What is a successful Revolution ?


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the inquiry being conducted throughout with direct reference to a certain contrast, on which the eyes of Europe are still uneasily fixed. It may be conceived, perhaps, that in assuming con

stitutional monarchy' to be the legitimate term of all revolutions, M. Guizot has been somewhat too arbitrary in his conclusions ; since it may undoubtedly happen that other forms of government may consist more readily with the national genius, past history, or existing conditions of a people. Against this objection, however, the author has guarded himself; for the republican institutions of the United States and the English constitution are accepted by him, as equally successful' developements of the principles on which he considers the revolutions of these two countries to have proceeded. No attentive reader of the Essay will be slow to discover that constitutional monarchy is indeed the principal scope of M. Guizot's propositions, but his general conclusions are not shaped by this assumption. He traces the success' of a political revolution in the order and stability characterising the Government constituted by the experiment. About the form of polity he is indifferent. He appears to require, as the conditions of his acknowledgment, simply that the Government shall be effective and durable, strong for action, and competent, through its hold on the affections of the people, to control those irregular assaults from which no government is free. If these conditions are satisfied he will recognise the result of a successful revolution in either a monarchy or a republic.

We see, therefore, what M. Guizot implies by the term success,' nor will there be any more difficulty in ascertaining what he means by the word “revolution.' He does not apply this term simply to the constitutional convulsion by which the government of a country is overthrown, but to the whole course of events comprehended in the interval elapsing before the final recognition of some new form of polity. Thus the English * Revolution ’ here discussed is that which, according to his own specification, commenced in 1640 and terminated in 1688, extending therefore over a period of forty-eight years. By parity of reasoning, the French Revolution to be compared with it is that which commenced in 1789, and should have terminated in 1830, after running a course of forty-one years. It did not, however, so terminate, and herein consists its want of success ;' so that M. Guizot's exposition of the failure of the parallel at this point will tend materially to elucidate his own conceptions of the catastrophe of February. The causes of the success of

the English Revolution' must indicate those of the failure of its counterpart; and these, again, are none other than the very

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

causes of the last insurrectionary triumph,—for it was M. Louis Blanc's success which constituted M. Guizot's failure, and whatever arguments explain the one will go far towards explaining the other. But it must be here observed, that though the active course of a revolution may be measured according to the definitions above given, its success' has still to be determined in a subsequent period of probation. For example, the English Revolution terminated in 1688; that is to say, certain political principles received at that time a recognition which proved to be final, and a constitutional monarchy was established which has ever since endured. But the durability, or, in other words, the success of this settlement was subjected to a severe and protracted trial, extending, in fact, over a period of no less than seventy years. . Not to mention the conspiracies of William's reign, the intrigues of Anne's, and the chances of both, the Government of the Revolution was twice brought to the actual issue of the sword; and appears on one of these occasions, though then in the fifty-seventh year of its foundation, to have hung upon a thread. For, it is obvious, if the Pretender had advanced from Derby, and with the results which have since been described in that case as inevitable, that the success of * the English Revolution' must have been depicted in colours very different from those now employed by M. Guizot. A time, however, usually arrives for the expiration of these liabilities on the part of a new Government, and it is at this point that the success of the experiment admits of conclusive appreciation. The period in question has been fixed, for our Revolution, at the accession of George III., or, by a more cautious estimate, at the year 1767, when the reigning family, for the first time since the abdication of James, were acknowledged in the prayers of Roman Catholic congregations. Such dates must, of course, be somewhat arbitrarily determined; but a new reign distinguishes an epoch so conveniently, and the accession of George III, was, in itself, so directly influential in consummating the transaction under discussion, that we may fairly take the year 1760 as the limit of our revolutionary troubles. On these assumptions, therefore, it will follow that the English Revolution of 1640–1688 was not entitled to be termed absolutely successful, till seventytwo years had elapsed from the great political convulsion by which the change was effected, and sixty from that formal act which fixed the succession to the constitutional' throne.

It is plain from these considerations that what is called the • last French Revolution, that is to say, the event of February, 1848, taken alone, admits at present of no estimate in respect of its success, beyond such conclusions as may be suggested by the


The English Revolution, of 1640 — 1688.


foresight of statesmen or the analogies of political experience. It may or may not be successful. We may investigate the symptoms of stability or the elements of decay discoverable in its origin or conduct, and found an opinion upon our observations; but, as a matter of fact, its course has yet to be run. To judge it by its present works would be like judging the great French Revolution in 1791, or the English in 1690. Its significance in our present inquiry is chiefly derived from its effects in superseding the constitutional monarchy, and disturbing a settlement imagined to be conclusive by the revival of forms and opinions of polity before condemned. But the revolution which has not succeeded is, as we have observed, that of 1789-1830, and it is by the catastrophe of February that its failure has been proclaimed. It may be urged, perhaps, that as the settlement of the English Crown required sixty years for its uncontested establishment, it is premature to pronounce upon the course of French history before the lapse of a similar period. There is this distinction, however, between the cases, that the Government of the English Revolution, though often vigorously attacked, was never prevailed against, and therefore lost no way in its growth; whereas the corresponding settlement in France has been actually overthrown, so that all must be commenced anew, and under conditions far less favourable than before to speedy or permanent success. The position of France, mutatis mutandis, is that which our own would have been had one of the countless plots against the House of Hanover taken absolute effect in the reign of George I.

An inquiry into the causes of the success of the English Revolution would doubtless be primarily concerned with the political and religious principles in which the struggle originated, and which were finally established; since it is by these that the character, and probably the fortunes, of its subsequent course would be mainly determined. This is the view taken by M. Guizot, who traces the success of our Revolution to the sincerity of motives and to the moderation in their objects evinced throughout the conflict by those who brought it to a triumphant issue. That there should have been excesses was unavoidable, but these and their consequences vanished together, and what endured was the constitutional monarchy and the religious freedom, for which the battle had been really fought. We now subjoin the chief passage into which M. Guizot compresses his reply to the question - Why has the English Revolution succeeded? He had before remarked, that the two great points to which, through all the changes of the struggle, the nation tenaciously clung were, first, government by parliaments; and, next, the preponderance


in these parliaments of the House of Commons; Protestantism being incidentally recognised as the undoubted religion of the State:

• It is the glory of the revolution of 1688, and the main cause of its success, that it was an act of mere defence, and of necessary defence. Whilst this revolution was defensive in principle, it aimed at precise and limited objects. In great political and social convulsions, a fevered, boundless, and impious ambition sometimes seizes on society; men think themselves entitled to lay hands upon every thing, and to remodel the world at their will. These vague and presumptuous schemes of human creatures, treating the great and complex system in which their place is marked out as if it were a chaos, and striving to exalt themselves into creators, are as impotent as they are insane; the utmost that they can do is to throw all that they touch into the confusion of their own delirious dreams. England did not fall into this wild error. Instead of aspiring to alter the foundation of society and the destinies of mankind, she asserted and maintained her religion, and her positive laws and rights; and did not carry her claims, or even her desires, beyond the limits which they prescribed. With a singular mixture of magnanimity and discretion, she accomplished a revolution which gave to the country a new head and new guarantees, but which stopped short with the attainment of those objects. This great change was not brought about by popular risings, but by political parties, organised long before the revolution, with a view to the settlement of a regular government, and not in a revolutionary spirit, Neither the Tory party nor that of the Whigs (spite of the revolutionary elements which mingled in it) had been formed for the purpose of overthrowing established institutions. They were parties occupied with constitutional politics, not with conspiracy and revolt. Although they were led by imperious circumstances to change the Government of their country, the design was foreign to their character and principles,—and they returned — with little effort— to those habits of order and obedience which they had abandoned for a moment, not from taste or levity, but from necessity. Nor was the merit or burden of the Revolution limited to either of the great parties which had been so long opposed in opinion. They brought it about in concert, and by mutual concessions. It was imposed on both by a common necessity, and was not to either a victory or a defeat. Though watching its approach with widely different opinions, both saw it to be inevitable, and shared its accomplishment.'

As these sentences contain the only direct reply to the question which the pages before us profess to elucidate, their proportion to the general substance of the dissertation may perhaps appear somewhat inadequate. But no one will have perused M. Guizot's discourse without discerning the method of his argument. He hints much more than he asserts. His conclusions are throughout rather suggested by implication than expressed in terms. He specifies in minute and particular detail the phases successively assumed by the English Revolution in


The French Revolution, of 1789–1830.



its origin and progress, and distinguishes, in the true spirit of historical inquiry, the causes which conduced to its fortunate issue. The contrasts supplied by these several points he leaves to be drawn by his readers, who will not experience much difficulty in the task. If certain political and social conditions secure success, it is to the absence of such conditions that we must attribute failure, and thus one result is explained or suggested by the same illustrations which account for the other. We think it apparent from the peculiar tone of the discourse, and, indeed, it is evident enough in the particular passage quoted above, that the conditions tacitly contrasted with the fortunate circumstances of the English Revolution are not generally those of its proper historical parallel ; and that the Republic of 1848 rather than the Constitutional Monarchy of 1830 has furnished M. Guizot, not only with his most natural reflections, but with his principal points of comparison. To some extent, as we have said, this line of argument was undoubtedly open to the illustrator; since, if the success of revolutions can be shown to depend upon certain conditions generally invariable, to certify these conditions will be to supply the means of testing the prospects of a revolution at any period of its course. M. Guizot's moral, therefore, may be judiciously pointed by such suggestions; but the true subject of historical contrast lies in the fortunes of that Constitutional Government which he himself assisted to establish twenty years ago. The English Revolution which was successful was that of 1640– 1688, of which the results endure to this day. The French Revolution which failed was that of 1789-1830, the fabric of which was destroyed in the convulsions of February, 1848. The question, therefore, to be solved is simply this—What were the respective causes which, on the one hand, secured the stability of the English Constitution, and on the other permitted the overthrow of its counterpart in France ? How has it happened, that the fortunes of the House of Orleans have so fatally differed from the fortunes of the House of Hanover? The reserve imposed upon M. Guizot in the discussion of these points requires little comment; but, as no such obligations are incumbent on ourselves, we can examine the question with greater freedom, though circumstances hereafter to be mentioned almost preclude such a course of argument as would best conduct to a conclusion. • There can, of course, be no doubt that the success, or, in other words, the duration of the Government established by the English Revolution, was due in a most material degree to the moderation and practicability of the principles promoted, and to

« 前へ次へ »