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government of that temper and general servility which mark a government more or less arbitrary like the old government of France under Louis XIV. All this, or some recoil of a furious nature directly the reverse, form the supposed peril and despair of the case.
Extremes can be right on no side. The king is not to be a cipher in the state; he is to select his ininisters and servants from the public men which the country supplies; but it is the proper exercise of this discretionary power that is the question before us; and this should become the subject of your reflections as you read the history of this country from the Revolution downwards; for it is this that is the binge (if I may be allowed the expression) on which the constitution of the country really turns; this proper exercise of the discretionary power lodged by the constitution in the great executive magistrate to choose his ministers and servants; and as it would be one extreme to leave him no exercise of his judgment, or no powers of choice, on the one hand; so is it, on the other hand, another extreme to lay down, and have it avowed as a system, that the government shall always be carried on by those whom he or the court think proper to denominate his friends.
Times and circumstances, the nature and characters of public men, must teach their own lessons; a subject of this singular, delicate, and impalpable nature cannot be marked out by the line and the rule; but we may say, and cannot say it too often, that if the only road to honours and power is the mere personal favour of the sovereign, then that those men alone will be found from time to time possessed of honours and power who are favourable to the maxims of prerogative-to the principles of harsh government; who are very indulgent critics of the measures of ministers; who are very careless auditors of the public expense; who are not made very uneasy by sinecures, jobs, and pensions; who are not very ready to try or punish public defaulters, unless they be indeed the writers of libels; who are, in a word, always unwilling to assist, or rather who are always willing to impede in its operations the democratic part of our mixed constitution. Whether it be by such men and such principles that the constitution of these kingdoms has been saved (not to
speak of our Plantagenets, our Tudors, and our Charles's), but saved from James II., from Lord Bolingbroke, from the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745, and above all, from that silent tendency to deterioration which belongs to every thing valuable among mankind; whether is it to such men and such principles that we are to ascribe the freedom of this country at this moment, must be left to the consideration of those who can push their inquiries beyond the forms of things into their principles and essence, and who will soon perceive that however necessary to every civil polity must be its ranks and establishments, its officers and magistrates, and above all, its great magistrate the king as supreme ; that all this is but an inferior and even if I may use such an expression) but a vulgar part of the whole, for it is what has been accomplished by France and Austria, and every other monarchy in Europe, and that the real and rare, and above all price inestimable peculiarity of our constitution, is that democratic principle which can pervade and influence the whole, and yet not produce (its more natural fruits) confusion, disorder, and folly, but act in perfect consistence with the peace and best interests of the state ; and which, whenever it becomes extinct, and can no longer thus influence and pervade the whole (from whatever cause the extinction may take place), a new system that has betrayed the constitution, the necessities of the times which have destroyed its maxims, either or both; whatever be the cause or the system that, in a word, leaves men of talents and property without popular motives of action, will assuredly, sooner or later, leave this great kingdom no longer to be distinguished from others that do, or have existed, on the continent or elsewhere; its lower orders without spirit, its middle ranks without opinions, its public assemblies without weight, and its kings without a people.
Before the Revolution, the favourites of our monarchs were often driven away from the sovereign, fined, imprisoned, or executed; and the democratic part of our constitution, on these occasions, rushed forth (if I may be allowed the expression) to teach the monarchical part its proper duties in its own rude and unceremonious manner. But these were, in fact, more or less, revolutions in the government. It is not thus that we can wish, in our own times, the personal
character of our sovereign to be humbled, or the faults and failings, that may be more or less inseparable from any hereditary wearer of a crown, to be brought before the tribunal, and visited by the direct censure of the community. To set in array democracy against monarchy, and merely to leave the one to correct the mistakes and punish the offences of the other, is no very refined or rational expedient for the management of a state. It is every thing the reverse. It may have been resorted to by men who were hurried on by the torrent of circumstances, like our ancestors in the time of Charles I., or the patriots of Greece and Rome, who conceived they had no other resource against tyranny and oppression ; but the politicians of a highly civilized and intelligent country, will always consider any open collision in the state as the greatest of all calamities, unless it be the absence of civil freedom itself; and they will therefore look round very carefully to find, if possible, some expedient for the proper management of a community under a mixed monarchical system of government, the representative assembly having the power of taxation, and the king the power of dissolving them.
Now to those who are meditating the subject of a good constitution of government in this elementary manner, an aristocracy would first present itself; and at length an aristocracy with popular feelings would appear, as I conceive, the great desideratum. From such an aristocracy men might be chosen who might be ministers, not favourites; who could sympathize with the democratic part of the constitution, yet be naturally attached to the office and prerogative of the sovereign, might be themselves objects of love and respect to the one, and of kindness and esteem to the other; of confidence to both.
But how is such an aristocracy-an aristocracy with popular feelings, to be found ? It could not well be generated by mere institution; none such has ever appeared in the world. A monarch may be easily created; the people we have already; but where is to be found such a cement of the two, as an aristocracy with popular feelings? Set an order of men apart, give them privileges and titles of honour, and you raise up a nobility: but it will only be to leave them to unite with the sovereign at all times against the public, to render them insolent and unfeeling to their inferiors. The patricians of Rome, the nobles of Venice, even the feudal nobility of Germany and France, none of these are the exact description of men we wish for.
Now I must confess it appears to me, that we were fure nished very tolerably with what we could desire, when we had the aristocracy of England such as it existed during the reigns of George I. and George II. Consider it in all its functions, relations, opinions, feelings: a nobility who were graced with privileges and honours; armed with property and power ; who had placed the reigning family on the throne, but who had done this on popular principles; who were thus bound to the king, but were also pledged to the people ; who were connected to the sovereign by the enjoyment and expectation of titles and offices, and yet united to the people, first, by a common resistance to an arbitrary power, then by common laws, common maxims and opinions, religious and political, mutual respect, common interests of property and security; and were even allied and interwoven into the mass of their fellow-citizens by mingling, through the medium of their dearest relations, in the democratic branch of the legislature. A more favourable situation of things could not well be supposed by the most sanguine speculator on the social union of mankind. The misfortune would undoubtedly be, that even this aristocracy might not be sufficiently jealous of the prerogative of the crown, not sufficiently alive to the claims and rights of the subject. But on the whole, a considerable approach would be made to secure, in a peaceful and steady manner, the main interests of all the constituent parts of the community.
Here we must come to a pause. It is now that the new system of Lord Bute presents itself. It was the very end and aim of this new system to destroy this very aristocracy, at least that part of this aristocracy with which we are at present concerned; that part more particularly distinguished for its more popular principles, receiving confidence alike from the favour of the sovereign, and the approbation and gratitude of the people. Far from turning it to the great purposes to which it might have been applied, far from bringing it forward to the discharge of all the high and healing offices of which it was capable, it was the immediate effect of the new system to counteract all such purposes, to disregard all such offices, to entertain far other views of the constitution of England, or of the benefits to be derived from any constitution of government; to provide in a manner totally different, for the dignity and happiness of the sovereign, for the respectability of the aristocracy, and for the welfare of the people.
According to the new system, the king was to be as independent of his aristocracy, and not as intermingled as possible in all their interests and sympathies; to be rescued from the necessity of sharing his consequence with any order, or any individuals of that order. He was to rule by men who looked only to the throne, not by the Whig families who had some respect for themselves, as well as reverence for the monarch ; and who looked also to the people. He was to choose his ministers, and that entirely as his own partialities directed him; that is, “ favourites,” under the title of friends, were to be preferred as fit objects of his confidence, to men who had characters and opinions of their own, and who therefore could operate with a salutary influence on his. But this was not all. Great efforts were to be made to accomplish this destruction of the political influence and popular feelings of the Whig familes; a miserable system of intrigue was to be entered upon. The least honourable men of each knot and division of the aristocracy were to be brought over to the court party, the better to destroy all confidence and union among those who remained ; to divide, and therefore rule; to degrade, and therefore render insignificant, was the very scheme and essence of the plan, involved in the very supposition of it. And these new converts, these deserters and stragglers from their family and party attachments, from the notions of their ancestors, from the popular sympathies by which they had hitherto been so honourably distinguished, these were the men who were to be associated as friends and familiars to the bosom of their sovereign. The people in the mean time were to lose their former respect for public men, whom they were now to see mutually betraying and accusing each other; and even for the sovereign himself, whom they