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J. E. HOVENDEN, Esq.
To whom can a writer more properly address his thoughts upon another country, than to one with whose name he has long since been familiar in studying the institutions of his own? I dedicate then these volumes to you, my dear Sir, and allow me to add, that I do so with every sentiment of private friendship, that can add to public esteem.
Any author who now takes up his pen, does so at an eventful moment. There is a season when every seed we scatter upon the breeze, however carelessly, will produce and bear; the soil is quick with an invisible being; thus, an interest may possibly attach to these pages, even though so hastily composed.
That interest, however, will be owing as
much to the situation of our own country, as to the situation of the country which I more especially undertake to describe.
Let me then, before proceeding to France, carry your attention, and that of any who now honour me by casting their eyes upon this page, to England!
By many, the spirit of change which now ruffles the public mind, is accounted as one of those chance winds, of which no man knoweth whence they come or whither they go-sudden and accidental in their visitation, and as suddenly and accidentally passing away. Is this
The links which bound our people to an old aristocracy have long been dropping off one by one from the ancient chain, in which, at the revolution of 1688, society was still bound. Already on the demise of Anne, the commercial fortunes which then began to spring up from that spirit of commerce, to which the spirit of chivalry under the prudent Elizabeth had turned, counterbalanced the power of the great provincial gentry-the main support of those, who in this country, have more exclusively been called the nobility of the land.
The protracted contest for the crown, in which the House of Hanover was ultimately
successful, but in which the great bulk of the old families inclined for the House of Stuart, carried on with that civil genius for which we are remarkable, in a series of election contests, accounted for, if it did not justify the corruptions of Sir Robert Walpole, and ruined the great majority of the patriarchal possessors of the soil. A new race of persons with names unknown, got possession of those chesnutavenued seats, which for centuries preceding had belonged to one line of masters. It was then that the peasant and the small proprietor felt a shock in feelings they had long been accustomed to cherish. They met the new squire in the parish church, but they passed fondly by the tombs of his predecessors. The very associations which had hitherto made them respect the possessor of "The Place,' now rose up against its purchaser. He was disliked as the new man, more than he was respected as the rich one. First, wealth lost its prestige because it was unaccompanied by birth, and then birth lost its prestige because it was unaccompanied by
In this manner, that habit of unthinking respect for superior rank, which had almost seemed an instinct, was effaced by degrees, now here, now there. At the same time too, the increasing
business and luxuries of a capital, and the increasing facilities for visiting it, drew a large class of persons yearly to the metropolis, as a matter of course, who formerly only sought it on some extraordinary occasion of business, curiosity, or adventure. This habit, did not -perhaps could not-exist long without a London existence rising more and more into importance, as compared with a rural one; until at last, a large portion of the great nobility and wealthy squirearchy began to look upon their provincial neighbours, less as useful friends and adherents to be cultivated in the country, than as vulgar alliances and acquaintances to be avoided in town. Hence that silly principle of exclusion, which ending in the overthrow of its inventors, has made a condemned and excluded body of that aristocracy, who entrenched amidst their solitary boroughs and venal corporations, thought they might despise and defy the nation, without which they contrived to rule. Monstrous delusion!
When we altered the form of our constitution in 1832, what made that alteration so enormous, was—that the nobility which governed, had no hold on power, save by that form. They had been acquiring a strength where the people were not, and they had been losing their in