ALISON'S ESSAYS. * LITKRARY skill has been a prominent feature in
the various "articles" hitherto reprinted in a collected form from the periodical works in which they appeared. The pietaresque brilhiu.ney of Macaulay and the felicitous pungency of Sydney Smith were a source of attraction to the reader over and above any merits con- nected with the plan, the purpose, or the matter of the papers. In like manner, Jeffrey's varied, buoyant, and animated composition, the elaborated polish of Mackintosh, and the high finish of Ste- phen, respectively contributed to the interest inspired by volumes which had neither the complete and exhaustive fulness of a regu- larly constructed book, nor the informing brevity and original ob-
servation that should characterize the essay. ' In this artistical ability Mr. Alison is deficient. In his own rhetorical walk he is not an artist. He has not the power of personification which distinguishes Chateaubriand and the French school; neither has he the spangle brilliancy, the lively turns, and the meretricious graces of composition, that characterize Bulwer. Mr. .Alison's literary art is limited to the povrer of dealing effect- ively with large masses. His success depends on his subject, not merely, as must always be the ease, on its importance, freshness, and general attractiveness, but on the subject telling its own story. Had not the History of Europe been so interesting in its nature, and the method of treatment so clearly indicated in itself and by the narratives of some of Mr. .Alison's authorities, it would pro- bably have dropped still-born from the press, or have partaken of
• Essays, Political, Historical, and Miscellaneous. By Archibald Alison, LL.D.. Author of the "History of Europe," 8te. Volume I. Published by Blackwood and Sons.
the middling success of his other works. As it is, the disquisitions on morals, politics, and political economy, so freely scattered through the volumes are cumbrous and fatiguing, besides dis- playing the feeling of a partisan in the garb of a philosopher.
These worser qualities of Mr. _Alison are more fully shown in the various political articles he has for Many years been in the 'habit of supplying to _Blackwood's Magazine. The control he puts upon his opinions or hie,expressions in the History is alto- gether lost in the monthly periodieal. Considered as anything beyond the hortatives' of the hour, addressed to a party not re- markable for reason, they labour under the inherent disadvantage of 'being written on current questions ; and though possessing an historical and so it may be said 4t enduring interest, yet they are handled in the spirit of the day. A good deal of what the writer would call philosophy: its iadeed. inserted:in .them,—the Universal History, for example beingarawu-into,-thedisswision on the Re- form Bill ; but this rather encumbers the article for temporary use than embalms it for futara, readers:: In all the other collections that we have met with, both, the subjeote and the treatment have PossOss(4,:RaPthhig of a7goPertilair. Q1, coarse, a topic that is not a landmark in the advance of human progress, possesses a greater interest when it appears .as partef,thc:news of the day than when its first fashion is over still, - good. books, or remark- able events and persons, handled with as much literary ability as the writer can put into them, .haye .ntui, inherent advantage over articles that are written by a politieianwith party objects. For these reasons, when. we saw the intended reprint of Mr. AlisOn's articles announced we had: great misgivings as to -their effect ; and the volume before us Ithfirina that -antiei atien. The parade of historical instances, the swaggering philosophy, the-exag- gerated views, and the violence of temper, which did not beneficially contribute to the effect when the question was immediate, are neNV felt to be pedantic or fatiguing. The better parts are those which have so little to do with the argument' in hand that they might altogether be separated from it. Thus, one of the best " essays " in the book is that on the British Peerage, written eight- een years, ago, when." :tile pear" seemed ripening for Peerage Re- form : the article, contains about thirty-four pages, of which one half is a sort Of :treatise on the uses of an aristocracy, and a good part of the other half an' histcirioal discussion on the constitutional power of the Crown to erdateliee'rs. The contents of this first luin of the.collge.tion .consists of .tical and economical subjects that have engaged the public. attention for the last nineteen or twenty years. The Refoinn Bill, or topics immediately Connected with it, and the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, occupy six papers ; seven, are on question-s conneaed with Free Trade ; the remainder are of a nuseellanedus patine, but embracing some topic of one or both of the two grand divisions politics or economy. Sometimes two papers on the same question are put together, but with no material alteration: they stand as they originally stood in Blacktood, subject to the n'ecessary changes for the purpose of conjunction. This eXactuess_ii More, . espeolallY necessary on do- count of the vatieinatory character which the author claims for his lucubrations.
When a person has been -writing on all sorts of subjects for twenty ye,,srs,.and predicting allif,p0e of evil consequences, it will go hard but that mail and fortynOlill.realize some of the predic- tions; yet in this case the naiiikt rerenr4ble,feature, next to the confidence of the prophet, is liewl.tWtor ProPlloojes has been realized. That the ReforK.Nctf disappointed sanguine expectations, and by no meanaire -Jed moderate hopes--that Ministry can still abuse or negl‘ac roper functions, as in.the old Boroughmongering Parli 4ça-Vaat the present Muse. of Coons is quite as self-seeking an tidIVile While its eloquence is less and its tone lower--is all true enough. It may even be doubted whether the Reformed Parliament has done anything that could not have been done by the Boroughmongering Parliaments. But though the Reform Act has not been very successful legisla- tively speaking the Reform of 1831-2 satisfied the public mind for the time on the subject of organic changes ; and besides enabling public attention to be directed to practical measures for a dozen years past, it doubtless carried the country safely through the re- volutionary crisis of 1848. With the old feeling among the middle classes respecting the House of Commons; we should scarcely have had the celebrated "10th of April" among our historical boasts.
But Mr. Alison's prophecies did not refer to the stagnating con- sequences of the Reform Bill ; they related to the other side of the medal. The.- passing of the bill was to be "utterly fatal to every interest of society." "The Fall of the Constitution" (so Ifr. Ali- son heads his article on the passing of the bill) took place in 1832: by this time we ought to have lost the Colonies through some direct doings of the Reform Parliament, got rid of the Crown, and, after various other evils, taken refuge in a military despotism. "Non meus hic sermo"—listen to the words of the prophet. "The consequences of Reform may be predicted with tolerable certainty from the preceding observations.
"Suppose that the consequences of Reform are not so disastrous as the most vehement of its opponents prlict, and as the examples of all similar
innovations prognosticate. We shall that the prodigious and unex- pected victory over the aristocracy does not, to any alarming degree, increase the ambition of the democratiml party; • that the ten-pound tenants return upon the whole as respectable men as could be expected; that no immediate convulsion takes place ; that the secret hopes of the Whig leaders are real- ized, and the aristocrats of their party acquire silently but steadily an abso- lute away over a great part of the small boroughs in their neighbourhood. We shall suppose, in fine, that things go on under the new constitution as much in their former course as the magnitude of the changes which have
seventeen articles on the prirteipelPo
Bh. ?,1,„..,1,--tatt elfOli IfIll WU; ,i-girlif 0 r Cl 1 ifigtrca 1di •" NorgApAt ftlici firltueifecto of theipassiiig4 Alia. VAttirailBillioeviel &AC AgrelVi R4iOniiiO • hsmises saltilliete.
seizure would still7.44 m
• "Finding; then, thaVtliefthurch idis akorded no effectual relief, that the revenue is rapidly diminishing, that the -public- distress is daily increasing, and that bhunorousmillions are insisting for reliek the-Legislature will be
13932P9,H 19#0.Fiintfx.PS.13t-aluidgepart Of the capitol Of the :National, De o that, bt. e believe at, even under aefornied and highly .democratic Par-. liamentouch a measure as thks will not 136 taken without ember& roluc-- tOicet the'filtdl'eceiserpienti4 of in/rine* on public credit in a eimmereial cotmery must force' themselves on the niest inconsiderate. The character the Logislatiire will before that timaihavei undergone a complete chaiIge The.. numerous and weighty interests, .nitiit represented. by the .nomination, boroughs, will no longer , be able to raise, their voicerin Parliament ; the' are a relentless majority, representing the towns, tied dewa bv pledges to -their imperious constituents, wilIdisy6se of thUir diositlon isé itteettaillYr, as-the,resistanoe to Rethrin h" been overtlitownliaithe. resent-Ingislattire. ". The measure of outtingdlo-iiin ar seriously e the rands being ' one of ,givat inagnitudo.,endiawf4 consequences,, will be as much disguiere& as possible.i will be brought fOrward at first n the shape, of a tax- on. transfers, or- some such measure; based ou the priuelp)e Of effecting an equit- able adjustment with the public creditor; or possibly a paper currency, poS- sessing- a 'forced and legal circulation, will he isened by Governmentoind the ,divirlenda paid: in that_ shape, But in, whatever way it is done, the effect , will be the same—public credit will be violated; and from that instant is fatal aid irrecov,eralite blorT,is4rueli4itithe industry, anti most of all-lilac
e pnimercial industry,' of trekt•Wiram,"
-KO far 'from there having,140iistlie least symptom of a fulfilment of'this prediction, we do notlfeliete that any candidate has ever dared to broach suekan ideil.ta a constituency ; certainly no can- didate With any iniaspeets of success. The only persomof sufficient mark to be heard of that has raised the question, is Mr. Francis NeWman ; and he ha,ii done it constitutionally, Iogiealy,-its a matter,' of speculati*e right quite irrespeetife of politics or government.
BUt to return ; thee Ch! ' ds not being able to supply
th6.deficiency in the the abolition of the Corn la, ikivate property woirld'' 4‘The confiscation of the greaff-p ' :tineobviols resource which, under the pressure of such unheard-4 stiffering ir.4overninenti how anxious soever to avoid such a measure' .Willte-initlie end unable to withstand. lb will be imperiously diettited-t* the twenty-ow, delegates front London, by- their constituents, [who have turned out as patient as Griseld and sup-. • -ited by the Cries of hundreds of thousands of starving citizens. It will14, ended, in a voice of thunder, by the majority of the three hundred Repre- sentatives of the boroughs of England. In N.qtan will the County Members,: awakened at last by the- tempest approaching their own doors to. the fatal conspauences of their ,passion for Relorm, strive to ,avert the catastrophe Their doom wilt he,sealed amidst the 'same shouts of lat!ghter, .an.d yells of. Radical exultation, Which Were raised through the country on the disfran- chibeinent of the nomination boroughs. • 'The violent clamour Of four or five hundred individuals, the victims of spoliation, will be drowned in the shouts
of millions eager to share theirspoils, - * - * . "How, if such a measure of spoliation is brought forward amid circumstances', of severe and unmitigated national diskess, is it tobe averted, after the Reform. Bill has placed absolute power in the blinds of the tenants of ten-potuid
in towns, and the owners of forty-shilling freeholds in the country?' That' the proprietors threatened With dektraetbin will raise the' most violent onteit; may ,,,ftM• y be anticipated ;And what 'chance 'has. it of averting the eataii- trophe? Their resistancet it will heie midi, is the cry of the thief who is ltd out to the scaffold—ffie struggles of the robber to avoid restitution of his plunder. Every man in the country will be told; that he is personally in- terested In supporting this grand-measure of national retribution the mil- lions of starving poor Will be. fed, out of the spoils of the borougl;mongers ; the working classes will • at ;once, he relieved from tax_ ,es the harbours from customs, the interior from excise. '.We have seen what a tempest was ex- cited, even amongst a prosperous body of freeholders, by the prospect of mere political power what. may be anticipated from the ofter to starving millions of the substantial benefits of property worth eight hundred millions!
"Let it not be supposed, that the peril which such a measure would occa- sion to their own property, would for a moment deter the ten-pound tenants from exacting from their constituents pledges to support this grand aristo- cratic spoliation." ESPf-a6ai ba'atik% att
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