« 前へ次へ »
A LITERARY DISCUSSION.
[One side only.)
The Merits of the Histories of Hume and Lingard.
False opinions in morality, or mistaken notions in philosophy, are not so much to be dreaded, as the wilful misrepresentations of the historian. "Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri," should be the motto of every honest historian; be his party in the right or wrong, he is to state “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Yet there is no one who has greater inducements to misrepresentations than the historian. Party feelings will lead him, not only to extenuate the guilt and apologize for the measures of his friends, but to exaggerate the misconduct of his ad versaries, and attribute every act of theirs to the worst of motives. But, should he have the good fortune to be of no political party, yet the animosi ties of the church are no less bitter than those of the state, and theological enmities are far more difficult to compose, since each religious sect believes, that the voice of its own partisans is, without doubt, the voice of God.
Almost every historian has been influenced in one or the other of these ways. Hume and Gibbon, professing to be the enemies of all religion, have too often made their writings the channel of their infidelity, and thrown out their doubts and insinuations on every opportunity. Hume, again, was led away by his love of kings ; he was too great a favorer of the doctrines of passive obedience and the divine right of kings ; too much of a monarchist to feel any of that ardor, which glowed in the breasts of Hampden and Sydney; he consequently views with apathy every attempt of the people to be free, and considers every assertion of popular rights as an invasion of royal prerogative.
Neither is Dr. Lingard free from blame; indeed, we fear that he has wholly forfeited the character of an honest historian; he has erred and greatly erred, from his zeal for his particular religion. Educated in the faith of the Romish church, he must naturally feel a love and a reverence for her institutions; a priest at her altar, and, as we hope, sincerely believing in the doctrines which he teaches, he must feel a desire to defend her from the attacks and calumnies of her enemies. But his zeal has carried him too far; he seems to think himself pledged to support, not only her doctrines, but the means she has used to extend these doctrines, and uphold her temporal as well as her spiritual authority; every thing in the farthest degree related to Holy Mother Church is, in his eyes, sacred and inviolable, and the Popish miracles, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the Gunpowder Plot, are as much entitled to defence, as the doctrines of transubstantiation and the infallibility of the Pope.
If the wish to do away the prejudices against his faith, and induce men to look with more charity upon the doctrines of his sect, furnished any motive to Dr. Lingard for writing his history, he has entirely failed of his object by grasping at too much; he has lost the whole, he has weakened his side and exposed himself to the ridicule and attacks of his adversaries.
If he had merely advocated the doctrines of his church, and endeavored by fair argument to convince men of their truth, although we cannot allow An historical work to be the fit place for theological discussions, we should not have so much reason to complain. But when he espouses the cause of error, and virtually by apologizing for, if not openly by vindicating, support: those measures, which every man's conscience must tell him adınit of no excuse, when he defends the characters of those men whom the voice of all ages since thi ir own has condemned to infamy, we must either doubt his sincerity or pity his understanding. People are now too enlightened to justify those means which centuries ago were employed to compel men's consciences. It is idle now to tell a man, that it will be doing God service to assassinate his neighbor, because he will not hear mass, bow to the host, and acknowledge the Pope as his spiritual father.
Dr. Lingard takes every opportunity to exalt the merits of those of his own sect, and to speak in terms of indifference, if not of disparagement, of every distinguished protestant. While Cardinal Pole is the subject of the highest encomiums, Archbishop Cranmer is passed as a man of but little talents, and less strength of character. While he in a manner defends the cruelties of the Marian persecution, and vindicates the characters of Bonner And Gardiner, when scarcely the fires of Smithfield and the piles of Ridley und Latimer, Hooper and Cranmer are extinguished, he complains of the restraints, the fines, and imprisonments, which, under Elizabeth, were in posed on the Popish recusants. While he magnifies every indiscretion of the unfortunate Anne Bolleyn into a crime, and would load her character with the blackest infamy, he extols the virtues and conceals the vices of Mary Stuart, whose only virtue was her weakness, and whose only apology for crime her youth and beauty.
Whatever merit there may be in Dr. Lingard's IIistory, either of original ity and deep and extensive research, which he claims, or of beauty of style and pleasing narration, which have been allowed him, all these, however will by no means make up for the manifest partiality towards the Catholics, and the constant prejudice against the Protestant faith, which prevail through the whole work. It will never be a popular history; it may be read and admired at St. Omer's and Dovay, it may be found in the library of the scholar, but never, like Hume, in every parlor, and in the hands of common readers.
When the historian strays from the truth, his work becomes a mere work sf fiction, inheriting all the dulness of narration, without acquiring any of the liveliness of romance; it can neither instructus like the one, nor amuse us like the other. Facts misrepresented, however they may be skilfully adapted to our particular prejudices, will always be like the flattered por trait, which may gratify our vanity, or please us by the excellence of the coloring, but can never inspire us with that interest that truth alone can impart.
OF A DELIBERATIVE DISCUSSION.
“ Liberal Principles as affecting the Strength of Government."
The opinion that the strength of government consists in its being placed as far beyond the influence of popular commotions as possible, is one of long standing, and, when rightly understood, is, without doubt, perfectly correct But I do very much doubt the correctness of that exposition of it, or rather, of that perversion of it, which teaches that the strength of a government consists in crushing the energies of the people, and continuing them in a state of abject mental and moral degradation and darkness. Nay, I coulceive such a moule of proceeding to be entirely incompatible with the strength of government. For, let re suppose the existence of such a state of things as has just been alluded ts. Let us suppose a people involved in a barbarism the most complete and gloomy that the world ever knew ; and that they are ruled with a despotism, compared with which the Ottoman despotism of the present day is very liberty. I allow, that so long as they can be continued in a state of such miserable slavery and darkness, so long will the government stand, and stand firmly. But who will answer for it, that the light shall never break in ? Who will vouch that they shall never rouse from this moral lethargy? Who is there that dares affirm that this Samson, though now blinded, and shorn of his strength oppressed, mocked, insulted, will not at some future period, remote it may be, collect the force of his energies, and hurl down the whole fabric of tyranny on the devoted heads of his followers ? Station a guard, if you please, in every house,-set a spy over every man's actions; but tell me, of what effect will your guards and your spies be in restraining the current of men's thoughts? Were they possessed of no other means of coming to a sense of their wrongs, the very circumstance that there are in the community those who do not feel these wrongs, (the ministers of despotism,) this very circum stance, I say, would inevitably, though it may be slowly, raise in the minds of the people reflections on their own condition as compared with that of their rulers. It will then be but a short process for them to begin to desire better things; and every one at all conversant with human nature, knows full well that when men once begin to desire in earnest, it is not long ere they make an effort to possess themselves of the object of their wishes. A spirit of insubordination has thus arisen; and now tell me, student of his tory, tell me, politician, where will it end? Let tyranny, and the illiberai principles which have hitherto prevailed, in haughty assurance of their own might, tremble, for their downfall is at hand. All the experience of all ages shows full well, that when a people are once roused to a sense of injuries, opiates more powerful than man can tell of, are required to lull them to a second sleep.
If, now, there be any need of examples in proof of what I have advanced, I have only to refer you to the revolution which required the best blood of France to wash away the illiberal principles which had hitherto swayed the throne,--to the free states of North America, who owe their independence to the blind and narrow policy which had actuated the British monarchy ever since the days of the first James,-to Greece, the last strong hold, west of the Dardanelles, of those who once spread the terror of their arms from beyond the farthest stretch of the Caucasian range to the most distant shores of remotest Europe; but whose oppressive and impolitic principles are now, we confidently trust, about to force them, a disgraced and despised race, with a weak and irresolute government, into a corner of the earth, a terrible monument to all nations of the insufficiency of intolerance for the support of power.
But, while in a government established on illiberal principles, there are the most formidable springs of ruin, I believe that principles, the opposite of these, contribute, more than any other cause, to the strength and stability of guvernment. It is supposed, of course, that the people are enlightened to the advantages and necessity of government in some shape or other; and to suppose that they would be willing subjects of a power whose constant aim was to oppress and restrain their energies, to reduce their prerogatives, to obstruct their interest, and to hinder their advancement in moral and intellectual improvement; or, to suppose that they would become willing instruments of destruction to a government, which, keeping pace with the progress of civilization, and the spirit of the age, would secure to them every privilege, in as high a degree as would be possible for them to enjoy, would be to deny the very circumstance which has just been taken" for granted, namely, an enlightened condition of the people. So far, indeed, from overturning the government, their main solicitude. unless their motives of conduct were strangely at variance with those which usually actuato men in other cases, would be as to the means of supporting it in its fullest strength; - so far from discarding it, their chief anxiety would be lest other powers, jealous of the influence of such an example on their subjects, should endeavor to wrest it from them.
It is, in fact, but the futile imaginings of a disordered brain, which see in the effect of liberal principles any thing, approaching to the dissolution of government. For what are liberal principles but a disposition to keep pace with the spirit of improvement which is constantly going on among men ? And, can any one, in his sober senses, aver that good government and general civilization are things so entirely incompatible, that the one cannot be enjoyed but at the expense of the other? That vigor and stability in national councils are ever, from their very nature, inconsistent with the. progress of the mind? That if men insist on moving onward in the march of intellect, they must be content to sacrifice to this object every thing like a firm and well-regulated state administration ? And so, on the contrary, if they wish to be preserved from constant anarchy and civil contention, they must be satisfied to remain in barbarism and degradation ? Such doctrines are too monstrous to be harbored for a moment; but yet, I defy any one to deny that they are the doctrines of those who 'contend that liberal principles are incompatible with the strength of government. For myself, were such my beliet, I would utterly discard all allegiance to society. would betake myself to the obscurest corner of the earth; and there, divell ing aloof from the v srld, and inaccessible to any of my race, I would prose uute the culture' my understanding and my heart by myself, and undis turbed by that connexion with my species, which would, according to these doctrines, involve my mind in ignorance and darkness. My name should be no more known among all mankind. I would live alone; and none other should rule over me than the Almighty.
“Liberal Principles as affecting the Strength of Government." That the rights which nature has bestowed upon man may be protected and enjoyed, he finds it necessary to subject himself to laws, and to part with some portion of his original freedom, for the maintenance of the rights and freedom of his fellow-men. The social system, of which he is a member, entitles him to other rights, without which, civil liberty is not enjoyed, and the ends for which society was formed are not obtained. Those principles of government are liberal, which secure to man the rights of nature and of society. They are the principles which conduce to the happiness and prosperity of a nation ; but it has been observed by political writers, and the observation has been so frequently made that it appears almost an axiom, that those very principles have a powerful effect in weakening government. Reason and experience confirm the remark. Though history has often and clearly proved to us that man is unwilling to be oppressed by man, and will not sacrifice his just rights, when the possession of them will not injure others, he has unfortunately seldom restrained himself from abusing as soon as he begins to enjoy them, till he finally subjects himself to oppression which he endeavored to escape.
It is in their liability to abuse, that the great danger of liberal principles is seen. To enjoy their advantages much precaution must be taken against their evils. They are liable to be carried to excess. To establish the proper security and to mark out the proper limits for them, s'em almost
impossible. The work will be imperfect. The examples of ancient gov ernments too plainly prove that it was so in them. Faction and corruption were the constant companions of liberty, continually distracting and en Leebiing government. They soon exerted their pernicious intiuence, when Athens began to enjoy that liberal principle, whèh rendered the voice of the people the law by which they were to be governed. That free principle which declared the proud patricians and humble plebeians of Rome equal, and gave the latter the enjoyment of public offices in company with the former, added not to the strength of government. We find that the interval of tranquillity was but short, and that the tumults of the people, and the oppression of ambitious citizens soon followed. Sylla was the favorite, and became the tyrant of the people.
“So every scope by the immoderate use
Leads to restraint."
The principal cause of the fall of the republic of Rome, has been ascribed to the excess of power which the favor of the people too often intrusted to unworthy hands.
As liberal principles allow the people some degree of power, the question may with good reason be asked, whether that power will content them; whether it will not be intentionally abused, or imprudently exercised ?
They are forgetful of the relation in which they stand to each other; of the responsibility under which they are placed. Ignorant or thoughtless of the benefit of the whole, which the privileges of each individual enable him to render, they too readily sacrifice the good of the public to their own partiality for some flattering demagogue. They are not sensible of the true value of the liberal principle which is put in their hands, but they are fully aware that they possess power, and will misapply their possession to gratify themselves, at the expense of the public safety, and the public happiness. Such is the abuse of the right of suffrage, an abuse to which the privilege is always exposed, however well informed the people may be of the true design of society, and of the happiness which it is in their power to confer.
We need not examine ancient history, and the imperfect constitutions of old governments, to be convinced that free principles will be dangerous. The history of later times will give us the same information. Will not our own days teach us the same lesson? We have seen the dangers of the press. In the words of one of our own writers, “Its freedom will be abused. It is a precious pest, and necessary mischief, that has spoiled the temper of our iberty, and may shorten its life.”
Another effect to be feared from liberal principles, is a want of respect towards those who make and administer the laws.
If the people are, directly or indirectly, the makers of the laws, do they the more willingly submit to them! The magistrates whom they have created, they will look upon as their equals, but equality may be forgotten by the magistrates They will be approved by some, and disapproved by others. There wil arise opposition of party to party, and oppression of the one by the other The purposes of government are forgotten, while each looks with jealousy upon his opponent. There is none of that feeling of awe and reverence which the authority of an hereditary ruler inspires, whose cradle is a throne, of whose oppression it is dangerous to complain, and the success of resist ance doubtful. .
It is the foundation of the political theory of a distinguished writer, that honor is the support of a monarchy, fear of a despotism, and virtue of a republic. The strongest governments place their security in principles which awe or captivate their subjects. They take advantage of every mode which will excite terror or delight. The will of a despot bows down the victims of ignorance with fear and trembling, who hardly dare to know that nature has bestowed upon them faculties and rights, which were givel for their happiness, or the strength of government is derived from a fountaiz