« PreviousContinue »
NAPOLEON IN ST. HELENA.
DR. CHANNING. THERE have been two circumstances which have done much to disarm or weaken the strong moral reprobation with which Bonaparte ought to have been regarded, and which we deem worthy of notice. We refer to the wrongs which he is supposed to have suffered at St. Helena, and to the unworthy use which the Allied Powers have made of their triumph over Napoleon. First, his supposed wrongs at St. Helena have excited a sympathy in his behalf which has thrown a veil over his crimes. We are not disposed to deny that an unwarrantable, because unnecessary severity was exercised towards Bonaparte. We think it not very creditable to the British government that it tortured a sensitive captive by refusing him a title which he had long worn. We think that not only religion and humanity, but self-respect, forbids us to inflict a single useless pang upon a fallen foe. But we should be weak indeed if the moral judgments and feelings with which Napoleon's career ought to be reviewed, should give place to sympathy with the sufferings by which it was closed. With regard to the scruples, which not a few have expressed, as to the right of banishing him to St. Helena, we can only say that our consciences are not so refined to such exquisite delicacy as to be at all sensitive on this particular. We admire nothing more in Bonaparte than the effrontery with which he claimed protection from the laws of nations. That a man who had set these laws at open defiance should fly to them for shelter—that the oppressor of the world should claim its sympathy as an oppressed man, and that his claim should find advocates—these things are to be set down among the extraordinary events of this extraordinary age. Truly, the human race is in a pitiable state. It may be trampled on, spoiled, loaded like a beast of burden, made the prey of rapacity, insolence, and the sword ; but it must not touch a hair, or disturb the pillow, of one of its oppressors, unless it can find chapter and verse in the code of national law, to authorise its rudeness towards the privileged offender. For ourselves, we should rejoice to see every tyrant, whether a usurper or a hereditary prince, fastened to a lonely rock in the ocean. Whoever gives clear undoubted proof that he is prepared and sternly resolved to make the earth a slaughter-house, and to crush every will adverse to his own, ought to be caged like a wild beast; and to require mankind to proceed against him according to written laws and precedents, as if he were a private citizen in a quiet court of justice, is just as rational as to require a man, in imminent peril from an assassin, to wait and prosecute his murderer according to the most protracted forms of law. There are great solemn rights of nature which precede laws, and on which law is founded. There are great exigencies in human affairs which speak for themselves, and need no precedent to teach the right path. There are awful periods in the history of our race which do not belong to its ordinary state, and which are not to be governed and judged by ordinary rules. Such a period was that when Bonaparte, by infraction of solemn engagements, had thrown himself into France, and convulsed all Europe ; and they who confound this with the ordinary events of history, and see in Bonaparte but an ordinary foe to the peace and independence of nations, have certainly very different intellects from our own.
We confess, too, that we are not only unable to see the wrong done to Napoleon in sending him to St. Helena, but that we cannot muster up much sympathy for the inconveniences and privations which he endured there. Our sympathies, in this particular, are wayward and untractable. When we would carry them to that solitary island, and fasten them on the illustrious victim of British severity, they will not tarry there, but take their flight across the Mediterranean to Jaffa ; and across the Atlantic to the platform where the Duke d’Enghien was shot; to the prison of Toussaint, and to fields of battle where thousands at his bidding lay weltering in blood. When we strive to fix our thoughts upon the sufferings of the injured hero, other and more terrible sufferings, of which he was the cause, rush upon us; and his complaints, however loud and angry, are drowned by groans and execrations, which fill our ears from every region which he traversed. We have no tears to spare for fallen greatness, when that greatness was founded in crime, and reared by force and perfidy. We reserve them for those on whose ruin it rose. We keep our sympathies for our race, for human nature in its humbler forms, for the impoverished peasant, the widowed mother, the outraged daughter; and are even perverse enough to rejoice that the ocean has a prison-house, where the author of those miseries may be safely lodged. Bonaparte's history is to us too solemn, the wrongs for which humanity and freedom arraign him are too flagrant, to allow us to play the part of sentimentalists around his grave at St. Helena. We leave this to the more refined age in which we live ; and we do so in the hope that an age is coming of less tender mould, but of loftier, sterner feeling, and of deeper sympathy with the whole human race. Should our humble page then live, we trust, with an undoubting faith, that the uncompromising indignation with which we plead the cause of our oppressed and insulted nature, will not be set down to the account of vindictiveness and hardness of heart.
We observed that the moral indignation of many towards Bonaparte had been impaired or turned away, not only by his supposed wrongs, but by the unworthy use which his conquerors made of his triumph. We are told that, bad as was his despotism, the Holy Alliance was a worse one; and that Napoleon was less a scourge than the present coalition of the continental monarchs, ramed for the systematic suppression of freedom. By such reasoning his perfidy was cloaked, and his fall made a theme of lamentation. It is not one of the smallest errors and sins of the allied sovereigns, that they have contrived, by their base policy, to turn the resentments and moral displeasure of men from the usurper upon themselves. For these sovereigns we have no defence to offer. We yield to none in detestation of the Holy Alliance, profanely so called. To us its doctrines are as false and pestilent as any broached by Jacobinism. The allied monarchs are adding to the other wrongs of despots that of flagrant ingratitude ; of ingratitude to the generous and brave nations to whom they owe their thrones, whose spirit of independence and patriotism, and whose hatred of the oppressor, contributed more than standing armies to raise up the fallen liberties, and to strengthen the fallen monarchies of Europe. Be it never forgotten in the records of despotism, let history record it on her most durable tablet, that the first use made by the principal continental sovereigns, of their regained or confirmed power, was, to conspire against the hopes and rights of the nations by whom they had been saved ; to combine the military power of Europe against free institutions, against the press, against the spirit of liberty and patriotism which had sprung up in the glorious struggle with Napoleon, against the right of the people to exert any influence on the governments by which their dearest interests were to be controlled. Never be it forgotten that such was the honour of sovereigns, such their requital for the blood which had been shed freely in their defence. Freedom and humanity send up a solemn and prevailing cry against them, to that tribunal where kings and subjects are soon to stand as equals. But still we should be strangely blind if we were not to feel that the fall of Napoleon was a blessing to the world. Who can look, for example, at France, and not see there a degree of freedom which could never have grown up under the terrible crown of the usurper? True, Bonaparte's life, though it seemed a charmed one, must, at length, have ended ; and we are told that then his empire would have been broken, and that the general crash, by some inexplicable process, would have given birth to a more extensive and durable liberty than can now be hoped. But such anticipations seem to us to be built on a strange inattention to the nature and inevitable consequences of Napoleon's power. It was wholly a military power. He was literally turning Europe into a camp, and drawing its best talent into one occupation, war. Thus Europe was retracing its steps to those ages of calamity and darkness when the only law was the sword. The progress of centuries, which had consisted chiefly in the substitution of intelligence, public opinion, and other mild and rational influences, for brutal force, was to be reversed. At Bonaparte's death, his empire must indeed have been dissolved ; but military chiefs, like Alexander's lieutenants, would have divided it. The sword alone would have shaped its future communities ; and, after years of desolation and bloodshed, Europe would have found not repose, but a respite, an armed truce, under warriors whose only title to empire would have been their own good blades, and the weight of whose thrones would have been upheld by military force alone. Amidst such convulsions, during which the press would have been everywhere fettered, and the military spirit would have triumphed over and swallowed up the spirit and glory of letters and liberal arts, we greatly fear that the human intellect would have lost its present impulse, its thirst for progress, and would have fallen back towards barbarism. Let not the friends of freedom bring dishonour on themselves or desert their cause, by instituting comparisons between Napoleon and legitimate sovereigns, which may be construed into eulogies on the former. For ourselves we have no sympathy with tyranny, whether it bear the name of usurpation or legitimacy. We are not pleading the cause of the allied sovereigns. In our judgment, they have contracted the very guilt against which they have pretended to combine. In our apprehension, a conspiracy against the rights of the human race is as foul a crime as rebellion against the rights of sovereigns ; nor is there less of treason in warring against public freedom than in assailing royal power. Still we are bound in truth to confess that the allied sovereigns are not to be ranked with Bonaparte, whose design against the independence of nations and the liberties of the world, in this age of civilization, liberal thinking, and Christian knowledge, is in our estimation the most nefarious enterprise recorded in history.
ADVENTURE WITH A LION.
DR. LIVINGSTONE. The general instructions I received from the directors of the London Missionary Society, led me, as soon as I reached Kuruman or Lattakoo, then, as it is now, their farthest inland station from the Cape, to turn my attention to the north. Without waiting longer at Kuruman than was necessary to recruit the oxen, which were pretty well tired by the long journey from Algoa Bay, I proceeded, in company with another missionary, to the Bakuéna or Bakwain country, and found Séchele, with his tribe, located at Shokuáne. We shortly after retraced our steps to Kuruman ; but as the objects in view were by no means to be attained by a temporary excursion of this sort, I determined to make a fresh start into the interior as soon as possible. Accordingly, after resting three months at Kuruman, which is a kind of head station, in the country, I returned to a spot about fifteen miles south of Shokuane, called Lepelőle. Here, in order to obtain an accurate knowledge of the language, I cut myself off from all European society for about six months, and gained by this ordeal an insight into the habits, ways of thinking, laws, and language of that section of the Bechuanas, called Bakwains, which has proved of incalculable advantage in my intercourse with them ever since.
In going north again, a comet blazed on our sight, exciting the wonder of every tribe we visited. That of 1816 had been followed