« ZurückWeiter »
tinually increasing, the nearer the end approaches. And if these beings are themselves immortal, and yet insecure of the continuance of their happiness, the case is far worse, since an eternal void of des light, if not to say a state of misery, must succeed. It would be here of no moment, whether the time of their happiness were measured by days or hours, by months or years, or by periods of the most immeasurable length : these swiftly-flowing streams bear no proportion to that ocean of infinity where they must finish their course. The longest duration of finite happiness avails nothing when it is past : nor can the memory of it have any other effect than to renew a perpetual pining after pleasures never to return; and since virtue is the only pledge and security of a happy immortality, the folly of sacrificing it to any temporal advantage, how important soever they may appear, must be infinitely great, and cannot but leave behind it an eternal regret.
ON SMUGGLING, AND ITS VARIOUS SPE
SIR,-There are many people that would be thought, and even think themselves, honest men, who fail nevertheless in particular points of honesty; deviating from that character sometimes by the prevalence of mode or custom, and sometimes through mere inattention; so that their honesty is partial only, and not general or universal. Thus one who would scorn to overreach you in a bargain, shall make no scruple of tricking you a little now and then at cards: another, that plays with the utmost fairness, shall with great freedom cheat you in the sale of a horse. But there is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall, than that of defrauding government of its revenues by smuggling when they have an opportunity, or encouraging smugglers by buying their goods.
I fell into these reflections the other day, on hearing two gentlemen of reputation discoursing about a small estate, which one of them was inclined to sell and the other to buy; when the seller, in recommending the place, remarked, that its situation was very advantageous on this account, that, being on the seacoast in a smuggling country, one had frequent opportunities of buying many of the expensive articles used in a family (such as tea, coffee, chocolate, brandy, wines, cambrics, Brussels laces, French silks, and all kinds of India goods) 20, 30, and, in some articles, 50 per cent. cheaper than they could be had in the more interior parts, of traders that paid duty. The other honest gentleman allowed this to be an advantage, but insisted that the seller, in the advanced price he demanded on that account, rated the advantage much above its value. And neither of them seemed to think dealing with smugglers a practice that an honest man (provided he got his goods cheap) had the least reason to be ashamed of.
At a time when the load of our public debt, and the heavy expense of maintaining our fleets and armies to be ready for our defence on occasion, makes it necessary not only to continue old taxes, but often to look out for new ones, perhaps it may not be unuseful to state this matter in a light that few seem to have considered it in.
The people of Great Britain, under the happy constitution of this country, have a privilege few other countries enjoy, that of choosing the third branch of the legislature, which branch has alone the power of regulating their taxes. Now, whenever the government finds it necessary for the common benefit, advantage, and safety of the nation, for the security of our liberties, property, religion, and everything that is dear to us, that certain sums shall be yearly raised by taxes, duties, &c., and paid into the public treasury, thence to be dispensed by government for those purposes, ought not every honest man freely and will ly to pay his just proportion of this necessary expense ? Can he possibly preserve a right to that character, if by fraud, stratagem, or contrivance, he avoids that payment in whole or in part?
What should we think of a companion who, hay. ing supped with his friends at a tavern, and partaken equally of the joys of the evening with the rest of us, would nevertheless contrive by some artifice to shift his share of the reckoning upon others, in order to go off scot-free? If a man who practised this would, when detected, be deemed and called a scoundrel, what ought he to be called who can enjoy all the inestimable benefits of public society, and yet, by smuggling or dealing with smugglers, contrive to evade paying his just share of the expense, as settled by his own representatives in parliament, and wrongfully throw it upon his honest and, perhaps, much poorer neighbours? He will, perhaps, be ready to tell me that he does not wrong his neighbours; he scorns the imputation; he only cheats the king a little, who is very able to bear it. This, however, is a mistake. The public treasure is the treasure of the nation, to be applied to national purposes.
And when a duty is laid for a particular public and necessary purpose, if, through smuggling, that duty falls short of raising the sum required, and other duties must therefore be laid to make up the deficiency, all the additional sum laid by the new duties and paid by other people, though it should amount to no more than a halfpenny or a farthing per head, is so much actually picked out of the pockets of those other people by the smugglers and their abettors and encouragers. Are they, Then, any better or other than pickpockets? and what mean, low, rascally pickpockets must those be that can pick pockets for halfpence and for farthings?
I would not, however, be supposed to allow, in what I have just said, that cheating the king is a less offence against honesty than cheating the public. The king and the public, in this case, are different names for the same thing; but if we consider the king distinctly it will not lessen the crime: it is no justification of a robbery, that the person robbed was rich and able to bear it. The king has as much right to justice as the meanest of his subjects; and as he is truly the coinmon father of his people, those that rob him fall under the Scripture wo pronounced against the son that robbeth his father and saith it is no sin.
Mean as this practice is, do we not daily see people of character and fortune engaged in it for trifling advantages to themselves? Is any lady ashamed to request of a gentleman of her acquaintance, that, when he returns from abroad, he would smuggle her home a piece of silk or lace from France or Flanders? Is any gentleman ashamed to undertake and execute the coinmission ? Not in the least. They will talk of it freely, even before others whose pockets they are thus contriving to pick by this piece of knavery:
Among other branches of the revenue, that of the post office is, by a late law, appropriated to the discharge of our public debt, to defray the expenses of the state. None but members of parliament and a few public officers have now a right to avoid, by a frank, the payment of postage. When any letter, not written by them or on their business, is franked by any of them, it is a hurt to the revenue, an injury which they must now take the pains to
conceal by writing the whole superscription them. selves. And yet such is our insensibility to justice in this particular, that nothing is more common than to see, even in a reputable company, a very honest gentleman or lady declare his or her intention to cheat the nation of threepence by a frank, and, without blushing, apply to one of the very legislators themselves, with a modest request that he would be pleased to become an accomplice in the crime and assist in the perpetration.
There are those who, by these practices, take a great deal in a year out of the public purse, and put the money into their own private pockets. If, passing through a room where public treasure is deposited, a man takes the opportunity of clandestinely pocketing and carrying off a guinea, is he not truly and properly a thief? And if another evades paying into the treasury a guinea he ought to pay in, and applies it to his own use, when he knows it belongs to the public as much as that which has been paid in, what difference is there in the nature of the crime or the baseness of committing it?
REMARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES OF
SAVAGES we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs.
Perhaps, if we could examine the manners of different nations with impartiality, we should find no people so rude as to be without any rules of politeness, nor any so polite as not to have some remains of rudeness.
The Indian men, when young, are hunters and