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A Tour in Sweden in 1838; comprising Observations on the
Moral, Political and Economical State of the Swedish
8vo. London: Longman and Co. 1839. IT
was with somewhat eager feelings, fraught with anticipations both of instruction and amusement, that we opened a second work by an author whose former labours had afforded us such unmixed satisfaction. Of Mr. Laing's journal of his three years' residence in Norway, the subject-matter was alone sufficient to excite intense interest in the mind of the political philosopher. The growing power of the people in almost every country in Europe is such as to threaten feudalism with a complete overthrow at no very remote period. It has almost ceased to be a question whether the few or the many shall be the ultimate controlling power. That seems to be decided in favour of the latter in the minds of all observant and thinking, men; and the only problem with which the wise politician thinks it worth while to busy himself is, by what steps and by what instruments the peaceable substitution of the pure principles of representative government for the antiquated institutions of the feudal ages can be brought about.
Norway exhibits the working of institutions more essentially democratic than those of any other European country,
VOL. X.-No. XIX.
in a manner calculated to calm the fears of the timid, to encourage the hopes of the sanguine, and to warm the aspirations of the berrevölènt. This circumstance alone induced us to regard it as a matter of duty rather than of choice, to lay before our readers a species of analytical abridgement, so to speak; of Mr. Laing's former work; at the same time we esteemed it an additional justification for so doing, that the author had brought to the subject a mind replete with benevolence and actuated by the enlarged views which a truly practical philosophy is alone calculated to generate. Of both the author and the book we spoke* in terms of high commendation, which, we must now add, a perusal of the work before us does not dispose us to abate, although the interest which an account of the state of society in Sweden is calculated to excite would scarcely have been sufficient to justify an article, had the work in question preceded instead of followed the more interesting and important Residence in Norway. Read after the latter work, however, its details become valuable, not from the intrinsic interest which they possess, but rather from the comparison which they enable us to institute between two states of society so diametrically opposite, both as to causes and consequences, as that of Sweden and that of Norway. Facts as to countries so peculiarly circumstanced, and conclusions from such facts, become doubly valuable by being compared and contrasted.
" In Norway and Sweden,” says Mr. Laing, in his preface, “ such inquiries are peculiarly interesting at the present period, because these two nations, although the furthest removed from the agitation of the French Revolution, have, by a singular chance, been affected by it more permanently, and one of them more beneficially, than any others in Europe. Norway received a new and liberal constitution, and has started with the freshness of youth,-a new nation, as it were, called suddenly into life from among the slumbering feudal populations of the north. Sweden received a new dynasty,—and slumbers on amidst ancient institutions and social arrangements of darker ages. Having attempted in a former work to give a sketch of the present social condition of the Norwegian people, I consider it necessary, in order to complete the view of the present moral, political, and economical state of the inhabitants of the Scandinavian peninsula, to undertake the following sketch of the Swedish.”
* See No. IX., article 1, for July, 1837.