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The state of our representation being probably about to be considered in the ensuing Session of Parliament, there will be a natural disposition in many minds to take a survey of some of the other systems of representative government which, equally with our own, have for their object the establishment of a rational freedom.
Such representative governments are indeed but few. The hopes formed during upwards of thirty years of peace were dissipated (it is to be hoped only for a time) by the events of 1848; and the civilised world has been compelled to mourn over the failure of nearly all the attempts then made to add to the number of free governments, or to widen the foundations of liberty in those that did exist.
Into the much-disputed question of the causes of those failures, it is not my present purpose to enter. Suffice it to say, that whoever has made them the subject of impartial study, must have found those latter years of continental history fertile in warnings as to the peril of delay when the season for salutary reform is fully come, and abounding in examples of the greater fault, of ruining all the hopes of temperate and reasonable ameliorations, by presumption, precipitancy, or personal ambition.