« ZurückWeiter »
Directory, Burke resumed his pen. Having found that all his predictions from the principles and first phenomena of the French system had been verified, and been in detail even worse than he had forboded, that they disavowed every religious and moral obligation which regulates the conduct of men, -he totally disapproved of agreements with them, their probable adherence to which would pre-suppose that they admitted the same rules of morality as other men. His opinion he supported in his · Thoughts on the Prospect of a Regicide Peace.' Never had the force of his wonderful genius more completely manifested itself than in this work, which he wrote under the idea that it was not long to precede his death. Of its general excellence we cannot have an abler description than in the introduction to the review of it by the · British Critic.'*
• Accustomed as we are, in common with most other reading men of this country, to
Fur December 1796, page 661.
contemplate with admiration the
powers and resources of Mr. Burke's extraordinary mind, we have found ourselves more impressed than usual with the letters now before us; more than by any publication which has come from his
since the celebrated book of 1790, on the French revolution. We have seen even more regular and finished excel· lence in this than in that composition. The splendors of that tract were sudden and astonishing; they flashed like lightning upon the reader, and left him afterwards, for a time, in a state of comparative darkness; but here all is luminous, and the fire of the irradiating mind shines steadily from the beginning to the end. The energy and beauty of the language, the force and liveliness of the images, the clearness and propriety of the historical allusions and illustrations, all combine to give an effect to these letters, not easily rivalled by the pen of any other writer. Age has certainly not impaired the genius of Mr. Burke; he asserts himself to be on the verge of the grave: “ whatever I write," says he, “ is in
its nature testamentary;" yet he writes with the vigour of a man who had just attained the maturity of his talents.
The amount of his reasoning is this: The system of France is impious, enormously wicked, and destructive to all within its sphere: we must either conquer it, or be destroyed ourselves. Peace would enable it to operate rapidly to our ruin : let us,
therefore, avoid peace. Although the idea of eternal war with the Jacobins must, to us of common apprehension, appear extravagant, and ultimately ruinous, yet it must be admitted that the views and conduct of the French rulers are such as to shew that peace is at present impracticable, and to justify Burke's reasoning as applicable to present circumstances. Considering peace as the most pernicious policy, he exhorts his countrymen to vigour and perseverance in combating an irremediable evil.
His exhortation is very eloquent, and, as far as respects present circumstances, replete with the soundest reasoning and most salutary lessons of conduct. To encourage the ex
ertion absolutely necessary for the salvation of the country, he shews that our resources are such as, if wisely directed to the great and main object, may save the country. His eloquence, founded in truth, addresses to his fellow subjects the most powerful motives to bring into action their physical and moral resources.
· A dreadful evil impends. By energetic efforts we can be saved ; by pusillanimity, relaxation, or indifference, we must be ruined.'
I shall forbear selecting passages from this extraordinary work, because it lias been so recently in the hands of all readers.
Several answers were attempted to Burke's Thoughts on a Regicide Peace ;' some of them very abusive. Burke, had, indeed, at almost every period of his life been the object of scurrility and invective: attacks which all eminent men must pay, who speak and act according to their own perceptions of truth and of rectitude. The part that he took on the French revolution, and on the
dissemination of Jacobinical doctrines in these realms, made him detested by all those who wished these doctrines to be reduced to practice. Catiline's Rights of Man conspirators reviled Cicero. Burke threw upon their designs light: they loved darkness better. The description of the English Jacobins in the • Regicide Peace,' so just and so animated, inflamed that body with rage. One of their Apostles, in a rhapsody of abuse, comprising almost
every scurrilous term the language could afford, has a conclusion, which the • Monthly Review notices as very laughable.
< John Thelwall calls Edmund Burke a scribbler !! The
Thoughts' underwent in the Monthly Review' the ablest and most complete discussion that any work of the author had undergone since Mackintosh's answer to the ! Reflexions.'
Mr. Burke about this time received a visit from a very eminent literary gentleman, who has been so kind as to communicate to me various particulars of the conversation which