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«s. There was a time when England was superior to France in every point, in arts, sciences, and arms; their mode of education, their government, their religion, were then much the same, so that it is probable nothing but a superiority of genius in the people gave Britain the pre-eminence. Richelieu saw this, and he laid a plan for the future greatness of France. He knew that men, like land, were to be improved only by culture, he changed their mode of education, he established several Academies, his successors added to them, and improved upon his design, so that there are in France, numbers of seminaries, where youth may have every assistance, both in theory and practice towards making themselves masters in any profession, or art, to which their genius or choice may direct them, whether in civil or military life, in arts or sciences. They have academies for politics in all their various branches, in which they are so minute as to have a particular one for the study of treaties only. They have abundance of military academies; they have academies of sciences, academies of painting, sculpture, and architecture; academies of the Belles Lettres, academies for the study of their own language and oratory. Out of these nurseries they constantly draw supplies of able statesmen, ambassadors, negotiators, and well principled and skilful officers ; excellent writers, in spite of the native poverty of their language, upon all sorts of subjects ; ingenious artists of all kinds, by the improvement of whose taste in their severa) manufactories, France is supplied with a greater fund of treasure, than she could have been by the richest gold mines. And what is most wonderful of all, admirable orators, never known to have sprung up before under an arbitrary government, and the most excellent compositions in eloquence that the moderns can boast of, in a language the least fitted of any for the purposes of oratory. By these means , she has made such a rapid progress in the career of glory as to astonish and dazzle the eyes of Europe, whilst England, which was a long time foremost in the race must now yield the prize, or if she attempts to vie with her in any of those arts, it must not be hy a comparison of the living, but of the dead. What
has occasioned this wonderful change? Let us see whether it can possibly be accounted for upon any other principle but
I mean the different modes of education in the two countries. England and France had once the same node. England was then confessedly superior. France changed her mode of education, England did not. Richelieu began the work; his successor carried it to perfection. Buckingham endeavoured to rival him ; was foiled by the factious spirit of the times; his successor never revived the attempt; the education remains the same unto this day. From that hour to this, France has been gaining, and England losing ground. If their present disparity does not arise from that principle, it must certainly arise from some material changes, made in the political or religious systems of these countries. Let us see what those changes were, and then judge whether they were likely to produce such an effect. Let us fix for the era, the ministry of Richelieu, at the beginning of which, England was confessedly superior to France. Her religion has continued the same, so that she could derive no advantage from that article. Her constitution, indeed, underwent a change for the worse, an absolute monarchy found no firm settlement there, till some years afterwards, and this in the usual course of things, ought rather to have prevented, than promoted her improvement. Now let us see what changes were made in England. Previously to that date, we had begun what was called a reformation in religion, which was afterwards confirmed. The English boasted in this respect of their pre-eminence over France; they made a change in their constitution, and after various struggles established a government upon the best principles, and after the best model in the world. All this makes in favour of the English, and on the first view we should pronounce, that if England were superior to France previously to those changes, she must at this day be infinitely before her. But alas! it is to be feared that these advantages are but ideal.
That the present splendour of France is entirely owing to the improvements made in their education, will admit of the most ample proofs. Let it be considered that previously to these improvements, France made but a contemptible figure in Europe notwithstanding her extent of territory, and number of subjects. She had no reputation for arts, arms or policy; her language was poor,
her manners brutal, her lands were uncultivated, her commerce neglected, and her country was untrodden by foreign feet; what was she a short time after the institution of those seminaries ? let the reign of Lewis the Fourteenth declare. What is she now ? Is she not in the most essential points, the mistress of Europe ? do not the youth of all countries go to pay homage to this queen amongst the nations, whilst her own subjects keep their state at home? Are not her laws of fashion and of dress every where obeyed ? Is not her language the currency almost of the world ? Her rapid progress in arms, in commerce, in polity is too notorious to need being mentioned."
We are not disposed to enter upon a critical analysis of these juvenile opinions of Mr. O'Connell, considering them only of value as showing the tone and vigour of his mind, at that period of life, when the majority of young men direct their attention to far different subjects, than an investigation into the comparative excellence of the polity of nations. We dispute not that the establishments and public edifices for the convenience of public instruction in France are far superior to any thing which we can exhibit in this country, but on the other hand, it must be admitted, that there is a solidity and a general utility attached to the English mode of education, which is not to be found in the French. As to the French schools of oratory, Mr. O'Connell might have studied in them until the present moment, and if he had perhaps not possessed certain properties, the special gifts of nature, he would have been on a par with the
present race of orators in France, who in the scale of oratorical excellence, stand nearly the lowest in Europe. Horace says Poeta nacitur, non fit, and the same rule will apply to the orator; he may gather at an academy those materials, which may tend to embellish and decorate the subject on which he is speaking, but to attain a proficiency in the art of oratory, such as is exhibited at the present day in Mr. O'Connell, requires the possession of certain physical powers, which no instruction nor education can impart. Addison, with a highly cultivated and a classical mind, was lamentably deficient in those qualities, which are indispensably necessary to complete the character of an orator, on the other hand we have known many individuals, who, with not a tithe of the intellectual power which Addison possessed, have effected almost a revolution in the country, by the mere exercise of their oratorical energies. If we direct our attention to the legislative bodies of France, with the exception of about three individuals, there is not one, either in the chambers of peers or of deputies, who can lay the slightest claim to the character of an orator. The truth is, the French never were an oratorical people, and it is a difficult task to select in the whole range of their literature a speech, which can be put into comparison with even some of the minor orations of a Pitt, a Fox, a Sheridan, a Canning, or an O'Connell. What Rousseau, Cordillac, and Condorcet attempted to perform in France, that Locke and Milton attempted in England, but all their systems are liable to great objections, as tending to make inoffensive men, not active citizens, and this is the description of men suited to our genius and policy, which require vigour and activity in all the members of the state. For want of experience, the greatest geniuses have been the greatest visionaries, laying schemes, the least capable of being reduced to practice, or the most absurd, if they had been put in practice.
During the course of his academical studies, Mr. O'Connell did not neglect his gymnastic exercises, to which his strong and manly frame so peculiarly fitted him. Although he possessed a fund of extreme good humour, yet woe betide the individual, who offered him an affront for in the true spirit of pugnacity, for which his countrymen are distinguished, many an effeminate, conceited coxcomb, who effecting all the airs of the petit maitre considered himself entitled to pass his ill-seasoned jokes on the Irish foreigner, was made to feel the weight of his sturdy fist; a mode of fighting not much relished by the French juve
niles, who looked upon a lock of hair torn from the head of their adversary, as a prouder trophy than a bloody nose or a blackened eye. In all the gymnastic sports, the athletic form of O'Connell generally enabled him to carry off the victory, and thus by degress he became the champion of the weaker, until he stood at last a kind of rampart, behind which the injured or the oppressed could shelter himself, and where he was safe from every attack, which superior strength or overweening pride could make against him. An anecdote is related of him, that having once chastised a young fellow in the way in which the English youths generally settle their quarrels, his adversary, like foreigners in general. being wholly ignorant of the fistic art, exclaimed Ah! Monsieur O'Connell, nous nous ne battons pas en Franc avec le poing. Avec quoi donc, asked O'Connell, Avec l'epee ou la pistole, was the reply. Attendez un moment, said O'Connell, and left the hall, where the dispute had taken place. In a short time he returned with a sword and pistol, and presenting them to his adversary, said Tenez, mon ami, la choix est a vous, c'est a moi egal. Le Gascon was confounded at this cool and collected manner of the young Irishman, and declined to make choice of either of the weapons; but O'Connell gained his point, for particular care was taken in future not to give him any offence, and as he was an individual who seldom gave any, an end was put to ali broils, and to that petty strife in which captious youth is too prone to indulge.
At the time of Mr. O'Connell's residence in France, that great political tempest, which shook all the thrones of Europe to their base, was raging in its fullest fury. He may be said to have been cradled in anarchy, bloodshed and rebellion, and it is not therefore to be supposed, that a mind like his, rich in its attainments, comprehensive in its researches, could remain unaffected by the scenes which were passing around him, or that those scenes did not make certain forcible impressions upon him, which in after life were never obliterated, and which contributed in a great degree to the formation of that charac