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than the illustrious princes ' now in exile ; but I caution them not to be led into errour by that which has been supposed to be the guide of life. I would give the same caution to all princes. Not that I derogate from the use of history. It is a great improver of the understanding, by shewing both men and affairs in a great variety of views. From this source much political wisdom may
be learned ; that is, may be learned as habit, not as precept; and as an exercise to strengthen the mind, as furnishing materials to enlarge and enrich it, not as a repertory of cases and precedents for a lawyer : if it were, a thousand times better would it be that a statesman had never learned to read--vellem nescirent literas. This method turns their understanding from the object before them, and from the present exigencies of the world, to comparisons with former times, of which, after all, we can know very little and very imperfectly; and our guides, the historians, who are to give us their true interpretation, are often prejudiced, often ignorant, often fonder of system than of truth. Whereas if a man with reasonably good parts and natural sagacity, and not in the leading-strings of any master, will look steadily on the business before him, without being diverted by retrospect and comparison, he may
be capable of forming a reasonably good judgment of what is to be done. There are some funda
mental points in which nature never changes but they are few and obvious, and belong rather to morals than to politicks. But so far as regards political matter, the human mind and human affairs are susceptible of infinite modifications, and of combinations wholly new and unlooked for. Very few, for instance, could have imagined that property, which has been taken for natural dominion, should, through the whole of a vast kingdom, lose all its importance and even its influence. This is what history or books of speculation could hardly have taught us. could have thought, that the most complete and formidable revolution in a great empire should be made by men of letters, not as subordinate instruments and trumpeters of sedition, but as the chief contrivers and managers, and in a short time as the open administrators and sovereign rulers ?—Who could have imagined that atheism could produce one of the most violently operative principles of fanaticism? Who could have imagined that, in a commonwealth in a manner cradled in war, and in an extensive and dreadful war, military commanders should be of little or no account? That the convention should not contain one military man of name? That administrative bodies in a state of the utmost confusion, and of but a momentary duration, and composed of men with not one imposing part of
character, should be able to govern the country and its armies, with an authority which the most settled senates, and the most respected monarchs, scarcely ever had in the same degree? This, for one, I confess I did not foresee, though all the rest was present to me very early, and not out of my apprehension even for several years.
I believe very few were able to enter into the effects of mere terrour, as a principle not only for the support of power in given hands or forms, but in those things in which the soundest political speculators were of opinion, that the least appearance of force would be totally destructive, —such is the market, whether of money, provision, or commodities of any kind. Yet for four years we have seen loans made, treasuries supplied, and armies levied and maintained, more numerous than France ever shewed in the field, by the effects of fear alone.
Here is a state of things of which, in its totality, if history furnishes any examples at all, they are very remote and feeble. I therefore am not so ready as some are, to tax with folly or cowardice those who were not prepared to meet an evil of this nature. Even now, after the events, all the causes may be somewhat difficult to ascertain. Very many are however traceable. But these things history and books of speculation (as I have already said) did not teach men to foresee, ( 4
and of course to resist. Now that they are no longer a matter of sagacity, but of experience, of recent experience, of our own experience, it would be unjustifiable to go back to the records of other times, to instruct us to manage what they never enabled us to foresee.
VATTELL'S LAW OF NATIONS.
(The Titles, marginal Abstracts and Notes, are by Mr. Burke, excepting
such of the Notes as are here distinguished.]
CASES OF INTERFERENCE WITH INDEPENDENT
BOOK II. CHAP. IV. § 53, IF F then there is any where a nation of a restless
and mischievous disposition, always ready to injure others, to traverse their designs, and to raise domestick troubles*, it is not to be doubted, that all have a right to join in order to repress, chastise, and put it ever after out of its power to injure them. Such should be the just fruits of the policy which Machiavel praises in Cæsar Borgia. The conduct followed by Philip II. king of Spain, was adapted to unite all Europe against him; and it was from just reasons that Henry the Great formed the de
* This is the case of France-Semonville at Turin Jacobin clubs — Liegois meeting-Flemish meeting - La Fayette's answerCloot's embassy-Avignon.