Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

will be lightened; or, though they have been so often taught to hope it, that soap and candles will be cheaper; they expect no redress of grievances, for of no grievances but taxes do they complain; they wish not the extension of liberty, for they do not feel

any restraint;

about the security of privilege or property they are totally careless, for they see no property invaded, nor know, till they are told, that any privilege has suffered violation.

Least of all do they expect, that any future parliament will lessen its own powers, or communicate to the people that authority which it has dnce obtained.

Yet a new parliament is sufficiently desirable. The year of election is a year of jollity; and, what is still more delightful, a year of equality. The glutton now eats the delicacies for which he longed when he could not purchase them, and the drunkard has the pleasure of wine without the cost. The drone lives a while without work, and the

shop-keeper, in the flow of money, raises his price. The mechanic, that trembled at the presence of Sir Joseph, now bids him come again for an answer ; and the poacher, whose gun has been seized, now finds an opportunity to reclaim it. Even the ho nest man is not displeased to see himself important, and willingly resumes in two years that power which he had resigned for-seven. Few love their friends so well as not to desire superiority by unexpensive benefaction.

Yet, notwithstanding all these motives to compliance, the promoters of petitions have not been successful. Few could be persuaded to lament evils which they did not suffer, or to solicit for redress which they do not want. The petition has been, in some places, rejected ; and, perhaps, in all but one, signed only by the meanest and grossest of the people.

Since this expedient, now invented or revived to distress the government, and equally practicable at all times by all who shall be excluded from power and from profit, has produced so little effect, let us consider the opposition as no longer formidable. The great engine has recoiled upon them. They thought, that the terms they sent were terms of weight, which

would have amazed all, and stumbled many ; but the consternation is now over, and their foes stand upright, as before,

;

With great propriety and dignity the king has, in his speech, neglected or forgotten them. He might easily know, that what was presented as the sense of the people, is the sense only of the profligate and dissolute and that, whatever parliament should be convened, the same petitioners would be ready, for the same reason, to request its dissolution.

As we once had a rebellion of the clowns, we have now an opposition of the pedlars. The quiet of the nation has been for years disturbed by a faction, against which all factions ought to conspire ; for its original principle is the desire

of levelling

: it is only animated under the name of zeal, by the natural malignity of the mean against the great.

When, in the confusion which the English invasions produced in France, the villains, imagining that they had found the golden hour of emancipation, took arms in their hands, the knights of both nations considered the cause as common, and, suspending the general hostility, united to chastise them.

The whole conduct of this despicable faction is distinguished by plebeian grossness, and savage indecency. To misrepresent the actions and the principles of their enemies is common to all parties ; but the insolence of inveetive, and brutality of reproach, which have lately prevailed, are peculiar to this.

An infallíble characteristick of meanness is cruelty, This is the only faction that has shouted at the condemnation of a criminal, and that, when his innocence procured his pardon, has clamoured for his blood.

All other parties, however enraged at each other, have agreed to treat the throne with decency; but these low-born railers have attacked not only the au. thority, but the character, of their sovereign, and have endeavoured, surely without effect, to alienate the af. fections of the people from the only king, who, for almost a century, has much appeared to desire, or much endeavoured to deserve them. They have insulted him with rudeness and with menaces, which were never excited by the gloomy sullenness of William, even when half the nation denied him their allegiance; nor by the dangerous bigotry of James, unless when he was finally

driven from his palace; and with which scarcely the open

hostilities of rebellion ventured to vilify the unhappy Charles, even in the remarks on the cabinet of Naseby.

It is surely, not unreasonable to hope, that the nation will consult its dignity, if not its safety, and disdain to be protected or enslaved by the declaimers or the plotters of a city-tavern. Had Rome fallen by the Catili. narian conspiracy, she might have consoled her fate by the greatness of her destroyers; but what would have alleviated the disgrace of England, had her government been changed by Tiler or by Ket?

One part of the nation has never before contended with the other, but for some weighty and apparent interest. If the means were violent, the end was great. The civil war was fought for what each army called and believed the best religion, and the best government. The struggle in the reign of Anne was to exclude or restore an exile king. We are now disputing, with almost equal animosity, whether Middlesex shall be represented or not by a criminal from a jail.

The only comfort left in such degeneracy is, that a lower state can be no longer possible.

In this contemptuous censure, I mean not to include every single man. In all lead, says the chemist, there is silver ; and in all copper there is gold. But mingled masses are justly denominated by the greater quantity, and when the precious particles are not worth extraction, a faction and a pig must be melted down together to the forms and offices that chance allots them.

Fiunt urceoli, pulves, sartago, patellæ. A few weeks will now show whether the government can be shaken by empty noise, and whether the faction, which depends upon its influence, has not deceived alike the public and itself. That it should have continued till now, is sufficiently shameful. None can, indeed, wonder, that it has been supported by the sectaries, the natural fomenters of sedition, and confederates of the rabble, of whose religion little now remains but hatred of establishments, and who are angry to find

ed ;

separation now only tolerated, which was once reward

but every honest man must lament, that it has been regarded with frigid neutrality by the tories, who, being long accustomed to signalize their principles by opposition to the court, do not yet consider that they have at last a king who knows not the name of party, and who wishes to be the common father of all his people.

As a man inebriated only by vapours, soon recovers in the open air ; a nation, discontented to madness, without any adequate cause, will return to its wits and its allegiance when a little

has cooled it to reflection. Nothing, therefore, is necessary, at this alarming crisis, but to consider the alarm as false. To make concessions, is to encourage encroachment. Let the court despise the faction, and the disappointed people will soon deride it.

pause

THOUGHTS

ON THE

LATE TRANSACTIONS

RESPECTING

FALKLAND's ISLANDS.

[1771.]

To proportion the eagerness of contest

to its importance seems too hard a task for human wisdom.

The pride of wit has kept ages busy in the discussion of useless questions, and the pride of power has destroyed armies to gain or to keep unprofitable possessions.

Not many years have passed since the cruelties of war were filling the world with terror and with sorrow: rage was at last appeased, or strength exhausted, and to the harassed nations peace was restored, with its pleasures and its benefits. Of this state all felt the happiness, and all implored the continuance; but what continuance of happiness can be expected, when the whole system of European empire can be in danger of a new concussion, by a contention for a few spots of earth, which, in the deserts of the ocean, had almost escaped human notice, and which, if they had not happened to make a sea-mark, had perhaps never had a name?

Fortune often delights to dignify what nature has neglected, and that renown which cannot be claimed by intrinsick excellence or greatness, is sometimes derived from unexpected accidents. The Rubicon was ennobled by the passage of Cæsar, and the time is now come when Falkland's Islands demand their historian, Vol. IX.

U

« ZurückWeiter »