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great and wise men, he thought that he saw in the first struggles of that eventful epoch, the rudiments of the most profound political wisdom, and of a higher perfection of social order than Europe had ever beheld. He became intimately acquainted with many of the leaders of the republican party, and particularly with those of that section afterwards denominated the Girondists, or moderates, entered warmly into all their plans, and was soon distioguished as one of their most zealous partisans.
He however returned to England, in 1791, with the intention of going from thence to America after having resided for a year or two longer in London. About the end of the year 1791 he published, in London, the first part of his “ Advice to the Privileged Orders.” This he afterwards completed by the addition of a second part, and the whole has been several times reprinted in the United States.
In this work he takes an extensive view of the abuses and evils of the feudal system, and the institutions which have been formed upon it; of those of all national church establishments; of the military system ; of the administration of justice; and of the system of revenue and finance, as they severally exist in the royal and aristocratical governments of Europe. Guided, as we now are, by the lights of recent experience, it is easy to perceive that the political opinions expressed in this work contain no inconsiderable mixture of important truth with radical error. To trace them with any degree of minuteness throughout his arguments and inferences, would require a commentary as large as the volume itself. It may be sufficient to observe, that, like all violent reformers of that and of every other age, he attributes by far too much influence and efficacy to the external forms of civil policy. This is the general character of his speculative political opiņions, and it may be traced throughout all their particular applications. He seems to think that the system of social order derives its claim to the obedience of the citizen, and takes its whole character from its particular form of civil government, with scarce any relation to the state of public morals, or the degree of pational refinement. Some of the evils which he ascribes to the positive institutions of Europe, are such as uniformly spring from the most deeply-rooted propensities of human nature; others,
again, are the necessary attendants on wealth and the rights of private property, and must exist in some degree in every society where some are rich and others poor.
In conformity with those principles, he holds that law is always complicated, and often obscure ; not because the affairs of civilized men are complicated also, because many points on which natural justice is silent must be settled by positive institution, and because there are others in which the right or wrong of a particular case may clash with the public utility of a general rule; but merely because it suits the schemes of statesmen and princes, that the people should be kept ignorant of the laws which are to govern them.
He asserts that the principles of military glory, of personal honour, and the admiration of courage, have no foundation in human nature, but owe their origin solely to the craft of kings and rulers; and he stoutly maintains, that republican governments can never need a regular army, or find any advantage in possessing a good national credit. The effervescence of the times may serve to excuse a good deal of this extravagance. The whole book is evidently the production of a mind bold and acute, but deficient in that comprehension by which distant consequences and intricate relations are perceived, and difficulties and objections foreseen and examined. He is throughout animated by a manly love of liberty, a generous detestation of all trick and imposture, and a contempt of prejudice so strong as often to hurry him into an extreme almost equally dangerous.
This publication was, in February, 1792, followed by the “Conspiracy of Kings,” a poem of about four hundred lines. The subject was the first coalition of the continental sovereigns against France. It has little of poetical ornament, and the poet too often descends into the commonplace topics of the party politics of the day, but he is strongly interested in his subject, many of his lines are vigorous and animated, and cannot scarcely fail to communieate to the reader some portion of their author's enthusiasm. In the autumn of the same year he published a letter to the national convention of France on the defects of their first constitution, an! the amendments which ought to be applied, in which he urges them to complete what he considers as their imperfect reform by abolishing the royal power, diminishing the salaries of public officers, rendering elections more frequent and popular, and dissolving the connexion between the government and the national church.
All these publications procured him some profit and much notoriety. Though France was the theme, they were doubtless intended to have their chief effect on England. Barlow, consequent. ly, became connected with all the English politicians who were, like him, engaged in the great cause of reform or revolution, and with most of the republican men of letters and science, who about that period were so numerous in London, as almost to form a dis. tinct class. Towards the end of 1792 the London Constitutional Society, of which he was a member, voted an address to the French national convention, and Mr. Barlow and another member were deputed to present it. They immediately undertook and executed their commission. Barlow was received in France with great respect, and the national convention soon after conferred
him the rights of a French citizen, an honour which they had already bestowed upon Gen. Washington, Gen. Hamilton, Sir James Macintosh, Dr. Priestley, and Thomas Paine-a strange assemblage of names !
The revolutionary symptoms which had manifested themselves in Great Britain, had now attracted the attention of the government, and Barlow's mission to France was supposed to be connected with some farther political movement. An official inquiry was set on foot respecting it, which is said to have led to those prosecutions of Hardy, Thelwal, Paine, and others, which took place about two years afterwards. In the mean time, Barlow, who had left England with the design of being absent but a few weeks, found that the resentment of government was so strongly pointed against him, that it would be imprudent to hazard an immediate return. He therefore sent for Mrs. Barlow, whom he had left in England, and fixed his residence for a time in France. In the latter part of this year he accompanied his friend Gregoire, and a deputation of the national convention, who were sent to organize the newyl-acquired territory of Savoy, as a department of the republic. He passed the winter at Chamberry, the capital of Savoy, where, at the request of his legislative friends, he wrote an address to the people of Piedmont, inciting them to throw off their allegiance “ to the man of Turin, who called himself their king.” This was immediately translated into French and Italian, and circulated widely through the whole of Piedmont, but, as it appears, without producing much popular effect. The rest of the winter was passed in the more peaceable employment of composing a mock didactic poem, in three cantos, entitled Hasty Pudding. The composition of Hasty Pudding is now no longer to be regarded as a humble and domestic art. It has passed from the kitchen to the closet; it has exercised the philosophy of Rumford, and inspired the muse of Barlow.
This is a very pleasing performance, and deservedly the most popular of his books. Barlow had not indeed that luxuriance and gayety of fancy, which enabled Pope, and Gay, and Cowper, to raise from the most barren tbemes some of the sweetest flowers of English poetry; but his versification is successfully modelled upon that of Goldsmith: he has interspersed the poem with several ludicrous parodies on the most popular passages of English poetry, and his subject naturally presented him with many images and views of life, which, if not in themselves highly poetical, have at least all the fresh bloom and fragrance of untried novelty.
From Savoy he returned to Paris, where he continued to reside for about three years. During this, as well as his subsequent residence in Paris, with the exception of a translation of Volney's Ruins, his literary labours appear to have been nearly suspended, and he engaged in several plans of commercial speculation. His connexion with public men, and knowledge of political affairs, together with the great advantages of credit, and of personal safety which he derived from his character of a friendly neutral, enabled him to profit by those great and sudden fluctuations in the value of every species of property which arise from the disjointed state of public affairs, the rapid depreciation of the assignats, and the frequent sales of confiscated estates.
Shocked and disgusted by the atrocities of the revolution, he took little active part in politics, though he still cherished his republican principles, and flattered himself with the belief that these throes of tumultuous anarchy would finally settle down into the tranquillity of enlightened freedom. It has been said that he sat in the national assembly, as a deputy from the department of Mont Blanc; this is without foundation. He never sat in any legislative body in France, nor did he ever, by any public act, recognise himself as a French citizen. Several pieces of a savage and atrocious character, were also published under his name in the newspapers of Great Britian, and of this country; these he has since publicly denied in the most explicit manner. It was also confidently asserted, that during the period of frantic atheism, he went to the bar of the convention, and made a solemn renunciation of the Christian faith, at the same time professing his belief in some atheistical system. This charge, too, he some years after solemnly denied, and appealed, in confirmation of his innocence, to his friend the Bishop Gregoire, a regular and constant member of the convention; in whose grief and resentment, while “ these horrors and blasphemies” (these are his own words) were going on, he declares that he always participated : and Gregoire himself, in his letter to Barlow expostulating with him on the antichristian aspect of one of the plates of the Columbiad, drops no hint of any such transaction, but, on the contrary, appears surprised at what he considers an unexpected deviation from the general character of his friend. These circumstances are, I think, amply sufficient to clear the character of Barlow from this deep stain.
It is with the most heartfelt sorrow and mortification, that every friend of human kind must contemplate the atrocious crimes which, at that eventful era, blasted the cause of freedom, and the base arts of falsehood and oppression, by which those crimes were often opposed. To have no other principle of conduct, than indiscriminate opposition to some system of error, however dangerous, is of itself an error of the most dangerous magnitude. But it is a curious circumstance in the history of human frailty, that of all the classes of profligate politicians, there are none which so nearly resemble each other as the Jacobin and professed Anti-Jacobin. Differing widely in their avowed opinions, and in all those commonplace topics and phrases by which political partisans are distinguished, in every thing else they agree precisely ; they are twin brothers, bearing different names, but of the self-same blood.
Some time about 1795 Barlow was sent as an agent on private legal and commercial business to the north of Europe, and soon af