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by adopting the trial by jury, it secured to the accused, not only the probability of acquittal when innocent, but that most beautiful privilege of a British subject, the right of being presumed innocent until proved guilty. By establishing the liberty of the press, it secured to truth an ultimate triumph over error, in spite of the abuse of that privilege, which followed in the first hours of its fruition. By putting down the peculiar privileges of the noblesse, and by limiting the prerogatives of the crown, it sought to preserve personal freedom. By exploding the whole system of monopoly, it revived industry, and by suppressing the motley group of provincial laws, one of the relics of feudal barbarism, it opened the way for the establishment of a regular tariff, and a general code of laws. By the division and sale of the great estates of the clergy and crown, it brought them into cultivation, and rescued an immense body of people from a state of idleness, which perpetuated their ignorance. By arming the national guards or militia, it covered France with a shield; and by renouncing the right of conquest, it tried to take away from her neighbors all excuse for assailing her. Such, as far as I can learn from history and tradition, were the principal acts of the Constituent Assembly.' pp. 148-149.
With this the French revolution, properly speaking, was terminated. Had France been permitted by foreign nations to have matured her institutions in peace, and had her king been honestly and energetically attached to freedom and justice, the nation would have risen at once to a high degree of happiness and power, and other nations would have been prompted to imitate her institutions by peaceable reforms.
But the members of the Constituent Assembly were not permitted to complete their work. A law prohibited their reelection; and a host of new politicians, eager to distinguish themselves by farther reforms or innovations, composed the Legislative Assembly. The spirit of liberty now began to be supplanted by that of lawlessness. It has been often disputed, whether atheism or superstition is the worst enemy of religion; it may in like manner be doubted, whether abject submission to arbitrary power, or a hatred of all restraint, is the most adverse to liberty. The former ruins the present prosperity of men, but the latter mocks their hopes, and cheats them of success when it seems certain. The French nation had become engrained with the vices of a long continuing despostism; government seemed but another name for oppression; and thus the nation could be led to acts of cruelty by men, who pretended a fanatical admiration of liberty, and yet
were chiefly influenced by their desire of private aggrandizeA free people is never a merciless one.
Mr Somerville analyses the character of the Legislative Assembly, the National Convention, and the fearful governments, which succeeded. During these days the enlightened defenders of liberty were possessed of little influence. Necker was in exile; La Fayette was obliged to fly for his safety; and many of the purest advocates of free institutions were massacred, or transported to America. The crimes of this period were the offspring of the corruption, which the former despotism had rendered almost universal. They must be attributed, however, not solely to an evil spirit in the nation, but to pride, excited by foreign invasion. The most atrocious deeds were committed in moments of the greatest peril. The author next proceeds to the advancement of Napoleon, and treats of his character, and the benefits which he conferred upon France in the first period of his elevation. The French people did not submit to him from fickleness, nor from indifference to liberty. He came upon them, when they were exhausted by unnatural efforts, and desired nothing so ardently as repose. In continuation of this subject, Mr Somerville devotes several letters to observations on the government of the emperor, his fall, the restoration and unwise administration of the Bourbons, the return of Napoleon, his second abdication, and the second invasion of France by the allies.
In 1819 the administration of Decazes gave to liberty an opportunity of developing its powers. During his short ministry all accounts agree, that the nation received a new impulse, and improved in industry, commerce, and inventions. The liberty of the press was perfect, and the government began to gain the confidence of the nation. Decazes seems to have fallen, from a want of sufficient disinterestedness. He could have continued in office, if he had been uniformly true to a liberal policy. As the event has shown, the liberal party were not discreet in opposing him. Had they made some sacrifices, and given over contending for points, which they could only contend for, without any prospect of success, they might have upheld a more than moderately liberal ministry. In their sincere love of perfectly free institutions, and their consequent unwillingness to make any compromise with
circumstances, or in their triumphant expectations of soon possessing all authority, they united with their bitterest enemies to bring about the fall of Decazes, and lost the only opportunity of securing present liberty to their country.
The insincerity of Decazes, and the imprudence of the liberal party, were followed by the complete annihilation of the political influence of both, by a royalist ministry, a series of arbitrary infringements on the letter and spirit of the charter, and those changes in the mode of election, which have secured to the aristocracy the continued, and, as it would seem from the character of the members recently chosen, the almost undisputed possession of political authority and influence. Mr Somerville enters largely on these topics; explains the royalist politics, and speaks of the arguments used in favor of despotism. He closes his work with observations on the internal condition of France, and much valuable and practical information on the progress of agriculture and manufactures.
The period of history, through which we have been conducted, does but increase our admiration of liberty, and our belief of its final triumph. Present prospects are indeed gloomy, not so much because the conspiracy of kings is irresistible, as because the people are passive and content to endure. Perhaps a despot, of powerful mind and large resources, could lull the advocates for reform once more to silence, and bring back the lethargic apathy, from which Europe has but just been awakened. Yet during the whole series of eventful struggles and collisions, which have indeed been followed by too few advantages to satisfy the hopes of philanthropy, the general progress of liberal opinion is distinctly visible. The despots have grown more considerate, are cautious in their acts of tyranny, and avoid prodigality and waste. Public opinion is an invisible, but constant and influential power, which makes itself felt in every cabinet of Europe. Farther, that constitutional governments are superior to arbitrary monarchies is a principle, which is no longer questioned. The emperor of Russia has acknowledged it at Warsaw and at Petersburgh; and the Prussian king pledged his royal faith, that he would act by it. The press is not yet free; but of old the censorship was a regular, established affair; now it is defended only as a necessary infringement of the public rights, a temporary exercise of a dictatorial author
ity, required by the urgency of the times. The principle is conceded, though the right itself is withheld. For these acts of injustice the party in power quote the example of the Roman republic, and can, unfortunately, strengthen their argument by the recent practice of the English parliament.
If we consider the permanent results of the French revolution, they are auspicious and consolatory. What has France gained by it?
'She has gained,' Mr Somerville replies, 'a new territorial division of the kingdom, by which her various dissimilar provinces have been melted down into one community; an abolition of the privileges of the noblesse; the suppression of an oppressive ecclesiastical system, and of the right in religious corporations to hold landed property; an equal assessment of taxes over the whole kingdom; the establishment of a uniform system of jurisprudence, with the trial by jury; a respect for talents over birth, with a free access of any Frenchman to any employment, civil or military; the equality of all, in the eye of the law; the subdivision of the great estates of the kingdom; the emancipation of industry from the shackles of Jurandes and Maitrisses, and consequently great improvements in manufactures and husbandry; freedom of conscience in matters of religion; the liberty of the press, at least for books; a representative form of government, with a long et cetera of inferior advantages.' p. 13.
Much progress has, therefore, been made; and where a representation once exists, the character of the government will be still farther modified by the character of those who are governed. Yet many causes unite to impede the present establishment of perfectly free institutions.
The peasantry of France are extremely ignorant. Whole villages may be found, where not more than three or four can read. Even in the immediate vicinity of Paris, and within the echoes of the legislative debates, there are towns in which not three newspapers are taken, and those not by persons, who actually belong to the people. The eloquent pleas for liberty are of no effect, for they are not heard by the mass of the nation. Hence no general political spirit exists, except when the popularity of individuals is concerned, or as the taxes of the state affect private interests; and national attention can hardly be directed to refined questions on the management of the elections, and the free expressions of opinion. So great is the popular ignorance, that the most liberal politicians have
never advocated any very wide extension of the elective franchise, believing it to be first necessary to educate the nation.
Thus the first obstacle to the progress of liberty in France is found in the political ignorance and uninstructed condition of the people. It is also a characteristic of that cheerful nation to look at the bright side of a picture, to bear necessary evils with an elastic sprightliness, which is almost magnanimity. They are always content, if possible, and if there be anything captivating in the party in power, they are willing to applaud and coincide with the majority. The fondness for living at Paris would be productive of good, by promoting the circulation of political ideas, were it not, that Paris exercises an absolute dominion over the mind and tastes of the nation. The country is left without its due influence; men throng from all quarters to the banks of the Seine, not to interchange ideas, and form enlarged views from the collisions of various independent parties, but to learn and adopt the principles and tastes of the metropolis.
Yet, after all, how can liberty make rapid progress in a country, where the peculiar privileges of citizens are hardly known and little esteemed? The French have not yet learned to value their political existence; they have so long been subjects, that they hardly know what it is to participate in governing. They set a disproportionate value on social equality. It is not enough to secure the rights of person and property, liberty of speech, and equality before all tribunals; they will admit of no difference in the terms of intercourse, and are offended at any attention bestowed on high rank or superior wealth. This is a weakness, which has been very apparent in many parts of recent French history, and has proved injurious, because it has made common courtesies sometimes withdraw the attention from actual injustice.
We find another class of causes, which have retarded the progress of liberty in France, in the mismanagement of the liberal party. They have never acted with that perfect union, which resigns all private and peculiar feelings to the great object of the public good. They have mingled their ancient prejudices and enmities with their defence of liberty; and they have never had any well organized system of cooperation. Their metaphysical refinements in politics have been of no general advantage. They have formed and advocated