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don't anticipate Providence, wait upon God; and as caution sometimes is a virtue, and much oftener than rashness leads to a safe result, so we find that, after the event, when it has happened to turn out in his favour, the doubt and the delay of a weak man, whom nature never equipped to sit upon a throne, becomes, in the courtly style of episcopal and bureaucratic eulogisers, the most rare wisdom and the most prophetic intuition. Bishop Eylert, professing as he does to abstain altogether from the difficult science of politics, descants nevertheless with considerable pomp of words, on the extraordinary sagacity of Frederick William in 1811 and 1812, when all his best advisers and the substantial men in his service were eager for a league with Russia; but this lauded perspicacity of royal vision was in fact nothing more than the same spirit of doubt and indecision that had brought the same sovereign, to his own utter shame and ruin, to refrain from war in 1799 and 1805, nothing higher than the vulgar instinct of choosing the side which seems the safer for the day, and waiting the moment when a man may afford to act rashly at the least possible risk to his own flesh. The king waited in 1811 till he had seen what 1812 might produce. The thing produced happened to be the thing desired; but what if the contrary had chanced?-what if Napoleon (a thing certainly within the fairest range of probability) had succeeded as well against the modern Scythians' as Alexander the Great did against the ancient ?where was Prussia then? Bound neck and heel at the foot of haughty Gaul, with the one favourable opportunity of shaking off the hated yoke, lost perhaps for ever. Let us hear, therefore, no more empty laudations of the politital sagacity of Frederick William III., in 1811, or at any other period. He understood Luther, and the Lutheran liturgy; but he did not understand politics. Not even in 1808, when he made Baron Stein his minister, and forged his famous Agrarian Law, was Frederick William III. a great legislator; nor in 1811, when he made Blücher, and Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau his generals, was he a great commander; but in both cases greatness was forced upon him; in the one case by the battle of Jena, in the other case by the people of Prussia, and he received it (to this praise he is well entitled) in both cases not ungraciously.

There is one more point yet remaining, and it is a sad one. The King of Prussia, in his private character, was, as we have seen, remarkable for nothing more than for his plain, direct, unvarnished manner, and for his love of truth. But in his public character we see him publicly arraigned by his own people as a de

* Vol. i., p. 32.

His Promise of a Constitution.

369

ceiver and a liar; as a person at least who, on the pledge of certain solemn promises, induced his people to hazard their lives for his safety, and then, when that safety was secured, found it inconvenient to attempt the fulfilment of the self-imposed obligation. The matter is well known, and does not require any detailed exhibition in this place. We merely state it as a fact known to all who take any interest in continental politics, that in the year 1808, under the pressure of necessity, Frederick William III. called men to his counsels who were of decidedly liberal opinions, and originated not a few measures of a decidedly popular character; that under the fresh impulse and salutary inspiration of these measures, the tremendous struggle of 1813, was begun and carried to a successful conclusion chiefly by the efforts of Blücher, Gneisenau, and the Prussian PEOPLE, emphatically so called; and that in furtherance of these popular measures, and under the influence of that liberal inspiration, the late King of Prussia, in May, 1815 (in anticipation of the renewed contest at Waterloo), gave a deliberate public promise to his people that he would grant them a representative constitution in conformity with the demands of the age. Now it Now it is quite true that promises of this kind relating to complex social changes, even when given with the most honest purpose, and acted upon with the most zealous diligence, cannot be fulfilled, for the most part, so soon as either party would desire; but it is equally certain that the space of twenty-five years-a quarter of a century-is long enough for an absolute monarch of ordinary vigour and determination, in ordinary circumstances, to take steps for carrying his expressed will into execution. Frederick William III., however, lived exactly a quarter of a century after the giving of this public pledge, in the midst of his loyal subjects at Berlin, and Europe still looks in vain for the assembling of a national parliament on the banks of the Spree, and for the re-echoing of a free popular voice from the Rhine to the Niemen. So far from this, we have seen Prussia since the paltry proceeding against the students in 1817, closely banded with Metternich, Gentz, and the other minions of Kaizer Franz at Frankfort, in what we cannot designate otherwise than as a secret conspiracy to rob the German people of their dear-bought political liberties, and to reduce the royal word* of the King of Prussia, in its practical operation, as

* "Charles I. sent a message to parliament wherein he desired the houses' charity to let him know whether they will rest upon his royal promise in favour of their liberties; which promise he had made at several times, and chiefly by the lord keeper's speech made in his own presence. If they rely on it, he assured them it should be really and royally performed."-Hume

It seems to be implied here that the word of a king, like that of a Quaker, is as good as another man's oath. Let history be consulted.

VOL. XXXVI. NO. LXXII.

2 B

much as possible, to a mockery and a SHAM. mockery and a SHAM. The conclusion from all this is, that his late majesty, in the matter of the constitution, was either a liar meaning purposely to deceive, or a political weakling unable to carry his own plans into execution, and shrinking dastardly from the spirit which himself had raised. The former supposition is altogether inconsistent with his known character; there remains only the latter; and it is a supposition in perfect consistency both with his previous political conduct, and with the opinion of Napoleon already quoted, that in political matters his late majesty was the child of circumstance and the slave of necessity; not to be trusted unless when the arm of chastisement stood ready uplifted to enforce a prompt and a decided obedience. The same pliability of temper, that after the battle of Jena, when the aristocratic party failed him, threw the royal pleasure of Prussia into the hands of Stein and other constitutional reformers, did, after Waterloo, prepare him, as swiftly as decency would allow, for sinking back into the arms of the old bureaucratic party that now, when the storm had been weathered by better men, dexterously played themselves back into place. Once in possession of the royal ear, these men had no difficulty in conjuring up a thousand phantoms of conspiracies and convulsions, rebellions and revolutions, to work upon his large organ of caution and conservativeness; and though they could not induce him, being an honest man, deliberately to recall his word, they supplied him with reason after reason sufficiently weighty to make him delay its execution from day to day, and from year to year; till at last, after twenty-five years waiting for the more convenient season, the fond old promiser dropt quietly into his grave, leaving the double legacy of royal perjury and popular resentment to his successor. Such a kingly game of shuffling the cards with solemn pledges and promises was played in Britain by several crowned individuals in succession, at various periods preceding the year 1688. What it led to then in our island all true Britons now, both Whigs and Tories, contemplate with satisfaction; what it may lead to on the banks of the Spree, at the present hour the living Majesty of Prussia ought certainly, while it is yet time, in all seriousness to consider.

( 371 )

ART. VII.-1. Geschichte der französischen Revolution bis auf die Stiftung der Republik. (History of the French Revolution up to the establishment of the Republic.) By F. C. DAHLMANN. Leipzig. 1845.

2. Geschichte des Zeitalters der Revolution, Vorlesungen an der Universität zu Bonn im Sommer 1829, gehalten von B. G. NIEBUHR. (History of the Age of the Revolution, a Course of Lectures delivered at the University of Bonn in 1829.)

Or the mere course of events during the French Revolution it can scarcely be possible that much remains to be told. From the multitude of elaborate narratives to which the great convulsion has furnished a subject, as well as from the newspapers, pamphlets, and memoirs which illustrate it, no portion of history has attained equal publicity. It is true that many curious questions are still unsolved, because the transactions which they concern were in their nature secret, as the earlier treasons of the Duke of Orleans, or the machinery by which leaders such as Danton or Hebert directed the ruffians of the suburbs to the perpetration of any convenient sedition or murder: but these obscure details are either lost for ever, or only to be recovered by accident-the historian has little chance of further success in his researches. More may remain to be done in the negative direction, by stripping off the picturesque covering which the French have so liberally bestowed on their history, in emulation of Barrère and Napoleon. The celebrated scene of the sinking of the Vengeur is probably one of a hundred brilliant episodes in the Republic, the Consulate, and the Empire, which, originating in pure fiction, have become in France articles of national faith. Many of Mirabeau's happiest bursts of eloquence,-above all, his celebrated defiance of the king in the person of the astonished master of the ceremonies, appear to be as entirely fabulous as some of Napoleon's most celebrated evolutions; and if the greatest of French orators and of French generals thought their exploits incomplete without the aid of fiction, it is not too much to suspect the literal veracity of their inferiors, and to fear that wherever we meet with an unusually successful piece of stage effect, the imagination of the narrator has been at work. Perhaps it is desirable that this duty of sceptical criticism, which certainly will never be undertaken by the French, should also be declined by the perfidious enemies of France and of the human race, our cold-blooded countrymen, and left to the future industry of Germans, who deserve and have the credit of comparative impartiality and conscientious industry. After all, the exposure of misrepre

sentations of particular events is a matter rather of literary curiosity than of historical importance.

However little novelty the historian can hope to attain in the materials of his narrative, there is still abundant room for the exercise of judgment in arranging them, and in appreciating their tendency and effect. As yet no single writer has made the Revo→ lution his own, in the sense in which portions of ancient history belong to Thucydides and Tacitus. The greater French histo rians of the present age have declined the task, and Thiers, the most celebrated of those who have undertaken it, seems delibe rately to affect and cultivate a spirit of partisanship, where impar tiality would be easier as well as better. In England the cognate failing of affected toleration and sympathy for opponents is not uncommon, producing perhaps less injustice but far more platitude. Mr. Alison, though it has been said that he writes to prove that Providence was on the side of the Tories, often seems to suspect that right and wisdom were on the side of the Jacobins, even in their worst excesses. Neither his laborious work, nor the hasty compilation of Scott, forms so valuable a contribution to history as the singular work of Mr. Carlyle, which, with all its appearance of reckless irregularity and brilliant wilfulness, expresses the results of a profound and original judgment, in the graphic reality with which the characteristic and prominent scenes of the Revolution are represented. As a work of art, however, Carlyle's history appeals to a taste which, even among sensible and judicious readers, is not universal, and in all cases it presupposes or requires considerable supplementary knowledge. To those who prefer more regular drawing, even though the picture should be less like life, we can recommend Dahlmann's well-written and instructive work. He offers it as a continuation of his 'History of the English Revolution,' formerly noticed in this Review; but we think he docs injustice to the present publication. Containing the events of four years in the space which, in the former book, was allotted to two centuries, the work before us is an interesting narrative, instead of a comparatively dry and colourless summary of events. The author admits that the time is not yet come for him to look at his book without personal feeling, and judge from my own impressions, whether my mode of viewing the question is sufficiently profound and original to justify visiting the bookloaded world with a new work on this subject, handled, as it has been, so infinitely often.' We are inclined to think his book not superfluous, and regret that he should have concluded it at one of the most interesting points of the whole Revolution-the dethronement of the king in the autumn of 1792. The fall of Robespierre,

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