Page images

learned to use: but our general commerce very much exceeded hers. In 1703, the year of the dreadful tempest, our exports were £6,644,203, one-third of which went to Holland alone. The French council of commerce were very active and prudent about this period, and did much to promote the interests of their country; but we challenge M. Dupin to prove that the average of French customs for the fifteen years ending 1714, amounted, as ours did, to £1,352,764. In 1717 and 1727 we began to feel the profits of our trade in the prosperity which permitted a reduction of interest to five and to four per cent. ; while France was enhancing the nominal, and not the real value of her coins, and extricating herself by fraud and violence from the burden of debt, amounting to 1,977,000,000 of livres, bequeathed to her by the glories of Lewis XIV. In a French work by Monsieur Deslandes, in 1744, the expenditure of France is stated to exceed the revenue by £8,850,000; while the annual expense of England, £7,300,000, was constantly raised within the year. The consequence of this mode of proceeding was, that, five years afterwards, the interest upon the public debt was reduced to 3 per cent., notwithstanding the rebellion of 1745; and the nation was able to grant supplies in 1761 amounting to £18,816,019:198.9fd. The national debt, it is true, stood at £110,613,836, bearing an interest of £3,792,594; but the ways and means amounted to £18,617,895, exceeding the expenditure by more than £300,000.

To complete this sketch, which we think fully sufficient to convince most persons of the egregiousness of the error into which M. Dupin's enthusiasm has led him, we here subjoin a table of British exports and imports from the year 1700 to 1770, closing it nearly at the epocha alluded to by that writer. We have given it at periods of five years, which are close enough for our purpose, and will not, we trust, be burdensome to the reader. Years. Imports.


















[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The fluctuations observable in these tables are owing to peace, war, and the various accidents of the times. But the total circulation of trade in 1700 was about £12,000,000 value. In 1770 it was £28,500,000; hence then it had more than doubled during that time; and the ways and means had increased in a still greater ratio. Now if M. Dupin has any hidden records of the prosperity of his country, any secret memoirs of her trade and manufactures, not yet done into history, we shall receive them with pleasure: but, should hé not, he must allow us still to believe implicitly in what we do know, and to set his assertions down among the least founded ejaculations of vain patriotism.

We know not to what other subject we can now turn in order to give this writer a further chance

of being in the right. Is it to agriculture? Let him prove that the territory of France nourished a population in the same proportion to its extent, and soil, and climate, as that of England; that that population was as well fed, as well clothed, and in as full enjoyment of all the blessings resulting from the enlightened theories and practices of tillage; that the peasantry was, in all respects, except levity, as happy as ours;—we think we can follow him step by step through every æra of our history, and prove the reverse. Let him choose what branch he pleases of national prosperity, we defy him to demonstrate that, that at any epocha during the last seven hundred years at least, the balance of intellect, in all its provinces, was not entirely on our side. We leave him here fourteen times as much ground as he chose for himself, and we do not think his task one bit easier than before.

It was in speaking of inland navigation that M. Dupin was led to the rapturous exclamations upon which we have been descanting. No doubt then his opinion is less far from being accurate on this head, than on any of the others on which he has touched, We will therefore try his last question, not so much in the intention of disputing the superiority of France therein, before the year 1770, as of begging him to inform us how great that superiority

then was.

The system of canals is, at this moment, more extensive in England than in any country of Europe, where artificial cuts are not indispensable for the dryness of the soil, or where water is not so abundant as to be a nuisance. It is easy to understand how, in the Netherlands, the necessity of draining and embanking suggested the idea of canals, long before civilization, or the demands of industry in other respects, required their assistance. But, in countries like England or France, their origin was different, and there they arose principally out of the progress of public wants. In this country that certainly is true, as their uses and

F 3


advantages fully prove. How far the industry of France may have demanded such works, as the canal of Briare, in the reign of Henry IV., and how far all the subsequent undertakings of the same nature there were in proportion to the then existing traffic of the country, we will not decide. But upon the whole, we think that the quantity of carriage upon those canals, ever since their establishment, demonstrates that they never were so indispensable to the commerce of France, as the canals of England have been to the commerce of this island.

We do not dispute that our prodigious superiority in inland navigation commenced at a period very little prior to the time when M. Dupin asserts his country's empty claims. In 1755, we had no canals. Not that some attempts at inland navigation had not been made before that period, by rendering some of our rivers navigable; but nothing comparable to our present system had been executed. But is it because some canals which, even now, are far from bringing in the same returns of profit as ours, were cut in France before the year 1755, that M. Dupin can call our canals, or any thing that we have, a plagiary from his ancestors ? We admit all that he can advance as to the greatness of the enterprize of joining the Loire and the Seine, the Somme and the Oise, the Ocean and the Mediterranean, and the stupendousness of the locks, sluices, tunnels, &c. as well as of the whole construction. But we would ask, how many leagues of French canals must a traveller even now navigate, before he can meet the same weight of merchandize that was carried, in a given time, upon a given length of any canal existing in England in 1770? And can he say, that it is to the precepts or the example of his country, that we owe our so much more useful and stupendous works? And whence did the French, did Henry IV. and François Riquet draw their notions of inland navigation? Can he seriously assert that they were original? Has he forgotten the ancients? The · fossiones Philistinæ'? The artificial rivers of the Babylonians? The cut which joined both branches of the Euphrates ? the Naarmalcha? many works of the Romans, among which one in Britain, now called Caeirdike, might alone have served as a model? Has he not heard of the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Dutch, and the Flemish, all prior to the French? and could his national complacency not allow that both French and English drew their notions from the same preceding nations? the one to construct a great, the other a great and a useful work? Possibly he may take a fancy to extend the charge to other matters; and we shall not be surprized to hear him say that the · English owe to the French the

application of atmospheric air to the processes of respiration. The spirit yet lives that made M.


[ocr errors]

de Montlosier say, we had no remarkable political institution which we had not copied from his country.

But the reader would be deprived of the most ludicrous part of M. Dupin's proposition, if he did not recollect these words: 'Autant l'Angleterre est en avance aujourdhui, autant, il y a cinquante années, elle étoit en arrière de la France. Now we do not think that, at any period of the world, there existed so great a disparity between nations, calling themselves civilized, and standing nearly in the same rank in society, as exists, at this moment, between England and the nations which surround her, and which may be called her rivals in social improvement. The Greeks had no contemporary competitors in industry or intellect. The Romans filled the entire world with their preponderance, and every other national name was effaced by theirs, as long as the earth was covered by barbarians. But what the ancients never could have suspected, what the moderns never saw, is the degree of superiority which England has attained over all who have started in the same career-to say nothing of the prospects which she has opened for herself in times to come, and of which she begins to taste already the future in the present.

When M. Dupin's work upon this country appeared in France, it gave a picture of things as they then were; neither do we deny that the author has shown considerable industry and skill in collecting observations upon our arts, our arsenals and our establishments in general. We have been told that, while actually visiting these places, he never took a note, or even committed to paper à numerical statement, a measurement, or a calculation, trusting entirely to a very tenacious and faithful memory upon these points. Now, we believe him fully capable of judging the length, breadth and thickness of any object submitted to his inspection; of remembering its dimensions; of catching, at a single glance, the calibre of a gun, the weight of a ball. We admit his eyes to be very scales and compasses ; and, with the exception of some bombast and some ambitious paragraphs, we think he has told his tale well. But more than this we cannot grant. The moment that he steps out of the domain of physics, and treats his readers with moral observations, he becomes another man. We find in him all the littleness, all the misconceptions, all the errors respecting the character of the British nation, to which it is the curse of his countrymen to be chained; and which tend to prolong the stagnation of France, and to perpetuate the complacent dreams of perfection in which lethargic vanity has plunged her. Instead of recognizing with pleasure, the active and intelligent engineer, who spirits up his nation to new efforts, by recounting the deeds of a rival, we see a person, who, by touching upon subjects to which

he is incompetent, brings himself down to the level of the many French travellers and commentators who have been blundering upon us for the last ten years; to the level, for instance, if not of General Pillet, at least of Dr. Pichot. More than any of them he reminds us of the astronomer, to whose unremitting question the heavens loudly cry out divine intelligence and power, yet, who says in his heart, • Tush, there is no God.' M. Dupin sees and feels all that is wonderful in our fleets and armies, all that is miraculous in our industry; yet, when he seeks the causes of the prosperity which astonishes him, he but half admits superior intellect to be one; and, as to virtue, he almost refuses it to the people whom he owns to be thus constantly occupied, and frequently insinuates that his own countrymen are franker, honester, more disinterested, more moral than they. But where do men learn their virtues? Is it in the lap of luxury, where neither thought nor action ever are awakened? The first sin of man was committed in Eden; and the world before the flood was a garden in perpetual spring. Is it from violence ? then hordes of Tartars are meeker than Moravian brothers; and the soldiers of Brennus were nobler than the Roman senators whom they murdered. No: the parent of all virtue is moderate want; not the want which makes men mad and desperate, but that which makes them active and rational. Had M. Dupin known any thing of human nature, he would have known that the nation which has made the most of itself, whose prosperity is the greatest in proportion to its original means, which has made the most strenuous and the most constant efforts, whose power is not ephemeral, whose splendour is not tinsel, must also be the most moral. Had he understood mankind, he would have perceived the impossibility of being corrupt and bad, at the very moment of the noblest exertions; and he might have given two additional volumes much more valuable than the preceding ones; and added a '4me partie, sur la force morale de l'Angleterre. This would have been a fair corollary of his former volumes, and would have been just as astonishing. But he must have studied us deeper than he did; he must have used more than his eyes to learn us thoroughly; for though we raise a mighty hue and cry about our faults, we make no display of our virtues—while others gild their vices as they do their clocks, and both are polished as their mirrors.

M. Dupin's account of England relates principally to the years 1816, 17, 18, 19; although the parts published since that time make communications of a later date. Yet such has been the development of British intellect since his travels were begun, that it has absolutely outrun the rapidity of the press; and the most recent work upon three of the great branches of English


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »