Page images
PDF
EPUB

other had existed, with rare and short intermissions, under every government, monarchical or republican, from the time of Henry VIII. downwards, expired, and has never since been renewed. We are aware that the great improvements which we have recapitulated were, in many respects, imperfectly and unskilfully executed. The authors of those improvements sometimes, while they removed or mitigated a great practical evil, continued to recognise the erroneous principle from which that evil had sprung. Sometimes, when they had adopted a sound principle, they shrank from following it to all the conclusions to which it would have led them. Sometimes they failed to perceive that the remedies which they applied to one disease of the state were certain to generate another disease, and to render another remedy necessary. Their knowledge was inferior to ours; nor were they always able to act up to their knowledge. The pressure of circumstances, the necessity of compromising differences of opinion, the power and violence of the party which was altogether hostile to the new settlement, must be taken into the account. When these things are fairly weighed, there will, we think, be little difference of opinion among liberal and right-minded men as to the real value of what the great events of 1688 did for this country. We have recounted what appear to us the most important of those changes which the Revolution produced in our laws. The changes which it produced in our laws, however, were not more important than the change which it indirectly produced in the public mind. The Whig party had, during seventy years, an almost uninterrupted possession of power. It had always been the fundamental doctrine of that party, that power is a trust for the people; that it is given to magistrates, not for their own, but for the public advantage; that, where it is abused by magistrates, even by the highest of all, it may lawfully be withdrawn. It is perfectly true, that the Whigs were not more exempt than other men from the vices and infirmities of our nature, and that, when they had power, they sometimes abused it. But still they stood firm to their theory. The theory was the badge of their party. It was something more. It was the foundation on which rested the power of the houses of Nassau and Brunswick. Thus, there was a government interested in propagating a class of opinions which most governments are interested in discouraging, a government which looked with complacency on all speculations tending to democracy, and with extreme aversion on all speculations favourable to arbitrary power. There was a king who decidedly preferred a republican to a believer in the divine right of kings; who considered every attempt to exalt his prerogative as an attack on his title; and who reserved all his favours for those who declaimed on the natural equality of men and the popular origin of government. This was the state of things from the Revolution till the death of George II. The effect was what might nave been expected. Even in that profession Vol. III.-4s)

which has generally been most disposed to magnify the prerogative, a great change took place. Bishopric after bishopric, and deanery after deanery, were bestowed on Whigs and Latitudinarians. The consequence was, that Whigism and Latitudinarianism were professed by the ablest and most aspiring churchmen. Hume has complained bitterly of this at the close of his history. “The Whig party,” says

he, “for a course of near seventy years, has

almost without interruption enjoyed the whole authority of government, and no honours or offices could be obtained but by their countenance and protection. But this event, which in some particulars has been advantageous to the state, nas proved destructive to the truth of history, and has established many gross falsehoods, which it is unaccountable how any civilized nation could have embraced with regard to its domestic occurrences. Compositions the most despicable, both for style and matter” (in a note he instances Locke, Sydney, Hoadley, and Rapin) “have been extolled and propagated and read as if they had equalled the most celebrated remains of antiquity. And forgetting that a regard to liberty, though a laudable passion, ought commonly to be subservient to a reverence for established government, the prevailing faction has celebrated only the partisans of the former.” We will not here enter into an argument about the merit of Rapin's history, or Locke's political speculations. We call Hume merely as evidence to a fact well known to all reading men, that the literature patronised by the English court and the English ministry, during the first half of the eighteenth century, was of that kind which courtiers and min sters generally do all in their power to discountenance, and tended to inspire zeal for the liberties of the people rather than respect for the authority of the government. There was still a very strong Tory party in England. But that party was in opposition. Many of its members still held the doctrine of passive obedience. But they did not admit that the existing dynasty had any claim to such obedience. They condemned resistance. But by resistance they meant the keeping out of James III., and not the turning out of George II. No Radical of our times could grumble more at the expenses of the royal household, could exert himself more strenuously to reduce the military establishment, could oppose with more earnestness every proposition for arming the executive with extraordinary powers, or could pour more unmitigated abuse on placemen and courtiers. If a writer were now, in a massive Dictionary, to define a Pensioner as a traitor and a slave, the Excise as a hateful tax, the Commissioners of the excise as wretches, if. he were to write a satire full of reflections on men who receive “the price of boroughs and of souls,” who “explain their country's dear bought rights away,” or

“whom pensions can incite To vote a patriot black, a courtier white,”

we should set him down for something mor 2 I)

[ocr errors]

democratic than a Whig. Yet this was the language which Johnson, the most bigoted of Tories and High Churchmen, held under the administration of Walpole and Pelham. Thus doctrines favourable to public liberty were inculcated alike by those who were in ower, and by those who were in opposition. t, was by means of these doctrines alone that the former could prove that they had a king"de jure. The servile theories of the latter did not prevent them from offering every molestation to one whom they considered as merely a king de facto. The attachment of the one party to the house of Hanover, of the other to that of Stuart, induced both to talk a lan-guage much more favourable to popular rights than to monarchical power. What took place at the first representation of “Cato” is no bad illustration of the way in which the two great sections of the community almost invariably acted. A play, the whole merit of which consists in its stately rhetoric, a rhetoric sometimes not unworthy of Lucan,—about hating tyrants and dying for freedom, is brought on the stage in a time of great political exciteinent. Both parties crowd to the theatre. Each affects to consider every line as a compliment to itself, and an attack on its opponents. The curtain falls amt.dst an unanimous roar of applause. The Whigs of the “Kit Cat” embrace the author, and assure him that he has rendered an inestimable service to liberty. The Tory Secretary of State presents a purse to the chief actor for defending the cause of liberty so well. The history of that night was, ... in miniature, the history of two generations. We well know how much sophistry there was in the reasonings, and how much exaggeration in the declamations of both parties. But when we compare the state in which political science was at the close of the reign of George the Second, with the state in which it had been when James the Second came to the throne, it is impossible not to admit that a prodigious -

improvement had taken place. We are no admirers of the political doctrines laid down in Blackstone's Commentaries. But if we consider that those Commentaries were read with great applause in the very schools where, within the memory of some persons then Irving, books had been publicly burned by order of the University of Oxford, for containing the “damnable doctrine,” that the English monarchy is limited and mixed, we cannot deny that a salutary change had taken place. “The Jesuits,” says Pascal, in the last of his incomparable letters, “have obtained a Papal decree condemning Galileo's doctrine about the motion of the earth. It is all in vain. If the world is really turning round, all mankind together will not be able to keep it from turning, or to keep themselves from turning with it.” The decrees of Oxford were as ineffectual to stay the great moral and political revolution, as those of the Vatican to stay the motion of our globe. That learned University found itself not only unable to keep the mass from moving, but unable to keep itself from moving along with the mass. Nor was the effect of the discussions and speculations of that period confined to our own country. While the Jacobite party was in the last dotage and weakness of its paralytic old age, the political philosophy of England began to produce a mighty effect on France, and, through France, on Europe. Here another vast field opens itself before us. But we must resolutely turn away from it. We

will conclude by earnestly advising a, our read

ers to study Sir James Mackintosh's invaluable Fragment; and by expressing the satisfaction we have received from learning, since this article was written, that the intelligent publishers of the yolume before us have resolved to reprint the Fragment in a separate form, without those accompaniments which have hitherto impeded its circulation. The resolution is as creditable to them as the publication is sure to be acceptable to the lovers of English history

SIR JOHN MALCOLM's LIFE OF LORD CLIVE.

[EDINBURGh Review

We have always thought it strange that, while the history of the Spanish empire in America is so familiarly known to all the nations of Europe, the great actions of our own countrymen in the East should, even among ourselves, excite little interest. Every school. boy knows who imprisoned Montezuma, and who strangled Atabalipa. But we doubt whether one in ten, even among English gentlemen of highly cultivated minds, can tell who won the battle of Buxar, who perpetrated the massacre of Patna, whether Surajah Dowlah ruled in Oude or in Travancore, or whether Holkar was a Hindoo or a Mussulman. Yet the victories of Cortes were gained over savages who had no letters, who were ignorant of the use of metals, who had not broken in a single animal to labour, who wielded no better weapons than those which could be made out of sticks, flints, and fish-bones, who regarded a horsesoldier as a monster, half man and half beast, who took a harquebusier for a sorcerer able to scatter the thunder and lightning of the skies. * The people of India when we subdued them were ten times as numerous as the vanquished Americaäs, and were at the same time quite as highly civilized as the victorious Spaniards. They had reared cities larger and fairer than Saragossa or Toledo, and buildings more beautiful and costly than the cathedral of Seville. They could show bankers richer than the richest firms of Barcelona or Cadiz; viceroys whose splendour far surpassed that of Ferdimand the Catholic; myriads of cavalry and long trains of artillery which would have astonished the Great Captain. It might have been expected that every Englishman who takes any interest in any part of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen, separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course of a few ears, one of the greatest empires in the world. et, unless we greatly err, this subject is to most readers not only insipid, but positively distasteful. Perhaps the fault lies partly with the historians. Mr. Mill's book, though it has undoubtedly great and rare merit, is not sufficiently animated and picturesque to attract those who read for amusement. Orme, inferior to no English historian in style and power of painting, is minute even to tediousness. In one volume he allots, on an average, a closely printed quarto page to the events of every forty-eight hours. The consequence is that his narrative, though one of the most authentic and one of the most finely written in our lan

The Life of Robert Lord Cline; collected from the Family. Pupers, communicated by the Earl of Poiris. ... By Major-General Sir Joux Malcolm, K.C.B. 3 vols. 8vo. London. 1536, o

Fort JANUARY, 1840.] - * guage, has never been very popular, and is " now scarcely ever read. We fear that Sir John Malcolm's volumes will not much attract those readers whom Orme and Mill have repelled. The materials, placed at his disposal by the late Lord Powis were indeed of great value. But we cannot say that they have been very skilfully worked up. It would, however, be unjust to criticise with severity a work which, if the author had lived to complete and revise it, would probably have been improved by condensation and by a better arrangement. We are more disposed to perform the pleasing duty of expressing our gratitude to the noble family to which the public owes so much useful and curious information. The effect of the book, even when we make the largest allowance for the partiality ...: who have furnished and of those who have digested the materials, is, on the whole, greatly to raise the character of Lord Clive. We are far indeed from sympathizing with Sir John ao Malcolm, whose love passes the love of bio- graphers, and who can see nothing but wisdom and justice in the actions of his idol. But we: are at least equally far from concurring in the * severe judgment of Mr. Mill, who seems to us to show less discrimination in his account of Clive than in any other part of his valuable work. Clive, like most men who are born with strong passions, and tried by strong temptations, committed great faults. But every person who takes a fair and enlightened view of his whole career must admit that our island, so fertile in heroes and statesmen, has scarcely ever produced a man more truly great either in arms or in council. The Clives had heen settled ever since the twelfth century on an estate of no great value near Market-Drayton, in Shropshire. In the reign of George the First this moderate but ancient inheritance was possessed by Mr. Richard Clive, who seems to have been "a plain man of no great tact or capacity. He had been bred to the law, and divided his time between professional business and the avocations of a small proprietor. He married a lady from Manchester of the name of Gaskill and became the father of a very numerous family. His eldest son, Robert, the founder of the British empire in India, was born at the old seat. " of his ancestors on the 29th of September, 1725. - Some lineaments of the character of the man were early discerned in the child. There re main letters written by his relations when he was in his seventh year; and from these it appears that, even at that early-age, his strong will and his fiery passions, sustained by a con. . stitutional intrepidity which sometimes seent.”

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

bitants saw him seated on a stone spout near

the summit. They also relate how he formed all the good-for-nothing lads of the town into a kind of predatery army, and compelled the shopkeepers to submit to a tribute of apples and halfpence, in consideration of which he guarantied the security of their windows. He was sent from school to school, making very little progress in his learning, and gaining for himself everywhere the character of an exceedingly naughty boy. One of his masters, it is said, was sagacious enough to prophesy that the idle lad would make a great figure in the world. But the general opinion seems to have been that poor Robert was a dunce, is not a reprobate. His family expected nothing good from such slender parts and such a headstrong temper. It is not strange, therefore, that they gladly accepted for him, when he was in his eighteenth year, a writership in the service of the East India Company, and shipped him off to make a fortune on to die of a fever at Madras. Far different were the prospects of Clive from those of the youths whom the East India College now annually sends to the Presidencies of our Asiatic empire. The Company was then purely a trading corporation. Its territory consisted of a few square miles, for which rent was paid to the native governments. Its troops were scarcely numerous enough to man the batteries of three or four ill-constructed forts, which had been erected for the protection of the warehouses. The natives, who composed a considerable part of these little garrisons had not yet been trained in the discipline of Europe, and were armed, some with swords and shields, some with bows and arrows. The business of the servants of the Company was not, as now, to conduct the judicial, financial, and diplomatic business of a great country, but to take stock, to make advances to weavers, to ship cargoes, and to keep a sharp look-out for private traders who dared to infringe the monopoly. The younger clerks were so miserably paid that they could scarcely subsist without incurring debt; the elder enriched themselves by trading on their own account; and those who lived to rise to the top of the service, often accumulated considerable fortunes. o Madras, to which Clive had been appointed,

ed by its garden, whither the wealthy agents of the Company retired, after the labours of the desk and the warehouse, to enjoy the cool

breeze which springs up at sunset from the

Bay of Bengal. The habits of these mercantile grandees appear to have been more prosuse, luxurious, and ostentatious, than those of the high judicial and political functionaries who have succeeded them. But comfort was far less understood. Many devices which now mitigate the heat of the climate, preserve health, and prolong life, were unknown. There was far less intercourse with Europe than at present. The voyage by the Cape, which in our time has often been performed within three months, was then very seldom accomplished in six, and was sometimes protracted to more than a year. Consequently the Anglo-Indian was then much more estranged from his country, much more an oriental in his tastes and habits, and much less fitted to mix in society after his return to Europe, than the Anglo-Indian of the present day. Within the fort and its precincts, the English governors exercised, by permission of the native rulers, an extensive authority. But they had never dreamed of claiming independent power. The surrounding country was governed by the Nabob of the Carnatic, a deputy of the Viceroy of the Deccan, commonly called the Nizam, who was himself only a deputy of the mighty prince designated by our ancestors as the Great Mogul. Those names, once so. august and formidable, still remain. There is still a Nabob of the Carnatic, who lives on a pension allowed to him by the Company, out of the revenues of the province which his ancestors ruled. There is still a Nizam, whose capital is overawed by a British cantonment, and to whom a British resident gives, under the name of advice, commands which are not to be disputed. There is still a Mogul, who is permitted to play at holding courts and receiving petitions, but who has less power to help or hurt than the youngest civil servant of the Company. Clive's voyage was unusually tedious evon for that age. The ship remained some months at the Brazils, where the young adventurer picked up some knowledge of Portuguese; and spent all his pocket-money. He did not arrive in India till more than a year aster he had left England. His situation at Madras was most painful. His funds were exhausted. His pay was small. He had contracted debts. He was wretchedly lodged—no small calamity in a climate which can be rendered tolerable to a European only by spacious, and well-placed apartments. He had been furnished with letters of recommendation to a gentleman who might have assisted him; but when he landed at Fort St. George he found that this gentleman

was, at this time, perhaps, the first in import- had sailed for England. His shy and haughty

ance of the Company's settlements. In the disposition withheld him from introducing him

preceding century, Fort St. George had arisen self. He was several months in India before on a barren spot, beaten by a raging surf; and he became acquainted with a single family.

in the neighbourhood of a town, inhabited by many thousands of natives, had sprung up, as

towns spring up in the East, with the rapidity dent and daring character.

[ocr errors]

The climate affected his health and spirits. His duties were of a kind ill suited to his arHe pined for his

to the prophet's gourd. There were already in home, and in his letters to his relations exthe supurbs manv white villas, each surround-'pressed his feelings in language softer and

more tensive than we should have expected, from the waywardness of his boyhood, or from the inflexible sternness of his later years. “I have not enjoyed,” says he, “one happy day since I left my native country.” And again, “I must confess, at intervals, when I think of my dear native England, it affects me in a very particular manner. . . . . If I should be so far blest as to revisit again my own country, but more especially Manchester, the centre of all my wishes, all that I could hope or desire for would be presented before me in one view.” One solace he found of the most respectable kind. The Governor possessed a good library, and permitted Clive to have access to it. The young man devoted much of his leisure to reading, and acquired at this time almost all the knowledge of books that he ever possessed. As a boy he had been too idle, as a man he soon became too busy, for literary pursuits.But neither climate, nor poverty, nor study, nor the sorrows of a homesick exile, could fame the desperate audacity of his spirit. . He behaved to his official superiors as he had behaved to his schoolmasters, and was several times in danger of losing his situation. Twice, while residing in the Writers’ Buildings, he attempted to destroy himself; and twice the pistol which he snapped at his own head failed to go off. This circumstance, it is said, affected him as a similar escape affected Wallenstein. After satisfying himself that the pistol was really well loaded, he burst forth into an exclamation, that surely he was reserved for some. thing great. About this time an event, which at first seemed likely to destroy all his hopes in life, suddenly opened before him a new path to eminence. Europe had been, during some years, distracted by the war of the Austrian succession. George IL was the steady ally of Maria. Theresa. The house of Bourbon took the opposite side. Though England was even then the first of maritime powers, she was not, as she has since become, more than a match on the sea for all the nations of the world together; and she found it difficult to maintain a contest against the united navies of France and Spain. In the eastern seas France obtained the ascendency. Labourdonnais, Governor of Mauritius, a man of eminent talents and virtues, conducted an expedition to the continent of India, in spite of the opposition of the British fleet—landed; assembled an army, appeared before Madras, and compelled the town and fort to capitulate. The keys were delivered up; the French colours were displayed on Fort St. George; and the contents of the Company's warehouses were seized as prize of war by the conquerors. It was stipulated by the capitulation that the English inhabitants should be prisoners of war on parole, and that the town should remain in the hands of the French till it should be ransomed. Labourdonnais pledged his honour that only a moderate ransom should be required. But the success of Labourdonnais had awakened the jealousy of his countryman, Dupleix, Governor of Pondicherry. Dupleix, moreover, had already begun to revolve giganic schemes, with which the restoration of

Madras to the English was by no means conpatible. He declared that Labourdonnais had gone beyond his powers; that conqucsts made by the French arms on the continent of India were at the disposal of the Governor of Pondicherry alone; and that Madras should be rased to the ground. Labourdonnais was forced to yield. pitulation excited among the English was increased by the ungenerous manner in which Dupleix treated the principal servants of the company. The Governor and several of the first gentlemen of Fort St. George were carried under a guard to Pondicherry, and conducted through the town in a triumphal procession, under the eyes of fifty thousand spectators. It was with reason thought that this gross violation of public faith absolved the inhabitants of Madras from the engagements into which they had entered with Labourdonnais. Clive fled from the town by night, in the disguise of a Mussulman, and took refuge at Fort St. David, one of the small English settlements subordinate to Madras. The circumstances in which he was now placed naturally led him to adopt a profession better suited to his restless and intrepid spirit than the business of examining packages and casting accounts. He solicited and obtained an ensign's commission in the service of the Company, and at twenty-one entered on his military career. His personal courage, of which he had, while still a writer, given signal proof by a desperate duel with a military bully who was the terror of Fort St. David, speedily made him conspicuous even among hundreds of brave men. He soon began to show in his new calling other qualities which had not be fore been discerned in him—judgment, sagacity, deference to legitimate authority. He distin guished himself highly in several operations against the French, and was particularly no. ticed by Major Lawrence, who was then con sidered as the ablest British officer in India. He had heen only a few months in the army when intelligence arrived that peace had been concluded between Great Britain and France Dupleix was in consequence compelled to re store Madras to the English Company; and th young ensign was at liberty to resume his for mer business. He did indeed return for a shor, time to his desk. He again quitted it in orde. to assist Major Law ‘ence in some petty hosti lities with the native., and then again returned to it. While he was thus wavering between a military and a commercial life, events took place which decided his choice. The politics of India assumed a new aspect. There was peace between the English and French crowns; but there arose between the English and French companies trading to the East, a war inost eventful and important—a war in which the prize was nothing less than the magnific eq; inheritance of the house of Tamerlane. The empire which Baber and his Moguls reared in the sixteenth century was long one of the most extensive and splendid in the world. In no European kingdom was so large a population subject to a single prince, or so large revenue poured into the treasury. The beauty

and magnificence of the buildings erected by

The anger which the breach of the ca-

« PreviousContinue »