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Where the importance, and perhaps the very names of the rival candidates, are lost in the contest of their lawless abettors? * Or is it not to return some supple animal who buys, that he may sell you? who fawns, that he may betray? who, like the fox in the fable, persuades you to let him mount on your shoulders, that he may leave you in the pit? Is it not eventually to oppress the people who gave the servile sup plicant his political existence; and to enslave the constituents whom he is chosen to protect?
Not only do facts evince that this invective is innocent of slander, but the argumenta a priori will corroborate its truth. It is not to be supposed that any constituent, or his partizans, will commit these vicious actions from virtuous motives; that they will ruin the people to save the nation; break down the first laws of humanity,
the love of peace, of sobriety, of integrity, out of zeal for the commonwealth; and do their Etmost to subvert our Constitution, that they may share in the honour of making laws intended for its preservation.
I know but one circumstance which can aggravate the iniquity of this conduct, and that is, when a Peer of the realm engages directly, or indirectly, in the contest. This is such an insolent infringement upon the common rights of mankind, as ought never to pass without exemplary punishment, were it possible to bring those to condign punishment who deem security a law, and claim a privilege to act ignominiously from the very splendour and dignity of their character! For can there be a more ignominious conduct than for a nobleman, who in his own right is one branch of the legislature, meanly to encroach upon the rights of the other? To lavish his wealth in corrupting the principles of an unthinking freeholder, and influence him in the choice of a representative, part of whose office it is to watch over, and restrain the abuse of that power which his tank necessarily bestows? Can there be a more shameful solecism, than for one who is deemed first in the class of gentlemen, to exert his influence in the appointment of a person who is to be a defence against his own enwroachments? and break through the best barrier of the constitution, that a creature of his own may be elected as a guarantee of it? The severest laws against the open invaders of another's property, or poachers of their favourite game, to which these personages ever gave their suffrage, ought, according to the Lex Talionis, to be returned upon themselves!
I must confess, that when I behold these Right Honourables sport with the liberties of mankind, and aim at grasping all the power and influence in the kingdom to themselves, I cannot forbear, in the warmth of my resentment, reducing the metaphorical language of Shakspear's gardener, to its more literal interpre tation:
In a contested election for a certain Borough, numbers of the electors, not knowing the names of the candidates for whom they gave their votes, distinguished them by calling them, the Duke of X's man-Lord Z's man, &c.
"Cut off the heads of too-fast growing sprays, "That look too lofty in our commonwealth: "All must be even in our government." RICHARD II. Act 3. Should it be thought that I am too warm upon the question, I answer, that there are some things of too serious an import to bear a smile; that there are some actions, of which, although they entitle a man to a seat in Bedlam, the villainy shall yet exceed the folly! And in these cases, the indignation of every one who feels in any respect correspondent with the nature of his subject, must rise superior to his love of ridicule.
"Omne animi vitium tanto conspectius in se "Crimen habet, quanto major qui peccat ha"betur." JUVENAL."
But to return to our plebeians.
Were I to follow the natural train of the argument, I should only urge what has been repeated times innumerable-I should of course bewail the inequality of representation, the absurdity of boroughs almost without inhabitants, appointing delegates to maintain their rights, while the rights of thousands and tens of thousands remain defenceless. I should lament that the choice of the representatives of a populous and flourishing nation should be confined to so few, and often to such foul and unworthy hands. I should vainly desire that vice would correct itself, and that those who are naturally disposed to abuse their power, would be the first to reform this abuse. Yet I cannot forbear wishing that every individual in the nation felt the injury of being excluded from a share in the legislature, and sought some constitutional and effectual method of redress. For without a voice, either in the Parliament itself, or in the choice of a delegate, their dearest privileges may be bartered away for a paltry bribe, or a can of ale! In short, one class of men is totally at the mercy of another! And if this bear any part in the definition of a slave, those who form one of these classes are slaves, though for the present they feel not the chain !
But although a radical cure for this dangerous disease is not much to be expected, and perhaps could not be accomplished without such violent convulsions as might greatly endanger our political constitution, yet I think some considerable palliative might be administered.
Is there not reason to believe that great numbers, perhaps a majority of the freeholders, wanton with the liberties of their fellow-citizens, merely through gross ignorance, or culpable inattention? That they have the most confused ideas of the office of a representative in Parliament? That, although the welfare of the whole nation ultimately depends upon their decisions, yet they know as little of the matter as John Plodder, who thought that a parliament man was to guard him, some how or other, against Papists, Presbyterians, and wooden shoes.
I would therefore recur to the idea which was first suggested, that some proper method might be adopted, fully to acquaint the electors with the nature and importance of their power at such interesting periods; that they ought to be instructed in the common liberties of mankind, the general principles of Government, and the design of all civil society.
Would it not be highly meritorious in those who retain any sparks of public spirit, and are patriots indeed, to draw up a plain and clear summary of the privileges and duties of an elector, to be put into the hands of every freeholder in the kingdom, particularly at the eve of a general election? Ought not these electors to be informed that they are at such times the representatives of others that they stand in the place of thousands-that perjury is not the only vice of which they can be guilty, for they must at the same time be aiding and abetting oppression that the choice of a man avowedly unqualified, either from the known want of сараcity, or of public or private virtue, or from his being already the servile minion of the court, is also a crime of the first magnitude that they are responsible for the measures that man shall espouse; and that if the nation be ruined by the choice of unworthy members, which is the danger of the present times, the ruin of the whole empire rests with them.
"Aye, you croaking politicians are always
ever we did," quoth my host,—and helps himself to another slice.
Nor would such friendly and patriotic admo- foreboding evil. Why, we live as well now as nitions be seasonable to the lower class of electors alone, but many of their superiors might also profit by them. For is it not notorious that while the one are thus casily reduced or deterred from voting with impartiality, the others, as easily and unthinkingly, enlist themselves, on the side of the seducers? Or do they not fall into the opposite extreme, and treat with the utmost indifference a concern in which the inte. rests of the whole state are embarked? Are there not thousands whose character and fortune entitle them to a very respectable and lawful influence in the constitution, that are restrained by indolence or pusillanimity, from giving their suffrage at all? Or otherwise, do they not consider the election of a candidate as a matter of
personal favour rather than of public trust? and attend infinitely more to partial recommendations, and family connexions, than to the political principles, or the honour and probity of the party whose cause they espouse.
The character of John Plodder is, we fear, very similar to that of the ignorant freeholders in general, who barter away every thing that is valuable for a treat at an in. As a sample of this class, in higher life, an old Baronet, whom we may call Sir Indifference Wealthy, may serve.
I dined lately with this gentleman, who is really a worthy individual, and, if possible, still more respectable for the goodness of his heart, than for the excellence of his dinners. But he seems to have the public spirit of an oyster; and to be as inattentive to every national question as his faithful dog Tray, that is borne down with years, indolence, and fat.
While we were at table, I endeavoured to rouse the old gentleman from his lethargy, by expatiating with some yehemence upon the absurd and iniquitous manner in which elections were conducted.
"Pshaw! It's a customary thing," says the knight.
He voted at a late election for a man whose character, both public and private, was very exceptionable, merely because their lands lay contiguous; and he thought it would have been an unneighbourly action to vote against him.
"It is a customary thing," said he, as he helped himself to some turbot.
"Its being so customary," said I, "is one grand subject of my complaint.
"I don't see much in it," quoth he, " it always was and always will be so,"
"I answered, that I could not help seeing a great deal in it; and that if his assertion were true, there was but a gloomy prospect for the
This may not always be the case, Sir, supposing it admissible for you to judge of the state of myriads, by the plenty which your ample for.. tune affords you, And permit me to observe, that if your predecessors had been as indifferent. to the common interests of mankind as yourself, it might not have been in your power to have lived as at present; and were, every mau of in-. fluence to be governed by the same supine maxins, your posterity will never see turbot or turtle at the tables of any but priests, placemen, and pensioners; who will not, in luxury by grievous taxes on their estates, if not by an ini quitous confiscation of the whole.”.
His mouth was full, and he was silent. "The more the evil is customary, the more it is encreased and multiplied, Sir Knight. The repetition of a vice, ever so many times, can never change it into a virtue; though our familiarity with it may render us inattentive to its nature or consequences. It is a customary thing also for the total absence of a public spirit, and a general corruption of manners, to destroy a nation; and shall any, from this shallow consideration, sit easy in the prospect of its dissolution?"
A TALE OF FORMER TIMES.
"I cannot make that out," said the Baronet. I was going to assist him; and was collecting in my own mind the links of the chain between the universal depravity and final ruin of a state. But he saved ine the trouble. For having finished his turbot, he poured out a bumper of claret; and after he had testified his religion, loyalty, and public spirit, by drinking Church, King, and Constitution, he threw himself back in his great arm-chair, and fell fast asleep.
Ar a little distance from the small city of || Zevikau, is a plain which still bears the name of The Field of the Swans, a name which, an ancient tradition informs us, it derived from a large lake || which it formerly contained, and which was called The Lake of the Swans. The waters of this lake had the marvellous property of restoring youth and beauty to the females who bathed in it; but unhappily it exists no longer, or bloom of Arcassia, or lily paste, might be advertised in vain. To such, however, as are disposed to waste useless regrets on this subject, it may be some consolation to learn, that the wonder-working virtue of this precious lake could be proved by none who were not descended from the fairy tribe. All others bathed in it without effect: they lost not a year in appearance, they left not a wrinkle behind them.
finding, when chance threw the treasure in his way.
While he was one evening performing his devotions, a youth, in the uniform of a soldier, presented himself at the entrance of the grotto, and, with a touching humility, craved permission to pass the night in his solitary dwelling. His pale cheek and hollow eye announced extreme fatigue; while a countenance manly and prepossessing, quickened in Bruno's bosom the imulses of humanity. He placed before the youth such refreshment as his grotto afforded, and prepared a bed for him by the side of his own.
The following morning put him in possession of Freidbert's little history, which contained no very striking particulars, but was related with a simplicity that evinced a guileless mind. The foster brother of the beautiful heiress of a wealthy nobleman, Freidbert had lived on terms of fainiliarity with her, which had inspired in both an ill-fated passion. It was discovered, and Freid
Prior to the disappearance of the Lake of the Swans, there lived, in a grotto near it, a pious hermit, named Bruno. His reputation for sanctity was very great in the neighbourhood; || bert had been compelled to enter the army. The but, though curiosity had been very active in en- insolence of an officer in his regiment had prodeavouring to discover from whom he was de-voked him to resent it by a blow; and to escape scended, or whence he came, all that related to the severe punishment annexed to his offence, him, prior to his appearance in this country, re- he fled; since when he had wandered about, mained an impenetrable secret. His hospitality concealing himself in woods during the day, and and cheerfulness, however, made him generally pursuing his unsettled route during the night; beloved; and the simple inhabitants of the sur- but having tasted nothing for the last twentyrounding mountains resorted to him for advice eight hours, he felt so exhausted that he resolved or instruction in all their little concerns. to entreat the compassionate aid of the individuals of the first solitary habitation that pre. sented itself.
Age had enfeebled the limbs of the venerable Bruno, and bleached his once jetty locks, at the period when he is introduced to the reader. He The good hermit invited his young guest to was no longer able to cultivate the little garden spend a few days with him in his retirement, an which, with his own hands, he had formed be- invitation which was thankfully accepted. This fore his grotto; and he earnestly desired a com- period, short as it was, enabled Bruno to discover panion who would supply his place there, and in the youth a mind so witless yet so intelligent, cheer his lonely hours by rational conversa- a sensibility so lively, and a disposition so gratetion. Such an one he had vainly soughtful and obliging, that he conceived the design f among the individuals that he occasionally beheld, and had nearly renounced the hope of No. XVII. Vol, II.
retaining him to enliven the remainder of his days. Freidbert readily embraced the proposal I i
made him; and changing his uniform for the habit of a holy man, applied himself assiduously to render his benefactor all the good offices in his power.
Spring rapidly passed away, and the summer solstice arrived. As this period approached, Freidbert perceived his patron to be unusually agitated. He often walked for hours on the brink of the Lake of the Swans, and commonly returned more pensive than when he set out.Suddenly, however, he discontinued these promenades, and daily dispatched Freidbert thither, charging him to look carefully whether there were any swans near it, and to observe their flight and their number. He listened to Friedbert's report with the deepest attention; but find. ing that he continued to return without bringing any account of their appearance, he grew more agitated and dejected; lost his appetite, ceased to sleep, and exhibited every appearance of a man hastening rapidly to the grave.
One evening, as Freidbert was perambulating on the borders of the lake, he suddenly perceived a flight of beautiful swans. They approached the lake, and hovered for some minutes, as in playfulness, round it. Freidbert, who, while he wondered how the appearance of those birds could be connected with the repose of his patron, was rejoiced to have their arrival to announce, flew to the hermitage with the welcome intelligence. Bruno received it with transport; he ordered Freidbert to go to a neighbouring town to purchase some articles for a luxurious supper; and displayed, on his return, some bottles of the richest wine During their repast, he frequently expressed his joy at the arrival of the swans, and not only drank copiously of the luscious beverage himself, but made Freidbert do so also. The liquor soon began to manifest its effects by exhilarating the spirits of the serious Freidbert, while those of Bruno rose to a pitch which astonished his young companion. All memory of his age, of his infirmities, of the gravity suited to his situation, seemed lost; and, with the gaiety of youth, and a warm temperature, he expatiated on the pleasures of love, spoke like a voluptuary of the effects of beauty, and even sung songs in lustration of its powers over the heart.
Freidbert, who, though animated and exhilarated by the wine, was nevertheless perfectly himself, testified by his expressive looks the surprise and curiosity which this extraordinary change in his benefactor excited. Bruno perceived the sentiments which respect restrained him from uttering, and thus addressed the youth: "Young man, thy faithful services for eight months have given thee a claim to my confidence which I ought not to delay to satisfy. Know, then, that it is love, not devotion, which
from a far distant country impelled my step hither, and fixed me in this dreary solitude. Listen attentively to what I am going to say, and thou wilt at the same time learn the history of the lake, of this lake whose tranquil bosom at this moment reflects the tremulous beams of the bright luminary of night.
"In my youth I acquired an extensive reputation for courage and gallantry. My country was Switzerland, my family that of the Counts of Kybourg. I was devoted to pleasure and to love, to gratify which passion I violated every sacred duty. In an amour, which infatuated my reason, I discovered that I had a rival, a dangerous and seducing one. Maddened by the conviction, I resolved on his destruction, which I speedily effected. In consequence I was obliged to fly to Rome, to obtain absolution from the Pope. He granted it, but only on the condition that I joined the crusaders who were on the eve of departing for Palestine; and that, if I fell in the enterprise, my fortune should devolve to our mother, the church. It was absolutely necessary that I should purchase absolution on any terms;. I therefore complied with the best grace possible, and embarked on board a Venetian galley. We had reached the Ionian sea when a terrible tempest overtook us. The waves swelled to the clouds; our little bark became their sport, and was threatened every instant with destruction; was driven by the winds near the isle of Naxos, and running foul of some rocks split into a thousand pieces. Little accustomed to swimming, I escaped death I. know not how; my tutelary angel supported me above the water till I reached the coast, where a number of the inhabitants, who had witnessed the wreck of our vessel, were collected to render what assistance was in their power to such of the crew as might come within their reach. They treated me with kindness, and as soon as my quality was known at the court of Naxos, I received an invitation from Prince Zeus to make my appearance there.
"I went, and for the first time saw the beautiful, the graceful Zoe, his wife. Her form was of Grecian mould, and so exquisitely proportioned was every part, that Zeuxis need have copied nothing from any other could he have beheld her when composing his celebrated picture; she realized all that has been said by the poets of the fabled beauty of the goddess of love. The first glance lighted in my breast a flame which annihilated every idea not connected with her. No other beauty that I had ever seen seemed worthy to inspire admiration; I forgot the object of my voyage, I could think of nothing but how to communicate my passion to my fair enslaver, and dispose her to reg rd it favourably. I distinguished myself at the tournaments by
carrying away every prize, and acquired a renown which cost me little labour; for the Greeks, become effeminate, no longer retain aught of that activity, vigour, and address, which characterized their famed ancestors. I sought by a million of those attentions which commonly succeed with women, to recommend myself to the seducing Zoe. I made a friend of one of her attendants, who took care to inform me before hand how she was to be dressed at each fete of the court, and her colours were always those of my scarf, and of the ribbons which ornamented my helmet. She adored music and dancing. When she repaired in an evening to take the air on a noble terrace that overlooked the sea, I frequently surprised her with a serenade, or a ballet executed by dancers whom I had hired from the Morea. I employed the first artizans of Constantinople to supply her with every thing that could flatter her vanity, or gratify her taste; they were sent to her without the least hint of its being by my order, but I took care that she should not be ignorant that I was the author of these gallantries. If thou hast any experience in love, Friedbert, thou wilt know that all these assiduities, which the insensible regard as of no importance, are hieroglyphics which convey a great deal where they are understood, they have a sense, and a signification, as determinate as the letters and the words in our ordinary language. The language of love is a sort of symbolical language, and two persons who understand it, may converse in the presence of the ignorant without betraying ought of their sentiments.
"The muteless testimonies of my regard, which found their way into the very chamber of the princess, spoke so strongly in my favour, that I presently remarked with transport the eyes of this charming woman singling me out in the crowd of courtiers that surrounded to offer her their homage. In meeting mine they teemed with an expression of tender gratitude for my attentions, which penetrated to the inmost recesses of my soul. I became more bold; and through the medium of my secret friend I ventured to solicit a private interview; it was at length granted, but did not take place. Another and another time was appointed, yet some little circumstance or other never failed to frustrate my high raised hopes. Sometimes it was the princess who could not find an opportunity to steal to the place named for our meeting; sometimes I found that pointed out by herself inaccessible; in short, the demon of jealousy watched the beautiful Zoe with such unremitting vigilance, that I found it impossible to procure a sight of her but in the presence of the whole court, My desires, far from being blunted by these reiterated disappointments, became more
vehement; like a lion which the want of nourishment has rendered furious, my passion rose beyond controul, it was a kind of internal rage, a sort of devouring fie which seemed to consume my very vitals; my cheeks lost their colour, my limbs their activity, and my knees trembled like the flowers which are agitated by the wind. In this frightful state how much did I want a faithful friend, in whose bosom I might deposit my griefs, and whose suggestions might pour the balm of hope into the cruel wounds of my heart.
"I was in this desperate condition when I one day received a visit from Theophrastus, the physician of the prince, who had ordered him to attend me. I held out my hand for him to feel my pulse, but said at the same time, that I believed his skill could not save me from the grave to which I was not unwillingly hastening. He smiled, and thus replied:- Imagine not, noble Cavalier, that I came to ascertain the state of your body, and prescribe for its relief, as would an ordinary practitioner; your health is borne away on the wings of love, it can return to you by no other conveyance.'
"I was excessively surprised to find my secret known to Theophrastus. I knew him to be very skilful, but I was ignorant that he could so well read hearts. I concealed from him nothing of that which it seemed he already knew; and I added in a melancholy tone,-How can that which has deprived me of health give it me back again? Can Zoe ever be mine, and can I live without her? Nothing remains for me but to die, and it would be a cruel effort of your art to endeavour to prevent it.
"You must, you shall live,' returned Theophrastus, and since love without hope is more terrible than death, abandon not this first of blessings. There is nothing new under the sun; that which has happened may happen again. The old Tithonus little dreamt that he should ever be the husband of the beautiful Aurora. When the shepherd of mount Ida played on his pipe to his sheep, did he think he should one day carry off the beautiful Helen? What had Anchises to boast of more than you, and yet the goddess of beauty preferred him to the valiant god of combats?'
"It was thus, by employing science and philosophy, that the compassionate physician sought to banish despair from my heart, the despair which, like a subtle poison, was rapidly undermining my existence. I listened with avidity to the consolation which he poured on my ear, and their effect was more powerful than could have been the most successful remedy of his art. I presently regained my health, and recommenced with ardour my amorous pursuit.