Page images
PDF
EPUB

were they from possessing that undaunted courage, that clemency, that generosity, that magnanimity, by which he is acknowleged to be distinguished among his fellow quadrupeds. Should it be granted, upon the ground of its antecedent probability, as well as the evidence of existing facts, that the arbitrary princes of modern Europe have altogether changed their nature ; and that they, in no respect, resemble the tyrants of antiquity, but on the contrary, that they are characterised by all the generous dispositions of the lion, without retaining any that are mischievous and malignant; yet some persons will be ready to suspect, that these latter ages have not been entirely free from the calamities which the ancient world endured. Among an excessively privileged nobility, like many of those formerly employed in the pillage of the people of France, not a few may possibly be regarded as noxious animals, who, though of an inferior size and a less pampered growth, have however consumed far more than has naturally or properly fallen to their share. The titled conspirators of Coblentz in particular, some of whom the empress of Russia has invited to colonize a portion of her wide-spreading wastes, may, perhaps, as well from their conduct as their dispositions, be considered as no unsuitable associates for the less dangerous savages, that wander at large in the regions allotted for their reception. But let it not be supposed, that, by the incidental introduction of the imperial Catharine, any indirect imputation is intended to be cast upon the mildness and purity of her character. To the Poles, to the inhabitants of a country once more extensive than France, the question may be confidently referred; and it may be asked, whether they have not repeatedly received from her the most decisive proofs of her pacific dispositions, and the readiness with which she ever interposes her good offices. Let it not then be suspected, to use an expression of Mr. Gibbon, that the sovereign of the Russian deserts' bears the most faint resemblance to the beasts of prey that inhabit them. In order to refute the charge, will it not be sufficient to give a brief description of the principal qualities,

and of the general conduct, of the latter ; and to inquire, whether they are at all applicable to any modern princes of any European dynasty?

Greedy of spoil, and incessantly thirsting after blood, the beasts of the forests carry on perpetual hostilities against the human race; when feebly resisted, they have a powerful influence in the gradual depopulation of the territory, in which they reside; and wherever they extend their depredations, they, alas ! make no distinction of age, or sex, or merit. Possessed of the most formidable strength, they disdain all restraint. But they nevertheless not unfrequently have recourse to concealment and to art. Of darkness also they are naturally fond. When they have exerted their art and their strength with success; when they have obtained an opportunity of multiplying their massacres, and have been capable of spreading their ravages, without disturbance and without danger, over the widest extent of country; then it is, that they exult with a barbarous joy, destined, indeed, quickly to be allayed by the insatiable nature of their desires. With respect to desires of a different description, those of a sensual kind, these are strengthened by the most unlimited indulgence. In the gratification of them, they commonly display an equal degree of coarseness and inconstancy; and any permanent attachments between the male and female of the tribe are unusual phænomena.

Though they should be clothed in a dress alike splendid and beautiful, and some of them should occasionally assume a look of peace and gentleness, these are circumstances, which authorise no diminution of dread or suspension of vigilance. .

If you value your safety, the ordinary circle of their predatory excursions should not be approached by you; for, when you have once entered within the confines of the region which they annoy, you expose yourself to the probability of an attack. Have they fixed their eye upon you? Alas! It will probably be equally vain to fly or to resist. Being Vol. I.

ri

of unbounded rapacity, they do, though of the same tribe, seldom agree among themselves. But, although they are naturally solitary animals, unsusceptible of friendship and undeserving of confidence, these devourers of mankind, notwithstanding their mutual jealousy, have, in some circumstances, associated together, that they might the more effectually seize upon their prey. As they cherish the most malignant dispositions, and are early inured to acts of rapine and slaughter ; they are rarely tamed by the most careful or judicious course of discipline: and extremely few are the instances which have occurred, of their being rendered docile or useful. Though by no means strangers to the colder climes, the countries of Asia and Africa they infest in the greatest numbers, and it is there that they meet with the feeblest opposition.

Extending over so large a portion of the globe, possessed of dispositions thus incorrigible, armed with power thus fatally destructive, possibly some may urge, that they ought to be hunted down, and driven from their dens, though the latter should appear to be inaccessible and to bid defiance to attack. And if this work be as salutary's as it is difficult, some perhaps may be ready to maintain, that those, who shall undertake the hazardous enterprise of subduing these scourges of the human race, are entitled to receive from them in return their assistance and gratitude"? Whilst the

15 Isocrates having observed, that τον πολεμων αγα[καιοταίον μεν και δεκαειοταιον, τον μετα πανων ανθρωπων προς την αγριοτητα των θηρίων yEvojevov ; adds, that the next in point of justice and necessity is against those of the human race, τ8ς και φυσει πολεμιες ονας, και παντα τον χρονον

ET 168Asvoylas sipelv. , To whom does this best apply? Orat. Panathenaica.

16 France, we are informed by Buffon and other naturalists, was greatly infested, some years since, by different noxious animals, and particularly by wolves ; but the inhabitants have deserved well of society, by the zeal they have shewn in expelling them.

The right of driving them away, in all cases, when they shew themselves bent upon plunder, 1 regard not as questionable. To the inhabitants of any particular district, who have recently freed themselves from their desstructive depredations, and defeated all their endeavors to renew them, though

former are indefatigable in their devastations, will it not be asked in a tone of surprise, shall mankind continue idle;

they may have been assisted by other stronger savages of a foreign growth, a question of expediency does, however, occur, when they are apprised, that these ferocious plunderers still meditate a repetition of their joint at. tacks; and it may then become an enquiry of no small difficulty, what mode of opposition the most enlightened policy would recommend. If, impelled by a generous ardor, they press forward in pursuit of the baffled and retreating foe, far beyond the limits of their own territory; if, before a general arming has taken place, they attack, at the same time, and in several different quarters, not only the smaller animals of a ravenous kind, the natives of their own clime, but the strongest and the most carnivorous, whom the scent of prey has allured to the combat; and if when they enter, in these circumstances, into the neighbouring territories, they enter with an intention of hunting down those more formidable savages, who glut themselves with blood and plunder, before the people of those territories are sufficiently resolute and well informed to afford them substantial aid; it may, I think be doubted, whether their conduct were sufficiently guided by maxims of prudence.

But to illustrate my meaning, and to prevent it from being mistaken, Į will, for a moment, imagine myself an inhabitant of ancient Europe, as it was thirty centuries since, when the beasts of the forest possessed almost an undisturbed dominion. I will, for a moment, suppose, that they are extremely numerous ; that they associate together in large companies, in Hispania, Belgium, and different parts of Italia and Germania; and that they not only carry on their ravages in these countries, the inhabitants of which arc unarmed, ignorant of their interests, and destitute of union, but that they threaten to lay waste the populous provinces of Gaul; in these circumstances the Gauls, I apprehend, if the magnitude of the danger required it, should maintain a vigorous Defensive System.

But if they possess a well-grounded confidence in their own skill and numbers, a difference of circumstances will undoubtedly authorise a dif. ferent conduct. If they do quit their own country, if they do chase the enemy beyond their own frontier, policy will probably direct them principally to bend their force to two or three points, where their danger is most eminent. By great and concentered exertions they might not only clear the country for a time, but maintain their ground in it, till the inhabitants needed not their support.

On the supposition that they are strong enough, they would thus render their danger more remote, whilst they generated a salutary terror. Thus the foes of mankind, alarmed at the progress they have made, will either speedily relinquish projects of so hopeless an aspect, or will gra. dually exhaust their resources in unavailing efforts of malevolence and hostility

shall they take no precautions for their security ; still neglecting to unite together against the common enemy, shall they successively yield themselves up unresisting victims?

Since the word boast occurs in almost every page of Daniel and the Apocalipse, I may be the rather pardoned this long digression; though it must be confessed, that I have done little more than amplify on the words of the bishop of Bristol and the prebendary of Winchester. It may be added, that, in a country where Liberty is universally granted to be one of the greatest of human blessings, no man, professing himself an admirer of the limited monarchy of England, can, consistantly with his principles, be displeased to see the detestable conduct of tyrannical princes painted in the strongest colors, or their overthrow shewn to be probable from passages of the prophets.

CHAPTER XVI,

ON THE GENERAL COURSE OF FUTURE EVENTS, AND PARTICU

LARLY ON THE PREDICTION OF THE WAR OF ARMAGEDDON.

RESERVING what I have to say on the actual FALL of despotism, for some of the following chapters, I shall appropriate this to some of those important events, which are subsequent to the figurative earthquake in the Tenth Part of the city, and, belonging to the period of the seventh trumpet, are expected to precede and to hasten that fall.

An old English divine, of the name of Tillinghast, supposes, from attention to prophecy, that, antecedently to the destruction of the Ten Kings and of Antichrist, the world will be enlightened. The earth, says he, was before in darkness, and thought nothing of the ruin of Rome and judging of the Beast.' But,.' adds the preacher, the Lord Jets in wonderful light into the world, and then presently comes forth the work itself; the Lord doth appear judging

« PreviousContinue »