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埃德蒙·伯克 同亚美利加和解

2006-07-07 17:20

Edmund Burke



  America,gentlemen say,is a noble object.It is an object well worth fighting for.Certainly it is,if fighting a people be the best way of gaining them.Gentlemen in this respect will be led to their choice of means by their complexions and their habits.Those who understand the military art will,of course,have some predilection for it.Those who wield the thunder of the state may have more confidence in the efficacy of arms.But I confess,possibly for want of this knowledge,my opinion is much more in favor of prudent management than of force;considering force not as an odious,but a feeble instrument for preserving a people so numerous,so active,so growing,so spirited as this,in a profitable and subordinate connection with us.

  First,sir,permit me to observe,that the use of force alone is but temporary.It may subdue for a moment,but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again;and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered.

  My next objection is its uncertainty.Terror is not always the effect of force;and an armament is not a victory.If you do not succeed,you are with-out resource;for,conciliation failing,force re-mains;but,force failing,no further hope of re-conciliation is left.Power and authority are some-times bought by kindness,but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and defeated violence.

  A further objection to force is that you impair the object by your very endeavors to preserve it.The thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover;but depreciated,sunk,wasted,and consumed in the contest.Nothing less will content me than whole America.I do not choose to consume its strength along with our own,because in all parts it is the British strength that I consume.I do not choose to be caught by a foreign enemy at the end of this exhausting conflict,and still less in the midst of it.I may escape;but I can make no insurance against such an event.Let me add,that I do not choose wholly to break the American spirit,because it is the spirit that has made the country.

  Lastly,we have no sort of experience in favor of force as an instrument in the rule of our colonies.Their growth and their utility have been owing to methods altogether different.Our ancient indulgence has been said to be pursued to a fault.It may be so;but we know,if feeling is evidence,that our fault was more tolerable than our attempt to mend it;and our sin far more salutary than our penitence.

  These,sir,are my reasons for not entertaining that high opinion of untried force.The people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen.England,sir,is a nation which still,I hope,respects,and formerly adored,her freedom.The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant;and they took this bias and direction the moment they part-ed from your hands.They are,therefore,not only devoted to liberty,but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles.Abstract liberty,like other mere abstractions,is not to be found.Liberty inheres in some sensible object;and every nation has formed to itself some favorite point which,by way of eminence,becomes the criterion of their happiness.It happened,you know,sir,that the great contests for freedom in this country were,from the earliest times,chiefly upon the question of taxing.Most of the contests in the ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right of election of magistrates,or on the balance among the several orders of the state.The question of money was not with them so immediate.But in England it was otherwise.On this point of taxes the ablest pens and most eloquent tongues have been exercised;the greatest spirits have acted and suffered.

  Permit me,sir,to add another circumstance in our colonies,which contributes no mean part to-ward the growth and effect of this intractable spirit—I mean their education.In no other country,perhaps,in the world is the law so general a study.The profession itself is numerous and powerful,and in most provinces it takes the lead.The greater number of the deputies sent to Congress were lawyers.But all who read,and most do read,endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science.I have been told by an eminent bookseller that in no branch of his business,after tracts of popular devotion,were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations.The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use.I hear that they have sold nearly as many of“Blackstone's Commentaries”in Americans in England.

  The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the colonies is hardly less powerful than the rest,as it is not merely moral,but laid deep in the natural constitution of things.Three thousand miles of ocean lie between you and them.No contrivance can prevent the effect of this distance in weakening government.Seas roll and months pass between the order and the execution;and the want of a speedy explanation of a single point is enough to defeat the whole system.You have,indeed,“winged ministers”of vengeance,who carry your bolts in their pouches to the remotest verge of the sea.But there a power steps in that limits the arrogance of raging passion and furious elements,and says:“So far shalt though go,and no farther.”













  王德华 译

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