Abbildungen der Seite

III. Among the late antagonists of Russia, a striking and peculiar prominence has been held by France. The personal interests and aims of Napoleon the Third evidently pointed with great decision and urgency towards a European movement in which he might take a leading part. Here was an adventure worthy of his family and of his own ambition. It opened a field for the military spirit of the French. It would enable the Emperor to gain time and other advantages against some political tendencies in his empire, and to play a game for reputation at home and abroad; while he might also expect to share in whatever advantage might accrue to Europe from the check and humiliation of Russia.

His personal part in the conflict was that of a leader. There even went a rumor, without being anywhere rejected as improbable, that he had taken, by consent of England, the chief command in the Crimea, and that he had it in mind to go in person to the scene of war. His alliance with England was a master stroke of policy. His faithful adherence to the alliance raised his reputation for political morality. He gained the credit of having fought for Europe, and not against her; and he succeeded to admiration in turning every decisive movement in the war to the advantage of himself and France. If Providence has destined that remarkable man to a long and prosperous career, his signal success in this movement will work powerfully to that end. No other monarch of modern times has held an ascendency in Europe greater than his at this moment. The world now waits, with lively interest and suspense, the further unfolding of the Divine purposes respecting that extraordinary man.

Concerning his personal character and habits, we have been partially relieved by reliable testimony relating to his deportment in private life. As to his abilities, it is enough that from his first appearance on the political stage of France, after his election to the Legislative Chamber, every step of his ascent to the imperial throne and to his present influence in Europe, may be traced as infallibly to his personal endowments of sagacity, sound judgment, energy, and decision, as any victory of the First Napoleon to his superior military genius. Of his political morality we may not be competent to judge. He broke his oath to maintain the Constitution as President of the Republic; but if France could not continue a Republic, and he believed it to be so, and believed himself able to reform the government, to the great advantage of his country, he must be judged by those principles which justify revolutions.

He ventured at his peril

, fearfully responsible to God and man. The Constitution could not bind beyond its own existence; and when he proposed to the nation to drop the Constitution, and obtained consent thereto, his oath was void. His open appeal to the people at every step evinced his sagacity and prudence, and will be one of the strong roots to support and nourish his power, as long as it lives. His usurpation was successful, and accomplished at an expense, for such a nation as France, surprisingly small. His brilliant course thus far may argue some beneficent sequel for Europe and the world; for a fall, if coming, must proceed from failings he has not yet betrayed.

Napoleon led France and the whole alliance out of the war in triumph. He drew on France for millions of money and thousands of lives, and paid her in glory. He gathered the Powers together round his palace; and, to crown his felicity at the glorious moment of returning peace, he hails the birth of an heir to his honours and his power. He has thus, at once, the opportunity and the motive to be wise for his future. Will he now accommodate his government, by prudent degrees, to the character and wishes of the people, and establish his dynasty on the only sure foundation ? We admit the necessity of his provisional severity. He must disarm opposition, disable powerful and desperate factions, and clear his way to power by measures summary and effectual. When he imprisons and banishes influential citizens, silences the press, and takes arbitrary control over the speech and acts of his enemies, we can tolerate his despotism, and even admire his energy, because we appreciate the emergency. But the stress of revolution is now past. The war and the peace have spread the strong roots of his power till nothing external can add to the security of his throne. He has now to yield judicious concessions of freedom to his people, and adapt his government to France and the age.

Notwithstanding the late apparent retrogression in France, we still divine somewhat, in her present condition, which indicates progress. Her sovereign is certainly a representative of popular rights, in distinction from the Bourbon, Hanover, or Hapsburg doctrine of the rights of kings. He holds his power even more directly from the people than ever did a President of the United States; since the popular vote was cast directly for him. His tenure for life, with descent to his heirs, and the very title of Emperor, had the popular assent. We only wait to learn whether his arbitrary and stringent policy was really intended as a provisional security, while he should prepare France for liberty, by quenching the spirit of anarchy, and rearing free institutions from seed now planted in the popular mind. He inherited from his paternal ancestry liberal views of government. The First Napoleon knew that France must have a strong administration, and therefore assumed absolute power, intending, however, to prepare the way for a constitutional reign. His plan of education would have raised up an intelligent populace, who could be intrusted with selfgovernment. The present Napoleon has risen by the power of the Bonapartan name, and impersonates the interests, sentiments, and tendencies of the family; and he has the opportunity of erecting in France, perhaps on the basis of the Code Napoleon, a permanent constitutional government.

Much now depends, for himself, for France, and for Europe, on


man. course.

his course for the few next years. If he has been appointed by Providence to lead in the execution of some great design for truth and right, he has awakened reasonable expectation of such a destiny, by appearing at the head of a mighty empire, with per. sonal endowments altogether remarkable, his way clear, and his strong hand on the heart of Europe.

He has outlived some perilous straits in his short career; when industry was paralyzed in France; when the people were ready, from morbid habit, to seek relief in desperate political measures, and when nothing but his sagacity, promptness, and decision, under Providence, saved his throne. And now the productive industry of the empire exceeds all former

example. The energies of the nation are thoroughly awake. The political atmosphere is profoundly quiet. The people are content and peaceful in their pros- . perous callings; proud of a sovereign who now has a name of his own, and who has gained a reputation in Europe for every French.

To us it seems a fine opportunity for him to adopt a liberal

Will he grant a Magna Charta to France, disclaiming despotic prerogative, and inaugurating the gradual development of sound constitutional liberty ? Will he institute such a government as may conciliate the able statesmen of the empire, inspire them with loyalty, and make them esteem it an honor to participate in the administration; and such a goverment as he can trust a free press to tolerate and defend? There is nothing in hereditary royalty repugnant to the sentiments or tastes of the nation. But an absolute despotism cannot pass by inheritance there, under any law or previous vote of the people. The heir must either command at his accession the popular assent for himself, or retire. The idea of perpetuating absolute power over the French people, in the centre of European civilization, and in the presence of British and American liberty, is absurd. Efficient and beneficent as the administration may be, unless the popular voice be somehow soon heard in the legislation of the country, it will be strange if the people who could with such unanimity accept his government, should not with equal unanimity overthrow it. But, by gradual concession ; by educating the youth of the nation in sound political doctrine and true morality; by encouraging Protestant Christianity, and thorough, enlightened religious culture, he might, in thirty years, should he live and reign so long, make reasonable preparation for the descent of his crown to his heir.

His position, also, since the war, and the present prevailing spirit of the nation, leave us some better hope for the progress of religion in France. The powerful court-example must be on the side of Romanism, at least for the present; but there is little to fear, in the present generation of the Bonaparte family, from religious bigotry. The two controlling considerations with Napoleon, are, the safety of his own power, and the prosperity of France; perhaps the last for sake of the first. He now shows favour to Pro

testants, and must do so the more as he leans the more towards freedom. He

He may have little religious earnestness, but he is decidedly progressive. He shows also that he clearly discerns the laws of industrial prosperity. And these, in vigorous activity, must bring knowledge and culture. In proportion as Romanism resists such improvement, it must recede in France before Protestantism. The religion which shall gain on such a people may sanctify awakened energy, and the spirit of worldly enterprise, but must not repress them. The stupefying power of Romanism, as an element of French civilization, meets in France, as in the United States, a mighty antagonist in the awakened energies of industry and art; while free toleration will keep the empire open to the transforming, freedom-loving, and freedom-giving life of Protestant Christianity. But what Napoleon will really do, we know not. He is yet an enigma. He is in the hands of One who, if all things are ready, will use him to some great purpose in Europe and the world; or if otherwise, will exchange him for some better instrument, to work at a better time.

IV. The greatest gainer by the war is Turkey. She is now, more than ever before, an object of interest to the Christian nations. Unless hopelessly degenerate, she must have risen in self-respect, and received a powerful impulse towards civilization. The integrity of her empire is insured, as far as it can be, by the solemn pledges of all the Powerg. Her army has gained reputation for discipline and bravery. She has made an impression by her firmness and sagacity in diplomacy. The Porte became party to a treaty which relieves him from Russian overbearance, restores a portion of territory formerly lost, and ranks him as an equal in the community of European sovereigns. Thousands of his subjects have been enriched by the vast expenditure of the Allies within his territory. The relaxing intolerance of the Mahommedan bigotry has given new civil rights to many, who can now enter on a new course of improvement. Still the old central mass of humanity in Turkey is brutish in the extreme; sensual, corrupt, and enslaved to the worst of bigotry. No other part of the world is morally darker than Turkey. We cannot expect a general reform of the present generation. But the gradual opening of her doors to western enterprise, and her free intercourse with the more advanced nations, all which has been greatly promoted by the recent events, will disclose to her the gross corruption of her social system, and commend to her the better way. The correction of such evils must be, like the conversion of heathens, the work of time, and of patient, persevering application of the appointed means. But Protestant Christianity will now have freer access to the people. It will bear stronger witness against the prevailing superstition and vice. The advantages of Christian civilization will be perceived by the more enlightened; and without demolishing the present organization of the empire, the spirit of reform may enter, the laws may improve, a sound system of education be established, and the Ottoman Government itself become a valuable agent in the work of Christianizing Turkey. We cannot repress the cheering persuasion that the Porte, his ministers, and his people, will now set their faces more fully in the direction of the social progress of the world; and that the Christian nations will soon see cause of thankfulness for the altered position of Turkey by means of the war. V. Even little Sardinia has risen to honour and consequence. She

. now holds ground on which she may act with decision in the affairs of Italy. She stands in powerful contrast with the other States of the Peninsula. She has the interest of the two great Western Powers of Europe in her behalf; is established in the true doctrine of human rights; jealous for religious liberty, and hopeful as to the progress of her people. She is an eye-sore to Austria and the Pope; has a decided affinity for true Christian freedom, and may yet be the fulcrum of the lever which will move the corner stone of the Vatican.

VI. From the views thus given in detail, it will be seen that we look upon the late stupendous movement in Europe as an important advance. Every change has been for the better and not for the worse. Some changes hoped and longed for have not come; Poland, Ilungary, and the States of the Church remain politically unregenerate; but we do not know that any hope is blasted which they really had before. The war has been a healthful alterative in the European system; and has brought the aims of the parties more into the line of true human progress.

Russia has her dream of indefinite expansion broken, turns her forces inward upon productive labor, general education, social reform, and the culture of humanizing art; having improved her national reputation by the war, and quickened her popular ambition to appear with honour in the society of the most cultivated nations. England will boast less, though having really nothing less to boast of; is reminded that the chief weapons of the Anglo-Saxon warfare in the world are not carnal; and having now risen up in such indignation to restrain the aggression of another, may lay some just restraint upon her own. The world will now wonder the more to see her turn from vindicating the rights of one weak government to violate the rights of another; and though she may not, perhaps even should not forbear to take all India under her power, we shall expect her not to enslave the people to her avarice, but to make them free in her Christianity. France, just now despotic in form, but popular in spirit, has greatly advanced in relative power; and, notwithstanding all that is extraordinary, and almost unaccountable in her present condition, seems to us in a transition state; was never nearer true liberty, and a settled Protestant Christianity than now; never in a condition so favorable to the permanent establishment of free institutions; never more swayed towards Christian freedom by the interests of ruler and ruled, nor better prepared to demon

« ZurückWeiter »