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Introductory remarks on the general causes of the present political agitations.
THE Course of events in Europe since the final fall of Bonaparte has been, I believe, as unexpected, as it is in every point of view remarkable. A variety of circumstances concurred to produce an uncommon uniformity of feeling and interest among the several nations, and the different classes of society, at the period immediately preceding the Congress of Vienna. The national jealousies resulting from the ancient balance of power, and the political feuds connected with the earlier periods of the revolution, had all disappeared under the intolerable tyranny of Napoleon. The continental sovereigns forgot their habitual enmities, and even the distant stateliness of their ordinary habits of intercourse in this hour of common danger, and acted together with the cordiality and intimacy of personal friends. Liberty
had long before withdrawn from the banners of France and enlisted under those of her enemies : so that the people entered every where into the views of their governments with enthusiasm, upon the same principles of independence, which sometimes lead them to opposition. France herself, with the exception perhaps of the army, was disposed to regard the allies as deliverers, rather than as enemies. It was an 'era of good feelings,' like that which now exists in the United States; and which it may be hoped will be of longer duration. The uses of adversity were exhibited in the high minded spirit which directed all the proceedings of the allies among themselves, and in their relations with France at the time of the first invasion. Politicians and sovereigns who had previously submitted with rather an ill grace, if at all, to the common restraints of morals, seemed to have risen all at once to the loftiest heights of chivalry; and even cool observers began to indulge a hope, that political affairs would wear in future a new aspect. It seemed as if the French revolution, after failing, at least for a time, in its direct attempts to accomplish any considerable good, was destined to reform the world by reaction. Certainly any person, who at the time of the treaty of Paris had predicted that within six years a general dissatisfaction would grow up between the
rulers and the people, in almost all the civilized parts of Europe—that there would be four military revolutions, besides innumerable changes of ministry-and that discord would even throw her apple into the divine assembly of the Holy Alliancecertainly such a person would have been looked upon, to say the least, as a very bold prophet.
These unexpected events are variously explained by different persons and parties, according as they are led by their position in society, their interests, or their opinions, to approve or disapprove them. It is thought by some, and the system has even been countenanced by the public declarations of the three northern powers, that all these violent convulsive movements result from the wild and desperate coalition of a few individuals, leagued together in secret societies, and that by the detection and exemplary punishment of the ringleaders, the public tranquillity may be immediately and permanently restored. It is also stated on official authority, that by certain seizures of persons and papers in the North of Italy a clue has been obtained by which the secrets of the conspiracy will be unravelled: and, if the general idea be correct, it may be presumed that there will soon be no danger of any further revolutions.
But, in reality, it is rather a poor compliment to the stability of thrones and governments to suppose that they can be shaken by the efforts of a few obscure and unprincipled wretches, like Thistlewood and Louvel. In the moral, as in the physical sciences, we must account for effects by supposing causes adequate to their production: and, in good earnest, is it by such a machinery as this, that several important kingdoms can be revolutionised, and a general alarm spread through the whole of Europe? The very powers, which affect to hold this language, give but slender confirmation of it in their practical measures. Had they been serious in these assertions, should we have seen them holding Congress after Congress, and putting their troops in motion from Kamschatka to the borders of France? Their language is in fact as inconsistent with itself, as it is with their proceedings. While they employ at times the contemptuous tone to which I have alluded, they shew on other occasions that they have a correct perception of the character of the present agitations of Europe; and regard them in their true light, as a continuation of the great revolutionary movement, which was checked and compressed for a time by the despotism of Bonaparte, but only waited for his fall to begin its march again with a renewed impulse. This being the real state of the
case, as no reasonable man can doubt for a moment, it is quite idle to look for the root of the evil in obscure associations and treasonable plots-or in the desperate fanaticism which may have led to the assassination of a poet in one country and a prince. in another. These occurrences are symptoms, slight in importance, as to their effect upon the interest at stake, but proving by their atrocity the strength of the principles which are at work; and those persons who are interested in checking the progress of political information, might think themselves very fortunate, if such obscure and feeble enemies were all they had to contend with.
The present agitations must therefore be regarded as resulting from the same general causes that produced the French revolution. It would be superfluous to investigate these causes here in detail. However individual opinions may vary as to the effect of particular measures, or accidental circumstances;-as to the favourable or unfavourable influence of the prominent political characters of the time on the progress of events;-it is now generally admitted by observing men, that the revolution had been slowly and gradually brought about by the changes in the state of society resulting from the progress of industry, wealth and knowledge; or in one word, of civilization. This change in the state