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CHARACTER OF THE REV. SYDNEY SMITH.
sional duty to espouse the corporation interests; and
ccordingly he sustained them by his one-sided professional remonstrance against Lord John Russell's interference with its rights. But it is difficult to please all objectors, and even Sydney Smith could not hit the mark,—too catholic for some, too clericalminded for others; the only sure course being a blind and steady party-zeal: and this was just what my revered friend could not practise. He aided the Whigs prodigiously when they figured as the apostles of the principles he had at heart; for he wrote with the force of conviction. At a later season, they were in the ascendant, and he wielded his pen in the clerical service as the paramount obligation of his later days. That he should have been something moreor something less, as you will—than a member of the sacerdotal corporation, seems to me inseparable from the enlarged and beneficent character of Sydney Smith's mind: and I can only add, would that the Church were never worse served than by my lamented friend!
January, 1850. LA PRESSE is distinguished among Paris journals for an undaunted self-reliance, and together with the vices of audacity it possesses not a few of the good qualities of courage. It can, when so pleased, be candid; and it has thus given circulation to a remarkable and interesting series of letters, by an American gentleman, on the Political Constitutions of England, the United States, and France under the actual Republic.
Compared with the wearisome and pompous declamation of the Democratic organs, or with the mystical and high-flown homilies of Legitimacy, these letters claimed a marked attention; coming as they do from a citizen of the greatest Republic ever organized since the world began; from one schooled in its discipline, familiar with its machinery, and extensively conversant with its doctrines; accustomed also to compare them both in their theory and in their practice with the old institutions of Europe. Mr. Henry Wikoff has lived much with the French; he admires their nation, and loves to dwell among them: hence his earnest longings to be useful, according to his ability, in assisting them to arrive at that most important blessing, a solid and well-constructed form of government. Taking as the text of his first letter “the Constitution of the United States," he expounds the action of its respective forces in securing the
nearest approach to liberty and equality ever beheld in the social state, coincidently with that security to life and property without which any government were a worthless pageant. We hardly know in what shape instruction on political philosophy could be rendered more available to the people than in the one Mr. Wikoff has chosen. His exposition of the American apparatus of government is delivered in an unpretending simple style, such as might characterize the descriptions of machines or instruments in the pages of a scientific treatise. One is made to see so clearly the relation between the several parts, that ideas of mechanical laws unconsciously rise to the mind, and we half expect to see an illustrative cut, with “A the cylinder, C the fly-wheel, F the revolving pinion, H the valve-index," and so forth. Once familiar with the structure of a political constitution sanctioned by experiment, the French people will be furnished with a model according to which their own may be made to fit its purpose; although, starting from a condition less favourable to constructive organization than the colonial architects, some compromises must be made with ancient principles. It depends upon the French people, as a nation, how far these shall extend; and they may thank the author of the letters to La Presse for lending them a helping hand towards a better comprehension of their interests in respect to the nature of such compromises.
The striking feature, we repeat, of these letters, is their transparent clearness; a feature in which the writers of the day in France, with all their talent, certainly do not shine. The view Mr. Wikoff has taken of the English constitutional course may be pronounced
sagacious on the whole; and it is instructive, as tracing the conflict between the mighty elements of English life, Aristocracy and Democracy, through a long historical period, till the curious and indescribable thing which the English government has come to be, got into operation, to the despair of foreign statesmen and the misleading of foreign imitators. The New Yorker, however, is not quite so much at home in his subject when writing upon England; but is hardly open to censure for incompleteness, seeing that he has treated a prodigious subject within the space of a few columns, and that without violating any important historical sequence, although he has necessarily overlooked a vast number of intermediate and connecting links.
But the really essential lesson to be inculcated on the French nation is, not so much how their new framework of civil government should be put together, as how it should be worked and applied to its purpose when set up. For here lies the formidable difficulty with that people, so insidiously cheated of their hopes by each successive dynasty, and so unfairly reproached by lookers-on for manifesting discontent under their disappointments.
It is to no purpose that the French people make revolutions, since the government which succeeds contrives to get back into the vicious track of its expelled predecessor; or, if not into the same, into a course no less fatal to national credit and tranquillity. The moral to be deduced from this is twofold. Some will choose to affirm that this fact proves how much wiser the people would show themselves if they would let revolutions alone, and submit to the unavoidable
evils of bad governors. Others, more keenly alive to the principles of equity and the reciprocal duties of governors and governed, will adopt the maxim that care must be taken in reforming a government to put at the head of it persons interested in its going on successfully and healthily. But this is just what cannot be hoped for in the case of the present Republic of France.
In that beautiful country, rich in all the elements which can constitute earthly happiness and solid prosperity, there unhappily wants a steadfast desire for the growth and permanent establishment of the actual government. The whole of the
class of Frenchmen, from the President down to the Lecturer on Botany at the Academy of Dijon, are in a tacit league to the end that the Republic shall not stand. In the face of such a coalition, what are the working classes to do? Is it conceivable, we would ask, that, under the original American constitution even, a republic could have got on its legs, if Washington, if Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, and that class of political men, had looked unkindly upon its birth? What made the infant republic spring to vigorous life? what made the constitution gradually evolve itself into effective operation after the Convention of 1787-8-9 ?
It was the cordial patriotism of the American statesmen, principal no less than secondary, which mainly brought about the success of that memorable experiment: it is the absence of this element in France --patriotic singleness of purpose, and a disposition to accept the present fabric as her permanent destinywhich, it is to be feared, will hinder it from taking