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extreme a close aristocracy, and on the other an open and unstable democracy ; between which, however, if I were compelled to choose, I would choose the latter.
On the affairs of France I will imitate your example, and say but little. The events of the 10th, the abdication of Lafayette, and the bloody and fierce spirit that prevails among the rulers, have certainly produced many desertions from their cause, in minds most sanguine in their expectations concerning them. For my own part, for two days after the news of the 10th arrived, I could almost have wished success to the Ger
I have again, however, settled into my former view of things, - that the French Revolution, with all its evils, is on the whole better than a continuation of the former government; that these evils would work their own cure, if left to themselves ; and that they are lighter than a feather compared with the enormous evils that would result from a subjugation of twenty-four millions of men by foreign bayonets, and the success of a combination of despots, whose object (illustrated in their conduct to Poland), is to establish an universal tyranny on the ruins of liberty itself. That the attempt is as foolish as it is wicked, I am still obstinate enough to believe ; and perhaps I shall be of the same opinion, when Paris is razed to the ground. Events are passing so rapidly, that before we could discuss all the grounds of prophecy on one side and the other, time will probably have brought matters to issue. One general remark, however, I will offer; and, indeed, if it did not seem impertinent, I would press it on you. Great changes in human affairs cannot be produced without general union; and general union cannot be produced without an enthusiasm that never, in a single instance, stopped within the limits of reason or justice. Our own constitution was the offspring of fifty years' civil war, in which the prevailing party ran into greater extremes than even the Jacobins. Unfortunately, the same temper, talents, and conduct, that are fitted to pull down an established tyranny, are too apt, in every case, to pull down a regular government also. The earthquake in the moral world, which is able to overturn the deep foundations of the temple of superstition, shakes to pieces the flimsy edifices that are at the moment reared in its place; and the government of reason cannot be erected on stable foundations, till the dreadful agitations have subsided into a calm.
After this, you will not be surprised if I agree with you in the praises you have given Professor
D. Stewart's work, without your exception. It never occurred to me to read a book that I so entirely assented to and so warmly approved ; I mean a book on such subjects. The chapter on the application of first principles to politics (pardon me, and pity me, if you please) I consider as of first-rate merit; and so I find it is thought by some superior minds. I understand that the Premier and Lord Lansdown are of this way of thinking; the last I am certain in respect to, and I hear it of the first from good authority. And as to the application of first principles to politics, I have only to say, that if philosophers are not to apply their deductions to useful subjects, I see not what use their writings are of at all. But Mr. Stewart has in this respect great authorities on his side. First principles have been applied to law. Smith has given us the idea of a system of natural jurisprudence. They have been applied a hundred times to government, first in England, and afterwards in France. They have been applied even to the very subject of innovation, and with similar conclusions, by Bacon, the pride of English philosophy; and the use made of them by Mr. Stewart I consider as extremely able, safe, and well timed. I apprehend his chapter on this subject will tend to check the spirit of innovation. Mr. Stewart's style is, as you say, of superior excellence : it is thought much to resemble Mr. Hume's.
It is now time, my dear Sir, to relieve you from this long tax upon your patience.
Yours most faithfully,
To Sir William Maxwell, Bart., Springkell.
Liverpool, March 16. 1793. MY DEAR SIR, It is not yet in my power to fix, positively, whether I shall visit Dumfriesshire this spring; but no light objection shall prevent me. The exact day on which I may be able to set out is still more uncertain than my journey itself; but I will endeavour to be with you on the 28th of April. In the mean time, I cannot but express my best thanks for the various and very important information in your excellent letter of the 19th of February.
I am much indebted to you for the pains you have taken to inform me respecting the proposed bill of reform. I perceive, very clearly, that the
measure proposed is a half measure, and that its operation is doubtful. It seems clear, also, that it can only be considered as a link in a chain that must descend much lower; for no reason can be given why a vote should belong to a freeholder having one hundred pounds Scots valuation, that will not apply with nearly equal force to one having eighty pounds, fifty pounds, or even much less. Since this is the case, it might be, perhaps, as well to consider how far it is right to proceed along this chain in our advances towards a complete representation, or to employ some one more direct and perfect.
Two previous questions present themselves. The first, what ought to be considered as a complete representation : the second, whether, this being ascertained, it would be wiser to attempt it at once, or by degrees.
In forming our judgment respecting the first of these, I am aware that we ought to take for a basis some fundamental principle of natural right, level to the apprehension of all. With out this, our reforms can have no stability. You adopt, I see, the system of a representation of persons, extending to all men of a capacity to judge for themselves, and not subsisting on charity. This, I believe, is the system of the Duke of Richmond and John Jebb: it has been carried