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But if peace is not made, and the allies succeed in humbling Russia as much as England wishes, Great Britain gains all the advantages of the war, and becomes, for a time, the inistress of the Old World, if not also of the New. If the war goes on, and terminates unsuccessfully for the allies, which nothing yet proves to be impossible, France runs a greater danger than England. Frauce wonld become Cossack, but England would still remain the first naval, and with her American tradle, the first commercial power of the world. In any contingency, we, therefore, cannot predict a speedy ruin of Great Britain; she will doubtless fall one day, but not by French policy, or continental combinations : when she falls, it will not be by a European war, but through snccessful competition in trade and manufactures of the United States, and the rivalry of her colonies become independent states.
We have been led to make these remarks apropos of it very significant essay on the political prospects of England, by the illustrious Count Montalembert, inserted in the Correspondant for last November and December. The distinguished academician and statesman made, during the last season, a tour of observation in Great Britain, and has embodied in this very remarkable essay the impressions he received and the reflections he inade. We need not
that the essay is written with force and elegance, that it breathes a noble spirit, is full of eloquence and profound thought, for such qualities we are always sure to find in every production of the noble author. We have read it with attention, with deep interest, and friendly partiality. With its political principles, its generous tone of civil and religious liberty, we heartily sympathize; and we share to a considerable extent the author's unaffected admiration of the English political constitution, and the many noble, _generous, and manly traits to be detected in the English character. We concede the greatness of England, whose queen, including her colonies, rules over a larger territory than that of Russia, and over nearly twice as many subjects as ancient Rome, in the palmiest days of the empire; we concede her prodigious industry, and her marvellous commercial enterprise and successful trade; we concede her wonderful life, activity and energy in all that pertains to the material order; but we cannot help thinking that the illustrious author has seen her in too rose-colored a light, taken too favorable a view of English society, and attributed too much of what he regards as England's progperity to her political constitution. Inheriting the love of personal freedom and independence so characteristic of the old feudal nobility, devotedly attached to constitutional and parliamentary government, deeply afflicted at the sad termination of the struggles, revolutions, and sacrifices of his own country in behalf of civil and political freedom, and associating, during his visit, chiefly with the nobility and gontry, it is not strange that he should have been charmed with what he met, and regarded England, in the enthusiasın of the moment, as a model nation, worthy of the world's imitation. He saw her in her “Sunday's best," and was chiefly struck by the presence of those things, whose absence in his own country caused the grief of his heart, and he either did not see or did not note the presence of other things from which his own country has bitherto happily been comparatively free. England is the land of respectability, what Carlyle calls “gigmanity,” and he who confines his observations to the respectable class,” will, for the moment, fancy that he has recovered the long-lost Eden. Yet there is a reverse of the picture, and if there is less poverty, there is more squalid wretchedness, more filth, inore abject, hopeless misery, than in any other nation in Christendom.
We do not doubt that the political constitution of England. retains more of what was good in mediæval feudalism, and bas taken up less of what is bad in modern politics, than that of any other European state; but we think M. de Montalembert not only forms too favorable an estimate of English society, taken as a whole, but that he attributes far too much of England's material greatness and prosperity to her political institutions, and fails to perceive that they are due to the original character of her people, to her insular position, vast internal wealth, and hier restricted territory, which naturally turned her energies in the direction of trade and manufactures, and more than all, to that very foreign policy which he so unqualifiedly and so justly condemns. We are by no means indifferent to political constitutions or forms of government, and we are as sincerely attached to what in our language is called “self-government,” as is any man living; but we regard it as the besetting sin of the modern world, that it attributes too much of what is good or what is evil in a nation to its government. It is the people that determines the government, rather than the government
that determines the people. It is not the free government that makes the free people, but the free people that makes the free government. Every people not subjected by a foreign conquest and placed under an anti-national power, has always just as much freedom as it wills or is entitled to; for in every country left free by all others to govern itself in its own way, the government is the fair exponent of the average amount of freedom there is in the hearts and souls · of its population. No monarch was ever yet strong enough to subject a free people to his arbitrary will, -a people, we mean, that have the internal spirit and character of freemen. Except in cases of foreign conquest, or foreign intervention, governments are not imposed on a people; they grow ont of the people, and express the sentiments and convictions of the nation; and it is only on that condition that they can sustain themselves. The government may, indeed, fail to satisfy the wants and wishes of a part, and yet be able to sustain itself; but when it fails to represent, fairly, the wants and wishes of the nation as a whole, it must either submit to such modifications as are needed to adapt it to those wants and wishes, or yield to a revolution, more or less violent, according to the resistance it meets. Nations may lose their old liberties or franchises, and fall under a degrading cæsarisin, but never, till freedom has died out of the hearts and souls of the people,—not till they have lost the moral qualities of freemen, and acquired the vices and passions of slaves. The old feudal nobility had lost the virtues of their order, before they were forced to succumb to the king and commons, and this fact, still more than the grasping ambition of the king, or the increasing wealth and influence of the commons, caused the downfall of feudalism. Absolute monarchy existed in the sentiments, passions, and convictions of the nation, before the king did or could establish it. Absolutism cannot be imposed on a nation against its will. Louis Napoleon was elected emperor by universal suffrage, and almost unanimously. We do not object to cæsarisin, that it reduces a free people to slavery, but that tinding them slaves, it keeps thein so, and prevents the adoption of the means, and the exercise of the moral influences, necessary to redeem them from slavery, and to elevate them to the rank, dignity, and virtues of freemen.
The present unsettled state of European nations offers no argument against this doctrine. In the greater part of European nations, the people are divided, and whatever the
government, there is a disaffected party opposed to it, and which can be restrained only by physical force. The government cannot represent the will of the nation, where there is no national will, or the will of the people, where there is no people. As long as the division remains, the government is obliged to go with the stronger party, and rely on the sentiments and convictions, the wants and wishes of that party, and through it to hold the other in subjection. This is, iudeed, an evil, and during its continuance, government, in the legitimate sense of the word, does not exist. Authority dominates, but does not govern. External order is maintained only by means of armed force, and the chief dependence is, and must be, on the army. Hence, some of our friends in France and elsewhere appear to regard the army as an essential element in the administration, and go so far as to place the soldier on the same line with the priest. This is to mistake an exceptional, for the normal state of things. In a well-ordered state, the soldier is necessary only to defend, or to vindicate the nation against foreign enemies; never to support the government at home, as an instrument of administration, or an auxiliary of the civil magistrate. That the army is necessary in most European states to support the administration, is unhappily too true, but this is because these states are unsettled, are undergoing a change from one political order to another, and their governments harinonize with the wants and wishes of only a part of the nation. But this is only a temporary state of things, and when unanimity is restored among the people, the army will not be needed as an agent of the home secretary, or minister of the interior. The moment such unanimity is effected, and the nation has an undivided will, the government will be forced to conform to and express it.
We do not, therefore, attribute those traits of the English character which the noble author points out to our admiration, to the British constitution; we rather attribute what is worthy of commendation in that constitution to those traits themselves. The English people have made the English constitution, not the English constitution the English people. They never entirely lost their old freedom, which they derived from the church, when they were converted from heathenism to Christianity. They allowed Henry VIII. to suppress the freedom of religion, to separate them from the centre of unity, and to create a national church, with himself for its lead, but because they had become indifferent to the Catholic faith, because they never were overburdened with logic, and could as easily say two and two make three or five, as that they make four, and because a royal and national church accorded with their excessive loyalty, and flattered their nationalism and their insular pride. They suffered Elizabeth to rule them with despotic authority, because she directed her policy to the maintenance of the national liberty and independence against the attacks of Spain, under Philip II., that cold-hearted tyrant, who sought, under pretext of supporting the Catholic faith, to realize the dream of universal monarchy. But the moment all real or imaginary danger from abroad was removed, and they felt sure of preserving an English religion and an English state, as was the case under the Stuarts, they showed that absolute monarchy is a thing they detest, and to which they will never submit. Nearly a century of rebellion and revolution proved this to the world, and that the will of the nation demanded, and would have, a constitutional monarchy, and a parliamentary government. The present English constitution is, no doubt, admirably adapted to the English people, and they are admirably adapted to it; but they have inade it what it is, not it has inade them what they are.
If we want any proof of the impotence of this constitution to mould a people to itself, we need but cross the channel from England to Ireland, where there is a people widely different froin the English. The attempts of England to bring the Irish into harmony with her civil and political order have been as unsuccessful as her attempts to convert them to her national church. The difficulty is not, and never has been, owing to the differences of religion. The English Catholic is as thorough-going an Englishman as the English Protestant, and is as devotedly attached to the English constitution. It is adapted to his genius and character. The Irishman loves liberty with a love as intense as that of the Englishman, but the Irish genius instinctively resists the English civil and political order, and you must make the Irishnan an Englishman, convert the Celt into the Saxon, before you can make him love it, or sit down quietly and feel himself at his ease under it. IIence the genuine unanglo-saxonized Irish, after seven hundred years of English domination, seek only an opportunity to sever the connection with England, and to reassert their national independence. And that connection they would have severed centuries ago, if they had not been divided among