BLTC Press Titles

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Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

The Bhagavad Gita


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

A philosophical and political history of the settlements and trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies

by Raynal (Guillaume-Thomas-François, abbé)


Whoever is acquainted with the Caufes which history and progress of the English go- hastened the po~ vernment, knows that the regal authority pulation of the was sor a long time balanced only by a British islands. small number of great proprietors of land- called barons. They perpetually oppressed the people, the greater part of whom were degraded by slavery; and they were constantly struggling against the power of the crown, with more or less success, according to the character of the leading men, and the chance of circumstances. These political dissensions occasioned much bloodshed.

The kingdom was exhausted by intestine wars, which had lasted two hundred years, when Henry VII assumed the reins of government on the decision of a battle in which the nation, divided into two camps, had fought to give itself a master. That able prince availed himself of the state of depression into which a series of calamities had funk his subjects, to extend the regal authority, the limits of which, the anarchy of the feudal government, though continually encroaching upon them, had never been able to six. He was assisted in this undertaking by the saction which had

placed the crown upon his head, and which, being the weakest, could not hope to maintain itself in the principal employments to which those who were engaged in it had been raised, unless they supported the ambition of their leader. This plan was strengthened, by permitting the nobility, for the sirst time, to alienate their lands. This dangerous indulgence, joined to a taste for luxury, which then began to prevail in Europe, brought on a great revolution in the fortunes of individuals. The immense siesa of the barons were gradually dissipated, and the estates of the commoners increased.

The rights belonging to the several esiates being divided with the property of them, it became so much the more difficult to unite the will and the power of many against the authority of one. The monarchs took advantage of this period, so savourable to their ambition, to govern without controul. The decayed nobility were in sear of a power which they had reinsorced with all their losses. The commons thought themselves sufficiently honouied by the privilege of imposing all the national taxes. The people, in some degree eased of their yoke, by this slight alteration in the constitution, and whose circle of ideas is always consined to business or labour, became tired of seditions, from the desolation and miseries which were the consequence and the punishment of them. So that, while the nation was employed in search of that sovereign authority which had been lost in the consusion of civil wars, its views were sixed upon the monarch alone. The majesty of the throve, the whole lustre of which was centered in him, seemed to be the source of that authority, of which it should only be the visible sign aud permanent instrument.

Such was the situation of England, when James I was called thither from Scotland, as being sole heir of the two kingdoms, which, by his accession, were united under one head. A turbulent nobility, imparting their fury to their barbarous vassals, had kindled the sire of sedition in those northern mountains which divided the island into two distinct states. The monarch had, from his earliest years, been as averse from limited authority, as the people were from despotism and absolute monarchy, which then prevailed all over Europe; and, as the new king was'equal to other sovereigns, it was natural that he should be ambitious of the same power. His predecessors had enjoyed it, even in England, for a century past. But he was not aware that they owed it to their own political abilities, or to savourable circumstances. This religious prince, who believed he held all from God and nothing from men, sancied that strength of reason, wisdom, and council, was centered in himself, and seemed to arrogate to himself that insallibility of which the pope had been deprived by the resormation, the tenets of which he adopted, though he disliked them. These salse principles, which tended to change government into a mystery of religion, the more odious, as it equally influences the opinions, wills, and actions, of men, were so rooted in his mind, together with all the other prejudices of a bad education, that he did not even think of supporting them with any of the human aids of prudence or. force.

Nothing could be more repugnant to the general disposition of the people than this system, All was in commotion both at home and abroad. The discovery of America had hastened the advancement of Europe. Navigation extended round the whole globe. The mutual intercourse of nations would soon have removed prejudices, and opened the door to industry and knowledge. The mechanical and liberal arts were extended, and were advancing to persection by the luxury that prevailed. Literature acquired the ornaments of taste; and the sciences gained that degree of solidity which springs from a spirit of calculation and commerce. The circle of politics was extended. This universal serment exalted the ideas of men. The several bodies which composed the monstrous Colossus of Gothic government, roused from that lethargic state of ignorance in which they had been sunk for many ages,, soon began to exert themselves on all sides, and to form enterprises. On the continent, where mercenary troops had been adopted, under pretence of maintaining discipline, most princes acquired an unlimited authority, oppressing their subjects either by force or intrigue. In England, the love of liberty, so natural to every seeling or thinking man, excited in the people by the authors of religious innovations, and awakened in the minds of men, enlightened by becoming conversant with the great writers Of antiquity, who derived from their democratic government that sublimity of reason and sentiment by which they are distinguished; this love of liberty kindled in every generous breast the utmost abhorrence for unlimited authority. The ascendant which Elizabeth •sound means to acquire and to preserve, by an uninterrupted prosperity of forty years, withheld this impatience, or turned it to enterprises that were benesicial to the state. But no sooner did another branch ascend the throne, and the sceptre devolve to a monarch, who, by the very violence of his pretensions, was not much to be dreaded, than the nation asserted its rights, and entertained the ambitious thoughts of governing itself.

It was at this period that warm disputes arose between the court and the parliament. Both powers seemed to be making trial of their strength by continual opposition. The prince pretended, that an entire passive obedience was due to him; and that national assemblies were only the ornaments, not the basis, of the constitution. The citizens loudly exclaimed against these principles, always weak when they come to be discussed; and maintained, that the people were an essential part of government, as well as the monarch, and, perhaps, in a higher degree. The one is the matter, the other the form. Now, the form may, and must change, for the preservation of the matter. The supreme law is the welsare of the people, not that of the prince; the king may die, the monarchy ma,y be at an end, and society subsist without either monarch or throne. In this manner the English reasoned at the dawn of liberty. They quarrelled, they opposed, and threatened tae-h other. James died in the midst of these debates, leaving his son to discuss his rights, with the resolution of extending them.

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