תמונות בעמוד

of having imposed one arbitrary tax without consent of parliament during his whole reign.”

But on turning to the history of Rapin, the fifteenth article of the accusation of the Commons as there exhibited, expressly charges Richard with illegal impositions—“Qu'il avoit imposé des taxes sur ses sujets de sa seule autorité.”

The student is now desired to observe the extreme nicety which belongs to all investigations of this nature, and to all quotations of historians.

For another or second reader of history might now come and say, that Rapin had said nothing of the kind : that, on the contrary, the fifteenth article, as given by Rapin, ran thus :

Art. 15. Whereas the kings of England used to live upon the revenues of the kingdom and patrimony of the crown in time of peace, without oppression of their people; that the same king, during his whole time, gave the greatest part of his revenue to unworthy persons, and imposed burdens upon his subjects, granted as it were every year, by which he excessively oppressed his people and impoverished his kingdom, not employing these goods to the advantage of the nation, but prodigally wasting them in ostentation, pomp, and glory; owing great sums for victuals and other necessaries of his own house, though his revenues were greater than any of his progenitors."

What is there here, the second student would say, of the king's imposing taxes on his own authority ?

And while these two students might stand, each quoting Rapin, and appealing to the very books they had perhaps seen not an hour before, another and a third reader of history might also come forward, and say that the first student was right; that he had just read the fifteenth article in Rapin's history, and that it was expressed as he had stated, and in the following words : _“That he had imposed taxes upon his subjects on his own authority.”

What a perplexity and contradiction are here! Yet it would turn out, upon examination, that these three students or readers of history were, in a certain sense of the word, all right.

For the first had quoted the folio edition of Rapin, given in the original French.

The second had quoted the folio edition of Rapin, as translated by Tindal. But it happens, that Tindal very properly takes the trouble, on this occasion, not of translating Rapin, but of translating the original articles of accusation from the rolls of parliament; and the fifteenth article, when translated from the real original, gives not the words of Rapin, but runs to the length and exhibits the words, as presented by Tindal, “Whereas the kings of England,” &c. &c.

Finally, the third student might have been quoting the common octavo edition of Rapin in English, where the fifteenth article is not, as in Tindal's folio translation, a translation of the original roll of parliament, but a mere translation of the French of Rapin, the French of the first folio edition, which is wrong, and Rapin's own view of the case ;—“Qu'il avoit imposé des taxes de sa seule autorité.”

Supposing now, therefore, that recourse was had, after the example of Tindal, to the only real authority, the rolls of parliament (they are published with the journals, and therefore easily accessible); and then the important words in the fifteenth article will be found to be these :

Non solum magnam, immo maximam partem dicti patrimonii sui donaret etiam personis indignis, verum etiam propterea tot onera concessionis subditorum imposuit quasi annis singulis in regno suo, quod valdè et nimium et excessivè populum suum oppresserit in depauperationem regni sui," &c. &c.

Now in these words, “ tot onera concessionis subditorum,” &c. there is a sufficient obscurity to admit of a different interpretation by a Whig like Rapin, or a Tory like Hume, though the latter seems far more justified in his representation than the former; for it is the prodigality of the king, rather than the illegality of his conduct, that is evidently all throughout the articles the great burden of the accusation—that he had wasted the money of the people of England, rather than that he had offended against their constitutional rights.

There is a history of Louis XI. by Duclos, a work that was much noticed in France; but it seems to be justly observed by a late French writer (Chamfort,) that it is written in a spirit far too complaisant, very different from that with which the “Memoirs of Louis XIV.” &c. (by the same author) are composed.

The fact is, that the philosophy of the history of this reign (Louis XI.) cannot be found in the work of Duclos.

It is said, indeed, that it was the object of the reign to break down the power of the great, and to keep them from tyrannizing over the people ; which is probably what was said by Louis himself, for it is always said on such occasions.

It is observed, too, that the royal authority has ever since been advancing by the motion which was impressed upon it by Louis XI.

But the steps by which all this was done, and the consequences, are nowhere exhibited to the reader.

Duclos, before his history went to publication, had to receive the approbation of a licenser; and it was in vain, therefore, that he was competent both to write well and think well.

Philosophical instruction must be still gathered from Commines, whose omissions Duclos intended to supply, as well as to correct his mistakes; “though they are not commonly of great consequence,” he tells us.

Duclos bad all the facts before him, and he gives them.

Montesquieu is understood to have devoted much time to the subject; but there is a strange story of his losing his MSS. by an accident, and of his then abandoning all further thoughts of the work.

Philip de Commines is the author read.

Much of his work, particularly the latter part of it, should be read. The important features of it are the fate of the house of Burgundy, and the unjust encroachments of Louis XI. on the dominions of his neighbours, and the constitution of his country,

Commines came not into the service of Louis till he bad been twelve years on the throne.

It cannot be now understood by what felicity of original temperament, or by what influence of reflection, the historian himself could be a lover of the people and a lorer of virtue, though a courtier from his infancy, the servant of the most base and selfish of princes, and living in habits of business and society with many of the most licentious and unprincipled of men.

“Is there any king,” he says, “or prince upon earth, who has power to raise one penny of money, except his domains, without the consent of the poor subject who is to pay it, but by tyranny and violence ?"

“King Charles VII.” he says, in another place,“ has laid a great load both upon his own and the souls of his successors, and given his kingdom a wound which shall bleed a long time; and that was, by establishing a standing army."

The manners of these dreadful times in France, during the factions of the houses of Orleans and Burgundy, and the reign of Louis XI., may be seen in Brantome; and more conveniently in Wraxall's Memoirs of the House of Valois.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

N my last lecture I endeavoured to call your attention to

the constitutional history of France. I did so, because this is one of the first objects of importance in the history of Europe from the effects which that great kingdom has always been fitted from its situation and natural advantages to produce upon every other. Such must always have been the influence of its arms and its example, that it is not too much to say, that the history of the civilized world would have been changed, and most favourably changed, if France had not lost its constitutional liberties, and sunk into an arbitrary monarchy.

But the same subject is a great interest to ourselves, from the illustration which it affords of the merits and the good fortune of our ancestors. This island lost not its liberties in like manner, because it retained its public assemblies, and because they retained the right of taxation.

How, therefore, or why, arose this difference in the fate of the two kingdoms?

It is this question that I am so anxious that you should bear along with you in your thoughts, while you read the annals of every other country of Europe; and the more strongly to impress it on your minds, I pointed out to you, in my last lecture, a very remarkable epoch in the French history, during which there was evidently some great effort made for the constitution of France, by the members of the States General, and particularly by the third estate, and by Marcel and the Parisians.

I next alluded to those parts of the subsequent reigns when the liberties of that country were more slowly undermined, but not less fatally attacked, particularly during the times of Charles VII. and Louis XI.

De Mably will always apprize you, by the tone and nature of his observations, what are the transactions, and what the periods of importance; and these you should examine through all their detail in some of the great French historians. I have found the history of Velly the most elaborate and complete.

I must remind you, that the constitutional history of France is noticed by Robertson, in his introduction to Charles V., and his text is accompanied by three valuable notes, the thirty-eighth, thirty-ninth, and fortieth.

But the same question which I have thus recommended to you, with respect to France and England, an inquiry into their constitutional histories, may be extended to the other kingdoms of Europe; and we have hitherto said nothing of Spain, a country which, like England, might have obtained a free and mixed government, as the elements of its constitution were originally similar (monarchy, feudal lords, and national assemblies), but which, like France, from various untoward circumstances, lost its liberties, and has had to descend, through different stages of degradation, at last almost to extinction and ruin.

I must repeat to you, before we advert to Spain, that it is only by inquiries of this sort into the histories of other countries, that you can learn properly to understand how slowly a good government can be formed; by what attention and anxiety it can be alone maintained; what are the exact points of difficulty in the formation of a good government; and the manner (often the singular and unexpected manner) in which these difficulties are evaded or modified, or overcome, more particularly in your own.

But to allude, as we have proposed, to the history of Spain. In the fifth volume of Gibbon may be found an account of the introduction of the Moors into that country, of their settlement there, and of the magnificence of their caliphs, and to him I refer. An estimate is also given of the science and knowledge of this remarkable people; and at first we might be tempted to conclude that, in the general darkness and barbarity of Europe, the light of civilization and learning was

« הקודםהמשך »