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of some of the troops of France in the present instance. At that period the Prince of Orange, a prince of the blood-royal in England, was called in by the flower of the English aristocracy to defend its ancient Constitution, and not to level all distinctions. To this prince, so invited, the aristocratic leaders who commanded the troops went over with their several corps, in bodies, to the deliverer of their country. Aristocratic leaders brought up the corps of citizens who newly enlisted in this cause. Military obedience changed its object; but military discipline was not for a moment interrupted in its principle. The troops were ready for war, but indisposed to mutiny. But as the conduct of the English armies was different, so was that of the whole English nation at that time. In truth, the circumstances of our revolution (as it is called) and that of France are just the reverse of each other in almost every particular, and in the whole spirit of the transaction. With us it was the case of a legal monarch attempting arbitrary power; in France it is the case of an arbitrary monarch, beginning, from whatever cause, to legalize his authority. The one was to be resisted, the other was to be managed and directed ; but in neither case was the order of the State to be changed, lest government might be ruined, which ought only to be corrected and legalized. With us we got rid of the man, and preserved the constituent parts of the State. There they get rid of the constituent parts of the State, and keep the man. What we did was in truth and substance, and in a constitutional light, a revolution, not made, but prevented. We took solid securities; we settled doubtful questions; we corrected anomalies in our law. In the stable, fundamental parts of our Constitution we made no revolution ; no, nor any alteration at all. We did not impair the monarchy. Perhaps it might be shown that we strengthened it very considerably. The nation kept the same ranks, the same orders, the same privileges, the same franchises, the same rules for property, the same subordinations, the same order in the law, in the revenue, and in the magistracy; the same Lords, the same Commons, the same corporations, the same electors. The Church was not impaired. Her estates, her majesty, her splendour, her orders and gradations, continued the same. She was preserved in her full efficiency, and cleared only of a certain intolerance which was her weakness and disgrace. The Church and the State were the same after the Revolution that they were before, but better secured in every part. Was little done because a revolution was not made in the Constitution ? No! Every thing was done, because we commenced with reparation, not with ruin. Accordingly the State
flourished. Instead of lying as dead, in a sort of trance, or exposed, as some others, in an epileptic fit, to the pity or derision of the world, for her wild, ridiculous, convulsive movements, impotent to every purpose but that of dashing out her brains against the pavement, Great Britain rose above the standard even of her former self. An era of a more improved domestic prosperity then commenced, and still continues not only unimpaired, but growing, under the wasting hand of time. All the energies of the country were awakened. England never presented a firmer countenance, nor a more vigorous arm, to all her enemies and to all her rivals. Europe under her respired and revived. Everywhere she appeared as the protector, assertor, or avenger of liberty. A war was made and supported against fortune itself. The treaty of Ryswick, which sirst limited the power of France, was soon after made: the Grand Alliance very shortly followed, which shook to the foundations the dreadful power which menaced the independence of mankind. The States of Europe lay happy under the shade of a great and free monarchy, which knew how to be great without endangering its own peace at home, or the internal or external peace of any of its neighbours.
THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE.11
I FIND a preacher of the Gospel profaning the beautiful and prophetic ejaculation, commonly called Nunc Dimittis, made on
11 The pages that follow under this heading are from Burke's great paper, published in the Fall of 1790, its full title being, “Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the Proceedings of certain Societies in London relative to that Event: in a Letter intended to have been sent to a Gentleman in Paris.” This French “Gentleman” was M. Dupont, who had visited Burke at Beaconsfield, and earnestly requested an expression of his judgment on the subject in question. The great moral and social earthquake, known as the French Revolution, dates from the Spring of 1789. One of the Societies here referred to was “The Revolution Socicty,” working in sympathy and correspondence with the leaders of the movement in France, and wishing to bring about a similar upheaving in England. On the 4th of November, 1789, Dr. Richard Price, an eminent dissenting minister, an amiable and benevolent man, and justly distinguished for his scientific attainments, preached a sermon at the meeting-house of Old Jewry, in furtherance of the cause; the worthy man being put so far beside himself by the prevailing delirium and frenzy, as to commit the extravagance here commented on so severely. Burke watched the progress of things in France with the intensest interest, his mind all the while growing bigger and bigger with the theme, till at last it broke forth in this overwhelming torrent of eloquence and wisdom, which soon swept away whatever chances there may have been of getting up a French Revolution in England.
the first presentation of our Saviour in the Temple, and applying it, with an inhuman and unnatural rapture, to the most horrid, atrocious, and afflicting spectacle that perhaps ever was exhibited to the pity and indignation of mankind. This leading in triumph, a thing in its best form unmanly and irreligious, which fills our preacher with such unhallowed transports, must shock, I believe, the moral taste of every well-born mind. Several English were the stupefied and indignant spectators of that triumph. It was (unless we have been strangely deceived) a spectacle more resembling a procession of American savages, entering into Onondaga, after some of their murders, called victories, and leading into hovels hung round with scalps their captives, overpowered with the scoffs and buffets of women as ferocious as themselves, much more than it resembled the triumphal pomp of a civilized, martial nation;–if a civilized nation, or any men who had a sense of generosity, were capable of a personal triumph over the fallen and afflicted. This, my dear Sir, was not the triumph of France. I must believe that, as a nation, it overwhelmed you with shame and horror. I must believe that the National Assembly find themselves in a state of the greatest humiliation in not being able to: punish the authors of this triumph, or the actors in it; and that they are in a situation in which any inquiry they may make upon the subject must be destitute even of the appearance of liberty or impartiality. The apology of that Assembly is found in their situation ; but when we approve what they must bear, it is in us the degenerate choice of a vitiated mind. With a compelled appearance of deliberation, they vote under the dominion of a stern necessity. They sit in the heart, as it were, of a foreign republic: they have their residence in a city whose constitution has emanated neither from the charter of their King nor from their legislative power. There they are surrounded by an army not raised either by the authority of their Crown or by their command; and which, if they should order it to dissolve itself, would instantly dissolve them. There. they sit, after a gang of assassins had driven away some hundreds of the members; whilst those who held the same moderate principles, with more patience or better hope, continued every day exposed to outrageous insults and murderous threats. There a majority, sometimes real, sometimes pretended, captive itself, compels a captive King to issue as royal edicts, at third hand, the polluted nonsense of their most licentious and giddy coffee-houses. It is notorious that all their measures are decided before they are debated. It is beyond doubt, that, under the terror of the bayonet, and the lamp-post, and the torch to their houses, they are obliged to adopt all the crude and desper
ate measures suggested by clubs composed of a monstrous medley of all conditions, tongues, and nations. Among these are found persons, in comparison of whom Catiline would be thought scrupulous, and Cethegus a man of sobriety and moderation. Nor is it in these clubs alone that the public measures are deformed into monsters. They undergo a previous distortion in academies, intended as so many seminaries for these clubs, which are set up in all the places of public resort. In these meetings of all sorts, every counsel, in proportion as it is daring and violent and perfidious, is taken for the mark of superior genius. Humanity and compassion are ridiculed as the fruits of superstition and ignorance. Ténderness to individuals is considered as treason to the public. Liberty is always to be estimated perfect as property is rendered insecure. Amidst assassination, massacre, and confiscation, perpetrated or meditated, they are forming plans for the good order of future society. Embracing in their arms the carcasses of base criminals, and promoting their relations on the title of their offences, they drive hundreds of virtuous persons to the same end, by forcing them to subsist by beggary or by crime. The Assembly, their organ, acts before them the farce of deliberation with as little decency as liberty. They act like the comedians of a fair before a riotous audience; they act amidst the tumultuous cries of a mixed mob of ferocious men, and of women lost to shame, who, according to their insolent fancies, direct, control, applaud, explode them ; and sometimes mix and take their seats amongst them ; domineering over them with a strange mixture of servile petulance and proud, presumptuous authority. As they have inverted order in all things, the gallery is in the place of the IIouse. This Assembly, which overthrows kings and kingdoms, has not even the playsiognomy and aspect of a grave legislative body, mec color imperii, nec frons willa senatus.” They have a power given to them, like that of the evil principle, to subvert and destroy ; but none to construct, except such machines as may be fitted for further subversion and further destruction. Who is there that admires, and from the heart is attached to, national representative assemblies, but must turn with horror and disgust from such a profane burlesque and abominable perversion of that sacred institute 2 Lovers of monarchy, lovers of republics, must alike abhor it. The members of your Assembly must themselves groan under the tyranny of which they have all the shame, none of the direction, and little of the
1 Neither any character of command nor the slightest aspect or countenance
of a senate.
profit. I am sure many of the members who compose even the majority of that body must feel as I do, notwithstanding the applauses of the Revolution Society. Miserable IXing ! miserable Assembly How must that Assembly be silently scandalized with those of their members who could call a day, which seemed to blot the Sun out of heaven, wr, beau jour/* IIow must they be inwardly indignant at hearing others, who thought sit to declare to them, “that the vessel of the State would fly forward in her course towards regeneration with more speed than ever,” from the stiff gale of treason and murder which preceded our preacher's triumph I What must they have felt, whilst, with outward patience and inward indignation, they heard of the slaughter of innocent gentlemen in their houses, that “the blood spilt was not the most pure l’’ What must they have felt, when they were besieged by complaints of disorders which shook their country to its foundations, at being compelled coolly to tell the complainants that they were under the protection of the law, and that they would address the I(ing (the captive I(ing) to cause the laws to be enforced for their protection ; when the enslaved Ministers of that captive IQing had formally notified to them, that there was neither law, nor authority, nor power left to protect l What must they have felt at being obliged, as a felicitation on the present new year, to request their captive IXing to forget the stormy period of the last, on account of the great good which he was likely to produce to his people ; to the complete attainment of which good they adjourned the practical demonstrations of their loyalty, assuring him of their obedience, when he should no longer possess any authority to command 1 This address was made with much good-nature and affection, to be sure. But among the revolutions in France must be reckoned a considerable revolution in their ideas of politeness. In Dngland we are said to learn manners at second-hand from your side of the water, and that we dress our behaviour in the frippery of France. If so, we are still in the old cut; and have not so far conformed to the new Parisian mode of good breeding, as to think it quite in the most refined strain of delicate compliment (whether in condolence or congratulation) to say, to the most humiliated creature that crawls upon the earth, that great public benefits are derived from the murder of his servants, the attempted assassination of himself and of his wife, and the mortification, disgrace, and degradation, that he has personally suffered. It is a topic of consolation which our
2 This “auspicious day” was the 6th of October, 1789, when the “leading in triumph” took place, which is described in full a little further on.