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THE ARISTOCRACY OF ENGLAND,

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ever.

Both the nobility and gentry of servation in the present, which he sees this country stand upon a basis so as contrasted with the past which he entirely peculiar, that, were it for that reads of. It is in that way only that cause only, we could not greatly won. we English know any thing of our der at the perverse misconstructions own past habits. Sume of these are upon these institutions so prevalent brought forward indirectly in the evi. abroad. Indeed the peculiarity of our dence upon judicial trials-some in aristocracy is so effectual for obscurity, dramatic scenes ; and, as happened in that we also, as a nation, are ignorant the case of Athenæus, we see English upon much which marks it character- historians, at periods of great consciistically ; our own ignorance parily ous revolution, (Holinshed, for in. explains, and partly has caused, the stance,* whose youth had passed in the continental ignorance. Could it, in. church reformation,) exerting theme deed, be expected that any people selves to recover, through old men's should be sensible of their own pecu- recollections, traditions of a social life liarities as peculiarities? Of all men, which they felt to be passing away for for instance, a Persian would be the Except, however, in these two last man from whom we could reason. cases, the one indirect, the other by ably look for an account of Persia; accident, coinciding with an epoch of because those habits of Persians as great imporiance, we find little in the Orientals, as Mussulmans, and as he- way of description, or philosophic exretic Mussulmans, which would chiefly amination, toward any sustained record fix the attention of Europeans, must of English civilization as intermitting be unexciting to the mind of a native. from one era to another, and periodi

And universally we know that, in cally resumed. The same truth holds every community, the features which good of civilization on the Continent, would most challenge attention from and for the same reason, viz. that no a stranger, have been those which nation describes itself, or can do so. the natives systematically have ne- To see an object you must not stand glected. If, but for two days' resi- in its centre; your own station must dence, it were possible that a modern be external. The eye cannot see itEuropean could be carried back to self, nor a mechanic force measure itRome and Roman society, what a bar self, as if it were its own resistance. vest of interesting facts would he reap It is easy, therefore, to understand as to ihe habits of social intercourse! why, amongst the writers of any given Yet these are neglected by Roman nation, we are least entitled to look for writers, as phenomena too familiar, an account of the habits or separate which there was no motive for noticing. institutions distinguishing that nation: Why should a man notice as a singu- since the stimulation of difference least larity what every man witnesses daily of all exists for those who never see as an experience? A satirist, like Jus that difference broadly relieved in advenal, is obliged, indeed, to notice verse habits or institutions. To such particular excesses: but this is done nation its own aristocracy, like its own obliquely, and so far only as to iden- climate, seems a positive fact, neither tify the case he means; besides that good nor bad, and worthy of little no. often they are caricatured. Or an tice, as apparently open to little im.. antiquarian observer, like Athenæus, provement. And yet to each nation finds, after ten centuries of social life its own aristocracy is often the arbiamongst the same race, a field of ob- trating cause, but always the exponent

An introduction, prefixed to Holinshed, descriptive of domestic life amongst the English, as it may be presumed to have existed for the century before. (1450-1550,) was written (according to our recollection) by Harrison, Almost a century earlier, We have Chief Justice Fortescue's account of the French peasantry, a record per

anti, phrasin of ihe English. About the great era of 1688, we have the sketch of contemporary Euglish civilization by Chamberlayne. So rare and distant are the glimpses which we obtain of ourselves at different periods.

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or index of its future political welfare. poor forsaken peasantry, incapable of Laws are important; administration political combination, who could not of laws is important; to be Protestant make a national party in the absence or Popish is important; and so of of their natural leaders. Now, if we many other agencies : but, as was adopt the mild temperament of some said by Harrington in his Oceana, Spanish writers, calling this “ there is something in the original idea schism in the natural interests," how and in the executive composition of a shocking that such a schism could gentry which cannot be created arti. have arisen at so dreadful a crisis ! ficially, and (if wanting) cannot be That schism, which, as a fact, is urged, supplied by substitution. Upon the in the way of excuse, merely as a posquality of an aristocracy in critical peri. sibility, is already itself the opproods, in those periods when the nation- brium for Spain never to be washed al stability is menaced by revolution, out. For in Spain, what was the or the national independence by ag. aristocracy? Let us not deceive our. gression, depends the national salva- selves, by limiting this term to the tion. Let us lay before the reader an feudal nobility or grandees; the arisillustration.

tocracy comprehended every man that It is our deliberate conviction, that would naturally have become a confrom the foundations of civil society, missioned officer in the army. Here, human anpals present no second case therefore, read the legend and superof infamy equal to that which is pre- scription of the national dishonour: sented by the condition of Spain and The Spanish people found themselves Portugal from the year 1807 up to our without a gentry for leading their own immediate era. It is a case the armies. England possessed, and posmore interesting, because two opposite sesses a gentry, the noblest that the verdicts have heen pronounced upon world has seen, who are the natural it by men of the greatest ability leaders of her intrepid commonalty, amongst ourselves. Some, as the pre- alike in her fleets and in her arınies. sent and the late Laureate, have found But why? How and in what sense in the Peninsular struggle with Na- qualified ? Not only by principle and poleon, the very perfection of popular by honour-that glorious distinction grandeur; others, agreeing with our- which poor men can appreciate, even selves, have seen in this pretended when less sternly summoned to its struggle nothing but the last extrava. duties; not only by courage as fiery gance of thrasonic and impotent na- and as passively enduring as the courtional arrogance. Language more age of the lower ranks, but by a phyfrantically inflated, and deeds more sical robustness superior to that of farcically abject, surely were never any other class taken separately; and, before united. It seems therefore above all, by a scale of accomplishstrange, that a difference, even thus ments in education, which strengthen far, should exist between Englishmen the claim to command, even amongst standing upon the same facts, starting that part of the soldiery least capable from the same principles. But per. of appreciating such advantages. In haps, as egards Mr Wordsworth, he France again, where no proper aristodid not allow enough for the long cracy now exists, there is, however, series of noxious influences under a gentry, qualified for leading; the which Spain had suffered. And this, soldiers have an entire reliance on the at any rate, is notorious-he spoke of courage of their officers. But in the Spanish people, the original stock Italy, in Spain, in Portugal, at the (unmodified by courtly usages, or fo- period of Napoleon, the soldiers knew reign sentiments, or city habits) of the to a certainty that their officers could Spanish peasantry and petty rural not be depended on; and for a reason proprietors. This class, as distin. absolutely without remedy, viz. that guished from the aristocracy, was the in Spain, at least, society is not so class he relied on; and he agreed organized by means of the press lowith us in looking upon the Spanish cally diffused, and by social interaristocracy as traitors—that is, as re- course, as that an officer's reputation creants and apostates—from any and could be instantaneously propagated every cause meriting the name of na. (as with us) whitbersoever he went. tional. If he found a moral gran- There was then no atmosphere of deur in Spain, it was ainongst that public opinion, for sustaining public

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judgments and public morals. The respect, were still sound at the heart; result was unparalleled; here for the they felt the whole sorrow of their first time was seen a nation, fourteen own degradation; and that they would millions strong, so absolutely palsied have fought, was soon proved in the as to lie down and suffer itself to be case of the Portuguese, when we lent walked over by a body of foreigners, them officers and training ; as it was entering in the avowed character of proved also thirty years afterwards in robbers. Colonel Napier, it is true, the case of the Spaniards, when Don has contradicted himself with regard Carlos, in a time of general peace, obto the value of the guerillas ; alter- tained good officers from.every part of nately rid uling them as an imbecile Europe. Each country was forced force, and yet accrediting them as into redeeming itself by the overflow. neutralizers of regular armies, to an ing upon it of a foreign gentry. And enormous amount. But can a more yet, even at the moment of profounddeplorable record be needed of Spa. est degradation, such was the maniacal nish ignominy, than that a nation, vanity still prevailing amongst the once the leader of Europe as to infan. Spaniards, that at one time the Sutry and military skill, should, by mere preme Junta forwarded the following default of an intrepid gentry, be proposal to the British Government:thrown upon the necessity of a bri- Men they had; their own indepengand force ? Equally abject was the dence of foreign aid, in that sense, they state of Portugal. Let any man read had always asserted; money it was, the French general Foy's account of and not armies, which they needed ; the circumstances under which Junot's and they now proposed an arrangevan, separated by some days' march ment, by which the Spanish armies, from the rest of the army, entered as so notoriously the heroes of Eu. Lisbon in 1807. The rural popula- rope, should be rendered universally tion of Portugal, in most provinces, disposable for the task of facing the is a fine athletic race; and foreigners French in the field, whilst the British take a false estimate of this race, from (as confessedly unequal to duties so the depraved mnob of Lisbon. This stern) should be entrusted with the capital, however, at that time, con- garrison duty of the fortresses. « Illa tained 60,000 fighting men, a power. se jactet in aulâ Anglia ;” and, since the ful fortress, and ships in the river. help of the English navy (which Yet did Junot make his entry with really was good) would be available 6000 of the poorest troops, in a phy- as to the maritime fortresses, doubtsical sense, that Europe could show. less England might have a chance for Foy admits, that the majority were justifying the limited confidence repoor starveling boys, who could posed in her, when sheltered from the scarcely hold their muskets from cold fiercer storms of war by the indomiand continual wet, hurried by forced table lions of Ocana. It is supermarches, ill fed, desponding, and al- fluous to say, that the gratitude of most ripe for the hospital. Vast Spain, at the close of the war, was crowds bad assembled to see the en- every thing that ought to have been try. " What!” exclaimed the Por- expected from this moonstruck vatuguese, are these little drowned nity at its opening. rats the élite of Napoleon's armies ?” Such are the results for nations, Inevitably, the very basest of nations, when they betray to the whole world would, on such an invitation to resist. an aristocracy bankrupt of honour, ance, have risen that same night, emasculated, and slothful. Spoliators whilst the poor, childish, advanced 80 reckless as Napoleon, are not alguard was already beaten to their ways at hand for taking advantage of hands. The French officers appre- this domestic ruin; but it is impossihended such an attempt, but nothing ble that a nation, absolutely rich as happened; the faint hearted people Spain was in the midst of her relative threw away this golden opportunity, poverty, can advertise itself for cen. never to be retrieved. And why? turies as a naked, defenceless waif, Because they had no gentry to lead, having neither leaders nor principles to rally, or to coupsel them. The for organizing a resistance, but ihat populace in both countries, though eventually she will hear of a customiserably deteriorated by the long de. mer for her national jewels. In reafect of an aristocracy whom they could lity, Spain had been protected for

excuse.

150 years, by the local interposition of our aristocracy, the basis on which of France; had France not occupied it reposes cannot be better introduced the antechamber to the Peninsula, than by a literary fact open to all the making it impossible for any but a world, but never yet read in its true maritime power to attack Spain in meaning. When it became advisable, strength, Madrid would have echoed after the violent death of Charles I., to the cannon of the spoiler, at least a that some public exposure should be century before the bloody 3d of May applied to the past disputes between 1808.* In the same way, Austria the Throne and the Parliament, and has furnished for centuries a screen some account given of the royal to the Italian Peninsula. Yet, in that policy-the first question arose natucase, the want of unity amongst so rally upon the selection of a writer many subdivisions that were indepen- having the proper qualifications. Two dent states, might be pleaded as an of these qualifications were found in

Pitiable weakness there was a French scholar of distinction, Mon. in both cases; and “to be weak is to sieur de Saumaise, better known by be miserable;' but degradation by his Latinized name of Salmasius. He degradation, universal abasement of was undoubtedly a scholar of prodithe national energies, as an effect gious attainments: and the first or through wilful abasement as a cause ; unconditional qualification for such a this miserable spectable has been ex- task, of great ability and extensive in. hibited in mellow maturity by no formation, could not be denied to him. Christian nations but those of Spain Here was a subject fitted to fix atten. and Portugal. Both have degene- tion upon any writer, and on the other rated into nations of poltrons, and hand, a writer brilliantly qualified to from what ancestors ? From those fix attention upon any subject. Unwho once headed the baptized in Eu. happily, a third indispensable condi. rope, and founded empires in the other tion, viz.--that the writer should perhemisphere.

sonally know England-was entirely “ Into what depth thou see'st,

overlooked. Salmasius bad a fluent From what height fallen!”.

command of Latin ; and, supported

by a learned theme, he generally left So that, if this gloomy shadow has a dazzling impression even upon those crept over luminaries once so briglit who hated his person, or disputed his through the gradual eclipse of their conclusions. But, coming into colliaristocracies, we need no proof more sion with politics, personal as well as pathetic or terrific of the degree in speculative, and with questions of real which great nations, with the whole life, fitted to call for other accomplishburden of their honour and their ments than those of a recluse scholar, primary interests, are dependent, in it seemed probable that this great clas. the final extremity, upon the quality sical critic would be found pedantic of their gentry-considered as their and scurrilous; and upon the affairs sole natural leaders in battle,

of so peculiar a people, it was certain Wish this previous indication of that he would be found ignorant and the unrivalled responsibility pressing self-contradicting. Even Englishmen upon aristocracies, it is our purpose have seldom thoroughly understood to dwell a little upon those accidents the feud of the great Parliamentary of advantage arising out of constitu- war: the very word " rebellion," so tion, and those differences of quality, often applied to it, involves the error experimentally made known to us in of presuming that in its principles the a thousand trials, which sum and ex- war was unconstitutional, and in its press the peculiarities of the British objects was finally defeated. Whereas nobility and gentry.

the subsequent Revolution of 1688-9, This first point, as to the constitution was but à resumprion of the very

• To say the truth, during the Marlborou war of the Succession, and precisely one kundred years before Murat's bloody occupation of Madrid, Spain presented the game infamous speciacle as under Napoleon; armies of strangers, English, French, Germans, marching, and counter-marching incessantly, peremptorily disposing of the Spanish crown, alternately placing rival kings upon the throne, and all the while no more deferring to a Spanish will than to the yelping of village curs.

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same 'principles and indispensable and became the garrulous parrot that purposes under more advantageous Milton represents him. Yet, strange auspices-was but a re-affirmation of it is, that the capital blunder which the principle votes from 1642 to 1645. he makes upon this subject, was not The one capital point of a responsi- perceived by Milton. And this rebility, virtual though not formal, ciprocal misunderstanding equally lodged in the crown, and secured in the pre- occupation of through a responsible ministry—this their minds by the separate princigreat principle, which Charles J. ples on which, for each side, were once conceded in the case of Lord founded their separate aristocracies. Strafford, but ever afterwards to his The confusion between the parties dying day repented and abjured, was arose in connexion with the House of at length for ever established, and

Commons.

What was the House of almost by acclamation. In a case so Commons ? Salmasius saw that it was povel, however, to Englishmen, and contrasted with the House of Lords. as yet so upsettled, could it be looked But then, again, what were the Lords: for that a foreigner should master new The explanation given to bim was, political principles, to a hich on the that they were the " noblesse" of the Continent there was nothing analo- land. That he could understand; and, gous? * This, it may be alleged, was of course, if the other house were an. not looked for. Salmasius was in the tithetically opposed to the Lords, it hands of a party ; and his prejudices, followed that the House of Commons it may be thought, were confluent with was not composed of noblesse. But, theirs. Not altogether. The most on the Continent, this was equivalent enlightened of the English royalists to saying, that the Commons were were sensible of some call for a ba- roturiers, bourgeois in fact, mechanio lance to the regal authority ; it can. persons, of obscure families, occupied not be pretended that Hyde, Ormond, in the lowest employments of life. or Southampton, wished their king Accordingly Salmasius wrote his whole to be the fierce “ lo el rey" (so point work under the most serene conviction edly disowning his council) of Cas. that the English House of Commons tile, or the “ L'état? C'est moiof was tantamount to a Norwegian StorFrance, some few years later. Even thing, viz. a gathering from the illis for a royalist, it was requisite in Eng. terate and labouring part of the nation. land to profess some popular doctrines; This blunder was committed in per and thus far Salmasius fell below his fect sincerity. And there was no clients. But his capital disqualifica- opening for light; because a conti. tion lay in his defect of familiarity nual sanction was given to this error with the English people, habits, laws, by the aristocratic scorn which the and history,

cavaliers of ancient descent habitually The English aristocracy furnished applied to the prevailing party of the a question for drawing all these Roundheads; which may be seen to large varieties of ignorance to a focus. this hour in all the pasquinades upon In coming upon the ground of Eog. Cromwell, though realiy in his own Jish institutions, Salmasius necessa- neighbourhood a gentleman of worrily began “ verba nostra conari," sbip.” But for Salmasius it was a

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* It may be thouglit, indeed, that as a resident in Holland, Salmasius should have bad a glimpse of the new truth; and certainly it is singular that he did not perceive the rebound, upon bis Dutch protectors, of many amongst his own virulent passages against the English; unless he fancied some special privilege for Dutch rebellion. But in fact he did so. There was a notion in great curreney at the time--that any state whatever was eternally pledged and committed to the original holdings of its settlement. Whatever had been its earliest tenure, that tenure continued to be bind. ing through all ages. An elective kingdom had ihus some indirect means for controlling its sovereign. A republic was a nuisance, perhaps, but protected by prescription. And in this way even France had authorized means, through old usages of courts or incorporations, for limiting the royal authority as tơ certain known trifles. With respect to the Netherlands, the king of Spain had never held absolute power in those provinces. All these were privileged cases for résistance. But England was held to be & egal despotism,

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