Edinburgh Review,  1 (1802–03), 345–81.

Art. IX. [Review of Politique de tous les cabinets de l'Europe, by Louis-Philippe, comte de Ségur]

[Henry P Brougham] *



Publications reviewed:

Ségur 1801


Politics, Progress, Human Species, Feeling, Astronomy, Natural Law, Discovery, Invention, History of Science, Gravity, Dynamics

People mentioned:

Adam Smith, David Hume

Publications cited:

Stewart 1792–1827

    Observes that 'the refinements of modern policy, which have sprung from the progressive improvement of the human species, [...] have, in their turn secured that progress.' (345). Later states: 'It is true, that the dictates of feelings not always aimable, and often outrageous, are frequently, more than any impulse of reason, the springs which actuate the operations of [nation] states; but it is equally true, that in all animals the passions themselves are implanted for the wisest of purposes; that instinct is the principle to which, more than reason, the preservation of life, and the maintenance of order in the universe, must be ascribed' (347). Asserts that 'the number of discoveries or inventions, which have been suddenly made in any branch of knowledge, is small indeed. All the more important steps in the progress of the human mind may rather be termed improvements than inventions: they are refinements upon methods formally known—generalizations of ideas previously conceived. By how many small and slowly following steps was the true nature of planetary motions brought to light! By how many insensible gradations did that theory receive its explanation from the great law of gravitation, which, constantly and universally acting, keeps each body in its place, and preserves the arrangement of the whole system' (352–53). In drawing an analogy between the 'balancing theory' (in relation to the European political system) and the planetary system the reviewer states that 'the newly-discovered planets are found to obey the same law that keeps the rest in their orbit [...] even in this enlightened age, we have not yet succeeded in discovering the whole extent of planetary law, or reducing certain apparent irregularities of the system to common principles' (353). Continues: 'This is the balancing theory. It was as much unknown to Athens and Rome, as the Keplerian or Newtonian laws were concealed from Plato and Cicero, who certainly knew the effect of gravitation upon terrestrial bodies. It has arisen, in the progress of science' (354). When discussing how 'federal power' is impacted on by 'relative interests', draws the following analogy: 'in considering the former we must lay out of view those deranging causes, as we demonstrate (in Dynamics) the properties of the mechanical powers, without taking into view the effects of friction, or the resistance of the medium in which powers operate' (362). Continues at length to relate this 'balancing theory' to the political history of Europe and Britain's relations with its 'natural enemies' and 'natural allies' (373).

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