« 前へ次へ »
By the French constitution, the Nation is always named before the King. The third article of the Declaration of rights says,
• The nation is essentially the source (or fountain) of all sovereignty." Mr. Burke argues, that, in England, a King is the fountain—that he is the fountain of all honour. But as this idea is evidently descended from the conquest, I shall make no other remark upon it than that it is the nature of conquest to turn every thing upside down; and as Mr. Burke will not be refused the privilege of speaking twice, and as there are but two parts in the figure, the fountain and the sout, he will be right the second time.
The French constitution puts the legislative before the executive; the Law before the King; La Loi, Le Roi. This also is in the natural order of things; because laws must have existence, before they can have execution.
A King in France does not, in addressing himself to the National Assembly, say, "My afembly," similar to the phrase used in England of “ iny Parliament; neither can he use it consistent with the constitution, nor could it be admitted. There may be propriety in the use of it in England, because, as is before mentioned, both Houses of Parliament originated out of what is called the Crown, by patent or boon—and not out of the inherent rights of the people, as the National Assembly does in France, and whose name designates its origin.
The President of the National Assembly does not ask the King to grant to the Assembly liberty of speech, as is the case with the English House of Commons. The constitutional dignity of the Na
tional Assembly cannot debase itself. Speech is, in the first place, one of the natural rights of man always retained ; and with respect to the National Assembly, the use of it is their duty, and the nation is their authority. They were elected by the greatest body of men exercising the right of election the European world ever saw. They sprung not from the filth of rotten boroughs, nor are they the vassal representatives of aristocratical ones. Feeling the proper dignity of their character, they support it, Their parliamentary language, whether for or against a question, is free, bold, and manly, and extend to all the parts and circumstances of the case. If any matter or subject respecting the executive department, or the person who presides in it, (the King), comes before them, it is debated on with the spirit of men, and the language of gentlemen ; and their answer, or their address, is returned in the same stile. They stand not aloof with the gaping vacuity of vulgar ignorance, nor bend with the cringe of sycophantic insignificance. The graceful pride of truth knows no extremes, and preserves, in every latitude of life, the rightangled character of man.
Let us now look to the other side of the question. - In the addresses of the English Parliaments to their Kings, we see neither the intrepid spirit of the old Parliaments of France, nor the serene dignity of the present National Assembly; neither do we see in them any thing of the stile of English manners, which borders somewhat on bluntness. Since then they are neither of foreign extraction, nor naturally
of English production, their origin must be sought For elsewhere, and that origin is the Norman Conquest. They are evidently of the vassalage class of manners, and emphatically mark the prostrate distance that exists in no other condition of men than between the conqueror and the conquered. That this vassalage idea and stile of speaking was not got rid of even at the Revolution of 1688, is evident from the declaration of Parlianient to William and Mary, in these words : “ We do most humbly and “ faithfully submit ourselves, our heirs and posteri“ ties, for ever." Submission is wholly a vassalage term, repugnant to the dignity of Freedom, and an echo of the language used at the Conquest.
As the estimation of all things is by comparison, the Revolution of 1688, however from circumstances it may have been exalted beyond its value, will find its level. It is already on the wane, eclipsed by the enlarging orb of reason, and the luminous revolutions of America and France. In less than another century, it will go, as well as Mr. Burke's labours, “ to the family vault of all the Capulets." Mankind will then scarcely believe that a country calling itself free, would send to Holland for a man, and clothe him with power on purpose to put themselves in fear of him, and give him almost a million sterling a-year for leave to submit themselves and their posterity, like bond-men and bond-women, for ever.
But there is a truth that ought to be made known: I have had the opportunity of seeing it; which is, that, notwithstanding appearances, there is
not any description of men that despise monarchy so much as courtiers. But they well know, that if it were seen by others, as it is seen by them, the juggle could not be kept up. They are, in the condition of men who
get their living by a show, and to whom the folly of that show is so familiar that they ridicule it; but were the audience to be made as wife, in this respect, as themselves, there would be an end to the show and the profits with it. The difference between a republican and a courtier with respect to monarchy is, that the one opposes monarchy believing it to be something, and the other laughs at it knowing it to be nothing.
As I used sometimes to correspond with Mr. Burke, believing him then to be a man of sounder principles than his book shews him to be, I wrote to him last winter from Paris, and gave him an account how prosperously matters were going on. Among other subjects in that letter, I referred to the happy situation the National "Assembly were placed in ; that they had taken a ground on which their moral duty and their political interest were united. They have not to hold out a language which they do not believe, for the fraudulent purpose of making others believe it. Their station requires no artifice to support it, and can only be maintained by enlightening mankind. It is not their interest to cherish ignorance, but to dispel it. They are not in the case of a ministerial or an opposition party in England, who, though they are opposed, are still united to keep up the common mystery. The National Assembly must throw
open a inagazine of light. It must few man the proper character of man; and the nearer it can bring him to that standard, the stronger the National Assembly becomes.
In contemplating the French constitution, we see in it a rational order of things. The principles harmonise with the forms, and both with their origin. It may perhaps be said as an excuse for bad forms, that they are nothing more than forms; but this is a mistake. Forms grow out of principles, and operate to continue the principles they grow from. It is impossible to practise a bad form on any thing but a bad principle. It cannot be ingrafted on a good one; and wherever the forms in any government are bad, it is a certain indication that the principles are bad also.
I will here finally close this subject. I began it by remarking that Mr. Burke had voluntarily declined going into a comparison of the English and French constitutions. He apologises in page 241) for not doing it, by saying that he had not time. Mr. Burke's book was upwards of eight months in hand, and is extended to a volume of three hundred and fifty-six pages.
As his omission does injury to his cause, his apology makes it worse ; and men on the English side the water will begin to consider, whether there is not some radical defect in what is called the English constitution, that made it necessary in Mr. Burke to suppress the comparison, to avoid bringing it into view.
As Mr. Burke has not written on constitutions, so neither has he written on the French revolution.