« PredošláPokračovať »
rayed against each other in a perpetual succession of internal wars, our militia converted into standing armies, our presidents and governors into hereditary despots, our learned and upright magistrates into an insulting and oppressive aristocracy, and our free and happy population into wretched peasants and personal slaves. We should even lose the security we now derive from our remote position in regard to Europe. Foreign powers would obtain a footing among us, by flattering our sectional passions and interests; and would play us off against each other. Our welfare, like that of Germany, would be sacrificed to their cupidity and ambition ; and we should find ourselves enveloped in a web of various oppression, which it would be at once impossible to shake oft, and torment and death to wear.
RUSSIA, SWEDEN AND DENMARK,
purely despotic or autocratic governments, the body politic is the sovereign. L'état c'est moi ; “ I am the State ;" was an observation of Louis XIV.; and, de facto, the remark was just. In such countries, the only political changes are those which occur in the person of the ruler, either by the succession of a new incumbent to the throne, or by an alteration in the character and habits of the existing one. For a length of time to come, no other changes can occur in Russia, where the mass of the nation is in too uncivilized a state to aspire after better institutions, or to admit their introduction by rulers who know their value. Violent alterations in the line of succession have been frequent; and within a few years there has been a considerable apparent change in the policy and dispositions of the reigning emperor, which has had, and will continue to have, a very important influence in the general politics of Europe.
The emperor Alexander has been pronounced till lately, by general acknowledgment, a sincere friend of liberal political principles. They were transmitted to him, by hereditary descent, from his illustrious grandmother, the great Catherine; and by her direction, he was placed, in his youth, under the care of a tutor who was likely to strengthen these impressions; and a review of the emperor's administration, and of his personal language and conduct, will, perhaps, lead to the conclusion, that he really entertains, in theory, a partiality for liberal ideas; and that this partiality is sufficiently strong to induce him to put them in practice, when it is not overpowered by other motives of superior weight. The misfortune is, that where the adoption of public measures depends wholly upon the decision of a single person, there is no security that a correct judgment will be formed of existing circumstances. No honest man would be hardy enough to trust himself with determining a private affair, in which his own interest was concerned; and the case of a despotic sovereign is infinitely more difficult, as he has not the opportunity of enlightening his mind, by attending to the conflict of opinion which is going on abroad, but of which only a suppressed and modified echo arrives at his
His political or personal interest warps his reason; and with honest intentions, and liberal ideas, he rushes headlong into measures of the grossest and most violent oppression; and the pitiful sophistry, which he employs in defending them before the public, proves, that if it is sometimes not difficult for a man to impose upon other people, it is, beyond comparison, an easier task to impose
The late change in the policy of the emperor Alexanderin favor of illiberal notions of government, is, perhaps, only apparent; and there are strong indications in every part of his reign, that his liberality and magnanimity, however real, were never deeply seated enough to resist the force of immediate personal or political interest, acting in an opposite direction. If, as is generally supposed, he was privy to the act which preceded his accession to the throne, his liberal and magnanimous feelings did not prevent him from taking part in the most atrocious crime that a mortal can commit - pardonable, perhaps, if it were possible to pardon such an act, from considerations of political necessity; but wholly and essentially inconsistent with a thoroughly upright character. Without dwelling upon this event, in which his participation will always remain uncertain, the conquest of Finland was, under all the circumstances, a measure of precisely the same character with the partition of Poland. The sort of enthusiasm with which he attached himself, for a time, to the person and politics of Bonaparte, even to the extent of approving and co-operating in the attack on Spain, surpassed the measure of excusable compliance with existing cir.
cumstances. This feeling indeed, continued, to all appearance, in full force, till Napoleon took pains to remove it by his own folly. Such an engouement for the person of a tyrant was quite inconsistent with a thorough and deep felt liberality. During the struggle with France, the state of Europe favored and required the fullest developement of liberal principles; and the emperor professed, and probably felt them in all their purity. But they did not prevent him at the peace from sanctioning the outrage of the partition in Poland, and disturbing the balance of power in Europe, by annexing that country to his dominions; granting it, indeed, at the same time a constitution, nominally liberal, but which, from the social condition of Poland, is, and can be, nothing but a name. And we now see, that all his liberality and magnanimity have not prevented him from supporting the most wanton and violent aggression on the liberties of Italy; and from frowning severely and portentously on that of Spain, Germany, and probably France; indeed, by his public documents and official declarations, from disowning and blaspheming all intelligible and honest notions of freedom in general.
All these circumstances argue either great insincerity, (a supposition which the known personal character of the man renders improbable,) or a weak and wavering mind, incapable of reasoning and acting with consistency, or of resisting, in practice, the seduction of immediate interest.