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the population, from all pretensions to political power. If the manifest bad intention would constitute this publication a seditious libel, a good intention equally manifest can not justly be denied its share of influence in producing a contrary verdict.
Here then is the difficulty. From the very nature of a libel it is impossible so to define it, but that the most meritorious works will be found included in the description. Not from any
defect or undue severity in the particular law, but from the very nature of the offence to be guarded against, a work recommending reform by the only rational mode of recommendation, that is, by the detection and exposure of corruption, abuse, or incapacity, might, though it should breathe the best and most unadulterated English feelings, be brought within the definition of libel equally with the vilest incendiary pamphlet, that ever aimed at leading and misleading the multitude. Not a paragraph in the Morning Post during the Peace of Amiens, (or rather the experimental truce so called,)—though to the immortal honor of the then edi. tor, that newspaper was the chief secondary means of producing the unexampled national unanimity, with which the war recommenced and has since been continued,—not a paragraph warning the nation, as need was and most imperious duty commanded, of the perilous designs and unsleeping ambition of our neighbor, the mimic and caricaturist of Charlemagne, but was a punishable libel. The law of libel is a vast aviary, which encages the awakening cock and the geese whose alarum preserved the Capitol, no less than the babbling magpie and ominous screech-owl. And yet will we avoid this seeming injustice, we throw down all fence and bulwark of public decency and public opinion; political calumny will soon join hands with private slander; and every principle, every feeling, that binds the citizen to his country and the spirit to its Creator, will be undermined not by reasoning, for from that there is no danger; but—by the mere habit of hearing them reviled and scoffed at with impunity. Were we to contemplate the evils of a rank and unweeded press only in its effect on the manners of a people, and on the general tone of thought and conversation, the greater the love which we bore to literature and to all the means and instruments of human improvement, the greater would be the earnestness with which we should solicit the interference of law : the more anxiously should we wish for some Ithuriel spear, that might remove from
the ear of the public, and expose in their own fiendish shape those reptiles, which inspiring venom and forging illusions as they list,
Quomodo autem id futurum sit, ne quis incredibile arbitretur, ostendam. Imprimis multiplicabitur regnum, et summa rerum potestas per plurimos dissipata et concisa minuetur. Tunc discordiæ civiles in perpetuum serentur, nec ulla requies bellis exitialibus erit, donec reges decem pariter existant qui orbem terræ, non ad regendum, sed ad consumendum, partiantur. Hi exercitibus in immensum coactis, et agrorum cultibus destitutis, quod est principium eversionis et cladis, disperdent omnia, et comminuent, et vorabunt. Tum reperite adversus eos hostis potentissimus ab extremis finibus plago septentrionalis orietur, qui tribus ex eo numero deletis qui tunc Asiam obtinebunt, assumetur in societatem a cæteris, ac princeps omnium constituetur. Hic insustentabili dominatione vexabit orbem ; divina et humana miscebit ; infanda dictu et execrabilia molietur ; nova consilia in pectore suo volutabit, ut proprium sibi constituat imperium ; leges commutabit, suas sanciet ; contaminabit, diripiet, spoliabit, occidet. Denique immutato nomine, atque imperii sede translata, confusio ac perturbatio humani generis consequetur.
Tum vere detestabile, atque abominandum tempus existet, quo nulli hominum sit vita jucunda.
LACTANTIUS de Vitâ Beatâ, Lib. vii. c. 16.
But lest this should be deemed incredible, I will show the manner in which it is to take place. First, there will be a multiplication of independent sovereignties, and the supreme magistracy of the empire, scattered and cut up into fragments, will be enfeebled in the exercise of power by law and authority. Then will be sown the seeds of civil discords, nor will there be any rest or pause to wasteful and ruinous wars; while the soldiery kept together in immense standing armies, the kings will crush and lay waste at their will ;—until at length there will rise up against them a most puissant military chieftain of low birth, who will have conceded to him a fellowship with the other sovereigns of the earth, and will finally be constituted the head of all. This man will harass the civilized world with an insupportable despotism, he will confound and commix all things spiritual and temporal. He will form plans and preparations of the most execrable and sacrilegious nature. He will be forever restlessly turning over new
* ****, Ben
schemes in his imagination, in order that he may fix the imperial power over all in his own name and possession. He will change the former laws, he will sanction a code of his own, he will contaminate, pillage, lay waste and massacre. At length, when he has succeeded in the change of names and titles, and in the transfer of the seat of empire, there will follow a confusion and perturbation of the human race; then will there be for a while an era of horror and abomination, during which no man will enjoy his life in quietness. *
I INTERPOSE this essay as an historical comment on the words “ mimic and caricaturist of Charlemagne,” as applied to the despot, whom since the time that the words were first printed, we have, thank Heaven ! succeeded in encaging. The motto contains one of the most striking instances of an uninspired prophecy fulfilled even in many of its minutiæ, that I recollect ever to have met with : and it is hoped, that as a curiosity it will reconcile my readers to its unusual length. But though my chief motive was that of relieving, by the variety of an historical parallel, the series of argument on this most important of all subjects, the communicability of truth, yet the essay is far from being a digression. Having given utterance to quicquid in rem tam maleficam indignatio dolorque dictarent, concerning the mischiefs of a lawless press, I held it an act of justice to give a portrait no less lively of the excess to which the remorseless ambition of a government might go in accumulating its oppressions in the one instance before the discovery of printing, and in the other during the suppression of its freedom.
I have translated the following from a voluminous German work, Michael Ignaz Schmidt's History of the Germans, from Charles the Great to Conrade I. ; in which this extract forms the conclusion of the second chapter of the third book. The late tyrant's close imitation of Charlemagne was sufficiently evidenced by his assumption of the iron crown of Italy, by his imperial coronation with the presence and authority of the Holy Father ; by his imperial robe embroidered with bees in order to mark him as a successor of Pepin, and even by his ostentatious revocation of Charlemagne's grants to the Bishop of Rome. But that the differences might be felt likewise, I have prefaced the translation with the few following observations.
* This translation has expressions referring to some words inserted by the author in the Latin quotation in the previous editions.—Ed.
Let it be remembered then, that Charlemagne, for the greater part, created for himself the means of which he availed himself; that his very education was his own work, and that unlike Peter the Great, he could find no assistants out of his own realm ; that the unconquerable courage and heroic dispositions of the nations he conquered, supplied a proof positive of real superiority, indeed the sole positive proof of intellectual power, in a warrior : for how can we measure force but by the resistance to it? But all was prepared for Bonaparte; Europe weakened in the very heart of all human strength, namely, in moral and religious principle, and at the same time accidentally destitute of any one great or commanding mind : the French people, on the other hand, still restless from revolutionary fanaticism ; their civic enthusiasm already passed into military passion and the ambition of conquest; and alike by disgust, terror, and characteristic unfitness for freedom, ripe for the reception of a despotism. Add too, that the main obstacles to an unlimited system of conquest, and the pursuit of universal monarchy had been cleared away for him by his pioneers the Jacobins, namely, the influence of the great landholders, of the privileged and of the commercial classes. Even the naval successes of Great Britain, by destroying the trade, rendering useless the colonies, and almost annihilating the navy of France, were in some respects subservient to his designs by concentrating the powers of the French empire in its armies, and supplying them out of the wrecks of all other employments, save that of agriculture. France had already approximated to the formidable state so prophetically described by Sir James Steuart, in his Political Economy, in which the population should consist chiefly of soldiers and peasantry : at least the interests of no other classes were regarded. The great merit of Bonaparte has been that of a skilful steersman, who with his boat in the most violent storm still keeps himself on the summit of the waves, which not he, but the winds had raised. I will now proceed to my translation.
“ That Charles was a hero, his exploits bear evidence. The subjugation of the Lombards, protected as they were by the Alps, by fortresses and fortified towns, by numerous armies, and by a great name; of the Saxons, secured by their savage resoluteness, by an untamable love of freedom, by their desert plains and enormous forests, and by their own poverty ; the humbling of the
Dukes of Bavaria, Aquitania, Bretagne, and Gascony ; proud of their ancestry as well as of their ample domains ; the almost entire extirpation of the Avars, so long the terror of Europe ; are assuredly works which demanded a courage and a firmness of mind such as Charles only possessed.
“How great his reputation was, and this too beyond the limits of Europe, is proved by the embassies sent to him out of Persia, Palestine, Mauritania, and even from the Khalifs of Bagdad. If at the present day an embassy from the Black or Caspian Sea comes to a prince on the Baltic, it is not to be wondered at, since such are now the political relations of the four quarters of the world, that a blow which is given to any one of them is felt more or less by all the others. Whereas in the time of Charlemagne, the inhabitants in one of the known parts of the world scarcely knew what was going on in the rest. Nothing but the extraordinary, all-piercing report of Charles's exploits could bring this to pass. His greatness, which set the world in astonishment, was likewise, without doubt, that which begot in the Pope and the Romans the first idea of the re-establishment of their empire.
“ It is true, that a number of things united to make Charles a great man-favorable circumstances of time, a nation already disciplined to warlike habits, a long life, and the consequent acquisition of experience, such as no one possessed in his whole realm. Still, however, the principal means of his greatness Charles found in himself. His great mind was capable of extending its attention to the greatest multiplicity of affairs. In the middle of Saxony he thought on Italy and Spain, and at Rome he made provisions for Saxony, Bavaria, and Pannonia. He gave audience to the ambassadors of the Greek emperor and other potentates, and himself audited the accounts of his own farms, where every thing was entered even to the number of the eggs. Busy as his mind was, his body was not less in one continued state of motion. Charles would see into every thing himself, and do every thing himself, as far as his powers extended : and even this it was, too, which gave to his undertakings such force and energy.
“But with all this the government of Charles was the government of a conqueror, that is splendid abroad and fearfully oppressive at home. What a grievance must it not have been for the people, that Charles for forty years together dragged them now