Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

able hand. It is certainly the happiest and most unenvied part of all your fortune, to do good to many, while

you do injury to none; to receive at once the prayers of the subject, and the praises of the Prince; and by the care of your conduct, to give him means of exerting the chiefest (if any bo the chiefest) of his royal virtues ; his distributive justice to the deserving, and his bounty and compassion to the wanting.

The disposition of Princes towards their people, cannot better be discovered than in the choice of their ministers; who, like the animal spirits betwixt the soul and body, participate somewhat of both natures, and make the communication which is betwixt them. A King who is just and moderate in his nature, who rules according to the laws, whom God made happy by forming the temper

of his soul to the constitution of his government, and who makes us happy by assuming over us no other sovereignty than that wherein our welfare and liberty consists ; a Prince, I say, of so excellent a character, and so suitable to the wishes of all good men, could not better have conveyed himself into his people's apprehensions than in your Lordship's person, who so lively express the same virtues, that you seem not so much a copy as an emanation of him. Moderation is doubtless an establishment of greatness; but there is a steadiness of temper which is likewise requisite in a minister of state : so equal a mixture of both virtues, that he may stand like an isthmus betwixt

the two encroaching seas of arbitrary power and lawless anarchy. The undertaking would be difficult to any but an extraordinary genius, to stand at the line, and to divide the limits; to pay what is due to the great representative of the nation, and neither to enhance nor to yield up the undoubted prerogatives of the crown. These, my Lord, are the proper virtues of a noble Englishman, as indeed they are properly English virtues; no, people in the world being capable of using them but we, who have the happiness to be born under so equal and so well-poised a government :

3 The following just eulogium on our inestimable Constitution is so well adapted to our own times, that I cannot omit to point it out to the attention of the reader. I am however too well apprized of the rooted enmity borne by the “ incorrigible Jacobins" of the present day to the glorious inheritance which we have received from our ancestors, and of their unceasing endeavours to destroy the noblest fabrick which human wisdom ever devised, to hope that the warning voice of our author will have such an effect on them, as to restrain them from pursuing the criminal end they have in view: but let the younger class of readers, who, though they may have been dazzled by the false lights held up to them, are not yet wholly corrupted by the arts which have been so sedulously employed to poison every fountain of knowledge and virtue, ponder over and infix in their minds the truths contained in the pages before them, (with the exception of one sentence towards the close ;) and may they serve as a shield of adamant to protect them against the danger with which at this moment (December 1797) not these kingdoms alone, but the whole civilized world is threatened!

[ocr errors][merged small]

government which has all the advantages of liberty beyond a commonwealth, and all the marks of kingly sovereignty without the danger of a tyranny. Both my nature, as I am an Englishman, and my reason, as I am a man, have bred in me a loathing to that specious name of a Republick ; that mockappearance of a liberty, where all who have not part in the government are slaves ; and slaves they are of a viler note than such as are subjects to an absolute dominion. For no Christian Monarchy is so absolute, but it is circumscribed with laws; but when the executive power is in the lawmakers, there is no farther check upon them, and the people must suffer without a remedy, because they are oppressed by their representatives. If I must serve, the number of my masters, who were born my equals, would but add to the ignominy of my bondage. The nature of our government, above all others, is exactly suited both to the situation of our country and the temper of the natives ; an island being more proper for commerce and for defence, than for extending its dominions on the continent ; for what the valour of its inhabitants might gain, by reason of its remoteness and the casualties of the seas it could not so easily preserve ; and therefore, neither the arbitrary power of one in a monarchy, nor of

many commonwealth, could make us greater than we

It is true, that vaster and more frequent taxes might be gathered, when the consent of the people was not asked or needed; but this were

in a

are.

only by conquering abroad to be poor at home; and the examples of our neighbours teach us, that they are not always the happiest subjects, whose Kings extend their dominions farthest. Since therefore we cannot win by an offensive war, at least a land-war, the model of our government seems naturally contrived for the defensive part ; and the consent of a people is easily obtained to contribute to that power which must protect it. Felices nimium bona si sua norint; Angligena! And yet there are not wanting Malecontents amongst us, who, surfeiting themselves on too much happiness, would persuade the people that they might be happier by a change. It was indeed the policy of their old Forefather, when himself was fallen from the station of glory, to seduce mankind into the same rebellion with him, by telling him he might yet be freer than he was ; that is, more free than his nature would allow, or (if I may so say) than God could make him. We have already all the liberty which freeborn subjects can enjoy ; and all beyond it is but licence. But if it be liberty of conscience which they pretend, the moderation of our church is such, that its practice extends not to the severity of persecution ; and its discipline is withal so easy, that it allows more freedom to dissenters, than any of the sects would allow to it. In the mean time, what right can be pretended by these men to attempt innovations in church or state? Who made them the trustees, or (to speak a little nearer their own language) the keepers of the liberty of England ? If their call be extraordinary, let them convince us by working miracles ; for ordinary vocation they can have none, to disturb the government under which they were born, and which protects them. He who has often changed his party, 4

4 and always has made his interest the rule of it, gives little evidence of his sincerity for the publick good; it is manifest he changes but for himself, and takes the people for tools to work his fortune. Yet the experience of all ages might let him know, that they who trouble the waters first, have seldom the benefit of the fishing ; as they who began the late rebellion enjoyed not the fruit of their undertaking, but were crushed themselves by the usurpation of their own instrument, Neither is it enough for them to answer, that they only intend a reformation of the government, but not the subversion of it: on such pretences all insurrections have been founded; it is striking at the root of power, which is obedience. Every remonstrance of private men has the seed of treason in it; and discourses which are couched in ambiguous terms are therefore the more dangerous, because they do all the mischief of open sedition, yet are safe from the punishment of the laws.

These, my Lord, are considerations which I should not pass so lightly over, had I room to manage them as they deserve; for no man can be so inconsiderable in a nation, as not to have a

4 Antony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, is here evidently printed at. He was now in disgrace.

« AnteriorContinuar »