Images de page
PDF
ePub

and such that of Knax. Let it, however, be remembered, that the necessity must be real and cogent, and that this plea affords no countenance to the pride, the levity, the conceit and the caprice which are at the bottom of almost all inodern separations, and that, perhaps, as much from our author's church as of our own.

On the demolition of the religious houses in the first phrenzy of the congregation, our author has thus dexterously steered between the Scylla and Charybdis of modern taste and Presbyterian prejudice.

* That it is desirable that the magnificent fabrics which our ancestors devoted to the solemnization of the rites of religion had been preserv.. ed, no one can for a moment doubt. Who that has contemplated them with the feelings which such objects are in every susceptible breast calculated to excite, does not trace with regret the mouldering frayments of edifices, the extent and sublimity of which history might have delighted to record ? But we must not yield so far to these impressions as to be averse to esamine into the merit which belongs to the very men by whom the buildings were overturned. Had the people of Scotland been indifferent about their religious opinions, or coldly attached to them, had they not been elevated by that zeal, which looked with abhorrence on the pageantry of the old superstition, they would have purchased the ease and security which all men so dearly value, by conforming to the church, or by secretly cherishing their tenets, which would then have quietly perished; and had the decaying foun: dation of the church been strengthened or renewed, ages might have elapsed before civil and religious liberty had been the inheritance to our country; we might even now have with amazement or with envy, beheld ainongst other nations the admirable form of government by which we are protected, we might yet have been obliged to excite the spirit, he woundings of which have been so keenly and so injudiciously eprobated.'

* Before then Knox and his adherents be branded as intemperate zealots, and while we read the accounts which have been given, and those which must yet be recorded of wasted churches and ruined monasteries, let us moderate our lamentarions by reflecting that this was a price, however high in the estimation of taste and sentiment, which we cannot scruple to have paid for those rights, &c.'

On the right of resistance in subjects, our historian's reflections, drawn forth by the conduct of the congregation in depriving the queen Regent of her authority, are cautious and profound.

Here,' (that is, in the opinion deliberately pronounced by Willock on this delicate subject,) ' the doctrine of resistance is plainly avowed and as plainly defended : a doctrine theoretically true; resting upon the most obvious dictates of reason, yet the application of which to existiny governments is at all times hazardous. No question can be cons ceived more hazardous than whether in any particular instance there subsists that severity of oppression, the reinoval of wbich can by no

[ocr errors]

evils be too dearly purchased. Were man uniformly guided, as he flatters himself that he is, by reason and truth; the question inight with the utmost safety be freely discussed, and the proper answer to it steadily and unceasingly inculcated. But he does not come calmly to the decision; his judgment is in much danger of being biassed by the feelings which imaginary or real despotism had excited, and what still more disqualifies him for such a discussion, his passions, his pride, his sell-love, his ansiety to shew his power, are generally called into action. Although then in the present state of human nature alinost every attempt to carry the doctrine of resistance into execution, is, as experience has too strongly illustrated, to be avoided; although it should be stated with the utmost caution, yet it ought never to be forgotten that it is true ; the knowledge of its truth cannot fail to exert a most salutary influence upon the minds of rulers; and there are extreme cases when even the most strenuous advocate of passive obedience must revolt from his principle, there is a degree of tyranny to which the human race ought never to submit.'

Seldom has the native propensity of a Scotchman to resist established authority, been checked by casuistry so discreet and distinguishing as this.

One citation more and we have done.

* The Dissentions of the protestants strongly influenced the political principles, the manners, and the general sentiments of the inhabitants of Scotland. Indeed the important events, which soon marked the history of that country, (and) its intercourse with England after both were placed under the same sovereign, cannot be fully explained or understood without adverting to these dissentions. To trace their nature and effects afford entertaining and instructive matter for another work, which as a supplement to this history, the author, if his book be honoured with public approbation, and if his other duties afford him leisure, may at some future period undertake.'

That such approbation will not be withheld, we owe it to the principles and to the intelligence of the best part of our countrymen not to doubt; and could our suffrage contribute in any degree to fortify the author in his purpose, we should scarcely hesitate to say, that sincerely as we love the ecclesiastical establishment of our own country, we would for once willingly trust in presbyterian hands, the fate and fortunes of episcopacy in Scotland from the close of the present work to its final extinction at the Revolution. We trust, however, and believe, that he who has freely censured the errors of the congregation, will feel no partiality for the cant and hypocrisy of the covenanters, and that he who has treated the character of Mary with a delicacy and forbearance so honourable to bis feelings, will tread lightly on the ashes of her inore innocent and accomplished grandson. For the political depravity of the last two Stuarts, as sovereigns of Scotland, and for the tyranny and

profligacy

[ocr errors]

profligacy of their ministers, as well as the general servility and insolence of their prelates, we crave no indulgence. Their breaches of faith; their persecuting spirit; their military executions; their contempt of law and decency, will afford abundant scope to his powerful pen. There were, however, among the enemies of his own order and discipline at that time, many splendid exceptions ; and we persuade ourselves that they will not be overlooked by his candour and discrimination.

With respect to the portion of the work now completed, it has invested, with the sober charms of truth, an æra already adorned by all the elegances of a dead and a living language, by narrative and by song. To a parity with such writers, though his style is vigorous and spirited, the writer must not aspire; but his praise is of a better and an higher sort: to apply the words of an old historian who had much of the same love of truth and virtue with himself, έ7ε ως ποιηται ύμνηκασι περι αυλων επι το μειζον κοσμονίεςε1ε ως λογογραφοι ξυνεθεσαν επι το προσαγαγωθερον τη ακροασει η αληθέςερον: lie has brought every action of every person and party within his grasp to the test; he has made it his business not to amuse but to inform; and to inculcate by example, the great outlines of human duty under the difficult and ever changing circumstances of political combination. In one word, so far as public virtue and public happiness are connected, (and both they and their contraries are inseparable,) the man who undertakes to write history on these principles, and, with ability adequate to the task, never loses siglt of his object, is to be hailed by the wise and good of every denomination, not as a teacher only, but as a benefactor and friend of mankind.

Art. VI. - Voyages dans la Peninsule Occidentale de l'Inde,

et dans l'Ile de Ceylan. Par M. I. Ilaafner, traduits du Hollan

dois, par M. I. Paris, 1812. 2 tom. 8vo. THE THE world has been apt to associate the physical character of

the Dutchman with that of the cold-blooded tribe of animals. No symptoms however of torpidity are apparent in the production of the • Jively turtle' before us; on the contrary, there is every indication that his animal spirits circled with as much freedom and rapidity through their proper channels as is common to the genus at large.

We pretend not to know the precise degree of vitality which he originally exhibited at Amsterdam ; but his present appearance at Paris has a briskness about it which is not unamusing. To-drop the metaphor at once, we more than suspect that in passing through

the

the French press, the work has undergone some of those changes, which, as we have had more than one occasion to notice, invariably take place in a greater or less degree in every book which falls under the ever meddling and splenetic censorship of Buonaparte.

The predominant feature of these volumes is a rancorous and malignant antipathy to our countrymen, whose character and conduct in their commerce with the East, are the theme of invece tive in every page. With a few exceptions, however, it is that declamatory kind of abuse which is so easy to be brought forward, and so difficult to disprove. Where the author or translator ventures to descend to particulars he is easily refuted.

It is not assuredly the inclination, it cannot possibly be the interest, either of the government or of individuals in India, to oppress the natives : so much indeed is the contrary the case, that there prevails a very general and anxious wish to mitigate and remove as far as possible, the accumulated evils which have sprung from the worst of all governments, a superstitious phierarchy. The baneful influence of this powerful agency over the weakest and most ignorant of mankind has insinuated itself into the minutest concerns of domestic life; it accompanies every act, and pervades every wish and every want. It cannot be an easy task to ameliorate the condition of sixty millions of people thus circumstanced, nor will it reasonably be expected to be the work of a day; many promising experiments may be tried in vain, others may partially succeed, and others again be productive of mischief where good was intended. On the whole, however, we run little risk of contradiction in affirming, that the condition of the native Hindoo is gradually and progressively improving under the British governinent of India ; which, though not perhaps the best that might be adopted, either for the benefit of the natives or the advantage of this country, is superior in every respect to any of the ancient Hindoo governments, or the modern despotism of Mahommedan invaders.

It has been held that the critic, in examining the works of an author, has no business with his character. We cannot subscribe to the full extent of this doctrine. A moral essay, or a literary and metaphysical disquisition will, it is true, be equally valuable, whether we are acquainted with the character of the author or not; works of this kind bring with them an intrinsic test of their worth, and we require no more : but there are others whose merit must chiefly depend on the character and capacity of the author; such as the narrative of travels into countries little known, the relation of wonderful adventures, and the description of extraordiuary objects of art and nature; in short, every

production

production in which the truth or falsehood of what is advanced, cannot be determined from evidence furnished by the work itself.

For these reasons we find ourselves obliged to make somewhat free with Jacob Haafner ;--the necessity is still farther apparent from an expression of the French translator, borrowed from a Gerinan journal of some reputation, that these travels appear' un peu romanesques,' 'a little inclined to the marvellous, -notwithstanding the assurance of the author, that what he says • ought not to be regarded as the fruits of imagination, but as real events.' These 'real events' have, in fact, been bandied about, for these thirty years, in all the languages of Europe, and are here repeated in so confused and inaccurate a manner, that the misrepresentation of them is apparent at the first glance.

Jacob Haafner, the French biographer says, was the son of an apothecary at Halle; but himself tells us, and he ought to know best, that he was born at Colnar, in Upper Alsace. At eleven years of age he embarked with his father for Batavia. On the pas, sage the father was attacked with a fever, which put an end to his life just as they approached the Cape. The seanan who attended him in his illness, contrived to rob him of a bag of money and other valuable effects, which, strange as it may appear, under so rigorous and despotic a government as that of a Dutch Indiaman, could never be recovered : what is still stranger, this youth, whose father had been appointed medecin en chef,' could not find one friend to take him by the hand, and prevent his vagabondizing for seven years (his biographer says twelve) over the Indian seas. It was scarcely to be expected that, in the situation of cabin-boy to a Dutch hooker, manned with Malays and Lascars, a boy of eleven years of age should improve much in his education ; but Haafner was a prodigy. His brutal captain, it seems, had flogged two Lascars, in so dreadful a nianner that they died, and he drew up a procès-verbal against him in so powerful and affecting a stile, that the fiscal of Negapatnam was struck with it, and immediately appointed the writer to a clerkship in the factory. This situation was not exactly suited to a person of Haafner's aspiring genius; copying at a desk, with a small salary, and no perquisites, held out but little prospect of accomplishing what his whole mind appears to have been bent upon, making a fortune. He tells us indeed very candidly that the two words faire fortune have caused the ruin of the Dutch company, that they will lead to the destruction of all other companies, and that they carry with them the devastation and depopulation of whole kingdoms: and he adds that, of ten persons returning to Europe, nine may be set down as having 'made their fortunes' by the most infamous means. The honourable exception of the tenth man is of course reserved for Jacob Haafner.

« PrécédentContinuer »