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government would perhaps be hazardous. Much of it may justly be attributed to her geographical position, which favoured commercial skill and enterprise, while it afforded security from foreign invasion, and much to the native excellence of the German character, the Saxons and Normans being among the most distinguished branches of this estimable race. But to whatever cause this prosperity may be immediately traced, its existence establishes, in the first place beyond the possibility of dispute, an important position, which always has been and still is denied by the partisans of despotism, to wit, that a high degree of political power is compatible with liberal institutions; and as their effect on private happiness is uncontested, this fact alone would decide the question in their favour. When, however, we consider the vast influence of political institutions in the formation of character and on the state of social intercourse, of industry, and of property, we shall perhaps feel but little hesitation in referring the success of the British nation almost wholly to the operation, direct and indirect, of these institutions. It is in this particular, principally, that their situation has varied, in these latter times, from that of the continental branches of the same race; and it is precisely since this difference existed, that they have exhibited so remarkable a superiority in many important respects over these nations, some of whom are at least their equals in natural advantages and personal qualities. Indeed the prosperity of England has continued to advance exactly in the same proportion as her government has become more and more liberal. Even in the golden days of good queen Bess, England was not sorry to be relieved by an intervention of Providence from the attack of the invincible armada. Under the arbitrary government of the Stuarts she was an isolated and secondary state. Though protestant, she took no part in the thirty years' war, and left it to Sweden to hold the balance of power at the peace of Westphalia. It was not till the government, after the commotions of the commonwealth, and the revolution of 1688 had settled down firmly and permanently upon a liberal basis, that we find the prodigious development of power and wealth, that has since been exhibited, beginning to make its appearance. Immediately after this change, the king of England, who was just before a miserable pensioner on the bounty of Louis XIV, carries dismay to the very capital and council of that celebrated monarch, and would, perhaps, have hurled him from his throne, if it had not been for a temporary reminiscence of arbitrary times in the cabinet. Even since Great Britain has been one of the leading powers in Europe, and during the late struggles, succeeded, by the perseverence with which she maintained her position, and the vast pecuniary resources she was able to employ, in withstanding the coalition of all the rest, in breaking up their union, and employing them one against the other, until she finally planted her standard of victory upon the Tuilleries, and gave the law to the whole west of Europe. It is far from being my intention to commend this perpetual interference in continental politics, which seems to be a wholly mistaken system, when pushed beyond the point where it is absolutely necessary for national defence; but all abuses of power suppose the possession of it. Meanwhile the commercial greatness of the country has risen to such a height, during the same interval, that all preceding maritime states dwindle into nothing in comparison; and England has become to the world what Tyre and Carthage, in ancient times, and Venice and Genoa in modern, were to the Mediterranean. Holland alone made some pretensions to the same universal commerce, but on a much more contracted scale and for a short period. The United States are already, in this respect, the rivals and may perhaps be the successors of England. By this vast and lucrative trade, the elegant and the useful arts of life have


been proportionately stimulated in all their branches; and wealth has flowed by a thousand channels from every corner of the globe into this industrious and fortunate little island. Such have been the effects and the reward of liberty ; for if liberty itself be a blessing, the capacity for it is a virtue.

Notwithstanding this astonishing and unprecedented prosperity, which still continues undiminished for all immediate and practical purposes, it is generally admitted that the present situation of Great Britain is critical and alarming. Those even who form the most favourable judgment of her future prospects are far from regarding them as perfectly satisfactory; while such as indulge more easily in gloomy forebodings, imagine her to be already on the brink of inevitable ruin. This danger, as far as it is real, is itself an additional testimony to the value of liberal institutions, because it is a danger resulting from the abuse of the extraordinary power and prosperity, which these institutions had created, and it therefore supposes their utility. The crisis which now threatens the safety of England may perhaps be traced, without much fear of error, to a mistaken system of administration, as its remote and general cause. It is not unnatural for individuals or nations, who feel the consciousness of superior advantages, to waste them in useless and extravagant enterprises. Great Britain, in the pride of wealth and power, has made it a part

of her magnificence to take the lead, at vast expense, in general politics. Had she abstained wholly from this sort of intervention, it can hardly be doubted, that the resources which have enabled her, as it were, to hold the sceptre of Europe, would have been sufficient to give her perfect independence and security from attack at home. She would, therefore, on this supposition, have still enjoyed, in an equal degree, the only real advantage which can be alleged as a rational motive for such interference, however different it may be from the causes which actually produce it in practice. In other respects, how much more favourable would have been her position. She would be free from the enormous debt which has been contracted in waging these useless wars. Her establishment, civil and military, would have continued throughout upon a moderate scale ; and it would not have been found necessary, in order to raise a sufficient revenue, to impose upon labour the enormous burdens and various restrictions which embarrass it so seriously, and form, with the amount of the debt, the essential difficulty of the present crisis. She would then, in a word, have enjoyed all her actual advantages, and avoided all the evils and dangers

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