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Netherlands, revolted and set up for themselves.—This was, of course, the signal for a war between the Belgians and Dutch ; and when we consider that the inhabitants of these two nations belong to different sects in religion, and have always been unfriendly and jealous, there was every reason to anticipate a fierce and embittered contest. It was easy to forsee, also, that France would speedily be embroiled on the part of the Belgians, and Prussia on the part of the Dutch ; a state of things which might be speedily followed by the unspeakable miseries of a general European war. No person in the least acquainted with the facts in the case, will presume to say that there was any reasonable prospect of avoiding a general war, except by the mediation and authority of a Conference of nations.—The Dutch felt themselves aggrieved, and were not disposed to listen to such terms as would have been acceptable and indispensable to the Belgians., The French nation were, from various circumstances, strongly attached to the Belgians, and would never have seen the Belgian provinces subdued without assistance. It was under these circumstances that the Conference or Congress of London assembled, with a determination to prevent a war in Europe, and at the same time secure a just arrangement of the existing difficulties between the two nations more im. mediately concerned. The result of their protracted and anxious deliberations was, that they settled the limits of the Dutch and Belgian territory, regulated the navigation of the rivers of Flanders, of the Scheldt, and of the canals traversing both countries; directed the method of payment to Holland of the expenses incurred by her since November 1, 1830; made provision for the disposal of their property by those who wished to emigrate from one country to the other ; established a Commission for the liquidation of claims ; and secured a gen
eral amnesty for past political offences, besides regulating other matters and securing other objects of a subordinate nature. And what friend of humanity will not rejoice at such wise and peaceful proceedures and results, which stopped the effusion of blood, and prevented a commotion among all the nations of Europe, which would have been attended with immeasurable horrors and sufferings ! There may be less of noise and eclat in these transactions, than if there had been an immediate resort to war and bloodshed, but in the eye of Heaven and in the eye of the philanthropist, they meet with their reward.
But it ought to be remarked that there is much difference between the proposed Congress of nations, and the greater part of the European Congresses which have ever been held. The latter have generally been formed on a small scale and limited to a few nations ; they have ordinarily been held in a time of war, and under all the unfavorable circumstances incident to a state of national hostility; and as might be expected from these facts, they have too often been employed merely as the means of relief from the present pressure and suffering, rather than for the promotion of permanent justice and peace. Now we propose a Congress on a broader scale ; one which shall include America with Europe, and neutrals as well as belligerents; which shall be the offspring of peaceful times and peaceful intentions ; which shall have a prospective bearing and shall powerfully tend to prevent evils, as well as remedy those which have already occurred. Instead of an imperfectly organized body, the occasional result of violent and protracted conflicts between nations, we wish to establish a tribunal on benevolent, just, and fixed principles, to which the whole world may resort on difficult emergencies, which would otherwise result in war. And if beneficial
results have undoubtedly followed from the successive European Congresses, we may rationally expect, under more favorable auspices, an augmentation of benefits ; and that the record of history will run, not merely that such and such a war was terminated by a Congress, but that the Congress prevented the occurrence of the war.
CIRCUMSTANCES FAVORABLE TO AN INTERNATIONAL CON
It must be obvious to every one, that the circumstances of the age, in which we live, are favorable to the projected Congress. Some of these favorable circumstances we will proceed to notice.
-And one of the most striking, which arrests our attention, is the great advancement of the people in nearly all civilized nations in power. Hardly a century ago, and nearly all power, with the exception of a few unimportant republics, was lodged in the hands of the supreme executive, the prince, king, or emperor. It seems to have been a general sentiment, and to have been generally acted on, that the prince was born to rule, and that the people were created merely to obey. In the public and political measures, which were taken, whether for
good or for evil, the people but seldom came into the account, and were but little thought of. But an unexampled change has taken place in these respects. Within a century past there has been a most wonderful diffusion of general knowledge. In particular there has been a rapid progress in civil and political knowledge ; and it is probably in this species of their advancement in knowledge, that we are to look for the explanation of the people’s rapid advancement in political power. In the nature of things it seemed impossible, that they should understand the true foundation of civil and political rights, and not understand the secret of their own strength. They clearly saw, if thrones had any foundation at all, they were built upon the people's will. If principalities and dominions arose above them like mountains, they felt in their own bosoms the kindlings of the volcano, which could expand, and shake them to atoms. But the people, having come to a right understanding and full perception of their power, have seldom been disposed to exercise it in any exceptionable way, provided suitable and seasonable attention has been paid to their rights. Sometimes their strong desires for freedom and representative government have broken out in acts of violence, but generally they have preferred to wait with a patient, yet confident hope in the ultimate consummation of their wishes.-Sometimes their wishes have not only been acceded to, but their rights have been explicitly acknowledged in the concession. Sometimes constitutions have been given by the sovereign under the denomination of octroyees or grants ; but the mere mode of the presentation is of but minor consequence, since such constitutions or grants are evidently extorted by the wants and desires of the people, and when carefully examined, they will be found to involve all the requisites of a contract between the sovereign and subject. In ma
ny other cases the people have had a direct agency in forming them. During the last half century, besides some temporary and abortive attempts, there have been more than eighty new written Constitutions established in Europe and America ; and about one hundred millions of people are said to be ruled by them.
II, Another favorable circumstance is the great progress, which has been made in the various departments of science and the arts. The situation of the world in this respect is very different from what it was a few centuries ago. If scientific knowledge is power in other respects, it is power also, (which is perhaps not quite so obvious at first,) in respect to the political movements of the world. The control, which man, in the exercise of the powers Providence has given him, has been able to obtain over the various forms and energies and processes of nature, has reacted upon himself, and accelerated his civilization. He has ascended rapidly in the scale of being, and with feelings of worthy pride looks downward on his former low estate.
In these remarks it will be observed, that we have not reference so much to the general spirit of inquiry and general diffusion of knowledge, which has already been spoken of, as to advancement in particular arts and sciences, and to discoveries in them of a marked and prominent character. We may perhaps illustrate what we mean by a reference to the discovery of the properties of steam, and the application of those“ properties to purposes of navigation. It must be obvious, that these discoveries and inventions have in effect brought provinces and nations much nearer to each other, than they ever were before ; and while they have rendered much more rapid and easier the intercourse of men with each other, they have at the same time greatly increased that intercourse. By means of steamboats, canals, railroads, and