« PreviousContinue »
Belles Lettres, 1782*. The other, written by the successful competitor, has been also committed to the press, by this generous rival.
There are different species, as well as degrees of merit; and though numbers may contend, the prize can only be adjudged to one. But as these discourses are thus published together, they naturally challenge a comparative view of their relpective excellencies. Our contracted limits render it impossible for us to do justice to either; but we will endeavour to give such a view of each, as fall enable the judicious reader to appreciate their different meriis.
To follow the order of the publication, we shall commence with the discourse of M. DE MEERMAN.
The question itself consists of three branches. It specifies the form of government to which the grand object of the inquiry is confined; the spirit which it wishes to excire; and the most efficacious means by which that fpirit may be excited. Accordingly the author makes some previous inquiries concerning the two preceding articles, which form the basis of the last. He observes, that the monarchy here referred to, and which is to be kept inviolate, neceffarily excludes a despotic government: in which it is imposible for a spirit of patriotism to exift; in which the ideas of mafler and save take place of Sovereign and subject; under which, though the vaffal may, like the savage, have a peculiar attachment to his natal soil, prefer the climate, the products, and the manners adopted from bis infancy, yet as he is liable to be stripe in a moment of
every thing that is dear and valuable to him, by the arbitrary mandate of his ruier, he hath, properly speaking, no country that he can call his own. He is merely an ufufructuary, dependent on the capricious bounty of a proprietor. The monarchy therefore, to which the question refers, muft imply such a state in which, though the supreme authority be vested in the hands of an individual, yet it is exercited according to certain eltablished laws: where property is secure from violence, and where neliner lise nor liberty can be attacked without some supposed offence having been committed, of which legitimate judges are the only arbitrators. Notwithstanding his predilection for the republic can form, the author acknowleges that a spirit of patriotism may subfilt under a monarchy; and that some considerable ada vantages aitend this mode of government. After having made some just and obvious remarks of this kind, in which he mania fests a warm and genuine love of liberty, M. DE MEERMAN proceeds to enquire into the fecond previous article, What is the nature of patriotism in a monarchy? He answers, “Woen we love our country, the firtt, the molt valuable of all duties, is to pre.
serve its constitution inviolated; and protect it, as much as it lies in our power, from every change. This is the basis of every species of patriotism, in monarchies, as well as in republics. This do&rine will not be relihed by those of the author's countrymen who have assumed the name of patrio's in the late troubles in the United Provinces; of whom there were, doubtless, numbers who thought that they were demonftrating the love of their country, by their ftrenuous end-avouis to reform fome of the radical detects of their conftitution. Indeed the axiom, Atrictly adhered to, necessarily preclodes every ípecies of reform. It either supposes perfection in the first inttance, which is an impoflibility; or it obliges the governed, notwithstanding the jutter notions of the ends and objects of goveroment, which are now universally diffused, to fit down contented with all the legal defects which ancient ignorance and prejudices, or incapacity, had blended with the conftitutions as they were forming; and it is diametrically opposite to chat noble spirit of patriotism, which promises fo defirable a change in the French government, of which M. DE M. will be one of the warmest admirers. But it is to be presumed, that the dil orders occafioned in the Dutch republic by these recent attempts to reform, and the cruelties and oppressions committed by the vfurpers of power, under the sacred name of liberty and public good, have betrayed the author into this sentiment. It will be readily granted, chat there is often much less danger in fuf. fering the evils that may have crept into a constitution, with the ! fame patience which we lhew amid the other inevitable evils of life, than in attempting a remedy.' But is not the limitation too confined, when he afferts, that the only case which authorises a change in the constitution, on the side of the people, is when the people return to their primitive state, on the extinction of the family on the throne: when a new choice is made, and the crown is cransferred to a stranger, they are then at liberty to propose new conditions. Surely, when the monarch degenerates into a despot, the mutual compact is broken; and the people, in their ttruggles for liberty, have a right to extend their privileges. By these means, principally, the British conftitution bas advanced to its prefent envied ftate: the greatest tyrants have become the most efficacious inftruments of public freedom.
M. DE MEERMAN next proceeds to the immediate object of the question, which are the best methods to excite and encourage patriotism in a monarı by ? &c. He observes, that four motives influence men so good and great actions : Tafte, Sense of Duty, Interest, and Honour. Hence arise four general rules applicable to the subject: 1. Take care that the subjects of a monarchy acquire a taste for patriotism. 2. Give them juft ideas of their duty in general, and of their duty in particular. 3.
triotic actions be recompensed. 4. Let patriotism be rendered respectable. The first end is best obtained by the exemplary conduct of the Sovereign. By this will the subject become fully persuaded of his genuine affection for their common country, and be easily induced to imitate his example. The second end will be obtained by the cultivation of a religious difpofition, and diffufing the knowlege and practice of virtue through the means of private education, and every species of public instruction. M. de M. imagines that if the government were to recompense, in fome signal manner, those who had moft diftinguithed themselves by cultivating the principles of sound morality, and if creatises on the practice of religion and virtue were circulated at the public expence, among the lower orders of citizens, the most happy effects would be the result. He wishes also that patriotic societies would annually propose questions relative to subjects of this nature; and that minifters, masters of families, and parents, who had been most successful in forming the mind to virtue, should receive some public mark of general approbation. Toe public press, and a proper regulation of the theatre, might also be made subservient to the same desirable end. The application of the two other means of exciting a spirit of patriotism, must be directed by various circumitances of season, locality, national manners, &c. The proper choice of ministers and confidants, and the distribution of pensions and titles, are so many instruments in the hands of a wife and virtuous sovereign, by which subjects may be made emulous of each other in the practice of patriotic virtues, Bufts, ftatues, monuments, inscriptions, medals, funerals at the public expence, and funeral orations pronounced by select orators, are means powerful in themselves; and, if judiciously employed, they cannot fail to enflame the most frigid heart, and infuse the enthusiasm of a public fpirit into every bosom.
Such are the measures which M. DE MEERMAN proposes; and on which he enlarges with much good sense, perfpicuity, and, sometimes, with a degree of animation; and such is the advice which our patriotic republican gives to sovereigns. But what if sovereigns will not attend to it? In this case, he acknowleges that little good is to be expected. The sphere of action for individuals and smaller communities is tco contracted; yet, he exhorts these communities to exert themselves in their narrow circles, by example, precept, and encouragement, in order to awaken a general spirit of patriotism. Again, fuppose the sovereign, instead of being supine and negligent, should step over the legal boundaries of his power? Patriotism is not encouraged and promoted by exciting the opprefled to revolt. They ought to be instructed in their duty and their rights, and persuaded to pour their complaints into the boroms of their 7
legal representatives.' If these prove ineffe&ual, our author bas no further remedies to propose.
Monf. MATHON DE LA Cour, the successful candidate, proposes, as the plan of his discourse, to examine what are the sentiments or principles in the human mind which dispose to patriot sm, or which constitute its eflence: to investigate their nature and their effects in republics and monarchies, in larger and smaller states, in ancient and modern times; and then to point out the means of exciting and encouraging patriotism ia inonarchies. He introduces the first inquiry, by some very iogenious and pertinent remarks concerning those two springs of action implanted in human nature, felf-love, and focial; and he espariates, in a pleasing manner, on the effects produced in the world by the different modifications of these two sources of every virrue, and of every vice, by the union or oppositions of their infuence.
• According as the one or the other predominates, we behold characters appear on the stage of the universe. Selfith, frigid, and severe, or souls formed for sensibility and love, ever forgetful of their own intereft, ready to sacrifice themselves for the beloved object. Unfortunately, the one is much more common than the other. Self-love indicates itself from the cradle, and never quits us till death. The love of our neighbour, that elevated and virtuous fenriment, which exiends our affections, prompts us to cherith orbers, and to exist as it were in the objects of our love, is, doubtless, one of the noblett presents that the Deity has ever made to mortals; but it shines with luftre in privileged minds alone. The contracted soul contemplates its own advantage merely in the welfare of the country, or of humanity at large; disinterestedness, with such, is a romantic virtue; the self dedication of heroism, is madness; the sacrifices of love and friend thip, are vain deceits, or interested and perfidious artifices. But in great and noble minds, the same aclive priociple of benevolence which conititutes the good parent, the fincere and curdial friend, rifing and swelling above the objects immediately furrounding it, overflows the bounds of common affections, and constitutes the genuine patriot, and the benefactor of his species.'
This spirit of patriotism is carefully distinguitbed from that amor patriæ which is common to ' every native. The one is a natural propensity, the other is a virtue. Patriotism may be connected with the more common principle, but is it the perfection of it?' After expatiating largely on this subject with a precision which does honour to his head, and a warmth and enthufialm which reflect lustre on his heart, he proceeds to the question, whether a republican, or a monarchical form of govern. ment, be best calculated to promote and cherish this noble and fublime principle. Here he takes a different road from M. DE MEERMAN. While the latter fimply acknowleges that patriotism may polibly subfist in monarchies, M. DE LA COUR contends that monarchies are the most favourable to its growth.
He maintains that patriotism in a republic, is more immédiately united with perfonal advantages; and, consequently, it cannot be lo disinterested; and the warm proftilions of it are much more suspicious. His train of reasoning on this question is ingenious, and merits attention; but it is too long for insertion, and would suffer too much by an abridgment. He also maintains that ane cient times were much more favourable to patriotism, than the modern; and alleges several reasons wherefore examples of genuine patriotism were more frequently to be met witb in the earlier periods of history. Navigation was in its infancy; commerce was contraded; nations, being at perpetual war, instead of having any social intercourse, were fanning the flame of hatred and revenge; prisoners of war being reduced to the most abject slavery. All these causes conspired to increase that natural attachment to the native foil, and render patriotism a virtue of frequent necellity. Whereas the improved ftate of navigation, the extent of commerce, the invention of printing, and every cause which contributes to the progress of civilization, removes local prejudices, enfeebles this national predilection, and induces men to conlider themselves more as citizens of the world.
M. DE LA Cour next proposes the methods of exciting this laudable spirit of patriotiim in a monarchy, which he digests under the following heads : Dispose the minds, and regulate the morals of the public in a manner favourable to patriotism; remove every embarrassment and obstruction to its advancement; and employ the moft efficacious means to render it fourishing. The firit object is answered by rendering their country dear to shem. Men, in order to pofiess a genuine love of their country, muft te happy in it. The good of the community, which ought to be the only object of every administration, may therefore be considered as one basis of patriotism.' Encourage religion and morality; suppress odious and burtbenfome taxes : where evils are not to be remedied, “Sovereigns, Mew that these afilict you, and your people will be consoled. Love them, let their interest engage your attention, and your good wishes will call forth their benedictions, and acclamations of love and joy.' Discourage the luxury of the great, which depopulates ine provinces, increases pride and servility, and threatens to anmbulate the middle class of citizens. Diminith the number of penal laws, and multiply those honours and rewards which excire emulation. • 'The history of governments tells us perpeCually of authority, punishments, restrictions, and threais. Are · thele all which a father owes to his children, a fuvereign to his people? Distribute your benefits through every part of your empire with an equal hand. You enjoy the fervices of each; taxes are levied from every part; let not your favours then be contined to those who surround the chrone.' Among other me8