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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 6


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The great condemnation of Hastings, and the great justification of Burke, are to be found in the events of our own times. We have reaped the fruits of the system which Hastings boasted that he had organised. " Every division of official business," he said, in his defence in Westminster Hall, " and every department of government which now exists in Bengal, with only such exceptions as have been occasioned by the changes of authority enacted from home, are of my formation. The establishment formed for the administration of the revenue, the institution of the courts of justice, civil and criminal, in Bengal and its dependencies; the form of government established for the province of Benares, with all its dependent branches of revenue, commerce, judicature, and military defence; the arrangements created for the subsidy and defence of the province of Oude, every political connection and alliance, were created by me."

And what has been the fruit of this system; this oppression of the people, this spoliation of princes, and absorption of their principalities; this smothering of Indian proceedings at home? We see them in the most terrible revolt of the native Indian army, the most frightful massacres that ever were perpetrated in any age. The words of Sir John Malcolm have been fully verified. Whilst it is still asserted that the population at large had no concern in this military revolt, Sir John Malcolm, a man thoroughly acquainted with the interior workings of the Indian system, telJs us that, in his day, and in all periods of our Indian empire, the people had continually said to the sepoys, " You are many; our oppressors are few - murder them! murder them! " They have at length done it: the crimes and the maladministration of the East India Company, still acting on the institutions and the traditions of Clive and Hastings, are filled up, and the nation has been compelled to take to the administration of India, with seventy millions of debt! and with financial and political embarrassments which are almost, if not altogether, insurmountable. Had the voice of Burke been listened to; had such men as Hastings been punished instead of applauded, the race of harpies who have battened on the blood of India, and prepared disgrace and difficulty for their mother country before all the world, would have long ago been cut off. The abandonment of moral principle, under the temptations of a proud and selfish but fatal policy, have, in this instance, produced those consequences which are inevitable in the long - run of a righteous Providence.

We have now to return to the year 1791, and to record the effects which the contagion of French principles of liberty were producing in England. The publication of Burke's " Reflections on the French Revolution " had caused an immense sensation. It went through edition after edition, and elicited a warm and wide response in hearts already convinced of, or beginning to see, the real tendency of the French outbreak. On the other hand, it greatly exasperated the ultra-admirers of French republicanism, and produced a number of vindications of it by men who, for the most part, were exceedingly bitter against Burke, and denounced him as an apostate, a renegade, and a traitor to liberty. Amongst the most conspicuous of those who took the field against Burke in books were Sir James Mackintosh, Thomas Paine, Dr. Price, and Dr. Priestley, the two latter of whom also made free use of the pulpit for the propagation of their political ideas. Ladies also distinguished themselves in this contest, as Mary Wollstonecraft and Mrs. Macaulay, the historian.

Mackintosh, who was a young lawyer of excellent education, but yet entirely unknown, this year published his "Vindiciae Gallicse," in reply to Burke; but he did it with the behaviour of a gentleman, and evident admiration of the genius and political services of the great man whom he opposed. His book was immensely admired, and at once lifted him into notice. But it was not long before he began; to see the correctness of Burke's views and prognostics of the French revolution, and he did not shrink from avowing 1 the alteration of his sentiments in the Monthly Review and; in conversation. His talents, and this alteration of his views, recommended him to the ministers, and he was appointed by Pitt and Loughborough a professor of Lincoln's Inn, where, in a course of lectures on the constitution of England, he exhibited himself as an uncompromising censor of the doctrines he had approved in his " Vindicise Gallicse." For this he was classed, by the vehement worshippers of French ideas, with Burke, as a venal turncoat. Mackintosh did not content himself with recanting his opinions on this topic from the platform and the press; he wrote directly to Burke, who was now fast sinking under his labours and his disappointments, and expressed his undisguised admiration of his sagacity as a politician, and of his general principles and political philosophy. Burke invited him down to Beaconsfield, where a closer view of the philosopher and orator greatly increased his esteem and admiration of the man.

Paine, in his " Rights of Man," was far from restricting himself to the courtesies of life in attacking Burke. He had been most hospitably received by Burke, on many occasions, at his house, and had corresponded with him, and must, therefore, have seen sufficient of him to know that, though he might become extremely enthusiastic in his championship of certain views, he could never become mean or dishonest. Yet Paine did not hesitate to attribute to him the basest and most sordid motives. He branded him as the vilest and most venal of apostates. Paine had, in fact, become a monomaniac in republicanism. He had been engaged to the last in the American revolution, and was now living in Paris, and constantly attending the Jacobin club. He was hand in hand with the most rabid of the republicans, and was fast imbibing their anti-christian tenets. Paine fully believed that the French were inaugurating something much finer than any millennium; that they were going to establish the most delightful liberty, equality, and fraternity, not simply throughout France, but throughout the world. Before the doctrines of the French clubbists and journalists, all superstition, all despotism, all unkindness were to vanish amongst mankind, and a paradisiacal age of love and felicity was to commence. To those who pointed to the blood and fury already too prominently conspicuous in this business, he replied that these were but the dregs of corrupt humanity, which were working off in the great fermentation, and all would become clear and harmonious.

He did not hesitate to criticise the style of Burke, which certainly is very flowery and diffuse. " I know," he wrote, " a place in America called Point-no-Point; because, as you proceed along the shore, gay and flowery as Mr. Burke's language, it continually recedes, and presents itself at a distance before you; but, when you have got as far as you can go, there is no point at all. Just thus it is with Mr. Burke's three hundred and fifty-six pages." He was very caustic on Burke's exclamation, that chivalry was gone. Paine thought that the world was well rid of chivalry, and would be well rid of its parent, aristocracy. Aristocracy of any kind, he said, was either a very contemptible or a very oppressive thing, and that he had heard La Fayette say that the English house of lords was a corporation of aristocracy, and a very improper corporation to have in a free and enlightened country like France. It was ridiculous of Mr. Burke to hold up the English constitution to the French, who believed that there was just enough liberty in England to enslave a country more effectually than by open despotism. That the only thing was for England to follow the example of France, which it must soon do. The established church and the aristocracy of England were ripe for destruction; and, when the people had destroyed them, then they might call themselves free, and be prosperous and happy; thriving every man of them upon the spoils of the church, the nobility, and the squirearchy, whose possessions had been acquired by plundering the people, and too often by murdering them. He said that nothing could be so terrible to a court or an aristocracy as the revolution of France. That which is a blessing to nations is bitterness to them; and, as their existence depends on the duplicity of a country, they tremble at the approach of principles, and dread the precedent that threatens their overthrow. The work of Paine was immensely read by the lower classes in this country, and gave great alarm to government.

Amongst those who hailed enthusiastically the French revolution, and gave credit to its utmost promises of benefit to humanity, were a considerable number of the dissenting body, and especially of the unitarian class. Amongst these, Drs. Price, Priestley, Kippis, and Towers were most prominent. We have seen Dr. Price, who was noted for his powers of calculation, furnishing Pitt with the theory of the sinking fund, and with other propositions of reform. On the breaking out of the French revolution, Price was one of the first to respond to it with acclamation. He was a member of the revolution society, and, in 1789, he preached before it a sermon on " The Love of our Country," and in this drew so beautiful a picture of the coming happiness of man, from the French revolution, that he declared that he was ready to exclaim with Zacharias, " Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." At the dinner on the same occasion, he moved that a congratulatory address be sent to the national assembly on that glorious event, which was seconded by lord Stanhope, the chairman, and which was sent, and received with great acclamation by the national assembly. Burke was very severe on Price, as well as on his coadjutors, in his " Reflections;" and, as Price died this year, it was said that the u Reflections " had killed him, which, were it true, could not be said to have done it very prematurely, for the doctor was in his seventieth year.

But far more remarkable were the effects of the championship of French principles in the celebrated Dr. Joseph Priestley. Priestley was now nearly sixty years of age - a time of life when men rarely become great enthusiasts in any cause. He was a unitarian minister, who had, in that character, lived in various places, but was now the pastor of a congregation at Birmingham. He was well known for various theological writings, in which he had announced his doubts of the immateriality of the sentient principle in man, especially in his "Disquisition on Matter and Spirit." He had been tutor to Lord Shelburne, first Lord Lansdowne; but had quitted that post, as supposed, in consequence of the objection of lord Shelburne to these principles, retaining, however, an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a-year. But Priestley was far more known and esteemed for his researches and discoveries in natural philosophy, especially in electricity, chemistry, and pneumatics. He published a " History of Electricity," which had procured his election as a member of the Royal Society, and the degree of doctor of laws from Edinburgh. These works had acquired a European reputation, and had induced the French Academy of Sciences to elect him an associate. They had likewise brought him into a correspondence with several of the men of science and literature in France, who were almost all atheists or deists, and decided advocates of the changes going on there. Priestley, who was, besides, a zealous controversialist on religious subjects, was one of the first to attack Burke's "Reflections." In his "Letters to Burke," Priestley was particularly severe on him for his caustic strictures on his old fellow-believer, Dr. Price. These letters put the climax to the spirit of animosity which was already very hot against Priestley amongst the orthodox and the tory inhabitants of Birmingham and its neighbourhood. In his " Introductory Dissertation to Hartley's Observations on Man," his "History of the Corruptions of Christianity," and his " Familiar Letters " to the inhabitants of Birmingham, in refutation of the charges by the Rev. Mr. Madan against the unitarians, Priestley had induced the clergy and magistrates to regard him as little better than an atheist, and he had in them avowed his decided opposition to the union of church and state. On this subject, Dr. Horsley had taken the field against him, and a fierce controversy had raged between them, carried on with much heat and little courtesy on both sides. In 1787 he had issued some severe letters against the exclusion of his " History of the Corruptions of Christianity " from the public library of Birmingham, though controversial works were freely admitted, and even professed refutations of his works. Certainly, the doctor, under such circumstances, had a right to complain. Works of controversy ought to have been wholly excluded, or fairly admitted, on each side of disputed points. But such was not the spirit of the church and tory parties of that day. Orthodoxy and toryism were extremely rampant in Birmingham, and Priestley was regarded as the very patriarch and champion of socinianism and republicanism. There wanted only a spark to fire trains of fierce intolerance against Priestley and his party, and, unfortunately, this was furnished by themselves. They resolved to celebrate, by a dinner, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille, on the 14th of July.

A few days before that date a hand-bill was circulated, addressed to the people. There was no signature or printer's name attached, although it ran thus, in the first person: - " My countrymen, the second year of Gallic liberty is nearly expired. At the commencement of the third, on the 14th of this month, it is devoutly to be wished that every enemy to civil and religious despotism should give his sanction to the majestic common cause by a public celebration of the anniversary. Remember that on the 14th of July the Bastille - that High Altar and Castle of Despotism' - fell! Remember the enthusiasm peculiar to the cause of liberty with which it was attacked! Remember the generous humanity that taught the oppressed, groaning under the weight of insulted rights, to save the lives of oppressors! Extinguish the mean prejudices of nations, and let your numbers be collected and sent as a free-will offering to the national assembly. But is it possible to forget that your own parliament is venal? your ministers hypocritical? your clergy legal oppressors? the reigning family extravagant? the crown of a certain great personage becoming every day too weighty for the head that wears it? too weighty for the people who gave it? your taxes partial and excessive? your representation a cruel insult upon the sacred rights of property, religion, and freedom? But, on the 14th of this month, prove to the political sycophants of the day that you reverence the olive branch; that you will sacrifice to public tranquillity till the majority shall exclaim, 4 The peace of slavery is worse than the war of freedom!' Of that moment, let tyrants beware!"

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 6

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