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I confess, if it were certain that so great an advantage would redound to the nation by this expedient, I would submit and be silent; but will any man say that, if the words whoring, drinking, cheating, lying, stealing were, by act of parliament, ejected out of the English tongue and dictionaries, we should all awake next morning chaste and temperate, honest and just, and lovers of truth? Is this a fair consequence? Or, if the physicians would forbid us to pronounce the words pox, gout, rheumatism, and stone, would that expedient serve, like so many talismans, to destroy the diseases themselves? Are party and faction rooted in men's hearts no deeper than phrases borrowed from religion, or founded upon no firmer principles? and is our language so poor that we cannot find other terms to express them? Are envy, pride, avarice, and ambition such ill nomenclators, that they cannot furnish appellations for their owners? Will not heydukes, and mama. lukes, mandarins, and patshaws, or any other words formed at pleasure, serve to distinguish those who are in the ministry, from others, who would be in it if they could? What, for instance, is easier than to vary the form of speech, and instead of the word church make it a question in politics whether the monument be in danger? Because religion was nearest at hand to furnish a few convenient phrases, is our invention so barren, we can find no other? Suppose, for argument sake, that the Tories favoured Margarita, the Whigs Mrs. Tofts, and the trimmers Valentini; would not Margaritians, Toftians, and Valentinians be very tolerable marks of distinction? The Prasini and Veniti, two most virulent factions in Italy, began (if I remember right) by a distinction of colours in ribbons; and we might contend with as good a grace about the dignity of the blue and the green, which would serve as properly to divide the court, the parliament, and the kingdom between them as any terms of art whatsoever borrowed from religion. And therefore I think there is little force in this objection against Christianity, or prospect of so great an advantage, as is proposed in the abolishing of it.
It is again objected, as a very absurd, ridiculous custom, that a set of men should be suffered, much less employed and hired, to bawl one day in seven against the lawfulness of those methods most in use, toward the pursuit of greatness, riches, and pleasure, which are the constant practice of all men alive on the other six. But this objection is, I think, a little unworthy of so refined an age as ours. Let us argue this matter calmly: I appeal to the breast of any polite freethinker, whether, in the pursuit of gratifying a predominant passion, he has not always felt a wonderful incitement, by reflecting it was a thing forbidden; and therefore we see, in order to cultivate this taste, the wisdom of the nation has taken special care that the ladies should be furnished with prohibited silks, and the men with prohibited wine. And indeed it were to be wished that some other prohibitions were promoted, in order to improve the pleasures of the town; which for want of such expedients begin already, as I am told, to flag and grow languid, giving way daily to cruel inroads from the spleen.
It is likewise proposed as a great advantage to the public, that if we once discard the system of the gospel, all religion will of course be banished for ever; and consequently along with it those grievous prejudices of education, which under the names of virtue, conscience, honour, justice, and the like, are so apt to disturb the peace of human minds, and the notions whereof are so hard to be eradicated, by right reason or freethinking, sometimes during the whole course of our lives.
Here first I observe, how difficult it is to get rid of a phrase which the world is once grown fond of, though
the occasion that first produced it be entirely taken away. For several years past, if a man had but an illfavoured nose, the deep-thinkers of the age would some way or other contrive to impute the cause to the prejudice of his education. From this fountain were said to be derived all our foolish notions of justice, piety, love of our country; all our opinions of God or a future state, heaven, hell, and the like; and there might formerly perhaps have been some pretence for this charge. But so effectual care has been taken to remove those prejudices by an entire change in the methods of education, that (with honour I mention it to our polite innovators) the young gentlemen who are now on the scene seem to have not the least tincture of those infusions, or string of those weeds; and by consequence, the reason for abolishing nominal Christianity upon that pretext is wholly ceased.
For the rest, it may perhaps admit a controversy, whether the banishing of all notions of religion whatsoever would be convenient for the vulgar. Not that I am in the least of opinion with those who hold religion to have been the invention of politicians to keep the lower part of the world in awe, by the fear of invisible powers; unless mankind were then very different to what it is now: for I look upon the mass or body of our people here in England to be as freethinkers, that is to say, as stanch unbelievers, as any of the highest rank. But I conceive some scattered notions about a superior power to be of singular use for the common people, as furnishing excellent materials to keep children quiet when they grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a tedious winter-night.
Lastly, it is proposed as a singular advantage, that the abolishing of Christianity will very much contribute to the uniting of Protestants, by enlarging the terms of communion, so as to take in all sorts of dissenters, who are now shut out of the pale upon account of a few ceremonies, which all sides confess to be things indifferent; that this alone will effectually answer the great ends of a scheme for comprehension, by opening a large noble gate, at which all bodies may enter; whereas the chaffering with dissenters, and dodging about this or the other ceremony, is but like opening a few wickets, and leaving them at jar, by which no more than one can get in at a time, and that not without stooping, and sideling, and squeezing his body.
To all this I answer, that there is one darling inclination of mankind which usually affects to be a retainer to religion, though she be neither its parent, its godmother, or its friend; I mean the spirit of opposition, that lived long before Christianity, and can easily subsist without it. Let us, for instance, examine wherein the opposition of sectaries among us consists; we shall find Christianity to have no share in it at all. Does the gospel anywhere prescribe a starched, squeezed countenance, a stiff formal gait, a singularity of manners and habit, or any affected modes of speech, different from the reasonable part of mankind? Yet, if Christianity did not lend its name to stand in the gap, and to employ or divert these humours, they must of necessity be spent in contraventions to the laws of the land, and disturbance of the public peace. There is a portion of enthusiasm assigned to every nation, which, if it has not proper objects to work on, will burst out and set all in a flame. If the quiet of a state can be bought by only flinging men a few ceremonies to devour, it is a purchase no wise man would refuse. Let the mastiffs amuse themselves about a sheep's skin stuffed with hay, provided it will keep them from worrying the flock. The institution of convents abroad seems in one point a strain of great wisdom; there being few irregularities in human passions that may not have recourse to vent themselves in some of those
orders, which are so many retreats for the speculative, the melancholy, the proud, the silent, the politic, and the morose, to spend themselves, and evaporate the noxious particles; for each of whom we in this island are forced to provide a several sect of religion, to keep them quiet; and whenever Christianity shall be abolished, the legislature must find some other expedient to employ and entertain them. For what imports it how large a gate you open, if there will be always left a number, who place a pride and a merit in refusing to enter ?
Having thus considered the most important objections against Christianity, and the chief advantages proposed by the abolishing thereof, I shall now, with equal deference and submission to wiser judgments, as before, proceed to mention a few inconveniences that may happen, if the gospel should be repealed, which perhaps the projectors may not have sufficiently considered.
And first, I am very sensible how much the gentlemen of wit and pleasure are apt to murmur, and be choked at the sight of so many daggled-tail parsons, who happen to fall in their way and offend their eyes; but, at the same time, these wise reformers do not consider what an advantage and felicity it is for great wits to be always provided with objects of scorn and contempt, in order to exercise and improve their talents, and divert their spleen from falling on each other or on themselves; especially when all this may be done without the least imaginable danger to their persons.
And to urge another argument of a parallel nature: if Christianity were once abolished, how could the freethinkers, the strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning, be able to find another subject, so calculated in all points, whereon to display their abilities? what wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived of from those whose genius, by continual practice, has been wholly turned upon raillery and invectives against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine or distinguish themselves upon any other subject? we are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would we take away the greatest, perhaps the only, topic we have left? Who would ever have suspected Asgil for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to provide them with materials? what other subject, through all art or nature, could have produced Tindal for a profound author, or furnished him with readers? it is the wise choice of the subject that alone adorns and distinguishes the writer. For had a hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they would have immediately sunk into silence and oblivion.
Nor do I think it wholly groundless, or my fears altogether imaginary, that the abolishing Christianity may perhaps bring the church into danger, or at least put the senate to the trouble of another securing vote. I desire I may not be mistaken; I am far from presuming to affirm or think that the church is in danger at present, or as things now stand; but we know not how soon it may be so, when the Christian religion is repealed. As plausible as this project seems, there may be a dangerous design lurking under it. Nothing can be more notorious than that the atheists, deists, Socinians, anti-trinitarians, and other subdivisions of freethinkers, are persons of little zeal for the present ecclesiastical establishment; their declared opinion is for repealing the sacramental test; they are very indifferent with regard to ceremonies, nor do they hold the jus divinum of episcopacy; therefore this may be intended as one politic step toward altering the constitution of the church established, and setting up presbytery in the stead, which I leave to be further considered by those at the helm.
In the last place, I think nothing can be more plain than that, by this expedient, we shall run into the evil we chiefly pretend to avoid, and that the abolishment of the Christian religion will be the readiest course we can take to introduce popery. And I am the more inclined to this opinion, because we know it has been the constant practice of the jesuits to send over emissaries with instructions to personate themselves members of the several prevailing sects among us. So it is recorded that they have at sundry times appeared in the disguise of presbyterians, anabaptists, independents, and quakers, according as any of these were most in credit; so, since the fashion has been taken up of exploding religion, the popish missionaries have not been wanting to mix with the freethinkers; among whom Toland, the great oracle of the antichristians, is an Irish priest, the son of an Irish priest, and the most learned and ingenious author of a book called "The Rights of the Christian Church," was in a proper juncture reconciled to the Romish faith, whose true son, as appears by a hundred passages in his treatise, he still continues. Perhaps I could add some others to the number, but the fact is beyond dispute, and the reasoning they proceed by is right; for, supposing Christianity to be extinguished, the people will never be at ease till they find out some other method of worship; which will as infallibly produce superstition, as superstition will end in popery.
And therefore if, notwithstanding all I have said, it still be thought necessary to have a bill brought in for repealing Christianity, I would humbly offer an amendment, that instead of the word Christianity, may be put religion in general, which, I conceive, will much better answer all the good ends proposed by the projectors of it. For, as long as we leave in being a God and his providence, with all the necessary consequences which curious and inquisitive men will be apt to draw from such premises, we do not strike at the root of the evil, though we should ever so effectually annihilate the present scheme of the gospel: for of what use is freedom of thought, if it will not produce freedom of action? which is the sole end, how remote soever in appearance, of all objections against Christianity; and therefore the freethinkers consider it as a sort of edifice, wherein all the parts have such a mutual dependence on each other, that if you happen to pull out one single nail, the whole fabric must fall to the ground. This was happily expressed by him, who had heard of a text brought for proof of the Trinity, which in an ancient manuscript was differently read; he thereupon immediately took the hint, and by a sudden deduction of a long sorites most logically concluded; "Why, if it be as you say, I may safely whore and drink on, and defy the parson." From which, and many the like instances easy to be produced, I think nothing can be more manifest than that the quarrel is not against any particular points of hard digestion in the Christian system, but against religion in general; which, by laying restraints on human nature, is supposed the great enemy to the freedom of thought and action.
Upon the whole, if it shall still be thought for the benefit of church and state that Christianity be abolished, I conceive, however, it may be more convenient to defer the execution to a time of peace, and not venture, in this conjuncture, to disoblige our allies, who, as it falls out, are all Christians, and many of them, by the prejudices of their education, so bigoted as to place a sort of pride in the appellation. If upon being rejected by them, we are to trust to an alliance with the Turk, we shall find ourselves much deceived: for, as he is too remote, and generally engaged in war with the Persian emperor, so his people would be more scandalized at our infidelity than our Christian neighbours. For the Turks are not only strict observers of
religious worship, but, what is worse, believe a God; | which is more than is required of us, even while we preserve the name of Christians.
To conclude: whatever some may think of the great advantages to trade by this favourite scheme, I do very much apprehend that, in six months time after the act is passed for the extirpation of the gospel, the Bank and East-India stock may fall at least one per cent. And since that is fifty times more than ever the wisdom of our age thought fit to venture for the preservation of Christianity, there is no reason we should be at so great a loss, merely for the sake of destroying it.
of your character: for instance, that the easiest and politest conversation, joined with the truest piety, may be observed in your ladyship, in as great perfection as they were ever seen apart in any other persons. That by your prudence and management under several disadvantages, you have preserved the lustre of that most noble family into which you are grafted, and which the unmeasurable profusion of ancestors, for many generations, had too much eclipsed. Then, how happily you perform every office of life to which Providence has called you in the education of those two incomparable daughters, whose conduct is so universally admired; in every duty of a prudent, complying, affectionate wife; in that care which descends to the meanest of your domestics; and lastly, in that endless bounty to the poor, and discretion where to distribute it. I insist on my opinion, that it is of importance for the public to know this and a great deal more of your ladyship; yet whoever goes about to inform them shall, instead of finding credit, perhaps be censured for a flatterer. To avoid so usual a reproach, I declare this to be no dedication, but merely an introduction to a proposal for the advancement of religion and morals, by tracing, however imperfectly, some few lineaments in the character of a lady, who has spent all her life in the practice and promotion of both.
STEELE spoke of this treatise in the fifth number of the Tatler. "The title was so uncommon, and promised so pculiar a way of thinking, that every man here has read it, and as many as have done so have approved it. It is written with the spirit of one who has seen the world enough to undervalue it with good-breeding. The author must certainly be a man of wisdom as well as piety, and have spent much time in the exercise of both. The real causes of the decay of the interest of religion are set forth in a clear and lively manner, without unseasonable passions; and the whole air of the book, as to the language, the sentiments, and the reasonings, shows it was written by one whose virtue sits easy about him, and to whom vice is thoroughly contemptible. It was said by one in company, alluding to that knowledge of the world this author seems to have, The man writes much like a gentleman, and goes to heaven with a very good mien.””
TO THE COUNTESS OF BERKELEY.b
MADAM,-My intention of prefixing your ladyship's name is not, after the common form, to desire your protection of the following papers, which I take to be a very unreasonable request; since, by being inscribed to your ladyship, though without your knowledge, and from a concealed hand, you cannot recommend them without some suspicion of partiality. My real design is, I confess, the very same I have often detested in most dedications; that of publishing your praises to the world; not upon the subject of your noble birth, for I know others as noble; or of the greatness of your fortune, for I know others far greater; or of that beautiful race (the images of their parents) which call you mother; for even this may perhaps have been equalled in some other age or country. Besides, none of these advantages do derive any accomplishments to the owners, but serve at best only to adorn what they really possess. What I intend is, your piety, truth, good sense, and good nature, affability, and charity; wherein I wish your ladyship had many equals, or any superiors; and I wish I could say I knew them too, for then your ladyship might have bad a chance to escape this address. In the mean time, I think it highly necessary, for the interest of virtue and religion, that the whole kingdom should be informed in some parts a Oh! that some patriot wise and good, Would stop this impious thirst of blood,
And joy on statues to behold
His name, the father of the state, enroll'd.
b Elizabeth, daughter of Baptist Noel. viscount Campden, and sister to Fdward earl of Gainsborough. To the kindness of this lady it is not unlikely that Swift was indebted for his benefices.-JOHNSON.
A PROJECT, &c.
AMONG all the schemes offered to the public in this projecting age, I have observed with some displeasure that there have never been any for the improvement of religion and morals; which, beside the piety of the design from the consequence of such a reformation in a future life, would be the best natural means for advancing the public felicity of the state as well as the present happiness of every individual. For, as much as faith and morality are declined among us, I am altogether confident they might in a short time, and with no very great trouble, be raised to as high a perfection as numbers are capable of receiving. Indeed, the method is so easy and obvious and some present opporreduced to practice, there seems to want nothing more tunities so good, that in order to have this project than to put those in mind who, by their honour, duty, and interest, are chiefly concerned.
But because it is idle to propose remedies before we are assured of the disease, or to be in fear till we are convinced of the danger, I shall first show in general that the nation is extremely corrupted in religion and morals; and then I will offer a short scheme for the reformation of both.
As to the first, I know it is reckoned but a form of
speech, when divines complain of the wickedness of the age however, I believe, upon a fair comparison with other times and countries, it would be found an undoubted truth.
For, first to deliver nothing but plain matter of fact without exaggeration or satire, I suppose it will be granted that hardly one in a hundred among our people of quality or gentry appears to act by any principle of religion; that great numbers of them do entirely discard it, and are ready to own their disbelief of all revelation in ordinary discourse. Nor is the case much where the profaneness and ignorance of handicraftsmen, better among the vulgar, especially in great towns,
small traders, servants, and the like are to a degree very hard to be imagined greater. Then it is observed abroad, that no race of mortals have so little sense of religion as the English soldiers; to confirm which, I have been often told by great officers of the army that, in the whole compass of their acquaintance, they could not recollect three of their profession who seemed to regard or believe one syllable of the gospel: and the same at least may be affirmed of the fleet. The conse
quences of all which upon the actions of men are equally manifest. They never go about as in former times to hide or palliate their vices, but expose them freely to view like any other common occurrences of life, without the least reproach from the world or themselves. For instance, any man will tell you he intends to be drunk this evening, or was so last night, with as little ceremony or scruple as he would tell you the time of the day. He will let you know he is going to a wench, or that he has got the venereal disease, with as much indifferency as he would a piece of public news. He will swear, curse, or blaspheme without the least passion or provocation. And though all regard for reputation is not quite laid aside in the other sex, it is however at so low an ebb, that very few among them seem to think virtue and conduct of absolute necessity for preserving it. If this be not so, how comes it to pass that women of tainted reputations find the same countenance and reception in all public places with those of the nicest virtue, who pay and receive visits from them without any manuer of scruple? which proceeding, as it is not very old among us, so I take it to be of most pernicious consequence: it looks like a sort of compounding between virtue and vice, as if a woman were allowed to be vicious, provided she be not a profligate; as if there were a certain point where gallantry ends and infamy begins; or that a hundred criminal amours were not as pardonable as half a score.
Besides those corruptions already mentioned, it would be endless to enumerate such as arise from the excess of play or gaming: the cheats, the quarrels, the oaths, and blasphemies among the men; among the women the neglect of household affairs, the unlimited freedoms, the indecent passion, and, lastly, the known inlet to all lewdness, when, after an ill run, the person must answer the defects of the purse; the rule on such occasions holding true in play as it does in law, quod non habet in crumena luat in corpore.
But all these are trifles in comparison, if we step into other scenes and consider the fraud and cozenage of trading men and shopkeepers; that insatiable gulf of injustice and oppression the law; the open traffic for all civil and military employments (I wish it rested there) without the least regard to merit or qualifications; the corrupt management of men in office; the many detestable abuses in choosing those who represent the people; with the management of interest and factions among the representatives: to which I must be bold to add, the ignorance of some of the lower clergy, the mean servile temper of others; the pert, pragmatical demeanour of several young stagers in divinity upon their first producing themselves into the world; with many other circumstances needless, or rather invidious to mention; which falling in with the corruptions already related have, however unjustly, almost rendered the whole order contemptible.
This is a short view of the general depravities among us, without entering into particulars, which would be an endless labour. Now, as universal and deep-rooted as these appear to be, I am utterly deceived if an effectual remedy might not be applied to most of them: neither am I at present upon a wild speculative project, but such a one as may be easily put in execution.
For while the prerogative of giving all employments continues in the crown, either immediately or by subordination, it is in the power of the prince to make piety and virtue become the fashion of the age, if at the same time he would make them necessary qualifications for favour and preferment.
It is clear from present experience, that the bare example of the best prince will not have any mighty influence where the age is very corrupt. For when was there ever a better prince on the throne than the present
queen? I do not talk of her talent for government, her love of the people, or any other qualities that are purely regal; but her piety, charity, temperance, conjugal love, and whatever other virtues do best adorn a private life; wherein, without question or flattery, she has no superior: yet neither will it be satire or peevish invective to affirm, that infidelity and vice are not much diminished since her coming to the crown, nor will in all probability, till more effectual remedies be provided. Thus human nature seems to lie under the disadvantage that the example alone of a vicious prince will in time corrupt an age; but the example of a good one will not be sufficient to reform it without further endeavours. Princes must therefore supply this defect by a vigorous exercise of that authority which the law has left them, by making it every man's interest and honour to cultivate religion and virtue; by rendering vice a disgrace and the certain ruin to preferment or pretensions: all which they should first attempt in their own courts and families. For instance, might not the queen's domestics of the middle and lower sort be obliged, upon penalty of suspension or loss of their employments, to a constant weekly attendance at least on the service of the church; to a decent behaviour in it; to receive the sacrament four times in the year; to avoid swearing and irreligious profane discourses; and to the appearance, at least, of temperance and chastity? Might not the care of all this be committed to the strict inspection of proper officers? Might not those of higher rank and nearer access to her majesty's person receive her own commands to the same purpose, and be countenanced or disfavoured according as they obey? Might not the queen lay her injunctions on the bishops and other great men of undoubted piety to make diligent inquiry and give her notice if any person about her should happen to be of libertine principles or morals? Might not all those who enter upon any office in her majesty's family be obliged to take an oath parallel with that against simony, which is administered to the clergy? It is not to be doubted, but that if these or the like proceedings were duly observed, morality and religion would soon become fashionable court virtues, and be taken up as the only methods to get or keep employments there; which alone would have mighty influence upon many of the nobility and principal gentry.
But if the like methods were pursued as far as possible with regard to those who are in the great employments of state, it is hard to conceive how general a reformation they might in time produce among us. For if piety and virtue were once reckoned qualifications necessary to preferment, every man thus endowed, when put into great stations, would readily imitate the queen's example in the distribution of all offices in his disposal, especially if any apparent transgression, through favour or partiality, would be imputed to him for a misdemeanour, by which he must certainly forfeit his favour and station; and there being such great numbers in employment, scattered through every town and county in this kingdom, if all these were exemplary in the conduct of their lives, things would soon take a new face, and religion receive a mighty encouragement; nor would the public weal be less advanced, since, of nine offices in ten that are ill executed, the defect is not in capacity or understanding, but in common honesty. I know no employment for which piety disqualifies any man; and if it did, I doubt the objection would not be very seasonably offered at present; because it is perhaps too just a reflection, that in the disposal of places, the question whether a person be fit for what he is recommended to is generally the last that is thought on or regarded.
I have often imagined that something parallel to the office of censors anciently in Rome would be of mighty
use among us, and could be easily limited from running into any exorbitances. The Romans understood liberty at least as well as we, were as jealous of it, and upon every occasion as bold assertors. Yet I do not remember to have read any great complaint of the abuses in that office among them, but many admirable effects of it are left upon record. There are several pernicious vices, frequent and notorious among us, that escape or elude the punishment of any law we have yet invented, or have had no law at all against them; such as atheism, drunkenness, fraud, avarice, and several others, which by this institution, wisely regulated, might be much reformed. Suppose, for instance, that itinerary commissioners were appointed to inspect everywhere throughout the kingdom into the conduct at least of men in office, with respect to their morals and religion as well as their abilities; to receive the complaints and informations that should be offered against them, and make their report here upon oath to the court or the ministry, who should reward or punish accordingly. I avoid entering into the particulars of this or any other scheme, which, coming from a private hand, might be liable to many defects, but would soon be digested by the wisdom of the nation; and surely 60001. a-year would not be ill laid out among as many commissioners duly qualified, who, in three divisions, should be personally obliged to take their yearly circuits for that purpose.
But this is beside my present design, which was only to show what degree of reformation is in the power of the queen without the interposition of the legislature, and which her majesty is, without question, obliged in conscience to endeavour by her authority as much as she does by her practice.
It will be easily granted, that the example of this great town has a mighty influence over the whole kingdom; and it is as manifest, that the town is equally influenced by the court, and the ministry, and those who, by their employments or their hopes, depend upon them. Now, if under so excellent a princess as the present queen, we would suppose a family strictly regulated, as I have above proposed, a ministry where every single person was of distinguished piety; if we should suppose all great offices of state and law filled after the same manner, and with such as were equally diligent in choosing persons, who, in their several subordinations, would be obliged to follow the examples of their superiors, under the penalty of loss of favour and place, will not everybody grant that the empire of vice and irreligion would be soon destroyed in this great metropolis, and receive a terrible blow through the whole island, which has so great an intercourse with it, and so much affects to follow its fashions?
For if religion were once understood to be the necessary step to favour and preferment, can it be imagined that any man would openly offend against it who had the least regard for his reputation or his fortune? There is no quality so contrary to any nature which men cannot affect and put on upon occasion in order to serve an interest or gratify a prevailing passion. The proudest man will personate humility, the morosest learn to flatter. the laziest will be sedulous and active, where he is in pursuit of what he has much at heart: how ready, therefore, would most men be to step into the paths of virtue and piety if they infallibly led to favour and fortune!
If swearing and profaneness, scandalous and avowed lewdness, excessive gaming and intemperance were a little discountenanced in the army, I cannot readily see what ill consequences could be apprehended. If gentlemen of that profession were at least obliged to some external decorum in their conduct, or even if a profligate life and character were not a means of advancement, and the appearance of piety a most infal
lible hindrance, it is impossible the corruptions there
It is commonly charged upon the gentlemen of the
This might soon be remedied if the queen would think fit to declare, that no young person of quality whatsoever who was notoriously addicted to that or any other vice should be capable of her favour, or even admitted into her presence, with positive command to her ministers, and others in great office, to treat them in the same manner; after which all men who had any regard for their reputation, or any prospect of preferment, would avoid their commerce. This would quickly make that vice so scandalous, that those who could not subdue would at least endeavour to disguise it.
By the like methods a stop might be put to that ruinous practice of deep gaming; and the reason why it prevails so much is, because a treatment directly opposite in every point is made use of to promote it; by which means the laws enacted against this abuse are wholly eluded.
It cannot be denied that the want of strict discipline in the universities has been of pernicious consequence to the youth of this nation, who are there almost left entirely to their own management, especially those among them of better quality and fortune; who, because they are not under a necessity of making learning their maintenance, are easily allowed to pass their time, and take their degrees with little or no improvement; than which there cannot well be a greater absurdity for if no advancement of knowledge can be had from those places, the time there spent is at best utterly lost, because every ornamental part of education is better taught elsewhere and as for keeping youths out of harm's way, I doubt, where so many of them are got together, at full liberty of doing what they please, it will not answer the end. But whatever abuses, corruptions, or deviations from statutes have crept into the universities through neglect or length of time, they might in a great degree be reformed, by strict injunctions from court (upon each particular) to the visitors and heads of houses; beside the peculiar authority the queen may have in several colleges, whereof her predecessors were the founders. And among other regulations, it would be very convenient to prevent the excess of drinking; with that scurvy custom among the lads, and parent of the former vice, the taking of tobacco where it is not absolutely necessary in point of health.
From the universities the young nobility, and others of great fortunes, are sent for early up to town, for fear of contracting any airs of pedantry by a college education. Many of the younger gentry retire to the inns of court, where they are wholly left to their own discretion. And the consequence of this remissness in edution appears, by observing that nine in ten of those who rise in the church, or the court, the law, or the army, are younger brothers, or new men, whose narСе
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