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benevolence to mankind in general. Fletcher seems rather to patronize the victim, because he hated the tyrant. His benevolence towards the many is more the effect than the cause of his animosity to the few. He is tremendously vituperative. Every sentence is an argument, and every argument an impeachment. His words are blows. Yet he was less formidable than Lord Chatham, for he wanted that continuous intensity of passion, and that regality of a domineering will, which clothed some of his effusions with the awful desolating splendour of a flood of burning lava. The one only attacks, the other commands and crushes. The one makes good hits at his antagonists, the other drives furiously over them. The whole of the "
Speech on the state of the nation” is illustrative of Fletcher's power, and of the limits of that power; of his resemblance to our greatest orators, and of his distinctive inferiority. The following extract from his censure of the Partition-Treaty will shew as much of what we mean, as can well be done by so few sentences :
“ The letter of this treaty tells us of preserving the peace of Europe by dismembering the Spanish monarchy; but the spirit throws, it entire into the family of Bourbon, entails an endless war upon Christendom, breaks the balance which has preserved its liberty for two hundred years, and will consequently banish all remains of freedom, both civil and religious, from among men. This treaty, like an alarum bell, rung over all Europe: Pray God it may not prove to you a passing bell. Poor helpless Spain, rather than divide the child, chose to give it entire to the harlot, to whom it did not belong. And she has got it; for the Solomon who commanded to divide the child, did it not in order to do justice. Instead of the preservation of the peace of Europe, (for no great mischief was ever designed, but piety was still pretended) Europe must from this time be either in a posture of war, and so consumed by taxes; or in actual war, wasted by bloodshed and rapine, till she be forced to hold out her hands to the shackles, and submit to a worse condition. These are the glorious works of such governors as the world thinks they cannot be without; perhaps too truly: I mean those who are to execute God's judgement upon them."
There is more of allusion in this passage than Fletcher was accustomed to employ. We suppose it " laid in his way and he found it.” What there is, however, is there for annoyance, not for ornament. If he stoops, 'tis not to gather flowers to adorn himself, but nettles to sting others. A better specimen of his usual style is the conclusion of his proposal for a general arming of the people, as a sequel to his favourite bill for offering the crown, on the death of Queen Anne, with such conditions as would fully secure the independence and liberty of Scotland:
“ Other nations, if they think they can trust standing armies, may by their means defend themselves against foreign enemies. But we, who have not wealth sufficient to pay such forces, should not, of all nations under heaven, be unarmed. For us then to continue without arms is to be directly in the condition of slaves : to be found unarmed in the event of her majesty's death, would be to have no manner of security for our liberty, property, or the independence of this kingdom. By being unarmed, we every day run the risk of our all, since we know not how soon that event may overtake us : to continue still unarmed, when by this very act now under deliberation we have put a case which by happening may separate us from England, would be the grossest of all follies. And if we do not provide for arming the kingdom in such an exigency, we shall become a jest and a proverb to the world.”
The peroration of his speech on the Limitation Bill itself is in a higher strain; it closes some energetic argument by this appeal :
“ If therefore either reason, honour, or conscience, have any influence upon us; if we have any regard either to ourselves or posterity; if there be any such thing as virtue, happiness, or reputation, in this world, or felicity in a future state, let me adjure you by all these not to draw upon your heads everlasting infamy, attended with the eternal reproaches and anguish of an evil conscience, by making yourselves and your posterity miserable.”
It is only with the two great men just mentioned, that Fletcher can be brought into comparison. He has little in common with the other distinguished parliamentary orators of the last reign, to whom we look as models; with that race of giants, now extinct, who had no predecessors, and seem likely to have no successors. He had nothing of the consummate art, exquisite arrangement, and sonorous periods of Pitt; nor of the argumentative metaphor which Grattan poured forth, like a torrent leaping from rock to rock, and not flowing, but bounding to the end of its career; nor of the subtle analysis, profound speculation, and mingled refinement of thought and homeliness of illustration, which give such a zest to Windham's speeches ; nor could his genius kindle up, like Burke's, into a sun radiant alike with truth and fancy, its beams glancing over heaven and earth, here playing on a planet, and there glittering in a dew-drop. Yet the absence of these powers was often more than compensated by the tone of sincerity, earnestness, and determination, in which he spoke. He never played, or seemed to play, either with his subject or upon his hearers. He went steadily to his object, and used the most direct, honourable, and efficient, means for the accomplishment of his purpose. He came into the field apparelled for battle, and
not for tilt or tournament. His speeches teach not the tricks, or even the graces, of oratory, but the principles of freedom and the facts of history. There are no episodes in them. You can make no elegant extracts from them, which any body may read and enjoy who neither knows nor cares about the events of that time and country, or of any other time and country. You may commence fine-passage hunting, but that chace is soon abandoned for a more interesting one; you plunge into the deadly Union conflict, and, at last, feel defeated and disgraced by the triumph of imbecility, corruption, and servility ; and shut the book with execrations on the Hamiltons, Queensburys, Montroses, and Banffs, of the day. This is much the same effect as is produced by the orations of the great master, Demosthenes, whom we read at school with no great pleasure; he was so very business-like, every thing was so much to the purpose, and a purpose in which we had little concern; and there was such a lack of the adventitious ornament, the beautiful painting, and the imposing description, to which we had been used in Cicero. The thing was too good for us. The reader who really enjoys the speeches of the Athenian demagogue will not be disappointed in those of the Scottish patriot.
The Political Treatises in this volume are quite as good, in their way, as the speeches, and display a mind thoroughly imbued with historical and classical literature, ardently attached to the cause of liberty, and honourably devoted to its promotion. Fletcher well deserves Thomson's praise of Sidney; he, too, was
“By ancient learning, to the enlighten'd love
The philosopher of Malmsbury never made a greater blunder than when he translated Thucydides, in order to disgust the English people with the republican form of government. He was deceived as to the impression, by his own constitutional cowardice. He reckoned on blowing out the flame of faction, and actually gave undesigned aid towards fanning it into rebellion. To men of sterner stuff, the contests which terrified him were a scene of pleasurable excitement. Slaves, unless nature has formed them, and art trained them well, to be cowardly and contented slaves, should never read the Classics. Not the historians and orators of antiquity, at least; no, not even in castrated editions. They are full of dangerous matter. Nor is the love of liberty which they engender always exactly of that sort, which the rational friend of his country and of his species will regard with complacency. It is too‘apt to fix itself on forms, which, after all, are of comparatively little moment; to disregard the moral character of means; to attempt that by violence, which to be really valuable and permanent must be accomplished by reason; and to sacrifice to the projected freedom of the whole, too much of the real liberty of the individuals or classes which make up that whole. Something of this in Fletcher often mixes a little pain and blame with our admiration of one, who was so immeasurably superior to the unprincipled sycophants and hypocrites to whom he was opposed, and who are fixed as the eternal shades of his picture, in the history of Scotland.
He was a great schemer: project after project rises upon us all through the volume. There is first a magnificent plan for superseding standing armies by universal training; then for relieving the dreadful distresses, which, at that time, prevailed in Scotland, by reviving domestic slavery, though in a very modified and mitigated form : next, a system of agricultural improvement; after that, his provision for the security of Scottish independence by annual parliaments, &c.; and finally, an Utopia on a larger scale, for the benefit of all Europe at least. The practical politician will laugh at all this, and deserve to be laughed at himself when he has done. Let him stick to his last, and cobble up matters as he can with his temporary expedients : no statesman was ever good for much who had not some propensity for theories; and he is most properly said to be guided by experience, who is familiar with history, which is the recorded experience of all nations and ages; and who thence derives wisdom and courage to employ extraordinary means for the accomplishment of extraordinary and benevolent purposes, either of reformation or improvement, of remedy for existing evil, or provision for future good.
The “ Discourse of Government with relation to Militias" deserves an earnest recommendation to that timid race of men, who, in their apprehensions of danger to their persons or properties, from internal commotion or external assault, overlook the manifold mischiefs of a complete, or something approximating to a complete, separation of the characters of soldier and citizen. Fletcher has luminously shewn how essential their union is to the freedom of a state; how effective it is for defence; nay, how consistent it may be made with the grandest schemes of conquest. He has accurately marked the great change which took place in the governments of Europe, about the end of the fifteenth century, from limited to arbitrary monarchy; traced the circumstances which obstructed its progress in England and Scotland, and connected it with the transfer of the power of the sword from the aristocracy to the sovereign. So long as the feudal system remained, and royal armies were made up of the retainers of inferior chieftains, holding lands by the tenure of military service, the king and the barons were
mutually dependent, and essential to each other's security and consequence. The impoverishment of the nobility, the emancipation of vassals, the extension of commerce, and consequently increasing importance of the inferior orders in states, destroyed this equipoise. Lands were alienated, and military service ceased. Soldiers were hired, and war became a trade; and the sovereign who had once obtained money to purchase such instruments soon felt their power, to enable him to obtain more. Standing armies and despotism thus came in together. The manly remonstrances of the barons prevented this result in Scotland, and in England the Commons had previously possessed themselves of the purse-strings of the nation. We think Fletcher has greatly underrated the worth of this check on the encroachments of prerogative. The sole right of the Commons to levy taxes, sometimes so clearly recognized by the monarch, and at others so vainly and even fatally contested, has in fact preserved the power of the sword, in this country, to the subject. And if the Commons possess it not so completely as the barons, still we must remember that they hold it on behalf of the whole community, with which they are identified in interest, while the barons only limited the sovereign for their own advantage, and thought their own paternal care an ample provi-, sion for their vassals. Should the Commons cease to be what their name implies, the representatives of the people, all check on their behalf, of course, ceases too, and England loses her proud exemption from the general lot. But although the evil of a regular soldiery be thus materially diminished, there can be little doubt that Fletcher's plan is far more favourable to freedom. Generally, at least, the regular soldier is but ill qualified to act the part of a good citizen. His habits of im-, plicit obedience and absolute command are fatal to those feelings which should be strongest in the bosoms of the subjects of a free state. A soldier for life, and one who only is called to bear arms on emergency, and for a limited period, and who then returns to mingle in the mass of citizens, are very different beings; and the military skill of the one is as friendly, as that of the other is hostile, to the liberties of a nation. In fact, necessity has always been pleaded for standing armies. Fletcher demonstrates the delusiveness of the plea by various cases, in which even a hastily raised and ill-formed militia, animated by that sense of right and justice, without which whoever bears arms is only a hired murderer, have beaten veteran troops and able officers. He also appeals to the history of the nations most celebrated for retaining their liberty:
6. The militia of ancient Rome, the best that ever was in any government, made her mistress of the world: but standing armies