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OR A VIEW OF THE
HISTO R Y,
OF THE YEAR
PRINTED FOR BALDWIN, CRADOCK, AND JOY;
OTRIDGE AND RACKHAM; J. CUTHELL; LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME,
HAVING AVING now escaped from the operation of those accidental circumstances which occasioned extraordinary delay in the appearance of the Annual Register for 1820, and, in some degree, of that for 1821, we are at length able to approximate to our usual period of publication, and to give our readers an assurance, that, for the future, they may depend on a continuance of that regularity, which for more than half a century distinguished this Work. When the variety and importance of the matter comprised in the annals of 1822, is considered, we hope to meet with some praise, at least for our diligence; nor will it be found that, in producing our Volume thus early in the year, we have sought the merit of expeditious industry, by performing our task in a cursory, or superficial manner. Our Historical Department exceeds its usual length, in consequence of the variety and importance of the transactions to be recorded. Abroad, the convulsions of the Turkish empire-the changes in South America, especially in the Brazils-and, above all, the distractions of Spain, and the feverish, perturbed situation of France, are topics too various and intricate to be discussed in a few pages. At home, the state of Ireland, the policy pursued towards it, our financial operations, and the im-` provements made in our commercial legislation, extend our domestic annals beyond the limits, within which we generally endeavour to comprise them.
Our volume appears at a time, when those, who interest themselves (and what Englishman does not interest himself?) ́in the fortunes of Europe, will find in it much that will assist them in their speculations, and tend to extricate them from some prevalent errors. Spain, for instance, has of late engrossed the thoughts of all; and the generality of men are
surprised, that her constitutional system should be in danger of crumbling into dust beneath the touch of France, and that a nation, which struggled with convulsive vigour for a despot against a foreign invader, should not make a single effort for the preservation of her own freedom. They do Spain foul wrong, who so think of her. She would not tamely crouch, if she had any thing for which to fight; she would boldly face the invader, if that invader marched against aught that she loved or reverenced. But when a country is so unfortunate, as to have to choose between two governments, both execrably bad (and worse than that of Ferdinand and of the Cortes of Spain never existed, at least in modern Europe); where the option is only between two tyrannies, differing in their outward form-a one-headed tyrant here--a many-headed tyrant there: what can be expected but, indifference and sluggishness?
We cannot conceive any thing, purporting to be a form of civil government, more thoroughly bad, than the constitutional system of Spain. It was an aggregate of every political absurdity. It rejected all distribution and balance of power, and fancied it found freedom in conferring unlimited authority on a single assembly. That assembly, though it assumed the name and character of being the representative of the people, had, in reality, nothing either of the form or of the essence of representative government: for its members were appointed in a manner which necessarily annihilated all community of feeling between it and the mass of the people, and reduced government to be a mere affair of cabal and intrigue, modified at one time by military violence, or at another, by the temporary omnipotence of a licentious rabble. To concentrate all power in a single body, totally exempt from check or control-to absorb the executive in the legislative--to raise the military into a co-ordinate, independent class, with all the vices both of soldiers and citizens, and without the good habits and qualities of either-to make the judicial authority a mere name, while its substance was transferred either to the Cortes or to military tribunals-to annihilate
every guarantee of the property, the personal liberty, and the life of individuals-except, forsooth, what was to be found in the immutable, never-failing justice, moderation, and humanity of philosophers who could do any thing but talk sense, and officers who could do any thing but fight ;-these were the grand characteristics of the much-vaunted constitution of Spain. It was a system which could not possibly endure; it contained within itself the seeds of successive revolutions, which would lead the unhappy people through different phases of anarchy, or through the hands of a series of tyrants, according as accidental circumstances might give the impulse in the one direction or the other. It was all rottenness and imperfection. "From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there was no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises and putrifying sores." Is it wonderful, then, that the sequel should be as described by the prophet: "Your country is desolate; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers."
Even if the Spanish constitution had been in itself abstractedly and intrinsically good, it was nevertheless relatively bad because it was not suited to, nor in harmony with, nor influenced by the spirit and prejudices of the people. Take one example of this important truth. The confiscation of church property, and the persecution of ecclesiastics was the first, the favourite measure of the constitutionalists-the most conspicuous corner-stone in their system. We say nothing of the justice, or the humanity, or the wisdom of this course of procedure; for why should revolutionary patriotism, in its bacchanalian triumph, renounce its most appropriate prerogative of trampling under foot the paltry virtues of equity, prudence, and mercy? But the will of the nation ought to be something in a democracy. Could, then, the universal robbery of the church, the constant oppression of its ministers, emanate from the national sentiments of superstitious and religious Spain? Could these be the chosen employmentsthe favourite themes of a people, swayed by their clergy and