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PR EF A C E.
THE prospects with which the year 1814 terminated
were those of durable peace to this country, and of a general settlement of the affairs of the Continent, which, if not altogether framed upon those principles of consent and independence which alone can satisfy the feelings of a friend to national rights, seemed upon the whole to promise much practical improvement in the system of Europe. There were, indeed, appear: ances which a boding mind might regard as preșaging an interruption of the calm succeeding a tempest so dreadfully and widely extended ; but that a single event should produce an immediate change in the state of things which would again set in motion all the armed force of Europe, and re-commit its destinies to the chance of war, was scarcely within the compass of the imagination. Such an apprehension could only be suggested by an intimate knowledge of the character and disposition of the French nation, and especially of that army, which, though no longer in activity, still held the fate of France in its hands; and the result bas afforded an awful example of the danger attending the
prevalence of a military spirit, fostered by long war and brilliant achievements.
As the depriving of Buonaparte of that sovereignty which he had. wielded to the hazard and disturbance of all the neighbouring states was the great object of the powerful confederacy formed against him, it was not to be expected that its recovery, by means which proved the remaining force of that engine of which he was still the absolute master, would be acquiesced in ; and the instant declaration of the allied sovereigns, that they were firmly resolved to employ every effort for the defeat of his unwarrantable enterprise, announced an impending conflict which no pacific negociation could terminate. The extraordinary events of this new revolution, of which the immediate success was not less wonderful than its sudden extinction, have af. forded subjects for narrative rendering the present year in some respects more dramatically interesting, if the expression may be allowed, than any which have preceded it in the long course of political contention. Its rapid changes, and the memorable battle which at once overthrew an imperial throne, and consigned its possessor to perpetual imprisonment on a rock in the midst of a distant ocean, were incidents singularly adapted to work upon the universal passion for wonder and novelty.
The termination of the contest would have been more satisfactory had the restored monarchy of France been able to support itself by the attachment of the
people under its sceptre ; but the means by which its restoration was effected, and the severe humiliation to which the French nation was reduced by a complete subjection to foreign powers, have infused such a spirit of disaffection, that the continued occupation of its frontier towns by the allied troops has been judged indispensable for the security of the Bourbon throne. This necessity has not only imposed a heavy burthen upon France, and aggravated the public discontents, but has obliged the Allied Powers to keep up their military establishments to a point inconsistent with that pacific character which it might have been hoped that all Europe would have hastened to assume after its long and destructive wars. Great Britain, which has so often been looked to for the supply of those pecuniary resources, in which the other members of the confederacies into which she has entered were deficient, after having borne a disproportionate share of the vast expenses incurred by the operations of war, has found it expedient to retain a standing army of a magnitude wholly unparalleled in any former period of nominal peace.
measure, the necessity for which is ascribed partly to the unsettled state of France, and partly by the additions made by conquest to the British Empire, has effectually prevented any alleviation of the public burthens during the present year, or the immediate prospect of it for futurity. The martial glory to which the nation has been raised by the exertions of its brave progeny at Waterloo, will render this year a memorable era in its military history;
but it is to be apprehended that a remote period must be assigned as that of the recovery of the national prosperity.
A temporary activity given to commerce by the renewed intercourse with the American States revived several branches of manufacture from the decline into which they had fallen, and excited flattering expectations ; but, as usual in such cases, the supply much exceeded the demand; the markets were overstocked ; great quantities of goods lay unsold or unpaid for, and numerous failures were the consequence.
The commercial distresses were unfortunately coincident with extraordinary difficulties under which the agricultural part of the community was labouring, occasioned by a reduction in the price of corn and other products of the ground, rendering the cultivators wholly unable to indemnify themselves for greatly advanced rents, and augmented taxes.
From these conjoint causes, there has rarely been a time of more widely-diffused complaint than the close of the current year; and all the triumphant sensations of national glory seem almost obliterated by general depression. Peace, although a consummation long anxiously looked for, was scarcely welcomed ; and the deficiences in the usual employments and demands in
more perceptible than the diminution of its expenses.
Few objects, domestic or foreign, remaining to excite political interest, the public feelings were nearly concentrated upon private and personal distress. If, however, the conclusion of this