Page:History of Freedom.djvu/320

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27 6

ESSAYS ON LIBERTY

to be united in a State,-a soul, as it Nere, wandering in search of a body in \vhich to begin life over again; anå, for the first time, a cry ,vas heard that the arrangement of States \vas unjust-that their limits \vere unnatural, and that a whole people \vas deprived of its right to constitute an independent community. Before that claim could be efficiently asserted against the overwhelming po\ver of its opponents,-before it gained energy, after the last partition, to overcome the influence of long habits of submission, and of the contempt \vhich previous dis- orders had brought upon Poland,-the ancient European system \vas in ruins, and a new world \vas rising in its place. The old despotic policy which made the Poles its prey had t\VO adversaries,-the spirit of English liberty, and the doctrines of that revolution which destroyed the French monarchy with its own weapons; and these two contradicted in contrary ,vays the theory that nations have no collective rights. At the present day, the theory of nationality is not only the most powerful auxiliary of revolution, but its actual substance in the movements of the last three years. This, however, is a recent alliance, unknown to the first French Revolution. The modern theory of nationality arose partly as a legitimate consequence, partly as a reaction against it. As the system ,vhich overlooked national division was opposed by liberalism in two forms, the French and the English, so the system \vhich insists upon them proceeds from two distinct sources, and exhibits the character either of I 688 or of I 789. When the French people abolished the authorities under which it lived, and became its own master, France was in danger of dissolution: for the common will is difficult to ascertain, and does not readily agree. " The laws," said Vergniaud, in the debate on the sentence of the king, "are obligatory only as the presumptive will of the people, which retains the right of approving or condemning them. The instant it manifests its wish the work of the national representa- tion, the law, must disappear." This doctrine resolved society into its natural elements, and threatened to break