An Essay Picked by blupete

"Illustrations of Vetus" 1

"Those nauseous harlequins in farce may pass,
"But there goes more to a substantial ass;
"Our modern wits such monstrous fools have shewn,
"They seem not of heaven's making but their own."--Dryden.

Dec. 2, 1813.

There is a degree of shameless effrontery which disarms and baffles contempt by the shock which it gives to every feeling of moral rectitude or common decency; as there is a daring extravagance in absurdity which almost challenges our assent by confounding and setting at defiance every principle of human reasoning. The ribald paragraphs, which fill the columns of our daily papers, and disgrace the English language, afford too many examples of the former assertion; the Letters of Vetus are a striking instance of the latter.2

It would have been some satisfaction to us, in the ungrateful task which we have imposed upon ourselves, if, in combating the conclusions of Vetus, we could have done justice to the ingenuity of his arguments, or the force of his illustrations. But his extreme dogmatism is as destitute of proofs, as it is violent in itself. His profound axioms are in general flat contradictions; and he scarcely makes a single statement in support of any proposition which does not subvert it. In the Parliamentary phrase, he constantly stultifies himself. The glaring and almost deliberate incongruity of his conclusions is such as to imply a morbid defect of comprehension, a warped or overstrained understanding. Absorbed in an inveterate purpose, bent on expanding some vapid sophism into a cumbrous system, he is insensible to the most obvious consequences of things; and his reason is made the blind pander to his prejudices.

We are not converts to this author's style, any more than to his reasoning. Indeed the defects of the one very much assist those of the other, and both have the same character. There is a perpetual effort to make something out of nothing, and to elevate a common-place into sublimity. The style of Vetus is not very different from that of Don Adriano de Armado; every word is as who should say, "I am Sir Oracle." Like the hero of Cervantes, haranguing the shepherds, he assaults the very vault of Heaven with the arrogance of his tone, and the loudness of his pretensions. Nothing can exceed the pompous quaintness, and laborious foolery of many of his letters. He unfolds the book of fate, assumes the prophet or historian, by virtue of alliteration and antithesis; sustains the balance of power by a well-posed periods, or crushes a people under a ponderous epithet. The set style of Vetus does not conform easily to the march of human affairs; and he is often forced to torture the sense to "hitch it" in a metaphor. While he is marshalling his words, he neglects his arguments, which require all his attention to connect them together; and in his eagerness to give additional significance to his sentences, he loses his own meaning.

We shall proceed to the task we at first proposed, viz. that of supplying marginal notes to the voluminous effusions of Vetus, and shall continue our comments as often as he furnishes us with the text.

We agree with the sentiment with which he commences his last Letter, that it is "particularly desirable to follow up the question of peace" at the present crises, but not with the reason which he assigns for his extreme anxiety to enter upon the question, "because this is just the moment to dread the entertainment of a pacific overture." We can readily believe that at no other moment than when he dreads its approach, would Vetus ever breathe a syllable on the subject of peace, and then only to avert it. Whenever "a spurious and mawkish beneficence" gives an alarm of peace, the dogs of war stand ready on the slip to hunt it down.

"I have stated to you" (To the Editor of The Times) "as the only legitimate basis of a treaty, if not on the part of the continental Allies, at least for England herself, that she should conquer all she can, and keep all she conquers. This is not by way of retaliation, however just, upon so obdurate and rapacious an enemy--but as an indispensable condition of her own safety and existence."
That which is here said to be the only legitimate basis of a treaty is one, which if admitted and acted upon, would make it impossible that any treaty should ever be formed. It is a basis, not of lasting peace, but of endless war. To call that the basis of a treaty which precludes the possibility of any concession or compensation, of every consideration either of the right or power of each party to retain its actual acquisitions, is one of those misnomers which the gravity of Vetus' s manner makes his readers overlook. After the imposing and guarded exordium which ushers in the definition of our only legitimate basis of a treaty, we are not prepared to expect Vetus's burlesque solution of the difficulty--"that we are not to treat at all." The human mind is naturally credulous of sounding professions, and reluctantly admits the existence of what is very common, and common for that reason--pompous nonsense. It seems, however, that this basis of a treaty is to apply only to one of the contracting powers, namely, England, it is equivocal as to the Allies, and with respect to France, it is, we suppose, meant to be altogether null. For in a former letter, after asking, "Who are to be the judges of his (Bonaparte's ) rights?" he answers emphatically, "We and our Allies!" Bobadill did not come up to this exquisite pacificator or the world! To make common sense of Vetus's axiom with reference to any state whatever, "that it should keep all its conquers, " it seems necessary to add this trifling condition, "if it can." And with respect to Great Britain in particular, if from her peculiar situation she has the power to keep all she conquers without being amenable to any other tribunal than her own will, this very circumstance proves that the exercise of that power is not necessary to her safety and existence. Again, if England has an interest of her own, quite independent on and separate from that of the continent, what has she to do with continental Allies? If her interests may be and are interwoven with those of the rest of Europe, is it too much to expect from her a common sacrifice to the common cause? We quarrel with France on continental grounds; we strip her of her colonies to support the quarrel; and yet we refuse to restore any part of them, in order to secure peace. If so, we are only ostensible parties in the contest, and in reality robbers.

"The first policy of a wise people is to make rival nations afraid to disturb them, to impress their enemies with a terrific sense," (how magnificent is this epic mode of expression) "that to attack them is to suffer not only transient defeats, but deep, grievous, and irrecoverable losses; and to hold in abhorrence any peace which shall not be a living record of their own superiority, and a monument worthy of those warriors, through whose noble blood it was obtained."
If the losses sustained in war were to be irrecoverable, it is easy to foresee that the seat of empires would be very soon changed in almost all cases whatever. But Vetus here, as is customary with him when it tends to enforce the hyperbolical effect of his style, assumes as a broad ground of national wisdom, a physical impossibility. It is not in the nature of things that the losses of rival States should be irrecoverable. Vetus would do better to decree at once that the possession of nations are unassailable as well as irrecoverable, which would prevent war altogether. But still more preposterous is the madness or malice of the assertion, that no peace can be made by a wise nation, which is not a living record of their own superiority. "This is the key-stone which makes up the arch" of Vetus's indestructible war system. Can it have escaped even the short-sighted logic of this writer, that to make superiority an indispensable condition of a wise peace is to proscribe peace altogether, because certainly this superiority cannot belong at the same time to both parties, and yet we conceive that the consent of both parties is necessary to a peace? Any other peace, we are told, than that which is at all times impracticable between rival states, ought not only never to be made, but it ought to be held in abhorrence, we ought to shudder at its approach as the last of evils, and throw it to an immeasureable distance from us. This is indeed closing up the avenues to peace, and shutting the gates of mercy on mankind, in a most consummate and scientific manner. Our philosophic rhetorician appears also to forget, in that high tone in which he speaks of the monuments raised by the noble blood of warriors, that these sort of monuments are cemented by the blood of others as well as by our own, and tell the survivors a double story. His heated imagination seems to have been worked up into a literal belief of his own assertion, that the French nation are a rank-non-entity; or he supposes that there is some celestial ichor in our veins, which we alone shed for our county, while other nations neither bleed nor suffer from war, nor have a right to profit by peace. This may be very well in poetry, or on the stage, but it will not pass current in diplomacy. Vetus, indeed, strains hard to reconcile inconsistencies, and to found the laws of nations on the sentiments of exclusive patriotism. But we should think that the common rules of peace and war, which necessarily involve the rights, interests, and feelings of different nations, cannot be dictated by the heroic caprices of a few hair-brained egotists, on either side of the question.


"Illustrations of Vetus" (Continued)

"He is indeed a person of great acquired follies." Sir Fopling Flutter

Dec. 10, 1813

"Nothing," continues Vetus, "can be more opposite to this great policy, than to fight and to render back the fruits of our successes. We may be assured, that those with whom we contend are ready enough to improve their victories. If we are not equally so, we shall never be at rest. If the enemy beats us, he wins our provinces.--(What provinces of ours?)--If we beat him, we restore all. What more profitable game could he desire! Truly, at this rate, our neighbours must be arrant fools if they leave us one week's repose!"

There is a spirit of Machiavelian policy in this paragraph which is very commendable. It reminds us of the satirist's description of "fools aspiring to be knaves." It is, in fact, this fear of being outwitted by the French, that constantly makes us the dupes of our suspicions of them, as it is a want of confidence in our own strength or firmness, that leads us to shew our courage by defiance. True courage, as well as true wisdom, is not distrustful of itself. Vetus recommends it to us to act upon the maxims of the common disturbers of mankind, of "this obdurate and rapacious foe," as the only means to secure general tranquillity. He wishes to embody the pretended sprit and principles of French diplomacy in a code,--the acknowledged basis of which should be their universal conquest, or endless hostility. We have, it seems, no chance of repealing the aggressions of the French, by retaliating them not only on themselves, but on other states. At least, the author gives a pretty broad hint of what he means by the improvement of our victories, when he talks of annexing Holland and Danish Zealand to Hanover, as "her natural prey," instead of their being, the dependencies of France. This is certainly one way of trimming the balance of power in Europe, and placing the independence of nations in a most happy dilemma. The inventor of this new and short way with foreign states only laments that Hanover, "under British auspices," has not been beforehand with France in imitating Prussia in her seizure of the Austrian provinces on one side, and her partition of Poland on the other. He can scarcely express his astonishment and regret, that Holland and Denmark should so long have escaped falling into our grasp, after the brilliant example of "rapacity and obduracy" set to our phlegmatic, plodding, insipid, commercial spirit by Prussia and Russia. But now that we have rescued "our natural prey" from the French, it is to be hoped, that we shall make sure of it. Vetus's great principles of morality seem to be borrowed from those of Peacham, and his acknowledgments of merit to flow much in the same channel:--"A good clever lad, this Nimming Ned--there's not a handier in the whole gang, nor one more industrious to save goods from the fire!" --His chief objection to that "revolutionist," Bonaparte, (Vetus too is a projector of revolutions) is not evidently, to his being a robber, but because he is at the head of a different gang; and we are only required to bestir ourselves as effectually as he does, for the good of mankind! But Vetus, whose real defect is a contraction of intellectual vision, sees no alternative between this rapacious and obdurate policy, and unconditional submission, between "restoring all" or none. This is not sound logic. He wishes by a coup sur to prevent an unfair and dishonourable peace, by laying down such rules as must make peace impossible, under any circumstances, or on any grounds that can enter into human calculation. According to him, our only security against the most wild and extravagant concessions, is the obstinate determination of make none; our only defence against the fascinations of our own folly, is to take refuge from the exercise of our discretion in his impregnable paradoxes.--"The same argument which goes to justify a war, prescribes war measure of the most determined and active character." Good; because the nature and essence of war is a trial of strength; and therefore, to make it as advantageous to ourselves as possible, we ought to exert all the strength that we possess. "The very object," continues Vetus, "that of weakening the enemy, for which we pursue those vigorous measures, and strip him of his possessions, renders it necessary to keep him in that state of weakness by which he will be deterred from repeating his attack; and therefore, to hold inflexibly what we have acquired." Here again Vetus confounds himself, and, involving a plain principle in the mazes of a period, represents war not as a trial of strength between contending states, each exerting himself to the utmost, but as a voluntary assumption of superiority on the part of one of them. He talks of stripping the enemy of his possessions, and holding them inflexibly--as masters of course, as questions of will, and not of power.

It is neither the actual possession, nor the will to keep certain acquisitions, but the power to keep them, and at the same time, to extort other concessions from an enemy, that must determine the basis of all negociations, that are not founded on verbal chimeras.

"We are taught, indeed, to take for granted, that a peace whose conditions bear hard on either party, will be the sooner broken by that party; and, therefore, that we have an indirect interest in sacrificing a portion of our conquests." The general principle here stated is self-evident, and one would think indisputable. For the very ground of war is a peace whose conditions are thought to bear hard on one of the parties, and yet, according to Vetus, the only way to make peace durable, to prevent the recurrence of an appeal to force, is to impose such hard conditions on an enemy, as it is his interest, and must be his inclination, to break by force. An opinion of the disproportion between our general strength, and our actual advantages, seems to be the necessary ground of war, but it is here converted into the permanent source of peace. The origin of the common prejudice is however, very satisfactorily illustrated in the remainder of the paragraph. "This language is in favour with the two extremes of English faction. The blind opponents of every minister how happens to be engaged in conducting a war" [Is war then a mere affair of accident?] "can see no danger in national dishonour; and cry out for peace with double vehemence, whenever it is least likely to be concluded well. The dependents, on the other hand, of any feeble government, will strive to lower the expectations of the country--to exclaim against immoderate exertion----to depreciate her powers in war, and her pretensions at a peace:--thus preparing an oblique defence for their employers, and undermining the honest disappointment" [Quere expectations] "of the people when they reflect how little has been done by war, and how much" [of that little] "undone by negociation. But besides being a factious expedient, it is a principle of action equally false and absurd. I deny that we effect any thing more by granting an enemy what are called favourable terms, than convince him that he may go to war with England, gratis. The conditions he obtains will encourage him to try the chance of another war, in the hope of a still more advantageous treaty." Here Vetus entirely shifts the state of the question. The terms of a peace, if not hard, must be immediately favourable! Because we grant an enemy such terms as he has a right to expect, it is made a conclusion that we are also to grant him such as he has no right to expect, and which will be so decidedly advantageous as to induce him to try his fortune still farther against so generous an adversary. That is, Vetus has no idea of the possibility of a just, fair, or honourable peace; his mind refuses to dwell for a moment on an arrangement of terms, which by bearing hard on one party or another, will not be sure to end speedily, from the desire on one side to retrieve its affairs and on the other to improve its advantage, in a renewal of war. "The only valid security for peace is the accession to our own strength, and the diminution of our rival's, by the resources and dominions we have wrested from him." First, this security can be good only on one side: secondly, it is not good at all: the only security of peace is not in the actual losses or distresses incurred by states, but in the settled conviction that they cannot better themselves by war. But all these contradictions are nothing to Vetus, who alone does not fluctuate between the extremes of faction, but is still true to war--and himself.

But there is, in our opinion, a third extreme of English faction (if Vetus will spare us the anomaly) not less absurd, and more mischievous than either of the others; we mean those who are the blind adherents of every minister who happens to be engaged in a war, however unnecessarily or wantonly it may have been begun, or however weakly and wickedly carried on; who see no danger in repeated disgraces, and impending ruin, provided we are obstinately bent on pursuing the same dreadful career which has led to them; who, when our losses come thronging in upon us, urge us to persist till we recover the advantages we have lost, and, when we recover them, force us on till we lose all again; with whom peace, in a time of adverse fortune, is dishonour, and in the pride of success, madness: who only exaggerate "our pretensions at a peace," that they may never be complied with; who assume a settled unrelenting purpose in our adversary to destroy us, in order to inspire us with the same principle of never-ending hostility against him: who leaves us no alternative but eternal war, or inevitable ruin: who irritate the hatred and the fears of both parties by spreading abroad incessantly a spirit of defiance, suspicion, and the most galling contempt: who, adapting every aspect of affairs to their own purposes, constantly return in the same circle to the point from which they set out: with whom peace is always unattainable, war always necessary!

We shall pass over Vetus's historic researches, the wars of the Romans and Carthaginians (the formal latitude of Vetus's pen delights in these great divisions of human affairs), and come to what is more to our purpose.

In modern times he first comes to the treaty of 1765, only (as far as we can find) to affix the epithet "American rebels" as a sort of Pragmatic Sanction to our colonists, with whom, he says, France joined a few years afterwards, and, "in spite of her ruined finances and her peaceful king, aimed a mortal blow at the British monarchy." Yet, notwithstanding this long-standing and inveterate animosity of the French court to this country, we find the same France, in the next paragraph but one, stigmatized as republican and Corsican, "with centric and eccentric scribbled o'er," as if these were important distinctions, though Vetus himself "would prefer for France the scourge of Bonaparte, to the healthier, and to England not less hostile, sovereignty of the banished house of Bourbon." Why then pertinaciously affix these obnoxious epithets? They are bad ornaments of style--they are worse interpreters of truth.

To prove his general axiom, that in order to be stable, "the conditions of peace must bear hard on one of the parties," Vetus asks, "Were the powers that partitioned unhappy Poland so conciliated by her acquiescence in their first encroachments, as to abstain from offering her any second wrong?" Now this is an instance precisely in point to prove the direct reverse of Vetus's doctrine: for here was a treaty in which the terms bore exceedingly hard on one of the parties, and yet this only led to accumulated wrongs by a renewal of war. We say that hard conditions of peace, in all cases, will lead to a rupture. If the parties are nearly equal, they will lead to resistance to unfounded claims; if quite unequal--to an aggravation of oppression. But would Russia and Prussia have been more lenient or deterred from their encroachments, if Poland had pretended to impose hard conditions of peace on them? These governments partitioned Poland, not in consequence of any treaty good or bad, but because they had the will and the power to do so. Vetus would terrify the French into moderation by hard conditions of peace, and yet he supposes us to be in the same relation to France as Poland to its implacable enemies.

"Did the wretched complaisance of the leading continental courts in their several treaties with France, ensure their tranquillity even for a moment?" This is still altering the record. The question is not about submitting to hard conditions, but about imposing them. Besides, "the aggravated and multiplied molestations, injuries, and insults, which these courts were doomed to suffer," might be accounted for from those which they had in vain attempted to inflict on France, and from their still more wretched complaisance in being made the tools of a court which was not continental.

"Then comes the peace of Amiens, our peace of Amiens [1802]--a peace born, educated, nourished, and matured in this very philanthropic spirit of gentleness and forgiveness. In the war which preceded the truce of which I am speaking, the French government involved us in considerably more than two hundred millions of debt." Vetus then proceeds to state that we made peace without any liquidation of this claim, without satisfaction, without a bond, (what else?) without a promise, without a single guinea! "I will have ransom, most egregious ransom." Why was it ever heard of that one government paid the debts in which another had involve itself in making war upon it?

"The language of England," says our author, "was correctly what follows:--You Monsieur, have loaded me with unspeakable distresses and embarrassments," (all the while, be it recollected, our affairs were going on most prosperously and gloriously in the cant of The Times) "you have robbed me of half my fortune, and reduced me to the brink of beggary," (the French by all accounts were in the gulph of bankruptcy) "you have torn away and made slaves of my friends and kindred," (indeed) "you have dangerously wounded me, and murdered my beloved children, who armed to defend their parent."--This is too much, even for the dupes of England. Stick, Vetus, to your statistics, and do not make the pathetic ridiculous! Sophistry and affectation may confound common sense to a certain degree, but there is a point at which our feelings revolt against them.

We have already remarked on what Vetus says of Hanover; he probably will not wish us to go farther into it. Of Bonaparte he says, of course, that nothing short of unconditional submission will ever satisfy that revolutionist, and that he will convert the smallest concession made to him into a weapon for our destruction. That is, we have it in our power to set him at defiance, to insult him, to "bring him to the block," &c. whenever we please; and yet we are so completely in his power, so dependent on him, that the smallest concession must be fatal to us, will be made the instrument of our inevitable destruction. Thus is the public mind agitated and distracted by incredible contradictions, and made to feel at once "the fierce extremes" of terror and triumph, of rashness and despair. "Our safety lies in his weakness, not in his will," If so, or if it depends on either of the conditions here stated, we are in no very pleasant situation. But our real safety depends on our own strength, and steady reliance on it, and not on the arguments of Vetus.


"Illustrations of Vetus" (Continued)

"Madmen's epistles are no gospels.

Dec. 16, 1813

The last Letter of Vetus begins with an allusion to the events which have lately taken place in Holland. He then proceeds--"What final effect this popular movement by the Dutch may have upon the future interests and prosperity of England is a question to be discussed with deliberate caution--with extreme solicitude--and with the chance, I trust, the distant chance, of its conducting us to no very gratifying conclusion!" There is something in this passage truly characteristic, and well worthy of our notice. Vetus, is, it seems, already jealous of the Dutch. The subtle venom of his officious zeal is instantly put in motion by the prospect of their national independence and commercial prosperity; and his pen is, no doubt, prepared, on the slightest provocation of circumstances, to convert them from an ally to be saved, into a rival and an enemy to be crushed. He, however, waives for the present the solemn discussion, till he can find some farther grounds to confirm them in his extreme solicitude and mysterious apprehensions. The perverse readiness of Vetus to pick a quarrel out of every thing, or out of nothing, exactly described in Spenser's Allegory of Furor and Occasion, which is we thought him "made of penetrable stuff," we would recommend to his perusal.

The introductory comment on the Revolution in Holland is a clue to the whole of our author's political system, which we shall here endeavour to explain. He looks askance with "leer malign" on the remotest prospect of good to other nations. Every addition to the general stock of liberty or happiness, is to him so much taken from our own. He sees nothing gratifying in that prosperity or independence, which is shared (or any part of it) with foreign nations. He trembles with needless apprehension at the advantages in store for them, which he anticipates only to prevent, and is indifferent to our own welfare, interests, honour--except as they result from the privations, distress, and degradation of the rest of the world. Hatred, suspicion and contempt of other nations are the first and last principles of the love which "an upright Englishman" bears to his country. To prevent their enjoying a moment's repose, or indulging even in a dream of future comfort, he would involve his own country in incessant distraction and wretchedness, and risk its final ruin on the cast of a die!--Vetus professes, with some reason, not to be enamoured of quotation: but he may, perhaps allow us to refer to an author, who, though not so deep read in Vattel and the writings of the jurists, had just and penetrating views of human nature. "Think, there's livers out of England. What's England in the world's map? In a great pool a swan's nest." Now this "swan's nest" is indeed to us more than all the world besides--to cherish, to protect, to love, and honour it. But if we expect it to be so to the rest of the world,--if we do not allow them to cultivate their own affections, to improve their own advantages, to respect their own rights, to maintain their own independence--if in the blindness of our ignorance, our pride, and our presumption, we think of setting up our partial and local attachments as the law of nature and nations--if we practise, or so much as tolerate in theory that "exclusive patriotism" which is inconsistent with the common privileges of humanity, and attempt to dictate our individual caprices, as paramount and binding obligations on those, to whose exaction of the same claims from us we should return only loud scorn, indignation, and defiance--if we are ever so lost to reason, as Vetus would have us, who supposes that we cannot serve our country truly and faithfully but by making others the vassals of her avarice and insolence; we shall then indeed richly deserve, if we do not meet with, the natural punishment of such disgraceful and drivelling hypocrisy.

Vetus, who is extremely dissatisfied with our application of the term "exclusive patriotism" to him, is nevertheless "at a loss to understand the patriotism which is not exclusive. The word implies a preference of the rights and welfare of our own country to those of other (and above all other) of rival countries. This is not indeed the philanthropy of Anacharsis Cloots--it is not the dreary jargon of metaphysics, nor the shop-boy philosophy of a printer's devil--nor the sans-culotterie of scholastic virtue." We will tell Vetus what we mean by exclusive patriotism, such as (we say) his is. We mean by it then, not that patriotism which implies a preference of the rights and welfare of our own country, but that which professes to annihilate and proscribe the rights of others--not that patriotism which supposes us to the creatures of circumstance, habit and affection, but that which divests us of the character of reasonable beings--which fantastically makes our interests or prejudices the sole measure of right and wrong to other nations, and constitutes us sole arbiters of the empire of the world--in short, which under the affectation of an overweening anxiety for the welfare of our own country, excludes even the shadow of a pretension to common sense, justice and humanity. It is this wretched solecism which Vetus would fain bolster up into a system, with all the logic and rhetoric he is master of. It is true, this kind of patriotism is not the philanthropy of Anacharis Cloots, it has nothing to do with philanthropy in any shape, but is a vile compound of "the jargon of metaphysics, with the vulgar notions of a printer's devil." It is an intense union of the grossness and narrowness of ignorance with the dangerous refinement of the most abstracted speculation. It is passion and prejudice, inflamed by philosophy, and philosophy distorted by passion and prejudice.

After his cold exordium on the Revolution in Holland, our consistent politician enters with warmth on Lord Castlereagh's speech on the subsidiary treaties, in which he finds a But before the word Peace, which has a most happy efficacy in healing the wounds inflicted on his tortured apprehensions, by the explicit unqualified declaration of Lord Liverpool in the other House. "After describing the laudable solicitude of Ministers for the attainment of that first of earthly goods, peace," (we thought it had ranked last in the mind of Vetus) "his Lordship added what was worth all the rest--BUT we must have a secure peace. We must not only recollect with whom we contend, but with whom we negociate, and never grant to such an enemy conditions, which under the name of peace, would disarm this nation, and expose her to contingent dangers." (To place any nation out of the reach of contingent dangers in peace or war is, we imagine, an undertaking beyond even the calibre of Lord Castlereagh's talents as a statesman.) "These," proceeds Vetus, "were nearly the words; they certainly do not compromise his meaning." (Our author cannot be much mistaken in attributing to his Lordship any words which seeming to have some meaning, in reality have none.) "Here then the noble Secretary has chased away every doubtful expression of his colleague." ("Why so,--this horrible shadow" of peace "being gone," Vetus "is himself again.")

"The sentiment delivered by the sovereign on the throne is now given to us with a construction, at which we need no longer be alarmed. I ask only that secure peace,--a peace consistent with English safety--void of the shadow of regard or indulgence to the pretensions and honour, otherwise the ambition and arrogance of Bonaparte, which, as compared with the relief of one day's hunger to the meanest peasant in this our native land, are baubles not worth a name!"--This is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable specimens we ever met with of that figure in rhetoric, designated by an excellent writer as "the figure of encroachment."* Vetus, by a series of equations (certainly not mathematical ones) at length arrives at a construction of peace at which he is no longer alarmed; at the identical peace which he wants, ands the only one he will admit,--a peace preposterous in its very terms, and in its nature impracticable,--a peace "void of the shadow of regard or indulgence to the pretensions and honour" of the enemy, which are to pass with them as well as with us, for as much "arrogance and ambition." This is the only peace consistent with English safety--this is the secure peace of Lord Castlereagh--the fair and honourable peace announced from the throne--the very peace which Lord Liverpool meant to describe when he startled Vetus by the doubtful expression of a peace "consistent with the honour, rights, and interests of France"--"of such a peace as we in her situation should be disposed to grant." To the mind of Vetus, which is indeed the very receptacle for contradictions "to knot and gender in," these two sorts of peace appear to be perfectly compatible, and the one a most happy explanation of the other, viz. a peace void of every shadow of regard to right and honour of a rival nation, and a peace consistent with those rights and that honour. If this is not "mere midsummer madness," we do not know what is. Or if any thing can surpass it ("for in this lowest deep of absurdity a lower deep still opens to receive us, gaping wide") it is the forlorn piece of sentimental mummery by which it is attempted to protract this endless war of proscription against the pretensions of France, under the mask of relieving the wants and distresses of the meanest peasant of this our native land! Compared with the tears and blood of our countrymen, all the sophistries of Vetus by which he would make them victims of his own vanity and egotism, not less than of the arrogance and ambition of Bonaparte, are indeed contemptible and mischievous baubles.

*See Remarks on Judge Eyre's Charge to the Jury, 1794, by W. Godwin.

"What means the impious cry raised by degenerate Englishmen against the mere chance--nay, the remotest possibility of a peace, whose terms would be honourable to their country? Whence arises this profligate and abandoned yell with which these traitors insult us? Are they still in pay? Is their patron still rich enough to bribe them? When we demand compensation for our dreadful sufferings, it is but what justice grants. When we call for security, it is what our existence requires. Yet when these undoubted rights and essential safeguards of an injured people are asserted, it is nothing less than blaspheming the holy supremacy of Bonaparte!"

First, when Vetus demands compensation for our sufferings, it would perhaps hardly be sufficient to refer him to the satisfaction which the patriotic contributors to The Times, The Courier, The Morning Post, The Sun and The Star, must have had in writing, and their admirers in reading the daily paragraphs, of which those sufferings were the dreadful price, and the inevitable result. When we demand compensation for what we have suffered, it is but justice, if we can at the same time make compensation for what we have made others suffer; but at all events, it is no compensation for past sufferings, to make them perpetual. When we call for security, we are right; but when we tell the enemy that our only security is in his destruction, and call upon him for this pledge and safeguard of our undoubted rights, we shew by asking for what we know we cannot have, that not security, but defiance is our object. As to the terms of abuse which are introduced in this paragraph (we suppose, to vary the general gravity and decorum of Vetus's style) we shall answer them by a very short statement of what we conceive to be the truth. Europe has been for the last twenty years engaged in a desperate and (for some reason or other) an unequal struggle against France;--by playing at double or quits, she has just recovered from the very brink of destruction; and the keepers of our political E. O. tables treat us as traitors and miscreants, who would dissuade her from sitting down once more to finish the game, and ruin her adversary.

"--It is asked,--'Do we propose to humble France? Do we propose to destroy her? If so we breathe eternal war; if so, we convert the aggressor into the sufferer, and transfer all the dignity and authority of justice to the enemy against whom we arm!" Yes, against whom we arm for the avowed purpose of his destruction. From the moment that we make the destruction of an enemy (be he who he may) the indispensable condition of our safety, our destruction from that moment becomes necessary to his, and an act of self-defense. Not much liking this dilemma from which our author has more than once "struggled to get free," he in the next passage makes a wide career indeed, in order, no doubt, to return to the charge with better effect hereafter. "The question of peace or eternal war is not a naked question of right and wrong.. It is a question, whose morality is determined by its reference to our preservation as a people. To such interrogatories I answer without reserve, that we ought to exact precisely that measure of humiliation from France, and that we do recommend that critical advance towards her destruction, that may combine the utmost attainable satisfaction for our past grievances with a solid protection to our future interest and welfare. From France, since the fatal battle of Hastings, what has this nation of Saxon warriors"--(We hardly know ourselves in the learned livery of Vetus's style. He himself is doubtless descended from some very old family settled here before the Conquest)--"What has this nation of Saxon warriors ever yet endured from France but injury and affliction?" Yet we have made a shift to exist as a nation under all this load of calamity. We still breathe and live notwithstanding some intervals of repose, some short resting places afforded us, before this morbid inspector of health, like another Doctor Pedro Positive, injoined his preposterous regimen of incessant war as necessary to lasting peace, and to our preservation as a people!

"Modern France, continues Vetus, rising in his argument, "has no principle so deeply rooted as that of everlasting enmity to England. I confess for this reason that in my uncorrupted judgment the best security for Great Britain, and therefore, if practicable, her most imperious duty, would be the absolute conquest of France. But since that, unfortunately, is an event which at present we are not likely to accomplish, the second best security is"(one would think not to attempt it at all; no, but) to reduce her, if we can, to a degree of weakness consistent with our immediate repose." After thus modestly postponing the absolute conquest of France to a more convenient opportunity, he adds the following incredible sentence. "If the enemy should be so far borne away by his hatred, as to command his emissaries in London to announce that he prefers waging eternal war to the acceptance of conditions which his own persevering and atrocious outrages have rendered in the mind of every Englishman indispensable to the safety of these islands, the woeful alternative of perpetual war very plainly originates not with Great Britain but with Bonaparte!" That is to say, The Times not long ago laid it down as a fixed unalterable maxim, without reference to terms of one sort or another, that we were never to make piece with Bonaparte; Vetus in this very letter enters into an elaborate apology, for that multitude of wise honest and virtuous persons who think his existence as a sovereign at all times threatens our existence as a nation, and it is because we entered our protest against this "frantic outcry raised by degenerate Englishmen," that Bonaparte is here made to charge his emissaries in London to announce that he prefers eternal war to the acceptance of conditions, the moderation of which conditions or of our second best security may be judged of when we are told that the best, and indeed only real security for Great Britain, and therefor her most imperious duty, would be the absolute conquest of France. Vetus is, however, contented with such terms of peace as will imply only a critical advance to her destruction, and if Bonaparte is not contented with the same terms, the alternative of eternal war, it seems, originates with him and not with Vetus**

**Observe that these critically destructive terms of peace are not strictly called for by Bonaparte's perserving and atrocious outrages, but are at all times rendered necessary by the everlasting enmity of France.

But we deny that though this best security for Great Britain, the absolute conquest of France, were in her power, that it would be her most imperious duty to effect it. And we deny it, because on the same ground a better security still for Great Britain would be the conquest or destruction of Europe and the world; and yet we do not think it her imperious duty, even if she could, to accomplish the one, or to make a critical advance to the other. For if it is once laid down and acted upon as a maxim in national morality that the best and most desirable security of a state is in the destruction of its neighbours, or that there is to be an unrelenting ever watchful critical approximation to this object as far as possible, there is an end of civil society. The same principle of not stopping short of this maximum of selfish security will impose the same imperious duty of rankling jealousy, and inexorable hostility on others. Our speculator's "best possible security" for the independence of states, is nothing but a watchword for mutual havoc and wide-spreading desolation. Terrified with the phantom of imaginary danger, he would have us rush headlong on the reality. We are obstinately to refuse the enjoyment of a moment's repose and proceed to commit wilful dilapidation on the estate of our happiness, because it is not secured to us by an everlasting tenure. Placed at the mercy of the malice or hypocrisy of every venal alarmist, our only resource must be to seek a refuge from our fears in our own destruction, or to find the gratification of our revenge in that of others. But a whole nation is no more justified in obtaining this best of all possible securities for itself, by the immediate subversion of other states, than the assassin is justified in taking the life of another, to prevent the possibility of any future attempt upon his own. For in proportion as a state is weak and incapable to subjugating us, is the manifest injustice of any such precaution;--and in proportion as a state is formidable, and likely to excite serious apprehension for our own safety, is the danger and folly of setting an example which may be retaliated with so much great effect, and "like a devilish engine, recoil upon ourselves." That exclusive patriotism which claims for our country an exemption from "contingent danger," which would place its wealth, its power, or even its safety beyond the reach of chance and the fluctuation of human affairs, claims for it an exemption from the common lot of human nature. That exclusive patriotism which seeks to enforce this claim (equally impious and unwise) by the absolute conquest of rival states, tempts the very ruin it professes to avert.

But Vetus mistakes the nature of patriotism altogether. He would transform that principle which was intended for the tutelary genius of nations, into the destroying demons of the world. He ransacks past history to revive old grudges; he anticipates the future to invent new ones. In his whole system, there is not room for "so small a drop of pity as a wren's eye." His patriotism is the worm that dies not; a viper gnawing at the heart. He would strip this feeling of every thing but the low cunning, and brutal ferocity of the savage state, and then arm it with all the refinements of scholastic virtue, and the most rigid logic. The diverging rays of human reason which should be diffused to cheer and enlighten the moral world, are in him collected into a focus of raging zeal to burn and destroy. It is well for mankind that in the order of the universe, our passions naturally circumscribe themselves, and contain their own antidote within them. The only justification for our narrow, selfish passion, is their shortsightedness:--were it not for this the jalousies of individuals and of nations would not leave them the smallest interval of rest. It is well that the ungovernable impulses of fear and hatred are excited only by gross, palpable objects, and are therefore transient, and limited in their operation. It is well that those motives which do not owe their birth to reason, should not afterwards receive their nourishment and support from it. If in their present desultory state, they produce so many mischiefs, what would be the case, if they were to be organized into systems, and elevated into abstract principles of right and wrong?

The whole of Vetus's reasoning is founded on the false notions of patriotism which we have here pointed out, and which we conceive to be totally inconsistent with "the just principles of negociation." The remainder of his letter, which unfolds his motives for a pacific arrangement with Bonaparte, is founded entirely on the same jaundiced and distempered views. Many wise, many honest, many virtuous persons, he says, have maintained, not without reason, "the incompetency of this Corsican under any circumstances to discharge the obligations of a state of peace." But he, more wise, more honest, more virtuous, sees a hope, a shadow of peace, rising like a cloudy speck out of a quarter where it was least expected. "The stone which the builders rejected, is become the corner-stone of his Temple of Peace."--"It does not appear to Vetus, that a peace with Bonaparte is now unattainable on terms sufficient for our safety." He thinks there is no man so proper to make peace with as this Corsican, this Revolutionist,--no one so proper to govern France--to the complete exclusion of the Bourbons, whose pretensions he scouts analytically, logically, and chronologically, and who, it seems, had always the same implacable animosity against this country as Bonaparte, without tythe of his ability. (Surely this circumstance might plead a little in their favour with Vetus.) And why so? Whence arises this unexpected partiality shewn to Bonaparte? Why it is "from the strong conviction that by no other means so decisive as the existence of this man, with this consuming, depressing and degrading system of government, can we hope to see France crushed and ground down below the capacity of contending for ages to come with the force of the British Empire, moved by the spirit of freedom! Regarding France under every known form of government as the irreconcileable foe of England, I have beheld with almost unmingled joy the growth and accumulation of this savage despotism!" To be sure "while there appeared to some persons," (Vetus was not one of them)" a chance of his enslaving the Continent, and hurling the mass of subjugated nations against our shores--then, indeed, those who entertained such fears were justified in seeking his personal and political destruction. But once released from the terror of his arm, what genuine Englishman can fail to rejoice in the privilege of consigning Bonaparte and the French people, for better for worse, to the paradise of each other's embraces?" Vetus then proceeds to inveigh at great length against the persons and pretension of the Bourbons. Leaving them to the mercy of this good-natured remembrancer, we shall only observe, that he decides the impolicy of restoring the Bourbons, by asking, whether their restoration would not be advantageous to France, and consequently (he infers very consistently with himself) injurious to this country. Looking forward but half a century, he sees France gradually regain under the old regime "her natural ascendancy over Great Britain, from which she falls, and must fall every hour more rapidly from the necessary operation of those principles on which the Corsican dynasty is founded." Nay, looking on farther than the expiration of the same half century, he sees "sloth, weakness, and poverty, worse than ever sprung from Turkish policy, proceeding from this odious, self-dissolving power, and a gulph of irretrievable destruction, already yawning for our eternal foe."

It is not long ago since Vetus drew an historical parallel between this country and Carthage, encouraging us to expect the same fate from France which Carthage received from Rome, and to act upon this fanciful comparison as a solid ground of wisdom. Now all at once "this mendicant in argument, this perfect juggler in politics," inverts the perspective, takes a prophetic view of the events of the next fifty years, and France is seen dwindling into another Turkey, which the genius of British freedom grinds to powder and crushes beneath her feet! These great statesmen-like views of things, "this large discourse of reason, looking before and after," are, we confess, beyond us. We recollect indeed a similar prophecy to that of Vetus, couched in nearly the same terms, when in the year 1797, the French were said to be "on the verge, nay, in the very gulph of bankruptcy," and that their finances could not hold out six months longer. Vetus, however, taught by the failure of past prognostics, constructs his political calculations for the ensuing century, instead of the ensuing year, and puts off the day of reckoning to a period when he and his predictions will be forgotten.

Such are the charitable grounds on which our author wishes to secure Bonaparte on the throne of France, and thinks that peace may at present be made with him, on terms consistent with our safety. He is not, like others, "ready to shake hands with the Usurper over the tomb of the murdered D'Enghien, provided he will return to the paths of religion and virtue;" but he will shake hands with him over the ruins of the liberty and happiness of France, on the express condition that "he never returns to the paths of religion and morality." Vetus is willing to forget the injuries which Bonaparte may have done to England, for the sake of the greater mischiefs he may do to France. These are the "obligations" which Vetus owes to him--this the source of his gratitude, the sacred pledge that reconciles him to "that monster whom England detests." He is for making peace with the "tyrant," to give him an opportunity to rivet on the chains of France, and fix her final doom. But is Vetus sincere in all this? His reasoning comes in a very questionable shape; and we the more doubt it, because he has no sooner (under the auspices of Bonaparte) hurled France down the gulf of irretrievable destruction, than he immediately resumes the old topic of eternal war or perpetual bondage, as the only alternative which this country can look to. Why, if he is in earnest, insist with Lord Castlereagh on the caution with which we must grant terms to "such an enemy," to this disabled and paralyzed foe? Why assert, as Vetus did in his very last letter, that "nothing short of unconditional submission will ever satisfy that revolutionist, and that any concession made to him will be instantly converted into a weapon for our destruction?" Why not grant to him such terms as might be granted to the Bourbons, since they would be granted to a much less dangerous and powerful rival? Why not subsist, as we have hitherto done, without the fear of perpetual war or perpetual bondage before our eyes, now that the crown of France has lost its original brightness, and is shorn of those beams which would again sparkle round it, if fixed on the head of a Bourbon? We suspect that our author is not quite in earnest in his professions, because he is not consistent with himself. It is possible that this anxiety to keep out the Bourbons arises from his fear that a peace might creep in with them, at least as a sort of compliment of the season? Is our veteran politician aware, in his own mind, that the single epithets, Corsican, republican, revolutionary, will have more effect in stirring up the embers of war, than all the arguments which he might use to demonstrate the accumulating dangers to be apprehended from the mild paternal sway of the ancient dynasty?

We cannot help saying, however, that we think the elaborate attempt of Vetus to prove the necessary extinction of the power of France under the government of Bonaparte, a total failure. What is the amount of his argument? That in a period when the French were to owe their existence and their power to war, Bonaparte has made them a warlike people, and that they did not sit down quietly to "the cultivation of arts, luxuries, and letters," when the world was beleagued against them. Is it for Vetus, who reprobates the peace of Amiens, that hollow truce (as he justly calls it), that intermission for war but for a moment, to say of Bonaparte, "His application of public industry is only to the arts of death--all other perishes for want of wholesome nourishment?" What then becomes of the long-resounded charge against him on his exclamation "for ships, colonies, and commerce?" We suspect, that energy in war is not an absolute proof of weakness in peace. He lays down, indeed a general principle (true enough in itself) that a government, in its nature and character at variance with the people, must be comparatively weak and insecure; yet, in applying this maxim, he proves not that the French people and government are at irreconcileable variance, but that the one has become entirely subdued and assimilated to the other. But hear him speak for himself. "The causes of the overthrow of the old government are foreign to our present purpose. The consequence has been the birth of this bloody and scorching despotism,--this giant, armed from his mother's womb with sweeping scimitar and consuming fire. Can such a government be fit for such a people? Can a tyranny, operating by direct violence and characteristic of the earliest periods in the most barbarous condition of mankind, have any quality adapted to the wants or feelings of a nation, grown old in arts, luxuries, and letters? Is it not plain to the least acute observer, that where the principles of such a government, and such a stage of society, are so vehemently contrasted, there can be no immediate alliance; but that an incessant counteraction must ensure--that the government or the people must change their character before a just harmony and co-operation can exist between them; in other words, that one of them must yield!"

[Well, this is the very thing which in the next sentence, he shews has actually taken place.] "And from whom are we to infer this ultimate submission to its rival? Has the tyrant loosed his chains?-- has he relaxed his hold, or flung aside the whip of scorpions? No! it is France herself which has given way. It is the French nation who gradually recede from the rest of the civilized world." That is, it is France who, contrary to Vetus's argument, in receding gradually from the rest of the civilized world, has been identified with the government, and become that whip of scorpions in the hands of Bonaparte, which has been the scourge an dread of all Europe. It is thus that our author, always defeats himself. He is fond of abstruse reasoning and deep investigation in exact proportion to his incapacity for them--as eunuchs are amorous through impotence!

But though he fails in his argument, the moral is not less instructive. He teaches us on what grounds a genuine English patriot goes to war, and on what terms he will make peace. A patriot of this exclusive stamp, who is troubled with none of the symptoms of a "spurious and mawkish beneficence," threatens France with the restoration of the Bourbons, only to throw her into the convulsions of anarchy, and withdraws that kindly interference, only that she may sink into the moral fatal lethargy of despotism. It is the same consistent patriot who kindles the fire of La Vendée, and whenever it suits his purpose, is no longer borne away by the "torrent of royal, flaming, unreflecting sympathies!" It is the same tried friend of his country, who carries on a twenty years' war for the preservation or our trade and manufactures, and when they are mentioned as inducements for peace, disdains "all gross, commercial calculations." It is the same conscientious politician, who at one time makes war for the support of social order, and the defence of our holy religion;--who, at another, hails the disappearance of "the last glimmering of education among a people grown old in arts and letters," and who rejoices "to see the Christian religion made studiously contemptible by the poverty and debasement of its professors!" It is the same true patriot, the same Vetus, who "beholds with unmingled joy, the growth and accumulation of a savage despotism, which is to crush and bow down France under our feet;" --who holds "the whip of scorpions of over her head;"--who "arms a scorching tyranny with sweeping scimeter and consuming fire" against her;--who pushes her headlong down " the yawning gulf of irretrievable destruction;"--it is the same Vetus, who, suddenly recovering all the severity of justice, and all the tenderness of humanity, makes a piteous outcry about "the dreadful sufferings we have endured," in attempting to heap coals of fire on our adversary, demands the payment of "two hundred millions of debt, in which her government have wantonly involved us," complains of our being "driven to beggary and want" in this unnatural conflict, calls for the release of our countrymen, "sent into hopeless captivity," and invokes the murdered names of those children of the state, who "armed to defend a beloved parent, and an injured country!" Even Vetus shrinks from the enormity of such inconsistencies, and excuses himself by saying "Do I feel the spontaneous and unprovoked desire that such a mass of evil should be perpetuated for any portion of mankind? God forbid. But it is, I conscientiously believe, a question, which of these countries shall destroy the other. In that case my part is taken--France must be ruined, to save our native country from being ruined. If this be perpetual war, I cannot help it. Perpetual war has little terror, when perpetual bondage threatens us," Here then our bane and antidote are both before us: perpetual war or perpetual bondage;--a pleasant alternative!--but it is an alternative of Vetus's making, and we shall not, if we can help it, submit to either of his indispensable conditions. We shall not learn of him, for "his yoke is not easy, nor his burden light" If this be our inevitable lot, "he cannot help it" No; but he can help laying the blame of his irritable and mischievous conclusion on Nature and providence; or at least we think it our duty to guard ourselves and others against the fatal delusion.


"Illustrations of Vetus" (Continued)

"Take him, and cut him out in little stars."

Jan. 3, 1814

We undertook, some time ago, the task of ascertaining the true value of this writer's reasoning, by removing the cumbrous load of words which oppress his understanding, as well as that of his readers; and we find that "our occupation is not yet gone." His last letter, indeed, furnishes us with comparatively slender materials. His style is considerably abated. With Bottom in the play, he may be said to "aggravate his voice so, that the roars yan an 'twere any sucking dove." His swaggering paradoxes dwindle into unmeaning common-places; his violent dogmas into tame equivocations. There is scarcely an attempt made to defend his own extreme opinions, or to repel the charge of gross and glaring inconsistency which we brought against them. He makes indeed a faint effort to screen certain general positions from the odium and contempt they deserve, by explaining them away, and to shift off the responsibility of others, by directly denying them. Vetus has, in fact, marched boldly on in a fog of splendid words, till he unexpectedly finds himself on the edge of a precipice, and he seems willing to retreat from it as well as his accustomed solemnity, and the incumbrances of his style will permit. It may, perhaps, be some consolation, if we remind him that he is not the first enthusiast on record, who mistook a cloud for a goddess. His present situation is certainly no very pleasant one: it a good deal resembles that of Parolles, when he undertook the recovery of his drum.

The most striking part of Vetus's last letter is his gratuitous tirade against what has been called the modern philosophy, as if this were the only alternative (whereas it is in truth the antitheses or converse) of his system of exclusive patriotism. Our contradiction of his first principle, that the basis of peace with France is to be one which does not leave a shadow of regard to her honour, rights, or interest, and that the terms of peace to which she is in duty bound to accede, must be such as to imply a critical advance to her destruction --our utter rejection of this new-fangled theory of negociation he considers as "a sucker from the root of that poisonous vegetable, the doctrine of universal benevolence.," and deprecates our reasoning on the subject as "a blossom which threatens the desolation of the moral world!" We really cannot attribute to our opinions any such power or any such tendency as the morbid imagination of our political hypochondriac lends to them. The arguments of Vetus on this question seem a sort of transcript of Dr Parr's Spital Serman, or on one of Sir James Mackintosh's lectures at Lincoln's Inn; and are very tolerable, dull, common-place declamation--a little bordering on fustian. But, as is the invariable fate of Vetus's arguments, they contain a flat contradiction to the principle he is aiming to establish. Though the passage has little to do with the immediate question, we shall give it as a literary curiosity. It is an instance of one of those lapses of thought, of that epilepsy of the mind, which we have already pointed out as the distinguishing characteristic of this author's understanding. His object is to exclude all general reasoning, or the seeds of what he absurdly calls "theo-philanthropy" from the feelings of patriotism; and in his eagerness to do this, he effectually explodes and laughs to scorn all patriotism, as a branch of the same theo-philanthropy, as impracticable and romantic folly. His words are these:--

"One of these patriots enacts the part of a drawling hypocritical projector, whom no natural affection can move, nor individual happiness enliven. He is a regular brother of a well known sect, which we of this generation have had the misfortune to behold in high activity--and which, having seen, it is but wisdom to remember. The men I speak of were those who in some degree precipitated the French revolution, and who entirely perverted its possible uses, the mongrel race of metaphysical enthusiasts, who undertook to change the objects of human feeling, that they mgiht disappoint more effectually the ends for which it was bestowed. Such were the worshipers of the strumpet goddess Reason; a deity, in herself, and in the prostitute who represented her, convertible to purposes equally abandoned. The next step, after acknowledging this divinity, was to make a display of her power. Mankind were to be reasoned out of all human sensibilities; but the loss was to be supplied by reasoning them into a new assortment of human sensibilities, in a larger and nobler scale. Brotherly regard was a puny sentiment; what was a single brother to him who felt that millions of freemen were his brothers! Marriage, too, that holy and heavenly* and heart-sustaining institution, what with its graceful and beautiful assemblage of bland obligations and virtuous sympathies,--how stood the fixed relation of husband and wife? Why, treason to natural liberty!--'exclusive tenderness'--a bar to the performance of those unconfined embraces, which spoke of the reign of universal love. Parental affection, and filial piety, also, were still less worthy to escape the blight of this ruthless philosophical reform. How narrow was the father's mansion! How diminutive the mind that could look with reverence to the beings that gave it birth, when the republic, sole heiress of philanthropy and freedom--the great republic, offered herself as the fond and universal parent. How could the sire, who argued logically, bewail the sacrifice of his devoted offspring. His children--not his, but their country's children--were to be educated by and for that country. His paternal feelings were not be extinguished--no, nothing more than transferred to the state, and ennobled by the magnitude of the object. This same republic was a perfect 'Scrub.' She was to play the sister, husband, wife, son, and mother--confiscating and appropriating the individual duties, rights, and charities of mankind--ransacking the deepest recesses of the heart, and seizing as prizes to her sovereign will the royalties and wrecks of human nature.

* "In heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage." There is nothing so provoking as these matter-of-fact Utopia-mongers.

"But the phrenzy did not terminate here. It was not enough that all the relations of life should merge in that of citizen: even 'exclusive patriotism' was a vulgar thought. In the paroxysms of disorder, it was sometimes proposed, that the citizen himself should evaporate into a citizen of he world. The universal republic--the vast family of mankind--the deputations form the human race--became instruments with the knaves who led, and visions for the dupes who admired. There can really be no objection to this superfine theory, but that it is inconsistent with the order of providence, and destructive of the nature of man--that it unfixes our moral land-marks,--melts into air every practical virtue and definite duty--substitutes words for salutary deeds--and by directing our most natural and useful passions to objects indistinct or unattainable, leaves these powerful agents afloat, and ends by abusing them to the production of crime and misery. Such were the result of that system of speculation, which assumed for its basis the existence of a species of beings far above the pitch of humanity, and which, in its application to human affairs, reduces them to the level of brutes.

"A sucker form the root of this poisonous vegetable is again in blossom, and threatens the desolation of the moral world. We are called upon to abdicate the right and obligation of preferring and protecting our native country, that is, of enjoying our proper advantages, and of discharging our specific trusts--and for what? Why, that we may undertake the preposterous office, and execute the factitious duty of handing over to a mortal enemy the greatness to which we have waded through blood and fire, and raising his empire on the ruins of our own. Beware, we are warned, of neglecting the rights of the adversary. It is our peculiar business to guard the rights of France."**
**The style of Vetus bears the same relation to eloquence that gilded lead does to gold:--it glitters, and is heavy.
The whole of this pompous episode is a mere diversion to the question. Vetus, some time ago, asked, in a tone which could not be mistaken, "Who are the French nation? A rank non-entity. Who are to be the sole judges of the rights and pretensions of what once was France? We, and our allies!"--and when we protest against this unheard-of basis for a negociation between rival states, he answers with a tedious prize-dissertation on the doctrine of universal benevolence, and the perfectibility of man. Vetus insists on a peace (the only peace for a wise nation) that shall remain a proud monument of its own superiority,--that is, a peace which can never be made between any two states, a peace that does not admit of the shadow of regard to the rights, interests, or honour of the enemy, a peace that implies a critical advance to the destruction of France. But it seems, that all this proud display of pedantic phraseology, by which he attempted to "confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed the very faculties of eyes and ears," now means nothing more than that we are to guard and protect our native country, and not surrender our own rights to the enemy. There needed no oracle to tell us that. But Vetus, having set out on the forlorn hope of political paradox, is himself ashamed to turn back to a trite truism, and contends that there is no safety for this country but in the destruction of the enemy, and no patriotism which is not inconsistent with the rights, liberties, and even existence of other countries. We deny it. We say there is a patriotism consistent with the claims of reason, justice and humanity; and another exclusive of them. The latter is Vetus's patriotism; the former is ours. This we have stated before. We do not wonder that Vetus has not answer it; for it does not admit of an answer.

It seems, however, that the view we have taken (in common with all civilized nations) of this subject, is "a sucker from the poisonous root of universal benevolence;" and Vetus's prejudices, coupling with that strumpet Reason, beget in his mind a sort of "mongrel metaphysical enthusiasm," in which he sees visions, and has revelations of the general nature of man. He tells us, we are regular adepts in that school which, under the direction of the goddess, or the strumpet, Reason, (for with him they are both the same) trampled on all human sensibilities, and the charities of private life, to offer them up as a sacrifice to that monstrous fiction, their country, and then to that more monstrous fiction, their kind. This is the most curious defence of patriotism we ever met with and a striking instance of the pains which this laborious reasoner takes to confute himself. Our country, according to his patriotic writer, is " a perfect Scrub," a kind of Sin and Death business, a contradiction, and a dire chimera, "confiscating and appropriating the individual duties, rights, and charities of mankind--ransacking the deepest recesses of the heart, and seizing as prizes to her sovereign will the royalties and wrecks of human nature." It is " a superfine theory, inconsistent with the order of Providence, and destructive of the nature of man, and which, by pretending to raise us far above the pitch of humanity, degrades us below the level of brutes." But then "there is a phrenzy still greater" than this, which is the love of mankind. This is the consummation of enormity, and the triumph of the strumpet-goddess. Vetus has here fallen into a more desperate dilemma than any he has yet encountered in his perilous way. We present him with the choice of a pair of alternatives: either he must mean that the love of the republic, or our country, which he treats with such profound contempt and abhorrence, is only bad when it destroys the private and natural affections, or he must exclude at once every shadow of regard to the rights, liberties, and happiness of mankind, and then the same thing will follow of patriotism itself, which, as he says truly, is an emanation from the same impure source, human reason, and so to establish his favourite principle of exclusive patriotism, he gets rid of it altogether. "The latter end of this writer's reasoning always forgets the beginning." We will tell Vetus the hinge on which this whole controversy turns, and what is the radical error of the system of general philanthropy, which he has attempted to expose. It is, that it is an exclusive system, and is therefore unfitted for the nature of man, who is a mixed being made up of various principles, faculties, and feelings. All these are good in their place and degree, as well as the affections that spring from them--natural affection, patriotism, benevolence: it is only exclusive selfishness, exclusive patriotism, exclusive philanthropy, that are inconsistent with the order of Providence, and destructive of the nature of man: Vetus in avoiding one extreme has fallen into another, for the extremes not only "of faction" but of folly meet; though we should be loth to compare the splendid dreams of the philosophical enthusiast, who wished to raise man above the pitch of his common nature, to the groveling, sordid, shuffling paradoxes of Vetus, who would degrade him below the level of the brutes, and whose maxims are as repugnant to common sense, and the practical rules of life, as they are devoid of every thing elegant in imagination, or consistent in reasoning.


"Illustrations of Vetus" (Concluded)

"What do you read, my lord?--Words, words, words.
What is the matter?---Nothing."

Jan. 5, 1814

We gave in our last article Vetus's quaint denunciation of the principles of patriotism and philanthropy. It appears by this, that the same "jargon of metaphysics," and the same vapid rhetoric may be employed against both these sacred and inviolable feelings, by any one who is weak and vain enough to suppose that language was given us, not to communicate truth to others, but to impose falsehood on ourselves. Does Vetus mean to assert, that his topics are fatal to all patriotism, as well as all philanthropy? Or (which is the alternative) that they are fatal to neither, properly understood,--that there is a true and a false patriotism, a true and a false philanthropy? What will "the acknowledged saviours of Europe, the magnanimous defenders of the commonwealth of nations, the liberators of Spain, the recreators or Portugal, the regenerators of Germany," say to Vetus's exclusive patriotism? Or we would ask, whether the abuse of reason, of which he complains in certain moderns, is a sufficient cause that we should explode it altogether? In the dialect of Don Quixotte's books of chivalry, must "the unreasonableness of thier reason so unreason our reason," that we are to reject the faculty, both root and branch? Shall we piously renounce the goddess because she has been personated by a strumpet? Reason is the queen of the moral world, the soul of the universe, the lamp of human life, the pillar of society, the foundation of law, the beacon of nations, the golden chain, let down from heaven, which links all animated and all intelligent natures in one common system--and in the vain strife between fanatic innovation, and fanatic prejudice, we are exhorted to dethrone this queen of the world, to blot out this light of the mind, to deface this fair column, to break in pieces this golden chain! We are to discard and throw from us, with loud taunts and bitter imprecations, that reason, which has been the lofty theme of the philosopher, the poet, the moralist, and the divine, whose name was not first named to be abused by the enthusiasts of the French revolution, or be blasphemed by madder enthusiasts, their opponents, but is co-eval with, and inseparable from the nature and faculties of man, --is the image of his Maker stamped upon him at his birth, the understanding breathed into him with the breath of life, and in the participation of which alone he is raised above the brute creation, and his own physical nature!--Vetus labours hard to persuade us, that the goddess and the strumpet are really one person, equally "convertible to the same abandoned purposes;" that reason and sophistry are the same thing. He may find his account in endeavouring to confound them; but his indifference betrays the hollowness of his claim to true reason, as the false mother was detected by her willingness to compromise her own pretensions, only to be revenged on her rival.

Vetus has, however, without knowing it, stumbled on an important truth, which is, that patriotism, in modern times, and in great states, is and must be the creature of reason and reflection, rather than the offspring of physical or local attachment. Our country is a complex abstract existence, known only to the understanding. It is an immense riddle, containing numberless modifications of reason and prejudice, of thought and passion. Patriotism is not, in a strict or exclusive sense, a natural or personal affection, but a law of our rational and moral nature, strengthened and determined by particular circumstances and associations, but not born of them, nor wholly nourished by them. It is not possible that we should have an individual attachment to sixteen millions of men, any more than to sixty millions. We cannot be attached, except rationally and "logically,' to places we never saw, and people we never heard of. Is not the name of Englishman a general term, as well as that of man? How many varieties does it not combine within it? Are the opposite extremities of the globe our native place, because they are a part of that geographical and political denomination, our country? Does natural affection expand in circles of latitude and longitude? What personal or instinctive sympathy has the English peasant with the African slave-driver, or East India nabob? None but the most "drawling hypocritical" sophist will say that there is any. These wretched bunglers in metaphysics would fain persuade us to discard all public principle, and all sense of abstract justice, as a violation of natural affection, and yet do not see that the love of our country is itself in the order of our general affections, except, indeed, that exclusive sort which consist in a mere negation of humanity and justice. The common notions of patriotism are, in fact, transmitted to use from the savage tribes, or from States of Greece and Rome, where the fate and condition of all was the same, or where the country of the citizen was the town in which he was born. Where this is no longer the case, where our country is no longer contained within the narrow circles of the same walls, where we can no longer behold its glimmering horizon from the top of our native mountains--beyond these limits it is not a natural but an artificial idea, and our love if it either an habitual dictate of reason, or a cant term. It was said by an acute observer, and eloquent writer, that the love of mankind was nothing but the love of justice: the same might be said, with considerable truth, of the love of our country,. It is little more than another name for the love of liberty, of independence, of peace, and social happiness. We do not say that other indirect and collateral circumstances do not go the superstructure of this sentiment, (as language,* literature, manners, national customs,) but this is the broad and firm basis. All other patriotism, not founded on, or not consistent with truth, justice, and humanity, is a painted sepulchre, fair without, but full of ravening and all uncleanness within. "It leaves our passions afloat, and ends with abusing them to crime and misery." It is the watchword of faction, the base pander of avarice and pride, the ready tool in the hands of those who, having no sense of public duty, and disclaiming all pretensions to common humanity, sacrifice the lives of millions to the madness of one, and are eager to offer up their country a devoted victim at the shrine of power, as the miserable slave is yoked to the foul Eastern Idol,** and crushed beneath its chariot wheels! Thus the hired scribbler of a profligate newspaper sit secure and self-satisfied at his desk--with a venomed word, or a lie that looks like truth, sends thousands of his countrymen to death,--receives his pay, and scribbles on, regardless of the dying and the dead!--And this is patriotism.

*He who speaks two languages has no country. The French, when they made their language the common language of the courts of Europe, gained more than by all their other conquests put together.
**See Mr Canning's speech on the Jaggernaut.--They manage these things better in the East (it is to be hoped we shall do so in time here): otherwise, if there had been any occasion, what pretty Anti-Jacobin sonnets might not Mr Canning have written in praise of this Jaggernaut? Or Mr Southey, after in vain attempting its overthrow, might have "spun his brains" in to a CARMEN ANNUUM to celebrate his own defeats. Or Vetus might play off his discovery of the identity of the strumpet and the goddess Reason, against any disposition to disarm its power or arrest its progress.

The tempora moillia fandi do not belong to Vetus any more than to ourselves. He is, like us, but an uncouth courtier, a rough, sturdy, independent politician, who thinks and speaks for himself. He complains of "The soft nonsense whispered in the highest circles" and gossiped in The Morning Post, in favour of peace. But it so, for once, that these soft whispers are fraught with ruin, dishonour, and slavery to this country. Yet, if the effeminate and dastard sound once floats through the air, born on the downy wing of fashion--if it is whispered from the prince to the peer, and from lords to ladies, from ministers to their clerks and from their clerks to the treasury-prints, and from the knaves who write to the dupes who read--even the warning voice of Vetus will not be able to prevent the Syren sound from spreading in gentle murmurs, and "smoothing the raven down of discord, till its smiles." And will Vetus pretend such ignorance both of the court and the of the country, as not to know, that whether the word is war or peace, the same effect will follow--that whether the breath of kings breathe "airs from heaven or blasts from Hell" the same well-attuned system of undulating sounds will disperse them wide in eddying circles, and the same round of smiles and whispers and significant shrugs will be repeated whether the country bleeds or starves, is enslaved within or conquered without? All those who do not catch the soft whisper, and mimic the gracious smile, and join the magic circle, are no better than hypocrites, madmen, and traitors to their country! We know it well.

Vetus in vain attempts to repel the charge which we brought against The Times, whose profession of eternal war with Bonaparte we said was incompatible with the possibility of his making peace with us, by asserting that this doctrine is "an audacious plagiarism, from the portfolio of the French Minister." We have not such near access to the port-folio of the French Government as this writer; but we have access to The Times, and there we find this audacious plagiarism written in large letters in almost every page. We say that wherever the doctrine is found (whoever invented it or whoever adopted it), there is an insuperable bar to peace. If it found on one side, that is the responsible side; if it is found on both, neither can reproach the other with the continuance of hostilities. This statement is plain and unanswerable Does Vetus think to "thrust us from a level consideration by a confident brow, and the throng of words which come with such affected gravity from him?" He disclaims the doctrine for himself. Why then is he so eager to justify it in The Times? They are caught in the fact; they are taken with the manner; and Vetus would divert us from executing summary justice on them, by offering himself as security that they are only the receivers of the stolen goods; "the audacious plagiarists," instead of the atrocious inventors of this mischievous doctrine. Besides, the answer is a wretched evasion, and makes the assertion itself senseless and nugatory. The principle of The Times was an is (if they have not retracted it) that we are never to make peace with Bonaparte at all, that is, though he would make peace with us, (otherwise the words have no meaning) and then comes the gloss of Vetus, which is, that we will not make peace with him, only because he will not make peace with us. Ridiculous!--Vetus asks, "Who has been the founder of this shocking creed--who the aggressor--who the unrelenting enemies of peace?" May we not answer--"The incessant war-faction of England?" Why would Vetus strip "these acknowledged saviours of Europe" of the praise which is so justly due to them or degrade them from that proud eminence which they have maintained with so much persevering fortitude? We cannot withhold from these persons our sincere and conscientious thanks for all the benefits which this war has conferred on our country, on Europe, and the world. While France strove insidiously to ruin us by peace, these firm patriots have always been determined to save us by war--From "England's " greatest and most magnanimous politician," down to the last desperate incendiary of The Times, who is only willing to conclude "a Regicide Peace" by celebrating "the condign and solemn punishment of Bonaparte!"***

***Of the facility of realising this devout aspiration of the writer in The Times, we have no exact means of judging by his own statements, for he one day tells us that "there is nothing to hinder Lord Wellington from marching to Paris, and bringing the Usurper to the block," and the next endeavors to excite the panic fears of his readers, by telling them in a tone of equal horror and dismay, "That the monster wields at will the force of forty millions of men." The assertions of these writers have no connection with the real state of things, but depend entirely on their variable passions, and the purpose they have in view.

Vetus says, that "eternal war is no expression of his, and that it is a deliberate falsehood in us who assert that he has used it, or that this country has no alternative between war and eternal bondage." "It is not England," he says, "But France--not Vetus, but the French government--who has broached the creed, that one of the two countries must in the end destroy the other."

If it is a falsehood, it is a deliberate one, for we do deliberately assert that he uses these words, and inculcates this doctrine incessantly. But instead of contradicting Vetus, it is better to let him contradict himself; no one else can do it so effectually. It his last letter but one he has these words:--"It is, I conscientiously believe, a question which of these two countries shall destroy the other. In that case my part is taken.--France must be ruined to save our native country from being ruined.--If this be perpetual war, I cannot help it.--Perpetual war has little terror, when perpetual bondage threatens us." Either the interpretation of this passage is that which we have given to it, or, as Vetus says, "The English language must be constructed anew."

He now, indeed, mitigates the dread sentence he had passed upon us, by saying, not that we have no alternative, but either war, or slavery but that we have no alternative but either war or slavery or peace. We are glad that Vetus has introduced this new clause in our favour into the codicil; it was not in the original will, or expressed in such faint characters, that we, with the rest of the public, missed the intended benefaction. Just in the same manner, that profound politician and humane writer, the author of the Essay on Population, found out that the only possible checks to excessive population were vice and misery, which were, therefore, to be considered as the greatest blessings of mankind, and having gained a vast reputation by this singular discovery, he then recollected what every one knew before, that there was another check to this principle, viz. moral restraint, and that consequently vice and misery were not the greatest blessings of society.

We did not state it as in inconsistency in Vetus, that he held out France as an object of terror, and yet recommended a negociation with Bonaparte, because his government tended to weaken France, but we did state it as a rank inconsistency in Vetus to hold up Bonaparte as an object of peculiar terror to this country, and yet to represent his government as tottering on the brink of deplorable weakness and unavoidable ruin. Vetus could not meet the objection, and has altered the terms.

Vetus concludes his letter with the following note:--

"The stupid impertinence" (charged on the attacks made upon him) "has no relation to The Morning Chronicle, with which I am disposed to part in peace. One feels a tolerance towards that paper, for the talents which once adorned it; and of the continuance of which I should rejoice to see more proof in its late attacks on Vetus. We have little common faith in politics, but we have, I trust, a common stake in the spirit and dignity of the press."

We are obliged to Vetus for this amicable offer, of the sincerity of which we entertain no doubt. As to the talent shown in our attacks on him, we are ready to admit that is little enough; but we at the same time think that if it had been greater, it would have been more than the occasion required. We have no enmity to Vetus, but to his extravagance, and if he will correct that, he will save us the trouble of correcting it for him. We are ready to believe that this writer has talents and acquirements which might be mad useful to the public, if he would forgo his mistaken pretensions of extraordinary wisdom and eloquence. The qualities of profound thought and splendid imagery are seldom found singly in the same person, and the union of both together is an undertaking much beyond the capacity of Vetus. And now we leave him to return to his indigestions with "what appetite he may."****

****We only wish to add one thing, which is, to protest against the self-importance of such expression as the following, which occur often in Vetus's letters: "The men I speak of were" those, &c. "This sentiment never prevailed with the better sort." This is an affectation of the worst part of Burke's style, his assumption of a parliamentary tone, and of the representation of the voice of some corporate body. It was bad enough in him; in Vetus it is intolerable.



1 Hazlitt's "Illustrations of Vetus" is to be found in Political Essays (1819).

2 Here in this essay, Hazlitt writes of Edward Sterling (1773–1847), a British journalist. Under the signature of "Vetus," Sterling contributed a number of letters to The Times.


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