Page images
PDF
EPUB

:1

ficorial proceedings of fome, even of those tribunals, the legal authority of which he could not deny. But we need not have recourse to an imaginary case; the memorable trial of Cornelius de Witt is an instance in point, which confirms all that we bave offered on the subject.

By these observations, we mean not to cast any invidious reAlections on the courts of criminal judicature in the United Provinces; which we thould not have mentioned, had not the author introduced them in a comparative view. We are persuaded that these courts proceed with great caution in cases where life is concerned ; and that, in all doubtful points, they incline rather to lenity than severity. This opinion is confirmed by several facts; and is further strengthened by the presumption, that, where capital executions seldom happen, the feelings of the man are not liable to be obtunded by the profeffional habits of the judge. But all this is foreign to our purpose, which is to fhew, in answer to an observation of this writer, that in England, the public mode of trial by jury, and the privilege of excepting against those who might pollinly be prejudiced against him, gives the accused party, not merely an apparent, but a real security for the impartiality of the court in his particular case, which he cannot obrain in any other country: that this securicy must, in every inftance, tend to relieve the mind, and that circumstances may happen in every country, in which it may be of valt importance; for as Junius, in one of his letters, has observed, ". laws are intended not to trust to what men WILL do; but to guard against what they MÁY do."

We meet with another partage, of which we cannot avoid taking notice; because, though from the renor of the work, we are persuaded that such was not the author's intention, it may, by persons of less candour, be interpreted as a reproach to our courts of judicature; and it is what they by no means delerve. He tells his readers, that, notwithstanding all the pretended excellence of our judicial proceedings, there is perhaps no country in Europe, where so many, lentenced to death, persit, even on the brink of eternity, in declaring themselves innocent of the crime for which they are condemned; though, at the same time, they acknowlege that they deferve death on account of others which they have committed; or where so many exclaim against the perjury of two or more witnesses as guilty, of their blood. We do not dispute the fact; but it thould be observed, tha, in no other country, are so many persons reprieved and pardoned after condemnation ; any circumstance, that can extenuate their crime, or which can fuggeft the least doubt that the verdict of the court may pollibly have been erroneous, renders these unhappy wretches tne objects of royal mercy; the flightest hope of this is eagerly indulged by the miserable convicts, and ceases not but with life: this, together Q93

with

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

with the liberty which they have of addressing the spe&tators of their fad fate, will, in most cases, account for the faät, without any supposition of an unjust or precipitate condemnation. In Jenity and tenderness, where life is concerned, no courts of judicature can exceed those in England; in which every doubtful point of law is referred to the mature deliberation of the judges, who are to meet and consult on is; and in which a prisoner cannot be convicted, except on such clear and positive evidence,

in Holland, would be deemed sufficient to juttify the applieation of the torture ; in consequence of which, not the ionocence, but the hardiness of the prisoner might poffibly preferve a life rendered useless to society, and miserable to bimself, by sufferings for which no compensation can be made.

Had this been a work of lefs merit, we should have been less particular. in animadverting on these passages; but in the publication before us, which, in other respects, exhibits so many marks of candour and judgment, they become of greater importance. With concern we observe, that they have been cired by the French journalists with an air of exultation in being able to produce the fuffrage of a man of sense, in favour of their prejudices; and there are but too many in every country, who, under the pretence of promoting social order, are real enemies to the rights of mankind; and who would therefore wish to persuade them, that liberty is an empty name, and has the beft privileges of almost the only peope that enjoy it ia Europe, are mere chimere,

Scotland and Ireland take up the two remaining chapters of this entertaining work, which contains so much useful information, that we wish it were translated into some language more generally understood than the Dutch; and we have formed so good an opinion of the author's candour, as to hope that our remarks, thould they fall into his hands, may induce him to make further enquiries ; and, in ihis case, to rectify those misconceptions into which a stranger is fo liable to be led from partial information, and the fallacy of which, the shortness of his ftay in the country affords him not suficient opprriunity to detect.

Sov

ART. III.
Tableau de l'Angleterre et de l'Italie. i.e. A View of England and

Italy. Translated from the German of M. D'ARCHENHOLZ,
formerly a Captain in the Service of the King of Pruflia; by
L. B. DE BILDER BECK. 8vo. 3 Vols. Gotha. 1788.

E have so repeatedly travelled ( with the affistance of literary

vehicles) through the pleasant and ferule countries of England and Italy, that almost every object which they afford is become

* Imported by Mr. Dilly in London. Price gs.

familiar

1

familiar and common to our sight. But, ftill, a book of travels, however beaten the path, may be, in a high degree, instructive and entertaining : for though a writer, in describing the general face of nature, can differ little from those who have gone before, him; yet will it be very different when, with superior talents, he comes to speak of her paragon, Man-the Proteus, Man, who puis on one lhape to-day, and another to-morrow, just as, his interest or his inclination may prompt. Now from the writer who watches this Proteus carefully; who marks, amid his many changes, the predominancy of any single affection, the ruling passion, in short, by which bis character is to be finally determined; who next inquires into the several qualities and dispositions of a particular people; and who ultimately lays before us a comparative statement of the virtues and vices both of individuals and of nations at large :- from such a writer, a confiderable portion of instruction and amusement may be derived. But this, indeed, requires not only great penetration, but even, a long and intimate acquaintance with the people described ; and for this, the modern traveller is not very frequently fitted, whatever his opportunities may have been.

The author of the volumes before us, though not to be ranked in the first class of philosophical cravellers, is yet, we, chink, entitled to a place in the second. His observations, it is true, are not, at all times, equally important; but this is occafioned by the nature of his work, which aims at a particular, account of the people with whom he resided, and which some. times necessarily descends to a description of trilling and une, interesting scenes.

M. D'ARCHENHOLZ sets out with a laboured encomium on the constitution of England; yet, like the greater part of his countrymen (the Germans), he views it with far too partial an eye. It might be imagined, from a perusal of his book, in which our virtue is particularly insisted on, that Plato's famed republic was realized among us: though it is an undoubted truth, that our government inclines much more to absolute monarchy than to republicanism, as several writers of acknowleged excellence have thewn. Liberty, that “goddess heavenly bright,' as Addison styles her,: appears to be the deity which he adores; but, like many politicians who have preceded him, he makes not the proper distinction between civil and political liberty. Civil liberty we enjoy in an eminent degree; but political liberty is ill secured to us, and is indeed, in all events, of very uncertain tenure, in the present frame of our conftitution. When the executive power in any fort operates on that of the legislative, there is no longer any real political liberty; and that such is the fact, that its influence is really great, every Englishman will, we presume, on due consideration acknowlege. I Qq 4

is

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

is certain we can only preserve to ourselves the former, by : strict and unabating attention to the latter; and yet no effectual provision has hitherto been made against the encroachments of the crown; which, however slowly and imperceptibly (generally speaking), is observed by many to be undermining the fabric of our ftate-establishment;—that boasted fabric, railed by our ancestors with so much care! In a word, political liberty can no way be maintained, but by keeping the legislative and executive parts of government wholly diftinct. They are now so in appearance : and we are sorry to say it, in appearance only. But it will very poffibly be asked, Whether we do not at prefent enjoy the moit perfect and positive freedom? Undoubtedly, we do. But then it should be remarked, that we derive it principally from moral causes : for if inquired into, it will be found that our liberties, as far as they depended on a parliament, are really annihilated—in other words, that they are politically dead. We can no longer talk of the “ over-balance of property” among the independent members of the lower house; and of the ftand which, in such a case, it might consequently make against the exertions of arbitrary power. Reformation in the representative body, it is true, bas frequently been spoken of within the walls of St. Stephen's; but we are fully perfuaded, that such reformation must begin with the people. The idea of a House of Commons purifying and defecating itself is, at this time, abandoned by every thinking and intelligent man.

After expatiating in general terms on the subje&t of our • excellent constirution,' M. D’A. proceeds to a particular confideration of our several privileges and immunities, namely, the liberty of the press; the habeas corpus at; the public tribunals; the trial by jury; parliamentary repre/entation ; the right of petitioning, &c. The liberty of the press is styled by him, as it has been by many others, the palladium or bulwark of British freedom. But be attributes a potency to it which it does not pofless. He avers, that the indignation of the people against a statesman, when pro. claimed by the public prints, will assuredly discomfit him, and destroy his measures : for that he is unable, however greatly supported in parliament, to bear up, for any length of time, against the cenfure of the public voice. This affertion is founded in mistake, as we have too recently and too fatally experienced. The Keenest philippics, indeed, have never yet driven a well.intrenched minifter from his post. Laissons les dire pourvu qu'ils nous laisent faire, said Cardinal Mazarin: and many an English premier bas, no doubt, frequently said or thought the same. We think it rather extraordinary, that M. D'ARCHENHOLZ should be so greatly deceived in such a matter; but what fusprises us itill more is, to find a writer, who, on many occasions, displays a sound and accurate judgment, holding

up

[ocr errors]

op to public view, as the test and criterion of British liberty, the conduct of a London rabble, who some few years ago attacked an unpopular minifter in his carriage, dragging him from it, and threatening him with the fate of De Witt. It furprises us, we say, to find a writer like the present, vindicating and extol ng lo terrible an ad of violence, and thus inconfiderately contounding licentiousness with genuine freedom. An enthufiaft in the cause of liberty, he seems to be not a little vain of that which his countrymen at this time have to boast; but let him remember, that the freedom of which he speaks, is only admitted by courtesy; and that it is in the power of the princes, their rulers, to cramp and fetter it whenever they please. His remarks on the other, the before-mentioned rights of the Britih subject, are just and pertinent; but as they differ not from the comments and oblervations fo frequently found in our volumes of history and jurisprudence,' it is unnecessary to enlarge on them bere.

The character which M. D'ARCHENHOLZ has given of our countrymen, is highly encomiaftic, indeed! In his opinion, they ioberit the combined virtues of Greece and Rome. They are in poffeffion of every excellence that the philosopher and the fort, in their closets, might imagine for the benefit of mankind. But, full, he not unfrequently speaks at random. He afferts, for instance, that our nobility are by far the most enlightened in Europe: that learning and science, in England, are secure of particular norice, and particular reward: in a word, that the people, who are known among us by the name of THE GREAT, familiarize themselves, as he expresses it, with genius, bearing it always with pleasure in their train. How flattering and agreeable is the picture! But, alas ! how very unlike to truth. Lovers and encouragers of science! And fhall men, who are princi. pally distinguished by their vices and follies, be heid up as the Mæcenares and Pollios of the age? Shall we fondly give to birth and fortune the praises which can belong only to the virtuous and the good to the elegant and cultivated mind? Some few, indeed, may be found in the class of nobility, who are seally the favourers and patrons of merit: but our author is remarking on the predominant and general character; we therefore reply to him in general terms ;-and since from the example, we presume, of a small number of individuals, ho seems to believe that our people of fathion are universally such as he has represented them, we can only, with real concern, affure him that he is totally wrong. They are, without the smallest question, the last to whom the man of abilities would look

up for protection and support.

With respect to national pride, the great characteristic of the English, from which tbey really seem to think themselves, as

the

« PreviousContinue »