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FrRevol_701-750.indd 17 3/16/12 1:17 PM CHAPTER VIII Will Not the English Hereafter Lose Their Liherty? Many enlightened persons who know to what a height the prosperity of the French nation would rise, were the political institutions of England established among them, are persuaded that the English are actuated by a previous jealousy and throw every obstacle in the way of their rivals obtaining the enjoyment of that liberty of which they know the advantages . In truth, I do not believe in such a feeling, at least on the part of the nation. It has pride enough to be convinced, and with reason, that for a long time still it will take the lead of all others; and were France to overtake and even surpass her in some respects, England would still preserve exclusive sources of power peculiar to her situation. As to the government , he who directs it, the Foreign Secretary, seems to have, as I have said, and as he himselfhas proved, such a contempt for liberty that I truly believe he would dispose of it at a cheap rate even to France; and yet the prohibition of export from England has been almost entirely confined to the principles ofliberty, while we, on the other hand, would have wished that in this respect also the English had been pleased to impart to us the products of their industry. The English government desires, at whateversacrifice, to avoid a return of war; but it forgets that the most absolute kings of France never ceased to form hostile projects against England, and that a free constitution is a far better pledge for the stability of peace than the personal gratitude of princes. But what ought above all, in my opinion, to be represented to the English, even to those who are exclusively occupied with the interests of their country, is that if, for the sake of preventing the French from being factious or free, term it as you will, an English army must be kept up in :Jl7 FrRevol_701-750.indd 18 3/16/12 1:17 PM PART VI the territory of France, the liberty of England becomes exposed by this convention so unworthy of her. A people does not accustom itself to violate national independence among its neighbors without losing some degrees of energy, some shades in the purity of doctrine when the point is to profess at home what is disavowed abroad. England partitioning Poland , England occupying Prussia in the style ofBonaparte would have less strength to resist the encroachments ofits own government in the interior. An army on the Continent may involve her in new wars, and the state of her finances should make these wars an object of dread. To these considerations , which have already had a strong impact in Parliament at the time of the discussion of the property tax, we must add the most important of all, the imminent danger ofthe military spirit. The English, in doing injury to France, in carrying thither the poisoned arrows of Hercules, may, like Philoctetes, inflict a wound on themselves. They humiliate their rival, they trample her underfoot, but let them beware. The contagion threatens them; and ifin compressing their enemies they should stifle the sacred fire oftheir own public spirit, the vengeance or the policy to which they abandon themselves would burst, like bad firearms, in their hands. The enemies of the English constitution on the Continent are incessantly repeating that it will perish by the corruption of Parliament, and that ministerial influence will increase to such a point as to annihilate liberty : nothing of the kind is to be dreaded. The English Parliament always obeys national opinion, and that opinion cannot be corrupted in the sense attached to that expression, that is, be bribed. But that which is seductive for a whole nation is military glory; the pleasure which the youth find in a camp life, the ardent enjoyments procured to them by success in war are much more conformable to the taste of their age than the lasting benefits ofliberty. A man must possess a degree oftalent to rise in a civil career; but every vigorous arm can handle a saber, and the difficulty of distinguishing oneself in the military profession is by no means in proportion to the trouble necessary to think and become educated. The employments which in that career become numerous give government the means of holding in its dependence a very great number of families. The newly...


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