« PredošláPokračovať »
Spain and Portugal.
Ir may seem paradoxical to regard the revolutions in Spain and Portugal in favour of popular principles, as natural results of the progress of industry, wealth, and civilization, considering that in all these respects the peninsula has been, for two or three centuries, apparently on the decline. It is, however, sufficiently obvious, that these revolutions are, in reality, connected with the general effort for political improvement, that agitates the whole christian world; and are not isolated events resulting from independent and separate causes. If, therefore, the apparent anomaly did not admit of a satisfactory explanation, it could only be because the facts connected with the subject were imperfectly known. The following considerations will, perhaps, be thought to furnish a sufficiently plausible account of it.
As valuable political institutions contribute more than any other cause to the improvement and prosperity of a country, so they derive, in their turn, their own stability and strength from the reaction of these effects upon themselves. A vicious constitution, and its natural attendant, a vicious course of
administration, while they tend to destroy all the sources of the public welfare, affect in the same or in a still greater degree, the vigour and firmness of the government. When a nation has once entered upon a retrograde course, the natural progress is undoubtedly from bad to worse; and the natural conclusion is a state of utter desolation and complete physical ruin, as we see exemplified in the Mahometan countries. But if any accidental causes, from within or from without, counteract this movement and impress a different direction on the character and condition of the people, an effort for political improvement, will meet with less resistance from the government, precisely in proportion to the degree of degradation into which the nation had previously sunk, because the government is necessarily feeble to the same or a greater extent. Hence an amount of moral or physical force enlisted in the cause of civilization will be sufficient to produce a complete revolution in Spain and Portugal, which would not have excited a moment's apprehension in the governments of France or England. A still smaller force would produce the same effects in Morocco, Turkey, or Persia, because these countries have fallen still lower in the scale of civilization, and their governments are proportionately still more feeble. The
only difficulty is to impart to a people in such a situation even the slight healthy movement necessary to change their direction and overcome the first obstacles. Every thing in nature occurs by the operation of general causes; and when these have been depraved, and their operation has become vicious, it would be as unreasonable to expect the natural occurrence of any favourable event, as it would be to look for the appearance of disease in a perfectly healthy body, without any previous unfavourable accident from within or without. Thus we see the Mahometan countries going on from age to age in progressive and gradually increasing decay, although the appearance of a single individual of a certain elevation of character in any one of them would be sufficient to regenerate the whole. Another Mahomet would restore with comparative ease the prosperity and power which the first created; and though the appearance of such an individual is almost impossible in the regular progress of events, it is really surprising that it should not have been brought about by some favourable accident, considering the intimate relations between the Mahometan countries and those of Europe.
The situation of Spain was more fortunate for this purpose, and it has been for some time under
the operation of causes, internal and external, tending to counteract the progress of decay, and to impress a favourable direction on the movement of the body politic.
1. It is by no means true, as is perhaps generally supposed, that Spain had been constantly declining up to the period of the invasion of Bonaparte. The best statistical and political accounts prove, on the contrary, that the epoch of the greatest weakness and degradation of that country should be fixed more than a century ago, at the close of the war of the succession. A long course of previous misgovernment, and the desolation carried through the country by this ruinous struggle, had reduced the population from twenty or thirty millions, which it is said to have contained at some previous periods in its history, to about six. The restoration of peace, the introduction of a better spirit into the cabinet, and the encouragement given to industry by the great development of commerce that occurred at this time throughout the world, operated together to change the course of events; and from this time to the present, notwithstanding the obstacles opposed to their progress by vicious institutions of every description, industry and wealth seem to have been regularly and rapidly advancing, and to such an extent, that in the cen
tury following the war of the succession, the population of Spain was doubled, being now calculated at nearly twelve millions. This is a greater augmentation of numbers and implies a favourable change in the situation of the country, than occurred during the same period in any other in Europe, excepting Great Britain, which also doubled its population within the same time. The whole additional force thus created, constituting in fact the only effective political power in the country, was necessarily attached to the cause of political reform; or in other words was desirous of the removal of the wanton and senseless obstacles to the public welfare, in opposition to which it had risen into existence, and with which it was constantly struggling for life and death.
2. The operation of this favourable internal cause was greatly increased by the contact, which, notwithstanding its isolated and apparently stagnant position, necessarily existed between Spain and the other nations of Europe. Europe forms, in reality, but one great commonwealth, and its members sympathise with each other like the limbs of an organized body. On the common principles which regulate the sympathy and communication between different divisions of the same system, it was natural, after an active spirit of reform and improve