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Selections from the Speeches and Writings of Edmund Burke. by Edmund Burke

Part 3 out of 9

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of life. But the objects of ambition are for the few; and every person
who aims at indirect profit, and therefore wants other protection, than
innocence and law, instead of its rival becomes its instrument. There is
a natural allegiance and fealty do you to this domineering, paramount
evil, from all the vassal vices, which acknowledge its superiority, and
readily militate under its banners; and it is under that discipline
alone that avarice is able to spread to any considerable extent, or to
render itself a general, public mischief.


When at length Hyder Ali found that he had to do with men who either
would sign no convention, or whom no treaty and no signature could bind,
and who were the determined enemies of human intercourse itself, he
decreed to make the country possessed by these incorrigible and
predestinated criminals a memorable example to mankind. He resolved, in
the gloomy recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to leave the
whole Carnatic an everlasting monument of vengeance, and to put
perpetual desolation as a barrier between him and those, against whom
the faith which holds the moral elements of the world together, was no
protection. He became at length so confident of his force, so collected
in his might, that he made no secret whatsoever of his dreadful
resolution. Having terminated his disputes with every enemy, and every
rival, who buried their mutual animosities in their common detestation
against the creditors of the nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter
whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the arts of
destruction; and compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and
desolation, into one black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivities
of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and
stupidly gazing on this menacing meteor, which blackened all their
horizon, it suddenly burst, and poured down the whole of its contents
upon the plains of the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of
which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can
adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of, were
mercy to that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field,
consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants
flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered; others,
without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of
function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in
a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers, and
the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity, in an
unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade the tempest fled
to the walled cities. But escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they
fell into the jaws of famine.

The alms of the settlement in this dreadful exigency, were certainly
liberal; and all was done by charity that private charity could do; but
it was a people in beggary; it was a nation which stretched out its
hands for food. For months together these creatures of sufferance, whose
very excess and luxury in their most plenteous days had fallen short of
the allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, without
sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished by an
hundred a day in the streets of Madras; every day seventy at least laid
their bodies in the streets, or on the glacis of Tanjore, and expired of
famine in the granary of India. I was going to awake your justice
towards this unhappy part of our fellow-citizens, by bringing before you
some of the circumstances of this plague of hunger. Of all the
calamities which beset and waylay the life of man, this comes the
nearest to our heart, and is that wherein the proudest of us all feels
himself to be nothing more than he is: but I find myself unable to
manage it with decorum: these details are of a species of horror so
nauseous and disgusting; they are so degrading to the sufferers and to
the hearers; they are so humiliating to human nature itself, that, on
better thoughts, I think it more advisable to throw a pall over this
hideous object, and to leave it to your general conceptions.


That the house must perceive, from his coming forward to mark an
expression or two of his best friend, how anxious he was to keep the
distemper of France from the least countenance in England, where he was
sure some wicked persons had shown a strong disposition to recommend an
imitation of the French spirit of reform. He was so strongly opposed to
any the least tendency towards the MEANS of introducing a democracy like
theirs, as well as to the END itself, that much as it would afflict him,
if such a thing could be attempted, and that any friend of his could
concur in such measures (he was far, very far, from believing they
could), he would abandon his best friends, and join with his worst
enemies to oppose either the means or the end; and to resist all violent
exertions of the spirit of innovation, so distant from all principles of
true and safe reformation; a spirit well calculated to overturn states,
but perfectly unfit to amend them.

That he was no enemy to reformation. Almost every business in which he
was much concerned, from the first day he sat in that house to that
hour, was a business of reformation; and when he had not been employed
in correcting, he had been employed in resisting, abuses. Some traces of
this spirit in him now stand on their statute-book. In his opinion,
anything which unnecessarily tore to pieces the contexture of the state,
not only prevented all real reformation, but introduced evils which
would call, but perhaps call in vain, for new reformation.

That he thought the French nation very unwise. What they valued
themselves on, was a disgrace to them. They had gloried (and some people
in England had thought fit to take share in that glory) in making a
revolution; as if revolutions were good things in themselves. All the
horrors, and all the crimes of the anarchy which led to their
revolution, which attend its progress, and which may virtually attend it
in its establishment, pass for nothing with the lovers of revolutions.
The French have made their way, through the destruction of their
country, to a bad constitution, when they were absolutely in possession
of a good one. They were in possession of it the day the states met in
separate orders. Their business, had they been either virtuous or wise,
or had they been left to their own judgment, was to secure the stability
and independence of the states, according to those orders, under the
monarch on the throne. It was then their duty to redress grievances.

Instead of redressing grievances, and improving the fabric of their
state, to which they were called by their monarch, and sent by their
country, they were made to take a very different course. They first
destroyed all the balances and counterpoises which serve to fix the
state, and to give it a steady direction, and which furnish sure
correctives to any violent spirit which may prevail in any of the
orders. These balances existed in their oldest constitution; and in the
constitution of this country; and in the constitution of all the
countries in Europe. These they rashly destroyed, and then they melted
down the whole into one incongruous, ill-connected mass.

When they had done this, they instantly, and with the most atrocious
perfidy and breach of all faith among men, laid the axe to the root of
all property, and consequently of all national prosperity, by the
principles they established, and the example they set, in confiscating
all the possessions of the church. They made and recorded a sort of
INSTITUTE and DIGEST of anarchy, called the rights of man, in such a
pedantic abuse of elementary principles as would have disgraced boys at
school; but this declaration of rights was worse than trifling and
pedantic in them, as by their name and authority they systematically
destroyed every hold of authority by opinion, religious or civil, on the
minds of the people. By this mad declaration they subverted the state,
and brought on such calamities as no country, without a long war, has
ever been known to suffer; and which may in the end produce such a war,
and perhaps many such.

With them the question was not between despotism and liberty. The
sacrifice they made of the peace and power of their country was not made
on the altar of freedom. Freedom, and a better security for freedom than
that they have taken, they might have had without any sacrifice at all.
They brought themselves into all the calamities they suffer, not that
through them they might obtain a British constitution; they plunged
themselves headlong into those calamities to prevent themselves from
settling into that constitution, or into anything resembling it.


Confidence might become a vice, and jealousy a virtue, according to
circumstances. That confidence, of all public virtues, was the most
dangerous, and jealousy in a house of commons, of all public vices, the
most tolerable; especially where the number and the charge of standing
armies in time of peace was the question.


Strange as this scheme of conduct in ministry is, and inconsistent with
all just policy, it is still true to itself, and faithful to its own
perverted order. Those who are bountiful to crimes, will be rigid to
merit, and penurious to service. Their penury is even held out as a
blind and cover to their prodigality. The economy of injustice is, to
furnish resources for the fund of corruption. Then they pay off their
protection to great crimes and great criminals by being inexorable to
the paltry frailties of little men; and these modern flagellants are
sure, with a rigid fidelity, to whip their own enormities on the
vicarious back of every small offender.


The benefits of heaven to any community ought never to be connected
with political arrangements, or made to depend on the personal
conduct of princes; in which the mistake, or error, or neglect, or
distress, or passion of a moment on either side, may bring famine on
millions, and ruin an innocent nation perhaps for ages. The means of
the subsistence of mankind should be as immutable as the laws of
nature, let power and dominion take what course they may.


It is difficult for the most wise and upright government to correct the
abuses of remote, delegated power, productive of unmeasured wealth, and
protected by the boldness and strength of the same ill-got riches. These
abuses, full of their own wild native vigour, will grow and flourish
under mere neglect. But where the supreme authority, not content with
winking at the rapacity of its inferior instruments, is so shameless and
corrupt as openly to give bounties and premiums for disobedience to its
laws, when it will not trust to the activity of avarice in the pursuit
of its own gains, when it secures public robbery by all the careful
jealousy and attention with which it ought to protect property from such
violence, the commonwealth then is become totally perverted from its
purposes; neither God nor man will long endure it; nor will it long
endure itself. In that case there is an unnatural infection, a
pestilential taint fermenting in the constitution of society, which
fever and convulsions of some kind or other must throw off; or in which
the vital powers, worsted in an unequal struggle, are pushed back upon
themselves, and, by a reversal of their whole functions, fester to
gangrene, to death; and instead of what was but just now the delight and
boast of the creation, there will be cast out in the face of the sun a
bloated, putrid, noisome carcass, full of stench, and poison, an
offence, a horror, a lesson to the world.


It is the undoubted prerogative of the crown to dissolve parliament; but
we beg leave to lay before his majesty, that it is, of all the trusts
vested in his majesty, the most critical and delicate, and that in which
this house has the most reason to require, not only the good faith, but
the favour of the crown. His commons are not always upon a par with his
ministers in an application to popular judgment: it is not in the power
of the members of this house to go to their election at the moment the
most favourable to them. It is in the power of the crown to choose a
time for their dissolution whilst great and arduous matters of state and
legislation are depending, which may be easily misunderstood, and which
cannot be fully explained before that misunderstanding may prove fatal
to the honour that belongs, and to the consideration that is due, to
members of parliament. With his majesty is the gift of all the rewards,
the honours, distinctions, favour, and graces of the state; with his
majesty is the mitigation of all the rigours of the law: and we rejoice
to see the crown possessed of trusts calculated to obtain goodwill, and
charged with duties which are popular and pleasing. Our trusts are of a
different kind. Our duties are harsh and invidious in their nature; and
justice and safety is all we can expect in the exercise of them. We are
to offer salutary, which is not always pleasing, counsel; we are to
inquire and to accuse: and the objects of our inquiry and charge will be
for the most part persons of wealth, power, and extensive connections:
we are to make rigid laws for the preservation of revenue, which of
necessity more or less confine some action, or restrain some function,
which before was free: what is the most critical and invidious of all,
the whole body of the public impositions originate from us, and the hand
of the House of Commons is seen and felt in every burthen that presses
on the people. Whilst, ultimately, we are serving them, and in the first
instance whilst we are serving his majesty, it will be hard, indeed, if
we should see a House of Commons the victim of its zeal and fidelity,
sacrificed by his ministers to those very popular discontents, which
shall be excited by our dutiful endeavours for the security and
greatness of his throne. No other consequence can result from such an
example, but that, in future, the House of Commons, consulting its
safety at the expense of its duties, and suffering the whole energy of
the state to be relaxed, will shrink from every service, which, however
necessary, is of a great and arduous nature; or that, willing to provide
for the public necessities, and, at the same time, to secure the means
of performing that task, they will exchange independence for protection,
and will court a subservient existence through the favour of those
ministers of state, or those secret advisers, who ought themselves to
stand in awe of the commons of this realm.

A House of Commons respected by his ministers is essential to his
majesty's service: it is fit that they should yield to parliament, and
not that parliament should be new modelled until it is fitted to their
purposes. If our authority is only to be held up when we coincide in
opinion with his majesty's advisers, but is to be set at nought the
moment it differs from them, the House of Commons will sink into a mere
appendage of administration; and will lose that independent character
which, inseparably connecting the honour and reputation with the acts of
this house, enables us to afford a real, effective, and substantial
support to his government. It is the deference shown to our opinion when
we dissent from the servants of the crown, which alone can give
authority to the proceedings of this house when it concurs with their

That authority once lost, the credit of his majesty's crown will be
impaired in the eyes of all nations. Foreign powers, who may yet wish to
revive a friendly intercourse with this nation, will look in vain for
that hold which gave a connection with Great Britain the preference to
an alliance with any other state. A House of Commons, of which ministers
were known to stand in awe, where everything was necessarily discussed,
on principles fit to be openly and publicly avowed, and which could not
be retracted or varied without danger, furnished a ground of confidence
in the public faith, which the engagement of no state dependent on the
fluctuation of personal favour, and private advice, can ever pretend to.
If faith with the House of Commons, the grand security for the national
faith itself, can be broken with impunity, a wound is given to the
political importance of Great Britain, which will not easily be healed.


His confidence in Mr. Fox was such, and so ample, as to be almost
implicit. That he was not ashamed to avow that degree of docility. That
when the choice is well made, it strengthens instead of oppressing our
intellect. That he who calls in the aid of an equal understanding
doubles his own. He who profits of a superior understanding raises his
powers to a level with the height of the superior understanding he
unites with. He had found the benefit of such a junction, and would not
lightly depart from it. He wished almost, on all occasions, that his
sentiments were understood to be conveyed in Mr. Fox's words; and he
wished, as amongst the greatest benefits he could wish the country, an
eminent share of power to that right honourable gentleman; because he
knew, that, to his great and masterly understanding, he had joined the
greatest possible degree of that natural moderation, which is the best
corrective of power; that he was of the most artless, candid, open, and
benevolent disposition; disinterested in the extreme; of a temper mild
and placable even to a fault; without one drop of gall in his whole


The commons have the deepest interest in the purity and integrity of
the peerage. The peers dispose of all the property in the kingdom, in
the last resort; and they dispose of it on their honour and not on
their oaths, as all the members of every other tribunal in the
kingdom must do; though in them the proceeding is not conclusive. We
have, therefore, a right to demand that no application shall be made
to peers of such a nature as may give room to call in question, much
less to attaint, our sole security for all that we possess. This
corrupt proceeding appeared to the House of Commons, who are the
natural guardians of the purity of parliament, and of the purity of
every branch of judicature, a most reprehensible and dangerous
practice, tending to shake the very foundation of the authority of
the House of Peers: and they branded it as such by their resolution.


The French had shown themselves the ablest architects of ruin that had
hitherto existed in the world. In that very short space of time they had
completely pulled down to the ground their monarchy, their church, their
nobility, their law, their revenue, their army, their navy, their
commerce, their arts, and their manufactures. They had done their
business for us as rivals, in a way in which twenty Ramilies or
Blenheims could never have done it. Were we absolute conquerors, and
France to lie prostrate at our feet, we should be ashamed to send a
commission to settle their affairs which could impose so hard a law upon
the French, and so destructive of all their consequence as a nation, as
that they had imposed on themselves.


The Carnatic is a country not much inferior in extent to England. Figure
to yourself, Mr. Speaker, the land in whose representative chair you
sit; figure to yourself the form and fashion of your sweet and cheerful
country from Thames to Trent, north and south, and from the Irish to the
German sea east and west, emptied and embowelled (may God avert the omen
of our crimes!) by so accomplished a desolation. Extend your imagination
a little further, and then suppose your ministers taking a survey of
this scene of waste and desolation; what would be your thoughts if you
should be informed, that they were computing how much had been the
amount of the excises, how much the customs, how much the land and
malt-tax, in order that they should charge (take it in the most
favourable light) for public service, upon the relics of the satiated
vengeance of relentless enemies, the whole of what England had yielded
in the most exuberant seasons of peace and abundance? What would you
call it? To call it tyranny sublimed into madness, would be too faint an
image; yet this very madness is the principle upon which the ministers
at your right hand have proceeded in their estimate of the revenues of
the Carnatic, when they were providing, not supply for the
establishments of its protection, but, rewards for the authors of its

Every day you are fatigued and disgusted with this cant, "the Carnatic
is a country that will soon recover, and become instantly as prosperous
as ever." They think they are talking to innocents, who will believe
that, by sowing of dragons' teeth, men may come up ready grown and ready
armed. They who will give themselves the trouble of considering (for it
requires no great reach of thought, no very profound knowledge) the
manner in which mankind are increased, and countries cultivated, will
regard all this raving as it ought to be regarded. In order that the
people, after a long period of vexation and plunder, may be in a
condition to maintain government, government must begin by maintaining
them. Here the road to economy lies not through receipt, but through
expense; and in that country nature has given no short cut to your
object. Men must propagate like other animals, by the mouth. Never did
oppression light the nuptial torch; never did extortion and usury spread
out the genial bed. Does any one of you think that England, so wasted,
would, under such a nursing attendance, so rapidly and cheaply recover?
But he is meanly acquainted with either England or India, who does not
know that England would a thousand times sooner resume population,
fertility, and what ought to be the ultimate secretion from
both--revenue, than such a country as the Carnatic. The Carnatic is not
by the bounty of nature a fertile soil. The general size of its cattle
is proof enough that it is much otherwise. It is some days since I
moved, that a curious and interesting map, kept in the India house,
should be laid before you. The India House is not yet in readiness to
send it; I have therefore brought down my own copy, and there it lies
for the use of any gentleman who may think such a matter worthy of his
attention. It is indeed a noble map, and of noble things; but it is
decisive against the golden dreams and sanguine speculations of avarice
run mad. In addition to what you know must be the case in every part of
the world (the necessity of a previous provision of habitation, seed,
stock, capital), that map will show you, that the uses of the influences
of Heaven itself are in that country a work of art. The Carnatic is
refreshed by few or no living brooks or running streams, and it has rain
only at a season; but its product of rice exacts the use of water
subject to perpetual command. This is the national bank of the Carnatic,
on which it must have a perpetual credit, or it perishes irretrievably.
For that reason, in the happier times of India, a number, almost
incredible, of reservoirs have been made in chosen places throughout the
whole country; they are formed for the greater part of mounds of earth
and stones, with sluices of solid masonry; the whole constructed with
admirable skill and labour, and maintained at a mighty charge. In the
territory contained in that map alone, I have been at the trouble of
reckoning the reservoirs, and they amount to upwards of eleven hundred,
from the extent of two or three acres to five miles in circuit. From
these reservoirs currents are occasionally drawn over the fields, and
these watercourses again call for a considerable expense to keep them
properly scoured and duly leveled. Taking the district in that map as a
measure, there cannot be in the Carnatic and Tanjore fewer than ten
thousand of these reservoirs of the larger and middling dimensions, to
say nothing of those for domestic services, and the uses of religious
purification. These are not the enterprises of your power, nor in a
style of magnificence suited to the taste of your minister. These are
the monuments of real kings, who were the fathers of their people;
testators to a posterity which they embraced as their own. These were
the grand sepulchres built by ambition; but by the ambition of an
insatiable benevolence, which, not contented with reigning in the
dispensation of happiness during the contracted term of human life, had
strained, with all the reachings and graspings of a vivacious mind, to
extend the dominion of their bounty beyond the limits of nature, and to
perpetuate themselves through generations of generations, the guardians,
the protectors, the nourishers of mankind.


I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of
that society, be he who he will: and perhaps I have given as good proofs
of my attachment to that cause in the whole course of my public conduct.
I think I envy liberty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I
cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to anything which relates
to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as
it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude
of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen
pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its
distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are
what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to
mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty, is good;
yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on
her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a government) without
inquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was
administered? Can I now congratulate the same nation upon its freedom?
Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the
blessings of mankind that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has
escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his
cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Am I to
congratulate a highwayman and murderer, who has broken prison, upon the
recovery of his natural rights? This would be to act over again the
scene of the criminals condemned to the galleys, and their heroic
deliverer, the metaphysic knight of the sorrowful countenance. When I
see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work;
and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild GAS,
the fixed air, is plainly broke loose: but we ought to suspend our
judgment until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the
liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation
of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I
venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have
really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver;
and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I
should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of
France, until I was informed how it had been combined with government;
with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the
collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality
and religion; with solidity and property; with peace and order; with
civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things too;
and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and is not
likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals, is, that
they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them
to do before we risk congratulations, which may be soon turned into
complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate,
insulated, private men; but liberty, when men act in bodies, is POWER.
Considerate people, before they declare themselves, will observe the use
which is made of POWER; and particularly of so trying a thing as NEW
power in NEW persons, of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions,
they have little or no experience, and in situations where those who
appear the most stirring in the scene may possibly not be the real


Supposing, however, that something like moderation were visible in this
political sermon; yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have little
agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing
voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil
government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of
duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not
belong to them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the
character they leave, and of the character they assume. Wholly
unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling, and
inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much
confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite.
Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be allowed
to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.


It appears to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the affairs of
France alone, but of all Europe, perhaps of more than Europe. All
circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most
astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful
things are brought about in many instances by means the most absurd and
ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and, apparently, by the most
contemptible instruments. Everything seems out of nature in this strange
chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled
together with all sorts of follies. In viewing this monstrous
tragi-comic scene, the most opposite passions necessarily succeed, and
sometimes mix with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and
indignation; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror.


I certainly have the honour to belong to more clubs than one in which
the constitution of this kingdom and the principles of the glorious
Revolution are held in high reverence; and I reckon myself among the
most forward in my zeal for maintaining that constitution and those
principles in their utmost purity and vigour. It is because I do so
that I think it necessary for me that there should be no mistake.
Those who cultivate the memory of our revolution, and those who are
attached to the constitution of this kingdom, will take good care how
they are involved with persons, who, under the pretext of zeal
towards the Revolution and constitution, too frequently wander from
their true principles; and are ready on every occasion to depart from
the firm but cautious and deliberate spirit which produced the one,
and which presides in the other.


According to this spiritual doctor of politics, if his majesty does not
owe his crown to the choice of his people, he is no LAWFUL KING. Now
nothing can be more untrue than that the crown of this kingdom is so
held by his majesty. Therefore, if you follow their rule, the king of
Great Britain, who most certainly does not owe his high office to any
form of popular election, is in no respect better than the rest of the
gang of usurpers, who reign, or rather rob, all over the face of this
our miserable world, without any sort of right or title to the
allegiance of their people. The policy of this general doctrine, so
qualified, is evident enough. The propagators of this political gospel
are in hopes that their abstract principle (their principle that a
popular choice is necessary to the legal existence of the sovereign
magistracy) would be overlooked, whilst the king of Great Britain was
not affected by it. In the mean time the ears of their congregations
would be gradually habituated to it, as if it were a first principle
admitted without dispute. For the present it would only operate as a
theory, pickled in the preserving juices of pulpit eloquence, and laid
by for future use. Condo et compono quae mox depromere possim. By this
policy, whilst our government is soothed with a reservation in its
favour to which it has no claim, the security, which it has in common
with all governments, so far as opinion is security, is taken away.

Thus these politicians proceed, whilst little notice is taken of their
doctrines; but when they come to be examined upon the plain meaning of
their words, and the direct tendency of their doctrines, then
equivocations and slippery construction come into play. When they say
the king owes his crown to the choice of his people, and is, therefore,
the only lawful sovereign in the world, they will perhaps tell us they
mean to say no more than that some of the king's predecessors have been
called to the throne by some sort of choice; and therefore he owes his
crown to the choice of his people. Thus, by a miserable subterfuge, they
hope to render their proposition safe by rendering it nugatory. They are
welcome to the asylum they seek for their offence, since they take
refuge in their folly. For, if you admit this interpretation, how does
their idea of election differ from our idea of inheritance? And how does
the settlement of the crown in the Brunswick line derived from James I.
come to legalize our monarchy, rather than that of any of the
neighbouring countries? At some time or other, to be sure, all the
beginners of dynasties were chosen by those who called them to govern.
There is ground enough for the opinion that all the kingdoms of Europe
were, at a remote period, elective, with more or fewer limitations in
the objects of choice. But whatever kings might have been here or
elsewhere a thousand years ago, or in whatever manner the ruling
dynasties of England or France may have begun, the king of Great Britain
is, at this day, king by a fixed rule of succession, according to the
laws of his country; and whilst the legal conditions of the compact of
sovereignty are performed by him (as they are performed), he holds his
crown in contempt of the choice of the Revolution Society, who have not
a single vote for a king amongst them, either individually or
collectively; though I make no doubt they would soon erect themselves
into an electoral college, if things were ripe to give effect to their
claim. His majesty's heirs and successors, each in his time and order,
will come to the crown with the same contempt of their choice with which
his majesty has succeeded to that he wears.

Whatever may be the success of evasion in explaining away the gross
error of FACT, which supposes that his majesty (though he holds it in
concurrence with the wishes) owes his crown to the choice of his people,
yet nothing can evade their full explicit declaration concerning the
principle of a right in the people to choose; which right is directly
maintained, and tenaciously adhered to. All the oblique insinuations
concerning election bottom in this proposition, and are referable to it.
Lest the foundation of the king's exclusive legal title should pass for
a mere rant of adulatory freedom, the political divine proceeds
dogmatically to assert, that, by the principles of the Revolution, the
people of England have acquired three fundamental rights, all of which,
with him, compose one system, and lie together in one short sentence;
namely, that we have acquired a right,

1. "To choose our own governors."

2. "To cashier them for misconduct."

3. "To frame a government for ourselves."

This new, and hitherto unheard of, bill of rights, though made in the
name of the whole people, belongs to those gentlemen and their faction
only. The body of the people of England have no share in it. They
utterly disclaim it. They will resist the practical assertion of it with
their lives and fortunes. They are bound to do so by the laws of their
country, made at the time of that very Revolution which is appealed to
in favour of the fictitious rights claimed by the society which abuses
its name.


If the noble SEEKERS should find nothing to satisfy their pious fancies
in the old staple of the national church, or in all the rich variety to
be found in the well-assorted warehouses of the dissenting
congregations, Dr. Price advises them to improve upon non-conformity;
and to set up, each of them, a separate meeting-house upon his own
particular principles. It is somewhat remarkable that this reverend
divine should be so earnest for setting up new churches, and so
perfectly indifferent concerning the doctrine which may be taught in
them. His zeal is of a curious character. It is not for the propagation
of his own opinions, but of any opinions. It is not for the diffusion of
truth, but for the spreading of contradiction. Let the noble teachers
but dissent, it is no matter from whom or from what. This great point
once secured, it is taken for granted their religion will be rational
and manly. I doubt whether religion would reap all the benefits which
the calculating divine computes from this "great company of great
preachers." It would certainly be a valuable addition of nondescripts to
the ample collection of known classes, genera and species, which at
present beautify the hortus siccus of dissent. A sermon from a noble
duke, or a noble marquis, or a noble earl, or baron bold, would
certainly increase and diversify the amusements of this town, which
begins to grow satiated with the uniform round of its vapid
dissipations. I should only stipulate that these new Mess-Johns in robes
and coronets should keep some sort of bounds in the democratic and
levelling principles which are expected from their titled pulpits. The
new evangelists will, I dare say, disappoint the hopes that are
conceived of them. They will not become, literally as well as
figuratively, polemic divines, nor be disposed so to drill their
congregations, that they may, as in former blessed times, preach their
doctrines to regiments of dragoons and corps of infantry and artillery.
Such arrangements, however favourable to the cause of compulsory
freedom, civil and religious, may not be equally conducive to the
national tranquillity. These few restrictions I hope are no great
stretches of intolerance, no very violent exertions of despotism.


Dr. Price, in this sermon, condemns very properly the practice of
gross, adulatory addresses to kings. Instead of this fulsome style,
he proposes that his majesty should be told, on occasions of
congratulation, that "he is to consider himself as more properly the
servant than the sovereign of his people." For a compliment, this new
form of address does not seem to be very soothing. Those who are
servants in name, as well as in effect, do not like to be told of
their situation, their duty and their obligations. The slave, in the
old play, tells his master, "Haec commemoratio est quasi exprobatio."
It is not pleasant as compliment; it is not wholesome as instruction.
After all, if the king were to bring himself to echo this new kind of
address, to adopt it in terms, and even to take the appellation of
Servant of the People as his royal style, how either he or we should
be much mended by it, I cannot imagine. I have seen very assuming
letters, signed, Your most obedient, humble servant. The proudest
denomination that ever was endured on earth took a title of still
greater humility than that which is now proposed for sovereigns by
the Apostle of Liberty. Kings and nations were trampled upon by the
foot of one calling himself "the Servant of Servants;" and mandates
for deposing sovereigns were sealed with the signet of "the

I should have considered all this as no more than a sort of flippant,
vain discourse, in which, as in an unsavoury fume, several persons
suffer the spirit of liberty to evaporate, if it were not plainly in
support of the idea, and a part of the scheme, of "cashiering kings for
misconduct." In that light it is worth some observation.

Kings, in one sense, are undoubtedly the servants of the people, because
their power has no other rational end than that of the general
advantage; but it is not true that they are, in the ordinary sense (by
our constitution at least), anything like servants; the essence of whose
situation is to obey the commands of some other, and to be removable at
pleasure. But the king of Great Britain obeys no other person; all other
persons are individually, and collectively too, under him, and owe to
him a legal obedience. The law, which knows neither to flatter nor to
insult, calls this high magistrate, not our servant, as this humble
divine calls him, but "OUR SOVEREIGN LORD THE KING;" and we, on our
parts, have learned to speak only the primitive language of the law, and
not the confused jargon of their Babylonian pulpits.


The policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection; or
rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without
reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result
of a selfish temper, and confined views. People will not look forward to
posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the
people of England well know that the idea of inheritance furnishes a
sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission,
without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves
acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages
are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims, are locked fast as
in a sort of family settlement; grasped as in a kind of mortmain for
ever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we
receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges, in the
same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives.
The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of
Providence, are handed down to us, and from us, in the same course and
order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and
symmetry with the order of the world, and with the mode of existence
decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein, by
the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great
mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is
never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable
constancy, moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall,
renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in
the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new;
in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this
manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by
the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic
analogy. In this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame of
polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of
our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental
laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and
cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected
charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial
institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful
instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason,
we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from
considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting
as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom,
leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful
gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of
habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart insolence almost
inevitably adhering to and disgracing those who are the first acquirers
of any distinction. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom.
It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and
illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It
has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records,
evidences, and titles. We procure reverence to our civil institutions on
the principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men; on
account of their age, and on account of those from whom they are
descended. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to
preserve a rational and manly freedom than the course that we have
pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our
breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and
magazines of our rights and privileges.


A state without the means of some change is without the means of its
conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of that
part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to
preserve. The two principles of conservation and correction operated
strongly at the two critical periods of the Restoration and Revolution,
when England found itself without a king. At both those periods the
nation had lost the bond of union in their ancient edifice; they did
not, however, dissolve the whole fabric. On the contrary, in both cases
they regenerated the deficient part of the old constitution through the
parts which were not impaired. They kept these old parts exactly as they
were, that the part recovered might be suited to them. They acted by the
ancient organized states in the shape of their old organization, and not
by the organic moleculae of a disbanded people. At no time, perhaps, did
the sovereign legislature manifest a more tender regard to that
fundamental principle of British constitutional policy than at the time
of the Revolution, when it deviated from the direct line of hereditary
succession. The crown was carried somewhat out of the line in which it
had before moved; but the new line was derived from the same stock. It
was still a line of hereditary descent; still an hereditary descent in
the same blood, though an hereditary descent qualified with
Protestantism. When the legislature altered the direction, but kept the
principle, they showed that they held it inviolable.


Unquestionably there was at the Revolution, in the person of King
William, a small and a temporary deviation from the strict order of a
regular hereditary succession; but it is against all genuine principles
of jurisprudence to draw a principle from a law made in a special case,
and regarding an individual person. Privilegium non transit in exemplum.
If ever there was a time favourable for establishing the principle, that
a king of popular choice was the only legal king, without all doubt it
was at the Revolution. Its not being done at that time is a proof that
the nation was of opinion it ought not to be done at any time. There is
no person so completely ignorant of our history as not to know that the
majority in parliament of both parties were so little disposed to
anything resembling that principle, that at first they were determined
to place the vacant crown, not on the head of the prince of Orange, but
on that of his wife Mary, daughter of King James, the eldest born of the
issue of that king, which they acknowledged as undoubtedly his. It would
be to repeat a very trite story, to recall to your memory all those
circumstances which demonstrated that their accepting King William was
not properly a CHOICE; but to all those who did not wish, in effect, to
recall King James, or to deluge their country in blood, and again to
bring their religion, laws, and liberties into the peril they had just
escaped, it was an act of NECESSITY, in the strictest moral sense in
which necessity can be taken.

So far is it from being true, that we acquired a right by the Revolution
to elect our kings, that if we had possessed it before, the English
nation did at that time most solemnly renounce and abdicate it, for
themselves, and for all their posterity for ever. These gentlemen may
value themselves as much as they please on their Whig principles; but I
never desire to be thought a better Whig than Lord Somers; or to
understand the principles of the Revolution better than those by whom it
was brought about; or to read in the Declaration of Right any mysteries
unknown to those whose penetrating style has engraved in our ordinances,
and in our hearts, the words and spirit of that immortal law.

It is true that, aided with the powers derived from force and
opportunity, the nation was at that time, in some sense, free to take
what course it pleased for filling the throne; but only free to do so
upon the same grounds on which they might have wholly abolished their
monarchy, and every other part of their constitution.

However, they did not think such bold changes within their commission.
It is indeed difficult, perhaps impossible, to give limits to the mere
ABSTRACT competence of the supreme power, such as was exercised by
parliament at that time; but the limits of a MORAL competence,
subjecting, even in powers more indisputably sovereign, occasional will
to permanent reason, and to the steady maxims of faith, justice, and
fixed fundamental policy, are perfectly intelligible, and perfectly
binding upon those who exercise any authority, under any name, or under
any title, in the state. The House of Lords, for instance, is not
morally competent to dissolve the House of Commons; no, nor even to
dissolve itself, nor to abdicate, if it would, its portion in the
legislature of the kingdom. Though a king may abdicate for his own
person, he cannot abdicate for the monarchy. By as strong, or by a
stronger reason, the House of Commons cannot renounce its share of
authority. The engagement and pact of society, which generally goes by
the name of the constitution, forbids such invasion and such surrender.
The constituent parts of a state are obliged to hold their public faith
with each other, and with all those who derive any serious interest
under their engagements, as much as the whole state is bound to keep its
faith with separate communities. Otherwise competence and power would
soon be confounded, and no law be left but the will of a prevailing
force. On this principle the succession of the crown has always been
what it now is, an hereditary succession by law: in the old line it was
a succession by the common law; in the new by the statute law, operating
on the principles of the common law, not changing the substance, but
regulating the mode and describing the persons. Both these descriptions
of law are of the same force, and are derived from an equal authority,
emanating from the common agreement and original compact of the state,
communi sponsione reipublicae, and as such are equally binding on king
people too, as long as the terms are observed, and they continue the
same body politic.


If we were to know nothing of this assembly but by its title and
function, no colours could paint to the imagination anything more
venerable. In that light the mind of an inquirer, subdued by such an
awful image as that of the virtue and wisdom of a whole people
collected into one focus, would pause and hesitate in condemning
things even of the very worst aspect. Instead of blameable, they
would appear only mysterious. But no name, no power, no function, no
artificial institution whatsoever, can make the men of whom any
system of authority is composed, any other than God, and nature, and
education, and their habits of life have made them. Capacities beyond
these the people have not to give. Virtue and wisdom may be the
objects of their choice; but their choice confers neither the one nor
the other on those upon whom they lay their ordaining hands. They
have not the engagement of nature, they have not the promise of
revelation, for any such power.


The Revolution was made to preserve our ANCIENT, indisputable laws and
liberties, and that ANCIENT constitution of government which is our only
security for law and liberty. If you are desirous of knowing the spirit
of our constitution, and the policy which predominated in that great
period which has secured it to this hour, pray look for both in our
histories, in our records, in our acts of parliament, and journals of
parliament, and not in the sermons of the Old Jewry, and the
after-dinner toasts of the Revolution Society. In the former you will
find other ideas and another language. Such a claim is as ill suited to
our temper and wishes as it is unsupported by any appearance of
authority. The very idea of the fabrication of a new government is
enough to fill us with disgust and horror. We wished at the period of
the Revolution, and do now wish, to derive all we possess as AN
INHERITANCE FROM OUR FOREFATHERS. Upon that body and stock of
inheritance, we have taken care not to inoculate any scion alien to the
nature of the original plant. All the reformations we have hitherto made
have proceeded upon the principle of reverence to antiquity; and I hope,
nay, I am persuaded, that all those which possibly may be made
hereafter, will be carefully formed upon analogical precedent,
authority, and example.

Our oldest reformation is that of Magna Charta. You will see that Sir
Edward Coke, that great oracle of our law, and indeed all the great men
who follow him, to Blackstone, are industrious to prove the pedigree of
our liberties. They endeavour to prove, that the ancient charter, the
Magna Charta of King John, was connected with another positive charter
from Henry I., and that both the one and the other were nothing more
than a re-affirmance of the still more ancient standing law of the
kingdom. In the matter of fact, for the greater part, these authors
appear to be in the right; perhaps not always; but if the lawyers
mistake in some particulars, it proves my position still the more
strongly, because it demonstrates the powerful prepossession towards
antiquity, with much the minds of all our lawyers and legislators, and
of all the people whom they wish to influence, have been always filled;
and the stationary policy of this kingdom in considering their most
sacred rights and franchises as an INHERITANCE.

In the famous law of the 3rd of Charles I., called the PETITION OF
RIGHT, the parliament says to the king, "Your subjects have INHERITED
this freedom," claiming their franchises not on abstract principles "as
the rights of men," but as the rights of Englishmen, and as a patrimony
derived from their forefathers. Selden, and the other profoundly learned
men, who drew this petition of right, were as well acquainted, at least,
with all the general theories concerning the "rights of men," as any of
the discoursers in our pulpits, or on your tribune; full as well as Dr.
Price, or as the Abbe Sieyes. But, for reasons worthy of that practical
wisdom which superseded their theoretic science, they preferred this
positive, recorded, HEREDITARY title to all which can be dear to the man
and the citizen, to that vague speculative right, which exposed their
sure inheritance to be scrambled for and torn to pieces by every wild,
litigious spirit.

The same policy pervades all the laws which have since been made for the
preservation of our liberties. In the 1st of William and Mary, in the
famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not
a syllable of "a right to frame a government for themselves." You will
see, that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and
liberties, that had been long possessed, and had been lately endangered.
"Taking into their most serious consideration the BEST means for making
such an establishment that their religion, laws, and liberties, might
not be in danger of being again subverted," they auspicate all their
proceedings, by stating as some of those BEST means, "in the FIRST
vindicating their ANCIENT rights and liberties, to DECLARE;"--and then
they pray the king and queen, "that it may be DECLARED and enacted, that
ALL AND SINGULAR the rights and liberties ASSERTED AND DECLARED, are the
true ANCIENT and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this

You will observe, that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right, it
has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our
liberties, as an ENTAILED INHERITANCE derived to us from our
forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity, as an estate
specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference
whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means our
constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We
have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a house of
commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties,
from a long line of ancestors.


When men of rank sacrifice all ideas of dignity to an ambition without a
distinct object, and work with low instruments and for low ends, the
whole composition becomes low and base. Does not something like this now
appear in France? Does it not produce something ignoble and inglorious?
a kind of meanness in all the prevalent policy? a tendency in all that
is done to lower along with individuals all the dignity and importance
of the state? Other revolutions have been conducted by persons, who,
whilst they attempted or affected changes in the commonwealth,
sanctified their ambition by advancing the dignity of the people whose
peace they troubled. They had long views. They aimed at the rule, not at
the destruction, of their country. They were men of great civil and
great military talents, and if the terror, the ornament of their age.
They were not like Jew brokers, contending with each other who could
best remedy with fraudulent circulation and depreciated paper the
wretchedness and ruin brought on their country by their degenerate
councils. The compliment made to one of the great bad men of the old
stamp (Cromwell) by his kinsman, a favourite poet of that time, shows
what it was he proposed, and what indeed to a great degree he
accomplished, in the success of his ambition:--

"Still as YOU rise, the STATE exalted too,
Finds no distemper whilst 'tis changed by YOU:
Changed like the world's great scene, when without noise
The rising sun night's VULGAR lights destroys."

These disturbers were not so much like men usurping power, as asserting
their natural place in society. Their rising was to illuminate and
beautify the world. Their conquest over their competitors was by
outshining them. The hand that, like a destroying angel, smote the
country, communicated to it the force and energy under which it
suffered. I do not say (God forbid), I do not say, that the virtues of
such men were to be taken as a balance to their crimes: but they were
some corrective to their effects. Such was, as I said, our Cromwell.
Such were your whole race of Guises, Condes, and Colignis. Such the
Richelieus, who in more quite times acted in the spirit of a civil war.
Such, as better men, and in a less dubious cause, were your Henry the
Fourth and your Sully, though nursed in civil confusions, and not wholly
without some of their taint. It is a thing to be wondered at, to see how
very soon France, when she had a moment to respire, recovered and
emerged from the longest and most dreadful civil war that ever was known
in any nation. Why? Because among all their massacres, they had not
slain the MIND in their country. A conscious dignity, a noble pride, a
generous sense of glory and emulation, was not extinguished. On the
contrary, it was kindled and enflamed. The organs also of the state,
however shattered, existed. All the prizes of honour and virtue, all the
rewards, all the distinctions, remained. But your present confusion,
like a palsy, has attacked the fountain of life itself. Every person in
your country, in a situation to be actuated by a principle of honour, is
disgraced and degraded, and can entertain no sensation of life, except
in a mortified and humiliated indignation. But this generation will
quickly pass away. The next generation of the nobility will resemble the
artificers and clowns, and money-jobbers, usurers, and Jews, who will be
always their fellows, sometimes their masters. Believe me, Sir, those
who attempt to level, never equalise. In all societies, consisting of
various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost.
The levellers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of
things; they load the edifice of society, by setting up in the air what
the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground. The
associations of tailors and carpenters, of which the republic (of Paris,
for instance), is composed, cannot be equal to the situation into which,
by the worst of usurpations, a usurpation on the prerogatives of nature,
you attempt to force them.

The Chancellor of France, at the opening of the states, said, in a tone
of oratorical flourish, that all occupations were honourable. If he
meant only, that no honest employment was disgraceful, he would not have
gone beyond the truth. But in asserting that anything is honourable, we
imply some distinction in its favour. The occupation of a hair-dresser,
or of a working tallow-chandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any
person--to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments.
Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state;
but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually
or collectively, are permitted to rule. In this you think you are
combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.


The British House of Commons, without shutting its doors to any merit in
any class, is, by the sure operation of adequate causes, filled with
everything illustrious in rank, in descent, in hereditary and in
acquired opulence, in cultivated talents, in military, civil, naval, and
politic distinction, that the country can afford. But supposing, what
hardly can be supposed as a case, that the House of Commons should be
composed in the same manner with the Tiers-Etat in France, would this
dominion of chicane be borne with patience, or even conceived without
horror? God forbid I should insinuate anything derogatory to that
profession, which is another priesthood, administering the rights of
sacred justice. But whilst I revere men in the functions which belong to
them, and would do as much as one man can do to prevent their exclusion
from any, I cannot, to flatter them, give the lie to nature. They are
good and useful in the composition; they must be mischievous if they
preponderate so as virtually to become the whole. Their very excellence
in their peculiar functions may be far from a qualification for others.
It cannot escape observation, that when men are too much confined to
professional and faculty habits, and as it were inveterate in the
recurrent employment of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled
than qualified for whatever depends on the knowledge of mankind, on
experience in mixed affairs, on a comprehensive, connected view of the
various, complicated, external, and internal interests, which go to the
formation of that multifarious thing called a state. After all, if the
House of Commons were to have a wholly professional and faculty
composition, what is the power of the House of Commons, circumscribed
and shut in by the immoveable barriers of law, usages, positive rules of
doctrine and practice, counterpoised by the House of Lords, and every
moment of its existence at the discretion of the crown to continue,
prorogue, or dissolve us? The power of the House of Commons, direct or
indirect, is indeed great; and long may it be able to preserve its
greatness, and the spirit belonging to true greatness, at the full; and
it will do so, as long as it can keep the breakers of law in India from
becoming the makers of law for England. The power, however, of the House
of Commons, when least diminished, is as a drop of water in the ocean,
compared to that residing in a settled majority of your National
Assembly. That assembly, since the destruction of the orders, has no
fundamental law, no strict convention, no respected usage to restrain
it. Instead of finding themselves obliged to conform to a fixed
constitution, they have a power to make a constitution which shall
conform to their designs. Nothing in heaven or upon earth can serve as a
control on them. What ought to be the heads, the hearts, the
dispositions, that are qualified, or that dare, not only to make laws
under a fixed constitution, but at one heat to strike out a totally new
constitution for a great kingdom, and every part of it, from the monarch
on the throne to the vestry of a parish? But--"fools rush in where
angels fear to tread." In such a state of unbounded power, for undefined
and indefinable purposes, the evil of a moral and almost physical
inaptitude of the man to the function, must be the greatest we can
conceive to happen in the management of human affairs.


Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a state that does not
represent its ability, as well as its property. But as ability is a
vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and
timid, it never can be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be,
out of all proportion, predominant in the representation. It must be
represented too in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly
protected. The characteristic essence of property, formed out of the
combined principles of its acquisition and conservation, is to be
UNEQUAL. The great masses, therefore, which excite envy, and tempt
rapacity, must be put out of the possibility of danger. Then they form a
natural rampart about the lesser properties in all their gradations. The
same quantity of property, which is by the natural course of things
divided among many, has not the same operation. Its defensive power is
weakened as it is diffused. In this diffusion each man's portion is less
than what, in the eagerness of his desires, he may flatter himself to
obtain by dissipating the accumulations of others. The plunder of the
few would, indeed, give but a share inconceivably small in the
distribution to the many. But the many are not capable of making this
calculation; and those who lead them to rapine never intend this

The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the
most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that
which tends the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our
weakness subservient to our virtue; it grafts benevolence even upon
avarice. The possessors of family wealth, and of the distinction which
attends hereditary possession (as most concerned in it), are the natural
securities for this transmission. With us the House of Peers is formed
upon this principle. It is wholly composed of hereditary property and
hereditary distinction; and made, therefore, the third of the
legislature; and, in the last event, the sole judge of all property in
all its subdivisions. The House of Commons, too, though not necessarily,
yet in fact, is always so composed, in the far greater part. Let those
large proprietors be what they will, and they have their chance of being
among the best, they are, at the very worst, the ballast in the vessel
of the commonwealth. For though hereditary wealth, and the rank which
goes with it, are too much idolized by creeping sycophants, and the
blind, abject admirers of power, they are too rashly slighted in shallow
speculations of the petulant, assuming, short-sighted coxcombs of
philosophy. Some decent, regulated pre-eminence, some preference (not
exclusive appropriation) given to birth, is neither unnatural, nor
unjust, nor impolitic. It is said, that twenty-four millions ought to
prevail over two hundred thousand. True; if the constitution of a
kingdom be a problem of arithmetic. This sort of discourse does well
enough with the lamp-post for its second: to men who MAY reason calmly,
it is ridiculous. The will of the many, and their interest, must very
often differ; and great will be the difference when they make an evil


I do not, my dear sir, conceive you to be of that sophistical, captious
spirit, or of that uncandid dulness, as to require, for every general
observation or sentiment, an explicit detail of the correctives and
exceptions which reason will presume to be included in all the general
propositions which come from reasonable men. You do not imagine that I
wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood, and names,
and titles. No, sir. There is no qualification for government but virtue
and wisdom, actual or presumptive. Wherever they are actually found,
they have, in whatever state, condition, profession, or trade, the
passport of heaven to human place and honour. Woe to that country which
would madly and impiously reject the service of the talents and virtues,
civil, military, or religious, that are given to grace and to serve it;
and would condemn to obscurity everything formed to diffuse lustre and
glory around a state. Woe to that country, too, that, passing into the
opposite extreme, considers a low education, a mean, contracted view of
things, a sordid, mercenary occupation, as a preferable title to
command. Everything ought to be open; but not indifferently to every
man. No rotation; no appointment by lot; no mode of election operating
in the spirit of sortition, or rotation, can be generally good in a
government conversant in extensive objects. Because they have no
tendency, direct or indirect, to select the man with a view to the duty,
or to accommodate the one to the other. I do not hesitate to say, that
the road to eminence and power, from obscure condition, ought not to be
made too easy, nor a thing too much of course. If rare merit be the
rarest of all rare things, in ought to pass through some sort of
probation. The temple of honour ought to be seated on an eminence. If it
be opened through virtue, let it be remembered, too, that virtue is
never tried but by some difficulty and some struggle.


Far am I from denying in theory, full as far as is my heart from
withholding in practice (if I were of power to give or to withhold), the
REAL rights of men. In denying their false claims of right, I do not
mean to injure those which are real, and are such as their pretended
rights would totally destroy. If civil society be made for the advantage
of man, all the advantages for which it is made become his right. It is
an institution of beneficence; and law itself is only beneficence acting
by a rule. Men have a right to live by that rule; they have a right to
do justice, as between their fellows, whether their fellows are in
politic function, or in ordinary occupation. They have a right to the
fruits of their industry, and to the means of making their industry
fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the
nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life,
and to consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do,
without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself; and
he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its
combinations of skill and force, can do in his favour. In this
partnership all men have equal rights; but not to equal things. He that
has but five shillings in the partnership, has as good a right to it, as
he that has five hundred pounds has to his larger proportion. But he has
not a right to an equal dividend in the product of the joint-stock; and
as to the share of power, authority, and direction which each individual
ought to have in the management of the state, that I must deny to be
amongst the direct original rights of man in civil society; for I have
in my contemplation the civil social man, and no other. It is a thing to
be settled by convention. If civil society be the offspring of
convention, that convention must be its law. That convention must limit
and modify all the descriptions of constitution which are formed under
it. Every sort of legislature, judicial, or executory power, are its
creatures. They can have no being in any other state of things; and how
can any man claim, under the conventions of civil society, rights which
do not so much as suppose its existence? Rights which are absolutely
repugnant to it? One of the first motives to civil society, and which
becomes one of its fundamental rules, is, THAT NO MAN SHOULD BE JUDGE IN
HIS OWN CAUSE. By this each person has at once divested himself of the
first fundamental right of uncovenanted man, that is, to judge for
himself, and to assert his own cause. He abdicates all right to be his
own governor. He inclusively, in a great measure, abandons the right of
self-defence, the first law of nature. Men cannot enjoy the rights of an
uncivil and of a civil state together. That he may obtain justice, he
gives up his right of determining what it is in points the most
essential to him. That he may secure some liberty, he makes a surrender
in trust of the whole of it.

Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do
exist in total independence of it; and exist in much greater clearness,
and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection: but their abstract
perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything
they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to
provide for human WANTS. Men have a right that these wants should be
provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the
want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their
passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals
should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in
the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted,
their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This
can only be done BY A POWER OUT OF THEMSELVES, and not, in the exercise
of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is
its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraints on men, as
well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. But as
the liberties and the restrictions vary with times and circumstances,
and admit of infinite modifications, they cannot be settled upon any
abstract rule; and nothing is so foolish as to discuss them upon that

The moment you abate anything from the full rights of men, each to
govern himself, and suffer any artificial, positive limitation upon
those rights, from that moment the whole organization of government
becomes a consideration of convenience. This it is which makes the
constitution of a state, and the due distribution of its powers, a
matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep
knowledge of human nature and human necessities, and of the things which
facilitate or obstruct the various ends, which are to be pursued by the
mechanism of civil institutions. The state is to have recruits to its
strength, and remedies to its distempers. What is the use of discussing
a man's abstract right to food or medicine? The question is upon the
method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall
always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather
than the professor of metaphysics. The science of constructing a
commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other
experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short
experience that can instruct us in that practical science, because the
real effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in
the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter
operation; and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects it
produces in the beginning. The reverse also happens; and very plausible
schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and
lamentable conclusions. In states there are often some obscure and
almost latent causes, things which appear at first view of little
moment, on which a very great part of its prosperity or adversity may
most essentially depend. The science of government being therefore so
practical in itself, and intended for such practical purposes, a matter
which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can
gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is
with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an
edifice, which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common
purposes of society, or on building it up again, without having models
and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.

These metaphysic rights entering into common life, like rays of light
which pierce into a dense medium, are, by the laws of nature, refracted
from their straight line. Indeed in the gross and complicated mass of
human passions and concerns, the primitive rights of men undergo such a
variety of refractions and reflections, that it becomes absurd to talk
of them as if they continued in the simplicity of their original
direction. The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of
the greatest possible complexity: and therefore no simple disposition or
direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature, or to the
quality of his affairs. When I hear the simplicity of contrivance aimed
at and boasted of in any new political constitutions, I am at no loss to
decide that the artificers are grossly ignorant of their trade, or
totally negligent of their duty. The simple governments are
fundamentally defective, to say no worse of them. If you were to
contemplate society in but one point of view, all these simple modes of
polity are infinitely captivating. In effect each would answer its
single end much more perfectly than the more complex is able to attain
all its complex purposes. But it is better that the whole should be
imperfectly and anomalously answered, than that, while some parts are
provided for with great exactness, others might be totally neglected, or
perhaps materially injured, by the over-care of a favourite member.

The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes: and in
proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and
politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of MIDDLE, incapable
of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in
governments are their advantages, and these are often in balances
between differences of good; in compromises sometimes between good and
evil, and sometimes between evil and evil. Political reason is a
computing principle, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing,
morally and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral

By these theorists the right of the people is almost always
sophistically confounded with their power. The body of the community,
whenever it can come to act, can meet with no effectual resistance; but
till power and right are the same, the whole body of them has no right
inconsistent with virtue, and the first of all virtues--prudence.

MARIE ANTOINETTE. It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the
queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never
lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful
vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the
elevated sphere she just began to move in,--glittering like the
morning-star, full of life, and splendour, and joy. Oh! what a
revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion
that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she added titles
of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that
she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace
concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to
see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a
nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords
must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that
threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of
sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of
Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that
generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified
obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in
servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace
of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and
heroic enterprise, is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle,
that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired
courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it
touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all
its grossness.


How much of that prosperous state was owing to the spirit of our old
manners and opinions is not easy to say; but as such causes cannot be
indifferent in their operation, we must presume that, on the whole,
their operation was beneficial.

We are but too apt to consider things in the state in which we find
them, without sufficiently adverting to the causes by which they have
been produced, and possibly may be upheld. Nothing is more certain, than
that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are
connected with manners and with civilization, have, in this European
world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles, and were indeed
the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman and the
spirit of religion. The nobility and the clergy, the one by profession,
the other by patronage, kept learning in existence, even in the midst of
arms and confusions, and whilst governments were rather in their causes,
than formed. Learning paid back what it received to nobility and to
priesthood; and paid it with usury, by enlarging their ideas, and by
furnishing their minds. Happy if they had all continued to know their
indissoluble union, and their proper place! Happy if learning, not
debauched by ambition, had been satisfied to continue the instructor,
and not aspired to be the master! Along with its natural protectors and
guardians, learning will be cast into the mire, and trodden down under
the hoofs of a swinish multitude.

If, as I suspect, modern letters owe more than they are always willing
to own to ancient manners, so do other interests which we value full as
much as they are worth. Even commerce, and trade, and manufacture, the
gods of our economical politicians, are themselves, perhaps, but
creatures; are themselves but effects, which, as first causes, we choose
to worship. They certainly grew under the same shade in which learning
flourished. They too may decay with their natural protecting principles.
With you, for the present at least, they all threaten to disappear
together. Where trade and manufactures are wanting to a people, and the
spirit of nobility and religion remains, sentiment supplies, and not
always ill supplies, their place; but if commerce and the arts should be
lost in an experiment to try how well a state may stand without these
old fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must be a nation of
gross, stupid, ferocious, and, at the same time, poor and sordid
barbarians, destitute of religion, honour, or manly pride, possessing
nothing at present, and hoping for nothing hereafter?


But power, of some kind or other, will survive the shock in which
manners and opinions perish! And it will find other and worse means for
its support. The usurpation which, in order to subvert ancient
institutions, has destroyed ancient principles, will hold power by arts
similar to those by which it has acquired it. When the old feudal and
chivalrous spirit of FEALTY, which, by freeing kings from fear, freed
both kings and subjects from the precaution of tyranny, shall be extinct
in the minds of men, plots and assassinations will be anticipated by
preventive murder and preventive confiscation, and that long roll of
grim and bloody maxims, which form the political code of all power, not
standing on its own honour, and the honour of those who are to obey it.
Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects are rebels from


This mixed system of opinion and sentiment had its origin in the
ancient chivalry; and the principle, though varied in its appearance
by the varying state of human affairs, subsisted and influenced
through a long succession of generations, even to the time we live
in. If it should ever be totally extinguished, the loss I fear will
be great. It is this which has given its character to modern Europe.
It is this which has distinguished it under all its forms of
government, and distinguished it, to its advantage, from the states
of Asia, and possibly from those states which flourished in the most
brilliant periods of the antique world. It was this which, without
confounding ranks, had produced a noble equality, and handed it down
through all the gradations of social life. It was this opinion which
mitigated kings into companions, and raised private men to be fellows
with kings. Without force or opposition, it subdued the fierceness
of pride and power; it obliged sovereigns to submit to the soft
collar of social esteem, compelled stern authority to submit to
elegance, and gave a dominating vanquisher of laws to be subdued by

But now all is to be changed. All the pleasing illusions, which made
power gentle, and obedience liberal, which harmonized the different
shades of life, and which, by a bland assimilation, incorporated into
politics the sentiments which beautify and soften private society, are
to be dissolved by this new conquering empire of light and reason. All
the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the superadded
ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of a moral imagination, which the
heart owns and the understanding ratifies as necessary to cover the
defects of our naked, shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in
our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and
antiquated fashion.

On this scheme of things, a king is but a man, a queen is but a woman; a
woman is but an animal,--and an animal not of the highest order. All
homage paid to the sex in general as such, and without distinct views,
is to be regarded as romance and folly. Regicide, and parricide, and
sacrilege are but fictions of superstition, corrupting jurisprudence by
destroying its simplicity. The murder of a king, or a queen, or a
bishop, or a father, are only common homicide; and if the people are by
any chance, or in any way, gainers by it, a sort of homicide much the
most pardonable, and into which we ought not to make too severe a

On the scheme of this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of
cold hearts and muddy understandings, and which is as void of solid
wisdom as it is destitute of all taste and elegance, laws are to be
supported only by their own terrors, and by the concern which each
individual may find in them from his own private speculations, or can
spare to them from his own private interests. In the groves of THEIR
academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.
Nothing is left which engages the affections on the part of the
commonwealth. On the principles of this mechanic philosophy, our
institutions can never be embodied, if I may use the expression, in
persons, so as to create in us love, veneration, admiration, or
attachment. But that sort of reason which banishes the affections is
incapable of filling their place. These public affections, combined with
manners, are required sometimes as supplements, sometimes as
correctives, always as aids to law. The precept given by a wise man, as
well as a great critic, for the construction of poems, is equally true
as to states:--Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. There
ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind
would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country
ought to be lovely.


Why do I feel so differently from the Reverend Dr. Price, and those
of his lay flock, who will choose to adopt the sentiments of his
discourse? For this plain reason--because it is NATURAL I should;
because we are so made, as to be affected at such spectacles with
melancholy sentiments upon the unstable condition of mortal
prosperity and the tremendous uncertainty of human greatness; because
in those natural feelings we learn great lessons; because in events
like these our passions instruct our reason; because when kings are
hurled from their thrones by the Supreme Director of this great
drama, and become the objects of insult to the base, and of pity to
the good, we behold such disasters in the moral, as we should behold
a miracle in the physical, order of things. We are alarmed into
reflection; our minds (as it has long since been observed) are
purified by terror and pity; our weak, unthinking pride is humbled
under the dispensations of a mysterious wisdom. Some tears might be
drawn from me, if such a spectacle were exhibited on the stage. I
should be truly ashamed of finding in myself that superficial,
theatric sense of painted distress, whilst I could exult over it in
real life. With such a perverted mind, I could never venture to show
my face at a tragedy. People would think the tears that Garrick
formerly, or that Siddons not long since, have extorted from me, were
the tears of hypocrisy; I should know them to be the tears of folly.

Indeed the theatre is a better school of moral sentiments than churches,
where the feelings of humanity are thus outraged. Poets who have to deal
with an audience not yet graduated in the school of the rights of men,
and who must apply themselves to the moral constitution of the heart,
would not dare to produce such a triumph as a matter of exultation.
There, where men follow their natural impulses, they would not bear the
odious maxims of a Machiavelian policy, whether applied to the
attainment of monarchical or democratic tyranny. They would reject them
on the modern, as they once did on the ancient stage, where they could
not bear even the hypothetical proposition of such wickedness in the
mouth of a personated tyrant, though suitable to the character he
sustained. No theatric audience in Athens would bear what has been
borne, in the midst of the real tragedy of this triumphal day; a
principal actor weighing, as it were in scales hung in a shop of
horrors, so much actual crime against so much contingent advantage, and
after putting in and out weights, declaring that the balance was on the
side of the advantages. They would not bear to see the crimes of new
democracy posted as in a ledger against the crimes of old despotism, and
the book-keepers of politics finding democracy still in debt, but by no
means unable or unwilling to pay the balance. In the theatre, the first
intuitive glance, without any elaborate process of reasoning, will show,
that this method of political computation would justify every extent of
crime. They would see, that on these principles, even where the very
worst acts were not perpetrated, it was owing rather to the fortune of
the conspirators, than to their parsimony in the expenditure of
treachery and blood. They would soon see, that criminal means once
tolerated are soon preferred. They present a shorter cut to the object
than through the highway of the moral virtues. Justifying perfidy and
murder for public benefit, public benefit would soon become the pretext,
and perfidy and murder the end; until rapacity, malice, revenge, and
fear more dreadful than revenge, could satiate their insatiable
appetites. Such must be the consequences of losing, in the splendour of
these triumphs of the rights of men, all natural sense of wrong and


Had it pleased God to continue to me the hopes of succession, I
should have been, according to my mediocrity, and the mediocrity of
the age I live in, a sort of founder of a family: I should have left
a son, who, in all the points in which personal merit can be
viewed,--in science, in erudition, in genius, in taste, in honour, in
generosity, in humanity, in every liberal sentiment, and every
liberal accomplishment,--would not have shown himself inferior to the
duke of Bedford, or to any of those whom he traces in his line. His
grace very soon would have wanted all plausibility in his attack upon
that provision which belonged more to mine than to me. He would soon
have supplied every deficiency, and symmetrized every disproportion.
It would not have been for that successor to resort to any stagnant
wasting reservoir of merit in me, or in any ancestry. He had in
himself a salient, living spring of generous and manly action. Every
day he lived he would have re-purchased the bounty of the Crown, and
ten times more, if ten times more he had received. He was made a
public creature, and had no enjoyment whatever but in the performance
of some duty. At this exigent moment, the loss of a finished man is
not easily supplied.

But a Disposer whose power we are little able to resist, and whose
wisdom it behoves us not at all to dispute, has ordained it in another
manner, and (whatever my querulous weakness might suggest) a far better.
The storm has gone over me, and I lie like one of those old oaks which
the late hurricane has scattered about me. I am stripped of all my
honours, I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth!
There, and prostrate there, I most unfeignedly recognise the divine
justice, and in some degree submit to it. But whilst I humble myself
before God, I do not know that it is forbidden to repel the attacks of
unjust and inconsiderate men. The patience of Job is proverbial. After
some of the convulsive struggles of our irritable nature, he submitted
himself, and repented in dust and ashes. But even so, I do not find him
blamed for reprehending, and with a considerable degree of verbal
asperity, those ill-natured neighbours of his, who visited his dunghill
to read moral, political, and economical lectures on his misery. I am
alone. I have none to meet my enemies in the gate. Indeed, my Lord, I
greatly deceive myself, if in this hard season I would give a peck of
refuse wheat for all that is called fame and honour in the world. This
is the appetite but of a few. It is a luxury, it is a privilege, it is
an indulgence for those who are at their ease. But we are all of us made
to shun disgrace, as we are made to shrink from pain, and poverty, and
disease. It is an instinct; and under the direction of reason, instinct
is always in the right. I live in an inverted order. They who ought to
have succeeded me have gone before me. They who should have been to me
as posterity are in the place of ancestors. I owe to the dearest
relation (which ever must subsist in memory) that act of piety which he
would have performed to me; I owe it to him to show that he was not
descended, as the duke of Bedford would have it, from an unworthy


History, who keeps a durable record of all our acts, and exercises her
awful censure over the proceedings of all sorts of sovereigns, will not
forget either those events or the era of this liberal refinement in the
intercourse of mankind. History will record, that on the morning of the
6th of October, 1789, the king and queen of France, after a day of
confusion, alarm, dismay, and slaughter, lay down, under the pledged
security of public faith, to indulge nature in a few hours of respite,
and troubled, melancholy repose. From this sleep the queen was first
startled by the voice of the sentinel at her door, who cried out to her
to save herself by flight--that this was the last proof of fidelity he
could give--that they were upon him, and he was dead. Instantly he was
cut down. A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his
blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen, and pierced with a hundred
strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed from whence this persecuted
woman had but just time to fly almost naked, and, through ways unknown
to the murderers, had escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and
husband, not secure of his own life for a moment. This king, to say no
more of him, and this queen, and their infant children (who once would
have been the pride and hope of a great and generous people), were then
forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most splendid palace in the
world, which they left swimming in blood, polluted by massacre, and
strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcases. Thence they were
conducted into the capital of their kingdom. Two had been selected from
the unprovoked, unresisted, promiscuous slaughter, which was made of the
gentlemen of birth and family who composed the king's body-guard. These
two gentlemen, with all the parade of an execution of justice, were
cruelly and publicly dragged to the block, and beheaded in the great
court of the palace. Their heads were stuck upon spears, and led the
procession; whilst the royal captives who followed in the train were
slowly moved along, amidst the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and
frantic dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable
abominations of the furies of hell, in the abused shape of the vilest of
women. After they had been made to taste, drop by drop, more than the
bitterness of death, in the slow torture of a journey of twelve miles,
protracted to six hours, they were, under a guard composed of those very
soldiers who had thus conducted them through this famous triumph, lodged
in one of the old palaces of Paris, now converted into a Bastille for

Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars? to be commemorated with
grateful thanksgiving? to be offered to the divine humanity with fervent
prayer and enthusiastic ejaculation?--These Theban and Thracian orgies,
acted in France, and applauded only in the Old Jewry, I assure you,
kindle prophetic enthusiasm in the minds but of very few people in this
kingdom: although a saint and apostle, who may have revelations of his
own, and who has so completely vanquished all the mean superstitions of
the heart, may incline to think it pious and decorous to compare it with
the entrance into the world of the Prince of Peace, proclaimed in a holy
temple by a venerable sage, and not long before not worse announced by
the voice of angels to quiet the innocence of shepherds.


Economy in my plans was, as it ought to be, secondary, subordinate,
instrumental. I acted on state principles. I found a great distemper in
the commonwealth; and, according to the nature of the evil and of the
object, I treated it. The malady was deep; it was complicated, in the
causes and in the symptoms. Throughout it was full of contra-indicants.
On one hand government, daily growing more invidious from an apparent
increase of the means of strength, was every day growing more
contemptible by real weakness. Nor was this dissolution confined to
government commonly so called. It extended to parliament; which was
losing not a little in its dignity and estimation, by an opinion of its
not acting on worthy motives. On the other hand, the desires of the
people (partly natural and partly infused into them by art) appeared in
so wild and inconsiderate a manner, with regard to the economical object
(for I set aside for a moment the dreadful tampering with the body of
the constitution itself), that, if their petitions had literally been
complied with, the state would have been convulsed, and a gate would
have been opened through which all property might be sacked and ravaged.
Nothing could have saved the public from the mischiefs of the false
reform but its absurdity, which would soon have brought itself, and with
it all real reform, into discredit. This would have left a rankling
wound in the hearts of the people, who would know they had failed in the
accomplishment of their wishes, but who, like the rest of mankind in all
ages, would impute the blame to anything rather than to their own
proceedings. But there were then persons in the world who nourished
complaint, and would have been thoroughly disappointed if the people
were ever satisfied. I was not of that humour. I wished that they SHOULD
be satisfied. It was my aim to give to the people the substance of what
I knew they desired, and what I thought was right, whether they desired
or not, before it had been modified for them into senseless petitions. I
knew that there is a manifest, marked distinction, which ill men with
ill designs, or weak men incapable of any design, will constantly be
confounding, that is a marked distinction between change and
reformation. The former alters the substance of the objects themselves,
and gets rid of all their essential good, as well as of all the
accidental evil, annexed to them. Change is novelty; and whether it is
to operate any one of the effects of reformation at all, or whether it
may not contradict the very principle upon which reformation is desired,
cannot be certainly known beforehand. Reform is not a change in the
substance, or in the primary modification of the object, but a direct
application of a remedy to the grievance complained of. So far as that
is removed, all is sure. It stops there; and if it fails, the substance
which underwent the operation, at the very worst, is but where it was.
All this, in effect, I think, but am not sure, I have said elsewhere. It
cannot at this time be too often repeated; line upon line; precept upon
precept; until it comes into the currency of a proverb, TO INNOVATE IS
NOT TO REFORM. The French revolutionists complained of everything; they
refused to reform anything; and they left nothing, no, nothing at all,
UNCHANGED. The consequences are BEFORE us,--not in remote history; not
in future prognostication: they are about us; they are upon us. They
shake the public security; they menace private enjoyment. They dwarf the
growth of the young; they break the quiet of the old. If we travel, they
stop our way. They infest us in town; they pursue us to the country. Our
business is interrupted; our repose is troubled; our pleasures are
saddened; our very studies are poisoned and perverted, and knowledge is
rendered worse than ignorance by the enormous evils of this dreadful
innovation. The revolution harpies of France, sprung from night and
hell, or from that chaotic anarchy which generates equivocally "all
monstrous, all prodigious things," cuckoo-like, adulterously lay their
eggs, and brood over, and hatch them in the nest of every neighbouring
state. These obscene harpies, who deck themselves in I know not what
divine attributes, but who in reality are foul and ravenous birds of
prey (both mothers and daughters), flutter over our heads, and souse
down upon our tables, and leave nothing unrent, unrifled, unravaged, or
unpolluted with the slime of their filthy offal.


The Assembly recommends to its youth a study of the bold experimenters
in morality. Everybody knows that there is a great dispute amongst their
leaders, which of them is the best resemblance of Rousseau. In truth,
they all resemble him. His blood they transfuse into their minds and
into their manners. Him they study; him they meditate; him they turn
over in all the time they can spare from the laborious mischief of the
day, or the debauches of the night. Rousseau is their canon of holy
writ; in his life he is their canon of Polycletus; he is their standard
figure of perfection. To this man and this writer, as a pattern to
authors and to Frenchmen, the foundries of Paris are now running for
statues, with the kettles of their poor and the bells of their churches.
If an author had written like a great genius on geometry, though its
practical and speculative morals were vicious in the extreme, it might
appear, that in voting the statue, they honoured only the geometrician.
But Rousseau is a moralist, or he is nothing. It is impossible,
therefore, putting the circumstances together, to mistake their design
in choosing the author, with whom they have begun to recommend a courses

Their great problem is to find a substitute for all the principles which
hitherto have been employed to regulate the human will and action. They
find dispositions in the mind of such force and quality as may fit men,
far better than the old morality, for the purposes of such a state as
theirs, and may go much further in supporting their power and destroying
their enemies. They have therefore chosen a selfish, flattering,
seductive, ostentatious vice, in the place of plain duty. True humility,
the basis of the Christian system, is the low, but deep and firm,
foundation of all real virtue. But this, as very painful in the
practice, and little imposing in the appearance, they have totally
discarded. Their object is to merge all natural and all social sentiment
in inordinate vanity. In a small degree, and conversant in little
things, vanity is of little moment. When full grown, it is the worst of
vices, and the occasional mimic of them all. It makes the whole man
false. It leaves nothing sincere or trustworthy about him. His best
qualities are poisoned and perverted by it, and operate exactly as the
worst. When your lords had many writers as immoral as the object of
their statue (such as Voltaire and others) they chose Rousseau, because
in him that peculiar vice, which they wished to erect into ruling
virtue, was by far the most conspicuous. We have had the great professor
and founder of THE PHILOSOPHY OF VANITY in England. As I had good
opportunities of knowing his proceedings almost from day to day, he left
no doubt on my mind that he entertained no principle either to influence
his heart, or to guide his understanding, but VANITY. With this vice he
was possessed to a degree little short of madness. It is from the same
deranged, eccentric vanity, that this, the insane Socrates of the
National Assembly, was impelled to publish a mad confession of his mad
faults, and to attempt a new sort of glory from bringing hardily to
light the obscure and vulgar vices which we know may sometimes be
blended with eminent talents. He has not observed on the nature of
vanity who does not know that it is omnivorous; that it has no choice in
its food; that it is fond to talk even of its own faults and vices, as
what will excite surprise and draw attention, and what will pass at
worst for openness and candour.

It was this abuse and perversion, which vanity makes even of hypocrisy,
that has driven Rousseau to record a life not so much as chequered, or
spotted here and there, with virtues, or even distinguished by a single
good action. It is such a life he chooses to offer to the attention of
mankind. It is such a life that, with a wild defiance, he flings in the
face of his Creator, whom he acknowledges only to brave. Your Assembly,
knowing how much more powerful example is found than precept, has chosen
this man (by his own account without a single virtue) for a model. To
him they erect their first statue. From him they commence their series
of honours and distinctions.

It is that new-invented virtue, which your masters canonize, that led
their model hero constantly to exhaust the stores of his powerful
rhetoric in the expression of universal benevolence; whilst his heart
was incapable of harbouring one spark of common parental affection.
Benevolence to the whole species, and want of feeling for every
individual with whom the professors come in contact, form the character
of the new philosophy. Setting up for an unsocial independence, this
their hero of vanity refuses the just price of common labour, as well as
the tribute which opulence owes to genius, and which, when paid, honours
the giver and the receiver: and then he pleads his beggary as an excuse
for his crimes. He melts with tenderness for those only who touch him by
the remotest relation, and then, without one natural pang, casts away,
as a sort of offal and excrement, the spawn of his disgustful amours,
and sends his children to the hospital of foundlings. The bear loves,
licks, and forms her young; but bears are not philosophers. Vanity,
however, finds its account in reversing the train of our natural
feelings. Thousands admire the sentimental writer; the affectionate
father is hardly known in his parish.

Under this philosophic instructor in the ETHICS OF VANITY, they have
attempted in France a regeneration of the moral constitution of man.
Statesmen, like your present rulers, exist by everything which is
spurious, fictitious, and false; by everything which takes the man from
his house, and sets him on a stage; which makes him up an artificial
creature, with painted theatric sentiments, fit to be seen by the glare
of candlelight, and formed to be contemplated at a due distance. Vanity
is too apt to prevail in all of us, and in all countries. To the
improvement of Frenchmen it seems not absolutely necessary that it
should be taught upon system. But it is plain that the present rebellion
was its legitimate offspring, and it is piously fed by that rebellion
with a daily dole. If the system of institution recommended by the
Assembly be false and theatric, it is because their system of government
is of the same character. To that, and to that alone, it is strictly
conformable. To understand either, we must connect the morals with the
politics of the legislators. Your practical philosophers, systematic in
everything, have wisely begun at the source. As the relation between
parents and children is the first amongst the elements of vulgar,
natural morality (Filiola tua te delectari laetor et probari tibi
phusiken esse ten pros ta tekna: etenim, si haec non est, nulla potest
homini esse ad hominem naturae adjunctio: qua sublata vitae societas
tollitur. Valete Patron (Rousseau) et tui condiscipuli (l'Assemblee
National).--Cic. Ep. ad Atticum.), they erect statues to a wild,
ferocious, low-minded, hard-hearted father, of fine general feelings; a
lover of his kind, but a hater of his kindred. Your masters reject the
duties of his vulgar relation, as contrary to liberty; as not founded in
the social compact; and not binding according to the rights of men;
because the relation is not, of course, the result of FREE ELECTION;
never so on the side of the children, not always on the part of the

The next relation which they regenerate by their statues to Rousseau is
that which is next in sanctity to that of a father. They differ from
those old-fashioned thinkers, who considered pedagogues as sober and
venerable characters, and allied to the parental. The moralists of the
dark times, preceptorum sancti voluere parentis esse loco. In this age
of light, they teach the people that preceptors ought to be in the place
of gallants. They systematically corrupt a very corruptible race (for
some time a growing nuisance amongst you), a set of pert, petulant
literators, to whom, instead of their proper, but severe, unostentatious
duties, they assign the brilliant part of men of wit and pleasure, of
gay, young, military sparks, and danglers at toilets. They call on the
rising generation in France to take a sympathy in the adventures and
fortunes, and they endeavour to engage their sensibility on the side of
pedagogues who betray the most awful family trusts, and vitiate their
female pupils. They teach the people that the debauchers of virgins,
almost in the arms of their parents, may be safe inmates in the houses,
and even fit guardians of the honour of those husbands who succeed
legally to the office which the young literators had preoccupied,
without asking leave of law or conscience.

Thus they dispose of all the family relations of parents and children,
husbands and wives. Through this same instructor, by whom they corrupt
the morals, they corrupt the taste. Taste and elegance, though they are
reckoned only among the smaller and secondary morals, yet are of no mean
importance in the regulation of life. A moral taste is not of force to
turn vice into virtue; but it recommends virtue with something like the
blandishments of pleasure; and it infinitely abates the evils of vice.
Rousseau, a writer of great force and vivacity, is totally destitute of
taste in any sense of the word. Your masters, who are his scholars,
conceive that all refinement has an aristocratic character. The last age
had exhausted all its powers in giving a grace and nobleness to our
mutual appetites, and in raising them into a higher class and order than
seemed justly to belong to them. Through Rousseau, your masters are
resolved to destroy these aristocratic prejudices. The passion called
love has so general and powerful an influence; it makes so much of the
entertainment, and indeed so much of the occupation of that part of life
which decides the character for ever, that the mode and the principles
on which it engages the sympathy, and strikes the imagination, become of
the utmost importance to the morals and manners of every society. Your
rulers were well aware of this; and in their system of changing your
manners to accommodate them to their politics, they found nothing so
convenient as Rousseau. Through him they teach men to love after the
fashion of philosophers; that is, they teach to men, to Frenchmen, a
love without gallantry; a love without anything of that fine flower of
youthfulness and gentility, which places it, if not among the virtues,
among the ornaments of life. Instead of this passion, naturally allied
to grace and manners, they infuse into their youth an unfashioned,
indelicate, sour, gloomy, ferocious medly of pedantry and lewdness; of
metaphysical speculations blended with the coarsest sensuality. Such is
the general morality of the passions to be found in their famous
philosopher, in his famous work of philosophic gallantry the "Nouvelle
Eloise." When the fence from the gallantry of preceptors is broken down,
and your families are no longer protected by decent pride, and salutary
domestic prejudice, there is but one step to a frightful corruption. The
rulers in the National Assembly are in good hopes that the females of
the first families in France may become an easy prey to dancing-masters,
fiddlers, pattern-drawers, friseurs, and valets de chambre, and other
active citizens of that description, who having the entry into your
houses, and being half domesticated by their situation, may be blended
with you by regular and irregular relations. By a law they have made
these people their equals. By adopting the sentiments of Rousseau they
have made them your rivals. In this manner these great legislators
complete their plan of levelling, and establish their rights of men on a
sure foundation.

I am certain that the writings of Rousseau lead directly to this kind of
shameful evil. I have often wondered how he comes to be so much more
admired and followed on the continent than he is here. Perhaps a secret
charm in the language may have its share in this extraordinary
difference. We certainly perceive, and to a degree we feel, in this
writer, a style glowing, animated, enthusiastic; at the same time that
we find it lax, diffuse, and not in the best taste of composition; all
the members of the piece being pretty equally laboured and expanded,
without any due selection or subordination of parts. He is generally too
much on the stretch, and his manner has little variety. We cannot rest
upon any of his works, though they contain observations which
occasionally discover a considerable insight into human nature. But his
doctrines, on the whole, are so inapplicable to real life and manners,
that we never dream of drawing from them any rule for laws or conduct,
or for fortifying or illustrating anything by a reference to his
opinions. They have with us the fate of older paradoxes.

"Cum ventum ad VERUM est, SENSUS MORESQUE repugnant,
Atque ipsa utilitas, justi prope mater et aequi."

Perhaps bold speculations are more acceptable because more new to you
than to us, who have been long since satiated with them. We continue, as
in the two last ages, to read, more generally than I believe is now done
on the continent, the authors of sound antiquity. These occupy our
minds. They give us another taste and turn, and will not suffer us to be
more than transiently amused with paradoxical morality. It is not that I
consider this writer as wholly destitute of just notions. Amongst his
irregularities, it must be reckoned that he is sometimes moral, and
moral in a very sublime strain. But the GENERAL SPIRIT AND TENDENCY of
his works is mischievous; and the more mischievous for this mixture: for
perfect depravity of sentiment is not reconcileable with eloquence; and
the mind (though corruptible, not complexionally vicious) would reject,
and throw off with disgust, a lesson of pure and unmixed evil. These
writers make even virtue a pander to vice.

However, I less consider the author than the system of the Assembly in
perverting morality through his means. This I confess makes me nearly
despair of any attempt upon the minds of their followers, through
reason, honour, or conscience. The great object of your tyrants is to
destroy the gentlemen of France; and for that purpose they destroy, to
the best of their power, all the effect of those relations which may
render considerable men powerful or even safe. To destroy that order,
they vitiate the whole community. That no means may exist of
confederating against their tyranny, by the false sympathies of this
"Nouvelle Eloise" they endeavour to subvert those principles of domestic
trust and fidelity, which form the discipline of social life. They
propagate principles by which every servant may think it, if not his
duty, at least his privilege, to betray his master. By these principles,
every considerable father of a family loses the sanctuary of his house.
Debet sua cuique domus esse perfugium tutissimum, says the law, which
your legislators have taken so much pains first to decry, then to
repeal. They destroy all the tranquillity and security of domestic life;
turning the asylum of the house into a gloomy prison, where the father
of the family must drag out a miserable existence, endangered in
proportion to the apparent means of his safety; where he is worse than
solitary in a crowd of domestics, and more apprehensive from his
servants and inmates, than from the hired, bloodthirsty mob without
doors, who are ready to pull him to the lanterne. It is thus, and for
the same end, that they endeavour to destroy that tribunal of conscience
which exists independently of edicts and decrees. Your despots govern by
terror. They know that he who fears God fears nothing else: and
therefore they eradicate from the mind, through their Voltaire, their
Helvetius, and the rest of that infamous gang, that only sort of fear
which generates true courage. Their object is, that their
fellow-citizens may be under the dominion of no awe, but that of their
committee of research, and of their lanterne.

Having found the advantage of assassination in the formation of their
tyranny, it is the grand resource in which they trust for the support of
it. Whoever opposes any of their proceedings, or is suspected of a
design to oppose them, is to answer it with his life, or the lives of
his wife and children. This infamous, cruel, and cowardly practice of
assassination they have the imprudence to call MERCIFUL. They boast that
they operated their usurpation rather by terror than by force; and that
a few seasonable murders have prevented the bloodshed of many battles.
There is no doubt they will extend these acts of mercy whenever they see
an occasion. Dreadful, however, will be the consequences of their
attempt to avoid the evils of war by the merciful policy of murder. If,
by effectual punishment of the guilty, they do not wholly disavow that
practice, and the threat of it too, as any part of their policy; if ever
a foreign prince enters into France, he must enter it as into a country
of assassins. The mode of civilized war will not be practised; nor are
the French who act on the present system entitled to expect it. They,
whose known policy is to assassinate every citizen whom they suspect to
be discontented by their tyranny, and to corrupt the soldiery of every
open enemy, must look for no modified hostility. All war, which is not
battle, will be military execution. This will beget acts of retaliation
from you; and every retaliation will beget a new revenge. The
hell-hounds of war, on all sides, will be uncoupled and unmuzzled. The
new school of murder and barbarism, set up in Paris, having destroyed
(so far as in it lies) all the other manners and principles which have
hitherto civilized Europe, will destroy also the mode of civilized war,
which, more than anything else, has distinguished the Christian world.
Such is the approaching golden age, which the Virgil of your assembly
has sung to his Pollios! (Mirabeau's speech concerning universal peace.)


They take this tenet of the head and heart, not from the great name
which it immediately bears, nor from the greater from whence it is
derived; but from that which alone can give true weight and sanction to
any learned opinion, the common nature and common relation of men.
Persuaded that all things ought to be done with reference, and referring
all to the point of reference to which all should be directed, they
think themselves bound, not only as individuals in the sanctuary of the
heart, or as congregated in that personal capacity, to renew the memory
of their high origin and caste; but also in their corporate character to
perform their national homage to the institutor, and author, and
protector of civil society; without which civil society man could not by
any possibility arrive at the perfection of which his nature is capable,
nor even make a remote and faint approach to it. They conceive that He
who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue, willed also the
necessary means of its perfection.--He willed therefore the state--He
willed its connection with the source and original archetype of all
perfection. They who are convinced of this his will, what is the law of
laws, and the sovereign of sovereigns, cannot think it reprehensible

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