consequent uncertainty as to the soundness of the owner’s title and as to his remedies for the recovery of his money, would naturally disincline a monied man, residing in one of the great cities, from making advances upon land situate in that district. But now that the senseless restrictions, which obstructed the free circulation of capital, [*]are altogether, or in great measure, removed; now that the French people (amongst the other benefits which they have won by their strenuous and noble struggles for good government) enjoy the inestimable good of living as one family, under written and, comparatively speaking, knowable laws, it is obvious that no such difficulty as that which M. Maleville suggests would oppose itself, in any part of France, to any arrangement which the children might think to their advantage. The values being equal, and the titles equally clear, the Parisian capitalist would as readily advance his money upon land in Britanny or Provence, as upon land in his own department.

But this difficulty, if it existed, would certainly not stand in the way of the other expedients which we have mentioned; and we are accordingly informed by M. Le C. Berlier (whose talents [527] and knowledge appear to great advantage in many of these discussions), that those expedients were commonly resorted to by the children of small proprietors; the class, according to the Reviewer, in which the tendencies to an improvident division, exist in their utmost force. It appears from the testimony of M. Berlier, that the small French proprietors rarely thought of making a will; and that the inheritance, either by the law of succession obtaining in the district, or by an understanding between the proprietor and his children, was taken by the latter in equal shares. Did they proceed forthwith (as according to the Reviewer’s scheme of human nature, they ought to have done) to mangle their little property? Not a bit of it. They either carried on their father’s business in partnership; or if their positions in life made it inconvenient to them to turn their little farm to account in that manner (faire valoir la petite ferme en société), one of them took the whole of it, paying rent to the others for the use of their shares. [See the Discussion above referred to].

By a law passed in the year 2 of the Revolutionary æra, (Loi du 17 Nivose an II.) the whole estate of a deceased proprietor was secured to his children in equal shares; excepting a sixth part of it, which he was allowed to dispose of either by gift or will to a stranger. As in favour of any or all of his children, he was disabled from disposing of even this sixth; so that if he intended that they should take it, it was to go to them equally by descent. This law, enacted to break down large properties, and thus prevent the resurrection of that aristocratical power, under which the French people had been recently smarting, made way, about six years after, for a law not essentially differing from the provisions of the Napoleon Code. Now, if any institution would tend to split occupations, it is the institution which we have just described. We are informed, however, by M. Le C. Boulay (the mover of the law by which it was abrogated, and who had taken pains to ascertain its effects), that it was followed by no such consequences. In those parts of France in which small properties had previously prevailed, the arrangements formerly in use were still resorted to. The son who had been engaged in cultivating the land (commonly the eldest), took, as before, the whole inheritance; the rest of the children receiving an equivalent for their shares. [*][See the same Discussion.]


It appears from this body of evidence, that the children of French landed proprietors, long before the introduction of the present law of succession, were daily acquiring rights tantamount to those which that law confers, and yet never abused them to the purpose which the Reviewer has so strangely imagined. Mark, too, the source of the testimony, and the occasion upon which it was delivered. It is the testimony of lawyers, of law-givers, versed in the habits of their countrymen as to the disposition of property, and engaged at the instant in legislating for a mighty nation.

If a law, necessitating the equal division of property amongst the deceased proprietor’s children, can have little of the tendency ascribed to it by the Reviewer, the practice of equally dividing by will can clearly have none. Not insisting again on the expedients which the children would resort to, we will just hint at the precautions which the parent might take. Directions that land shall be sold, and the produce of the sale be divided equally; devises of land to one of the children, charged with portions or annuities to the rest; these and various other devices for equalizing the condition of the children without garbling the estate, are so obvious, so practicable, and in this country are so frequently practised, that we wonder they never occurred to the Reviewer; and occurring, did not instantly convince him that his argument, as it applies to division by will, was altogether illusory and worthless. Even on his own scheme of extreme inequality, these devices must be frequently resorted to. It often happens that a landed proprietor has nothing but his land; and, in such cases, the land must yield to the younger children that portion, however trifling, of their father’s estate, which it appears from some of his expressions he is not unwilling to concede them.

From the more general reasonings which we have examined, the Reviewer descends to argue from what he calls experiment. “We have long been witnesses,” says he, “to the effects of the custom of primogeniture as applied to the succession to landed property.” That we have witnessed, and witness, in England, the co-existence of two facts, namely, the habit amongst the larger proprietors of making an eldest son, and the prevalence, in some parts of the country, of large farms, we admit: that the one is the cause of the other, we deny. If it were permitted to infer from the mere co-existence of the facts, that our good farming is the effect of this custom, it were permissible to attribute the commercial prosperity of London to the Monument by which it is overlooked. By reasoning like this, we might drive the Reviewer to the direct contrary of his conclusion. In [529] most of the countries of Europe in which the land is transmitted in large masses from one generation of proprietors to another; in Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, in many, if not in most, of the German states, it is very generally occupied in small portions by miserable peasants. Throughout the middle ages, in every country of Europe, the land, for the most part, was cultivated by serfs. Even in England, the tendency to unite farms is but of yesterday, and it is only in the wealthier districts that considerable occupations are nearly universal. Here is a much wider basis for an induction than that which the Reviewer has laid down; and if we could condescend to argue after the same fashion, we might simply insist upon these numerous coincidencies, and conclude universally thus—wherever the custom of primogeniture obtains, there must farming be bad. But not only has the alleged cause been attended, for the most part, with a dissimilar set of appearances; the appearances in question (the existence and preservation of large farms) are, in many instances, observed, though the imputed cause has never intervened. Though the land in England be generally owned by large proprietors, much of it is owned, either absolutely or on long beneficial leases, by men of the middling classes. But it is a fact that the farms which belong to the proprietors of this class, are commonly disposed of by will, with a view to equality amongst the children; and are never frittered down in the manner imagined, in consequence of such dispositions. This is utterly irreconcileable with the Reviewer’s hypothesis. In a country in which farms of an advantageous size are daily passing unimpaired through this process of division, it is impossible to ascribe the existence and preservation of large farms to the aristocratical custom of primogeniture.

But the most striking illustration of the absurdity of this reasoning, is furnished by Ireland. In Ireland, the laws relating to the descent of landed property, and to what are vulgarly called entails, are the same in all essentials as in England. In Ireland, as might be expected from the comparative rudeness of the people, family pride is not only more intensely, but more extensively felt than in England. In Ireland, therefore, the law affords the same facilities for making an eldest son; whilst the motives to the practice are not only stronger, but operate upon a larger class. Yet it does so happen, that, whilst English forms are generally of an advantageous size, the land in Ireland is still more generally occupied, in small portions, by the poorest farmers in Europe. The custom of primogeniture prevails at least as extensively amongst the larger Irish proprietors as [530] amongst the same class in England, but is attended in the several countries with appearances in direct contradiction.

We wonder it never occurred to the Reviewer, to ascribe the large farms and the good farming in England, to her abundant capital. We wonder the more, inasmuch as in a passage relating to Ireland, he has exactly touched upon the cause of her small farms and bad farming: acu rem tetigit. It is beyond a doubt, that the small farms and the bad farming, not only of Ireland but of France also, arise from the want of capital. Not only so; it is equally indisputable, that, in every country in which capital is deficient, farms must be small, and farming bad. Having no funds in advance for the payment of any considerable number of labourers, no means of procuring the costly instruments by which labour is saved, the farmer in poor countries must confine his care to such a portion of land as his own labour, aided by that of his family, and perhaps a few workmen for hire, will suffice to cultivate. With only a few pounds in his pocket, and a pair of sorry cattle at his command, it were impossible for him to enter, to any purpose, upon the cultivation of a considerable farm. In a general dearth of capital, it matters not a rush to the present purpose, whether the land be owned in large or in small quantities, or whether that portion of it which is not actually under cultivation lie without an owner, open to any casual occupant. If the land, in a state of general poverty, be appropriated in large quantities, the cultivation of a large portion of it may be prevented altogether, but large farms and good cultivation will certainly not be the consequence. At the outset of every community, whatever be the form into which society is thrown, the land must be cultivated in small portions, and the cultivation must be bad.

As wealth increases, as capital accumulates, farms enlarge, and a better method of cultivation is introduced. The profits to be made by skilful farming are gradually discerned; and as soon as they exceed the profits in other branches of production, a portion of the monied capitals is turned to the soil. Considerable portions of land are purchased or hired by larger capitalists than had formerly engaged in farming; or what answers the purpose of the capitalist just as well (for the rate of interest depends on the rate of profit), advances are made by the capitalist to the farmer, who is thus enabled to enter, by purchase or hire, upon a larger farm, and to introduce a mode of culture more profitable to himself and more advantageous to the community. This is the way in which large farms have gradually grown up in England. This is the way in which the small [531] French farms will gradually be united into larger occupations. France has hitherto been a poor country: under the better institutions which she has obtained by her struggles for reform, her capital is rapidly increasing; and we may be sure that a due portion of it will find its way to the land, so soon as the profits to be made by it in extensive farming shall exceed the profits to be made by it in manufacturing or commercial employments. The custom of primogeniture, instead of accelerating, would retard this natural process. The custom of primogeniture (as we have already indicated, and shall show more fully in another division of this article) can never obtain to any extent unless certain restraints be imposed upon alienation. But in the proportion in which the difficulties of purchasing land increase, will the inducements to turn capital to land diminish. If his means be equal to purchase, every man will purchase land rather than hire it; whilst no man will expend his capital on land which he holds by lease, so liberally as he will expend it upon land of which he has the absolute dominion. If the custom of primogeniture had never obtained in England, the land would by this time be very generally occupied by capitalists of the most respectable sort. The greater part of it would be laid out in occupations of the most advantageous size, each of them owned by a wealthy occupier. As the case is, much of the land in the country is never brought into the market, but is transmitted by a chain of wills and settlements from one generation of proprietors to another: the proprietors for the time being are generally disabled from granting very long leases, and are often unwilling to grant them of even moderate length; and thus multitudes of wealthy capitalists, who would willingly invest their capitals under more enduring interests, are altogether repelled from the soil.

It thus appears that a due portion of the existing capital of the community will be invested in agriculture, if there be no custom of primogeniture, nor any other bad custom or institution, to obstruct its determination to the land. We must here, however, remark that small farms and bad farming will, in many instances, be perpetuated, even in the most advancing countries, by the mere fact of their having already obtained. Originally, as we before observed, the land was necessarily occupied in small farms with small capitals. Now, if in a more advanced state of society, several of these small farms were united into one, and a capital adapted to its size were invested in the cultivation of it, there is no doubt that the produce of this capital thus advantageously applied, would exceed the produce of all the smaller capitals put together. This change, [532] however, could not be brought about without destroying a large portion of these smaller capitals. The farm houses, buildings, and fences, for instance, which were severally adapted to the smaller occupations, must be abolished or become useless, and a farm house, buildings and fences, suited to the occupation of the land as a single farm, must be erected at a considerable expense. Whether the change could be accomplished with advantage, would depend upon two considerations: the probable loss in the destruction of capital; and the probable gain by an increase in the rate of return. It might very probably happen that the loss would outweigh the advantage. Here, then, in as far as the destruction of capital is concerned, is the converse of the case, which we insisted on at length in an earlier part of the present article. The same interest, which, in that case, would certainly prevent the division of a single farm might, in this instance, be opposed to the union of distinct occupations. Thus it is, that though the division of the land into small farms originates in the want of capital, they cannot be always blended, as capital accumulates, into farms of a more advantageous size. Thus it is, that the imperfect agriculture of poor and barbarous ages, must in all countries be prolonged to no inconsiderable extent, through ages of advancing opulence. Owing to this cause, it will be long ere the agriculture of France be improved by her increasing capital to an equal extent with her manufactures. To this and to the vicious custom of primogeniture, we must ascribe the small farms and the rude cultivation, which, wealthy and civilized as she is, may still be detected in England.

It appears, we think, very satisfactorily from what we have premised, that the large farms and the good farming of England cannot be the consequences of the custom of primogeniture; nor the small farms and the bad farming of France, the effects of her law of succession; that the abounding wealth of England would have probably flowed to the soil in still larger quantities, had the custom of primogeniture never obtained; and that the law of succession, which is now in force in France, has certainly not aggravated the consequences of her defective capital. Why it is that capital has accumulated in France less rapidly than in England, is a question to which, we think, we could find a satisfactory answer, but which the scope of our inquiry, as well as the limits we are confined to, forbid us to meddle with.

To follow the Reviewer through the various other facts, real or supposed, which he has pressed into the service of his argument, were to repeat, with a few slight variations, what we have [533] already insisted on. Admitting them to be true, they are beside the question. Had he shewn, by indisputable testimony, that French farms are commonly small, that French farming is commonly bad, that the number of the people engaged in agriculture bears a large and disadvantageous proportion to the number engaged in other pursuits, still he would have shewn just nothing to his purpose, failing, as he has, in connecting these unfavourable appearances with the present law of succession. The testimony, for instance, of Mr. Birkbeck (p. 365) simply tends to establish, what we care not to deny, the division of the land into small occupations. This gentleman, it is true, is pleased to infer that this division of the land is the consequence of the law of succession. But who but this Reviewer confounds an attestation to a fact with a conclusion which the witness may have built upon it? With regard to Mr. James Paul Cobbett, he merely tells us that he “heard great lamentations in Normandy on account of the effects of this revolutionary law” (p. 367). But from how many did these complaints proceed? Who were his witnesses to the effects of this law, and to what, precisely, did they attest? Was he informed by many and credible persons, that the children of deceased proprietors had, in numerous cases within their own observation, actually broken down the landed part of the inheritance into several occupations? or, judging from a few instances of improvidence and perverseness, were his witnesses merely opining that it was the general tendency of the law to split the land? How many of these witnesses lied for the purpose of putting forward a favourite theory? How many of them were elder brothers “lamenting” the extinction of the good old custom of primogeniture? These and a thousand scruples more must be thoroughly cleared up, before the hearsay evidence of Mr. James Paul Cobbett will go for any thing with any body but the Reviewer. What is the worth of this crude stuff, dropped we know not how, why, or by whom, and swallowed without scrutiny by a flitting tourist, when weighed against such authorities as those which we have cited, and opposed to the moral certainty which arises from the interests of the children? Nor is this all; Mr. Cobbett himself destroys the effect of his own evidence, such as it is, by telling us in the same breath, with a tone of admiration, that “in many families” (as he had actually been assured) “the several members had come to an agreement to act according to the old custom, and thus prevent the parcelling out of their estates!” as if there were aught so worthy of amazement in many or all men agreeing to do what they are strongly prompted to do by their own manifest and urgent interests. Before the [534] conviction which we entertain can be shaken by testimony, we must have the testimony, not of travellers skimming over the face of the country, not of strangers and sojourners in the land, but of numerous men of business, residing in the various departments, and attesting to it as a fact, which their avocations have called upon them to observe, that the children of deceased proprietors do actually, in the majority of cases, divide the landed part of the inheritance into several occupations. Testimony such as this would constrain us to believe, not, indeed, that the same institution would be followed by the same consequences in any other portion of the earth, but that the French people were a peculiar people; a nation of men sui generis, who were daily engaged in doing what their own great and manifest interests would naturally determine them to abstain from.

But the most remarkable instance of the Reviewer’s eagerness to seize on every straw that might serve him as matter for building up his conclusion, is his quotation from the well-known book of Mr. Arthur Young, who travelled through a great part of France in the year 1789, and who attests to the small farms and the bad farming which were then prevalent in that country. That the Reviewer should ascribe the small farms and the bad farming of the year 1789 to a law which was introduced thereafter, is certainly in consonance with the rest of the reasoning which runs through this exquisite performance.

The number of French landed proprietors, as deduced from the returns to the land-tax, is equally beside the question (p. 369). It simply proves what nobody denies, that they constitute a considerable portion of the whole population. We should not have thought it worthy of our notice, if it were not for the blundering or disingenuous manner in which the Reviewer has applied the fact. Of 4,833,000, the whole body of proprietors, 3,665,300 derive a yearly income of about 51 shillings each from their respective properties; being, in truth, mere day-labourers, each of them owning a cottage with a garden attached to it. Of the 1,167,700, who remain after deducting the mere day-labourers, 928,000 derive a yearly income of about £.17 11s. each from their respective properties; being also, substantially, day-labourers, though engaged during a part of their time in raising produce for sale from their own little farms. The 239,700, who make up the rest of the whole body, are either mere landlords, or combine the character of landlord and capitalist, and, instead of subsisting wholly or partly upon wages, derive their incomes from rent or profit, or from one of these funds blended with the other.


The use to which the Reviewer would put these facts is remarkable. Because there are 4,833,000 proprietors, of whom 3,665,300 are mere day-labourers letting out their services to hire, and of whom 928,000 are nearly in the same condition, he will have it, or he hopes his readers will infer it, that there are, at least, 4,833,000 farms in France. By merely counting into the number of English tenancies, the cottages with gardens attached to them, which are in the possession of day-labourers, we might show that the whole or the greater part of the agricultural population belongs to the class of tenants: Then, substituting “farmers” and “farms,” for “tenants” and “tenancies,” as he would have his readers substitute “farmers” and “farms,” for “proprietors” and “properties,” we might prove that the land in England is laid out into farms innumerable; and thence infer (with much cackling at our fancied triumph) that English farms are almost universally small, and English farming thoroughly execrable.

Our limits will not permit us to pursue the Reviewer through the few remaining facts which he has cited in support of his argument. With the aid of the suggestions which we have thrown out, it may be perceived at a glance that they are utterly inapplicable to his purpose. In a word, there is abundant evidence to show, that French agricultural capitals are small and inefficient; there is no evidence to show, that the heirs of French landed proprietors are so foolish as to render them still smaller and less efficient by an injudicious and wasteful division.

Approving the custom of primogeniture, the Reviewer, consistently enough, approves of restraints on alienation; at least, to the extent to which they may be imposed in England. “Whatever,” says he, “may be the other defects of the law of England, we believe most of our readers will be of opinion, that there is little to amend in that part of it which has reference to entails.” We who think that the custom of primogeniture is pernicious, and is kept alive in England by “that part of her law which has reference to entails,” cannot acquiesce in the opinion which the Reviewer supposes to be so indisputable. That the power of entailing or substituting is the basis of the custom of primogeniture; is the cause of those abuses of the power of willing, which prompted the French legislators to reserve legitimate portions; and that those abuses would be prevented by certain provisions of their code, though that reservation were abolished, are opinions which we announced at the outset of our inquiry, and which we now proceed to maintain. That we may explain distinctly the nature of these provisions, [536] we will ascend for a moment to the remote sources, from whence the French substitutions were principally derived. Our sketch of their origin and progress may not be uninteresting to the reader, and will tend to lay open the historical blunders which the Edinburgh Reviewer has committed. When a writer diffuses erroneous and mischievous opinions, it is permissible to show that he is not over well acquainted with the subject which he affects to discuss.

To give validity to the testamentary dispositions of a Roman citizen, it was necessary that an heir or heirs should be named by his will, and that one of these heirs should be both willing and able to take the inheritance at his decease. Now, as the testamentary heir, who took the property, was also bound to satisfy the debts of the testator, it not unfrequently happened that the person named as heir refused to meddle with the inheritance. Sometimes, too, it fell out, that the person named as heir, either died in the life-time of the testator, or became subject to certain disabilities which prevented him from taking by will. That he might provide against these contingencies and prevent his testamentary dispositions from falling to the ground, it was permitted to the testator to name an heir or heirs, upon whom the inheritance should devolve at his decease, in case the heir or heirs first-named should be unwilling or unable to take it. The heir or heirs first-named were said to be instituted, in the strict acceptation of the term: the heir or heirs who were to take in the events which we have mentioned, were said to be substituted in the place of the first. But the heirs who were immediately substituted in the place of the instituted heirs, might also be unwilling or unable to take at the testator’s decease. That he might provide against these events also, it was further permitted to him to substitute other heirs, in the place of those who were substituted in the first degree, and so on from degree to degree through any number of degrees. By these substitutions, from their frequency called vulgar, the testator’s property was not rendered unalienable for a single instant; but the absolute dominion of it passed, at his decease, to such of the instituted or substituted heirs as then stood first in the order of heirs who were both willing and competent to take.

A Roman youth being incapable of making a will till he attained the age of puberty, it was permitted to the Roman father, who instituted his infant child as his heir or one of his co-heirs, to substitute, in the place of the infant, an heir or heirs, upon whom the property should devolve, in case the infant died before his incapacity determined. By this substitution, called pupiller, [537] the property was no more tied up from alienation than by the one which we described before. It is true that it remained fixed in the infant, from his father’s death till he himself attained the age of puberty, or died within it: But the infant, as such and by virtue of the laws relating to incompetent persons, was not able to alien till he attained that age; so that if he died within it, and the substitution took effect, it merely carried the property to persons of the father’s choice, from the heirs who would have succeeded to the infant by virtue of the law of succession.

If the child instituted as heir or co-heir, though of age, were insane, deaf, dumb, or had been interdicted by judicial sentence, on account of infamous prodigality, from disposing of his own property, it was permitted to the parent to substitute, in the place of the instituted heir, an heir or heirs, upon whom the property should devolve, in case the former died before the interdict were withdrawn, or the insanity or other disease were radically cured. To this substitution, called Quasi-pupillar, the observation made upon the last is also applicable. Pending the interdict or the disease, the instituted heir, by the laws relating to incompetent persons, was incapable of aliening by will or otherwise; and if the substitution took effect, it merely carried the bequeathed property to the substituted heir, from these who would have taken from the instituted heir as his successors by the rules of descent.

The vulgar and pupillar substitutions (for the quasi-pupillar was introduced as late as the reign of Justinian) were the only substitutions in use amongst the more ancient Romans. There is certainly nothing in them of the nature of modern entails; and limiting the proposition to the republican ages, or even extending it to the earlier ages of the empire, Dr. Smith was most probably correct (in spite of the Reviewer’s criticism) when he affirmed “that entails were altogether unknown to the ancients.” Under the emperors (who laboured by every art to win the affections of the soldiery [*] ) the soldiers, as they were relieved from the observance of the formalities with which civil testaments were accompanied, so were they permitted to depart from the rules by which substitutions were commonly governed (omnes fere leges substitutionis negligere). A civil testament imparted to the heir, who took at the testator’s decease, the power of dealing at his pleasure with the property bequeathed; or if it did not, he was not restrained from alienation by force of the will, but by some general law regarding incompetent persons [538] under which he happened to fall. By military testament, the heir who took at the testator’s decease, might be confined to a life estate in the bequeathed property; and the testator might substitute an heir, upon whom the property should devolve at the determination of that restricted interest. This military testament, which without regard to his competence or incompetence, and by its own proper force, tied up the immediate taker from aliening the property, probably suggested the idea of those entails by way of trust, which we will now briefly describe.

The Reviewer is mistaken in supposing, that the trusts or fidei-commissa of the Roman jurisprudence were devised for any such purpose as that of entailing. Though afterwards perverted to that mischievous purpose, they were devised and introduced to the laudable end of evading certain absurd laws, by which certain classes of persons were disabled from taking property: more especially to the end of evading the Voconian Law; which excluded women from succeeding to intestates, and limited extremely the amount of what they might take by will. This end was accomplished as surely as it could be, in the following manner. The testator, by his will, instituted some capable person as his heir, who took his property at his decease, and was the only heir and proprietor of whom the judge could take cognizance. To the bequest, however, was added a prayer (verba precativa) that the heir would make over the bequeathed property to the incapable person whom the testator intended to take it. If the heir (fiduciarius) felt himself bound in honour to fulfil the testator’s intention, he accordingly made over the property to the real object of the testator’s bounty (fidei-commissarius). If he thought that the confidence which had been placed in his honour imposed no such obligation upon him, or he were regardless of the obligation which he felt, he neglected to fulfil the testator’s intention, and with perfect impunity, so far as the laws could touch him, he kept the property to himself. The prejudices which had dictated the disabling laws gradually wearing away, and flagrant instances of breach of confidence frequently occurring on the part of fiduciary heirs, the legislature at length interposed, though not earlier than the age of Augustus, and added the legal sanction to the mere moral obligation. To follow the history of these fidei-commissa beyond the point we have attained, were beside our present purpose. Suffice it to say, that they were commonly regarded from this time forward as merely convenient methods of conveying property by will. [*]The fidei-commissarius [539] was looked upon by the legislature as substantially the proprietor; he might recover the property by action from the fiduciary heir, and even force him to accept the trust; he might recover the property by action from any third person who happened to detain it; and the fiduciary heir, who at length became entitled to certain advantages as a compensation for the obligations imposed upon him, was regarded as a channel or conduit for conveying the dominion of the property to the object of the testator’s bounty.

In the cases which we have just mentioned, the fiduciary heir was a mere trustee, bound to make over the property, at the testator’s decease, to some third person who was the real object of his bounty. Trusts, when resorted to for this purpose, were called express. Sometimes, however, the testator intended that the fiduciary heir should enjoy the income of the property during his own life; and, in such cases, the fiduciary heir was commanded (for here a mere request would not suffice) to bequeath the property by his own will to a person or persons fixed upon by the author of the trust (testator fidei-committens). Fidei-commissa, when resorted to for this purpose, were called, we know not why, tacit: and imparted to the fiduciary heir the complex character of beneficiary and trustee. He was to take the income of the bequeathed property during his own life, but was expected to transmit the principal by his own will to some secondary object of the original testator’s bounty. These tacit fidei-commissa, which had precisely the effect of the military substitutions mentioned above, were certainly introduced at a much later period than those which we described before; though the time at which they were introduced, or the time at which the legislature made them legally binding, are not to be ascertained (if indeed they can be ascertained at all) from the limited sources of information which are placed within our reach. By one species of these tacit fidei-commissa, called fidei-commissa familiæ, the testator commanded the fiduciary heir to transmit the bequeathed property by his own will, either to such members of the heir’s family as at his decease would be his successors by the law of descent, or to such members of the original testator’s family as at the death of the heir would be the nearest of kin to the [540] original testator himself. And here, as in the first-mentioned case, the persons who, by virtue of this nomination, became entitled to the property on the death of the fiduciary heir, might recover the property by action from any third person to whom the heir might have aliened it either in his life-time or by will. Whether the author of the trust was legally empowered to prohibit the second takers from aliening, and to direct the property to their descendants from generation to generation, does not distinctly appear. If fidei-commissa tending to a perpetuity (in perpetuum concepta) were at any period legal, they were afterwards restrained by a constitution of Justinian; which, as construed by high authority, opened the entail at the death of the fiduciary heir, and vested the property absolutely in the person or persons, who, by the will of the original testator, became entitled to succeed to it on the happening of that event. [*]

All that relates to these fidei-commissa familiæ, in the ample treatise of Heineccius on the Roman law, according to the Pandects, is contained in a single note; []and Gibbon, whose chapter on the Roman jurisprudence is written with singular care, scarcely adverts to their existence. Hence we incline to differ from the Reviewer, and to believe that they were of rare occurrence. From all that we have collected, we also incline to think, that these entails by way of trust, instead of carrying the entailed property through four generations, as he imagines, were confined within the same limits which are now set by the English Law to restraints upon alienation. []

By a misapplication of the Roman law term “substitution” (a misapplication frequent with the modern civilians), the entails which we have just described were introduced into France, under the name of Trust Substitutions; Substitutions Fidei-commissaires: “a feudal idea,” says Gibbon, “grafted on the Roman [541] jurisprudence.” Employing henceforth the word “substitution” as synonymous with the word “entail,” we may observe, that the creator of the French substitution (like the creator of the English estate tail) was empowered to tie up the property from alienation, to an extent that was altogether indefinite. Giving the property to the instituted heir for his life only, he might mark out a line of heirs (generally lineal male descendants of the instituted heir or of himself) through which the property should devolve, on the death of the instituted heir, till the line became extinct. Like the Roman fiduciarius in the entail by way of trust, the instituted heir, with each of the heirs who followed, was entitled to enjoy during his own life, but stood charged in trust (grevé de substitution) to transmit the property to the person who might be entitled to succeed to him by the gift or will of the founder. By an ordonnance issued from Orleans in 1560 (for which France, if we mistake not, was indebted to the illustrious Chancellor De L’Hôpital), substitutions were thenceforth restrained to the third degree, counting from the author of the trust: that is (if we seize its purport correctly), the property after passing from the instituted heir, through the hands of the heir who was substituted to him, was to vest in the next, by force of the ordonnance, freed from all restraints on alienation. [*]

By a law passed in October 1792, substitutions in any degree were prohibited. By the authors of the Napoleon Code, they were in some measure permitted, though the name, with strange fastidiousness, was peremptorily suppressed.

By donation or will, a father or mother may give the disposable portion of his or her property, wholly or in part, to one or more of his or her children, in such manner, that it shall be secured to the children, born or to be born, of the immediate donees. The power, however, is severely restricted in every direction. For, first, it is only the disposable portion of his property (a half, third, or fourth) that the parent can direct to any of his grand-children. The legitimate portion vests absolutely in the children by virtue of the law which reserves it, and may not be tied up from alienation (frappée de substitution) by any disposition of the parent. Secondly: Though the parent may give the disposable portion to a single child for life, in trust to make it over to his children, born or to be born, the gift is void, unless the donee for life (who is said to be grevé de [542] restitution) be bound to make it over to all his children, in equal shares. Thirdly: At the death of the donee for life, the property vests absolutely in his children; or if any of them be then dead leaving children, the share of any such pre-deceased child goes to his children then living, absolutely and in equal shares.

The law reserves to the ancestors of a proprietor who dies without children, a legitimate portion of his property: a half, if there be then living one or more ancestors in each of the lines paternal and maternal; a fourth, if there be then living one or more ancestors in one of the lines only. Whether the whole, three fourths, or the half of the property be left to the disposition of the proprietor, consequently depends on the several events of his dying without ancestors then living, or of his leaving ancestors in one or both of the lines. By donation or will, a brother or sister dying without children, may give the whole or the disposable portion of his or her property, wholly or in part, to one or more of his or her brothers or sisters, in such manner that it shall be secured to the children, born or to be born, of the immediate donees. The restrictions laid on these substitutions are precisely the same as those which are imposed upon substitutions permitted to parents.

Excepting certain dispositions by which property may be attached to titles of nobility, the substitutions permitted to parents (through children) in favour of grandchildren, and to brothers and sisters (through brothers or sisters) in favour of nephews or nieces, are the only dispositions, as we believe, by which the immediate taker of the gift may be restrained from alienation: certainly they are the only dispositions by which property may be tied up for a life in being, and directed, at the extinction of that life, to a person not in being when the disposition begins to operate. [*]Considering how few persons die without leaving descendants or ascendants, how small must generally be the amount of the disposable portion, and how many are the chances that even this small portion will be minutely subdivided at the expiration of the life interest—it is clear that this limited power of entailing will seldom enable a proprietor to direct the mass of his property through a single generation; and that in these rare instances, it will hardly reach a second generation, without falling immediately to pieces.

By the law of England, as now settled, property may be rendered unalienable during a life or lives in being, and for the further period of twenty-one years, and a few months more.


Not being limited by reserves to children or ancestors, nor restricted by any such provisions as those which we have just described, this power of entailing affords large facilities to the pernicious practice of making or preserving a family. A testator, for instance, may leave the bulk of his property to his eldest son for life, and secure it to his eldest male descendant living at the death of the son. If a son of the eldest son be living at the death of the testator, the bulk of his property may be directed, through his eldest son and the eldest son of that son, to his eldest male descendant living at the death of the survivor. Not to perplex our readers with this or with more complicated cases, we will insist, for an instant, on the first and simpler case. In that case, the younger children of the testator are cut off with pittances, that the bulk of his property may pass to his eldest son; the younger children of the eldest son are confined to pittances out of the settled property, that the bulk of it may be transmitted to the eldest male descendant; and thus two generations of younger children are excluded from the paternal estate, that the name of the testator may receive or retain the illustration which is derived from large possessions. Nor does the evil stop here. If the descendant who acquires the absolute dominion of the property, be imbued with the aristocratical prejudices which prompted the original settlement, he bequeaths the settled property by his own will to the same purposes: though more generally, perhaps, it is settled anew in the following manner. The person who would take the dominion of the property on the death of the surviving tenant for life (suppose them son and father) concurs with the latter in loosening the existing fetters, and in resettling the bulk of it in such a manner, that it will probably travel to some descendant of the son, as it travelled to himself from the founder of the first settlement. And thus, by a chain of wills or deeds or both, property may be transmitted in large masses through many generations of elder sons, to the exclusion of as many generations of younger brothers or sisters.

With the exception, perhaps, of a case or two which we shall point out as we proceed, we are very decidedly of opinion, that all such dispositions in favour of mere private persons, as affect to restrain the immediate taker of the gift from dealing with it at pleasure, ought to be peremptorily prohibited. Before we insist on the advantages which, in our opinion, would arise from prohibiting restrictions on alienation, we will pass in review the few cases, in which they might be applied to some better purpose than the creation or preservation of a family.

It may be said, that they afford protection to infants; to [544] married women; to the children of the immediate donee; and that they save the madman or the prodigal from the consequences of his madness or prodigality.

The infant, as such, being protected by the law of infancy, needs not the protection of any domestic legislator. The absolute dominion of the property may, therefore, be safely imparted, though it happen that the donee is an infant.—The same observation applies to the insane. So long as his disease continues, he is under the protection of a general law; and the subject of the gift is transmitted in safety to his descendants or other successors.—It is expedient that married women should be capable of enjoying property apart from their husbands; and the rules of the English Common Law in this respect are every way worthy of the savage and stupid ages in which that chaos arose. There is, however, no reason why a married woman should be restrained from alienation. If dispositions of her property were wrung from her by the violence of her husband, they would, of course, be invalid. That any disposition of the principal was the deliberate act of her judgment and will, might easily be ascertained by a previous examination by the judge.—The consequences of prodigality to the prodigal himself, afford no good reason for the permission of restricted gifts. There is no reason why the father of a dissipated son should not be reduced to the alternative of giving him nothing, or of placing what he gives at his absolute disposition. The prodigality of the son will naturally limit the bounty of the father; and this evil consequence of his past imprudence, will as naturally stay the son in his ruinous course. If he pause not at so serious a rebuke, he is altogether incurable and worthless: fit only to serve as an example to others of the poverty and misery which follow at the heels of extravagance.—With regard to his wife or to such of his children as are born in the testator’s life-time, the case is equally clear. It is in the power of the testator to leave to the prodigal a small portion of his property, and to give the residue directly to the wife or children.—The case of unborn children presents some difficulty; and it was the supposed expediency of enabling parents, brothers, or sisters, to provide for the unborn children of an imprudent relation, that mainly determined the authors of the Napoleon Code to permit the substitutions which we have described. [*]The case, however, might be [545] provided for, without much infringing upon the principle for which we contend. Some small share of the property which the parent leaves at his decease, he might be permitted to settle on any of his children and their descendants, subject to the restraints imposed on the substitution, which is permitted to parents by the French Code.

And here we must take leave of this part of our subject. The several positions, which we have just advanced, cannot be maintained in a detailed manner within the narrow space which is allotted to us. We have submitted the points which call for consideration to the eye of the reader, who will easily supply by his own reflections the reasons which we are constrained to omit. Questions of this kind are most important and interesting; but, when not perplexed by abrupt technical language, are amongst the easiest that can be submitted to the human understanding.

For the same reason, we must confine ourselves, for the most part, to simply pointing at the evils which, in our opinion, would be suppressed by prohibiting restrictions on alienation. 1. The person, who takes the limited interest, is debarred from employing the property in commerce (in the largest sense of the word), and from improving it to his own advantage and that of his family. 2. By these restrictions the improvement of agriculture is retarded. Men of wealth, intelligence, and of an independent spirit, will not consent to accept of limited and precarious interests; and if the deed or will empowered the tenant for life to make long leases, it would virtually empower him to alien. 3. Not feeling that interest in its improvement which is inspired by absolute dominion, the tenant for life often neglects the property, and sometimes impairs it as far as he can, that he may wreak his spleen on his immediate successor. The shocking spectacle of a father tenant for life, [546] enjoined from wasting the property, at the instance of his son in remainder, has more than once been exhibited in English courts of equity. And this naturally suggests the more general consideration which follows. 4. If a legitimate portion of the parent’s property ought not to be reserved to the children, the power of disposing, by will or otherwise, ought not to be abridged or taken away by the fiat of a domestic legislator. The donor or testator is not constrained to select an unworthy successor; and if the immediate successor be endowed, in the ordinary degree, with prudence and other virtues, he ought not to be deprived of that absolute power over the property, and of that consequent influence with his family, which were enjoyed by the author of the settlement. That the rights enjoyed by one generation should be withheld from the next, is, in our opinion, monstrous. Very generally speaking, the men and women of every succeeding generation are every way wiser and better than any of their predecessors. The silly or designing cant, which one sometimes hears, about the wisdom and virtue of ancestors, and the folly and corruption of our own times, is belied by all the evidence which discloses the character of our forefathers. It is impossible to establish this proposition without a large induction from minute particulars; but whoever has looked, to any useful purpose, into any of the memoirs which have been transmitted from the last century, or into the works of imagination which depict the manners of the period, [*]will assent to it on the simple statement. The truth is, that the imposition of these restraints is rarely or never prompted by any rational regard for the safety and happiness of posterity. They are either suggested by a wish of domineering from the grave, or by the desire of making or preserving a family: Generally, by the last. []And this conducts us to the greatest of all the evils which arise from the practice of entailing.

If not abridged by some such provisions as those which we have cited from the French civil code, the power of entailing perpetuates the custom of primogeniture; and with that custom, aristocratical ascendancy and aristocratical misgovernment. In spite of the limit, as to mere duration, which has been set by [547] the English law, for ages past, to restrictions upon alienation, property in large masses is transmitted from generation to generation almost as certainly as ever. The limit which was set to the course of the French substitutions, so long back as the middle of the sixteenth century, was equally ineffectual. So soon as or before they expired they were very generally renewed. [*]And the reason is obvious enough. The poorer and punier members of the aristocratical body, aped the practices of their superiors; and were bent on tying their properties to their family names, though they thereby consigned the younger branches to abject and hopeless poverty. []The wealthier and powerful members of the body were less irrational. Though determined by family pride to exclude their younger children from their own property, they turned their “great natural influence” to the obvious and inviting end of providing for these excluded children at the cost of the suffering people. As their own estates were entailed on their elder sons, so was the public purse entailed on their younger children. That receptacles might be ready for the spawn of the nobles, costly establishments were raised and kept a-foot by taxes wrung from the commonalty: and that this provision might be further extended and secured, men of ignoble birth were very generally excluded from all such places in the public service as gave honour or profit to the holders. []We deeply lament that the Grand and Necessary Reform was not accomplished with greater discrimination and forbearance, but no reasonable man can wonder that a nation thus pillaged [548] and insulted was provoked to break its chains on the heads of its hateful oppressors.

To inquire how this matter would probably stand in a country which was virtually represented, were to enter upon a difficult and a “delicate investigation.” Since there are no decisive facts upon which an opinion can be formed, we must be satisfied with throwing out a few vague conjectures, the creatures, perhaps, of imagination, rather than of reason and experience. We incline, then, to surmise, that so far as regarded the constitution of her legislature, her aristocracy would be thoroughly despotic: but, then, we think it likely that an irrepressible, though irregular, publicity would be given, through the newspapers, to most of its proceedings. By the judge-made law of libel, which would probably obtain in such a country, any censure, merited or unmerited, upon any body or any thing, would, strictly speaking, be criminal: and so often as it was thought discreet to apply this handy instrument, censure upon the ruling few would be visited with appalling punishment. Practically, however, much latitude would be permitted to the publication of opinions through the press. This publicity, thus surreptitiously given to the proceedings of the legislature, and this freedom of discussion, though precariously enjoyed, would be followed by important consequences. The insolence and rapacity of the ruling few would be kept in constant check; and as compared with that of Old France, the government would be good. These checks, however, are very insufficient securities against the abuse of aristocratical power: and to maintain the custom of primogeniture amongst the governing class, the people would be taxed and pillaged with little moderation, though, certainly, with much of decorum. Offices, which had survived the ends for which they were created, would be kept alive at the public charge, because the emoluments of such useless offices would yield a convenient provision for the younger children of the aristocracy. Colonies useless to the mother country would be retained at an enormous cost, that governments and other appointments might be ready for the same interesting class. Occasionally, a promising young man of a powerful family would be sent, with an extravagant salary, to improve his diplomatic talents as resident at some petty court. The army would be many times larger than the wants of the community required; since military commissions are something of a provision for such younger sons as hang rather heavy on hand. Fresh commissions would be sometimes granted to the like useful persons, though the half-pay list were groaning with the names of experienced officers. An officer’s advance [549] through the grades of the army or navy would be slightly accelerated or retarded by connexion or want of connexion with members of the “influential” class. To maintain a church hateful to the huge majority, the tithe-tax would be inexorably levied on the inhabitants of a sister country: though with a reverent regard to the “sacred” character of the impost, we presume they would be taxed for the good of their souls, and not to any carnal and sinister end. That the rich livings would be in the gift of certain predominant families; that they would yield a snug provision to the younger members of these families; and that the church and the tax would be perpetuated that this provision might be prolonged, are manifestly wild and vulgar conceits begotten by “infidelity” on a diseased imagination. In spite, however, of our anxiety to extenuate the vices of this system, we must pretty generally conclude that the community would be smartly ransacked for the benefit of the domineering body. So confidently would they look to the taxes as a resource for their younger children, that an instance might possibly happen of a great man leaving to his younger sons a provision out of his own estate, subject to determine so soon as they should be endowed with places or other appointments. But we have wandered too long in this imaginary region; and we will now examine the consequences of suppressing restraints on alienation in a country which was really represented. To imagine they would ever be prohibited by virtual representatives, were a fancy, if possible, more strange and far-fetched than the wild and vulgar conceits which we have thought it necessary to reprehend.

After the expiration of one entail, the property, as we have seen, is probably settled anew by the person who happens to acquire the absolute power of disposition. More generally still, an existing entail is not permitted to run its allotted course, but is destroyed by the tenant for life, in concurrence with the person in remainder, and the property is instantly resettled. In fact, the estates of powerful families are rarely free, for any considerable period, from the fetters of strict settlement. The chances of their being reduced by alienation are, therefore, extremely small.

If these restrictions were peremptorily prohibited, large properties, even in ill-governed countries, would seldom be transmitted entire through many generations of proprietors. One proprietor would dissipate or impair the property, that he might satisfy a taste for expense. Another would be inclined to divide it for the rational and humane purpose of dealing equally with his children. And as these and other inducements to alienation [550] would always be backed by the instant power of aliening, a large fortune would rarely or never be transmitted to any very distant descendant of the person who had originally acquired it. Nor is this the only consideration. The probability that his fortune would be speedily dissipated or divided, would force itself upon the attention of every testator. He would see that the bulk of his property, let him do what he might, could not be kept long in conjunction with his family name. The temptation to heap it on the head of a single child, would be reduced to little or nothing: and room would be made in his mind for those sentiments of even-handed justice, which dictate the testamentary dispositions of men of the middling class.

In a country protected from pillage by a body of real representatives, a peremptory prohibition of entails would at once, and for ever extinguish the pernicious custom of primogeniture. In such a country (as we must clearly discern by merely opening our eyes upon the United States of America) public establishments would be severely adjusted to the real wants of the community; and places in these reasonable establishments would be filled with little or no regard to the family connexions of the candidates. Romantic as it must doubtless appear to a rapacious and sordid oligarchy, a place in that country is actually given to one man rather than another, not because the place is convenient to the candidate or his connexions, but because he is deemed more competent than his rivals to perform the duties of the place. [*]In a country, therefore, which was really represented, there would be no likely means of putting off a family upon the public: but every man would be reduced to the alternative of providing for his younger children out of his own estate, or of leaving them without provision. This consideration, coupled with the others which we have suggested, would infallibly determine the dispositions of almost every testator. Every parent would bequeath his property with a view to equality amongst his children; and by this simple prohibition of restraints on alienation, properties would be reduced, in the course of a single generation, to those moderate dimensions which comport with the general happiness,

It follows from what we have established, that the French Reformers made a great mistake, when they abridged the power of willing as it relates to the selection of successors. In trying to prevent the resurrection of the old aristocratical power they [551] did wisely and well. The existence of such a power would have been dangerous in the extreme to the stability of a representative government. It was their imperious duty to abate that insufferable nuisance. With such wealth and influence in their hands, the few would have laboured by force or fraud to resume the power of oppressing, and in some unhappy moment of despondency and supineness, the many would have fought with unequal arms to repel the approaching oppression. [*]


The end, however, would have been surely accomplished by the mild expedient of suppressing substitutions. Is it said that this process is less rapid than the other, and that it was necessary to provide against instant danger? The answer is obvious and conclusive. Peril so urgent could not have been averted by compelling the large proprietors, at their deaths, to divide their properties amongst their children. At such a crisis, the obstinate and malignant enemies of the general happiness (if it be possible to resist them at all) must be smitten with the sword of justice, or encountered in the field of battle. Nothing can be alleged for reserves in favour of children, considered as a security against aristocratical oppression. As against an instant and pressing danger, they were ineffectual; and distant danger would have been completely obviated by merely suppressing substitutions.

The temptation to make an eldest son being once removed, abuses of the power of willing would rarely, we think, occur: and we are deeply convinced, that any attempt to restrain the proprietor from selecting the successors to his property must be followed by serious evils. Having attentively considered the articles of the French code, which reserve legitimate portions, and the provisions which it was necessary to introduce as consequences of those articles, we are satisfied we could make out a case, which would lead the reader to regard them with something approaching to abhorrence. Attempts on the part of fathers and mothers to defraud all their children in favour of strangers, or to defraud some of their children in favour of others—consequent suspicion and discord between the members of a family—a partial destruction of paternal and maternal authority—gross inequality in the conditions of the children, for want of the equalizing hand of a parent, master of his property; these and many evils more, which our limits forbid us to suggest, must often, we think, be consequences of reserving these legitimate portions. That wills would rarely be unjust were the practice of making an eldest son once discontinued, is a proposition which we are equally unable to maintain in a detailed manner. Our limits will simply permit us to suggest a few questions, which may serve the reader as occasions for reflection. How many unjust wills made by men of the middling class, have occurred to his observation? In how many instances has the injustice been done to children in favour [553] of strangers? If the instances of unjust wills appear to be many, is it not in reality because they were few, and that they excited for that reason unusual attention and indignation? Will not the fear of incurring this indignation naturally restrain the testator from flagrant injustice? Is not the act of making a will that act of a man’s life, which (generally speaking) he performs with the most deliberation? And is he not, by consequence, unusually alive to all those considerations and motives which determine men to do justly with the greatest force?

In fine, our opinion of this matter may be briefly and generally summed up thus: We think that every person of mature age and sound mind should be left to dispose of his property at his own discretion, subject only to the simple and not severe condition of imparting the same absolute dominion to the object or objects of his bounty.




[5.] Art. VIII.— (Robert Southey’s Book of the Church)

The Book of the Church. By Robert Southey, Esq. LL.D. Poet Laureate. 2vols. 8vo. Murray, London.

Strictures on the Poet Laureate’s Book of the Church. By John Merlin.

The Book of the Roman Catholic Church: In a Series of Letters, addressed to Robert Southey, Esq. LL.D. on his Book of the Church. By Charles Butler, Esq.

MISLED by the name, we originally intended to place Mr. Bentham’s Book of the Church, side by side with Dr. Southey’s Book of the Church; that readers might have the “bane and antidote both before them.” This idea was necessarily renounced as soon as we had read the volumes before us. What they furnish is not a Book of the Church, in any respectful sense of the word. It is an old woman’s story-book; containing tales about the changes of religion, and the lives of the workers of wonders, in Great Britain, from the time of the people who set up rocking stones, and venerated the misletoe, [168] to the time of those who sent our legitimate sovereign to count his beads at Rome.

In the quality of matron of the nursery-telling stories to children, [*]we might not have great fault to find with this author. In fact we should not have deemed his faults worth noticing. But his book is so contrived, as to appear what it is not. It has put on the mask of history, and it is desirable that this should be torn off. It is the duty of an historian, as it is that of a judge, to state the evidence with equal care, with equal fulness, and equal accuracy, on both sides. Mr. Southey’s practice brought vividly to our recollection the following anecdote, related by Mr. Wakefield. “In the lamented year 1798, a judge was notorious for his severity to all the prisoners who were tried, and for his gross partiality. One unfortunate wretch, brought before him, had met with some accident, in consequence of which his jaw bone, on one side, had become much enlarged. The judge, ambitious of sporting his wit, could not omit this opportunity, and remarked to the prisoner’s counsel, that his client would have made an excellent lawyer, as he had so much jaw. I do not know, replied the facetious barrister, whether he would have made a good lawyer, but I am sure he would have made a bad judge, for his jaw is all on one side.” []

There are indications that the Church, as often happens to elderly persons, is falling into her dotage. Among these symptoms, one of not the least remarkable is this Book of hers, from the pen of one who proves himself her son, by so many decisive marks of consanguinity. It is a poor imitation of a stale trick of the Romish church. Nothing is more notorious than her books of the lives of her saints, or the use she makes of them. Robert Southey’s is a book of the lives of the saints of the English church, and he desires to derive from it a similar advantage.

The Romanists collect tales of the pieties, and the sufferings, and the doings, of numbers of individuals. Then comes the application, how admirable the church which has produced such admirable men, and on account of which such admirable men have undergone actively and passively—the things which are set forth. On all such persons as can feel, but cannot reason—a large class—this is expected to produce a great effect. In less enlightened ages, in the hands of the Romish priests, [169] it did produce extraordinary effects. Mr. Southey imagines, that even in the present age it may produce some effect; especially upon “children;” for whose use, and that of another class, namely those who are already prepossessed with opinions favourable to the trick, he gives plain intimation that it is principally intended. Our story-teller prefaceth in following wise:

‘Manifold as are the blessings for which Englishmen are beholden to the institutions of their country; there is no part of those institutions from which they derive more important advantages than from its Church Establishment, none by which the temporal condition of all ranks has been so materially improved. So many of our countrymen would not be ungrateful for these benefits, if they knew how numerous and how great they are, how dearly they were prized by our forefathers, and at how dear a price they were purchased for our inheritance; by what religious exertions, what heroic devotion, what precious lives, consumed in pious labours, wasted away in dungeons, or offered up amid the flames. This is a knowledge which, if early inculcated, might arm the young heart against the pestilent errors of these distempered times. I offer, therefore, to those who regard with love and reverence the religion which they have received from their fathers, a brief but comprehensive record, diligently, faithfully, and conscientiously composed, which they may put into the hands of their children. Herein it will be seen from what heathenish delusions and inhuman rites the inhabitants of this island have been delivered by the Christian faith; in what manner the best interests of the country were advanced by the clergy even during the darkest ages of papal domination; the errors and crimes of the Romish Church, and how, when its corruptions were at the worst, the day-break of the Reformation appeared among us: the progress of that Reformation through evil and through good; the establishment of a Church, pure in its doctrines, irreproachable in its order, beautiful in its, forms; and the conduct of that Church proved both in adverse and in prosperous times, alike faithful to its principles when it adhered to the monarchy during a successful rebellion, and when it opposed the monarch who would have brought back the Romish superstition, and together with the religion, would have overthrown the liberties, of England.’

This deserves a commentary, because it contains the substance of the whole book, and exhibits a fair specimen of the spirit in which it has been composed.

The argument is worth observing: put into regular form it stands thus:

Every church which can enumerate votaries who have suffered and lived in such a manner as to excite applause, is an excellent church:

Church of England can exhibit such votaries; witness the contents of the present pages:

Ergo, church of England is excellent church.


What strikes one, first, in this reasoning, is the exquisite folly of it. When one comes to one’s second thought, it occurs that Mr. Southey may have had his reasons.

It is not what arguments are good, but what arguments will answer his purpose, that sometimes is the main look out of an author. In this point of view, the reasoning of Mr. Southey may not be the worse for its being absurd. The dignitaries of the church, we understand, are active in circulating his production; in hopes no doubt that the same sort of advantage which the Romanists have derived to their church from stories of its saints, may redound through a similar channel to theirs.

To return to the sapient inference, the grand proposition of this book, that a church is excellent, if it has had men that would suffer for it—let us ask, if there ever was a church without such men? The fact is proverbial.

Of whatsoe’er descent their godhead be,
Stock, stone, or other homely pedigree,
In his defence his servants are as bold
As if he had been born of beaten gold.

The motives are no mystery at this time of day, which mounted Simeon Stilites on his pillar, which lay the Indian Yogee on a bed of spikes, which made, but a few years ago, the convulsionaries in Paris submit to the pains of the cross, which supported Servetus, as well as Cranmer, at the stake. When credit is to be gained by suffering, when was there a want of parties to suffer? Suffering, in favour of almost every cause, gains it credit, and excites admiration of him by whom it is voluntarily undergone. If this is a proof of a good cause no cause was ever so bad as to be without it. Thus Mr. S. himself:

‘It was deemed meritorious to disfigure the body by neglect and filth, to extenuate it by fasting and watchfulness, to lacerate it with stripes, and to fret the wounds with cilices of horsehair. Linen was proscribed among the monastic orders; and the use of the warm bath, which, being not less conducive to health than to cleanliness, had become general in all the Roman provinces, ceased throughout Christendom, because, according to the morality of the monastic school, cleanliness itself was a luxury, and to procure it by pleasurable means, was a positive sin. The fanatics in Europe did not, indeed, like their predecessors in Syria and Egypt, cast off all clothing, and, by going on all-fours, reduce themselves to a likeness with beasts, as far as self-degradation could effect it, in form and appearance, as well as in their manner of life; but they devised other means of debasing themselves, almost as effectual. There were some saints, who never washed themselves, and made it a point of conscience never to disturb the vermin, who were the proper accompaniments of such sanctity; in as far as they occasioned pain while burrowing, or at pasture, they were increasing the stock of [171] the aspirant’s merits, that treasure which he was desirous of laying up in heaven; and he thought it unjust to deprive his little progeny of their present Paradise, seeing they had no other to expect! The act of eating they made an exercise of penance, by mingling whatever was most nauseous with their food; and it would literally sicken the reader, were the victories here to be related which they achieved over the reluctant stomach, and which, with other details of sanctimonious nastiness, are recorded in innumerable Roman Catholic books, for edification and example! They bound chains round the body which eat into the flesh; or fastened graters upon the breast and back; or girded themselves with bandages of bristles intermixed with points of wire. Cases of horrid self-mutilation were sometimes discovered; and many perished by a painful and lingering suicide, believing that, in the torments which they inflicted upon themselves, they were offering an acceptable sacrifice to their Creator. Some became famous for the number of their daily genuflections; others for immersing themselves to the neck in cold water during winter, while they recited the Psalter. The English saint, Simon Stock, obtained his name and his saintship for passing many years in a hollow tree. St. Dominic, [*]the Cuirassier, was distinguished for his iron dress, and for flogging himself, with a scourge in each hand, day and night; and the blessed Arnulph, of Villars, in Brabant, immortalized himself by inventing, for his own use, an under-waistcoat of hedgehog-skins, of which it appears five were required for the back, six for the front and sides.

The strength of the will was manifested in these aberrations of reason, as prodigiously as strength of body is sometimes displayed in madness; nor can it be doubted, that these fanatics, amid their pain, derived pleasure as well from the pride of voluntary endurance, as from the anticipation of their reward in heaven. The extremes of humiliation and debasement produced also a pride and self-sufficiency not less extravagant in their kind. They, whose austerities were the most excessive, were regarded by the people as living saints, and exhibited as such by other members of the community, who had the same belief, but not the same fervour; or who, not having the same sincerity, considered only in what manner the madness of their fellows might be turned to advantage.’

Southey is perfectly right. The “pride of voluntary endurance” does afford a “pleasure;” and, under circumstances of excitement, so great a pleasure, as overbalances all the terrors of bodily torture, and of death itself. Of so vulgar a fact in the history of human nature, having also the powerful testimony of Dr. Southey in its favour, we need not consume our limited space by offering any illustration. The desirable thing would [172] be, to shew, on what frivolous occasions the phenomenon, in its most perfect state, is apt to exhibit itself.

But the martyrs of the Church of England were not merely sufferers; they were more; they were, in one word, which imports all excellence, saints.

The martyrs of all churches are saints. Saintship hardly ever means any thing else, than a wonderful attention to the ceremonials of religion, with a superiority to the pleasures of sense. The same turn of mind which renders a man superior to the pains of the body, and makes him brave torment, is likely to make him a model of abstinence, where abstinence as well as suffering is a source of admiration. The very worst orders of the Romish Church, those by which the abuses of religion were carried to the greatest height, had shining characters to obtain credit by. We adduce again the evidence of Dr. Southey. Of the mendicant orders he says,

‘The influence which these orders obtained was, for a time, prodigious; it was produced partly by the pure enthusiasm of the virtuous members—partly by the reputation of others (for they could boast some of the subtlest and profoundest intellects that the world has ever seen)—and partly by the implicit belief with which their enormous fables were received. Elated by success, and, as it seems, secretly conscious how little the system which they taught resembled the religion of the Apostles, they conceived a plan for superseding the Gospel; and this was so congenial to the temper of both orders, that it is doubtful whether it proceeded from a Dominican or Franciscan. The opinion which they started was, that as there were three Persons in one Godhead, the scheme of Providence was, that there should be three dispensations, one from each Person. That of the Father had terminated when the Law was abolished by the Gospel; that of the Son was now drawing, in like manner, to its close, and was to be superseded by that of the Holy Spirit. The uses of the Gospel, therefore, were obsolete; and in its place they produced a book, in the name of the Holy Ghost, under the title of the Eternal Gospel. The first dispensation had been for married persons; this had prepared the way for the clergy in the second; the regulars, being as much purer than the clergy, as these were than the Jews and Patriarchs, were, under the third, to become rulers of the Church, with greater authority than had ever been granted to the Apostles. Under the first, men had lived after the flesh; under the second, in a mixed state between the flesh and the spirit; in the third, they would live wholly according to the spirit, and the scheme of Providence would be fulfilled. In this, however, they went too far: the minds of men were not yet subdued to this. The Eternal Gospel was condemned by the Church; and the Mendicants were fain to content themselves with disfiguring the religion which they were not allowed to set aside.’

If the Church of England, then, ever so much abounded in martyrdom and saintship, it would be to none, but to people of [173] the weakest intellects, the smallest proof of any excellence belonging to it; but the fact is, that the Church of England is remarkably ill-supplied with such ornaments. For one martyr that the Church of England can produce, the Church of Rome can produce thousands.

In respect to saints, her decorations are still more deficient. In fact it is one of the most remarkable things about the Church of England that she has produced so few men eminent for any thing, even for the priestly virtues, leaving altogether out of the question those moral and intellectual qualities, by which the interests of the species are promoted. What men has she to compare in all the apostolical virtues with a Wesley, or a Whitfield? Whom has she to produce that can be named along with Fenelon, for the virtues of humility, meekness, benevolence, and self denial, combined with the most sublime genius? Whom has she to compare with Bossuet and Massillon for eloquence? With Pascal, for almost every gift? [*]This book, in fact, is the strongest of all proofs of the beggarly state of the Church of England, in respect to men of eminence, when it is obliged to chuse for the most distinguished ornament of that church, such a man as Laud; who pursued none but the most vulgar objects, and by none but the most vulgar means; who had nothing in his composition but what was mean; a flatterer and intriguer; a backbiter and slanderer; deceitful, envious, jealous, cruel; a man who ranked low even in the vulgar walks of literature; whose understanding was at once contracted, and perverted; who had a mind formed for little objects which he pursued, and with the fury of a little mind, as great ones; [174] scrupulous in the small moralities, while he made a sacrifice of the greatest; a man with whom the interests of his own order were every thing; the interests of the rest of mankind nothing.

But we must not anticipate. Laud will meet us again. He is Southey’s hero; and we shall have occasion to examine, pretty fully, of what lignum his Mercury is made.

We shall not think it necessary to pay much attention to Southey in the early part of his work. It is merely the vulgar view of the ecclesiastical affairs of England, down to the commencement of Non-conformity; and if it can do no good, it will do little harm. We have long lives of St. Dunstan, and St. Becket, full of stories, intended to be entertaining (“to children”) of which the following may be taken as a sample.

‘The Anglo-Saxon monasteries had never been under any uniform discipline; each followed its own rule, independent of all others. Glastonbury at this time was mostly filled with monks from Ireland; it was favourite ground with them for St. Patrick’s sake, and as they had no large endowments, they contributed to their own support by educating the children of the nobles. Dunstan was one of their pupils. In such a school local associations would produce and foster ardent enthusiasm, or audacious craft, according to the disposition of the individual. A feeble body and a commanding intellect predisposed him for both in turn. He was of diminutive size from his birth, and by severe application to study brought on a disease, in which, after having been delirious for many days, he was thought to be at the point of death. But feeling at night a sudden excitement as if health were restored, he rose from his bed, and ran towards the church to return thanks for his recovery. The doors were closed, but he found a ladder left there by workmen, who had been repairing the roof; by this he ascended, and in the morning was found asleep in the church, unconscious how he had come there. They who larded the history of his life with miracles, assert, that as he was going there the devil beset him with a pack of fiendish dogs, and was driven away by his strenuous exertions; and that angels had borne him down where it was not possible for him to have descended without supernatural assistance. Divested of such machinery, the fact appears to be, that, in an access of delirium, or perhaps in his sleep, he had got into the church, by some perilous mode of descent, which he would not have attempted in his senses; he himself at the time might easily believe this to be miraculous, and from thenceforth he was regarded as a youth of whom something extraordinary was to be expected.’

Mr. Southey, however, occasionally quits the office of the story-teller, to assume that of the Theological Doctor in his chair. We must exhibit a little of him in that capacity.

‘Britain has the credit or discredit (whichever it may be deemed) of having given birth to Pelagius, the most remarkable man of whom Wales [175] can boast, and the most reasonable of all those men whom the ancient Church has branded with the note of heresy. He erred, indeed, in denying that there is an original taint in human nature—a radical infirmity—an innate and congenital disease—to the existence whereof the heart of every one, who dares look into his own, bears unwilling but unerring testimony; a perilous error this, and the less venial, because it implies a want of that humility which is the foundation of wisdom, as well as of Christian virtue. But he vindicated the goodness of God, by asserting the free-will of man; and he judged more sanely of the Creator than his triumphant antagonist, St. Augustine, who, retaining too much of the philosophy which he had learnt in the Manichean school, infected with it the whole Church during many centuries, and afterwards divided both the Protestant and the Catholic world. Augustine is too eminent a man to be named without respect; but of all those ambitious spirits, who have adulterated the pure doctrines of revelation with their own opinions, he, perhaps, is the one who has produced the widest and the most injurious effects.

Augustine was victorious in the controversy: his, indeed, was the commanding intellect of that age. The opinions of Pelagius were condemned, but it was not possible to suppress them; and the errors of both soon became so curiously blended, that it would be difficult to say which predominated in the preposterous consequences to which their union led. From the African theologue, more than from any other teacher, the notion of the absolute wickedness of human nature was derived; and the tenet of two hostile principles in man, which had led to such extravagancies among the Eastern Christians, was established in the Western Church. Through the British heresiarch, the more reasonable opinion, that the actions of good men were meritorious in themselves, obtained. Cassian, whose collations were the great fount of monastic legislation in Europe, held that modified scheme, which has been called the Semi-Pelagian. But with him, and with the monks, the opinion ceased to be reasonable: the extremes were made to meet; and the practical consequences, deduced from the monkish doctrine of merits, coalesced perfectly with the Manichean principle, which had now taken root in the corruptions of Christianity.’

What is done here by the author, is, to declare for the Arminian theory of Christianity against the Calvinistic. Not contented with determining that the one is true, the other false, which, upon the ipse dixit of Mr. Laureat Southey, might have been deemed sufficient; he goes on to condemn the Calvinistic or Augustinian doctrine, as productive of the most injurious effects.

By what warrant does he take upon himself to pronounce, that Calvinism leads to worse consequences than Arminianism? Does he produce any reason for his imputation? Not the shadow of a reason: nor can he. Does he not know—he does know—that those who hold the opinions corresponding, or most nearly corresponding with the Calvinistic, are distinguished, [176] and always have been, for an exact and scrupulous observance of the precepts of the Gospel, above all other denominations of Christians. Does this betoken evil tendency? How does Mr. Southey reconcile experience with his theory? Alas! it is one of the last of considerations with Mr. Southey to reconcile his dogmas either with reason or with experience. How he comes by them we shall not undertake to say. How he defends them he affords the public occasion enough to perceive.

One of not the least remarkable qualifications of Dr. Southey for writing the Book of the Church is, his gross ignorance of almost every topic of dispute which is included within the limits of the undertaking. He talks here, for example, of the Manichæan school, not only like a man who had now heard of it for the first time, but like a man who supposes it to be the very reverse of what it is. He describes it as bearing an affinity to the Augustinian or Calvinistic doctrine; whereas, the fact is, that the Calvinistic, of all the theories of Christianity, the most perfectly excludes Manichæism; while the Arminian doctrine is justly chargeable with being Manichæism at the bottom; and when analysed to its elements, with being strictly resolvable into that ancient and exploded heresy.

The Manichæans held, that God admitted the existence of evil, because, from the existence of some unknown, but uncontrollable cause, which they called the principle of evil, he was not able to prevent it. The Calvinists say, that all the evil which exists in the universe, was not only permitted, but ordained by God—ordained for certain good purposes, of which it is beyond our competence to judge. Can any two doctrines be more completely opposed to one another than these?

On the other hand, the Arminians say, that God, so far from ordaining, did not intend evil. But moral agents must be free agents, and being free they must be fallible—hence the origin of evil, not with, but contrary to, the will of God. In other words, God was unable to prevent it, owing to some unknown, but uncontrollable cause. And what is this, in reality, but the principle of evil of the Manichæans? So utterly incapable is Mr. Southey of treating of subjects of the utmost importance, on which he has assumed the title to decide.

In the following effusion of zeal against the Catholic church, the author is betrayed into sins against his own church:

‘The uses of conscience were at an end when it was delivered into the keeping of a confessor. Actions, then, instead of being tried by the eternal standard of right and wrong, on which the unsophisticated heart unerringly pronounces, were judged by the rules of a pernicious casuistry, [177] the intent of which was, to make men satisfied with themselves upon the cheapest terms. The inevitable effect was, that the fear of human laws became the only restraint upon evil propensities, when men were taught to believe that the account with Divine Justice might easily be settled.

If the boundless credulity of mankind be a mournful subject for consideration, as in truth it is, it is yet more mournful to observe the profligate wickedness with which that credulity has been abused. The Church of Rome appears to have delighted in insulting, as well as in abusing it, and to have pleased itself with discovering how far it was possible to subdue and degrade the human intellect, as an eastern despot measures his own greatness by the servile prostration of his subjects.’

“An eternal standard of right and wrong—on which the unsophisticated heart unerringly pronounces;” If there is such a standard, so unerringly perceived, what becomes of the argument for the divinity of the New Testament, derived from the excellence, unattainable by human reason, of its morality?

“The fear of human laws became the only restraint upon evil propensities:” Human laws, then, are adequate, without religion, to the support of human society—contrary to the argument, in favour of religion—the famous argument of Warburton, for example, to prove the Divine Legation of Moses—that human society cannot subsist without the aid of the motives arising from the religious sanction. Southey’s ignorance and rashness make him a very dangerous advocate.

The “credulity of mankind” is, no doubt, as Southey represents it, one miracle; and the manner in which it “has been abused” another. But this is a delicate subject for a Church-of-Englandist to handle; and we advise the sound heads of that body to keep Mr. Southey’s pen away from it.

To set up the Church of England, for which purpose he wrote its Book, Mr. Southey imagined he had two things to do. The first was, to pull down the Church of Rome; the next was, to pull down the Dissenters. The first he essays in the early part of his work; to the last, the concluding part of his achievement is devoted. For his demerits, in respect to the Mother Church, we shall leave him to his Catholic critics, of whom we see that a sufficient number have taken up the pen; and as far as rashness, and ignorance, and groundless abuse, are concerned, have had no difficulty in making out a case against the panegyrist of England’s “excellent church.”

Merlin, which is the anagram of Milner, a well-known champion, is nearly as liberal in rough epithets as Mr. Southey himself. Mr. Butler is more gentle and urbane. He uses, indeed, such a superabundance of civilities towards a man who thinks that abuse makes up for the want of argument and [178] fact, that he probably had the scripture maxim in his eye—“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” [*]


The other part of Mr. Southey’s undertaking, namely, to traduce the cause of Dissent; to fix an odious character upon Non-conformity, in order to recommend the Established Church, has not yet been met as it deserves. Our object in [180] the remainder of this article is, to show to the friends of religious liberty, that they have here a very zealous, at least, if not a very formidable adversary.

In Southey’s mode of dealing with any party obnoxious to him, the first thing which presents itself for notice always is abusive language. The whole of the non-conformists, into whatever classes divided, and by whatever diversities distinguished, are clubbed by him under the appellation of Puritans, the cant name by which they were, in mockery, designated by their enemies at the time. Of this we do not complain. This has long ceased to be a term of reproach. The following are appellatives in Southey’s own style:

“The coarse and brutal spirit of triumphant puritanism”—(vol. ii. p. 403). “Their” [the Puritans] “own bloody intolerance”—(p.401). “The apostles of rebellion”—(p.398). “Another belwether of rebellion”—(p. 399). “The faction pursued their designs against the Church with all the unrelenting malice of inveterate and triumphant hatred”—(p. 396). “The gospel itself was perverted [by the Puritans] to encourage plunder, [181] persecution, and rebellion”—(p. 397). “Root and branch men,” they are denominated passim. The petitions against Episcopacy are “Effusions of Sectarian rancour and vulgar ignorance”—(p. 391). “Immediately, the London pulpits, and those in the larger provincial towns, where the Puritans had obtained a footing, were manned with preachers” [a neat phrase], “ministers, not of peace and Christian morality, but of hatred, violence, and rebellion”—(p. 388). “Whereever a few zealots led the way, a rabble was easily collected to hear them, part, for the love of mischief or the hope of plunder, the Sectarians suffering and encouraging these outrages, for the pleasure of insulting the loyal clergy, and showing their contempt and hatred of the church”—(p. 389). “They brought in a bill for the suppression of deans and chapters. The arguments for this spoliation were such as base and malicious minds address to the ignorant and the vulgar, when they seek to carry into effect, by means of popular clamour, a purpose of foul injustice”—(p. 382). We are amused with the epithet “foul.” We wonder what sort of injustice Mr. Southey would distinguish by the epithet clean. We should like to know wherein the two sorts, foul injustice, and clean injustice, in Mr. Southey’s idea, differ from one another. Probably it is all clean which is perpetrated in favour of the Church; all foul that is against it. But go on. “The aim of the ruling faction was destruction, not reformation”—(p. 381). “Sir Henry Vane and Hambden had the wisdom of the serpent in perfection”—(p. 378). “Laud had long seen the cloud gathering over the Church of England” [he was blind as a mole to the last]. “He knew also his own danger, from those who were possessed with the spirit of Sectarian rancour, and from an ignorant populace rendered ferocious by all the arts of faction”—(p. 367). “These factious people”—(passim). “The malignity of faction”—(passim). “The zealots of faction are neither capable of shame nor of remorse”—(p. 358). Southey is not a zealot of faction; he is only a zealot of the stronger party, which is never called a faction, so long as it is the stronger. “The rancorous and deadly hatred” [towards Laud] “of the factions who were now leagued against the state”—(p. 359). A capital passage is here quoted from a sermon of Laud, preached at the opening of Charles’ first parliament. “They, whoever they be, that would overturn Sedes Ecclesiæ, the seats of Ecclesiastical judgment, will not spare, if ever they get power, to have a pluck at the throne of David; and there is not a man that is for purity, all fellows in this church, but he is against monarchy in the state. And, [182] certainly, either he is but half-headed to his own principles, or he can be but half-hearted to the House of David”—(ibid.) The churchman who could so preach, and the historian who can so quote, are certainly fit for one another.

“They, whose determination it was to shake the throne and to subvert the altar” [the Puritans], practised, without scruple, any means whereby their danger might be promoted”—(p. 357). As a specimen of the Scottish clergy, he says, “A rabid preacher had even from the pulpit denounced against the king himself the curse which fell on Jeroboam”—(p. 315). “The turbulent nobles shared among themselves the spoils of the Church; and the fierce, uncompromising, high-minded, hardhearted zealots, by whom the storm was raised, encouraged the populace to demolish the abbeys and cathedrals”—(p. 372). “The Puritans, like all factious minorities” [the proper name for minorities], “endeavoured, by activity, to make amends for their want of numbers”—(p. 315); a conduct peculiarly factious.

Milner accuses Southey of writing, to pay his court to the Ecclesiastical powers. “He raves, through the history of many centuries, in abusing and calumniating the common source of Christianity, in order to court the heads of the present establishment, under pretence of vindicating it,” (p. 4.)—“It is worth while inquiring, whether the dignitaries, whose favour the poet courts, will echo back his applause of this forerunner [Lord Cobham] of the Anabaptists and Regicides,” (p. 26.) “If the writer might advise the Poetical Historian, for the purpose of effectually vindicating and securing the Church, he courts,” &c. (p. 85.)

The champion of the Church of Rome is as fond of imputing motives as the champion of the Church of England. It is our opinion, that we have little to do with motives. Actions and their tendencies, with the situations and dispositions which give them birth, are the objects of importance to the public; and what is not of importance to the public, is immaterial to us. One reflection, however, is unavoidably suggested, by the language just quoted of Mr. Southey; that such is not the style which flows naturally from the pure love of truth. If it is not assumed to answer a purpose, it follows, that the author is most unfortunate in his taste, or his disposition. If he assumes it in order thereby to pay court to the Church of England, he imputes to it a strange character. The dignitaries of “Our most excellent Church” (such is its cant name) are as wise as Mr. Southey; if they show the world that they are to be courted, by the use of abusive terms against those whom they dislike.


It is well known, that Maimbourg wrote, in addition to many other things (he, as well as Mr. Southey, was a voluminous author) a history of the Calvinists, the Non-conformists, or Puritans, as Mr. Southey would call them, of France. The celebrated Bayle, who was one of these non-conformists, and driven from his country by the atrocious persecution which they underwent, wrote a Critique upon this History, which is published in the general collection of his works. The terms which he employs, to sketch the character of Maimbourg’s History of the Puritans in France, so exactly describe the character of the History of the Puritans, presented by Dr. Southey, in his Church of England Book, that we were exceedingly struck with the resemblance; and think it will be interesting, as well as instructive to the public, to have its attention directed to it.

“Je me figure, (says Bayle, his Critique is in the form of letters addressed to a friend) que vous vous mettrez en colère tout-de-bon, en lisant cette histoire du Calvinisme; car j’ ai vû quantité de bons Huguenots, qui voyant l’ inhumanité avec laquelle M. Maimbourg nous mal-traite, battoient des pieds, et s’emportoient à des exclamations tragiques à tout moment. Pour moi, qui suis difficile à émouvoir, je n’ai point senti la moindre tentation de colère en lisant ce livre. Je l’ai lû d’un bout à l’autre avec un sang froid qui a peu d’examples, et si je sortois quelquefois de ce sang froid, c’étoit seulement ou pour avoir pitié, ou pour rire des emportemens de M. Maimbourg, que je me représentois si acharné sur le Calvinisme dans cette chambre à cheminée, qui avec une pension considerable a été, ou la recompense, ou l’acquisition de ses services, qu’il me sembloit que pour se mettre plus en colère, il s’étoit imaginé que sa plume étoit devenue l’epée de l’Ange Exterminateur.”

Mark the similarity of the accusations.

“Ils nous accusent en France d’avoir le cœur republicain. . . . . . . Ils nous dépeignoient comme des rébelles, qui fouloient aux pieds les ordres de Sa Majesté, qui elevoient des Synagogues de Satan sur le Patrimoine du Fils de Dieu, desquels par conséquent il falloit châtier les entreprises seditieuses. Vous ne verrez point de page dans l’Histoire du Calvinisme, où cet esprit ne soit répandu: si on en croit l’auteur, c’est être ennemi de l’état et de son roi, que de souffrir les hérétiques, et un roi qui les souffre, se rend coupable d’une negligence qui le perdra lui et son royaume.—Cette sorte d’ecrits sont fort goûtez à la Cour de France présentement; c’ést pourquoi le Père Maimbourg, dont la plume ést hypothéquée au roi par une grosse pension, n’avait garde de nous [184] épargner. Il savoit, avant que de commencer son histoire, qu’il nous falloit trouver coupables de mille séditions horribles. Plein de cet esprit il a feuilleté plusieurs volumes; il y a choisi certains faits qui lui ont paru favorables à ses fins; et sans se soucier beaucoup de l’ordre et de la véritable cause de ces faits, il leur a donné le commencement, le progrès, et le motif qui lui ont plu, de sorte qu’ il nous a rendus tout aussi criminels qu’il l’ a jugé à propos; et pour faire plus d’impression sur ses lecteurs, il s’ést chargé d’un grand nombre d’épithètes diffamatoires, et de descriptions violentes qu’il a répétées mille, et mille fois.”

The following reflections of Bayle on the mode of composing a history for a particular purpose, are highly instructive. “Il n’ést rien de plus aisé, quand on a beaucoup d’esprit, et beaucoup d’expérience dans la profession d’Auteur, que de faire une Histoire Satyrique, composée des mêmes faits qui ont servi à faire un Eloge. Deux lignes supprimées, ou pour, ou contre, dans l’exposition d’un fait, sont capables de faire paroître un homme, ou fort innocent, ou fort coupable; et comme par la seule transposition de quelques mots, on peut faire d’un discours fort saint, un discours impie; de même par la seule transposition de quelques circonstances, l’on peut faire de l’action du monde la plus criminelle, l’action la plus vertueuse. L’omission d’une circonstance, la supposition d’une autre, que l’on coule adroitement en cinq ou six mots, un je ne sai quel tour que l’on donne aux choses, changent entièrement la qualité des actions.—Si cela ést vrai à l’égard des historiens primitifs et contemporains, il n’ést pas moins vrai que ceux qui longtemps après compilent une Histoire de plusieurs Recueils, la font plus ou moins avantageuse, selon qu’il leur plaît de confondre adroitement l’ordre des actions, de passer sous silence certaines choses, d’en relever d’autres. En un mot il n’y a point de filouterie plus grande, que celle qui se peut exercer sur les monumens historiques, quand on a autant d’esprit et de routine que Monsieur Maimbourg, si bien qu’ ayant entrepris l’Histoire du Calvinisme uniquement afin de nous charger de la haine et de l’exécration publique, et de justifier, et fomenter le dessein qu’on a inspiré au roi de nous perdre, il ne faut pas s’étonner qu’il nous ait accommodez comme il a fait.”

Bayle quotes the following poignant expressions of the writers of Port-Royal, relative to the attack of Maimbourg on the Mons translation of the New Testament. “Quelqu’ extraordinaires que soient les emportemens du Père Maimbourg, contre la Nouvelle Version du Nouveau Testament, on peut [185] dire qu’ils n’ont rien de surprenant si l’on considère la personne dont ils partent. Que ce Père a ce malheureux avantage, qu’il ést maintenant incapable d’étonner le monde par ses excès. Qu’il n’y a rien qu’on n’ait sujet d’attendre de lui, et qu’il a tant pris de soin de se faire connoître depuis plus de 20 ans par ses déclamations scandaleuses, que tout ce qu’il fait de nouveau, ajoûte peu à l’idée que l’on a déjà de son génie et de son esprit.”

The following passage relative to ceremonies, and the difference between two religions, the one abounding in ceremonies, the other void of them, affords an idea, both of Mr. Southey’s complaints against the Puritans, and of the reply that is due to them. “La seconde chose que je remarque dans le narré de M. Maimbourg concernant Calvin, c’ést qu’il dit que le Calvinisme n’ést qu’un squelette de religion, n’ayant ni suc, ni onction, ni ornement, rien qui sente et qui inspire la dévotion, et qui entrant par les sens dans le fond de l’âme, l’attire et l’élève par les choses visibles au Dieu invisible, ainsi que lui-même l’ordonne: et que Calvin, qui a fabriqué une Religion toute seche, et toute conforme à son tempérament, n’ést avec tout son bel esprit que le disciple de Pierre Valdo, le plus idiot, et ignorant de tous les Hérésiarques qui ont jamais été, et lequel il a pris grand soin de copier, en formant sa nouvelle secte sur une si pauvre idée, et ne voulant aucune de ces sacrées cérémonies dont l’ancienne Eglise s’ést toujours servie, pour faire l’Office divin avec bienséance, et avec cette sainte Majesté qui imprime dans l’âme de ceux qui les regardent avec un œil un peu spirituel, les sentimens d’une dévotion tendre et respectueuse, pour honorer Dieu dans ses redoutables mystères.—Voilà, ce me semble, ce que Messieurs de Port-Royal appellent une certaine éloquence pompeuse et magnifique, abundantem sonantibus verbis, uberibusque sententiis, qui nous engage dans l’erreur par un faux éclat. Ce qui se peut dire de plus raisonable sur ce Chapitre, se réduit à ces deux choses, du moins selon mon petit avis, 1. Qu’il n’y a rien de plus propre à séduire l’esprit des peuples, que la majesté des cérémonies, et à leur inspirer beaucoup de zèle pour la profession extérieure de la religion: mais qu’il n’y a rien qui inspire moins de ce zèle spirituel, et véritable, que Dieu demande de ses vrais adorateurs. 2. Que puis que Calvin, qui ne pouvoit pas ignorer cela, n’ a point établi l’usage de plusieurs cérémonies pompeuses, c’ést une marque qu’il agissoit de bonne foi, et qu’il ne cherchoit pas les expediens d’attirer et d’attacher les peuples à sa secte, par quelque chose qui frappât leurs sens. S’il eût cherché sa gloire; s’il se fût fait une idée [186] de religion par des vues de politique; en un mot, s’il eût consulté la chair et le sang, il n’y a point de doute qu’il se fût bien éloigné de cette pauvre idée, que l’auteur appelle un squelette. Ce n’ést pas sous cette forme dégoûtante que l’on produit l’erreur et le vice; on les farde, et on les embellit de tous les ornemens dont on se peut aviser: mais la Vertu et la Vérité ne demandent point d’autre parure qu’elles-mêmes: leur simplicité, leur nudité, et si je l’ose ainsi dire, leur brute leur tient lieu de tout. De sorte que si on veut faire justice à Calvin, on avouera pour le moins, qu’il étoit très-persuadé qu’il enseignoit le pur Evangile, et que la beauté naturelle de cette divine Vérité se soûtiendroit par sa seule force, sans avoir besoin des artifices, que les fausses religions n’ont jamais manqué de mettre en usage.”

When two parties in a state proceed to such extremities, that they take arms against one another; and each looks for the accomplishment of its object, only by shedding the blood of its opponents, they usually employ their utmost endeavours to blacken the character of one another. Every mischievous purpose, every odious quality, to which they can attach any degree of probability, either by truth or falsehood, either by stating facts, or by stating falsehoods, they impute to one another; and by holding up these causes of hatred to the public in the most persuasive light they are able, by incessantly repeating them, in every shape and attitude, they do what they can to fix an odious character upon those by whom they are, or have been opposed, and to derive to themselves the grand advantage which arises from making those who are competitors with them for the favour of mankind the object of their detestation. When one of two such contending parties is put down, and the other becomes not only triumphant, but master of all the powers of government; the vanquished party is treated with a fine set of names, and a set of actions and qualities is provided for it, finely corresponding with the names. It lies under this among other cruel disadvantages, that what is affirmed against it by the party possessing power, finds a ready belief with all the vulgar part of mankind, and the ready, and loud profession of belief from all the interested part. A thousand tongues and a thousand pens, incited either by ancient hatreds, or present hopes and desires, practise every art of defamation against it. The press teems with stories to its disadvantage, generally possessing little, often possessing no connection with the truth. That this was the case with the Puritans in a very extraordinary degree, is known to all the world. The Restoration placed all [187] power in the hands of Charles 2nd, and the profligate portion of the aristocracy who engrossed his favours; men who held every species of principle in derision; and who, as they had long dreaded the Puritans, now hated them with corresponding intensity, as well as the principles of political liberty which the Puritans advocated, and which the loyal aristocracy had been and now were trampling under their feet, together with the rules of Christian morality, which the Puritans observed with a peculiar strictness, and which never were treated with a more open and contemptuous disregard, than by the same loyalists, who found that kings ruled by a divine right, and that subjects were bound, by their duty to God, to suffer pillage and every sort of oppression at the hands of great and loyal men, because they were appointed to this purpose, by the king, and he was appointed by God. With the powers of government in the hands of such persons, after what they had suffered and feared through the ascendancy of the Puritans, it is not to be wondered, that the arts of blackening a character were exhausted, as in truth they were, against the vanquished and prostrate Puritans.

What Mr. Southey has done, has been, to rake into the filth, heaped in that and the preceding age upon the character of the Puritans, and to throw as much of it as he thought would now stick upon their memory. For the notion which he has been pleased to present of the Puritans, he appears to have looked only into the writings of their bitter enemies, whose stories he has given without examination or criticism; indeed we should suspect, that the faculty of historical criticism—of comparing and weighing evidence—does very little belong to him: he seems hardly to be aware, that it is of any use; and we offer this as an apology for much of the misrepresentation which he has here dealt out at second hand; though it will not apologize for the additions and embellishments which he has made purely from his own invention. His second volume now lies open before us, at a passage which so exactly exemplifies the spirit in which the book is written, and in particular the feature which we have now touched upon, that it cannot come in more opportunely. It forms part of the pathetic story he labours to make up, of the situation of Laud during his confinement in the Tower. “After a severe illness, during which he lost the use of his limbs, when, for the first time, he was able, between the help of his man and his staff, to go to the Tower Church, the Puritan who preached introduced so much personal abuse of him in the sermon, in such foul terms, and with such palpable virulence, that women and boys stood up in the [188] church to see how he could bear it. But he thanked God for his patience, and prayed forgiveness for his deluded persecutors.” [Book of the Church, vol. ii. p. 420.] The expression, “a severe illness, during which he lost the use of his limbs,” implies a fit of sickness of the most serious kind, which happening in a state of imprisonment, and being followed by losing the use of the limbs, a natural accompaniment of severe restraint, and the want of exercise, suggests the idea of cruel treatment by his oppressors, and intense suffering on the part of the prisoner. This is the impression which the Book-of-the-Church-maker leaves to be produced by his account of this incident; the knowledge of which he derived from Laud himself, by whom alone it is mentioned. Hear now the words of Laud; and, observing the changes Southey makes in the story, mark the purposes to which those changes are subservient.

“March 6. Sunday, after sermon, as I was walking up and down my chamber before dinner, without any slip or treading awry, the sinew of my right leg gave a great crack, and brake asunder in the same place where I had broken it before. Feb. 5. 162⅞.

It was two months before I could go out of my chamber. On Sunday (Maii 15) I made shift, between my man and my staff, to go to church. There one Mr. Joslin preached, with vehemency becoming Bedlam, with treason sufficient to hang him in any other state, and with such particular abuse to me, that women and boys stood up in the church to see how I could bear it. I humbly thank God for my patience.”—Troubles and Trial of Laud, p. 63.

Here there was no illness; no loss of limbs during a severe illness. The whole of this is pure invention, on the part of the story-teller, with the real facts staring him in the face, since he copies the very words of Laud. The expression, “with such particular abuse to me,” Southey enlarges into the phrases, “with such personal abuse of him, in such foul” [a favourite epithet of Southey’s] “terms, and with such palpable virulence.” Quære, does Southey understand the meaning of the word palpable? Palpable virulence! he might as well have called it olfactable virulence. Virulence can be as easily smelt as touched. This “abuse,” imputed to the preacher, we know of, only from the words of Laud himself. Laud was sensitive upon these points, and not easily pleased even with praise. There may, after all, have been very little in what he might call and think particular abuse. The circumstance he adduces to prove the particularity, by which we are willing to understand intensity, of the abuse, is somewhat ludicrous. It called the attention [189] of nobody but the women and the boys. Some of them, of the women and boys, perhaps two or three, had a curiosity to see how Laud would look when he heard a censure. But what that curiosity proceeded from, whether from an idea of the grossness of the censure, or the well-known waspishness of the person censured (though Laud interprets the circumstance all in his own favour) does not appear.

The warmth of the preacher appears to have been the thing which chiefly annoyed the prelate. He preached with a “vehemency becoming Bedlam.” We should like to know, if it approached to the vehemency of Mr. Irving, which our greatest orators and statesmen have gone to admire. The meekness which Laud had attained under his sufferings is manifested, by his declaring, that the sentiments of liberty, mixed, no doubt, with censure of the king, which the preacher expressed, deserved no less a punishment than death; which, if he had possessed the power, he would no doubt have inflicted upon the Puritan. This is the man whose own death is bewailed.

“I humbly thank God for my patience;” Shakspeare puts into the mouth of the canting Richard—

I do not know that Englishman alive
With whom my soul is any jot at odds,
More than the infant that is born to-night:
I thank my God for my humility.

Not content with his thanking God for his patience, our author makes him pray forgiveness for his enemies; which last circumstance is purely of his own invention. And this is the way in which Maimbourg Southey makes history.

A propos of making history, John Merlin has the following passage:—

‘Mr. Southey, it has been stated, is a poet; that is, as the original Greek word signifies, a maker or inventor. Hence we are not to be surprised if he makes use of his poetical licence or faculty in writing history, rather than weary himself in hunting out, and bringing forward, dusty records for the many extraordinary things he records and tells. It is true, he says, he “can refer to authorities for them among his collections, but that he does not give those, because the scale of his work is not one which would require or justify a display of research. But it may be truly said of the case in question: De non apparentibus et de non existentibus eadem est ratio.’—“Strictures on the Poet Laureate’s Book of the Church.” By John Merlin, p. 4.

The total want of reference to authorities in Southey’s book is a damnatory circumstance. No history not resting on the testimony of its own author to facts of his own witnessing, is worth any thing without such reference. Facts without authentication [190] are not to be regarded as historical facts. A portion of them, formed into a story, should be called a romance, not a history. The excuse made by Southey for not referring to his authorities, is a specimen of the man. He insinuates that he had no room for them; as if the name of an author at the bottom of a page required much room; or as if the most important of all things was that which could best be spared. But the most curious point for observation is, the idea which Southey entertains of the end for which reference to authorities is made, “a display of research.” This is the only use which he knows of it; at least, which he chuses to recognize. The story-teller for the Church has correct ideas of the business of an historian.

It is well known, that an execution is a great thing for vulgar minds. A man’s life and conduct may have been base and mischievous in the highest degree; he may have been constantly engaged in schemes of the worst description; he may have habitually disregarded the ties of truth, humanity, and justice, in the means he employed for the accomplishment of them; yet, if he is brought to punishment at last; above all, if the forfeit of his life is exacted, and he behaves with tolerable decency and propriety at his exit, the sympathies of the common herd are so much excited, that the merit of dying well throws a veil over the whole demerit of living ill, a character is attached to the man which he by no means deserves, and a morality of the most pernicious tendency is propagated. Maimbourg Southey has exerted himself to the utmost to derive advantage from this source. The dying scenes of Cranmer, and Charles, and Wentworth, and Laud, have been mines to him. Writing, as he was, for old women and children, he had reason to think they would be worth, to him, all the pains he has bestowed on them.

We might have thought we had lived to an era, in the progress of the human mind, when the life and deeds of Laud would no longer be held up for admiration; and when we should not witness a revival of his memory for purposes of mischief. But the Church of England is an intellectual curiosity. She swears that she will stand still; and has, therefore, a cause of enmity with all those who advance. But she has not sworn to retrograde. It does, however, appear impossible in the intellectual world to stand still. There may be effectual reasons which prevent such or such a party from going forward. But then it seems almost necessary for it to go back. The time certainly was, when the leading men of the Church of England gave up Laud; and not only thought that he was the grand cause of the ruin of the Church when he lived, but that his memory did no credit to it when he was dead. Bishop [191] Warburton, for example, in his spiteful notes upon Neal’s History of the Puritans, has not one word of eulogy for Laud, but some of the severest condemnation. Thus, on the passage of Laud’s Diary, where he says, on the occasion of making bishop Juxon lord high treasurer of England, “Now, if the church will not hold up themselves, under God, I can do no more;” Warburton contemptuously remarks, “Had he been content to do nothing, the Church had stood. Suppose him to have been an honest man, and sincere, which, I think, must be granted, it will follow, that he knew nothing of the constitution, either of civil or religious society; and was as poor a churchman as he was a politician.” This is giving up his head with a vengeance: now for his heart. Mr. Neal, after recording the atrocious proceedings against Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick, and using the language of just indignation, on which Warburton makes no remark, comes to the prosecution of Dr. Williams, bishop of Lincoln, and of Mr. Osbaldeston, chief master of Westminster-school; whereon bishop Warburton makes the following reflection. “This prosecution must needs give every one a very bad idea of Laud’s heart and temper. You might resolve his high acts of power, in the state, into reverence and gratitude to his master; his tyranny in the church, to his zeal for, and love of, what he called religion; but the outrageous prosecution of these two men can be resolved into nothing but envy and revenge; and actions like these they were, which occasioned all that bitter, but indeed just, exclamation against the bishops, in the speeches of lord Falkland, and lord Digby.” These strokes, though few, are decisive; and depict a very poor, but very mischievous creature; the real character of the man whom Southey, and the Church at his heels, are for holding up as the grand ornament of the Church of England; whose character, and the character of the Church, they would have us believe, bear a perfect resemblance to one another. Whether the resemblance be real, or only imaginary, to assume it, and boast of it, is, at any rate, a curiosity, as a matter of taste, and of prudence.

Of all the crimes which it is possible for a human being to commit against his fellow creatures, that of corrupting the springs of government is beyond all comparison the worst. Other crimes strike at the well-being of one, or at most, of a few individuals. This strikes at the well-being of all the myriads, of whom the great body of the community is composed, from generation to generation. As no human being ever exerted himself more strenuously, or with more persevering purpose to corrupt the principles of government in any country, than did Laud to corrupt to the heart the principles of government in [192] England, to strip the people of every security for the righteous administration of their affairs, by consequence to establish a perfectly infallible security for the mischievous administration of them, to place his countrymen in the condition of slaves, living only for the benefit of a master, a master, who both would desire to cultivate in them only the qualities which fit them the best for being slaves, the qualities of the spaniel, on the one hand, and the serpent on the other, and would have the power of preventing them from cultivating in themselves any other, of placing them, accordingly, in a condition resembling that of the worst of brutes—on the other hand, as of all the acts of virtue of which a human being is capable, that of ameliorating the institutions of government, of providing the community with more perfect securities for the right administration of their affairs, when all the facilities and all the motives for acquiring the highest intellectual and moral endowments and elevating their condition as men and as citizens to the highest possible degree, are enjoyed in the greatest perfection, is undeniably the highest, and every exertion and every sacrifice which is made by an individual for this noblest of all earthly purposes, acquires incomparable value, and entitles the maker to a correspondent share of moral and intellectual approbation, love, and esteem—as it is, moreover, an undoubted fact, that of all the men who, during his time, showed any portion of this virtue, Laud was the bitter and remorseless enemy, and with intensity proportional to the degree in which the virtue was displayed, as there was no punishment which he was not eager to inflict upon it, as he uniformly branded it with the names of the greatest vices, and endeavoured by all the arts by which characters are blackened to make the men who distinguished themselves by acts of this virtue be regarded as the greatest criminals and the most hateful of mankind; as there was no suffering and no ignominy to which he was not eager to expose them, acting uniformly as if he wished to extinguish in their blood every spark of the virtue by which they were distinguished—if all this, and more than this, be true, to the letter, then, of all the criminals on record, in the annals of the human species, Laud is one of the greatest. Add to this, that he was not less remarkable for all the low and base qualities of the mind. He began by being a spy and informer at Oxford; he acted as pandar to the adulterous lewdness of his first patron, Devonshire; he afterwards became the abject creature, in every respect, of the worthless and infamous Buckingham; he was indefatigable in the vile arts of undermining all who stood in the way of his advancement; of which, the downfall of the [193] archbishops Williams and Abbot, the former of whom had been his friend and patron, are memorable examples. [*]“Placed” (says Mr. Brodie, Hist. of Brit. Emp. v. ii. p. 247) “at the head of the ecclesiastical and civil government, Laud betrayed all the presumptuous insolence of a little mind intoxicated with undeserved prosperity. He assumed the state of a prince, and by the ridiculous haughtiness of his manners, disgusted men of high rank and influence in society, who were attached to his measures. See a curious instance of this in Clarendon’s Life, by himself, vol. i. p. 32.” As a specimen of the low arts which he practised for the destruction of his victims, we shall quote another passage from Brodie, relative to the prosecution of Prynne, for his celebrated book against Stage-players.

“The work, entitled Histrio-mastix, was the labour of many years, and swelled out into a thousand quarto pages: It consisted chiefly of the opinions of the fathers, a species of authority, one would suppose, not calculated to allure the generality of readers, but particularly offensive to Laud, who affected veneration for them, and to make them the rule of his conduct. The style and bulk of the work were calculated to [194] deter people from the perusal; but the name of the author at once roused Laud and his abettors, and Heylin was employed to hunt out objectionable passages. The manner in which he performed his duty is best explained in his own words. He makes ‘notes, and deducts out of them such logical inferences and conclusions as might and did naturally arise in those dangerous premises: One copy of the same to be left for the lords of the council, and another with Noy the attorney-general, and the rest of his majesty’s council learned in the laws of this realm, which paper gave such satisfaction to the one, and help to the other, that when the cause was brought to a hearing in the Star-Chamber, they repeated his instructions only, as Prynne himself informed against him to the House of Commons.’ [*]By such a course, charges of the following tenor were brought against the author: that players were rogues by statute (which, by the way, was correct); that none were gainers, or honoured by stage-plays, but the devil and hell; and that when players and their abettors have taken their wills of lust here, their souls go to eternal torment hereafter; that so many as are in stage-plays, are unclean spirits, and play-hunters incarnate devils; and that the chief cause of Nero’s destruction was his frequenting them: Of dancing, he was alleged to have said, that it is the devil’s profession, and so many steps in a dance so many paces to hell. Such were the articles charged. But the offensive part was an exposure of certain innovations in the church, which, though the attorney-general dwelt upon Prynne’s alleged language, as he acted without a mission, &c. it was not thought convenient to bring into question. Had such been Prynne’s own language and ideas, people of different minds might have properly repaid his abuse of their amusements with contempt and scorn; but there was neither a principle of law, justice, nor common sense, on which he should have been condemned as a criminal. He affirmed afterwards, however, when he had no cause to resort to subterfuges, that the charges were not at all warranted by the text of his book; indeed false charges were the natural consequence of the course pursued: and any one may satisfy himself, that the offensive expressions [195] are not his own, but borrowed from the fathers, to whose works he invariably refers.

Lest the humanity of Charles should interpose to save this victim of ecclesiastical vengeance, an artifice was adopted to inflame both him and his consort. Six weeks after the publication, her majesty acted a part in a pastoral at Somerset-House, and Laud and his friends shewed her and the king a passage—women actors, notorious whores (few women appeared on the stage in those times, the characters of females being generally personated by men in women’s clothes), and assured them that it was a libel upon her, though, as has just been said, the work had been published six weeks prior to her exhibition.” [*] —Brodie, vol. ii. p. 324.

The following instance will convey an idea of Laud’s disposition to flattery. For the christening of the young prince, Charles (2nd), Laud composed a prayer, which was recommended to all the parish churches. In this prayer was the following clause, “Double his father’s graces, O Lord, upon him, if it be possible.” Archbishop Williams calls this “three-piled flattery, and loathsome divinity,” and says he would not have joined in this prayer. [] —Brodie, ib. p. 358.

Premising these short notices, to enable our readers to form some notion of the real character and actions of Laud, we recommend it to them to read the singular mixture of canting and foul language which our historian pours forth upon occasion of the execution of this worthless man. Of this remarkable specimen of the literature of the age, we can afford to present only the concluding passage:

‘Great multitudes attended this victim of sectarian persecution to the grave; the greater part attracted by curiosity, but many by love and veneration; and not a few, it is believed, by remorse of conscience, for having joined in the wicked and brutish clamour with which he had been hunted down. A baser triumph never was obtained by faction, nor was any triumph ever more basely celebrated. Even after this murder had been committed with all the mockery of law, his memory was assailed in libels of blacker virulence (if that be possible), than those by which the deluded populace had been instigated to cry out for his blood; and to this day, those who have inherited the opinions of the Puritans, repeat with unabashed effrontery the imputations against him, as if they had succeeded to their implacable temper, []and their hardihood of slander also. More grateful is it to observe how little is in the power [196] of malice, even when in the dispensations of Providence it is permitted to do its worst. The enemies of Laud cut off from him, at the utmost, a few short years of infirmity and pain; and this was all they could do! They removed him from the sight of calamities, which would have been to him tenfold more grievous than death; and they afforded him an opportunity of displaying at his trial and on the scaffold, as in a public theatre, a presence of mind, a strength of intellect, a calm and composed temper, an heroic and saintly magnanimity, which he never could have been known to possess, if he had not thus been put to the proof. Had they contented themselves with stripping him of his rank and fortune, and letting him go to the grave a poor and broken-hearted old man, their calumnies might then have proved so effectual, that he would have been more noted now for his infirmities, than for his great and eminent virtues. But they tried him in the burning fiery furnace of affliction, and then his sterling worth was assayed and proved. And the martyrdom of Cranmer is not more inexpiably disgraceful to the Roman Catholic, than that of Laud to the Puritan persecutors.

He was buried according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England; a circumstance which afforded a deep, but mournful, consolation to those who revered and loved him. It seemed to them as if the venerable establishment itself over which he had presided, and for defending which he had died a martyr, were buried with him: for on the same day that six infamous peers past the ordinance of attainder against him, they passed an act also, by which the Liturgy was suppressed, and a Directory for public worship set forth in its stead.’

To form a just estimate of this lachrymation, it is useful to remember the pitiful and unmanly vengeance which was exercised at the time of the Restoration, when Southey’s Venerable Establishment came again into power, and into play; and, to think who they are who have an ever-ready approbation to bestow upon the actors in those noble and elevating scenes, when the bodies of Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton, were taken out of their graves, and drawn upon hurdles to Tyburn, where they were hung up from ten in the morning till sun-set of the next day, after which their heads were cut off that they might be stuck up in public places, and their trunks buried all together in one hole under the gallows; when an act was passed for the “attainder of several persons guilty of the horrid murder of his late sacred majesty king Charles 1st., and for the perpetual observation of the 30th of January;” when ten persons were executed after trials which would disgrace the administration of justice in Turkey; “and when,” says Burnett, “the firmness and shew of piety of the sufferers, who went out of the world with a sort of triumph in the cause for which they suffered, turned the minds of the populace, insomuch that the king was advised to proceed no further.” How far he and his advisers would have proceeded had they continued to think it safe, we leave their characters to speak for them.


We recommend it earnestly to our readers, to peruse, as one of the most important of all the documents of English history, the Trials of these men, in the late collection of “State Trials,” by Mr. Howell. We cannot forbear quoting, after Mr. Brodie, the following short passage from the trial of Colonel Harrison:—


Notwithstanding the judgment of so many learned ones, that the kings of England are no ways accountable to the Parliament, the Lords, and Commons, in the beginning of this war, having declared the king’s beginning war upon them, the God of gods—


Do you render yourself so desperate, that you care not what language you let fall? It must not be suffered.


I would not willingly speak to offend any man; but I know God is no respecter of persons. His setting up his standard against the people———


Truly, Mr. Harrison, this must not be suffered: this doth not belong to you.


Under favour, this doth belong to me. I would have abhorred to have brought him to account, had not the blood of Englishmen that had been shed———


Methinks he should be sent to Bedlam, till he comes to the gallows, to render an account of this. This must not be suffered. It is, in a manner, a new impeachment of this king, to justify their treasons against his late majesty.


My Lords, I pray that the jury may go together on the evidence.

Sir Edward Turner.

My Lords, that man hath the plague all over him; it is a pity any should stand near him, for he will infect them. Let us say to him, as they used to write over an house infected, ‘the Lord have mercy upon him;’ and so let the officers take him away.

Lord Chief Baron.

Mr. Harrison, we are ready to hear you again; but to hear such stuff it cannot be suffered. You have spoken that which is as high a degree of blasphemy, next to that against God, as I have heard!

The plea of Harrison was, that he acted by the supreme authority, the parliament; and that no inferior jurisdiction could take cognizance of the act. He in vain asked for liberty to have counsel to urge that plea. The hangman, in an ugly dress, with a halter in his hand, was purposely placed before him during what they were pleased to denominate a trial.—Howell’s State Trials, p. 1024-31. Ludlow, vol. iii. p. 62.

Besides this, he was, after three months close confinement, every friend denied access to him, and the indictment never [198] shown, apprized at nine o’clock in the evening of the 9th of October, that he was to be put to the bar next morning, and he was finally disposed of by the court on the 11th.—Ib.

As Love, the sheriff of London, at the Restoration, would not pack the juries, the trials were delayed till new sheriffs were appointed.”—Ludlow, vol. iii. p. 59.

The four names in English history, which the Church, as a corporation of priests, have been most assiduous in their endeavours to hold up to admiration, are Charles 1st, Wentworth, Laud, and Clarendon. Those who have read the article on the History by Mr. Brodie, in our preceding number, will not require any assistance from us, on the present occasion, towards forming a proper estimate of Charles and Wentworth. We trust, that what we have now adduced in correction of the misrepresentations attempted in favour of Laud, by the maker of the Church Book, will prevent all danger of mistake in regard to him. We must, in order not to neglect any of these worthies, add a few particulars in regard to Clarendon, whom Mr. Southey declares to be “the wisest, because the most upright, of all statesmen”—[ii. 484]. The invaluable detections of this man, as an historian, and exposures of him, as a man, for which we are indebted to Mr. Brodie, render this part of our task an easy one.

We shall not accuse Clarendon of a strong leaning to one party, and against another. This, especially when a man has been deeply and personally engaged, it requires a high character indeed to avoid; and we blame no man for not rising above, we only blame him for falling below, the ordinary standard of men.

Few crimes can come up to those of the man, who, pretending to write history, sets himself studiously and of purpose, to pervert the materials of history, to suppress and mis-interpret evidence, to assert facts without any evidence at all, nay, in the very teeth of evidence. All these crimes, in numerous instances of the greatest importance, Brodie proves upon Clarendon. Thus, in order to apologize for the atrocious usage of Prynne on the occasion of his prosecution for the book entitled Histrio-mastix, Clarendon asserts that he aggravated his punishment by petulance and obstinacy in court. The fact is, that he did not open his lips in court, but committed his defence entirely to his counsel. On the king’s visit to the city, after his abortive attempt to seize the five members, “Clarendon,” says Brodie, “has the effrontery to say, that one Walker cried with a very loud voice, To your tents O Israel!” though there is a state paper drawn by Clarendon himself, which shows that the man only threw into the coach a paper which had these words written upon it.


The following are the words of Brodie, on the occasion of the petitions to parliament against Episcopacy:

“The Journals of the Commons show, that petitions were presented from most of the principal counties and towns in England; and Mr. Hume’s account of the petitions is unworthy of him. The petition from the apprentices had been presented before the impeachment of the members, and one to the same purpose was presented to the throne, as well as another to the lords. The apprentices were, as we have formerly remarked, a powerful body. The one from the porters, whose number is said to amount to 15,000, and who are made to add, that “if such remedies” (as they had named) “were any longer suspended, they should be forced to extremities not fit to be named, and make good the saying, ‘that necessity has no law,’ is no where to be found or alluded to, so far as I recollect, except in Clarendon’s History; and I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a forgery by that author, to disgrace the petitions which so galled him and his party. The Journals of the Commons give an account of every petition; and I have gone over them with the utmost care, in order to ascertain whether such a petition ever was presented, and yet cannot discover a trace of it. The dexterity of Clarendon, as a forger of such things, is triumphantly told us by himself. Told us—nay, the work in which he discloses this important fact was intended for his children; yet he gives a long character of himself, wherein he takes great credit for his candour.”

Brodie points out instances in which that which Clarendon records in his Life is at direct variance with what is related in his History; and in which the wilful mendacity of Clarendon is beyond dispute. That he was in the habit of committing forgery for purposes of deception is proved by incontestable evidence, indeed by his own testimony. And Mr. Brodie remarks with truth, that “the principle on which Clarendon wrote was inconsistent with a regard to truth. I first undertook,” says he, “this difficult work with his majesty’s approbation, and by his encouragement, and for his vindication.

Clarendon was not honest even in the drawing of characters, for which he has been so much bepraised. Brodie, having mentioned the account propagated by the royalists, that Pym died being on account of his iniquities eaten up of lice (by-the-by Jortin says, either simply or sarcastically, that it is wonderful how many of the persecutors of the early Christians perished in this dreadful way, eaten up either of lice or of worms, and produces a long list of whom that story was propagated),—says,

“The malice of Clarendon makes him repeat the silly tale [200] (which he probably assisted to invent) regarding the cause of Pym’s death, and endeavour to destroy his character for integrity by a story which, like the other, only reflects against himself; that one of the witnesses against Strafford, ‘an Irishman of very mean and low condition, afterwards acknowledged, that being brought to him as an evidence of one part of the charge against the lord-lieutenant, in a particular of which a person of so vile quality would not be reasonably thought a competent informer, Mr. Pym gave him money to buy a satin suit and cloak, in which equipage he appeared at the trial, and gave his evidence.’ Now surely, if this person of vile quality was not worthy of credit, upon his oath against Strafforde, he should not, on his bare word, have been believed against Pym, when the Restoration (for that undoubtedly was the ‘afterwards’) had put all power in the hands of Clarendon’s own party. But who was this witness? What did he swear to? To whom did he make this important disclosure? Clarendon is prudently silent as to all this. The same writer denies the great natural talents of Pym, and alleges that they were not much adorned with art; but he admits his capacity for business, and allows that ‘he had a very comely and grave way of expressing himself, with great volubility of words, natural and proper.’ But see what Baillie says of his powerful eloquence, in his Journal of Strafforde’s Trial.”—Brodie, vol. iii. p. 461.

One of the most disgusting scenes of cant and hypocrisy ever acted, and that not of the religious but moral kind, we have recorded of Clarendon by his own pen. Speaking as if the knowledge of the secret intercourse between his daughter and the duke of York (James 2nd) had come upon him by surprise, when she was pregnant, he says, that he “broke out into a very immoderate passion against her wickedness; and said, with all imaginable earnestness, that as soon as he came home he would turn her out of his house as a strumpet, to shift for herself, and would never see her again.” When he heard that she was married, the case was ten times worse. “He fell” (as he himself expresses it,) “into new commotions, and said, if that were true, he was well prepared to advise what was to be done; that he had much rather his daughter should be the duke’s whore than his wife; in the former case nobody could blame him for the resolution he had taken, for he was not obliged to keep a whore for the greatest prince alive. But if there were any reason to suspect the other, he was ready to give a positive judgment, that the king should immediately cause the woman to be sent to the Tower, and to be cast into a dungeon, under so strict a guard, that no person living should [201] be permitted to come to her; and then, that an act of parliament should be immediately passed for the cutting off her head, to which he would not only give his consent, but would very willingly be the first man that should propose it.” Something of this sort was strongly enough suggested by the situation in which Clarendon was placed: but who, besides a practised hypocrite, would have acted the part in such perfection? Or who could have acted the abject creature, so pleasing to kings, in a purer style than he did, a short time after, when the king was prepared to sacrifice him to the public indignation, which he had richly deserved? “I am so broken under the daily insupportable instances of your majesty’s terrible displeasure, that I know not what to do, hardly what to wish . . . . . God knows I am innocent as I ought to be. But alas! your majesty’s declared anger and indignation deprives me of the comfort and support even of my own innocence, and exposes me to the rage and fury of those who have some excuse for being my enemies; whom I have sometimes displeased, when (and only then), your majesty believed them not to be your friends. I should die in peace (and truly I do heartily wish that God Almighty would free you from further trouble by taking me to himself) if I could know or guess at the ground of your displeasure . . . . . . . . As I have hope in heaven, I have never willingly offended your majesty in my life, and do, upon my knees, beg your pardon for any over bold or saucy expression I have ever used to you; which, being a natural disease in old servants who have received too much countenance . . . . . I hope your majesty believes that the sharp chastisement I have received from the best natured and most bountiful master in the world, and whose kindness alone made my condition these many years supportable, has both enough mortified me as to this world, and that I have not the presumption, or the madness to imagine, or desire, ever to be admitted to any employment or trust again.” The conclusion is worthy of the rest. He prays the king that he may be allowed “to spend the small remainder of his life in some parts beyond the seas, never to return, where he may pray for the king, and never suffer the least diminution in his duty or obedience.”

Habitual want of veracity is not the worst of the charges which Mr. Brodie establishes against Clarendon; he proves him to have been an approver, and not an approver only, but a suborner, of assassination.

“Colonel Rainsborough, whose father had been an eminent naval commander, and who was himself bred to that line, having been appointed vice-admiral of the fleet, was set on shore [202] by the mutinous sailors; and many of the ships revolted from the parliament, but several of them were afterwards brought back by the earl of Warwick; and the vigorous measures of the parliament soon made up the deficiency of those which were not recovered. It is strange, that no sooner had the cavaliers obtained these ships, which the Prince of Wales and Rupert entered, than they broke out into the most ruinous contentions for superiority. [*]The known principles of Rainsborough excited such a rancorous spirit of revenge in the cavaliers, that though defeated in one dastardly attempt at his assassination, they soon afterwards succeeded in another, no less cowardly and unprincipled. Mrs. Macauley remarks, that Clarendon, to his eternal infamy, applauds every circumstance of the foul unmanly deed.”—Brodie, vol. iv, p. 137.

On the abolition of the republican government, and the establishment of the protectorship, Mr. Brodie says,

“The royalists exulted on the change; but when they perceived that the protector established his government, and that the people still adhered to their principles, of either not restoring monarchy at all, or of doing it under conditions which excluded the malignants, they, conceiving now that Cromwell, at the head of his army, was the grand obstacle to their recovering power, devised plots against his life, while the exiled king, under the direction of Hyde and Nicholas, published a declaration inviting the people to assassinate him, and offering a reward for the atrocious deed. []Let us, however, hear the language of a prelate on this subject: ‘But wherefore do we quarrel with the remissness of princes abroad, since there is not among ourselves that hath the courage of a gallant man to meet with Cromwell, who jets up and down, and strike him to the heart? But it is our shame that every one wisheth that done by another’s hand which he dare not, for fear, do himself.’ ” [] —Brodie, vol. iv. p. 372.

It is a fact, that the Edinburgh Review, after displaying at great length the merits of Brodie’s history, which exhibits irresistible evidence of Clarendon’s being one of the most dishonest [203] and unprincipled of mankind, has, in its last Number, only a few months having intervened, expressed itself in the following terms:—“Lest it should be thought that such persons as M. de Chateaubriand and his fellows, are not of sufficient account, either for talents or respectability, to evince the debasing influence of the tenets in question, we shall add an example from our own country, and in the person of a very celebrated man—no less able, learned, and honest a one, than Lord Clarendon. His talents and accomplishments were undoubtedly of a high order; his integrity is allowed now to have been incorruptible.” As to his honesty, we have had the evidence before us. Learning we do not remember before to have ever heard ascribed to him. His reputation for ability rests, and rests solely, upon his writing a tolerable English style, in which however Mrs. Hutchinson far excels him. The grand purposes of his life were those of a besotted, or intentional, enemy of mankind; to fix a despotical government upon the necks of his countrymen; and to give vast wealth and power to a corporation of dependent priests, to enable them to act the janisaries of that government. To accomplish this laudable object, too, he was not very scrupulous about means. For he gave Charles 1st advice, the following of which he saw would lead to his ruin, partly for a purely selfish purpose, partly in order that Charles 2nd, upon the fall of his father might hold the powers of government without limit, and be a simple despot. The fact is related by Brodie, in the following terms:—

“During his (the king’s) stay at Newcastle, all the entreaties of the queen and his lay advisers, to yield to the Presbyterian establishment, had utterly failed, and nothing could move him to accede to the less rigorous propositions of the army; but he had now become surrounded with advisers who approved of his resolution. These were ecclesiastics (Sheldon, Hammond, and others), who, having lost their livings, were hostile to any arrangement that should for ever exclude them from power. Lord Clarendon, too, encouraged him by letters, to the same course. Exempted himself from pardon by all the propositions, he founded all his hopes of being restored to his country, and rewarded by the crown, on a steady refusal of accommodation—which, however fatal it might prove to his present master, would, he flattered himself, ultimately be triumphant in the person of the prince. It therefore appears, by his private correspondence, that he deemed it better that the king should fall a victim to his principles than yield to his enemies. In the clash of parties he expected that the successor would be recalled unshackled; but thought that if what he [204] supposed the best jewels of the crown were once renounced, they might never be recovered.” [*]

Charles’s violation of the treaty of Breda was as gross an instance of the want of faith, as the annals of human villany record. It is no slight matter, that a professed and accredited champion of the Church of England obtrudes at this day a vindication of that foul deed. “Permit me,” says Mr. Butler to Dr. Southey, “to mention, that I have read with surprise this defence.” Clarendon, the Churchman’s Clarendon, was the principal adviser of that precious act. Mr. Laing, the historian of Scotland, says, “In the settlement of an ecclesiastical government (for Scotland), Charles was peculiarly embarrassed by the treaty of Breda. When invited to Scotland, on his father’s death, he had sworn and subscribed the covenant, and confirmed the Presbyterian church, as the conditions of his accession: And, although the nation was unable to preserve him on the throne, the oaths, which were renewed at his coronation, remained unrepealed. If it was difficult to observe, it was dishonourable to violate, the conditions, formerly accepted, when there was no choice unless to relinquish the crown. But, if the word of a prince is to be reputed sacred, no violence nor state necessity could afford a pretext to dispense with his oaths. However disgusted with the presbyterians during his residence in Scotland, the king himself was indifferent to religion. But Clarendon, whose mind was contracted and soured by religious bigotry, was irreconcileable to the very existence of their church. That upright and able, but not enlightened statesman, had already prepared the most intolerant measures for the revival of the hierarchy, which he urged the king to restore in Scotland, by a violation of those solemn engagements which his own conscience would never have infringed.”

“Upright and able!” these are two epithets borrowed, as Mr. Brodie shows to have been the habit of poor Laing, with servile credulity from Hume, and are not only worth nothing, but actually form part of a sentence ascribing to Clarendon an act, combining to such a degree the essence of knavery and folly, that no man who had either understanding or honesty, could have done any thing but spurn it.

“Contracted and soured by religious bigotry.” Mark what it is which is here by the historian pointed out as malignant religious bigotry. Church-of-Englandism! and that, if we are to believe Church-of-Englandists, in its most perfect form! This is the spirit which lives and breathes, nay, which sometimes [205] speaks and roars, in our Southeys, our Quarterly Reviews, our Oxfords and Cambridges, and in Reverends, and Right Reverends, without number!

The atrocities with which this “religious bigotry” followed up its primary act—atrocities with which, above all men, Clarendon is chargeable—were at least never exceeded. In commencing and carrying them on, during all the early part of Charles’s reign, the principal instrument was Middleton, the creature of Clarendon. “The intolerant bigotry of Clarendon,” says Laing, “the corrupt ambition of some statesmen, and the servile pliancy and adulation of others, betrayed the king into the most pernicious measures of the two preceding reigns.”—Laing goes still farther, for he says that the act of Uniformity in England, and the ejection of the clergy, in Scotland, “fix on the memory of Clarendon an indelible stain of duplicity and persecution.” In summing up the account of Charles, these atrocities are thus characterized by Laing:—“Neither in the social, though licentious pleasures of his court, nor in the government of England, disquieted, and therefore controlled by the most opposite factions, did Charles resemble the solitary and suspicious tyrant of Capreæ; but the various and enormous oppressions of his reign in Scotland, may be compared with the tyranny of the worst Cæsars. The only difference is, that instead of cruelties inflicted chiefly on the first ranks of the nobility, whom Tiberius extinguished, a more diffusive, and to the people a more insupportable tyranny, extended over the community at large.”

On this subject our doctor has to sustain the cruel, but well-merited taunts of Mr. Butler.

‘Why were you silent on the cruelties exercised by the protestant episcopalians on the Scottish presbyterians, throughout the reign of Charles 2nd, notwithstanding his solemn promise of toleration at Breda? Can you read without horror Mr. Laing’s account of them? Or can you read without compunction the sufferings of the English Protestant non-conformists in the same reign? In the preface to Delaune’s “Plea for Non-conformists,” it is said that 8,000 of them perished in this persecution. Perhaps, when you read Mr. Laing’s account [*]of “the treachery, and almost unexampled perjuries of the first ministers of the church and state of Scotland”—and of “the absolute and undistinguished massacre voted by the privy-council,” and of the warrant for it signed by the king,” and of “the execution of it—not inferior to the spirit by which it was dictated,”—you may think that the Catholic massacre on St. Bartholomew’s day has been equalled by more than one Protestant enormity.


I beg leave to ask you, whether you think it consistent with historic impartiality, to keep out of sight, the outrages committed by Protestants, while you bring forward, in the most glowing language, those committed by the Roman-catholics? Read Dr. Milner’s “fourth letter to Dr. Sturges,” his forty-ninth letter in his “End of Controversy,” his “twenty-second letter to Mr. Grier,” and the excellent letter in the “Edinburgh Review” on the toleration of the first reformers; then let me adjure you, as a christian and a gentleman, to say on which side the balance of religious persecution lies—the Catholic or the Protestant?’

Not only is the Church of England essentially intolerant and persecuting, but she has always acted up to that character; and whatever instrument of mischief the spirit of the age permitted her at any time to use against those who dissented from her, she has always eagerly employed. Is not this very book of Dr. Southey an instance? Is not the Bridge-street Association another? Can any stronger proof be afforded than the hymn of praise (Te Deum, Clarendone, laudamus) so solemnly from day to day, and from generation to generation, chaunted to this performer of persecution for the Church, who, that he might get at his victims, was willing to break the most sacred ties by which human society is held together. Of the existing disposition to make this low character an idol of the Church, Southey is pregnant proof. A pair of prelates testify to the disposition of the former age. Hurd, in his Life of Warburton, says, “Lord Clarendon was one of his favourite characters, as well as writers; he honoured the man, and admired his History of the Grand Rebellion in the highest degree.” Warburton himself, in his dedication of the Divine Legation, says, “In the dissolute times of Charles 2nd, this weapon [ridicule] with the same ease, and indeed in the same hands, completed the ruin of the best minister of that age. The historians tell us, that chancellor Hyde was brought into his master’s contempt by this weak argument.” Of the faith of the Church of England, we shall speak on a future occasion; its worship of this man is a specimen of its morality.

We have now pretty fully described the larger features of Mr. Southey’s work. Writing upon the plan which he pursues, the points in detail in which he needs correction, are, of course, endless; having collected a large stock of materials for that purpose, we now find it impossible to use them. [*]To do the [207] thing adequately, some one ought (as Mr. Southey has written a book of the English Church, in abuse of the Catholics and Dissenters, and Mr. Butler has written a book of the Catholic Church, for the purpose of repelling from his own church the [208] abuse of Mr. Southey) to write a book of Non-conformity. Mr. Neal’s History of the Puritans is, to a great degree, such a book; but with all its merits, it has some defects.

By-the-by, what Southey says of that work is one of the most impudent things which he has ventured to utter. The Court of High Commission were empowered to inquire into all misdemeanors “not only by the oaths of twelve men and witnesses,” says Neal, “but by all other means and ways they could devise: that is,” he adds, “by inquisition, by the rack, by torture, &c.;” and the fact is, that such were among the means to which these precious inquirers had recourse. Neal subjoins to the expression, “by all other means they could devise,” this obvious reflection, “Surely this should have been limited to ways and means warranted by the laws and customs of the realm.” Now for Maimbourg Southey: “Surely,” says he, “this most prejudiced and dishonest of all historians ought to have observed, that it was so limited twice in the commission itself.” To this we reply, and shall have no occasion to ask the reader to make the proper inference—It is not limited in the commission—It is totally and perfectly unlimited. Moreover, if Mr. Neal had been in a mistake, he would not have been in mala fide, for he gives the commission verbatim at the bottom of the page, where every reader has under his eye the means, directly furnished by Neal, of verifying or refuting his assertion.

It is true, however, that Neal writes with an air of favour towards the Puritans, and of prejudice against the church. There is a tone of apology for the one, and censure of the other. But these leanings do never affect the honesty of the historian. There is no suppression of evidence; there is no perversion of facts. After undergoing the severest scrutiny (the number of the clergy has not been small, nor their desire [209] to pick holes in such a performance weak), it is quite wonderful how insignificant are the mistakes in the History of the Puritans, which its censurers have been able to point out. And Mr. Neal’s work stands incontestibly an authentic document of perhaps the most important of all the portions of English history. Nevertheless it is a portion of history so important, that it ought to be better written. The highest talent could not be more usefully employed. Innumerable are the lessons which it involves; invaluable are the illustrations of human nature, and of all that men have to aim at, and to shun, in their social transactions, which it affords. Many are the prejudices still strongly fixed by the roots which it would present the opportunity of eradicating; and many and important are the principles which would be illustrated and enforced by a just and enlightened exposition of the events. A history of the Puritans, that should be at once philosophical and popular, would be one of the most valuable presents which a man equal to the task could, at the present period, bestow upon his country; and we trust that we shall not long be without it. In the mean time, the Maimbourgs may write Books of the Church; and the Church may reward them by purchasing and puffing their works.

It is amusing to observe, how precisely similar is the manner in which the champion of the Catholic Church (Merlin or Milner) treats John Fox, and the champion of the English Church treats Mr. Neal. The abusive epithets applied by Southey to Neal we have just quoted. The following is the style which the Catholic uses in regard to poor Fox: “The peculiar style, and lying memorials of the schismatic, John Fox”—“The poet’s authority for the whole of his martyrology is that of the lying Puritan, John Fox, whom he repeatedly calls good Fox, but whose notorious falsehoods have been repeatedly exposed, and sometimes even in courts of justice, and who himself was the advocate of the most perfidious murder committed in hatred of the Catholic religion, upon record.”

This “Book of the Church” is so poor a performance, in all senses of the word, that the effects which it can produce, either good or evil, cannot be great. Whatever tendency it has, however, is all mischievous to the Church; and had its members been wiser men, they would have been among the first to cry it down.

In the first place, it cannot be favourable to the character of any institution, to have a suspicion excited by the mode in which a favourite advocate pleads its cause, that a case cannot be made for it, otherwise than by propagating a false character of its competitors; a suspicion that if the comparison is made [210] between it as it really is, and them as they really are, no very high opinion can be entertained of it; in fact, a suspicion, that men will no longer continue to esteem it, than just so long as they are duped, and taken in, by its panegyrists. This is what a cause naturally and righteously obtains, by enlisting misrepresentation among its troops.

In the next place, this book of Mr. Southey is an exposure of the nakedness of the Church, of its singular poverty, in respect to great men, of every description. It is perfectly wonderful, so wonderful that before experience it would hardly be credible, that so great a number of men as the clergy of the Church of England, receiving what they call the best education, and possessing leisure beyond any other class of lettered men, should, throughout so many generations, have produced hardly one man eminent for any thing; not one man that ranks in the first class of any branch of literature; but few that rank even in the second; and a number disgracefully small that are known to the world of letters at all; that they should have contributed hardly any thing to the promotion of knowledge in any of its departments; that their contributions even to their own theology should, when duly considered, appear to be of trifling account; that they have even maimed the argument for the truth of Christianity, which, as it has been incautiously put by the most admired of their defenders of the faith, is really untenable; and that among them all, not a single philosopher can be named; for Berkeley, who alone can be thought of as an exception, rather showed a capacity for philosophy than made in it any considerable achievement.

But the most deadly blow which this unfortunate Book inflicts upon the Church is, the full evidence which it exhibits of the hostility which the Church has displayed, so constantly as to show that it is one of the elements of its nature, to the great interests of mankind, to all those securities which are necessary to save the Many from becoming the victims of the Few, to those principles of government, which alone can secure to the great body of mankind the benefits of the social union, and constitute the only foundation upon which the structure of human intelligence, morality, and happiness, can be reared to its natural elevation.

This shows that there must be something deplorable in the composition of this Church; for the men who compose it are taken from the mass of the community; and not a less proportion of them, than of the rest of their countrymen, are estimable in all the narrower relations of life. A corporation of priests is indeed unfortunately situated with regard to all the higher [211] moralities. They have an interest in degrading the human mind; and of any considerable number of men the majority are always governed by their interest. The proof that they have such an interest is irresistible. Every man has an interest in acquiring a command over the minds of other men. That command, to any great extent, constitutes the strongest of all human interests. A corporation of clergy, having the powers of government in league with them, have the prospect of an extensive command over the minds of their countrymen; and thence a motive of great intensity to strive to make that command as irresistible and complete as possible. They have first of all an interest in persuading the powers of government to exclude all competitors with them, to forbid the existence of any other priests than themselves; that thus they may have the minds of the community wholly to themselves, or, if this cannot be done completely, to come as near to it as possible. To get the powers of government to aid them in this, they must be zealous to serve the powers of government in their turn, that is, to employ all the influence which they can obtain over the minds of the people, in helping those who hold the reins of government, to render themselves secure in making any use of it which they conceive for their advantage, that is, to render them despots. This is the interest which a corporation of clergy have in corrupting the springs of government, and in labouring to sink, or to keep, their country in the mire of despotism. When men are free as citizens, they will also assert the freedom of choice in matters of religion, and the monopoly of the Clerical Company is at an end. But this is not all. It is not enough that the government ensure to them freedom from competition. It is desirable, that their dominion should not only extend to every mind, but be as complete and perfect over every mind as possible. How is this to be accomplished? Through the medium of fear. No other weapon of command is sufficiently powerful. The fears which the priest has to act with, are the fears of invisible powers. But these fears are always the most intense, when the human mind is the most degraded. When illuminated and strong, it completely excludes those fears; it ascends to just conceptions of the laws of the universe, and admits no idea of a God, but that of a perfect intelligence, the object not of fear, but of love. In this state of the human mind, the power of the priest is at an end. He is powerful, only when he is supposed of immense importance for averting the wrath of the angry God, and for teaching the trembling and ignorant votary what the terrible Being wills. When every man is sufficiently instructed to know, what is [212] perfectly simple, the will of a perfectly good Being, to understand that between such a Being and his creature, a Being “who knows his coming-in, and his going-out; his down-sitting, and his up-rising,” and at all times wills for him what is most for his good; the idea of a priest as a teacher of this will, still more as a mediator for the averting of wrath, is merely ridiculous. The priest has therefore the strongest conceivable interest in preventing the human mind from acquiring this clearness and strength; in keeping it as far distant from it as possible. It is his interest to perpetuate the reign of ignorance and darkness; to prevent the diffusion of education among the people, and if that cannot be done, to get the management of it into his own hands, and to fix it as completely as possible upon frivolous objects; above all things, to prevent the diffusion of good books, especially every book that criticises him and his system; to prevent the freedom of the press, if possible, altogether; but if that is impossible, perpetually to decry it, and reduce the liberty allowed to it, within the narrowest possible limits.

It appears to us, for these, and for many other reasons, which we shall develop at length on a future occasion, that a corporation of priests, dependent upon the government, is entirely Antichristian; that it leads, by necessity, to the perversion of religion, and is one of the strongest engines of misgovernment, and of the degradation of the people. At present, we have considered only what has been forced upon us by Maimbourg Southey, and his History of the Church, and have seen what lessons it affords. We shall hereafter examine the question of an Establishment in general, and the merits in particular of the English Establishment, both in doctrine and constitution.




[6.] Art. VIII.—(Ecclesiastical Establishments)

1. Vindication ofThe Book of the Roman Catholic Church,against the Reverend George Townsend’sAccusations of History against the Church of Rome.” By Charles Butler, Esq. 8vo. Murray. 1826.

2. Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ. Letters to C. Butler, Esq. comprising Essays on the Romish Religion, and Vindicating the Book of the Church. By R. Southey, Esq. LL. D. 18mo. Murray. 1826.

WE intend, on the present occasion, as far as our limits will permit, to examine to the bottom the question of an Ecclesiastical Establishment, and more especially of the Church [505] of England, in its effect on religion, on morality, on the character and actions of the clergy, on learning, on education, and on government.

We think it proper to begin by distinctly stating our opinion, that an ecclesiastical establishment is essentially antichristian; that religion can never be safe or sound, unless where it is left free to every man’s choice, wholly uninfluenced by the operation either of punishment or reward on the part of the magistrate. We think it proper to go even further, and declare, that it is not religion only to which an ecclesiastical establishment is hostile: in our opinion, there is not one of the great interests of humanity, on which it does not exercise a baneful influence.

We know well to what we expose ourselves, by the promulgation of these great truths, for such they appear to us, and such we trust we shall establish them to be, by evidence which cannot be resisted. The clergy have, by a long course of usurpation, established a sort of right to call themselves and their interests, by the most sacred names. In ecclesiastical language, the wealth and power of the clergy are religion. Be as treacherous, be as dishonest, be as unfeeling and cruel, be as profligate, as you please, you may still be religious. But breathe on the interests of the clergy, make them surmise discredit at your hands, and you are the enemy of religion directly; nay, the enemy of your God; and all the mischief which religious prejudice and antipathy, the poisoned, deadly weapon of the clergy, can bring down upon its victims, is the sure and necessary consequence of your sacrilegious audacity.

For protection against this spirit of persecution, strong and formidable to the present hour, we look to public opinion, daily approaching to the condition of a match for this once gigantic foe; and the strong line which we trust we shall be able to draw between the interests of a corporation of priests, and those interests of religion about which alone good men can feel any concern.

We desire also to be understood as disapproving an injustice of which clergymen have often great reason to complain, that of confounding the character of individuals with the corporation to which they belong. We have very many bad corporations, in which excellent men are included, and such is the case of the priestly corporation. But the question is not how many clergymen, from the influence of education, and the spirit of the community to which they belong, are, in their private relation, and taken individually, estimable men. You may take a number of men, one by one, all virtuous and [506] honourable, who yet, if you club them together, and enable them to act in a body, will appear to have renounced every principle of virtue, and in pursuit of their own objects will trample, without shame or remorse, upon every thing valuable to their fellow men.

We proceed upon the principle that men desire power, that they desire it in as great quantity as possible, and that they do not desire it for nothing. Men do not strive for power, that it may lie in their hands without using. And what is the use of it? The answer is plain. It is to make other men do what we please: to place their persons, their actions, and properties, to as great an extent as possible, at our disposal. This is known to be one of the strongest propensities in human nature, and altogether insatiable.

The ministers of religion are not less subject to this passion than other men. They are cited, proverbially, as an example of it in excess.

When acting singly, each confined to his own congregation, to the small circle of individuals to whom personally his ministry can extend, the quantity of power a minister of religion can derive from his influence over the minds which he directs, is too small to prompt him to hazard much for its acquisition. No inordinate thirst for power is excited, and any perversity either of doctrine or of conduct, attempted for that end, is observed too closely to escape detection. It is only on the large scale that success can attend those mischievous machinations. Whatever motives can operate upon a minister of religion, to be of use to his flock, as an example and monitor of good conduct, retain in the natural sphere their natural force, unchecked by the appetites which the prospect of acquiring an extensive command over other men regularly engenders.

When the whole, or the largest class of the ministers of religion, are aided by the magistrate in forming themselves into a body, so constituted as to act with united power, they become animated by the spirit which predominates in the leading men. This is a fact too certain to be disputed, and of which the causes are too obvious to require illustration. The spirit which predominates in the leading men is generated by the circumstances in which they are placed, the power immediately conferred upon them, and the prospect of increasing it without limits, by the means which they have at their disposal. That they will be actuated by the desire to make use of those means to the utmost, is a proposition which the history of human nature enables us to assume as undeniable. The man who would question it, is unworthy of an answer.


The great results, which spring from the combination of motives and powers, thus generated, is the subject to which the present article will be devoted; and it is of an importance to justify a call for the best attention of our readers, and for a calm and unprejudiced consideration of the evidence which we have to adduce.

The peculiarity of the case of an incorporated clergy arises from the peculiarity of the means they have to employ. In the ordinary case of power, the influence over men’s minds is the effect of the power. The power exists first, and the influence follows. In the case of clerical power, this order is inverted; the influence comes first, and the power afterwards. The power is the result of the influence. The influence, therefore, is to be acquired in the first instance, and the greater the degree in which it is acquired, the greater the power which is the darling object of pursuit.

The first result which we shall mention, of this pursuit by the clergy, of influence over the minds of their countrymen, is the desire of the monopoly of that influence. They are naturally actuated by their thirst for influence to prevent all competition with themselves in obtaining it. Just in so far as they expect great consequences from possessing it perfect and undivided, so great must be their fears of having it shared, or lost, by the success of rivals. Rivals not only threaten them with the partial, or total deprivation of that which they desire to occupy entire; but they bring the immediate not the problematical evil, of a great disturbance of ease. Without rivals a clergy can with little trouble possess themselves of the minds of their countrymen. They can riot in power and ease at the same time. To maintain their influence in competition with others, trouble must be taken at any rate. Diligence must be used, and that incessant. Vigilance must never go to sleep. Industry must never relax. But a life of labour and care is a very different thing from a life of security, indolence, and repose.

Nor is this all: sacrifices of another sort are required, by the competition with rivals. Abstinence, self-denial, and mortification are found to be powerful means of establishing a spiritual influence on the minds of men. Rivals, in order to be successful, have recourse to those means; and the corporate clergy, in order not to be supplanted, are obliged to maintain themselves by the same painful expedients. Instead of pleasure enjoyed in all its shapes, and credit derived from the display of it, they must practise all the appearances, and, for the sake of the appearance, much of the reality, of its renunciation.


It thus appears, that almost every thing which is alluring to the mind of man, in actual power and pleasure, every thing which is dreadful to it in weakness, privation, and pain, urge and impel a corporate clergy to labour for the extinction of rivals.

How steadily they have obeyed this impulse, their history declares. Of their expedients for the accomplishment of their object, the first and most conspicuous is, their application to the magistrate for the powers of persecution.

It is not required for the present purpose that we should exhibit the persuasions they applied to the magistrate, [*]to bring him to believe that it was for his interest to lend to them his power for the extermination of their rivals. That would be an instructive, but a voluminous exposure. What we can here attempt is, only to exhibit evidence, first, of their eager endeavours for this unrighteous end, and secondly, of the consequences which flowed from them.

It is not probable that we shall be very importunately called upon for evidence of the persecuting endeavours of the Catholic church, through its various ages, from the time when the first Christian emperor declared himself in favour of a particular class of priests, down to the consummation of their power, first, in the extirpation of all competitors for the spiritual dominion in Christendom, and secondly, in the hold which, through that spiritual dominion, they obtained over every other power, wielding at pleasure the arms and the wealth of almost every Christian community. What we shall adduce will be such hints merely as are calculated to awaken the recollection of our readers.

No time was lost. The first sovereign who protected the Christians was scarcely seated on his throne, when a fiery contest arose between the clergy of the Arian and the Athanasian creeds, for the possession of his ear. The Council of Nice, a memorable event, was summoned to determine the point, in other words, to satisfy the sovereign fully, which party, by its numbers and powers, it was most for his interest to join. The question was doubtful, and the balance for some time wavered. When the decision at last was made, and the [509] Athanasian clergy became a distinguished body, with the power of government engaged for their support, what were the consequences? Even the cold narrative of Mosheim conveys a pungent sense of the zeal with which they proceeded to deliver themselves from all competition, in obtaining influence over the human mind; their rage to establish a monopoly of spiritual dominion; to accomplish the extermination of rivals. Persecution flamed; blood was spilt; the non-conforming clergy, that is, non-conforming to the will of the leading divines, who now shared in the powers of government, were forbidden to teach: as often as they hazarded disobedience, they were thrown into prison, and subjected to other cruelties, not stopping short even of death.

And above all things, great pains were taken to destroy their books.

This was a capital point. Books were the most dangerous, and of course the most hated enemies, of a monopolizing clergy. No truths, not for their advantage; no exposure of lies which were; therefore no books but their own.

Their strong and persevering purpose proved fatally effectual to its end. Of all the sects of Christians which appeared in the early centuries, the books, which are known to have been exceedingly numerous, were so completely extirpated, that a vestige of them scarcely remains; and it is with difficulty that a few scattered evidences can be collected of what those early and persecuted sects of Christians either believed or practised.

Not only was all evidence of what they really were almost wholly obliterated, but their memory has been handed down to execration, by general accusations of the most disgusting vices, and the most atrocious crimes. Nor was it till the era of the Reformation, that some enlightened Protestants, beginning to ask what evidence was afforded of these imputed atrocities, disgraceful not only to professing Christians, but to human nature itself, discovered, to their infinite surprise, that there was no such thing: that of the little we really know of the ancient heretics, almost every thing goes to the disproof of the horrid accusations transmitted by the orthodox clergy, and tends to show, that both morality and learning were at a higher pitch among the heretics than among their exterminating enemies.

Of the tendency, of the frame and bent, of the clerical mind, the word heretic involves evidence which reaches not the head only, but the heart. The early church used the Grecian language, and the word heresy is Greek. Exactly, correctly, literally, it [510] signifies choice. The crime of heresy, was the crime of making a choice!

There was the consummation of the clerical dominion! When it became execrable to make, and he became execrated who did make, a choice, that is, when the clergy might choose whatever other people were to choose, their power was thenceforward limited only by their will.

How their will operated, those of our readers who are the least acquainted with history, cannot stand in need of our information.

Not only did they give and take away crowns; they boldly assumed that no crown could be righteously held, except at their discretion.

They subjected all Christendom to an enormous and destructive taxation for their own benefit; having succeeded in the audacious attempt to persuade the magistrate, that because the Jewish tribe of Levi, which had no share in the holy land, had a tenth of its produce, the Christian clergy should have a tenth of the produce of the land of Christendom; that is, as every man must eat his corn a tenth dearer, one tenth part, for their use, of every man’s labour in Christendom.

Nor was this extravagant exaction the only source to them of inordinate wealth. They levied taxes to a great amount in other forms, and persuaded magistrates and others to beatow upon them gifts, till a great proportion of the land in every country in Christendom, in some a half, in few less than a third, was in ecclesiastical hands.

The most profound and successful of all the advocates of Christianity against the modern objectors, the venerable and virtuous Campbell, introducing his account of what he calls “the third grand expedient of the church, for securing the implicit obedience of her votaries, persecution,” dates its commencement from the day and hour when “Constantine embraced the faith, and gave the Church a sort of political establishment in the empire;” and he adds the following important reflections:—

“From the apologies of the fathers before that period, (so the defences of our religion written by them are named) it is evident, that they universally considered persecution for any opinions, whether true or false, as the heighth of injustice and oppression. Nothing can be juster than the sentiment of Tertullian, which was, indeed, as far as appears, the sentiment of all the fathers of the first three centuries. ‘Non religionis est cogere religionem, quæ sponte suscipi debeat, non vi.’ And to the same purpose Lactantius, ‘Quis impotat mibi necessitatem [511] vel colendi quod nolim, vel quod velim non colendi? Quid jam nobis ulterius relinquitur, si etiam hoc, quod voluntate fieri oportet, libido extorqueat aliena?’ Again, ‘Non est opus vi et injuria; quia religio cogi non potest, verbis potius quam verberibus res agenda est, ut sit voluntas.’ Once more, ‘Longe diversa sunt carnificina et pietas, nec potest aut veritas cum vi, aut justitia cum crudelitate, conjungi.’ Their notions in those days, in regard to civil government, seem also to have been much more correct than they became soon after. For all Christians, in the ages of the martyrs, appear to have agreed in this, that the magistrate’s only object ought to be the peace and temporal prosperity of the commonwealth.

But (such alas! is the depravity of human nature) when the church was put on a different footing, men began, not all at once, but gradually, to change their system in regard to those articles, and seemed strongly inclined to think, that there was no injustice in retaliating upon their enemies, by employing those unhallowed weapons in defence of the true religion, which had been so cruelly employed in support of a false: not considering, that by this dangerous position, that one may justly persecute in support of the truth, the right of persecuting for any opinions will be effectually secured to him who holds them, provided he have the power. For what is every man’s immediate standard of orthodoxy but his own opinions? And if he have a right to persecute in support of them, because of the ineffable importance of sound opinions to our eternal happiness, it must be even his duty to do it when he can. For if that interest, the interest of the soul and eternity, come at all within the magistrate’s province, it is unquestionably the most important part of it. Now, as it is impossible he can have any other immediate directory, in regard to what is orthodox, but his own opinions, and as the opinions of different men are totally different, it will be incumbent, by the strongest of all obligations, on one magistrate to persecute in support of a faith, which it is equally incumbent on another by persecution to destroy. Should ye object, that the standard is not any thing so fleeting as opinion: it is the word of God, and right reason. This, if ye attend to it, will bring you back to the very same point which ye seek to avoid. The dictates both of scripture and of reason, we see but too plainly, are differently interpreted by different persons, of whose sincerity we have no ground to doubt. Now to every individual, that only amongst all the varieties of sentiments can be his rule, which to the best of his judgment, that is, in his opinion, is the import of either. Nor is there a possibility of avoiding this recurrence at [512] last. But such is the intoxication of power, that men, blinded by it, will not allow themselves to look forward to those dreadful consequences. And such is the presumption of vain man (of which bad quality the weakest judgments have commonly the greatest share) that it is with difficulty any one person can be brought to think, that any other person has, or can have, as strong conviction of a different set of opinions, as he has of his.” [*] —Vol. ii. pp. 287-289.

This excellent writer then goes on to trace the progress of the evil.

“I proceed to show the advances which, from time to time, were made, till that system of persecution which, in a great part of the world, still obtains, was brought to maturity and established. For ages after the opinion first took place among Christians, that it was the magistrate’s duty to restrain heretics by the infliction of civil penalties, they retained so much moderation, as not to think that the punishment could justly extend to death, or mutilation, or even to the effusion of blood. But now that the empire was become Christian, there gradually arose in it diverse laws against this new crime heresy, which are still extant in the codes of Theodosian and Justinian, imposing on the delinquents fines, banishments, or confiscations, according to the circumstances, and supposed degree, of the delinquency. All that regarded the execution of those laws, the trial as well as the sentence, devolved on the magistrate. Only the nature of the crime, what was heresy or schism, was determined by the ecclesiastical judge. One step in an evil course naturally leads to another. The first step was made when civil penalties were denounced against particular opinions and modes of thinking. This may be considered as the first stage of the doctrine and practice of intolerance in the Christian church. Nor could anything be more explicitly, or more universally, condemned than this has been, by the fathers of the first three centuries, and several of the fourth. Humani juris et naturalis potestatis est, said Tertullian, in the beginning of the third century, unicuique quod putaverit colere; and Hilary of Poitiers, in the fourth, in opposition to those who favoured the interposition of the magistrate, Deus cognitionem sui docuit, potius quam exegit, et operationum cælestium admiratione, præceptis suis concilians auctoritatem, coactam confitendi se aspernatus est voluntatem. Again, Deus universitalis est, obsequio non eget necessario, non requirit coactam confessionem: non fallendus [513] est sed promerendus, simplicitate quærendus est, confessione discendus est, charitate amandus est, timore venerandus est, voluntatis probitate retinendus est. At vero quid istud, quod sacerdotes timere Deum vinculis coguntur, pœnis jubentur? Sacerdotes carceribus continentur? Men’s system of conduct may come, we see, to be totally reversed. But this is always the work of time. Every advance has its difficulty, and is made with hesitation. But one difficulty surmounted emboldens a man, and renders it easier for him to surmount another. That again makes way for the next, and so on till the change be total.”—Vol. ii. pp. 293-295.

While the stupidity of the middle ages was still in its perfection, the fetters of the clergy upon the human mind were easily preserved from relaxation.

“For some centuries,” says Dr. Campbell, “particularly the eighth, ninth, and tenth, remarkable for nothing so much, as the vilest superstition and grossest ignorance, and for insurrections, revolutions, and confusion, heretics and sectaries made but little noise, and were as little minded. With the revival of knowledge, even in its dawn, these also revived.”—p. 299.

“All attacks upon received doctrines must ultimately affect the power by which they are established. But when the assault is made directly on that power, the fabric of church authority is in the most imminent danger. The aim of the former is only to make a breach in the wall of the edifice, but that of the latter is an attempt to sap the foundation. As we have seen all along that the darling object of Rome is power, to which every other consideration is made to yield, we may believe that attempts of this kind would excite a more than ordinary resentment. This, in fact, was the consequence: an unusual degree of rancour in the ecclesiastics, more especially in the pontiff and his minions, mingled itself with their bigotry or mistaken zeal (for it would be unjust to impute the effect to either cause separately), and produced the many bloody, and, till then, unexampled scenes of cruelty, which ensued. The popes, by letter, frequently excited the bishops as well as princes, the bishops instigated the magistrates, by all possible means, to subdue or exterminate the enemies of the church. When the number of these enemies was so great, that it was impossible to attain this end by means of judicatories, civil or ecclesiastical, princes were enjoined, on pain of excommunication, interdict, deprivation, &c., to make war upon them, and extirpate them by fire and sword. And in order to allure, by rewards, as well as terrify by punishments, the same indulgences and privileges were bestowed on them who engaged in those holy battles, and with equal reason, as had [514] been bestowed on the crusaders, who fought for the recovery of the holy sepulchre against the Saracens in the east.”—Vol. ii. pp. 301, 302.

As the improvement of mind advanced, the need of efforts more and more strong, to crush the freedom of thought, produced at last the greatest monster which the world ever beheld; Holy Inquisition; the natural progeny, the legitimate offspring, reared to maturity, of priestly power engendering with magisterial ignorance; a conjugal connection, usually denominated the alliance of church and state, which always produces children with a true family likeness, but has never produced another of such gigantic powers as the Holy Tribunal, of which Dr. Campbell says,

“It may not be improper to conclude our account of the origin of the Inquisition, with a few things in illustration of the spirit in which it proceeds, that every one may have it in his power to judge, whether the relation it bears to the spirit of Christ be denominated more properly resemblance, or contrariety. It is so far from following the rules of almost all other tribunals, where any regard is shown to equity, or the rights of human nature, that, in every respect, where the ecclesiastic power has not been checked by the secular, those rules have been reversed. The account is intirely just, as far as it goes, which is given by Voltaire of the Spanish Inquisition, and he might have added, of the Portuguese, for both are on the same model. ‘Their form of proceeding is an infallible way to destroy whomsoever the inquisitors please.’ And let it be observed, that they have strong motives for destroying a rich culprit, as their sentence of condemnation is followed by the confiscation of all his estate, real and personal, of which two-thirds go to the church, and one-third to the state; so that it may be said, with the strictest propriety, that the judges themselves are parties, having a personal interest in the issue against the prisoner. ‘The prisoners are not confronted with the accuser or informer.’ Nay, they are not so much as told who it is that informs. His name is kept secret to encourage the trade of informing. And, surely, a better expedient could not have been devised for promoting this dark business, than by thus securing at once concealment and gratification, with impunity, to private malice, envy, and revenge. Further, ‘there is no informer, or witness, who is not listened to. A public convict, a notorious malefactor, an infamous person, a common prostitute, a child, are, in the holy office, though no where else, creditable accusers and witnesses. Even the son may depose against his father, the wife against her husband.’ The detection [515] of the grossest prevarication in the delator and witnesses is hardly ever punished, unless with a very gentle rebuke: let it be observed, by the way, that to the profligate and abandoned they can be very gentle, for they dread above all things, to do aught that might discourage informers, spies, and witnesses. And that there may be no risk of a want of information, they have, in all parts of the kingdom, spies of all different qualities, who are denominated the familiars of the holy office, a place of which even men of high rank are sometimes ambitious, from different motives, some for the greater personal security, others because it empowers them to take a severe revenge on their enemies, and others, no doubt, because they think they do God good service. The wretched prisoner is no more made acquainted with his crime than with his accuser. His being told the one might possibly lead him to guess the other. To avoid this, he is compelled, by tedious confinement, in a noisome dungeon, where he never sees a face but the jailor’s, and is not permitted the use either of books, or of pen and ink, or, when confinement does not succeed, he is compelled, by a train of the most excruciating tortures, ‘to inform against himself; to divine and to confess the crime laid to his charge, of which often he is ignorant.’ An effectual method to bring nine-tenths of mankind to confess any thing, true or false, which may gratify their tormentors, and put an end to their misery. ‘This procedure,’ adds our historian, ‘unheard of till the institution of this court, makes the whole kingdom tremble. Suspicion reigns in every breast. Friendship and openness are at an end. The brother dreads his brother, the father his son. Hence taciturnity is become the characteristic of a nation endued with all the vivacity natural to the inhabitants of a warm and fruitful climate. To this tribunal we must likewise impute that profound ignorance of sound philosophy, in which Spain lies buried, whilst Germany, England, France, and even Italy, have discovered so many truths, and enlarged the sphere of our knowledge. Never is human nature so debased, as where ignorance is armed with power.’

In regard to the extent of power given to inquisitors by papal bulls, and generally admitted by the secular authority in those countries where the inquisition is established, I shall give the few following instances out of many that might be produced. First, it is ordered, that the convicts be burnt alive, and in public; and that all they have be confiscated: all princes and rulers who refuse their concurrence in executing these and the other sentenoes authorized by the church, shall be brought under censure, that is, anathematized and excommunicated, [516] their states or kingdoms laid under an interdict, &c. The house, also, in which the heretic is apprehended, must be razed to the ground, even though it be not his, but the property of a person totally unsuspected. This ferocious kind of barbarity, so utterly irreconcilable to all the principles of equity, is, nevertheless, extremely politic, as it is a powerful means of raising horror in the ignorant populace, and of increasing the awe of this tribunal, in men of all denominations, who must consider it as extremely dangerous to have the smallest connection with any person suspected of heresy, or so much as to admit him into their houses. The Inquisitors are also empowered to demand of any person whom they suspect (and, for their suspicions, they are not obliged to give a reason), that he solemnly adjure heretical opinions, and even give pecuniary security that he shall continue a good Catholic. The court of Inquisition are also privileged to have their own guards, and are authorized to give licences to others to carry arms, and to enlist crusaders. One of Paul the 4th’s bulls does not allow a reprieve from the sentence to one who, on the first conviction, recants his opinion, if the heresy be in any of the five articles mentioned in that bull. But what is, if possible, still more intolerable, is, that, by a bull of Pius the 5th, no sentence in favour of the accused shall be held a final acquittal, though pronounced after canonical purgation; but the holy office shall have it in their power, though no new evidence or presumption has appeared, to re-commence the trial, on the very same grounds they had examined formerly. This ordinance ensures to the wretch, who has been once accused, a course of terror and torment for life, from which no discovery of innocence, though clear as day, no judgment of the court can release him. Another bull of the same pontiff ordains, that whoever shall behave injuriously, or so much as threaten a notary, or other servant of the Inquisition, or a witness examined in the court, shall beside excommunication, be held guilty of high treason, be punished capitally, his goods confiscated, his children rendered infamous, and incapable of succeeding to any body by testament. Every one is subjected to the same punishment, who makes an escape out of the prison of the office, or who attempts, though unsuccessfully, to make it; and whoever favours or intercedes for any such. In these classes, persons of the highest rank, even princes, are comprehended.

Every one must be sensible, that there is something in the constitution of this tribunal so monstrously unjust, so exorbitantly cruel, that it is matter of astonishment, that in any country the people, as well as the secular powers, would not rather have [517] encountered any danger, than have submitted to receive it. Nor can there be a stronger evidence of the brutish ignorance, as well as gross depravity of any nation, than that such a judicatory has an establishment among them.”—Vol. ii. pp. 312-318.

These are specimens (for specimens are all which we can afford to present) of the evidence with which history teems, of the persecuting spirit of the first great incorporation of priests. The priestly incorporation called the Church of England stands next in power; and, as a natural consequence, next, also, in the ranks of persecution.

It is highly instructive to observe the circumstances, in which the English corporation of priests made their efforts to secure to themselves the monopoly of priestly influence on the minds of their countrymen, by their grand instrument, persecution.

They had just executed a successful revolt against the monopoly of their predecessors, and to effect this object had been obliged to destroy the foundation on which it principally rested, the claim of infallibility. The strong arguments by which the Catholics supported this claim, affirming that the credibility of revelation itself rested upon it, they had set at nought, denying that it was ever promised to his church by the Author of our religion, or that any man or set of men had ever given, or could give, satisfactory evidence of possessing it. They inferred, accordingly, that they had a right to impute error to the Catholic church, when they saw reason to do so, and to separate from her communion, when they deemed it unsafe to abide in it.

It is astonishing how completely, and immediately, they lost sight, or lost regard, of the inevitable conclusion, that, if they had a right, on the inference of error, to separate from the Church of Rome, others had as good a right, on the same inference, to separate from them.

The formula of words, made use of by the two parties, to give colour to their proceedings, was different, the proceedings themselves were essentially the same. We persecute, said the Church of Rome, because we are infallible, and know it is damnable to dissent from us.

We, said the Church of England, persecute, because that excellent order, which is called Uniformity, will be violated by dissenting from us.

The Catholics were infinitely more generous and consistent in their proceedings and arguments. We, said they, addressing themselves to the objects of their penal benevolence, know for certain that you will plunge yourself and others in eternal and inconceivable torments, unless we interpose.


What was the corresponding address of the English? We know not, they were obliged to say, we know not, at least not for certain, but you may be in the right, and we may be in the wrong: nevertheless, we think it good to bring you over to our opinion, by acting on your body, when we cannot succeed with your mind.

Allow the premises of the Catholic priest, his conclusion was indubitable, and persecution, on his part, the highest of all conceivable duties. Adhere to the premises of the English priest, and there is nothing in human conduct more atrocious than his proceedings.

What man is there, who owns human feelings, who, if he knew for certain that he could save a single fellow creature from everlasting torments, would not do so, by extinguishing the mere sublunary life, an instant, not of one man only, or a few, but of millions, nay of the whole human race? And how cheap would be the purchase!

From the doctrine on the other hand of the English priests; that no man is infallible, and hence that when two men equally sincere in their intentions, and perfect in their understandings, come to opposite conclusions, it is just as likely that one is right as the other, and certain that if one of them comes over to the opinion of the other, wrought upon by hopes and fears, pains and pleasures, or by any thing but the clear perception of evidence, he acts dishonestly and wickedly; it follows, that the English priests, in applying their pains and pleasures, hopes and fears, incur a double condemnation; first, in suborning this dishonesty; secondly, in risking the salvation of a fellow creature, who may himself have the saving belief, when they seduce him into damning error.

As the inconsistency and atrocity are glaring of persecuting any man for opinions without the gift of infallibility, the church of England has virtually assumed that she is infallible; disclaiming the assumption, as far as mere words go, but in ideas really and effectually maintaining it.

This was wittily expressed by a certain author, sir Richard Steele, if we mistake not, who said that the difference between the church of England and the church of Rome was this: The church of Rome could not be in the wrong; the church of England never was. The church of England is like the man of whom Erasmus jocosely said, that though not the pope, he had a pope in his belly.

It would require many more than our number of pages, to give the history, even in abridgment, of the persecutions done by the priestly incorporation in England. The whole of the [519] five volumes of Neal is but an imperfect record of them. We must content ourselves with selecting a few things as specimens.

Hardly was the authority of the church of Rome renounced, and a new order of things recognised in England, when diversity of opinion began to be felt, and consequent uneasiness manifested itself among the leaders of the clergy. The growth of opinions odious to those leaders was accelerated by the return of the sufferers, who driven into exile by the persecutions of Mary, had resorted to Geneva and the Protestant parts of France, and drunk in the doctrines of a Presbyterian or Republican form of church government among the zealous and comparatively learned and accomplished Reformists of those parts of the continent.

It was not long before the desultory efforts of the clergy for crushing this spirit were embodied in a grand organ, of which we are happy that it is not necessary for us to give the description in our own words. But we entreat our readers to bestow upon it a sufficient portion of their attention; and to estimate coolly the weight of evidence which it involves.

Upon the death of Grindal, in 1583, the queen named to the primacy, Whitgift, a “zealous churchman,” says Hume, “who had already signalized his pen in controversy, and who, having in vain attempted to convince the puritans by argument, was now resolved to open their eyes by power, and by the execution of penal statutes. He informed the queen that all the spiritual authority lodged in the prelates was insignificant without the sanction of the crown; and as there was no ecclesiastical commission at that time in force, he engaged her to issue a new one, more arbitrary than any of the former, and conveying more unlimited authority. The jurisdiction of the court extended over the whole kingdom, and over all orders of men; and every circumstance of its authority, and all its methods of proceeding, were contrary to the clearest principles of law and natural equity. The commissioners were empowered to visit and reform all errors, heresies, schisms, in a word, to regulate all opinions, as well as to punish all breach of uniformity in the exercise of public worship. They were directed to make inquiry, not only by the legal methods of juries and witnesses, but by all other means and ways which they could devise; that is, by the rack, by torture, by inquisition, by imprisonment. Where they found reason to suspect any person, they might administer to him an oath, called ex-officio, by which he was bound to answer all questions, and might thereby be obliged to accuse himself or his most intimate friend. The fines which they levied were discretionary, [520] and often occasioned the total ruin of the offender, contrary to the established laws of the kingdom. The imprisonment to which they condemned any delinquent was limited by no rule but their own pleasure. They assumed a power of imposing on the clergy what new articles of subscription, and consequently of faith, they thought proper. Though all other spiritual courts were subject, since the Reformation, to exhibitions from the supreme courts of law, the ecclesiastical commissioners were exempted from that legal jurisdiction, and were liable to no control. And the more to enlarge their authority, they were empowered to punish all incests, adulteries, fornications; all outrages, misbehaviours, and disorders in marriage. And the punishments which they might inflict, were according to their wisdom, conscience, and discretion. In a word, this court was a real inquisition; attended with all the iniquities, as well as cruelties, inseparable from that tribunal. [*] ”

This must suffice, and well it may, as evidence of the passion for persecution which at that time distinguished the clergy. For their proceedings in detail we must refer to the proper authorities: to Neal, and the historians of the several sects; for in the general histories of England a most imperfect view of this interesting part of our story is to be obtained. It is well known that, in spite of all the persecution which could be applied, the spirit of the nation continued to rise, and rise the faster in consequence of that persecution, till the appearance of Laud. Of that man we have recently had occasion to speak. He is a prolific source of evidence, not only of the spirit of the clergy in his own age; but, selected as he has been, for the standard of a churchman to the present hour, of the spirit of the clergy in every succeeding age.

That he was a relentless persecutor, is saying little. With such an impetuous rage of persecution was he driven, that, undeterred by all that opposition which public opinion now obviously presented to him, he went on, recklessly, to raise the storm, in which the church and the monarchy were both levelled with the ground.

At the restoration of the monarchy (of the intermediate period it is not necessary for us to speak), the church was also restored; and with it, the spirit of persecution in its pristine vigour. To ensure the extinction of rivals the Act of Uniformity, that is, an act for the persecution of all dissenters from the established church, was passed in 1662.

“This act,” says Hume, “reinstated the church in the same [521] condition in which it stood at the commencement of the civil wars.” [*]What that condition was, in regard to powers and desires of persecution, the account just recited, of the Commission court, sufficiently testifies. “And,” continues Hume, “as the old persecuting laws of Elizabeth still subsisted in their full rigour, and new clauses of a like nature were now enacted, all the king’s promises of toleration, and of indulgence to tender consciences were thereby eluded and broken.” The following great historical fact is remarkable. “However,” adds the historian, “it is agreed that the king did not voluntarily concur with this violent measure, and that the zeal of Clarendon and of the church party among the commons, seconded by the intrigues of the Catholics, was the chief cause which extorted his consent.” Hume says, that the Catholics seconded the persecuting views of the church, because their hopes rested upon the wideness of the breach between the contending parties.

Even the Act of Uniformity did not satisfy the avidity of the clergy for means of extinguishing rivals. Two years afterwards, “it was enacted, that wherever five persons above those of the same household should assemble in a religious congregation, every one of them was liable, for the first offence, to be imprisoned three months, or pay five pounds; for the second, to be imprisoned six months, or pay ten pounds; and for the third, to be transported seven years, or pay a hundred pounds.” []

The most remarkable transactions of the reigns of the last two of the Stuarts were the persecutions, hardly surpassed for savage barbarity by any with which the page of history is stained, carried on for the establishment of episcopacy in Scotland. We have so recently had occasion to dwell upon these transactions, in our review both of Brodie’s History, and of Southey’s Book of the Church, that the evidence thence afforded of the persecuting spirit of the church of England, must be fresh in the recollection of our readers.

It is only further necessary, therefore, that we should shew by sufficient samples the spirit manifested by the priestly corporation in England since the epoch of the Revolution.

At the time of the Revolution a new order of things commenced. Not only was the government placed on a new foundation, but the sentiments of the nation assumed a new character. From that day the people regarded themselves as the arbiters of their own destiny. From that day they considered [522] the institutions of the country, civil and ecclesiastical, as made for them, and not them for the institutions. From that day the right of thinking, and of delivering their thoughts, both respecting government, and respecting religion, they assumed as their own; and spurned the advocates of slavery, who would rob them of that invaluable possession.

This spirit was nourished by the new government; which, being assailed, by the adherents of the old, with all the arguments which the obligation of being obedient to established power, solely because established, could by zeal and ingenuity be worked into, was under the necessity of defending itself by arguments drawn from the propriety of revolting against established power, whensoever an evil or the producer of evil, and from the concomitant and inseparable propriety of the people’s deciding for themselves on the goodness or badness of every institution. This was the only solid ground on which the new government could be defended against the advocates of the old. And fortunate was the necessity which put such doctrines in circulation with all the influence of government to secure their diffusion and acceptance. Hence the sober and manly writings of Locke on the subject of government, laying the will and approbation of the people as its only legitimate foundation. And with the writings of Locke, those of many other eminent authors in a similar strain.

In such a state of the public mind, and such a state of the government, the disposition of the clergy to strive for the monopoly of the religious influence was obliged to manifest itself with great caution. In such circumstances the faintest indications are as valid proofs of the disposition, as the strongest displays when the power was all in their hands.

Our time will not admit of our ransacking the subsequent history to select the best illustrations. We must set down such particulars as a general recollection can supply.

The first great incident, as respects this subject, is the Act of Toleration. It is well known how imperfect, as an instrument for securing religious liberty, the Act of Toleration was; and how much it was necessary to pare the bill down for the purpose of gaining so many of the more moderate churchmen as to afford it a chance of passing. Yet Burnett informs us that on account of the share he had in forwarding this mutilated, this imperfect, this cramped, and mis-named liberty of conscience, he lost the confidence, and incurred the hatred of the church.

The last volumes of Burnett’s history, from the accession of [523] William and Mary downwards, afford most remarkable evidence of the persecuting propensities of the English church. We recommend these volumes to the attentive perusal of our readers, as abounding with the most important information which is to be found in any part of our history. The different fortunes of the histories of their own times by Clarendon and Burnett, are a curious proof of the power which the clergy have hitherto possessed of misleading the public mind, and spreading false opinions favourable to themselves. The narrative of Burnett lets out many facts which tell against the clergy. That of Clarendon discloses none which it can conceal, and none without as thick a varnish, to hide their real complexion, as it is in his power to lay on. Burnett’s is the superior production in every respect; in fidelity, in knowledge, in judgment, nay even in style. Yet admiration of Clarendon, with contempt of Burnett, was a fashion which the clergy contrived to set, and which up to this hour they have successfully maintained.

There are few men to whom this country is more indebted than to bishop Burnett. To him, perhaps, more than to any other man, it is owing, that the church party did not overwhelm the government of William and Mary (they were very near accomplishing it); when either a return to the preceding slavery of the nation, or a civil war, would have been the inevitable consequence. Fortunately the crown had the nomination of bishops; fortunately a sufficient number of vacancies took place, to give the crown a majority in the upper house of Convocation; and fortunately bishop Burnett was the most active, the most able, and the most eloquent man both in that house, and in the house of Peers; where, greatly by his means, the influence of the court still maintained an ascendancy, while that of the clergy carried every thing before it, in the lower house both of Convocation and Parliament.

We shall now exhibit some specimens of the evidence which the volumes of Burnett afford.

So early as the year 1689, the very year in which the Act of Toleration passed, he says, “The clergy began now to shew an implacable hatred to the nonconformists, and seemed to wish for an occasion to renew old severities against them. But wise and good men did very much applaud the quieting the nation by the toleration. It seemed to be suitable, both to the spirit of the Christian religion, and to the interest of the nation. It was thought very unreasonable, that, while we were complaining of the cruelty of the church of Rome, we should fall into [524] such practices among ourselves; chiefly, while we were engaging in a war, in the progress of which we would need the united strength of the whole nation.

“This bill gave the king great content. He in his own opinion always thought, that conscience was God’s province, and that it ought not to be imposed upon: and his experience in Holland made him look on toleration as one of the wisest measures of government. He was much troubled to see so much ill humour spreading among the clergy, and by their means over a great part of the nation. He was so true to his principle herein, that he restrained the heat of some, who were proposing severe acts against papists.”—Vol. iv. p. 21.

Take another, a similar specimen in 1698:—“All this while it was manifest, that there were two different parties among the clergy; one was firm and faithful to the present government, and served it with zeal; these did not envy the dissenters the ease that the toleration gave them; they wished for a favourable opportunity of making such alterations, in some few rites and ceremonies, as might bring into the church those who were not at too great a distance from it; and I do freely own that I was of this number. Others took the oaths, indeed, and concurred in every act of compliance with the government, but they were not only cold in serving it, but were always blaming the administration, and aggravating misfortunes; they expressed a great esteem for Jacobites, and in all elections gave their votes to those who leaned that way; at the same time, they shewed great resentments against the dissenters, and were enemies to the toleration, and seemed resolved never to consent to any alteration in their favour. The bulk of the clergy ran this way, so that the moderate party was far out numbered. Profane minds had too great advantages from this, in reflecting severely on a body of men, that took oaths, and performed public devotions, when the rest of their lives was too public and too visible a contradiction to such oaths and prayers.”—Vol. iv. p. 411.

Also in 1700:—“The toleration of all the sects among us, had made us live more quietly together of late, than could be expected, when severe laws were rigorously executed against Dissenters. No tumults or disorders had been heard of in any part of the kingdom these eleven years, since that act passed; and yet the much greater part of the clergy studied to blow up this fire again, which seemed to be now, as it were, covered over with ashes.”—Vol. iv. p. 474.

“The clergy continued to be much divided: all moderate [525] divines were looked upon by some hot men with an ill eye, as persons who were cold and indifferent in the matters of the church: that which flowed from a gentleness, both of temper and principle, was represented as an inclination to favour dissenters, which passed among many, for a more heinous thing than leaning to popery itself. Those men, who began now to be called the high-church party, had all along expressed a coldness, if not an opposition to the present settlement. Soon after the Revolution, some great preferments had been given among them, to try if it was possible to bring them to be hearty for the government; but it appearing, that they were soured with a leaven, that had gone too deep to be wrought out, a stop was put to the courting them any more. When they saw preferments went in another channel, they set up a complaint over England of the want of convocations, that they were not allowed to sit nor act with a free liberty, to consider of the grievances of the clergy, and of the danger the church was in. This was a new pretension, never thought of since the Reformation: some books were writ to justify it, with great acrimony of style, and a strain of insolence, that was peculiar to one Atterbury, who had indeed very good parts, great learning, and was an excellent preacher, and had many extraordinary things in him; but was both ambitious and virulent out of measure; and had a singular talent in asserting paradoxes with a great air of assurance, shewing no shame when he was detected in them, though this was done in many instances; but he let all these pass, without either confessing his errors, or pretending to justify himself: he went on still venting new falsehoods in so barefaced a manner, that he seemed to have outdone the Jesuits themselves. He thought the government had so little strength or credit, that any claim against it would be well received. He attacked the supremacy of the Crown, with relation to ecclesiastical matters, which had been hitherto maintained by all our divines with great zeal. But now the hot men of the clergy did so readily entertain his notions, that in them it appeared, that those who are the most earnest in the defence of certain points, when these seem to be for them, can very nimbly change their minds upon a change of circumstances.”—Vol. iv. p. 478.

In 1701, he says,—“The greater part of the clergy were in no good temper; they hated the toleration, and were heavily charged with the taxes, which made them very uneasy; and this disposed them to be soon inflamed by those, who were seeking out all possible methods to disorder our affairs. They hoped to [526] have engaged them against the supremacy, and reckoned, that in the feeble state to which the government was now brought, they might hope either to wrest it quite from the Crown, and then it would fall into the management of the House of Commons; or if the king should proceed against them according to the statute, and sue them in a premunire, this might unite the clergy into such an opposition to the government, as would probably throw us into great convulsions. But many aspiring men among them, had no other design but to force themselves into preferment, by the opposition they made.”—Vol. v. p. 545.

In this year began the memorable contests about the bill against occasional conformity. Accordingly in this bill, which was brought into parliament by the church party, and in favour of which the clergy exerted themselves to raise the greatest ferment in the nation, it was to be enacted that, “all those who took the sacrament and test (which by the Act passed in the year 1673, was made necessary to those who held offices of trust, or were magistrates in corporations, but was only to be taken once by them) and did, after that, go to the meetings of dissenters, or any meeting for religious worship, that was not according to the Liturgy or practice of the Church of England, where five persons were present, more than the family, were disabled from holding their employments, and were to be fined in an hundred pounds, and in five pounds a day for every day, in which they continued to act in their employments, after their having been at any such meeting. They were also made incapable to hold any other employment, till after one whole year’s conformity to the church, which was to be proved at the Quarter session. Upon a relapse, the penalty and the time of incapacity were doubled; no limitation of time was put in the bill, nor of the way in which the offence was to be proved. But whereas, the Act of the Test only included the magistrates in corporations, all the inferior officers or freemen in corporations, who were found to have some interest in the elections, were now comprehended within this bill.”—Vol. v. p. 652.

The question was re-agitated in 1703. Bishop Burnett says, “I was desired to print what I said upon that occasion, which drew many virulent pamphlets upon me, but I answered none of them. I saw the Jacobites designed to raise such a flame among us, as might make it scarcely possible to carry on the war; those who went not so deep, yet designed to make a breach on the toleration by gaining this point: and I was resolved never to be silent, when that should be brought into debate: for I have long looked on liberty of conscience as one [527] of the rights of human nature, antecedent to society, which no man could give up, because it was not in his own power; and our Saviour’s rule, of doing as we would be done by, seemed to be a very express decision to all men, who would lay the matter home to their own conscience, and judge as they would willingly be judged by others.

“The clergy over England, who were generally inflamed with this matter, could hardly forgive the queen and the prince the coldness that they expressed on this occasion: the lord Godolphin did so positively declare, that he thought the bill unseasonable, and that he had done all he could to hinder its being brought in, that though he voted to give the bill a second reading, that did not reconcile the party to him. They set up the earl of Rochester as the only man to be depended on, who deserved to be the chief minister.”—Vol. v. p. 719.

The following is a remarkable passage:—“With this the session of parliament was brought to a quiet conclusion, after much heat and a great deal of contention between the two Houses. The queen, as she thanked them for the supplies, so she again recommended union and moderation to them. These words, which had hitherto carried so good a sound, that all sides pretended to them, were now become so odious to violent men, that even in sermons, chiefly at Oxford, they were arraigned as importing somewhat that was unkind to the church, and that favoured the dissenters. The House of Commons had, during this session, lost much of their reputation, not only with fair and impartial judges, but even with those who were most inclined to favour them. It is true, the body of the freeholders began to be uneasy under the taxes, and to cry out for a peace: and most of the capital gentry of England, who had the most to lose, seemed to be ill turned, and not to apprehend the dangers we were in, if we should fall under the power of France, and into the hands of the pretended prince of Wales; or else they were so fatally blinded, as not to see that these must be the consequences of those measures, into which they were engaged.

“The universities, Oxford especially, have been very unhappily successful in corrupting the principles of those who were sent to be bred among them; so that few of them escaped the taint of it, and the generality of the clergy were not only ill-principled but ill-tempered. They exclaimed against all moderation as endangering the church, though it is visible that the church is in no sort of danger, from either the numbers or the interest that the dissenters have among us, who by reason [528] of the toleration are now so quieted, that nothing can keep up any heat in those matters, but the folly and bad humour that the clergy are possessed with, and which they infuse into all those with whom they have credit. But at the same time, though the great and visible danger that hangs over us is from popery, which a miscarriage in the present war must let in upon us, with an inundation not to be either resisted or recovered, they seem to be blind on that side, and to apprehend and fear nothing from that quarter.”—Vol. v. p. 752-54.

The following is a slight instance, but yielding evidence which is not so.

In 1709 an act passed, “which” says the bishop “was much desired, and had been often attempted, but had been laid aside in so many former parliaments, that there was scarce any hopes left to encourage a new attempt. It was for naturalizing all foreign Protestants, upon their taking the oaths to the government, and their receiving the sacrament in any Protestant church. Those who were against the act, soon perceived that they could have no strength, if they should set themselves directly to oppose it; so they studied to limit strangers in the receiving the sacrament to the way of the church of England. . . . . . It was thought best to cast the door as wide open as possible for encouraging of strangers. . . . . . But all those who appeared for this large and comprehensive way, were reproached for their coldness and indifference in the concerns of the church; and in that I had a large share; as I spoke copiously for it when it was brought up to the Lords.”

Something not less instructive than this passage is the comment of Swift upon the last sentence. It consists of the word “Dog.” We shall add the words which immediately follow in the same paragraph. “The bishop of Chester spoke as zealously against it, for he seemed resolved to distinguish himself as a zealot for that which was called high church.”

Burnett speaking of the clerical proceedings in the same year, (1709), and the hopes begun to be founded upon the sentiments of the queen, says, “Indeed it was but too visible, that the much greater part of the clergy were in a very ill temper, and under very bad influences; enemies to the toleration, and soured against the dissenters.”

It is well known in what manner the feeble and disjointed ministry, maintained by queen Anne at the close of her reign, were dependent upon the church, and tools in its hands. It is also well known what measures were in progress, and would have been successful, but for the premature death of the queen and [529] the insane squabbles among her ministers, for the restoration of the Pretender, and the barter of the liberties of England, for privileges, alias persecuting powers, to the church.

One of the last acts of her reign was passing the bill to prevent the growth of schism, i. e. to persecute infringers of the monopoly. And the very day of her death was the day on which the act was to come into operation. In consequence of her death, it never came into operation, and for this and for many other reasons, the death of that weak, misguided woman, whom the duchess of Marlborough characterized as “a praying, godly idiot,” was one of the events at which Englishmen have the greatest reason to rejoice.

If the progress of the public mind towards that strength, which was necessary to enable it successfully to assert for itself the right of thinking freely and freely uttering its thoughts on matters of religion, was promoted by the revolutionary government of William and Mary, it was still further advanced by the accession of the House of Hanover, whose stability on the throne of England could solely rest on the prevalence of those opinions by which the pretensions of the Stuarts and of the church were exploded.

Sir Robert Walpole, who had been defamed and persecuted by the church party, wielded the powers of government so long, and so long repressed the efforts of the church, that a mode of thinking utterly inconsistent with the claims of a monopoly of the religious influence, became habitual in the nation; and churchmen themselves could perceive that they had more to lose than to gain by contending against it. The same spirit has been constantly, of late rapidly, gaining strength; and the disposition of the church has been obliged to manifest itself chiefly in one way; in grasping vehemently the portion of monopolizing, or persecuting power which she had left, and resisting with the most vehement outcries, with scratching and kicking, every attempt to wrest an atom of it out of her hands. It is, however, not worth while to illustrate at much length proceedings, of little importance, except as evidence of the spirit from which they proceed; and it is the less needful as a few instances will revive the recollection of others in the minds of all who are but moderately acquainted with our recent history.

One case, which includes the most of what we think it necessary to allude to, is the case of the Test and Corporation acts. The history of these laws is pregnant with evidence. It proves the fact not only of an eager retention of monopolizing, in this case, persecuting power, but of the lowness and meanness of the [530] spirit, with which it is clung to, and held with a convulsive grasp, by the church of England.

The object of the Test and Corporation acts, speaking generally, is to prevent every body, except a member of the church of England, from holding office in the government or any corporation, by rendering communion with the church of England a necessary qualification. That is to say; when it became impossible, from the improving spirit of the age, to preserve in being the law which went to drive out of their country all persons not of the church, those laws were eagerly retained which go to exclude them from all places of influence, and to secure, by the allurements of power, all they can secure of a monopoly to the church. Against even these laws the spirit of the age has risen so triumphant, that the government neither dares nor wills to put them in execution; and an annual act of indemnity passes, as a matter of course, to exempt all men from the effects of breaking them. They exist, therefore, to no purpose, but that of making an odious and mischievous distinction, and affording the means of many petty vexations, which gratify the spirit of persecution, though it attains none of its objects. Yet, and the fact is unspeakably instructive, no attempt has ever been made, and it has often and perseveringly been made, to purge our legislation of this feculent matter, but it has been met on the part of the church with all the opposition which their remaining influence on the minds of the community, exerted in every possible way, and in shapes the most odious, enabled them to raise.

We need not dwell on the evidence afforded by the no-popery cry, and the majorities in parliament, especially the upper House, against Catholic Emancipation. We need not quote the sermons, and more especially the charges, from the pens of the highest dignitaries in the church, enforcing the sinfulness of schism, that is, the sinfulness of following one’s own convictions in matters of religion whenever they are not accordant with those which churchmen profess.

But the mention of the word schism brings to our recollection a passage of the celebrated work of Blackstone, which deserves attention. The evidence of the disposition of the church of England afforded by Blackstone, is of the greatest importance. Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, were originally delivered as a course of lectures at the head quarters of church orthodoxy, the University of Oxford. Blackstone looked to his popularity in the university, and his interest with the church, for the promotion which was the grand object of his life. The sentiments of the clergy were therefore carefully transplanted into his pages.


The reader will take notice, that in the following passages we quote from the first edition of Blackstone. Finding that the spirit of the age would not bear what the spirit of the clergy had suggested, Blackstone materially altered his phraseology in the succeeding impressions of his work.

Speaking of the statute, 1st Elizabeth, c. 1, he says [vol. iv. 49], “Thus was heresy reduced to a greater certainty than before; though it might not have been the worse to have defined it in terms still more precise and particular.” Might not have been the worse, is the phrase by which, when a choice is given between two things, we denote that the one, if better at all, is but little better than the other. “It might not have been the worse,” says Blackstone, “to have defined heresy in terms still more precise and particular, as a man still continued liable to be burnt, for what, perhaps, he did not understand to be heresy, till the ecclesiastical judge so interpreted the words of the canonical scripture.” It might not have been the worse, to have prevented men from being so burned. This was cool, in the year 1769. Quære: How far would those, who would just stop short of burning men for what they could not know to be heresy, go, for the punishment of those who should incur heresy, after being fully instructed what it was?

The writ de heretico comburendo was abolished by the statute 29, Car. ii. c. 9. Upon this the Oxford commentator takes occasion to make a memorable declaration. “In this reign, our minds were delivered from the tyranny of superstitious bigotry, by demolishing this last badge of persecution in the English law.” [ib.] All the powers which remained, and not only remained, but were often inhumanly exercised, of tormenting those who did not worship and profess to believe after the model of the church of England, are, in the opinion of this mouth-piece of the clergy, not to be called persecution. We see therefore what he means. Any powers of tormenting which the church of England possesses not, or despairs of getting, may be called persecuting powers. Whatever powers she possesses, and whatever use she makes of them, are always to be spoken of as good. He goes on;

“Every thing is now as it should be, unless”—what?—“unless, perhaps, that heresy ought to be more strictly defined, and no prosecution permitted, till the tenets in question are by proper authority previously declared to be heretical. Under these restrictions” (viz. of defining the offence), “it seems necessary for the support of the national religion, that the officers of the church should have power to censure heretics, [532] but not to exterminate or destroy them.” Observe, that the word censure here is fraudulent. It means, punishment through that prosecution spoken of in the preceding clause; punishment confined and limited only by the words which follow, not to exterminate or destroy. What is here claimed, therefore, as necessary for the support of the national religion is, the power of punishing for diversity of opinion or worship, to any extent short of extermination and destruction. That this is insinuated, not plainly declared, does not diminish the weight of the evidence. The art of the rhetorician mainly consists in doing that by insinuation, which cannot be done so well by direct speaking.

“Another species of offences against religion, are those which affect the established church; and these are either positive or negative. Positive, as by reviling its ordinances; or negative, by non-conformity to its worship.”—Ib.

Observe, that non-conformity, bare non-conformity to the church of England’s modes of worship, is treated of under the style and character of an offence, an act penally culpable. This is enough, admit this, and every thing follows.

Next, observe, that the word revile is here deceptious and fraudulent. It is a word which insinuates, what the author wished to be believed, but thought there might be inconvenience in affirming it. Reviling is a thing to be condemned; it is a word which means not merely censure, but bad, wicked censure. It is censure either wholly undeserved, or far beyond the demerits, and for an improper purpose. But is it only censure thus undeserved, and with this ill intention, which the author means here to denote? Quite the contrary. It is the endeavour in any mode to show that the creed, the forms, the powers of the church of England are either wrong in point of reason, or mischievous in point of practice. All this he knavishly denominates reviling; and thus prepares for punishment by putting on it the livery of crime!

He goes on as follows:—

“And, first, of the offence of reviling the ordinances of the church. This is a crime” (mark the word, ‘a crime’), “of a much grosser nature than the other of mere non-conformity, since it carries with it the utmost indecency, arrogance, and ingratitude. Indecency, by setting up private judgment in opposition to public; arrogance, by treating with contempt and rudeness, what has at least a better chance to be right than the singular notions of any particular man; and ingratitude, by denying that indulgence and liberty of conscience to the [533] members of the national church, which the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy.”—Ib. 50.

Here is reviling in abundance, and of the genuine kind, not one of its abominable ingredients omitted, and all in the highest state of concentration. This is one of the most shameful passages in any book of authority in the English language, and speaks a severe condemnation of the people by whom it could be endured.

What is it, what is the malignant thing, upon which all this abuse is lavished; which is a crime, a crime of peculiar grossness, which carries with it (an affected phrase, meaning that it includes) the utmost indecency, arrogance, and ingratitude? The sacred right of private judgment! This it is, which is thus to be blackened, in order that it may be punished, as often as its exercise, at least in freedom of speech, carries with it diversity from the church of England, diversity, at any rate, upon all the points which said church is pleased to call important.

The exercise of private judgment is a crime of peculiar grossness; first, because it is “indecent.” And it is indecent, because “it sets up private judgment in opposition to public.” Why, this is simply to have private judgment. The very existence of private judgment is thus to be a crime. For a man to exercise private judgment for no purpose but to agree, right or wrong, with some other party, is to exercise no judgment at all. The total want of judgment not only suffices, but answers best for that end. Is not this a pretension, on the part of a priestly corporation, of some extent? Is any thing needed, in addition to this, to render their dominion absolute over the minds and bodies of men?

Observe that the phrase, here too made use of, is deceptious and fraudulent. To set any thing up against the public, means, commonly, the act of endeavouring the subversion of some public institution by criminal force. The simple and peaceable declaration of a mere diversity of opinion from the church of England on certain points, is here declared, by foul insinuation, to be a crime of this description.

The next part of the abuse heaped on the exercise of private judgment is, that it is arrogant. To make out the arrogance, a curious process is instituted. First, expressing the result of one’s own acts of judgment, this, and this simply, is called contempt and rudeness. But we deny the contempt and rudeness; and next we affirm, that contempt and rudeness, even when committed, are offences against good manners, to be [534] punished by manners, not by the penalties of law. The second part of the process, to fasten the charge of arrogance upon the right of private judgment is, that the contempt and rudeness are exercised upon “what has at least a better chance to be right, than the singular notions of any particular man.” What? has it really been found that men could assert such a proposition as this, and dare to look society in the face? The singular (meaning individual, for here again we have a term which is deceptious and fraudulent) notions of some particular men, wherever men are allowed the free exercise of their understandings, are sure to be right, as far as the limits of the human faculties permit. But the tenets put forth by a corporation of priests, if not subject to opposition, are sure to be wrong, and wrong to the highest pitch of mischief, as being wholly directed to their own ends against the interests of mankind.

We now pass to the last portion of this attack on the right of private judgment. To exercise this right is to incur the crime of ingratitude. To make out this charge, a memorable assertion is hazarded. The act of uttering opinions opposed by the church of England, or endeavouring to show the error of opinions which she maintains, is, with the height of impudence, declared to be “denying that indulgence and liberty of conscience, to the members of the national church, which the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy.” What? do the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy the privilege of having their opinions and practices not spoken against? Do not “the members of the national church” exercise the privilege of speaking against “the retainers to conventicles,” both “petty” and large, in pretty considerable latitude? Again, who denies “that indulgence and liberty of conscience to the members of the national church, which the retainers to every petty conventicle enjoy?” This author begins with mendacious insinuation, and, gaining courage as he proceeds, ends with direct and glaring falsehood.

We thought it of importance to exhibit a specimen of the exposure of this law scribe of the church in one passage: there are many others of like import, to which the reader may easily apply the same mode of examination for himself.

The next subject, in respect to which we are solicitous to present a correct estimate of the purposes of a corporate clergy, is the Liberty of the Press.

The aversion of the Romish church to the progress of mind needs no illustration. By every Protestant the hostility of that corporation to the liberty of the press, will be allowed to be [535] constant and natural. We shall therefore confine ourselves to the evidence of the disposition manifested by the church of England.

Before proceeding to the items of this account, it may be well for the reader to call briefly to his recollection, what we mean, when we use the term liberty of the press. Minor points being left out of consideration, it is evident that liberty of the press is a vain sound, unless, in respect to the two subjects of primary importance, to wit, government and religion, every man has the power of publishing and maintaining any opinions which he pleases, and of making any remarks which he pleases on the opinions published by others, either as unsound in point of reason, or leading to mischievous consequences in practice.

If the law is not thus equal, but one set of men are distinguished by the privilege of publishing what they please, while other men are not allowed to publish any thing but what the men of privilege may approve, it is evident what opinions will be allowed to be heard by the people, and will always be uttered in their hearing with praise; of course opinions calculated to lodge power in the hands of those who thus possess the monopoly of opinions, and to lay the rest of the community, bound in mental chains, the most cruel and destructive of all chains, at the feet of unlimited, unchallenged, insatiable, masters and tyrants. Such are the interests involved in the liberty of the press, and such is the instrument of human weal, against which it is the nature of a corporate priesthood to wage interminable war!

We shall not dwell upon the atrocities of the Convocation and the Star-chamber, when Laud placed in so dazzling a light the conviction of himself and brethren, that the extinction of a free press, even in the blood of its employers, was absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of their designs. This man is the idol of the church of England; has been the boasted pattern of a churchman from his own to the present day. Better evidence of the early and continued disposition of that church towards the liberty of the press can hardly be required, and the extreme importance of the subject is the only reason which could induce us to employ another word in its illustration.

When the enemies of any great instrument of human good are unable wholly to prevent its existence, they may show an equal degree of bitter enmity, and show it no less decisively, by a constant endeavour to damage the instrument, and cramp its operation, than in other circumstances by endeavouring and accomplishing its ruin.


In regard to the press, the church of England are chargeable with both enormities. As long as their utmost endeavours could accomplish the horrid purpose of preventing entirely the liberty of printing, they did prevent it; they kept the instrument in their own hands, and allowed it to be employed for none but their own purposes, or purposes allied to their own. They had influence to retain it under licence, and the licence in their own custody, till four years after the Revolution.

The spirit of free inquiry, aided by the use which was made of the licensed press, became too strong at last to submit to this restraint. But when the licence was taken off, the press was left in a condition far indeed from free. It was interdicted from all those exertions by which the extraordinary benefits it is calculated to yield are most certainly realized. Severe punishment was provided against free discussion in matters of religion and government—the two sources of the greatest evil to mankind, when allowed to be made subservient to the purposes of the few against the many, and impossible not to be so made, whensoever the press is not active and free.

We now state broadly, that all the hurtful and hateful powers, which were thus preserved, of restraining the freedom of the press, and depriving mankind of the greatest of its benefits, the clergy have, until the present hour, shown the greatest disposition to employ; that they have employed them, as far as the spirit of the age would permit their being employed; and that every attempt to diminish them, and to give to the press any additional portion of its beneficial freedom, has found in the clergy its most strenuous and furious opponents.

We know not that on this subject we have occasion to do any thing more than refer our readers to what each of them may recollect of the prosecutions, and punishments, for libel, since the censorship was abolished, and the proceedings in parliament and out of it, on the occasion of every motion, from that to the present time, which has had the press for its object.

If any of them cast about for evidence of the disposition of the clergy towards freedom of discussion during the period in question, he cannot light on any thing more pregnant, than that memorable passage of Blackstone, on which we have already commented, respecting what he calls reviling of the church. Though words spoken are there also included, words printed are of course the object chiefly aimed at, because the printed words have the greatest diffusion and the greatest power. The effort, there made, to second the purposes of the church, is an effort to limit, or rather to destroy the freedom of [537] the press, as regards religion. And the remarkable circumstances of that effort we need not again present to the minds of our readers, on which we trust they have made as deep an impression as they have on ours. To employ the press with freedom on matters of religion, is there stamped “a crime”—a “gross crime”—a crime, “which carries with it the utmost indecency, arrogance, and ingratitude;” and which should be open to any punishment, by the officers of the church, not extending to extirpation and destruction.

Having this evidence, need we be very solicitous about adding to it, by multiplying instances in detail?

William Whiston was one of the most learned men whom this country has ever produced, and a man the excellence of whose life and character will bear an advantageous comparison with that of any man of any country or of any age. The friend of the great Newton, and his successor in the mathematical chair at Cambridge, a sincere and zealous Christian, an indefatigable promoter of learning and knowledge, he contracted, unhappily for himself, a strong opinion of the unchristian spirit and tendency of the Athanasian creed; and being a man in whose mind the interests of truth far predominated over all personal considerations, he fearlessly promulgated and maintained his heresy. We cannot enter into the particulars of the persevering and merciless persecution which he underwent. Suffice it to say, that he was ruined, and compelled for the remainder of his days to subsist mainly upon charity. Nor was high church satisfied with striking him down, till it had the pleasure of also trampling upon him when down. The scurrility of the rev. Dr. Swift, upon such a man, in such circumstances (“Wicked Will Whiston,” &c.) relished, as the monuments of the times inform us it was, is an indication of a spirit which we leave to our readers to characterize.

Another remarkable case is that of Mr. Woolston, of whom the following is the account given by Whiston. “He was a fellow of Sidney College, in Cambridge. He was in his younger days a clergyman of very good reputation, a scholar, and well esteemed as a preacher, charitable to the poor, and beloved by all good men that knew him. Now it happened that after some time he most unfortunately fell into Origen’s allegorical works, and poring hard upon them without communicating his studies to any body, he became so fanciful in that matter, that he thought the allegorical way of interpretation of the scriptures of the Old Testament had been unjustly neglected by the moderns, and that it might be useful for an additional proof of Christianity. [538] Insomuch that he preached this doctrine first in the college chapel, to the great surprise of his audience, though (his intentions being known to be good, and his person beloved) no discouragement was shewed him there. * * * * His notions appeared to be so wild, that a report went about that he was under a disorder of mind; which when he heard instead of that applause he thought he had deserved by retrieving a long-forgotten argument for the truth of Christianity, he grew really disordered, and, as I have been informed, he was accordingly confined for about a quarter of a year, after which, though his notions were esteemed in part the effect of some such disorder, yet did he regain his liberty. When he found himself pretty well, as he thought, he fell a writing to great men, and to his old friends, and insisted on the truth of his notions, and pretended that the reports of his disorders arose only from the inability the learned were under to confute them. Nay, at length he wrote several pamphlets to prove that following the literal sense of the Old Testament was no better than antichristianism, though, in the mean time, he sometimes insinuated that Jesus Christ’s own miracles were no other than allegorical miracles, and not real facts; and exposed those miracles, taken in the literal sense, after such a manner, and with such a mixture of wit and scoffing, as if he in earnest intended to abuse and oppose the Christian religion, which design, however, he utterly denied, and seemed to wonder that any should impute such a thing to him: and about the same time he wrote a pamphlet against some of the unbelievers which was by no means a contemptible one.”

He was first deprived of his fellowship, though it seems to have been all he had for his support; “and though,” says Whiston, “I did all I could to save it for him, by writing to the college on his behalf; but the clamour ran so high against him there that no intercession could prevail for him.” See what the high running of said clamour produced next—no doubt, its legitimate consummation! “After this,” continues the same honest reporter, “the government fell upon him”—a good expression—“and had him indicted in Westminster-hall for blasphemy and profaneness, at which time I went to sir Philip York, the then attorney-general, but now lord-chancellor, and gave him an account of poor Mr. Woolston, and how he came into his allegorical notions, and told him that their common lawyers would not know what such an allegorical cause could mean, offering to come myself into the court and explain it to them in case they proceeded, but still rather desiring they [539] would not proceed any further against him. He promised he would not proceed, unless the then secretary of state, the lord Townshend, sent him an order so to do.” The following fact lets in the necessary light upon the real movers in the business. Whiston continues, “I then went to Dr. Clarke, to persuade him to go with me to the lord Townshend, but he refused, alleging that the report would then go abroad that the king supported blasphemy.” Who would have sent abroad such a report? The appearance of another pamphlet by Woolston, exaggerating on the necessity of his allegorical view by exhibiting as strongly as in his power the absurdity, as it appeared to him, of regarding the miracles as matters of fact, so inflamed the spirit of persecution, that the proceedings against him could no longer be stayed. And the case of Woolston has formed the leading precedent for punishing, as a crime, freedom of writing on religion, from that to the present time.

We can hardly anticipate that the clergy will seek, on this occasion, to save themselves by the poor pretext, that what was done by the government was not done by them. One of the boasted uses of such a church as ours, “who lifts her mitred front in courts and palaces,” is, that she has power to obtain acts of this kind from the government; acts which she denominates services to religion, and which are services of that kind which was rendered to Jesus by his servant Peter, when he drew his sword, and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. If it be good to prosecute, the clergy would be inexcusable if they were not themselves the prime agents of prosecution. If it is bad, why do they not prevent it? Would the government go the length of a single act to stifle the voice of freedom in religion, were it known to be contrary to the inclinations of the church? We shall therefore proceed upon it as an undoubted fact, that all prosecutions on the score of religion are prosecutions by the church, and that the reverend the judges are on such occasions the mere mouth-pieces of the reverend the clergy.

Let us now take a slight cognition of the progeny, which the priest begets upon the judge; that monster, half cant, half grimgribber, which the man on the bench brings forth, when he lends himself to crush the freedom of writing in matters of religion.

The King v. Woolston is treated by the lawyers as a leading case. [*]It was moved in arrest of judgment, that the offence [540] was not punishable in the temporal courts. But the judges declared they would not suffer this point to be argued—mark the reason—“for the Christian religion is established in this kingdom; and therefore they would not allow any books to be written which should tend to alter that establishment.” If the worship of Moloch were established, this rule would hold equally good. Truth and utility are tossed out of doors, that good lodging may be preserved for the Church. Establishment, Establishment, is the word. What it is that is established, true or false, good or evil, is wholly out of the question.

The court added, “that Christianity was part of the law; that whatever derided Christianity derided therefore the law, and was an offence against the law.” This reason is just the same as the former; it is merely a fresh form of words to say that Christianity is established, and that the mere fact of establishment is a proper ground for punishing every human being that calls in question the truth or goodness of the established matter.

We have here a case of that fraudulent use of language, of which we detected so many instances in a short passage of Blackstone, and with which the law language of England abounds, beyond all example, and all belief. “The law”, in its large and general acceptation means, the whole body of the securities provided for our persons, our properties, and all that is dear to us. The man that by derision, or any thing else, tries to destroy or weaken the force of these securities, is the greatest of criminals. “The law,” however, has another meaning. It may be any “part or parcel” of the whole body of enactments; and it may be a part and parcel which not only does not aid the general means of security, but tends with all its force to impair them. To seek to cut off this cause of infirmity or hurtfulness in the law, either by argument or ridicule, is so far from an offence against the law, in its more general acceptation, that the whole tendency of it is to strengthen and improve the law. The knavery of the lawyer, acting with its usual tool, a juggling, equivocating term, makes this admirable service, which is an attack upon “the law,” in one sense of the term, namely a peccant part, parcel, or pendicle of the law, be construed and taken for what it is not—an attempt to deprive society of the benefits of law.

Thus fraudulent and worthless is that pretext for punishing freedom of speech, which is wrapt up in the canting jargon, that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of England. Observe too the sweeping operation of the dictum. If nothing [541] which is part and parcel of the law is to be free to the press, nothing is free. In respect to other things, freedom of the press is a word without a meaning; if the press is not free, in respect to government and religion, it is not free at all. Mark well that in the destruction of religious freedom, that of all other freedom is involved.

It was urged in the defence, that the opinion expressed by Woolston neither was, nor was intended to be, an attack upon Christianity. But the court said, that “the attacking of Christianity in the way in which it was attacked in this book, was destroying the very foundation of it; and though there were professions in the book, that the design of it was to establish Christianity upon a true bottom, by considering these narratives in scripture as emblematical and prophetical, these professions were not to be credited, and the rule is, allegatio contra factum non est admittenda.

This deserves to be carefully marked. The question was, in which of two senses, the accounts of the miracles in the New Testament were to be received. According to Woolston the ordinary acceptation was wrong and injurious to Christianity. The court affirmed, that his was wrong, and subversive of Christianity. By what title? This was a matter of opinion, which the court took upon itself to decide by the mere word of a despot. Where had the court learned to be infallible in theology? Nor was this all. The court took upon itself to determine and declare, that the author was a liar; his professions not to be believed. Upon what evidence? We intreat you, reader, to mark the evidence. It is a curious specimen of the process by which judges can fix guilt upon any man whom it is their interest to destroy. Allegatio contra factum non est admittenda: “Professions are not to be admitted against the fact.” What fact? Here was only one fact, namely, that of writing a certain opinion about the miracles. Woolston made no professions against that fact; he fully admitted it. He professed that he did no injury to Christianity. The court affirmed that he did; but this was matter of opinion, not fact. Here, therefore, was no allegatio contra factum, and the ground for the affirmation of the falsehood of Woolston being worthless, the affirmation of it by the judges was criminal in the highest degree.

Lord Raymond, Chief Justice, in delivering the opinion of the court said, “I would have it taken notice of, that we do not meddle with any differences in opinion; and that we interfere only where the very root of Christianity is struck at.” This is [542] accurate language; is it not? well calculated to let men precisely know, what they are, and are not, to be punished for. “We do not meddle with differences in opinion.” Wholly untrue. In the case of religious libels, they meddle with nothing else. The “root” of Christianity: what part of Christianity is that? And how is a man to know when he is “striking” at the “root,” rather than the trunk, or some of the branches?

The proceeding here requires some development. The court, after laying down, and acting upon narrow maxims, which not merely restrict liberty but destroy it, comes out with a declaration, vague, indeed, and uncertain in its meaning, but on the face of it importing a large liberty. This, you will say, is contradictory, and highly absurd. That is true; nothing can be more so. Yet it is not here only, but in many other parts of the law, that the judges have provided themselves with maxims similarly contradictory. We have on a former occasion observed, in politics, the great use, to fraudulent purposes, of the see-saw. In judicature, there is still a greater use, for the purposes of judges, in contradictory maxims. In whatever part of the field of law the judges can lay down contradictory maxims, they are despotic, and may do what they please. Let us put a broad case for illustration. Suppose they had two maxims. 1. “It is good to punish a thief.” 2. “All men who commit theft, for their own benefit, and not purely for the sake of hurt to their neighbour, may go unpunished.” With these maxims, if they had them, it is evident, the judges might in every case punish, or not punish, just as they pleased. So in the case of the liberty of the press; it is good to have a set of maxims by which every thing may be punished, and also a set of maxims by which every thing may be exempted from punishment: because, then, judges may do what they please, or their employers please. Thus, it is exceedingly important to have a maxim, “Let the liberty of the press be sacred.” By this every thing may be exempted from punishment. It is equally important to have another maxim, “Let the licentiousness of the press be prevented.” By this every thing may be punished. It is important to have one maxim “We meddle not with differences of opinion.” By this, every thing may be exempt. It is also important to have another maxim, “Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land.” By this, every atom of difference from the opinion of the church of England may be punished: thus the Athanasian creed is part and parcel of the law of the land; the thirty-nine articles are part and parcel of the law of the [543] land, articles where all the nice and disputable points are carefully collected, and the opinions, which shall be true by ordinance of law, presented for the legal faith and conscience of all the subjects of the realm.

From the time of this prosecution, till the French revolution, which produced a state of mind highly favourable to the bent of the clergy, there was but little scope for employing the powers of law to crush freedom of printing on the subject of religion. The spirit of the age would not bear prosecution of the dissenters, for such heresies as they indulged in; and with respect to infidelity, or opinions unfavourable to Christianity in general, the situation of the clergy was somewhat perplexing. It was chiefly men of rank, or writers of very high reputation, who questioned in their works the pretensions of Christianity; lord Shaftesbury, for instance, lord Bolingbroke, lord Chesterfield, lord Kaims, Mr. Hume, Mr. Gibbon, Adam Smith; and with a formidable enemy the clergy are commonly well inclined to avoid a dispute. It is also true that, during the fifty years which preceded the French revolution, infidelity in the higher circles was a species of fashion. Among the beau monde in France it was universal: and they at that time gave the tone to the leading classes in the rest of Europe. It is not a secret, how Christianity was regarded by the highest men, both in the state and the law, in England, during the time of which we are speaking. [*]To excite prosecution for writing freely on the subject of religion, was attended with some hazard in these circumstances. And the fact is observable, that men, feeling themselves pretty much at liberty to declare their thoughts, made very little use of that liberty, the question appearing to be decided in the minds of those for whom almost exclusively at that time books were written; for it is since the French revolution, mostly, that the body of the people have become readers, and that men of talent have thought it an object worthy of their ambition to prepare works for their instruction.


Though the powers of law had thus dropped out of the hands of the clergy, their unabated rancour towards the liberty of the press does not the less certainly appear. Passages without end might be quoted from their sermons and other writings, in which they complain, in the bitterest terms, that such and such writings are permitted to appear, and that the writers of them are not punished; often denouncing the vengeance of God against the nation, for thus permitting his word to be denied. But we shall omit these illustrations, and proceed to what we reckon one of the most atrocious manifestations of the spirit of the clergy; we mean, their disposition to blacken the character of those who hold opinions different from theirs; to defame their morals, to make them be regarded, as first vicious, next unbelievers, and unbelievers solely in consequence of their vices. Such has been the course pursued not merely by the declaimers, those who could calumniate, though they could not reason: it has been adopted, we will say disgracefully adopted, which shews how deeply the roots of the poisonous tree have struck, by the very greatest and best men of whom the church has to boast; men of great powers and of great virtues, Berkeley for instance, Clarke, Tillotson, Barrow, and others.

Berkeley is not ashamed to set up as representative of the class of unbelievers, a minute philosopher, as he nicknames him, who formally and deliberately preaches wickedness, and denies absolutely the obligations of morality. “Lysicles. Men of narrow capacities and short sight, being able to see no further than one link in a chain of consequences, are shocked at small evils which attend upon vice. But those who can enlarge their view, and look through a long series of events, may behold happiness resulting from vice, and good springing out of evil in a thousand instances. To prove my point I shall not trouble you with authorities or far-fetched arguments, but bring you to plain matter of fact. Do but take a view of each particular vice, and trace it over its effects and consequences, and then you will clearly perceive the advantage it brings to the public.” He then goes over the several vices of drunkenness, gaming, highway robbery, whoredom; and at last declares to his companion, “Thus, in our dialect, a vicious man is a man of pleasure; a sharper is one that plays the whole game; a lady is said to have an affair, a gentleman to be a gallant, a rogue in business to be one that knows the world. By this means we have no such things as sots, debauchees, whores, rogues, or the like, in the beau monde, who may enjoy their vices without incurring disagreeable appellations. Euphranor. Vice then [545] is, it seems, a fine thing with an ugly name. Lysicles. Be assured it is.” [*]

This is vulgar defamation, mere mendacious calumny. But it is also something infinitely worse. It was well known that there were men with minds prepared to believe the odious tale, men with whom it would stand in the place of all argument; men who would be sure to consider the opinions of wicked persons, as wicked opinions; not requiring to be repelled by the arguments of the divine, but stifled by the hands of the gaoler, or hangman.

The fact is, that many of the writers unfavourable to Christianity have been men of eminent virtue, and distinguished by their ardent endeavours to strengthen the ties of morality among mankind. We mention this as a matter of history merely, without founding upon it any inference with regard to the tendency of the religious opinions, either of them or their opponents. Hobbes in this country and Bayle on the continent, not to speak of others, will stand a comparison with the best and greatest men that have ever lived; and if infidel writers, as a class, be compared with other classes, of what class, not even excepting the clerical, can it be affirmed with truth, that its character for morality stands higher than theirs? Nothing, therefore, can exceed the baseness of the clergy in taking the advantage which the prepossessions of the vulgar afford them, by assuming that it is a vicious life which engenders reasonings and conclusions unfavourable to religion. To bear down an adversary, not by refuting his bad arguments, but defaming his good life, is a course worthy not of the best, but the worst of causes; and all sincere Christians ought to unite as one man, to clear themselves of so deep a stain.

Berkeley does not stop short till he has told the world that the employment of infidels is, to recommend even the most atrocious crimes. “An unlucky accident now and then befals an ingenious man. The minute philosopher Magirus, being desirous to benefit the public, by circulating an estate possessed by a near relation who had not the heart to spend it, soon convinced himself upon these principles, that it would be a very worthy action to dispatch out of the way such a useless fellow, to whom he was next heir. But for this laudable attempt, he had the misfortune to be hanged by an under-bred judge and jury.”

He would have forgotten a most important weapon against [546] the infidels if he had not imputed to them political as well as moral wickedness. Their representative is thus made to boast: “We have cleared the land of all prejudices towards government or constitution, and made them fly like other phantasms before the light of reason and good sense. Men who think deeply cannot see any reason why power should not change hands as well as property; or why the fashion of a government should not be changed as easy as that of a garment. The perpetual circulating and revolving of wealth and power, no matter through what or whose hands, is that which keeps up life and spirit in a state. Those who are even slightly read in our philosophy, know that of all prejudices, the silliest is an attachment to forms. Crito. To say no more upon so clear a point, the overturning a government may be justified upon the same principles as the burning a town, would produce parallel effects, and equally contribute to the public good.” And after a few sentences Lysicles affirms, “Laws and regulations relating to right and wrong, crimes and duties, serve to bind weak minds, and keep the vulgar in awe; but no sooner doth a true genius arise, but he breaks his way to greatness through all the trammels of duty, conscience, religion, law; to all which he sheweth himself infinitely superior.”

And this is given as a true representation of the speculative opinions, and practical principles, in morals and politics, of all who question the divine origin of Christianity!

We had intended to have exhibited specimens of the same spirit of honest repesentation and fair dealing, on the part of other divines of the greatest eminence, but Berkeley’s passages have tempted us so far, that we must now content ourselves with a reference to what we intended to insert from archbishop Tillotson, and Drs. Barrow and Clarke. In Tillotson the reader may find what will suffice for evidence in the sermons lxxxviii. and lxxxix., intituled, “Honesty the best Preservative against dangerous Mistakes in Religion;” in sermon ccxlv. intituled, “The Excellency and Universality of the Christian Religion;” and sermon ccxlvi., intitutled, “The Ground of Bad Men’s Enmity to the Truth.” For the same purpose we refer him, in Barrow, to the sermon “On Infidelity,” towards the end, and to the second sermon “On Faith.” The only specimen which we think it necessary to adduce of the same spirit in the writings of Dr. Clarke, is near the beginning of his work on “The Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion,” where, immediately following the statement of the fifteen propositions, which he undertakes to establish, he gives an account of the several sorts of Deists.


When men, not only of such powers of reasoning, but of so much true virtue and moderation, make assumptions thus groundless and malignant, they afford evidence against the body, by the spirit of which they are carried so directly against the current of their own nature, infinitely stronger than what is furnished by the railings of such a man as Warburton, who proceeds upon it as a legitimate postulatum, that if there be any man who holds one opinion different from any opinion of Warburton, such man is a wretch, and has no one good quality, either moral or intellectual, about him.

The following, which is a small touch of his hand, will exemplify his mode of dealing with the infidels. It is Cardan, the mention of whom produces the following decent effusion:—“The charming picture he (Cardan) draws of himself, and which he excuses no otherwise than by laying the fault on his stars, will hardly prejudice any one in favour of his opinions.” Warburton, we see, knew the effect produced upon the credit of doctrines by the opinion which might be spread of the character of him who maintained them; and with this knowledge, he gives out the following as the character of the infidel. “How far it (Cardan’s picture of himself) resembles any other of the brotherhood, they best know who have examined the genius of modern infidelity. However, thus he speaks of his own amiable turn of mind:—‘In diem viventem, nugacem, religionis contemptorem, injuriæ illatæ memorem, invidum, tristem, insidiatorem, proditorem, magum, incantatorem, suorum osorem, turpi libidini deditum, solitarium inamœnum, austerum, sponte etiam divinantem, zelotypum, obscœnum, lascivum, maledicum, varium, ancipitem, impurum, calumniatorem,’ &c. We have had many free-thinkers, but few such free-speakers. But though these sort of writers are not used to give us so direct a picture of themselves, yet it hath been observed, that they have unawares copied from their own tempers, in the ungracious drawings they have made of human nature and religion.” [*]

Free-thinkers are a “class, who never cultivate a truth, but in order to graft a lie upon it.” []

And this is the style in which Warburton indulges himself, as often as his discourse brings an infidel before him, from the beginning to the end of his very vulgar volumes, vulgar in every thing, vulgar in language, vulgar in tone and temper, vulgar even in learning, for which he has got a most undue reputation, but most of all vulgar in reasoning, of which he understands [548] not even the elements; for we doubt if an aggregate of bad reasonings, a match for his, exists in the writings of any other man, that ever put pen to paper.

We have now exceeded the limits to which an article ought to run, and yet have only reached two of the evils to which the fatal measure of incorporating a body of clergy gives birth; persecution on account of religion, and hostility to the liberty of the press. The development of its further effects in depraving both religion and morality, in corrupting education and government, in retarding the progress of the human mind, and in degrading the character, intellectual and moral, of the clergy, we shall undertake on some future occasion.




JULY, 1826.

[7.] Art. I.— (Formation of Opinions)

Essays on the Formation and Publication of Opinions, and other Subjects. The second Edition, revised and enlarged. 8vo. Hunter. London.

IT gives us no ordinary pleasure to find that a second edition has been called for of this very useful volume. It is one of the signs of the times.

One of the most important of the laws of thought, with some of the momentous practical consequences, to which the state of opinions respecting it has been instrumental in giving birth, is the first and principal topic of the work, of which the design is excellent, and the execution more than creditable. A popular manner has been studied by the writer, and with success. The train of thought is simple, without being superficial, and is followed at once with ease and with interest.

Taking belief to signify the state of mind, in regard to propositions, considered as true; and matters of fact, past, present, or future, considered as real, the author proceeds to inquire, whether the mind, when belief is generated in it, is or is not to be considered voluntary.

Generally speaking, belief is the result of evidence. Where there is no evidence, there is no belief. Where there is evidence, there is belief. Evidence admits of degrees; it may be stronger or weaker. In like manner, belief admits of degrees. Belief may be stronger or weaker; and its strength or weakness corresponds to the strength or weakness of the evidence. It is not meant that the same evidence appears always of equal strength to every man: that is very far from being the case; it is far from appearing always of the same strength to the same man. It is meant, however, that, whatever the strength which evidence at any time appears to a man to bear, such at that time is the degree of his belief. The proof is indisputable, because [2] the view which the mind takes of evidence, and its belief, are only two names for one and the same thing. The feeling of the force of evidence, and belief, are not two mental states; they are one and the same state. A man regards a piece of evidence as convincing: this is but another phrase for saying he is convinced.

In the word evidence, there is an equivocation to which it is necessary to attend, in order to have any chance for clear ideas on the subject.

Sometimes the word evidence means what is calculated to be evidence, whether it is by any mind taken into view as such or not. At other times, we call a thing evidence, only when it is taken into view as such by some particular mind. Many things there are, which would be evidence to your mind, if they were present to it, in a certain way. Not being present to it, they are not evidence to you, how much soever calculated in their own nature to be so, or however strongly they may be evidence to other minds to which they are present in that appropriate mode. Nothing is evidence to any mind till it is taken into view by that mind, along with the point, whatever it is, of which it is evidence. A thing may be calculated to be evidence, without being so, either to you, or to any of your fellow creatures. Nothing is evidence to any man but what is brought home to him. Strictly speaking, therefore, nothing is evidence, but what is regarded and taken into account as such. That which is only calculated to be evidence, is not evidence. It becomes evidence only, when it is surveyed by a mind by which its evidentiary virtue is perceived. That, however, which is only thus calculated to become evidence, is very often called evidence. And, thus, two things, which it is of great importance to distinguish, are confounded under one and the same name; that which is evidence to a man, actually present to his mind, and producing its appropriate effect; and that which is not present to his mind, nor producing any effect. What is evidence to your mind now, because it is present to it, was not evidence to it yesterday, when it had never been present to it. The same thing exists therefore in two states relative to your mind, the state of evidence, and the state not of evidence. It would be very useful to have names to distinguish these two states. In the first it may be called evidence, in the second, it is only matter fit to become evidence. If a short term could be found, to supply the place of this many-worded name, “matter fit to become evidence”, it would be very convenient. Our language, which, unhappily, has no future participles, makes it very difficult to frame a good name. Perhaps, as we have made [3] credential from credence, to answer a very good purpose, namely, to express what is calculated to give credence, so we might use the word evidential, to express a thing calculated to become evidence. Thus we should have two convenient words, evidence, and evidentials; the one to express the thing when considered as evidence, the other to express its character when considered as only fit to become evidence.

We also want a term to express an object, which has not yet become an object of either belief, or disbelief; but may become an object of the one or the other. When believed, it is called an object of belief, when disbelieved an object of disbelief. But what is it to be called, while it is yet an object of neither; and while it is unknown, of which it is fitted to be an object? In that case, it is an object of scepticism—scepticism meaning literally suspense of judgment, till evidence is obtained. And, if scepticism had not a bad meaning attached to it, an object of scepticism would have been a very proper name for the object in question. Let us in this sense suppose an object of scepticism, a mathematical proposition, for instance: by what process does it become an object of belief, or of disbelief? Through the medium of evidentials. Evidentials are not evidence, till they do evidence; that is, effect belief. A demonstration, before it is known, is an evidential; when it becomes known, it is evidence, and the feeling of the evidence is belief.

There is in evidentials, such a thing as a power of becoming evidence; that is of producing belief in the mind that duly appreciates their evidentiary nature.

If there is not this power in evidentials, there is no such thing as truth; for truth is that which there is reason for believing. The reason for believing any thing, is the evidence of it. The reason for calling any thing truth, is because the evidence for believing it is so strong, that it cannot be doubted: that is, the mind cannot forbear believing it, when the evidentials of it are present to the mind.

I believe that the sun exists. That proposition I call a truth. Why? Because when I look at the sun, I have a sensation, which, as an evidential of the sun’s existence, renders it impossible for me not to believe his existence.

That the three angles of a rectilineal triangle are equal to two right angles, I call a truth. The reason here also is, that, when I evolve the demonstration, it yields me evidence of the proposition, in other words, produces belief; nor is it possible for me to carry my mind along the demonstration, and resist the belief.

If there is such a thing then, as truth in the world, there is [4] such a thing as irresistible evidence. But where evidence is irresistible, of course the belief is not voluntary, it is not in the power of the mind to receive, or not to receive it.

That there is in the world truth, certain truth, it is a new thing for the advocates of religion to draw into doubt. This was wont to be their accusation against the sceptics. It is the more to be wondered at, that the rev. Dr. Wardlaw, a clergyman of Glasgow, should have thought it necessary to arraign Mr. Brougham, for declaring, in his “Inaugural Discourse,” that when evidence is present to the human mind, belief is not a voluntary, but a necessary consequence.

The rev. Dr. Wardlaw does, in this case, what is so very apt to be done by a man who does not like a certain proposition, and yet sees danger in disavowing it: he both attacks and maintains the doctrine.

First, let us hear what he says in affirmation of it. “I am far,” such are his words, “from intending to question the soundness of the axiom, that belief must necessarily correspond with the perception of evidence, it being in the nature of the thing impossible, that the mind should believe otherwise than as evidence is, or is not discerned. It is quite entitled to the designation of an axiom, being a self-evident and indisputable truth.” No admission can be more full and unequivocal.

What, then, is the quarrel he has with Mr. Brougham; this, and nothing but this, being the truth which Mr. Brougham has promulgated? “If it be true,” says Dr. Wardlaw, “that for his belief, whatever it may be, a man is no more the subject of praise or blame, than he is for a light or a dark complexion, or for the dimensions of his corporeal frame; then it follows, not merely that man should not account to man for his belief, but also, and with equal certainty, that man has no account to render for his belief to God. . . . . We dare not hesitate to say that, between this sentiment and the most explicit statements and uniform assumptions of the Bible, there is a fearful contrariety. Our orator and the inspired penman are quite at issue.”

But to us it appears, that the inspired penmen are not more at issue with the orator, than they are with the divine. The divine says, “It is quite impossible that the mind should believe otherwise than as evidence is, or is not discerned.” Then a man is not responsible for his belief, assuredly; for it does not depend on him, but on the evidence.

What, then, does the divine proceed to prove? That a man is responsible for his belief? No; but for a very different thing; for his mode of dealing with evidence.

It is a very mischievous proceeding, to confound these two [5] things; and attach, as the reverend author does, to the one, the consequences which belong to the other. From this confusion, the spirit of prosecution derives its principal means of accomplishing its nefarious ends.

For what purpose does the reverend doctor, as if in averting some dreadful evil, put forth all his strength to establish a proposition, which no one in the world ever called in question; that a man may deal fairly, or unfairly with evidence, and may, in dealing unfairly with it, contract various degrees of guilt, from the lowest to the highest, perhaps, which can be imputed to a human being. Surely he does not mean to say, that Mr. Brougham disputes that proposition. Does not Mr. Brougham use the word prejudice, like other men? As often as he does so, he evinces his belief, that men deal unfairly as well as fairly with evidence; and thereby contract guilt, as far as the want of regard to truth implies it.

The quality, then, of the line of conduct pursued on this occasion, is as follows. The odium which would be justly due to any attempt to deny or explain away the criminality which may be involved in dealing unequally, negligently, or dishonestly with evidence, the reverend author endeavours to excite in the highest possible degree. Having done his best to excite this odium, he so frames his language, as to attach it to the proposition maintained by Mr. Brougham. The proposition maintained by Mr. Brougham, is a proposition undoubtedly true, as is affirmed by the reverend author himself, and it is a proposition of the highest possible importance, as all the world must allow. Yet the reverend author does his best to attach odium to this great and salutary truth, and to the man who lent the aid of his powerful name to its dissemination.

We are perfectly satisfied that Dr. Wardlaw has thus deeply sinned in ignorance, and if he had not totally mistaken the nature of his act, would have been one of the last of men to have adopted so reprehensible a proceeding. No declaration against persecution can be more clear and comprehensive than his. “It is a truth,” he says, and says honourably to himself, and usefully to the world, “that men ought no longer to be led, and it would be a joyful truth, if truth it were, that they are resolved no longer to be led, blindfold in ignorance. It is a truth, that the principle which leads men to judge and treat each other, not according to the intrinsic merit of their actions, but according to the accidental and involuntary coincidence of their opinions, is a vile principle. It is a truth that man should not render account to man for his belief. And, in as far as this is meant to express the grand principle of universal [6] toleration, there is no length to which I would not cheerfully go along with its eloquent and powerful advocate; the very word, toleration, seeing a right to tolerate, supposes the existence of a corresponding right to restrain and coerce, being a term which, in such an application of it, no language ought to retain. Men should be as free to think, as they are free to breathe. I make no exceptions. Let truth defend herself; and defend herself by her own legitimate means. She is well able to do so. Nor does she stand in need of any auxiliary methods, beyond those of fair argument and rational persuasion. Give her an open field, and the free use of her weapons, and she will stand her ground. Legal restraint and suppression have invariably had the effect of giving tenfold prevalence to the dreaded error. And measures of coercion, whilst they have made hypocrites by thousands, have never made, and never can make, one genuine convert to her cause.”

A man capable of thus nobly expressing himself, respecting freedom of thought, could not have been betrayed into the exceptionable mode of commenting, which he has thought it his duty to employ, on the language of Mr. Brougham, respecting the great law of belief, had he not, under the influence of a bad habit, which a bad education renders most extensively and most unhappily prevalent, overlooked and neglected the distinction between the impression which the mind receives from evidence, such as it is presented, and the mental process which is subservient to the presenting of it.

The importance of the distinction, thus fatally, and thus frequently overlooked, the consequences attached to its observance, and its non-observance, will amply justify some pains bestowed upon the illustration of it.

First of all, we think it necessary to let Dr. Wardlaw see the opinion entertained by other divines, of the greatest eminence, as well as by philosophers, respectimg the impression derived from evidence. In other words, the law of the great mental phenomenon, belief.

We cannot adduce a name of greater authority, than that of the celebrated Dr. Clarke, a man, uniting, in his own person, some of the highest attributes, both of a divine, and a philosopher. The following are two out of many passages, which his voluminous writings afford.

‘The eye, when open, sees the object necessarily, because it is passive in so doing. The understanding likewise, when open, perceives the truth of a speculative proposition, necessarily, because the understanding also is passive in so doing. . . . . Neither God nor man can avoid seeing that to be true, which they see is true; or judging that to be fit and [7] reasonable, which they see is fit and reasonable.’—Clarke, Answer to the First Letter from a Gentleman at Cambridge.

Without all dispute, perception of ideas is no action at all. . . . . Seeing a thing to be true or false is not an action, nor has any thing to do with the will. . . . . Being unable to refuse our assent to what is evidently true, is not an action, but a perception.’

—Clarke, Remarks upon a Book, entitled A Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty.

In the following passages, we have the sentiments of the great Chillingworth:—

‘Perhaps you mean such points of faith, as the person to whom they are proposed understands sufficiently to be truths revealed by God. But how, then, can he possibly choose but believe them? Or how is it not an apparent contradiction, that a man should disbelieve what himself understands to be a truth; or any Christian what he understands or but believes to be testified by God? This indeed is impossible.’

—Chillingworth, Religion of Protestants: The Answer to the Preface.

‘If men do their best endeavour to free themselves from all error, and yet fail of it through human frailty, so well am I persuaded of the goodness of God, that if in me alone should meet a confluence of all such errors of all the Protestants in the world, I should not be so much afraid of them all, as I should be to ask pardon for them.’

Id. Ib.

‘He that would question, whether knowing a thing, and doubting of it; much more, whether knowing it to be true, and believing it to be false, may stand together, deserves, without question, no other answer but laughter. Now, if error and knowledge cannot consist, then error and ignorance must be inseparable. Him that does err, indeed, you can no more conceive without ignorance than long without quantity, virtuous without quality, a man and not a living creature, to have gone ten miles, and not to have gone five, to speak sense and not to speak.

Id. Ib.

The following is from another controversial divine of great eminence, who was not liable to the imputation of yielding any thing willingly to the sceptics:—

‘The fundamental error in Mr. Bayle’s argument seems to be this: He saw the essential differences of things; he found those differences the adequate object of the understanding; and so too hastily concluded them to be the adequate object of the will likewise. In this he was mistaken: they are, indeed, the adequate object of the understanding; because the understanding is passive in its perceptions; and, therefore, under the sole direction of those necessary differences. But the will is not passive in its determinations; for instance, that three are less than five, the understanding is necessitated to judge, but the will is not necessitated to chuse five before three.’

Warburton, Div. Leg. B. I. Sect. 4.

The proof that belief is not voluntary, is well put by Barrow, in his First Sermon on Faith; but the passage is too long for [8] insertion. Instead of it, take the following from a man of great name, and a tract of great merit:—

‘This is the miserable condition of a convict heretic: the punishment which fell on him for expressing thoughts heretical, he must continue to endure for barely thinking; which is a thing not in his own power, but depends on the evidence that appears to him.’

—Bishop Hare, Difficulties and Discouragements which attend the Study of the Scriptures in the way of private Judgment.

After these specimens of the mode of thinking on this important subject, among rational theologians, we shall present but a few examples from the writings of philosophers, but those men of the highest name, and of no doubtful character in respect to their faith.

‘That a man should afford his assent to that side on which the less probability appears to him, seems to me utterly impracticable, and as impossible as it is to believe the same thing probable and improbable at the same time.’

—Locke, Hum. Underst. B. IV. Ch. 20. Sect. 15, 16.

‘The mind of man is necessarily passive in two important manners, either as truth, real or apparent, demands its assent; or, as falsehood, real or apparent, demands its dissent. It is in consequence of this passivity of the human mind, which I chuse to call passivity intellectual, that it becomes susceptible of discipline and institution, and thus finds itself adorned (according as it is cultivated) with the various tribes both of arts and sciences.’

—Harris’ Philos. Arrang. Ch. XI.

This intellectual passivity is completely implied in one of the leading rules of Descartes’ Philosophy. “Credidi me,” says he, “pro regula generali sumere posse, omne id quod dilucidé et distincté concipiebam verum esse.” That conception is independent of the will, nobody has disputed. When any conceivable thing is presented to our conception, we can no more avoid conceiving it, than feeling pain when we are hurt.

There are two propositions, therefore, of the greatest certainty, and the greatest importance.

The first is this, that, as the mind is passive in belief, and the will, to use the words of Dr. Clarke, has nothing at all to do with it, neither merit nor demerit can ever be ascribed to belief, without the utmost confusion of ideas, and the risk of a deplorable train of the most immoral consequences.

The second is, that, as the mind is not passive in what it does relating to evidence, but has all the activity which is implied in its most voluntary exertions, merit or demerit may be justly ascribed to it.

On his mode of dealing with evidence, the good or evil application of the powers of the man, in other words, the greatest possible degree either of virtue or of vice, almost wholly depends.


The evidence of this proposition is short and conclusive. The outward acts of the man follow the inward acts of the will; the acts of the will follow the last determinations of the understanding; the determinations of the understanding follow the evidence present to the mind. The outward acts of the man, therefore, are all precisely such as the evidence which he has in his contemplation determines them to be.

Proper dealing with evidence consists of two things. First, the full collection of it: secondly, the equal reception of it.

With regard to the first, it is knowledge that is concerned. With regard to the second, it is fairness.

Fulness of Collection.—1. When a man gives himself no concern about evidence, he remains in voluntary ignorance. The degree of criminality which is involved in this, admits of all degrees, according to the nature of the case. Where it is of little importance, whether a man is or is not ignorant, very little blame can attach to his ignorance; where it would be impossible for him to acquire knowledge, however important, without neglecting it where it is still of greater importance, ignorance may deserve praise rather than blame. There are cases, however, in which voluntary ignorance implies the greatest wickedness; and a habit of voluntary ignorance, a habit, to a certain degree predominant, of indifference to evidence on important points, implies one of the most odious and disgusting states of intellectual and moral depravity.

Equality of Reception.—2. The criminality of unfairness, also, of course admits of degrees, according to the less or greater importance of the occasion on which it is incurred. The nature of the offence, in a general way, is sufficiently suggested by the name. It consists in leaning too much to one side. The opposite virtue consists in having no leaning to either side.

What is included in this? Two things are included. The first is, that we have no affection to the one side more than the other. The second is, that we bestow equal attention upon the evidence on both sides.

1. First, it is required that we have no affection to the one side more than the other. When there is an affection to the one side, a wish that the truth should be found on that side, a wish that it should not be found on the other, the weaker evidence on the favourite side produces more impression, than the stronger evidence on the other. By what delusive process of the mind this unhappy effect is produced, we shall by and by explore. At present we have to do with the certainty of the fact, and the extent of its influence.

A man must have looked abroad upon the world to very little [10] purpose, who has not observed how invariably every class of men have provided themselves with a set of opinions, grounded upon the feelings connected with their own interests, and not upon the evidentials of the case. The aristocratical class have opinions of a superiority inherent in themselves; and inferiority inherent in the other classes. Wherein consists the pride of birth? Whence arises the belief of something noble or ignoble in the blood, with all the practical feelings which result from it, and all the great consequences on life of which such feelings are the proximate cause?

Whence are derived that remarkable class of opinions which are held by the white masters respecting their black slaves, in the West Indies, and in America? The opinion of the utter degradation of the sable race; the opinion of such a superiority in the fair race, that any the smallest tinge in the blood of an individual, whatever his worth, whatever even his riches, makes him unfit to associate with one whose veins contain the European liquid in elevating, ennobling purity?

How difficult is it to find a man who does not over estimate the importance of the particular faculty in which he excels? Look at the tribe of lawyers, the class who hire their tongues as readily to promote what is iniquitous and cruel, as what is just and humane. Their self-importance rises to the ridiculous: were it not for them, the race of men, they tell us, could hardly exist.

What need to speak of the exaggerations of the clergy, in magnifying their own importance, and that of the services which they render to the rest of men?

How excessive the over-estimate which a fond mother commonly makes of the perfections of her child! How blind to its defects; how possessed with every point of its excellence!

Every body can adduce sufficient cases to show what sport the affections make with the understanding, and has observed how small the number of human creatures whose decisions can be depended upon whenever the affections interfere with the judgment.

Practically speaking, therefore, it is never safe to come to the examination of any question, without a strict examination of the affections. When we proceed to the investigation of any question, the first thing required is, a process of self-examination. Have I any affection on either side? If not, I may safely proceed to ascertain and weigh the evidentials on both sides. If, however, the result of the self-examination is, that I have an affection on the one side, and none on the other, what must I do? The proper plan would be, if it could be [11] done, to abolish the affection on that side; and so come to the study of the question free from affection on either side; or, if this could not be done, to raise, if it were possible, an equal affection on the other side. If it were the question for a fond mother to decide, whether her own or another child were the most amiable, it would be necessary, for a fair decision, either that she should divest herself, for the time, of her peculiar affection to the one side, or put on an equal affection for the other. This generally is impossible; and then, there is only one other resource, that of making an allowance for the efficacy of the affection. As evidence which favours an affection, of equal force with evidence which makes against it, appears of greater force to the mind which is under the influence of the affection, it is necessary to such a mind, if it would be fair, to allow greater weight to the evidence opposite to the affection than it seems to have, and less to that which favours it. Thus, if it appears that the evidence which makes against the affection, and that which makes in its favour, are of equal force, we ought to conclude that the evidence which makes against it is the stronger. If a fond mother sees another child which she thinks equally admirable with her own, she may be very sure that it is better.

This virtue, of coming to the examination of all questions with an equality of affection, is what Mr. Locke recommends so strongly, under the name of Indifferency. “We should keep,” he says, “a perfect indifferency for all opinions, nor wish any of them true, or try to make them appear so; but, being indifferent, receive and embrace them, according as evidence, and that alone, gives the attestation of truth.”

“He that, by an indifferency for all but truth, suffers not his assent to go faster than his evidence, nor beyond it, will learn to examine, and examine fairly, instead of presuming.”

“In any other way but this, all the world are born to orthodoxy. They imbibe at first the allowed opinions of their country and party, and so, never questioning their truth, not one of an hundred ever examines.” [*]

2. In fair dealing with evidence, the next thing implied is, that equal evidence, on the different sides, should be treated as equal, that is, have equal effects. This second condition of fair dealing is substantially included in the first; though for facilitating conception, we have thought it expedient to treat of them as two separate things.

It is only necessary to remind the reader of the share which attention has in the effect which is produced by evidence. If evidence is not attended to, it is the same thing as if it did not [12] exist. If a very slight degree of attention, a degree just bordering upon no attention at all, is bestowed upon an article of evidence, the impression produced must be nearly the same as none at all. And if we reflect upon each degree of attention from the weakest to the strongest, we shall be easily convinced that the effect of the evidence must follow the degree of attention.

The point which we desire to illustrate becomes, therefore, exceedingly distinct. Suppose that there is a certain quantity of evidence on each of the two sides of a certain question; but that strong attention is bestowed upon the evidence on the one side, the slightest attention only allowed to that on the other, every body knows the consequence. Let the evidence which is slighted be to almost any degree the strongest in its own nature, that is, calculated, if equal attention were bestowed upon it, to produce the strongest effect, it will nevertheless produce the weakest; and the balance of proof will, contrary to all just appreciation, appear to be on the other side.

What that process of mind is, which is here denominated attention, and with which the effect to be produced by evidence has so great a concern, though familiar to every body, it is not easy to explain philosophically, without a greater degree of subtlety, than suits the cursory reading generally bestowed on a Review.

Every body is aware that the affections have a great share in it; and this it is which made us say, in commencing the elucidation of this second part of the fair dealing with evidence, that it was, to a great degree, involved in the first.

It is a common expression, that the affections rivet the attention. It is well known that an object greatly beloved cannot be excluded from the mind. It is said to engross the mind, to haunt the mind. Every thing serves to recall it. The mind loves to revolve it; takes it to pieces; looks at every part of it separately, and combines them anew.

To say that interest has a great share in fixing the attention upon the evidence on one side, rather than the other, is, in fact, but saying that the affections do so; since what are the affections, if not the feeling of a particular interest? yet it is necessary to mention interest separately, as in the sense in which it is here used, it is a very remarkable modification of affection. We are said to feel an interest in a thing, when it is a remote cause of our pains or pleasures. We say we have an affection for what is a proximate cause.

Now, then, what is the process, not difficult to conceive, however rarely practised, which takes place, when the mind makes an exertion, as we phrase it, to counteract those misguiding [13] influences; and, in spite of them, bestows an equal attention on the evidence on both sides? Of course it does so, because it has a motive. It loves truth, it loves fairness, and it makes to itself a greater interest in the pursuit of truth, and practice of fairness, than in any thing which it would gain by the violation of them. As a motive is nothing but another name for an interest, a name for an interest, connoting the view which at the instant is taken of it by the mind, it is easy to see what happens. When the mind bestows an equal attention upon the evidence on both sides of a question, by that victory over affection and interest, which is one of the noblest exertions of virtue, because it is the source from which almost every laudable action proceeds, it does so by creating to itself a counteracting interest; the interest of truth and fairness. This is the tutelary principle. This is the safeguard of virtue. If a man loves truth and fairness more than he loves either side, he will inquire and judge virtuously. If he loves either side better than he loves truth and fairness, he is ready to decide dishonestly, whether he himself is aware of it, or not.

This analysis has, then, led us to something practical, in the most interesting sense of the word.

As virtue consists in the steadiness and constancy of righteous action, and as that facility and proneness on which steadiness and constancy depend, are the result of habit, so faithfulness in regard to evidence, that is, the faithful pursuit of full evidence, with equal affection to both sides of the question, and equal attention to the evidence on both, will only be steady and constant, when the habit is acquired.

Let us bestow a few reflections upon the two opposite habits, the habit of good behaviour towards evidence, and the habit of bad behaviour. Of bad behaviour, the first part is, negligence with regard to evidence; feeling little concern about the grounds of one’s opinions; letting belief come into the mind, and establish itself there, more by accident than judgment; taking up the opinions that are current, or fashionable, with hardly any knowledge of their evidence, or much concern whether they are founded on evidence or not.

This habit of forming opinions, and acting upon them without evidence, is one of the most immoral habits of the mind. Only observe what it imports. As our opinions are the fathers of our actions, to be indifferent about the evidence of our opinions is to be indifferent about the consequences of our actions. But the consequences of our actions are the good and evil of our fellow-creatures. The habit of the neglect of evidence, therefore, is the habit of disregarding the good and evil of our fellow-creatures. [14] It is the habit of hard-heartedness, and cruelty, on the largest scale, and rooted in the deepest part of the mind. This habit is the foundation of most of what is vicious and degraded in human character. The habit of disregarding the evidence of our opinions, with the habit necessarily involved, of disregarding the consequences to our fellow-creatures, of the actions founded upon those opinions, are the elements of a character, in which the general temptations to vice operate without any counteracting motive; and as such a man is essentially without virtue, so it must be by a rare concurrence of accidents, if he is not deep in vice.

Seeing the malignant nature of this habit, it is a melancholy reflection, that it is the general habit of mankind, and of none more than of our dear countrymen. How rare is it to meet with a man, who has almost ever concerned himself about evidence; who has not adopted opinions, as he has adopted words, solely because they were used by other people? This is a dreadful vice of education. One of the grand objects of education should be, to generate a constant and anxious concern about evidence; to accustom the mind to run immediately from the idea of the opinion to the idea of its evidence, and to feel dissatisfaction till it is known that the evidence has been all before the mind, and fairly weighed. When the case is directly the reverse, when the habit is almost universal, of stopping at the opinion, without going on to a thought of the evidence, without an association of any the smallest feeling of dissatisfaction with an opinion the evidence of which has not been explored, we may be perfectly sure that education in that country is in the wrong hands, and that it is nearly in its most deplorable state.

The effects are dreadful. How, but for the habit, almost general, of neglecting and disregarding evidence, could the progress of mankind in improvement be so very slow? How else could errors, of the grossest as well as most pernicious kind, be propagated, and the abominable actions which are grounded upon them, be repeated, from generation to generation? How could institutions, at variance with the interests of the community, which are a mockery of human nature, and act as a pestilential atmosphere upon the race, hold their endless existence, if the human mind was not ruined by the habit of adopting opinions, without evidence?

If such are the deplorable consequences of the vile habit of neglecting evidence, the consequences of the opposite habit, of being on the alert for evidence, of never yielding assent without having it, are of the most salutary kind. Strength and soundness of mind are so essentially connected with it, that they cannot [15] exist without it. How can there be strength or soundness of mind, without the habits on which they depend? Virtue of every kind springs readily from this soil, and can be planted in no other. The regard to evidence, as we have said before, implies regard to the good and evil of mankind. Regard to evidence, and the strength of mind, of which it is the foundation, necessarily lead to the discovery of error, and the discredit of institutions not useful but hurtful to mankind. What a debt of gratitude should we therefore owe to an education which would implant this habit; what detestation do we owe to an education which implants the opposite!

Such are the opposite habits, the habit of virtue, and the habit of vice, in regard to the search and collection of evidence. The habits of equal and partial affection come next for consideration.

On this subject it is not necessary we should bestow many words. All the benefit of having evidence is lost, if it comes into a mind prepared to make a bad use of it. Of course, all the evil consequences which attach to the negligence of evidence, attach to the habit of partial affection, and something more. The habit of attaching one’s self to one side of a question, is a habit of misjudgment. This implies mental imbecility. The affection which is felt for one side of a question, is an affection grounded upon those narrow and personal considerations, which are called selfish, in the immoral and hateful sense of the word; because the interests of truth and fairness include every thing that is large and generous; the habit, therefore, of partial affection to one side of a question, is a habit of confirmed selfishness and immorality. By the habit of believing whatever a man wishes to believe, he becomes, in proportion to the strength of the habit, a bad neighbour, a bad trustee, a bad politician, a bad judge, a shameless advocate. A man whose intellect is always at the command of his sinister interest, is a man whose conscience is at the command of it.

The sphere in which this habit operates the most mischievously is that of the opinions favourable to the interests of the powerful classes of the community, and hostile to those of the community at large. Individuals of the powerful classes, like other individuals, feel attachment to their own side of every question, and when that propensity is not corrected by a good education, but confirmed into a habit, and even erected into a principle, by a bad education, as it is in this country, the consequences are, what we see, an utter incapacity, almost universal, among the individuals of whom the leading classes are composed, of fair reasoning on all the points wherein the [16] interests of the community are concerned. When to this is joined the habit, in the body of the people, of inattention to evidence, of taking opinions upon trust, and taking upon trust the opinions chiefly of those same leading classes, we see how naturally all the mischievous institutions in the world, and all the mischievous opinions which yield them support, derive their hateful durability from habits of misconduct in relation to evidence.

Having now shewn to Dr. Wardlaw, and to persons of his description, somewhat more clearly than they generally understand the matter, wherein consists the grand virtue of proper conduct towards evidence, and the grand vice of improper conduct, the master virtue, and master vice, of human nature, we have now to show, that, of all classes of men, the clergy are those who are the most deeply chargeable with offences against the virtue, most deeply plunged in the atrocities of the vice.

Let us first of all consider the nature of that constant endeavour of theirs, of which we have already taken some notice, to confound the attributes of belief, with those of the behaviour to evidence; to ascribe to mere belief, the praise or blame, which can alone be due to the mode of dealing with evidence.

Is not this to make a virtue of unfairness? To attach the idea of merit or demerit to belief, that is, of merit to believing one way, demerit to believing another, what is this, but to hold out a premium for partiality, for affection all on one side? This is not merely to offend against the master virtue of right behaviour towards evidence, it is to hire and purchase offences against it.

Why do the clergy follow this course? Why is their praise and blame bestowed upon that which has neither merit nor demerit, belief and disbelief; and withheld from that which may possess the greatest, full and impartial inquiry, or the opposite?

Not only do they attach a merit and demerit to mere belief, they attach consequences of unspeakable importance to the holding or not holding certain opinions; the favour or disfavour of Almighty God, and pains, or pleasures, infinite and eternal. Is it possible, that a mind, with these impressions upon it, can come to the examination of any question, touching those opinions, without affection, so much on one side, that no evidence on the other can have any effect?

Instilling opinions, without the evidence, and at an age when the parties into whom the opinions are instilled, are incapable of understanding the evidence, is a practice which necessarily engenders habits of complicated misconduct towards evidence. It engenders the habit of neglecting evidence, of holding opinions without regard to their evidence: a habit which, as we have said [17] before, is the natural foundation of all intellectual and moral depravity. It also engenders habits of partial affection. Opinions early established in the mind, and connected with its oldest and most confirmed associations, are regarded as parts of one’s-self: one’s self-esteem, one’s pride, one’s love of ease, all create a decided partiality in their favour, and few minds are capable of attending to evidence on the opposite side, or of listening to it, without distaste and resentment. This exceedingly mischievous practice, however, is pursued with zeal, and even set up and applauded as a virtue, by the clergy.

The rank misconduct of the clergy in this respect, and its direful consequences, were pretty fully understood by the sincere and honest mind of Locke.

“There is,” says he, “I know, a great fault among all sorts of people, of principling their children and scholars; which, at last, when looked into, amounts to no more but making them imbibe their teachers’ notions and tenets, by an implicit faith, and firmly to adhere to them, whether true or false.” [*]

In another passage, he says, “The business of education, in respect of knowledge, is not, as I think, to perfect a learner in all, or any, of the sciences, but to give his mind that freedom, that disposition, and those habits, that may enable him to attain any part of knowledge he may apply himself to. This, and this only, is well principling, and not the instilling a reverence and veneration for certain dogmas under the specious title of principles, which are often so remote from that truth and evidence which belong to principles, that they ought to be rejected as false and erroneous.” []

The following is a highly important passage:

‘In these two things, viz. an equal indifferency for all truth; I mean the receiving it in the love of it as truth, but not loving it for any other reason before we know it to be true; and in the examination of our principles, and not receiving any for such, nor building on them, until we are fully convinced, as rational creatures, of their solidity, truth, and certainty, consists that freedom of the understanding, which is necessary to a rational creature, and without which it is not truly an understanding. It is conceit, fancy, extravagance, any thing rather than understanding, if it must be under the constraint of receiving and holding opinions, by the authority of any thing but their own, not fancied but perceived, evidence. This is rightly called imposition, and is, of all other, the worst and most dangerous sort of it. For we impose upon ourselves, which is the strongest imposition of all others; and we impose upon ourselves in that part which ought, with the greatest care, to be kept free from all imposition. The world is apt to cast great blame on those who have [18] an indifferency for opinions, especially in religion. I fear this is the foundation of great error, and worse consequences. To be indifferent which of two opinions is true, is the right temper of the mind, that preserves it from being imposed on, and disposes it to examine with that indifferency, until it has done its best to find the truth, and this is the only direct and safe way to it. But to be indifferent whether we embrace falsehood for truth, or no, is the great road to error. Those who are not indifferent which opinion is true, are guilty of this; they suppose, without examining, that what they hold is true, and then think they ought to be zealous for it. Those, it is plain, by their warmth and eagerness, are not indifferent for their own opinions, but, methinks, are very indifferent whether they be true or false, since they cannot endure to have any doubts raised, or objections made against them; and it is visible they never have made any themselves, and so, never having examined them, know not, nor are concerned, as they should be, to know whether they be true or false.

The misconduct of the clergy in relation to evidence, proceeds to a still higher pitch. Not only do they inculcate affection to the one side, and thereby engender habits of unfairness, of that mental imbecility and corruption, which unfit the man for honest inquiry, and leave him without the relish for truth, they do what in them lies to prevent all regard to the evidence on the opposite side, to make those who are led by them purposely shut their eyes against it. They endeavour to frighten them with it. They represent it as dangerous, if not wicked, to look at it. The young and tender mind is carefully discouraged from inquiry. The opinions of the teacher are either to be taken for granted without evidence, or the evidence which he adduces is to be held conclusive, and the very thought of weighing it, or taking into account the weight of opposite evidence, is treated as morally evil.

This vice of the clergy, pregnant with evils of such enormous magnitude, is well touched on by Locke, in the same finely toned and finely moraled discourse.

‘Many men firmly embrace falsehood for truth; not only because they never thought otherwise, but also because thus blinded, as they have been from the beginning, they never could think otherwise; at least, without a vigour of mind able to contest the empire of habit, and look into its own principles; a freedom which few men have the notion of, in themselves, and fewer are allowed the practice of, by others; it being the great art and business of the teachers and guides in most sects to suppress, as much as they can, this fundamental duty which every man owes himself, and is the first steady step towards right and truth in the whole train of his actions and opinions. This would give one reason to suspect, that such teachers are conscious to themselves, of the falsehood or weakness of the tenets they profess, since they will not suffer the grounds whereon they are built, to be examined; when, as those who seek truth [19] only, and desire to own and propagate nothing else, freely expose their principles to the test, are pleased to have them examined, give men leave to reject them if they can; and if there be any thing weak and unsound in them, are willing to have it detected, that they themselves, as well as others, may not lay any stress upon any received proposition, beyond what the evidence of its truth will warrant and allow.’

There is one passage more in Locke, which, though somewhat long, yet winds up the whole of this important subject, of right dealing with evidence, with such useful reflections, that we need not fear the censure of any honest and rational critic for the space which it will occupy.

‘It is mismanagement, more than want of abilities, that men have reason to complain of, and which they actually do complain of, in those that differ from them. He that by an indifferency for all but truth, suffers not his assent to go faster than his evidence, nor beyond it, will learn to examine, and examine fairly, instead of presuming; and nobody will be at a loss, or in danger, for want of embracing those truths, which are necessary in his station and circumstances. In any other way but this, all the world are born to orthodoxy; they imbibe, at first, the allowed opinions of their country and party, and so, never questioning their truth, not one of an hundred ever examines. They are applauded for presuming they are in the right. He that considers, is a foe to orthodoxy, because possibly he may deviate from some of the received doctrines there. And thus men, without any industry, or acquisition, of their own, inherit local truths (for it is not the same every where), and are inured to assent without evidence. This influences farther than is thought; for what one of an hundred, of the zealous bigots in all parties, ever examined the tenets he is so stiff in, or ever thought it his business or duty so to do? It is suspected of luke-warmness, to suppose it necessary, and a tendency to apostacy, to go about it. And if a man can bring his mind once to be positive and fierce for positions, whose evidence he has never once examined, and that in matters of greatest concernment to him, what shall keep him from this short and easy way of being in the right, in cases of less moment? Thus we are thought to cloath our minds as we do our bodies, after the fashion in vogue, and it is accounted phantasticalness, or something worse, not to do so. This custom, which (who dares oppose) makes the short-sighted bigots, and the warier, scepticks, as far as it prevails. And those that break from it are in danger of heresy; for taking the whole world, how much of it doth truth and orthodoxy possess together? Though it is by the last alone (which has the good luck to be every where) that error and heresy are judged of; for argument and evidence signify nothing in the case, and excuse no where, but are sure to be borne down in all societies, by the infallible orthodoxy of the place. Whether this be the way to truth and right assent, let the opinions that take place, and prescribe in the several habitable parts of the earth, declare. I never saw any reason yet why truth might not be trusted to its own evidence; I am sure if that be not able to support it, there is no fence against error, and then truth and [20] falsehood are but names that stand for the same things. Evidence, therefore, is that, by which alone, every man is (and should be) thought to regulate his assent, who is then, and then only, in the right way when he follows it.

Men deficient in knowledge are usually in one of these three states, either wholly ignorant; or, as doubting of some proposition they have either embraced formerly, or at present are inclined to; or, lastly, they do with assurance, hold, and profess, without ever having examined, and being convinced by well-grounded arguments.

The first of these are in the best state of the three, by having their minds yet in their perfect freedom and indifferency, the likelier to pursue truth the better, having no bias yet clapped on to mislead them.

For ignorance with an indifferency for truth is nearer to it, than opinion, with ungrounded inclination, which is the great source of error; and they are more in danger to go out of the way, who are marching under the conduct of a guide, that it is an hundred to one will mislead them, than he that has not yet taken a step, and is likelier to be prevailed on to enquire after the right way. The last of the three sorts are in the worst condition of all; for if a man can be persuaded, and fully assured of any thing, for a truth, without having examined, what is there, that he may not embrace for truth; and if he has given himself up to believe a lie, what means is there left to recover one who can be assured without examining?’

Dr. Wardlaw is prodigiously in earnest to convince the world, that the scripture attaches the greatest merit to faith, and the greatest demerit to the want of it. We know not that so much effort, on this subject, was necessary; but, be that as it may, this at least is certain, that the scripture can inculcate nothing that is absurd in point of reason, or mischievous in point of morality. We have seen that it would be absurd in point of reason, and mischievous in point of morality, to ascribe merit or demerit to belief. This, therefore, is what the scripture cannot do. We have seen that it is most true, in point of reason, and sound in point of morality, to ascribe merit and demerit, even the highest, to the proper and improper modes of dealing with evidence. The consequence is inevitable. It is not belief which is called, in the scripture, faith, but the proper mode of dealing with evidence. The man who deals properly with evidence, is the man who has faith; the ma