Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

XI.-1. De l’Opposition dans le Gouvernement, et de la

Liberté de la Presse, par M. LE VICOMTE DE BONALD, Pair de France. Paris, 1827. 2. Debates in the British Parliament on the Change of

Ministry, and on the Battle of Navarino. London, 1828. 3. Manifesto of the Sublime Ottoman Porte of December 20, 1827.

ALTHOUGH the period which has elapsed since the close of the last general war, is commonly spoken of as a season of tranquillity, and may be justly viewed as such when compared with the five and twenty years immediately preceding, it has nevertheless been filled up by an almost uninterrupted series of important events. The foundation of a numerous brotherhood of new nations in Spanish and Portuguese America, the establishment of representative governments in various parts of the continent of Europe, the four military revolutions in the Italian and Spanish Peninsulas, and finally the desperate and glorious struggle for national existence in Greece, are occurrences hardly inferior, in permanent interest and actual importance, to those which constituted the successive stages of the French Revolution. Of these great political movements some have already nearly reached, in one way or another, their natural termination, and have ceased in consequence to attract, so strongly as before, the attention of the world. Notwithstanding the fatal dissensions that have lately distracted the councils of some of our sister Republics of the South, and the clouds that overshadow to a certain extent their immediate future prospects, we cannot permit ourselves to doubt for a moment, that the independence and freedom of the whole of Spanish America are substantially secure ; and we are firmly persuaded that this grand consummation will open a new and most auspicious chapter in the history of human affairs. On the other hand, the temporary triumph of liberal principles in several quarters of the south of Europe, which was attended from the beginning with many ominous and unsatisfactory circumstances, was soon succeeded by such decisive reverses, as to leave for the moment, in that quarter, no farther ground of hope. But while the general interest in these two courses of events has been thus diminished by success on the one hand, and by failure on the other, the establishment and progress of representative government on the Continent, and the war of Independence in Greece, continue to offer from year to year new incidents of constantly augmenting importance. The last few months in particular have been marked in both by occurrences of signal moment. The sea-fight of Navarino, if its influence on the fortunes of the Turkish Empire should at all correspond with present probabilities, can hardly fail to form an epoch in the history of the Christian world in general, as well as in that of the Greek Revolution; while the late dissolution of the French House of Deputies, followed by the unexpected triumph of liberal principles at the elections, and a consequent change of ministry, is perhaps the most curious incident that has yet occurred in the operation of the new representative constitutions of the continent. Either of these events, considered in all its details and consequences, would furnish ample materials for a long article, and might be separately treated without inconvenience. But at this distance from the scene of action, the public curiosity does not require, perhaps, so copious a supply of particulars, or so minute an investigation of their character and results, as might be suitable elsewhere ; and when political events of this magnitude, though not in themselves directly connected, proceed from and exercise their influence upon a cluster of neighboring powers, so closely united by relations of every kind, as those which make up the European commonwealth, it is in some respects convenient and advantageous to review them together. We accordingly propose in this article to survey, in the very rapid and imperfect manner, which only our limited resources and space will allow, the present aspect of the general politics of Europe, and shall digest our remarks under the two leading heads which we have already specified. The fluctuations and changes which have successively occurred in the British ministry, since the retirement of Lord Liverpool, although highly important, as well from the immense interests immediately affected by every movement in the main spring of so vast a machine, as from the high celebrity of many of the names that appear in these transactions, are nevertheless not likely, we think, to produce any very material effects, either on the internal condition or foreign relations of the country. It would however be improper to leave them entirely out of view on the present occasion, and before we proceed to examine the other two subjects, alluded to above, we shall briefly consider the causes and character of these changes, principally for the purpose of establishing the correctness of the remark we have just made upon their comparative indifference to the general politics of Europe and the world.

1. A change in the persons administering the government of a country, although always a thing of considerable moment, on account of the different shades of opinion and feeling under which similar principles may be professed, and the different degrees of ability with which they may be practised upon, rarely possesses a paramount interest, except when it indicates the triumph of a party or opinion. The late successive changes in the administration of the British government do not appear to be of this latter character, and even approach less nearly to it than

many similar movements have done at other periods. In reality the form of that government and the general principles of policy upon which it is administered, are so well established by the experience of a century and a half, which have elapsed since the close of the civil wars, that there is little or no difference of sentiment about them in the minds of intelligent men. The nominal parties of Whigs and Tories, into which the well informed and substantial part of the community is divided, are little more than shadows of the two violent factions, whose embittered and bloody struggles formerly distracted the kingdom, and are now separated by almost imperceptible lines of distinction ; while the third party of Radicals, whose doctrines are no doubt sufficiently at variance with those of the two others, and whose triumph would be the signal for a domestic revolution similar to that of France, is not yet powerful enough to affect in any way the march of the government, still less to claim a direct share in the administration. Any change therefore which could well take place at present, in the personnel of the British ministry, would hardly be of a nature to alter materially the course of its general policy.

But the late successive new arrangements are, as we just remarked, less likely to have this effect, than many preceding ones of a similar kind ; since they have all been formed upon the avowed principle of a union of parties, and a representation in the cabinet of all the various groupes and coteries, which compose the ruling aristocracy. Although the cabinet of Mr Canning contained a large infusion of whig materials, he was doubtless himself its inspiring soul and actual head, and continued to be, as he had hitherto been, a professed tory. The VOL. XXVII.NO. 60.

28

short lived administration of Lord Goderich was a mere continuation, on the smaller scale allowed by his Lordship’s inferior talents and feebler character, of that of Mr Canning. The late recomposition of the government by the Duke of Wellington, has no doubt been effected under an influence somewhat less friendly to the whigs, than the one which prevailed immediately before ; and the more tenacious and sensitive leaders of that party have again retired to the opposition benches. But the cabinet nevertheless maintains its coloring of impartiality, comprehending the most effective members of the two that preceded it, particularly Mr Huskisson and Lord Dudley; and has publicly pledged itself before the country and the world to pursue, on all material points, the policy of Mr Canning. It is evident therefore that the new arrangements, considered as a change of ministry, can have no very material or decisive results. Mr Peel may be somewhat less successful in calling forth alternately the smiles and tears of the faithful commons, than his brilliant predecessor ; while, on the other hand, the name of the conqueror of Waterloo, standing at the head of the government, will carry with it into the cabinets of all the continental powers far more weight, than the quiet appellations of Jenkinson or Liverpool. But the ordinary train of affairs, both foreign and domestic, will pursue substantially its former course. On the three great questions of internal policy, the finances, the corn laws, and concessions to the Catholics, there is no probability of any change. In the foreign relations, which consist at this moment in like manner of three principal branches, Spanish America, Portugal, and Turkey, the system of Mr Canning will doubtless be sustained with undiminished firmness, as respects the two first ; and should there be, as is not improbable, some variation from it in the third, it will not be the effect (rather one of the causes) of the last ministerial change, but in the main the result of unexpected events occurring abroad, which would have produced nearly the same operation upon the councils of the British cabinet under any minister. The extent and effects of this probable variation will come more naturally under our review, when we treat directly of the Greek question, in a subsequent part of this article.

The late movements in the British administration may therefore be viewed on the whole as of little importance to the general political system. They were occasioned by merely accidental causes, the attack of disease that prostrated Lord Liverpool, and the death of Mr Canning; and they do not indicate any change of policy in regard to the great interests of the country. When such changes do in fact take place under a government so strongly controlled by public opinion as that of England, they can have but little connexion with the caprice, or even the personal character and talent of individual statesmen, but must be owing to some corresponding change in the actual situation of the political world at home or abroad. The form and opportunity of particular measures may vary with the various tastes and powers of different ministers, which may produce in this way results of considerable importance; but the great ends (to reverse the illustration of Shakspeare) are in the main rough hewn by the Divinity,' who only leaves it to his mortal ministers to affect, in some slight degree, their shape and color.

A revolution of an essential kind, in the policy of the British

government, has actually taken place since the close of the late wars ; and the circumstances which occasioned it, as well as the manner in which it has steadily developed itself under the numerous and often abrupt and unexpected changes in the administration, singularly illustrate the correctness of the above remark in both its parts ; and show at once the degree to which the general policy of the kingdom is controlled by changes in the state of the political world, and the trifling extent to which the measures dictated by such changes are modified by the personal character of individual statesmen. We allude here, as the reader will of course perceive, to the retirement of Great Britain from the great despotic alliance of the Continent of Europe, and her adhesion to the liberal system which happily flourishes throughout our own.

This revolution, however important, was not the result of a change of ministry ; nor has it been the occasion of any one of the successive changes of this description which have taken place since it has been in progress. Great Britain, with a constitution founded substantially on free principles, had been led by circumstances, partly accidental, to engage with ardor and activity in a coalition, whose indirect results at least were adverse to liberty. The terror inspired by a common danger, real or supposed, first from the excesses of the French revolution, and afterwards from the military ambition of Napoleon, gave rise to this unnatural connexion, and sustained it firmly as long as the danger lasted. But when the repeated conquest of France by the

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »