Page images






Death of George III.-Genera! View of his Age.His Public and Private

Character.-Accession of George IV.-Death of the Duke of Kent.

The first important event which di- ving, had been intimately associated versified the present year, was one with the name and person of George which, even as occurring to an indi. 111. All the revolutions which, duvidual long since dead to himself and ring more than half a century, had to the world, caused a deep emotion agitated the world, and changed its in the public mind. For many years, aspect; wonderful mutations in the the monthly bulletins had continued external and internal state of the emregularly to announce, that his Ma- pire - in its relations with the neighjesty was in good health and spirits, bouring states, and with all the rest but that his disorder continued una of the world ;-a new tone infused bated. The public having ceased to into human thought, and into the read these bulletins, it had scarcely whole frame of society ;-these were been observed that the last one had the objects which at once presented stated some change to have taken themselves, on comparing the complace. It burst, therefore, as a comm encement with the close of this long plete surprise upon the nation, when reign. The train of contemplation an official bulletin announced the ex- into which we are thus drawn, ditinction of all that yet survived of this vides itself naturally into two leading aged and revered Monarch. Small branchesthe age, and the character, as this event now was, it awakened of George III. in every thinking mind a crowd of It has been said, that every age interesting and solemn recollections. considers the events which have disAll the ideas of royalty and of kingly tinguished it, as more wonderful than power, as originally formed in the any other. Admitting fully this pronefind of almost every Briton now lia ness to exaggeration, and that the powers of change have at all times mark, leading to such frightful conbeen at work, still it can scarcely bé vulsions, and, for some time, to an denied, that, with one exception, no issue so opposite to its original aim, modern age can come in competi- caused, for some time, a strong retion, for the greatness of its changes, vulsion of opinion towards any syswith the one which has passed over tem that was regular and established. our heads. That one-the age of The tempest, however, passed by : Charles V., marked by the downfal and Europe, on regaining its tranquil of feudal power-the Reformation, attitude, was found throughout imand the discovery of both Indies, bued with the desire and determinascarcely produced so great an altera- tion of obtaining representative gotion in the aspect and frame of society. 'vernments. Ancient power, indeed, Long periods have elapsed, in which has mustered all its energies to reonly the observant eye of the philo- press this rising spirit; and, in some sopher can trace any sensible change, instances, with success. But we may or the seeds of future revolution. At confidently predict, that the attempt other times, the waves of conflict and to maintain the principles of absolute revolution have rolled back and for- monarchy, is too contrary to the spiward in tumultuous succession, yet rit of the age, to be attended with have finally subsided into a surface more than temporary success. Withnearly as tranquil as at first. Europe out entering deep into questions of has certainly, in its late agitations, European policy, we may content presented a sort of cycle, performing ourselves with holding it certain, that its circuit, and returning into itself; the period in which the principles of but in the course of this revolution, simple monarchy were tranquilly acit has left traces much too deep to be quiesced in by the nations of Europe, ever effaced. The late changes, more, is departed, without any possibility of over, differ essentially from those pro- its ever returning. duced by the inhabitants of one part Another change, closely connected of the globe, conquering, colonizing, in every way with the above, is the and giving their tone and character decline of that aristocratic influence to another. The movement here was and character, which formed the preentirely interior-burst forth from its dominant feature in modern Euroown bosom, and arose therefore from pean society. Several centuries, inimpulses more permanent and more deed, had elapsed since feudal power deeply seated.

and privilege had yielded to the suThe most prominent change, and premacy of the Monarch. Still, a the main source of the troubles which lofty sense of honour, a studied pohave shaken the world, is one which lish of manners, and a paramount imBritain may view with pride, amid all portance attached to the distinctions the alarms to which it has given rise, of birth, maintained throughout EuThat supreme representative legislarope a privileged order, superior to, ture, which, considered by the other and strongly distinguished from, the nations as essentially and exclusively mass of the people. The importance British, was viewed by them with attached to commerce and the moadmiration and wonder, but without nied interest—the ruin of many great hope, is now possessed, expected, or families by reigning profusion-the at least eagerly desired, by all conti diffusion of literature, and of a spirit nental Europe. The first effort to at- of bold inquiry, shook greatly this tain it, shooting so far beyond the ancient veneration for rank, and rendered more prevalent the habit of kind, but no less decisive and imconsidering man as man. But it was portant. The ages which preceded the French Revolution which was had seen America 'trampled beneath first seen sweeping away, as with a the foot of an invading power, Euflood, all the distinctions which had rope had crushed the western world been held sacred in Europe for ages. "with a yoke of iron; and she still It is true, the returning tide brought considered her settlements there only back the fragments, and even the re- as distant plantations, to be adminivolutionary dynasty was seen eager- 'stered for the sole behoof of the moly collecting, and attempting to re. ther state. In the course of this arplace them. In the rest of Europe, rangement, the population of Amethe rights and titles of the privileged rica became European ; the manners orders remained untouched, and seem- and habits of Europe-all its arts of ed even to have gained a triumph war and peace, were diffused over over the efforts to overthrow them. the boundless regions of the new conStill, over all Europe, the founda-. tinent. Hence, by degrees, the detions of the great aristocratic edifice scendants of the early colonists, born were permanently loosened. Talents and bred in America, and seeing noand wealth-the one a higher, the thing about them that was not Ameother, perhaps, a meaner distinction, rican, lost sight of their ties with the have every where, in the estimation old world. A mother, who exercised of mankind, supplanted birth and ti. her rights only to impose the most tie. Nor does there seem any thing degrading fetters, and to make them likely to occur, for a long period, the devoted instruments of her avawhich will not tend to confirm and rice and ambition, appeared to them extend the superior sway of these to have little claim on filial duty. new principles.

Yet, as too often happens in such If we consider the past aspect of cases, the power which had acted on Europe in a moral point of view, it is the mildest and most liberal system, difficult to appreciate an age which was the first to suffer. England had has exhibited itself under such vari- infused her own liberal spirit and inous aspects, and shone so prominent, stitutions into her Trans-atlantic subboth in virtue and crime. Few ages jects ; hence, exercises of authority have been marked by higher displays that were comparatively mild, excited of heroism and patriotism, or have there a spirit of resistance never witnessed more extensive exertions roused by the cruel and oppressive of universal philanthropy. None, despotism, which tyrannized over on the other hand, have exhibited South America. The distant situamore daring guilt, and all the dark- tion of these states, the rude extent est powers of the human soul met in of their territory, and the support of fiercer conflict. All the great land- European powers, the jealous rivals marks of human thought and conduct of Britain enabled them to establish have been moved from their places ; complete independence. Then was and every one has been left at liberty first seen in the new world, and on to follow the impulse which hurried the spot formerly covered by huts of him into the extremes either of good "Indian savages, a great, civilized, and or of evil.

independent empire, possessing, reIf we pass beyond the limits of sources that will enable her ere long Europe, we shall find the new world to outrival Europe itself. The emanundergoing a change of a different cipation of the Spanish colonies came

« PreviousContinue »