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ADDRSSED TO THE
ELECTORS OF GREAT BRITAIN.
They bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
Yet still revolt when truth would set them free;
Licence they mean, when they cry liberty,
To improve the golden moment of opportunity, and catch the good that is within our reach, is the great art of life. Many wants are suffered, which might once have been supplied; and much time is lost in regretting the time which had been lost before.
At the end of every seven years. comes the Saturnalian season, when the freemen of Great Britain may please themselves with the choice of their representatives. This happy day has now arrived, somewhat sooner than it could be claimed.
To select and depute those, by whom laws are to be made, and taxes to be granted, is a high dignity and an important trust : and it is the business of every elector to consider, how this dignity may be well sustained, and this trust faithfully discharged.
It ought to be deeply impressed on the minds of all who have voices in this national deliberation, that no man can deserve a seat in Parliament who is not a PATRIOT. No other man will protect our rights, no other man can merit our confidence.
A patriot is he whose publick conduct is regulated by one single motive, the love of his country; who, as an agent in Parliament, has for himself neither hope nor fear, neither kindness nor resentment, but refers every thing to the common interest.
That of five hundred men, such as this degenerate age affords, a majority can be found thus virtuously abstracted, who will affirm ? Yet there is no good in despondence : vigilance and activity often effect more than was expected. Let us take a patriot where we can meet him; and that we may not fatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain from those which may deceive : for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the con. stituent qualities ; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight.
Some claim a place in the list of Patriots by an acrimonious and unremitting opposition to the Court.
This mark is by no means infallible. Patriotism is not necessarily included in rebellion. A man may hate his king, yet not love his country. He that has been refused a reasonable or unreasonable request, who thinks his merit under-rated, and sees his influence declining, begins soon to talk of natural equality, the absurdity of many made for one, the original compact, the foundation of authority, and the majesty of the people. As his political melancholy increases, he tells, and perhaps dreams, of the advances of the prerogative, and the dangers of arbitrary power; yet his design in all his declaination is not to benefit his country, but to gratify his malice.
These, however, are the most honest of the opponents of government ; their patriotism is a species of disease ; and they feel some part of what they express. But the greater, far the greater number of those who rave and rail, and inquire and accuse, neither suspect nor fear, nor care for the publick ; but hope to force their way to riches by virulence and invective, and are vehement and clamorous, only that they may be sooner hired to be silent. A man sometimes starts up a patriot, only by disseminating discontent and propagating reports of secret influence, of dangerous counsels, of violated rights, and encroaching usurpation.
This practice is no certain note of patriotism. To instigate the populace with rage beyond the provocation, is to suspend public happiness, if not to destroy it. He is no lover of his country, that unnecessarily disturbs its peace. Few errors, and few faults of government, can justify an appeal to the rabble ; who ought not to judge of what they cannot understand, and whose opinions are not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion.
The fallaciousness of this note of patriotism is particularly apparent, when the clamour continues after the evil is past. They who are still filling our ears with Mr Wilkes, and the freeholders of Middlesex, lament a grievance that is now at an end. Mr Wilkes may be chosen, if any will choose him, and the precedent of his exclusion makes not any honest, or any decent man, think himself in danger.
It may be doubted whether the name of a patriot can be fairly given as the reward of secret satire, or open outrage. To fill the news-papers with sly hints of corruption and intrigue, to circuate the Middlesex Journal and Lendon Pacquet, may indeed be zeal ; but it may likewise be interest and malice. To offer a petition, not expected to be granted; to insult a king with a rude remonstrance, only because there is no punishment for legal insolence, is not courage, for there is no danger; nor patriotism, for it tends to the subversion of order, and lets wickedness loose upon the land, by destroying the reverence due to sovereign authority.
It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see public dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy: he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities; who tells, that the last peace was obtained by