« ZurückWeiter »
he had discovered the charge of INCONSISTENCY to be unfounded ; and had seen that if the matter in consideration had been his general conduct, instead of a particular work, dereliction of
a former system, opinions, and action could not be a subject of just accusation. The VindiciÆ GalLICÆ is evidently the result of very great and very variegated powers and attainments. Taste, learning, invention, judge ment, eloquence, acute reasoning, profound philosophy, and habits of correct and elegant composition are most fully and happily displayed. His illustrations and allusions manifest great extent and multiplicity of knowledge; the luminous' arrangement, a comprehensiveness of understanding that examines every relation of its subject; fertility of invention and correctness of judgment are shewn in framing his theory, and giving it consistency; strong and animated eloquence is exhibited in various parts of the work, especially in describing the miseries of the despotism, the progress and completion of its overthrow, and the joy of its subjects on emancipation; close and per
spicuous statement and vigorous argumentation form the prominent character of his discussion ; profound philosophy, of his exhibitions of mind. The obvious purpose of the learned and able author is the melioration of the condition of man. Knowledge, science, and genius, prompted by philanthropy, do not always discover the most effectual means for the attainment of their ends. The perfection of reason consists in giving every object a consideration proportioned to its relative importance. This philosopher, turning his mind chiefly to possibility of happiness, rather overlooks capability of attainment. Convinced that men, habitually guided by reason, and determined by virtue, would be happier under small than considerable restraints, he proposes a controul too feeble for the actual state of mankind; for the actual state of any men now existing ; much more of a people whose national character, From the old despotism, and other causés, required a greater degree of controul than some of their neighbours. Arguing from untried theory, instead of
B b 2
experience, it is not surprising that the conclusions of this great man have been entirely contradicted by the event. The changes which he vindicates are too rapid FOR THE PROGRESSION of the human character, * and evidently very unsuitable to the actual character of the French.*
Of the works which Mr. Burke wrote after his Appeal from the New to the Old
• The reader will find this subject ably explained from a view of the operations of mind, and beautifully illustrated from the analogy of nature, in Dr. William Thomson's Letter to Dr. Parr, annexed to Dr. Parr's Statement of his Dispute with Curtis.
+ The erroneous conclusions of this forcible and profound writer appear to have arisen from two sources: first, he ar. gued from a supposition of an attainable perfection in the human character, instead of an accurate estimate of the degree of perfection which it had actually attained: secondly, he appears to have been misinformed concerning the principles, spirit, and character of the French revo. lutionists. As the genius of this great man became matured by experience, he rejected hypothesis, and reasoned from history and human nature as it actually exists. He saw the revolutionary character in the true colours, and now concurs with loyal and patriotic Britons in reprobating the jacobiuical system, which the French revolution has generated. His blossom was brilliant theory, his mature fruit is the most valuable wisdom.
Whigs,' all were not published in the order of time in which they were written. Several performances of the greatest importance were not communicated to the world till after the author's death. I shall consider them in the order in which they were written, instead of that in which they were published.
Connected with his 5 Appeal from the Old to the New Whigs,' which was the third of the series commencing with his book on the French Revolution, including his · Letter to a Noble Lord on the Subject in Discussion with the Duke of Bedford;' and his work on the • Regicide Peace,' they exhibit the whole of Edmund Burke's opinions on the French revolution, and its effects, from the outset to the year of his death; they present a most profound view of principles, with a most complete summary of the situation and circumstances in which they had to operate; and of the means which would promote and accelerate their progress, or might retard or impede their general diffusion.
When it was announced in 1791, by the French Ambassador, that the King had accepted of the new constitution, Burke wrote * Hints for a Memorial,' to be delivered to Monsieur Montmorin, which production makes a part of one of the Posthumous. Publications. It contains an application to the existing circumstances of his general principles on the French revolution. He describes its nature and effects, and its
partizans in different countries. He marks the probable progress of its spirit, he details circumstances in adjacent countries likely to promote its operation. He combats the opinion of those who thought that it would be dissolved from its own violence. It is, he thinks, invulnerable by internal attacks solely. Its resources, he alledges, are not in its credit, in its national finances, or any of the usual constituents; but in its wicked. ness, which makes all property subservient to its use.
He sums up his arguments into three propositions :-first, that no counterrevolution is to be expected in France from internal causes solely. Secondly, That the longer the present system exists, the greater