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systems of polity, when there was need of champions for practical reform, and the most ingenious arguments in the chamber of deputies have sometimes been made without effect, because they were founded on the theories of individuals.
But far more injury has been done by an unconciliating, confident course. They relied on the justice and popularity of their cause; the nation was probably disposed to support them with steadiness; but it desired peace, was conscious of prosperity, knew that their finances were in a better condition than those of any European nation, and that France was fast regaining prosperity and wealth. The popular leaders found no fermented nation; they threw themselves, as they thought, on the sea of political commotion; but the waves were still.
The confidence of the liberals injured their cause, for it excited opposition. The royalists, at the first and second restoration, had been moved by the strong passion of revenge to do some things, which were prohibited by the charter. The liberals urged relentlessly the revocation of such acts; and in one instance at least, in the case of those who were banished by a royal edict, demanded as a right, what the king was already resolved to concede as a proof of leniency. In these cases they acted as high minded men, yet consulted but poorly for the final advantage of their cause. The liberal side in the chamber of deputies lost much influence, from the circumstance of the various elements of which it was composed. Some were suspected of having formerly been too sincerely attached to the fortunes of the emperor; some were charged with a design of overturning the regal government; and the belief was prevalent, that, even if all were honest in their preference of liberty, the zeal of many was quickened by the expectation of preferment under the new order of things.
A third class of causes, impeding the progress of liberty in France, is found in the essential obstacles, which must always exist in a country where monarchical institutions are deeply rooted. The atheism of the last century, and the terrible irreligion of France during a portion of her revolutionary governments, had not been able to wear away even the rust of superstition; and all the enthusiasm for liberty, all the suffering under the despotism of the emperor, all the crosses and dis
appointments under the restoration, have not been enough to eradicate the attachment of the nation to a regal government. The desire of a republic in France was never a deeply rooted attachment to that form of government, but only the frenzy of a moment. At present the organization of the army, the church, the municipal and provincial jurisdiction, presuppose a monarch at their head, and a monarch possessed of extensive prerogatives. Historical recollections are not easily to be effaced. It is uncomfortable to many to reject forms, which are associated with stories of ancient valor and renown, to part with a government, which is connected with every tradition, every work of art, every public enterprise.
Yet while there is reason to fear, that the constitution of France will not be administered in the spirit of impartial liberty, there is no ground for fearing its absolute, nor even its virtual abolition. The royalists do not desire such an abolition, for it would be to surrender the power they have gained, and to receive from royal caprice the honors and consideration, which they are now able to obtain, and to dispense by the laws. The utmost which they can meditate, consists in such modifications of the charter, as will secure all power to themselves. Hitherto the men of science and letters have been distinguished for the adulation they have paid to royalty. They are so still. But some of them enjoy the rank of peers and counsellors of state; their pride, a pitiful pride for men of the first eminence in science, is gratified by the dignity, and though they never will advocate the principles of democracy, they will not advocate such an exclusive superiority of the higher orders, as would leave themselves without political distinction.
We accustom ourselves also to have good hopes respecting the future. The combination of the allied sovereigns cannot endure, if any inference may be drawn from the fate of former coalitions, or from the elements of which the present is composed. The respective powers have had, and must continue to have, mutual jealousies. Though the sword of the Prussian now rests peaceably in its scabbard, it cannot be forgotten, that it first gained the lustre and keenness of its edge. in its contests with Austria. It is, moreover, the true policy of Prussia to favor liberal principles, and she cannot long re
main untrue to her higher destiny. Her government is administered with unparalleled economy. The king expends, as it were, nothing for his private pleasures; his equipage and attendants do not surpass the limits of a moderate private fortune. And as for the execution of civil justice, there is no country where the guiltless is more sure to escape, or the injured to gain redress. Still more may be said in praise of Prussia. She has of late years uniformly and systematically made exertions to diffuse the advantages of education, and promote every liberal science and every elegant art. The private galleries of the king have been collected, the palaces at Potsdam and Berlin stripped of their ornaments, that public schools might be opened to the artists, and a constant source of improvement and delight to the public. A liberal Protestant church is supported by a regular, learned, and sufficiently numerous ministry; village schools are provided for the instruction of the peasantry; every considerable town has at least one gymnasium, and sometimes several; while the universities of Berlin, Halle, Bonne, and Breslau, yield in excellence to none, and have only Göttingen for a successful rival. Placed as the country is, with a vast frontier, in the centre of Europe, exposed to an attack on all sides, whether from France, Austria, or the Czar, it has been felt, that nothing but the public spirit of the nation can preserve its existence, and that spirit has been kept up by the gradual abolition of all feudal wrongs, and the general diffusion of intelligence. A government, which entrusts its security to the keeping of a well instructed nation, is essentially a free one.
We do not believe that the Holy Alliance can continue; and much may be expected from the progress of political knowledge. The principles of government are every day more widely and universally discussed. They are exhibiting themselves also in practice on a grander scale than the world has ever yet witnessed. The new republics, which are starting into existence in the American hemispheres, will exercise a powerful influence on the political condition of Europe. A system of states will be formed, embracing all parts of the civilized world, and, by containing examples of every form of government, will enable the nations to decide from practical experience, which forms are usually administered with the soundest wisdom, and are productive of the greatest good.
We trust also not a little in the native force of liberty. Its orb may be darkened, but never quenched; its beams obscured for the moment, but tomorrow repaired. From the days of Marathon to that of Waterloo, whenever the armies of liberty and despotism have been arrayed against each other, the fairest cause has almost always been victorious. A nation rising in arms is not to be subdued by mercenary troops. It was the spirit of liberty, though under the form of enthusiastic frenzy, which. made the arms of the French republic invincible; the spirit of liberty left to Napoleon in Spain victories without conquest, and trophies without dominion; it was the spirit of liberty, which animated the German nation, when they collected all the zeal and force for which their character is remarkable, and poured across the Rhine to protect their independence. And still at Waterloo, the British believed themselves engaged for the rights and welfare of mankind, and the Prussians, yet the dupes of royal promises, fought, as they believed, for national independence and internal freedom.
But, whatever may be the ultimate condition of Europe, the lessons of liberty will continue to be taught. We return home from the review of European governments, with new love for our national advantages, and with new zeal to support them. We recur to this topic, which is, as it should be, a very common one, not from a spirit of national vanity, but that we may feel gratitude to the great Parent of the nations, under whose Providence our republic has grown up to prosperity; and may cherish with the more sacred love the memory of those who achieved our liberties, and be mutually encouraged to watch for the preservation and integrity of our institutions. In other countries even the best men are divided in their views of politics, but in America there exists and can exist no such division. Here all our feelings are in harmony. Patriotism, respect for existing forms, reverence for the memory of our fathers, all unite to inspire the love of a liberal democracy. We have no deluding recollection of the virtues and prowess of chivalry to cheat us into admiration of feudal institutions. Safe from foreign influence, blessed with an even and impartial administration of justice, and feeling our mild government only by the freedom and safety which it ensures us, we can observe with calmness the political career of
our public men, and choose the most intelligent and patriotic to administer our laws, dreading no extensions of prerogatives, no unlawful usurpations, no attacks on our private peace and comforts, and acknowledging no triumvirate but the eternal one, of truth, virtue, and liberty.
ART. IV. Il Decameron di Messer Giovanni Boccaccio, corretto ed illustrato con Note tratte da Vari, dal Dott. Giulio Ferrario. 4 vols. 8vo. Milano. 1803.
ITALY, it has been observed by one of the most ingenious and elegant historians of modern times, has peculiar cause to exult in the state of her literature during the fourteenth century. At that period the north of Europe still continued buried in the night of darkness, which attended and followed the dismemberment of the Western Empire; or, if a ray of light shone out here and there in the British Isles, in Germany, or among the remoter tribes beyond them, it seems to have been but a faint and fitful glimmering, only just enough to illuminate and render visible the capricious barbarism of the conquerors of the Cæsars. The literature of the south of Europe, however, was just springing into being, with the flush and freshness of youth upon it. The songs of the troubadours, and the romances of chivalry, exhibiting all the charm of simplicity, raciness, and vigor, began ere now to be produced, in the fertility of a virgin soil, all over the contiguous countries of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. The people of these favored lands spoke kindred dialects of one great language, formed by incorporating the Teutonic idioms with such scattered fragments of the Roman tongue, as had survived the destruction of the Roman power; and their poetry displays an age not of imitation, nor of improvement on the past, but an age of first creation, like that in the times before among the primitive Greeks.
But there was this remarkable particular in which the Italians were distinguished in literature, from their sister nations in the south of Europe. The literature of the latter, as observed by Sismondi, belongs to the respective nations them