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marked by Sir Walter, pre-eminently distinguished by the allied powers, conditions like those proposed by Napoleon, must be considered as an evasion rather than an acceptance of the proffered negotiation.
If we were to examine the justice of his pretensions, a very different conclusion might be drawn. What were the complaints and accusations brought against Napoleon ? That he had disregarded the rights of neutral nations, had invaded their territories, had imposed upon them taxes either in money or in contributions of provisions and military stores, and frequently compelled them by force to take up arms in his behalf. What were the charges against Great-Britain? That on the ocean she was constantly violating all neutral rights-declaring extensive coasts and even countries under a fictitious blockadeissuing at her discretion orders in council to modify all international law-making in fact, her own will on maritime questions, the law of nations, and causing her decrees to be executed, not by officers of high rank where some discretion might be supposed to exist, but by and at the caprice of every officer who bore a commission in her naval service, nay, by any and every commander of a privateer, fitted out in any ocean or in any part of her scattered dominions. From the abuses wbich, under such circumstances, ignorance, or passion, or avarice might commit, there was no appeal but to a tribunal dependent on the very administration which, perhaps, issued such orders, and thereby gave sanction to these outrages, of which the presiding officer may generally be considered as a part of the administration of the day, to a tribunal which cannot be impartial when foreign nations or subjects are the complainants, and of which, an illustrious judge has recently declared, that the orders of the king in council were, and must be to him, the rule to guide and govern his decisions.*
Thus it frequently happened that neutral vessels engaged in what had been declared by the law of nations a legal trade, were captured and condemned for violating some unknown proclamation or decree. Still more frequently were seized on trivial accusations or on mere suspicion, for the crime of having on board a valuable cargo, were turned from their destination, sent into an out-port for adjudication, condemned upon ex-parte evidence, and the owner compelled to seek redress by an appeal to the Court of Admiralty in Great-Britain. Here, even if the sentence of condemnation were reversed, the destruction of the
* See the case of Fos and others-Edwards, p. 311; and the Snipe and others, Ib. p. 380.
voyage, the detention, the enormous fees and expenses, necessary to carry the claims of the owners, or their complaints to a final issue, rendered the loss of property, even under the most favourable circumstances, inevitable, sometimes, almost total; and this loss was doubled or trebled, if judgment finally was given against them. Multitudes abandoned their claims, rather than pursue them under such hazards and disadvantages.
Napoleon had been led to consider these doctrines of the British maritime law, with great attention, because they had been employed to interdict and destroy all neutral commerce with his own dominions, and, because, in endeavouring, violently it is true, and without more regard to neutral rights than had been manifested by his antagonists, to counteract these measures, he had been constantly involved in disputes with neutral powers, and left, at his abdication, a thousand unsettled claims, which years of peace have not been able to adjust.
He may have been unwise to have required as a condition of peace, the sacrifice of such pretensions and practises on the part of Great Britain. But, surely, in wishing to establish a peace as the allies themselves had proposed, “on the absolute independence of the States of Europe, so that neither one nor the other should arrogate sovereignty over another," it was impossible to view these claiios but as pretensions, which only highhanded power could assert, which only high-handed power could maintain.
In a scholar and a patriot relating the events of a war, in which his country bore a part so prominent, so steadfast and undeviating, and, finally, so glorious, we can read not only without censure, but even with sympathetic pleasure, such apostrophes as he occasionally addresses to her perseverance and undismayed courage.
“Of those who shared amongst them the residue of Europe, and still maintained some claim to independence, Britain might make the proud boast, that she was diametrically in opposition to this ruler of the world; that in the long-continued strife, she had dealt him injuries as deep as she had ever received, and had disdained, under any circumstances, to treat with him on less terms than those of equality. Not to that fair land be the praise, though she supported many burdens and endured great losses; but to Providence, who favoured her efforts and strengthened her resolutions; who gave her power to uphold her own good cause, which, in truth, was that of European independence, and courage to trust in the justice of Heaven, when the odds mustered against her, seemed, in earthly calculation, so dreadful, as to deprive the wise of the head to counsel ; the brave of the heart to resist.” Vol. ii. p. 296. VOL. II.-10.3.
But when he speaks so frequently of “our fleets” and “our troops,” when he commemorates as “glorious victories” those obtained by Great-Britain and her allies, he manifests too much the feelings of a partisan, and lessens our reliance on his impartiality—and when, amidst his strong invectives against the ambition of Napoleon, bis anathemas against the schemes and prospects of universal dominion, which the career of this extraordinary man once unfolded to the world; amidst his rejoicings that the sword of the oppressor was broken, the arm of the mighty was powerless, and the day-spring of liberty had arisen on mankind; we find him exulting in the continual triumphs of the British navy, boasting that the exploits of Nelson “so indisputably asserted the right of Britain to the dominion of the ocean” (vol. i. p. 414)—that England retained the full command of what has been tern,ed her native element" (vol. ii. p. 264)—“that she did not relax her precautions on the element she calls her own” (vol. ii. p. 37)—and “that Fate had vested in other hands (than Napoleon's) the empire of the seas” (vol. ii. p. 85)—we begin to suspect that these tirades against ambition and universal dominion are mere declamation, and that Sir Walter could look with as much complacency on the empire of the land as he does on the empire of the seas, provided both the one and the otber were in the guardianship of Great-Britain.
ART. IX.—The Omnipresence of the Deity. A Poem. By Ro
BERT MONTGOMERY. Philadelphia. 1828.
The poetry of this little volume is certainly very pretty and very pious, but we must be permitted to confess that we have been disappointed in the expectations we had been led to form of it. If it were the production of a very young man, we should say it was of excellent promise; considered as the work of a practised writer, in the maturity of his powers, and as the highest achievement of those powers, it may not pass muster so easily. We were puzzled to know before we looked into the volume, what it could be about. “ The Omnipresence of the Deity, a Poem.”
Was it a metrical demonstration, a priori, or a posteriori of that attribute of the Creator? But what
could be made of any thing so metaphysical in rhyme, and how had the author succeeded in imparting such attractions to his subject, as to deserve the praises that have been bestowed upon his lay by foreign critics ? The mystery, however, was soon solved; we found that it was only a misnomer, and that the poem might just as well have been called Omnipotence, Omniscience, or in short, by any other fancy name which a romantic and fond parent might have selected for it. It is a little effusion, de omni scibili et quolibet ente. It begins at the very beginning, to wit, the creation of the world, and ends with its final conflagration and the Day of Judgment. Within these narrow limits, our poet wanders about at random, moralizing in a very editying strain of sentimentalism, and turning into rhvine whatever happens to hit his fancy. The thunders of Mount Sinai, and the farewell of an honest tar on the sea shore to his true love, who ejaculates a prayer for him—the vicissitudes of the seasons, with all the beauty and grandeur that accompany them, and the fate of a street-walker and a young convict-the picture of a grandsire sitting by the fire and chatting about the incredible exploits of past times; and “by a natural but melancholy digression,” a glance at atheism, as influencing the horrors of the French revolution—in a word, it is a pleasing little miscellany, in which Mr. Montgomery has chosen to pack up in one envelope, all the precious reflections that have suggested themselves to his apparently philanthropic and contemplative mind, in the course of his pilgrimage through life.
We were much more gratified with the first perusal of this poem,
than with the second. Some allowance, we are aware, must always be made in such cases, for a difference in the reader's own feelings, especially where he voluntarily lays any restraint upon them, with a view to a more critical examination of a work. We have no doubt, however, that in the present instance, such a change may be accounted for in a good degree, by another cause. Mr. Montgomery's faults in all his verses that we have happened to see, and especially in these, is a certain mawkish and languid sweetishness that palls upon the taste—the suavitas dulcis et decocta, which in works of genius, just as much (we are alınost ashamed of the comparison) as in those of the culinary art, becomes in the long run, cloying and disgustful. The true test of excellence is, that you like it more and more at every repeated examination of it. Who was ever tired of Shakspeare or Homer, or to come down to mere mortals, of Burns or Goldsmith, or any other poet remarkable for simplicity as well as talent? pare the first part of Thomson's Castle of Indolence (which nothing can surpass) with his Seasons, which are liable to the
same criticism as this poem of Mr. Montgomery—or Campbell's Hohenlinden, &c. with his “Pleasures of Hope,” and the difference alluded to will be soon perceived. The mention of the “ Pleasures of Hope," reminds us that that poem has been compared (as we learn from some of our newspapers) with the one now under consideration. We think Mr. Montgomery overrated by such a comparison, although Mr. Campbell is certainly capable of far higher things than that very popular production, which has been fully as much praised as it deserves to be.
There is yet another fault in this poem. “The Omnipresence of the Deity” is an idea that greatly heightens the grandeur of the natural world, and ought to add in the same degree to the fervour and sublimity of a Christian poet's conceptions. It would seem, therefore, to present a theme which a man of ordinary talent might treat with success—but the fact is certainly otherwise. It suffers in the hands of any but the mightiest geniuses. Who but a Milton or a Racine is worthy to strihe the harp of the Prophets and the Psalmist? Paradise Lost, and the Choral odes of Esther and Athalie, preserve that sublime and somewhat stern simplicity, that awful grandeur, that comes up to our conceptions of the divine power and majesty. Their raptures are as of those who have been admitted, if it may be said with reverence, to the glories of the Vision Beatific. But those of Mr. Montgomery are not quite so high and prophet-like. He expresses himself, indeed, with abundance of pious fervour-he deals profusely in interjection and begins almost every other paragraph with an Oh! or an Ah! But the dolendum est tibi primum, however true of the pathetic in tragedy and declamation, is, we fear, not quite so applicable to the sublime—or at any rate, a reader who expects a great deal will not be put off with an exclamation—which must often be his fate in reading “The Omnipresence of the Deity, a Poem.” Its author seems to labour for expressions equal to his theme. He is thus not unfrequently betrayed into extravagant and frigid conceits. Thus, “a thunder-storm” is the “eloquence of heaven," with a note of admiration! And one who hears “its hollow groan,” is said "to feel Omnipotence around him thrown.” He apostrophises the mountains as follows:
“ Terrific giants that o'erlook the sea!