Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“And when I contemplate that voluntary and universal association for the national defence, which England at this moment exhibits, I am tempted to assert that it does not yield the palm to all antiquity, nor do the annals of the world furnish another instance of the kind, which, upon a review of concomitant relations and circumstances, is worthy of a comparison with it. Methinks it is the delineation of a new feature in the character of man. Whilst, however, we regard the volunteers of this kingdom only as a body of men, who have, on some sudden occasion, cast away the implements of agriculture, and the tools of mechanic art, to assume the profession of arms, we must remember that the states of Greece and Rome also could once boast the union of citizen and soldier in the same person amongst them, yet it will be remembered also, that in them it arose from the very nature of their governments, their education and early prejudices, which principally conspired to this single point; and that though contemporary nations looked on, and feared, yet the philosopher wept that this grand feature of national character was as often employed in the cause of ambition, rapacity, or revenge, as on the side of patriotism and justice. He admired the principle, but deplored the dreadful consequences of such an instrument, when not used in the service of virtue. But amongst us, this general association of men—this thirst of armsthis iron front of war, is called forth by the voice of our country, which cries for aid, and by the sudden inspiration of that principle alone, which is called the LOVE OF IT.

The states of Greece and Rome

from nations of soldiers might at any time call up their armies, already formed by vast labour and severe discipline; for the most powerful stimulatives

; actuated the willing, and the fear of perpetual infamy goaded on the tardy. The whole machine al

. ready existed, and needed but a hand to set it in motion. Nor do we even now wonder at the vast muster-roll of France, when we see it inscribed with the names of the vile and indigent, the criminals and fugitives of all nations, eager to share in the general plunder, and of conscripts for whose fidelity the lives and fortunes of their parents and friends are responsible. · But, however such soldiers may swell the numbers of an army, or even add to its power;

however martial their atchievements, or splendid their victories may be, they do not receive the applause of the virtuous, or live in the memory of mankind. For the most part they flourish only to be forgotten; and, having blazed forth with momentary glare to mark the bloody path of murderous war, they sink into eternal gloom with the world's execration upon them. · But amongst us is exhibited an object grander and more sublime in itself, and infinitely worthy in its end. We behold a blaze of military ardor suddenly break forth in a nation of traders—a peaceful and commercial people; we behold the flame of patriotism in one breast kindle the fire in another, and the generous enthusiasm extend itself through all classes of men; we see them voluntarily rise up into an army of soldiers, in general, accoutred and maintained at their @wo charge, and exhibiting, as it were, the birth of a million of heroes in a day. They are not mercenaries who sell themselves to wield the sword in any cause, or prodigal of life, who rush to meet the death they desire; but men who feel that the cause is emphatically their own, and who voluntarily start up from the lap of affluence, of ease, or comfort, to assume the weapons of war, to pant and toil in battle, and cheerfully devote themselves to the hardships and chances of the field;---men, who forego the stations and advantages which generally make us niggards of life, boldly to adventure themselves in the service and preservation of the state against the ravagers of fields, and desolators of kingdoms. They take not up the sword to injure, but to protect; not to destroy the liberties of others, but to preserve their own; not to plunder or massacre the defenceless, but to save them from rapacity and blood, With these pre-eminent distinctions, the British volunteers cannot fail to be the darlings of fame; and history will love to hand them down to the admiration of future ages. And why? To the most uncommon display of military pageant and martial ardour, they add the noblest and purest of motives--the cause of justice, of man, and their own independence. If we ask for the spring which has set this vast machine in motion, the answer is, our lives and liberties are endangered by the hostile preparations of our enemies to invade and enslave our country. Nor is the cause any way too weak for the effect. The love of life and liberty is the lever of Archimedes, which, having found a fulcrum in the hearts of men, is able to raise a world. Slavery is the thief which robs nature of beauty, and life of joy; whilst freedom is the charm which gives to all things the smile of delight, and makes life, under all circumstances, tolerable. Why did the Swiss so lately glory in their barren mountains? They were free. Why do they now behold them with a sigh; why turn their backs on their beloved country, and lothe their very being? Alas! liberty is no more a resident there; she no more belongs to them. She has forsaken her dwelling in their hills of storms, no longer softens the flinty rocks to their feet, or binds their brows with the wild flowers of the heath: she no longer cheers their toil, or blesses their frugal board with her heavenly smiles. Can a nation be easily enslaved, where every man is a patriot, and every patriot a soldier? The profession of arms becomes more than ever dignified, and the soldier invincible in the cause of his country, since the sword is sanctified which is drawn in her defence, and he ennobled who wields it manfully in the day of battle. Indeed, the most brilliant feats which mark the

pages of history, have been atchieved under the influence of this cause; feats of prowess in battle, which humanity herself loves to contemplate. For all ages have had their patriot bands, their chosen few, who fought to preserve, and școrned to survive their country; though too often they have shone only to illumine, not to fire the hearts of their countrymen, and extorted their praise without exciting their imitation. Within our own memory, the patriots of Poland arose terrible in arms to resist the unjust partition of their country by foreign powers; but they fell unsuccessful, for want of that universal spirit of association, that unity and complete organization, that universally active principle of zealous attachment to freedom which we display. Their cause was, indeed, the cause of liberty and independence; but it was a liberty and independence which the great bulk of the nation had never felt, and the value of which they knew not therefore how to appreciate. The patriots of Helvetia too made a faint struggle to preserve the freedom which Tell bequeathed to them, but in vain: they had fatally admitted the vipers into their bosoms, and drank deeply of the poison by which they were undone. But here we see a whole nation of freemen formed into one great patriot army; undebased by the venom which deadens, and the shackles which confine the faculties of man; an army, comprising the pride of our nobility, the richest of our merchants, and the flower of our youth, with all the sweet charities of life and their possessions to defend, and souls that dare to defend them at the utmost hazard; an army possessing every motive to unity, every excitement to valour, and every promise of victory. In childhood they were taught to cry, « Old England for ever !" and as they grew up into manhood, a thousand obligations confirmed the love of their country. Many of them have fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, relations and friends; all have some sweet affection in life to cherish; and to preserve them from the savage hand of murderous invaders are they now assembled in arms. In the language of my motto, the universal cry, the uni. versal effort is towards the safety of the state.


« ForrigeFortsæt »