Obrázky na stránke

tance from the growing wealth and prosperity of their subjects. Hence civilization will of necessity continue to follow its natural course, and will bring with it such changes in the form of social institutions as it is fitted to produce.

It may be added that even the violent measures taken by the sovereigns to check the progress of constitutional principles—the late invasion of Italyindeed the whole series of wars directed against the principles of the French revolution or its abuseswhile they temporarily crushed or checked these principles in one form, have added in an other an immense accession to their actual strength. I allude here to the effect which these wars have produced upon the finances of all the great powers, to the vast creation of public debt, which is certainly one of the most remarkable phenomena of modern times. Now this prodigious creation of artificial capital operates to a very great extent, if not to its full nominal amount, as a transfer or cession of property from the landed proprietors to the industrious and mercantile classes. These loans are realized in the form of rents, and are ultimately a charge upon the land, and its owners; while in the hands of the capitalists the securities that represent them are equivalent to money. Thus the Emperor of Austria, to defray the expenses of his


late attack upon the principles of liberty in Italy, has borrowed, at high interest, a large sum of our countryman, Mr David Parish, and certain associ

What is the effect of this operation ? It throws the weight of an amount of property equal to the loan into the scale of the general mercantile interest of Europe and the world, which, as I have taken for granted, is essentially and necessarily that of civilization and political improvement; and it charges the expenses of keeping this capital in existence upon the landed proprietors of the Austrian Empire. Thus if the injury done to the cause of liberty by this invasion is estimated in money at the amount expended in effecting it, the injury done to the cause of despotism is precisely twice as great, because an equal sum is taken from its adherents and given to its adversaries.

The only offset to these great advantages is, that the sovereigns occasionally take the liberty of declaring themselves bankrupt, by which operation a part of the new capital is annihilated. If the whole amount of property, now existing in Europe in the form of public debt, were compared with the amount of property of all other kinds, estimated at its actual value in money, it would probably be found that the former is not much inferior to the latter. It may be looked upon as a mass of property created at the expense of existing establishments in favour of the cause of political improvement, and furnishes one of the most singular instances perhaps that could be produced of an effect, “ counter-working its cause."

It may be remarked finally, that the ultimate issue of the present struggle will depend upon the future progress of civilization. If civilization, instead of advancing any farther, should decline from its present state and go to decay in the countries where it has now attained its greatest height, the advance of liberal political principles will stop with it: and instead of spreading into other parts of Europe where they have not yet penetrated, their influence will gradually disappear from the regions, which they now in greater or less degrees enlighten. If, on the contrary, as every thing seems to indicate, commerce, manufactures, and agriculture—though perhaps labouring at this moment under a temporary depression—are likely for a long and indefinite future period to advance by regularly and rapidly increasing steps, in consequence of the great increase of population, which must necessarily take place in the European settlements all over the globe, and the consequent great augmentation of demand for the products of labour in all its forms—then it may be safely asserted, that

the cause of good government and liberty is also in an advancing state, that it will continue to gain ground in those parts of Europe and the world, where its triumph is yet only partial ; and will even gradually penetrate into regions, whose population is now unanimously arrayed against it, or is too barbarous even to form an idea of the existence of such a blessing.

Having thus exhibited the point of view under which the general affairs of Europe present themselves to my mind, I shall now consider a little more in detail the situation of the principal powers; beginning with France, which has long been the central point of European politics.



The situation of France is perhaps more satisfactory at present, than that of any other European power, whether we consider the advantages which it actually enjoys, or its favourable prospects for the future. If any thing could afford compensation for the crimes and horrors, of which that nation has been the theatre for the last thirty years, it would be this fortunate and beneficial result. In the midst of these excesses the principles of liberty, which were brought into action at the commencement of the revolution, have been gradually and slowly working out their effects; and these are now manifested in a highly improved state of the public and private economy of this great people. Doubtless there are still some clouds hanging over the future. New convulsions of a certain extent and importance may by possibility occur : but under any circumstances the substantial advantages now enjoyed in France seem to be secure. I shall class the remarks, I have to offer


this subject, under the heads of the state of private propertythe forms of administration—the character of public opinion—and the policy of the cabinet. It

may appear singular that the finances should not be reckoned one of the principal objects of consideration, since it is almost the only point of importance with some of the great European powers. But the French finances are at present in so flourishing and well settled a state, as to leave but little room for observation in a political point of view. The debt is small, compared with the population and resources of the country, and in a rapid course of extinction. Taxes, to the full amount of the annual expenditure, are collected without difficulty, and though high, are apparently

« PredošláPokračovať »