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THE TRUE PREVENTIVE OF REVOLUTION.
A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN 1831.
T. B. MACAULAY.
I No more expect to see my countrymen again content with the mere semblance of a representation, than to see them again drowning witches or burning heretics,-trying causes by red-hot ploughshares, or offering up human sacrifices to wicker idols. I no more expect a reaction in favour of Gatton and Old Sarum than a reaction in favour of Thor and Odin. I should think such a reaction almost as much a miracle as that the shadow should go back upon the dial. Revolutions produced by violence are often followed by reactions ; the victories of reason once gained are gained for eternity. The hon. and learned member for Rye has in plain terms called on the barons of England to save their order from democratic encroachment, by rejecting this measure.
All these arguments, all these appeals, being interpreted, mean this : Proclaim to your countrymen that you have no common interests. with them, no common sympathies with them ; that you can be powerful only by their weakness, and exalted only by their degradation ; that the corruptions which disgust them, and the oppression against which their spirit rises up, are indispensable to your authority ; that the freedom and purity of election are incompatible with the very existence of your House. Give them clearly to understand that your power rests, not as they have hitherto imagined, on their rational conviction, or their habitual veneration, or your own great property, but on a system fertile of political evils, fertile also of low iniquities, of which ordinary justice takes cognizance. Bind up in inseparable union the privileges of your estate with the grievances of ours ; resolve to stand or fall with abuses visibly marked out for destruction ; tell the people that they are attacking you in attacking the mice-holes in the wall, and that they shall never get rid of the mice-holes in the wall till they have got rid of you ; that a hereditary peerage and a representative assembly can co-exist only in name ; that if they will have a House of Peers, they must be content with a mock House of Commons. This, I say, is the advice bestowed on the Lords by
those who call themselves the friends of aristocracy. That advice, so pernicious, will not be followed, I am well assured ; yet I cannot but listen to it with uneasiness. I cannot but wonder that it should proceed from the lips of men who are constantly lecturing us upon the duty of consulting history and experience. Have they ever heard what effect counsels like their own, when too faithfully followed, have produced ? Have they ever visited that neighbouring country, which still presents to the eye, even of a passing stranger, the signs of a great dissolution and renovation of society? Have they ever walked by those stately mansions, now sinking into decay, and portioned out into lodging-rooms, which line the silent streets of the Faubourg St. Germain ? Have they ever seen the ruins of those castles whose terraces and gardens overhang the Loire ? Have they ever heard that from those magnificent hotels, those ancient castles, an aristocracy as splendid, as brave, as proud, as accomplished as ever Europe saw, was driven forth to exile and beggary, to implore the charity of hostile governments and hostile creeds, to cut wood in the back settlements of America, or to teach French in the school-rooms of London ? And why were those haughty nobles destroyed with that utter destruction ? Why were they scattered over the face of the earth, their titles abolished, their escutcheons defaced, their parks wasted, their palaces dismantled, their heritage given to strangers ? Because they had no sympathy with the people,-no discernment of the signs of the times ; because, in the pride and narrowness of their hearts they called those, whose warnings might have saved them, theorists and speculators ; because they refused all concession till the time had arrived when no concession would avail. I have no apprehension that such a fate awaits the nobles of England ; I draw no parallel between our aristocracy and that of France. Those who represent the Lords as a class whose power is incompatible with the just influence of the middle orders in the state, draw the parallel, and not I. We are bound to respect the constitutional rights of the peers, but we are bound also not to forget our own. We, too, have our privileges; we, too, are an estate of the realm. A House of Commons strong in the love and confidence of the people,—a House of Commons which has nothing to fear from a dissolution, is something in the Government.
Some persons, I well know, indulge a hope that the rejection of the Bill will at once restore the domination of that party which fled from power last November, leaving everything abroad, and everything at home, in confusion, leaving the European system which it had built up at a vast cost of blood and treasure, falling to pieces in every direction, leaving the dynasties which it had restored, hastening into exile,-leaving the nations which it had joined together, breaking away from each other,—leaving the fundholders in dismay, leaving the peasantry in insurrection,leaving the most fertile counties lighted up with the fires of incendiaries
leaving the capital in such a state that a royal procession could not safely pass through it; dark and terrible beyond any season within my remembrance of political affairs, was the day of their flight. Far darker and far more terrible will be the day of their return : they will return in opposition to the whole British nation, united as it was never before united on any internal question,-united as firmly as when the Armada was sailing up the Channel,-united as when Bonaparte pitched his camp on the cliffs of Boulogne. They will return pledged to defend evils which the people are resolved to destroy; they will return to a situation in which they can stand only by crushing and trampling down public opinion, and from which, if they fall, they may in their fall drag down with them the whole frame of society. Against such evils—should such evils appear to threaten the country-it will be our privilege and our duty to warn our gracious and beloved sovereign : it will be our privilege and our duty to convey the wishes of a loyal people to the throne of a patriot king. At such a crisis, the proper place for the House of Commons is in the front of the nation; and in that place this House will assuredly be found. Whatever prejudice or weakness may do elsewhere to ruin the empire, here I trust will not be wanting the wisdom, the virtue, and the energy that may save it.
THE NATURAL BRIDGE, OR ONE NICHE THE
THE scene opens with a view of the great Natural Bridge in Virginia. There are three or four lads standing in the channel below, looking up with awe to that vast arch of unhewn rocks, which the Almighty bridged over those everlasting butments “when the morning stars sang together.” The little piece of sky spanning those measureless piers is full of stars, although it is midday. It is almost five hundred feet from where they stand, up those perpendicular bulwarks of limestone, to the key-rock of that vast arch, which appears to them only of the size of a man's hand. The silence of death is rendered more impressive by the little stream that falls from rock to rock down the channel. The sun is darkened, and the boys have unconsciously uncovered their heads, as if standing in the presence chamber of the Majesty of the whole earth. At last, this feeling begins to wear away ; they begin to look around them; they find that others have been there before them. They see the names of hundreds cut in the limestone butments. A new feeling comes over their young hearts, and their knives are in their hands in an instant. man has done, man can do,” is their watchword, while they draw themselves up and carve their names, a foot above those of a hundred full-grown men, who have been there before them.
They are all satisfied with this feat of physical exertion, except one, whose example illustrates perfectly the forgotten truth, that there is no royal road to intellectual eminence. This ambitious youth sees a name just above his reach, a name that will be green in the memory of the world when those of Alexander, Cæsar, and Bonaparte shall rot in oblivion. It was the name of Washington. Before he marched with Braddock to that fatal field, he had been there, and left his name a foot above all his predecessors. It was a glorious thought of the boy to write his name side by side with that of the great father of his country. He grasps his knife with a firmer hand ; and, clinging to a little jutting crag, he cuts a gain into the limestone, about a foot above where he stands ; he then reaches up, and cuts another for his hands. 'Tis a dangerous adventure ; but as he puts his feet and
hands into those gains, he finds himself a foot above every name chronicled in that mighty wall. While his companions are regarding him with concern and admiration, he cuts his name in rude capitals, large and deep, into that flinty album. His knife is still in his hand, and strength in his sinews, and a new created aspiration in his heart. Again he cuts another niche, and again he carves his name in larger capitals. This is not enough. Heedless of the entreaties of his companions, he cuts and climbs again. The graduations of his ascending scale grow wider apart. He measures his length at every gain he cuts. The voices of his friends wax weaker and weaker, till the words are finally lost on his ear. He now for the first time casts a look beneath him. Had that glance lasted a moment, that moment would have been his last. He clings with a convulsive shudder to his little niche in the rock. An awful abyss awaits his almost certain fall. He is faint with severe exertion, and trembling from the sudden view of the dreadful destruction to which he is exposed. His knife is worn half-way to the haft. He can hear the voices, but not the words, of his terror-stricken companions below. What a moment! What a meagre chance to escape destruction! There is no retracing his steps. It is impossible to put his hands into the same niche with his feet, and retain his slender hold a moment. His companions instantly perceive this new and fearful dilemma, and await his fall with emotions that “freeze their young blood.” He is too high, too faint, to ask for his father and mother, his brothers and sisters, to come and witness or avert his destruction. But one of his companions anticipates his desire. Swift as the wind, he bounds down the channel, and the situation of the fated boy is told upon his father's hearthstone.
Minutes of almost eternal length roll on, and there are hundreds standing in that rocky channel, and hundreds on the bridge above all holding their breath, and awaiting the fearful catastrophe. The poor boy hears the hum of new and numerous voices both above and below. He can just distinguish the tones of his father, who is shouting, with all the energy of despair, “ William ! William ! Don't look down ! Your mother, and Henry, and Harriet are all here, praying for you! Don't look down! Keep your eye towards the top!” The boy did not look down. His eye is fixed like a flint towards heaven, and his young heart on Him who reigns there. He grasps again his knife. He cuts another