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explanation of the motives which induced him to addrefs this letter to the Livery of London. We fhall give him an opportunity of ftating them in his own words.
Independently of the immediate local effects which will result, I hope, from the promulgation of the preceding truths and principles, I cannot dissemble my wish, that what I have written should be candidly received as a legacy by my successors in office, and that it should have an influence on the practices of sheriffs throughout the empire. For my own part, I have had occasion to lament, within these few weeks, that I did not possess my present knowledge of the details of my official duties many months before; and I am therefore sanguine enough to believe, that other sheriffs, on their entrance into the office, may avail themselves of my experience, although they may not adopt my opinions relative to all the topics of which I have treated. In this respect, I venture to hope that the publication may be useful to my country.
If I am solicitous about its success, it is not for myself; it is for those liberties of Englishmen which it has been my pride to assert, and for those helpless victims, whose cause I plead with trembling anxiety, lest it may suffer from any imperfection of its advo
For my own part, having no personal views, and little to hope or to fear from the issue of this discussion, I cannot conceive, that my motives are liable to misinterpretation, or that my earnestness can be ascribed to feelings of a sinister nature. I have simply obeyed the dictates of my conscience; and I am willing to stand or fall by the cause which I have asserted. All I wish is, that the several questions may be decided on their own merits, and that their advocate may be judged dispassionately, on the fair interpretation of his arguments and declarations!
In conclusion, I beg to observe, that the topics on which I have treated are plain matters of fact; they have nothing to do with uncertain theories or speculations; and they come home to every man's business and bosom.
The ftyle of the letter is plain and perfpicuous, and invites nither cenfure nor praife: nor is ftyle, in a work of this description, an object of any great importance. It is rather more materil, however, to obferve, that it is eafy to perceive that Sir Richard has been occafionally precipitate, and that he has fometimes prefumed a little on the high functions of his office, and attempted to reduce to practice his own fpeculative opinions, without proper deference to the fentiments of perfons of greater knowledge and experience, and of higher profeffional rank and dignity. Although, however, he may be deficient in that finer fpecies of fagacity, which enables a perfon to avail himself of the prejudices and affections of others, and to employ them as inftruments for the promotion of objects of public utility, it is proper to fay, he
has not been wanting in the more effential quality of courage requifite to point out those abuses to which the hand of correction might be applied. This fpecies of courage feems but too often to abandon those who arrive at the higher offices, whether political or magisterial. To disturb the existing order of things, however defective, is a dangerous experiment, where the office held by an individual is confidered as a step to promotion. Yet the moft correct knowledge of abufes muft naturally be in the poffeffion of those who fill the offices in which they are committed : and, as few are difpofed to communicate this ferviceable intelligence to the public, the more credit is due to those who discharge a duty, from the performance of which the greater part of mankind have commonly been found to shrink back. We are not entitled, on fuch occasions, to institute too rigorous an inquiry into his motives, or his manner of proceeding. It is by no means improbable that an undue love of popularity, and a rough, assuming manner, may have characterized, to a certain extent, both the motive of Sir Richard's conduct, and the mode of his proceeding. But if he has rendered a fervice to the public, it is not, on this account, lefs entitled to acknowledgement. Every man has not the grace of modefty, or the gift of conciliation; and it would be too great a difcouragement to poor human virtue, if we were to withhold our praise for public fervices, till we were fatisfied that they had not been dictated, in any degree, by selfish confiderations.
ART. XII. An Historical Survey of the Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, with a View to explain the Causes of the Disasters of the late and present Wars. By Gould Francis Leckie, Esq. London, 1808. 8vo. pp. 262. J. Bell.
HE view which this author takes of our foreign affairs, may be explained in few words. The great phenomenon in the modern history of Europe is the French revolution. It is by that great central movement that those of the surrounding_nations have, for a series of years, been directed. What were the dangers to which it gave birth? and what has been the policy by which our government has endeavoured to counteract them? Mr Leckie, like other authors, has conceived the object of his inquiry a great deal too vaguely; and has, in consequence, given us abundance of loose and inapplicable writing; but those two questions express the real points to which the retrospective part of his book is directed.
The ministers of Great Britain, he thinks, have all along misunderstood the nature of the French revolution,-have been misguided in their counsels by an unpardonable ignorance of the state into which time and events had brought the nations of Europe,and have employed means as weak and irrational in their combination, as unenlightened and unprofitable in their end. Little, in his opinion, was that man acquainted with the modes of thinking, and the state of government in the different kingdoms of this quarter of the globe, who could build any hopes upon a coalition of the old European powers against republican France. The first crusade, as he calls it, upon the fall of the monarchy, was, under the pretence of reestablishing the throne, a treaty of partition ;—the fortresses taken displayed the standard of Austria, not that of Bourbon. The jealousy of Prussia opened a secret understanding between her and the portentous republic; and the minister of Great Britain ought to have known, that out of these materials were not to be forged the arms which could subdue a great nation, combined by the real enthusiasm of liberty; though mistaken as to the means of obtaining it. The inhabitants. of Holland and the Netherlands had, but a few years before, exhibited a republican spirit; and the internal commotions of those countries had been with difficulty quelled. Yet, without weighing these important circumstances,-without considering or understanding the corruption and degeneracy of the Austrian cabinet, the weakness of the government, the cabals of the court, the insincerity of her military officers,' these countries, with Great Britain, were forced into a coalition; and a mass of such discordant materials,' says our author, was mistaken for a combination of all the regular governments against anarchy.' We per
It was not enough for us to get into an evil course. sisted in it with an obstinacy and infatuation which has no parallel. No sooner was one coalition baffled, than we formed another. We expended the resources of the most flourishing country in the universe, with a prodigality such as no age or nation had ever witnessed; while every fresh effort was attended with a new accession to the power of our enemy. Our whole conduct,' says Mr Leckie, has been marked by indecision and weakness of measures. From the time that Pichegru invaded Holland, and drove the British from the Continent, hostilities on our side were never conducted on any regular plan, or founded on a general view of the state of the world.'
Our conduct abroad, however, was the natural result of the principles espoused at home. When to the fears, which were first excited by the doctrines of the French, was added the terror arising from the success of their arms, well disposed men
were naturally alarmed for the tranquillity and order of their country; and looked round with anxiety for the means of arresting the dangerous torrent of innovation. The most expedient which obviously suggested itself, was to defend every thing established, whether good or bad; to persecute every man as dangerous who should dare to say there were faults, either in our own, or any other government; and to regard it as the pole-star of our policy, to preserve or replace every thing on the foundation on which it stood previous to the explosion of the infernal machine at Paris. This, accordingly, was the policy adopted by our government. Instead of inquiring what was capable of standing, or what was capable of aiding us in the governments around,-instead of inquiring what was best calculated. for the prosperity and independence of our own empire, we became the knights-errant,' says Mr Leckie, of every weak, degenerate, and despotic state in Europe, Asia, and Africa. efforts were wasted in supporting what it was vain to attempt to support. We abstained from availing ourselves of the most glorious advantages, that we might not disturb corruption in her strong holds, though we might have seen that many of these strong holds were now rotten at the foundation, and nodding to their fall.
Without pursuing any further the train of thought which is suggested by the criticisms of Mr Leckie, on the conduct of our government in regard to foreign affairs since the eventful era of the French revolution, we cannot leave the consideration of the partial and illiberal views of policy suggested by this direful event, without adverting one moment to the effects which these views have produced in our internal and domestic affairs. It is here that the deepest wounds have been received ;—it is here that the cure will be most slowly effected. These views have given encouragement to assume a greater controul over the liberties of the people, to make vast accessions to the patronage of the Crown; and they have extended, to a miserable degree, venality and servitude among the principal classes of the nation. Events, indeed, have now taught us the folly of the illiberal doctrines suggested by the French revolution, in the conduct of our foreign affairs; and it is time that our eyes should be opened to their baneful consequences in our domestic concerns. Easy has been the triumph of the French armies over venality and servitude, wherever they have found it. Even those among us who would prize the Epicurean delights of property under a certain gentle. servitude which they picture in their imaginations, and are afraid even to breathe a sentiment in favour of liberty, lest it should shake the security of their darling possessions, would do well to consider
consider what has become of the property of those degenerate nobles, who, in the various countries which the French have overcome, had made themselves the agents of corruption and despotism.
Among the various details into which our author enters in support of his general criticisms on the conduct of the British government in foreign affairs, he pays particular attention to the situation of Sicily. He appears, from long residence on the spot, to be better qualified for the task than most of our countrymen, by whom the government of Sicily has been most strangely overlooked. It is indeed of late only that it has become in any remarkable degree connected with our interests; but now that it forms so prominent an object in our system of policy, it is not a little to be regretted, that there is not, so far as we know, a book in the English language which conveys a tolerable idea of the internal government and political situation of that island. We are extremely happy that Mr Leckie has afforded us an opportunity of performing, though in a very imperfect manner, this important service; and we give him our sincere and hearty thanks for the aid which he has contributed to us in the outline which we shall here present. We are happy that we shall be able to quote his authority for almost every statement which we shall find it necessary to make.
The distribution of the lands which was originally made by Roger, the Norman conqueror of Sicily, about the time of our William the First, still remains; and forms, in reality, the basis on which the government stands. He divided the lands into three parts; one of which he assigned to himself, as the demesnes of the crown; another he divided among his nobles, on the common feudal conditions of military service; and the third was bestowed upon the church, in the endowment of bishoprics, abbeys, convents, &c.
That portion of the lands which is held as the demesnes of the crown, is under the immediate management of the towns there situated. Each town, according to the estimated revenue of the land within its district, pays to the king a certain annual sum, denominated the King's Patrimony, besides maintaining the police, roads, &c.; and a Board, denominated the Tribunal of Patrimony, is established at Palermo, which takes cognizance of the whole. The barons, holding their lands on feudal conditions, are not permitted to alienate them; and no sale takes place but with the express permission of the king. The lands of the church are of course a fixed and unchangeable possession; and the towns on the demesnial lands having only an administrative right, have no pretensions to any power of alienation. The whole