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

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principles, in dispositions, and in objects, but who tear each other
to pieces about the most effectual means of obtaining their common
end; the one contending to preserve for a while his name, and his
person, the more easily to destroy the royal authority--the other
clamouring to cut off the name, the person, and the monarchy
together, by one sacrilegious execution. All this accumulation of
calamity, the greatest that ever fell upon one man, has fallen upon
his head, because he had left his virtues unguarded by caution;
because he was not taught that, where power is concerned, he who will
confer benefits must take security against ingratitude.


All this violent cry against the nobility I take to be a mere work of
art. To be honoured and even privileged by the laws, opinions, and
inveterate usages of our country, growing out of the prejudice of ages,
has nothing to provoke horror and indignation in any man. Even to be too
tenacious of those privileges is not absolutely a crime. The strong
struggle in every individual to preserve possession of what he has found
to belong to him, and to distinguish him, is one of the securities
against injustice and despotism implanted in our nature. It operates as
an instinct to secure property, and to preserve communities in a settled
state. What is there to shock in this? Nobility is a graceful ornament
to the civil order. It is the Corinthian capital of polished society.
Omnes boni nobilitati semper favemus, was the saying of a wise and good
man. It is indeed one sign of a liberal and benevolent mind to incline
to it with some sort of partial propensity. He feels no ennobling
principle in his own heart who wishes to level all the artificial
institutions which have been adopted for giving a body to opinion, and
permanence to fugitive esteem. It is a sour, malignant, envious
disposition, without taste for the reality, or for any image or
representation of virtue, that sees with joy the unmerited fall of what
had long flourished in splendour and in honour. I do not like to see
anything destroyed; any void produced in society; any ruin on the face
of the land. It was therefore with no disappointment or dissatisfaction
that my inquiries and observations did not present to me any
incorrigible vices in the noblesse of France, or any abuse which could
not be removed by a reform very short of abolition. Your noblesse did
not deserve punishment: but to degrade is to punish.

It was with the same satisfaction I found that the result of my inquiry
concerning your clergy was not dissimilar. It is no soothing news to my
ears, that great bodies of men are incurably corrupt. It is not with
much credulity I listen to any when they speak evil of those whom they
are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or
exaggerated when profit is looked for in their punishment. An enemy is a
bad witness; a robber is a worse. Vices and abuses there were
undoubtedly in that order, and must be. It was an old establishment, and
not frequently revised. But I saw no crimes in the individuals that
merited confiscation of their substance, nor those cruel insults and
degradations, and that unnatural persecution, which have been
substituted in the place of meliorating regulation.

If there had been any just cause for this new religious persecution, the
atheistic libellers, who act as trumpeters to animate the populace to
plunder, do not love anybody so much as not to dwell with complacence on
the vices of the existing clergy. This they have not done. They find
themselves obliged to rake into the histories of former ages (which they
have ransacked with a malignant and profligate industry) for every
instance of oppression and persecution which has been made by that body
or in its favour, in order to justify, upon very iniquitous, because
very illogical, principles of retaliation, their own persecutions and
their own cruelties. After destroying all other genealogies and family
distinctions, they invent a sort of pedigree of crimes. It is not very
just to chastise men for the offences of their natural ancestors: but to
take the fiction of ancestry in a corporate succession as a ground for
punishing men who have no relation to guilty acts, except in names and
general descriptions, is a sort of refinement in injustice belonging to
the philosophy of this enlightened age. The Assembly punishes men, many,
if not most, of whom abhor the violent conduct of ecclesiastics in
former times as much as their present persecutors can do, and who would
be as loud and as strong in the expression of that sense, if they were
not well aware of the purposes for which all this declamation is
employed. Corporate bodies are immortal for the good of the members, but
not for their punishment. Nations themselves are such corporations. As
well might we in England think of waging inexpiable war upon all
Frenchmen for the evils which they have brought upon us in the several
periods of our mutual hostilities. You might, on your part, think
yourselves justified in falling upon all Englishmen on account of the
unparalleled calamities brought upon the people of France by the unjust
invasions of our Henries and our Edwards. Indeed, we should be mutually
justified in this exterminatory war upon each other, full as much as you
are in the unprovoked persecution of your present countrymen, on account
of the conduct of men of the same name in other times.


The legislators who framed the ancient republics knew that their
business was too arduous to be accomplished with no better apparatus
than the metaphysics of an undergraduate, and the mathematics and
arithmetic of an exciseman. They had to do with men, and they were
obliged to study human nature. They had to do with citizens, and they
were obliged to study the effects of those habits which are communicated
by the circumstances of civil life. They were sensible that the
operation of this second nature on the first produced a new combination;
and thence arose many diversities amongst men, according to their birth,
their education, their professions, the periods of their lives, their
residence in towns or in the country, their several ways of acquiring
and of fixing property, and according to the quality of the property
itself, all which rendered them as it were so many different species of
animals. From hence they thought themselves obliged to dispose their
citizens into such classes, and to place them in such situations in the
state as their peculiar habits might qualify them to fill, and to allot
to them such appropriated privileges as might secure to them what their
specific occasions required, and which might furnish to each description
such force as might protect it in the conflict caused by the diversity
of interests that must exist, and must contend, in all complex society;
for the legislator would have been ashamed that the coarse husbandman
should well know how to assort and to use his sheep, horses, and oxen,
and should have enough of common sense not to abstract and equalize them
all into animals, without providing for each kind an appropriate food,
care, and employment; whilst he, the economist, disposer, and shepherd
of his own kindred, subliming himself into an airy metaphysician, was
resolved to know nothing of his flocks but as men in general. It is for
this reason that Montesquieu observed, very justly, that in their
classification of the citizens, the great legislators of antiquity made
the greatest display of their powers, and even soared above themselves.
It is here that your modern legislators have gone deep into the negative
series, and sunk even below their own nothing. As the first sort of
legislators attended to the different kinds of citizens, and combined
them into one commonwealth, the others, the metaphysical and
alchemistical legislators, have taken the directly contrary course. They
have attempted to confound all sorts of citizens, as well as they could,
into one homogeneous mass; and then they divided this their amalgama
into a number of incoherent republics. They reduce men to loose
counters, merely for the sake of simple telling, and not to figures
whose power is to arise from their place in the table. The elements of
their own metaphysics might have taught them better lessons. The troll
of their categorical table might have informed them that there was
something else in the intellectual world besides SUBSTANCE and QUANTITY.
They might learn from the catechism of metaphysics that there were eight
heads more, in every complex deliberation, which they have never thought
of; though these, of all the ten, are the subjects on which the skill of
man can operate anything at all. So far from this able disposition of
some of the old republican legislators, which follows with a solicitous
accuracy the moral conditions and propensities of men, they have leveled
and crushed together all the orders which they found, even under the
coarse, unartificial arrangement of the monarchy, in which mode of
government the classing of the citizens is not of so much importance as
in a republic. It is true, however, that every such classification, if
properly ordered, is good in all forms of government; and composes a
strong barrier against the excesses of despotism, as well as it is the
necessary means of giving effect and permanence to a republic. For want
of something of this kind, if the present project of a republic should
fail, all securities to a moderated freedom fail along with it; all the
indirect restraints which mitigate despotism are removed; insomuch that
if monarchy should ever again obtain an entire ascendancy in France,
under this or under any other dynasty, it will probably be, if not
voluntarily tempered at setting out by the wise and virtuous counsels of
the prince, the most completely arbitrary power that has ever appeared
on earth. This is to play a most desperate game.


But one of the first and most leading principles on which the
commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary
possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received
from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act
as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it
amongst their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the
inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric
of their society; hazarding to leave to those who come after them a ruin
instead of an habitation--and teaching these successors as little to
respect their contrivances, as they had themselves respected the
institutions of their forefathers. By this unprincipled facility of
changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways, as there
are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the
commonwealth would be broken. No one generation could link with the
other. Men would become little better than the flies of a summer.

And first of all, the science of jurisprudence, the pride of the human
intellect, which, with all its defects, redundancies, and errors, is the
collected reason of ages, combining the principles of original justice
with the infinite variety of human concerns, as a heap of old exploded
errors, would be no longer studied. Personal self-sufficiency and
arrogance (the certain attendants upon all those who have never
experienced a wisdom greater than their own) would usurp the tribunal.
Of course no certain laws, establishing invariable grounds of hope and
fear, would keep the actions of men in a certain course, or direct them
to a certain end. Nothing stable in the modes of holding property, or
exercising function, could form a solid ground on which any parent could
speculate in the education of his offspring, or in a choice for their
future establishment in the world. No principles would be early worked
into the habits. As soon as the most able instructor had completed his
laborious course of institution, instead of sending forth his pupil,
accomplished in a virtuous discipline, fitted to procure him attention
and respect in his place in society, he would find everything altered;
and that he had turned out a poor creature to the contempt and derision
of the world, ignorant of the true grounds of estimation. Who would
insure a tender and delicate sense of honour to beat almost with the
first pulses of the heart, when no man could know what would be the test
of honour in a nation, continually varying the standard of its coin? No
part of life would retain its acquisitions. Barbarism with regard to
science and literature, unskilfulness with regard to arts and
manufactures, would infallibly succeed to the want of a steady education
and settled principle; and thus the commonwealth itself would, in a few
generations, crumble away, be disconnected into the dust and powder of
individuality, and at length dispersed to all the winds of heaven. To
avoid therefore the evils of inconstancy and versatility, ten thousand
times worse than those of obstinacy and the blindest prejudice, we have
consecrated the state, that no man should approach to look into its
defects or corruptions but with due caution; that he should never dream
of beginning its reformation by its subversion; that he should approach
to the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe,
and trembling solicitude. By this wise prejudice we are taught to look
with horror on those children of their country, who are prompt rashly to
hack that aged parent in pieces, and put him into the kettle of
magicians, in hopes that by their poisonous weeds, and wild
incantations, they may regenerate the paternal constitution, and
renovate their father's life.


Four hundred years have gone over us; but I believe we are not
materially changed since that period. Thanks to our sullen resistance to
innovation, thanks to the cold sluggishness of our national character,
we still bear the stamp of our forefathers. We have not (as I conceive)
lost the generosity and dignity of thinking of the fourteenth century;
nor as yet have we subtilized ourselves into savages. We are not the
converts of Rousseau; we are not the disciples of Voltaire; Helvetius
has made no progress amongst us. Atheists are not our preachers; madmen
are not our lawgivers. We know that WE have made no discoveries; and we
think that no discoveries are to be made in morality; nor many in the
great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty; which were
understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be
after the grave has heaped its mould upon our presumption, and the
silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity. In England
we have not yet been completely embowelled of our natural entrails; we
still feel within us, and we cherish and cultivate, those inbred
sentiments which are the faithful guardians, the active monitors of our
duty, the true supporters of all liberal and manly morals. We have not
been drawn and trussed, in order that we may be filled, like stuffed
birds in a museum, with chaff and rags and paltry blurred shreds of
paper about the rights of man. We preserve the whole of our feelings
still native and entire, unsophisticated by pedantry and infidelity. We
have real hearts of flesh and blood beating in our bosoms. We fear God;
we look up with awe to kings; with affection to parliaments; with duty
to magistrates; with reverence to priests; and with respect to nobility.
Why? Because when such ideas are brought before our minds, it is NATURAL
to be so affected; because all other feelings are false and spurious,
and tend to corrupt our minds, to vitiate our primary morals, to render
us unfit for rational liberty; and by teaching us a servile, licentious,
and abandoned insolence, to be our low sport for a few holidays, to make
us perfectly fit for, and justly deserving of, slavery, through the
whole course of our lives.

You see, sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess,
that we are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting
away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable
degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because
they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more
generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid
to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason;
because we suspect that the stock in each man is small, and that the
individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and
capital of nations and of ages. Many of our men of speculation, instead
of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the
latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and
they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice,
with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and
to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its
reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection
which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application to the
emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom
and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of
decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's
virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just
prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.


The literary cabal had some years ago formed something like a regular
plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they
pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only
in the propagators of some system of piety. They were possessed with
a spirit of proselytism in the most fanatical degree; and from
thence, by an easy progress, with the spirit of persecution according
to their means. What was not to be done towards their great end by
any direct or immediate act, might be wrought by a longer process
through the medium of opinion. To command that opinion, the first
step is to establish a dominion over those who direct it. They
contrived to possess themselves, with great method and perseverance,
of all the avenues to literary fame. Many of them indeed stood high
in the ranks of literature and science. The world had done them
justice; and in favour of general talents forgave the evil tendency
of their peculiar principles. This was true liberality; which they
returned by endeavouring to confine the reputation of sense,
learning, and taste to themselves or their followers. I will venture
to say that this narrow, exclusive spirit has not been less
prejudicial to literature and to taste, than to morals and true
philosophy. Those atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own;
and they have learnt to talk against monks with the spirit of a monk.
But in some things they are men of the world. The resources of
intrigue are called in to supply the defects of argument and wit. To
this system of literary monopoly was joined an unremitting industry
to blacken and discredit in every way, and by every means, all those
who did not hold to their faction. To those who have observed the
spirit of their conduct, it has long been clear that nothing was
wanted but the power of carrying the intolerance of the tongue and of
the pen into a persecution which would strike at property, liberty,
and life.

The desultory and faint persecution carried on against them, more from
compliance with form and decency, than with serious resentment, neither
weakened their strength, nor relaxed their efforts. The issue of the
whole was, that, what with opposition, and what with success, a violent
and malignant zeal, of a kind hitherto unknown in the world, had taken
an entire possession of their minds, and rendered their whole
conversation, which otherwise would have been pleasing and instructive,
perfectly disgusting. A spirit of cabal, intrigue, and proselytism,
pervaded all their thoughts, words, and actions. And, as controversial
zeal soon turns its thoughts on force, they began to insinuate
themselves into a correspondence with foreign princes; in hopes, through
their authority, which at first they flattered, they might bring about
the changes they had in view. To them it was indifferent whether these
changes were to be accomplished by the thunderbolt of despotism, or by
the earthquake of popular commotion. The correspondence between this
cabal and the late king of Prussia, will throw no small light upon the
spirit of all their proceedings. For the same purpose for which they
intrigued with princes, they cultivated, in a distinguished manner, the
monied interest of France; and partly through the means furnished by
those whose peculiar offices gave them the most extensive and certain
means of communication, they carefully occupied all the avenues to

Writers, especially when they act in a body, and with one direction,
have great influence on the public mind; the alliance, therefore, of
these writers with the monied interest, had no small effect in removing
the popular odium and envy which attended that species of wealth. These
writers, like the propagators of all novelties, pretended to a great
zeal for the poor, and the lower orders, whilst in their satires they
rendered hateful, by every exaggeration, the faults of courts, of
nobility, and of priesthood. They became a sort of demagogues. They
served as a link to unite, in favour of one object, obnoxious wealth to
restless and desperate poverty.


The second material of cement for their new republic is the
superiority of the city of Paris: and this I admit is strongly
connected with the other cementing principle of paper circulation and
confiscation. It is in this part of the project we must look for the
cause of the destruction of all the old bounds of provinces and
jurisdictions, ecclesiastical and secular, and the dissolution of all
ancient combinations of things, as well as the formation of so many
small unconnected republics. The power of the city of Paris is
evidently one great spring of all their politics. It is through the
power of Paris, now become the centre and focus of jobbing, that the
leaders of this faction direct, or rather command, the whole
legislative and the whole executive government. Everything therefore
must be done which can confirm the authority of that city over the
other republics. Paris is compact; she has an enormous strength,
wholly disproportioned to the force of any of the square republics;
and this strength is collected and condensed within a narrow compass.
Paris has a natural and easy connection of its parts, which will not
be affected by any scheme of a geometrical constitution, nor does it
much signify whether its proportion of representation be more or
less, since it has the whole draft of fishes in its drag-net. The
other divisions of the kingdom being hackled and torn to pieces, and
separated from all their habitual means, and even principles of
union, cannot, for some time at least, confederate against her.
Nothing was to be left in all the subordinate members, but weakness,
disconnection, and confusion. To confirm this part of the plan, the
Assembly has lately come to a resolution, that no two of their
republics shall have the same commander-in-chief.

To a person who takes a view of the whole, the strength of Paris, thus
formed, will appear a system of general weakness. It is boasted that the
geometrical policy has been adopted, that all local ideas should be
sunk, and that the people should be no longer Gascons, Picards, Bretons,
Normans; but Frenchmen, with one country, one heart, and one Assembly.
But instead of being all Frenchmen, the greater likelihood is, that the
inhabitants of that region will shortly have no country. No man ever was
attached by a sense of pride, partiality, or real affection, to a
description of square measurements. He never will glory in belonging to
the Chequer No. 71, or to any other badge-ticket. We begin our public
affections in our families. No cold relation is a zealous citizen. We
pass on to our neighbourhoods, and our habitual provincial connections.
These are inns and resting-places. Such divisions of our country as have
been formed by habit, and not by a sudden jerk of authority, were so
many little images of the great country in which the heart found
something which it could fill. The love to the whole is not extinguished
by this subordinate partiality. Perhaps it is a sort of elemental
training to those higher and more large regards, by which alone men come
to be affected, as with their own concern, in the prosperity of a
kingdom so extensive as that of France. In that general territory
itself, as in the old name of provinces, the citizens are interested
from old prejudices and unreasoned habits, and not on account of the
geometric properties of its figure. The power and pre-eminence of Paris
does certainly press down and hold these republics together as long as
it lasts. But, for the reasons I have already given you, I think it
cannot last very long.


Why should the expenditure of a great landed property, which is a
dispersion of the surplus product of the soil, appear intolerable to
you or to me, when it takes its course through the accumulation of
vast libraries, which are the history of the force and weakness of
the human mind; through great collections of ancient records, medals,
and coins, which attest and explain laws and customs; through
paintings and statues, that, by imitating nature, seem to extend the
limits of creation; through grand monuments of the dead, which
continue the regards and connections of life beyond the grave;
through collections of the specimens of nature, which become a
representative assembly of all the classes and families of the world,
that by disposition facilitate, and, by exciting curiosity, open the
avenues to science? If by great permanent establishments, all these
objects of expense are better secured from the inconstant sport of
personal caprice and personal extravagance, are they worse than if
the same tastes prevailed in scattered individuals? Does not the
sweat of the mason and carpenter, who toil in order to partake the
sweat of the peasant, flow as pleasantly and as salubriously, in the
construction and repair of the majestic edifices of religion, as in
the painted booths and sordid sties of vice and luxury; as honourably
and as profitably in repairing those sacred works, which grow hoary
with innumerable years, as on the momentary receptacles of transient
voluptuousness; in opera-houses, and brothels, and gaming-houses, and
club-houses, and obelisks in the Champ de Mars? Is the surplus
product of the olive and the vine worse employed in the frugal
sustenance of persons, whom the fictions of a pious imagination raise
to dignity by construing in the service of God, than in pampering the
innumerable multitude of those who are degraded by being made useless
domestics, subservient to the pride of man? Are the decorations of
temples an expenditure less worthy a wise man, than ribbons, and
laces, and national cockades, and petites maisons, and petits
soupers, and all the innumerable fopperies and follies, in which
opulence sports away the burthen of its superfluity?

We tolerate even these; not from love of them, but for fear of worse. We
tolerate them, because property and liberty, to a degree, acquire that
toleration. But why proscribe the other, and surely, in every point of
view, the more laudable use of estates? Why, through the violation of
all property, through an outrage upon every principle of liberty,
forcibly carry them from the better to the worse?

This comparison between the new individuals and the old corps, is made
upon a supposition that no reform could be made in the latter. But, in a
question of reformation, I always consider corporate bodies, whether
sole or consisting of many, to be much more susceptible of a public
direction by the power of the state, in the use of their property, and
in the regulation of modes and habits of life in their members, than
private citizens ever can be, or perhaps ought to be: and this seems to
me a very material consideration for those who undertake anything which
merits the name of a politic enterprise. So far as to the estates of

With regard to the estates possessed by bishops and canons, and
commendatory abbots, I cannot find out for what reason some landed
estates may not be held otherwise than by inheritance. Can any
philosophic spoiler undertake to demonstrate the positive or the
comparative evil of having a certain, and that too a large, portion of
landed property, passing in succession through persons whose title to it
is, always in theory, and often, in fact, an eminent degree of piety,
morals, and learning; a property, which, by its destination, in their
turn, and on the score of merit, gives to the noblest families
renovation and support, to the lowest the means of dignity and
elevation; a property the tenure to which is the performance of some
duty (whatever value you may choose to set upon that duty), and the
character of whose proprietors demands, at least, an exterior decorum,
and gravity of manners; who are to exercise a generous but temperate
hospitality; part of whose income they are to consider as a trust for
charity; and who, even when they fail in their trust, when they slide
from their character, and degenerate into a mere common secular nobleman
or gentleman, are in no respect worse than those who may succeed them in
their forfeited possessions? Is it better that estates should be held by
those who have no duty, than by those who have one?--by those whose
character and destination point to virtues, than by those who have no
rule and direction in the expenditure of their estates but their own
will and appetite? Nor are these estates held altogether in the
character or with the evils supposed inherent in mortmain. They pass
from hand to hand with a more rapid circulation than any other. No
excess is good; and therefore too great a proportion of landed property
may be held officially for life: but it does not seem to me of material
injury to any commonwealth, that there should exist some estates that
have a chance of being acquired by other means than the previous
acquisition of money.


I beg leave to tell him, that mere parsimony is not economy. It is
separable in theory from it; and in fact it may, or it may not, be a
PART of economy, according to circumstances. Expense, and great expense,
may be an essential part in true economy. If parsimony were to be
considered as one of the kinds of that virtue, there is, however,
another and a higher economy. Economy is a distributive virtue, and
consists not in saving, but in selection. Parsimony requires no
providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no
judgment. Mere instinct, and that not an instinct of the noblest kind,
may produce this false economy in perfection. The other economy has
larger views. It demands a discriminating judgment, and a firm,
sagacious mind. It shuts one door to impudent importunity, only to open
another, and a wider, to unpresuming merit. If none but meritorious
service or real talent were to be rewarded, this nation has not wanted,
and this nation will not want, the means of rewarding all the service it
ever will receive, and encouraging all the merit it ever will produce.
No state, since the foundation of society, has been impoverished by that
species of profusion. Had the economy of selection and proportion been
at all times observed, we should not now have had an overgrown duke of
Bedford, to oppress the industry of humble men, and to limit, by the
standard of his own conceptions, the justice, the bounty, or, if he
pleases, the charity of the crown.


I wish my countrymen rather to recommend to our neighbours the example
of the British constitution, than to take models from them for the
improvement of our own. In the former they have got an invaluable
treasure. They are not, I think, without some causes of apprehension and
complaint; but these they do not owe to their constitution, but to their
own conduct. I think our happy situation owing to our constitution; but
owing to the whole of it, and not to any part singly; owing, in a great
measure, to what we have left standing in our several reviews and
reformations, as well as to what we have altered or superadded. Our
people will find employment enough for a truly patriotic, free, and
independent spirit, in guarding what they possess from violation. I
would not exclude alteration neither; but even when I changed, it should
be to preserve. I should be led to my remedy by a great grievance. In
what I did, I should follow the example of our ancestors. I would make
the reparation as nearly as possible in the style of the building. A
politic caution, a guarded circumspection, a moral rather than a
complexional timidity, were among the ruling principles of our
forefathers in their most decided conduct. Not being illuminated with
the light of which the gentlemen of France tell us they have got so
abundant a share, they acted under a strong impression of the ignorance
and fallibility of mankind. He that had made them thus fallible,
rewarded them for having in their conduct attended to their nature. Let
us imitate their caution, if we wish to deserve their fortune, or to
retain their bequests. Let us add, if we please, but let us preserve
what they have left; and, standing on the firm ground of the British
constitution, let us be satisfied to admire, rather than attempt to
follow in their desperate flights the aeronauts of France.

I have told you candidly my sentiments. I think they are not likely to
alter yours. I do not know that they ought. You are young; you cannot
guide, but must follow the fortune of your country. But hereafter they
may be of some use to you, in some future form which your commonwealth
may take. In the present it can hardly remain; but before its final
settlement it may be obliged to pass, as one of our poets says, "through
great varieties of untried being," and in all its transmigrations to be
purified by fire and blood.


I cannot too often recommend it to the serious consideration of all
men, who think civil society to be within the province of moral
jurisdiction, that if we owe to it any duty, it is not subject to our
will. Duties are not voluntary. Duty and will are even contradictory
terms. Now, though civil society might be at first a voluntary act
(which in many cases it undoubtedly was), its continuance is under a
permanent, standing covenant, co-existing with the society; and it
attaches upon every individual of that society, without any formal
act of his own. This is warranted by the general practice, arising
out of the general sense of mankind. Men without their choice derive
benefits from that association; without their choice they are
subjected to duties in consequence of these benefits; and without
their choice they enter into a virtual obligation as binding as any
that is actual. Look through the whole of life and the whole system
of duties. Much the strongest moral obligations are such as were
never the results of our option. I allow, that if no supreme ruler
exists, wise to form, and potent to enforce, the moral law, there is
no sanction to any contract, virtual or even actual, against the will
of prevalent power. On that hypothesis, let any set of men be strong
enough to set their duties at defiance, and they cease to be duties
any longer. We have but this one appeal against irresistible power--

"Si genus humanum et mortalia temnitis arma,
At sperate Deos memores fandi atque nefandi."

Taking it for granted that I do not write to the disciples of the
Parisian philosophy, I may assume, that the awful Author of our being is
the Author of our place in the order of existence; and that, having
disposed and marshalled us by a divine tactic, not according to our
will, but according to his, he has, in and by that disposition,
virtually subjected us to act the part which belongs to the place
assigned us. We have obligations to mankind at large, which are not in
consequence of any special voluntary pact. They arise from the relation
of man to man, and the relation of man to God, which relations are not
matters of choice. On the contrary, the force of all the pacts which we
enter into with any particular person, or number of persons, amongst
mankind, depends upon those prior obligations. In some cases the
subordinate relations are voluntary, in others they are necessary--but
the duties are all compulsive. When we marry, the choice is voluntary,
but the duties are not matter of choice. They are dictated by the nature
of the situation. Dark and inscrutable are the ways by which we come
into the world. The instincts which give rise to this mysterious process
of nature are not of our making. But out of physical causes, unknown to
us, perhaps unknowable, arise moral duties, which, as we are able
perfectly to comprehend, we are bound indispensably to perform. Parents
may not be consenting to their moral relation; but consenting or not,
they are bound to a long train of burthensome duties towards those with
whom they have never made a convention of any sort. Children are not
consenting to their relation, but their relation, without their actual
consent, binds them to its duties; or rather it implies their consent,
because the presumed consent of every rational creature is in unison
with the predisposed order of things. Men come in that manner into a
community with the social state of their parents, endowed with all the
benefits, loaded with all the duties, of their situation. If the social
ties and ligaments, spun out of those physical relations which are the
elements of the commonwealth, in most cases begin, and alway continue,
independently of our will, so, without any stipulation on our own part,
are we bound by that relation called our country, which comprehends (as
it has been well said) "all the charities of all." Nor are we left
without powerful instincts to make this duty as dear and grateful to us,
as it is awful and coercive. It consists, in a great measure, in the
ancient order into which we are born. We may have the same geographical
situation, but another country; as we may have the same country in
another soil. The place that determines our duty to our country is a
social, civil relation.


The confiscators truly have made some allowance to their victims from
the scraps and fragments of their own tables, from which they have
been so harshly driven, and which have been so bountifully spread for
a feast to the harpies of usury. But to drive men from independence
to live on alms is itself great cruelty. That which might be a
tolerable condition to men in one state of life, and not habituated
to other things, may, when all these circumstances are altered, be a
dreadful revolution; and one to which a virtuous mind would feel pain
in condemning any guilt, except that which would demand the life of
the offender. But to many minds this punishment of DEGRADATION and
INFAMY is worse than death. Undoubtedly it is an infinite aggravation
of this cruel suffering, that the persons who were taught a double
prejudice in favour of religion, by education and by the place they
held in the administration of its functions, are to receive the
remnants of the property as alms from the profane and impious hands
of those who had plundered them of all the rest; to receive (if they
are at all to receive) not from the charitable contributions of the
faithful, but from the insolent tenderness of known and avowed
atheism, the maintenance of religion, measured out to them on the
standard of the contempt in which it is held; and for the purpose of
rendering those who receive the allowance vile, and of no estimation,
in the eyes of mankind.

But this act of seizure of property, it seems, is a judgment in law, and
not a confiscation. They have, it seems, found out in the academies of
the Palais Royal and the Jacobins, that certain men had no right to the
possessions which they held under law, usage, the decisions of courts,
and the accumulated prescription of a thousand years. They say that
ecclesiastics are fictitious persons, creatures of the state, whom at
pleasure they may destroy, and of course limit and modify in every
particular; that the goods they possess are not properly theirs, but
belong to the state which created the fiction; and we are therefore not
to trouble ourselves with what they may suffer in their natural feelings
and natural persons, on account of what is done towards them in this
their constructive character. Of what import is it under what names you
injure men, and deprive them of the just emoluments of a profession, in
which they were not only permitted but encouraged by the state to
engage; and upon the supposed certainty of which emoluments they had
formed the plan of their lives, contracted debts, and led multitudes to
an entire dependence upon them?

You do not imagine, sir, that I am going to compliment this miserable
distinction of persons with any long discussion. The arguments of
tyranny are as contemptible as its force is dreadful. Had not your
confiscators, by their early crimes, obtained a power which secures
indemnity to all the crimes of which they have since been guilty, or
that they can commit, it is not the syllogism of the logician, but the
lash of the executioner, that would have refuted a sophistry which
becomes an accomplice of theft and murder. The sophistic tyrants of
Paris are loud in their declamations against the departed regal tyrants,
who in former ages have vexed the world. They are thus bold, because
they are safe from the dungeons and iron cages of their old masters.
Shall we be more tender of the tyrants of our own time, when we see them
acting worse tragedies under our eyes? shall we not use the same liberty
that they do, when we can use it with the same safety? when to speak
honest truth only requires a contempt of the opinion of those whose
actions we abhor?


We do not draw the moral lessons we might from history. On the contrary,
without care it may be used to vitiate our minds and to destroy our
happiness. In history a great volume is unrolled for our instruction,
drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and
infirmities of mankind. It may, in the perversion, serve for a magazine,
furnishing offensive and defensive weapons for parties in church and
state, and supplying the means of keeping alive, or reviving,
dissensions and animosities, and adding fuel to civil fury. History
consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world
by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy,
ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetites which shake
the public with the same

--"troublous storms that toss
The private state, and render life unsweet."

These vices are the CAUSES of those storms. Religion, morals, laws,
prerogatives, privileges, liberties, rights of men, are the PRETEXTS.
The pretexts are always found in some specious appearance of a real
good. You would not secure men from tyranny and sedition, by rooting out
of the mind the principles to which these fraudulent pretexts apply? If
you did, you would root out everything that is valuable in the human
breast. As these are the pretexts, so the ordinary actors and
instruments in great public evils are kings, priests, magistrates,
senates, parliaments, national assemblies, judges, and captains. You
would not cure the evil by resolving that there should be no more
monarchs, nor ministers of state, nor of the gospel; no interpreters of
law; no general officers; no public councils. You might change the
names. The things in some shape must remain. A certain quantum of power
must always exist in the community, in some hands, and under some
appellation. Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to names;
to the causes of evil which are permanent, not to the occasional organs
by which they act, and the transitory modes in which they appear.
Otherwise you will be wise historically,--a fool in practice. Seldom
have two ages the same fashion in their pretexts and the same modes of
mischief. Wickedness is a little more inventive. Whilst you are
discussing fashion, the fashion is gone by. The very same vice assumes a
new body. The spirit transmigrates; and, far from losing its principle
of life by the change of its appearance, it is renovated in its new
organs with the fresh vigour of a juvenile activity. It walks abroad, it
continues its ravages, whilst you are gibbeting the carcase, or
demolishing the tomb. You are terrifying yourselves with ghosts and
apparitions, whilst your house is the haunt of robbers. It is thus with
all those who, attending only to the shell and husk of history, think
they are waging war with intolerance, pride, and cruelty, whilst, under
colour of abhorring the ill principles of antiquated parties, they are
authorizing and feeding the same odious vices in different factions, and
perhaps in worse.


Not that I derogate from the use of history. It is a great improver
of the understanding, by showing both men and affairs in a great
variety of views. From this source much political wisdom may be
learned; that is, may be learned as habit, not as precept; and as an
exercise to strengthen the mind, as furnishing materials to enlarge
and enrich it, not as a repertory of cases and precedents for a
lawyer: if it were, a thousand times better would it be that a
statesman had never learned to read--vellem nescirent literas. This
method turns their understanding from the object before them, and
from the present exigencies of the world, to comparisons with former
times, of which, after all, we can know very little, and very
imperfectly; and our guides, the historians, who are to give us their
true interpretation, are often prejudiced, often ignorant, often
fonder of system than of truth. Whereas, if a man with reasonably
good parts and natural sagacity, and not in the leading-strings of
any master, will look steadily on the business before him, without
being diverted by retrospect and comparison, he may be capable of
forming a reasonably good judgment of what is to be done. There are
some fundamental points in which nature never changes--but they are
few and obvious, and belong rather to morals than to politics. But so
far as regards political matter, the human mind and human affairs are
susceptible of infinite modifications, and of combinations wholly new
and unlooked for. Very few, for instance, could have imagined that
property, which has been taken for natural dominion, should, through
the whole of a vast kingdom, lose all its importance and even its
influence. This is what history or books of speculation could hardly
have taught us. How many could have thought, that the most complete
and formidable revolution in a great empire should be made by men of
letters, not as subordinate instruments and trumpeters of sedition,
but as the chief contrivers and managers, and in a short time as the
open administrators and sovereign rulers? Who could have imagined
that atheism could produce one of the most violently operative
principles of fanaticism? Who could have imagined that, in a
commonwealth in a manner cradled in war, and in extensive and
dreadful war, military commanders should be of little or no account?
That the Convention should not contain one military man of name? That
administrative bodies in a state of the utmost confusion, and of but
a momentary duration, and composed of men with not one imposing part
of character, should be able to govern the country and its armies
with an authority which the most settled senates, and the most
respected monarchs, scarcely ever had in the same degree? This, for
one, I confess I did not foresee, though all the rest was present to
me very early, and not out of my apprehension even for several years.


Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere
occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure--but the state ought
not to be considered nothing better than a partnership agreement in a
trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low
concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be
dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other
reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to
the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a
partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in
every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership
cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not
only between those who are living, but between those who are living,
those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each
particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of
eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting
the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned
by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and all moral natures
each in their appointed place. This law is not subject to the will of
those, who by an obligation above them, and infinitely superior, are
bound to submit their will to that law. The municipal corporations of
that universal kingdom are not morally at liberty at their pleasure, and
on their speculations of a contingent improvement, wholly to separate
and tear asunder the bands of their subordinate community, and to
dissolve it into an unsocial, uncivil, unconnected chaos of elementary
principles. It is the first and supreme necessity only, a necessity that
is not chosen, but chooses, a necessity paramount to deliberation, that
admits no discussion, and demands no evidence, which alone can justify a
resort to anarchy. This necessity is no exception to the rule; because
this necessity itself is a part too of that moral and physical
disposition of things to which man must be obedient by consent of force:
but if that which is only submission to necessity should be made the
object of choice, the law is broken, nature is disobeyed, and the
rebellious are outlawed, cast forth, and exiled from this world of
reason, and order, and peace, and virtue, and fruitful penitence, into
the antagonist world of madness, discord, vice, confusion, and
unavailing sorrow.


The crown has considered me after long service; the crown has paid the
duke of Bedford by advance. He has had a long credit for any service
which he may perform hereafter. He is secure, and long may he be secure,
in his advance, whether he performs any services or not. But let him
take care how he endangers the safety of that constitution which secures
his own utility or his own insignificance; or how he discourages those
who take up even puny arms to defend an order of things which, like the
sun of heaven, shines alike on the useful and the worthless. His grants
are engrafted on the public law of Europe, covered with the awful hoar
of innumerable ages. They are guarded by the sacred rules of
prescription, found in that full treasury of jurisprudence from which
the jejuneness and penury of our municipal law has, by degrees, been
enriched and strengthened. This prescription I had my share (a very full
share) in bringing to its perfection. The duke of Bedford will stand as
long as prescriptive law endures; as long as the great stable laws of
property, common to us with all civilized nations, are kept in their
integrity, and without the smallest intermixture of laws, maxims,
principles, or precedents, of the grand revolution. They are secure
against all changes but one. The whole revolutionary system, institutes,
digest, code, novels, text, gloss, comment, are not only not the same,
but they are the very reverse, and the reverse fundamentally, of all the
laws, on which civil life has hitherto been upheld in all the
governments of the world. The learned professors of the rights of man
regard prescription not as a title to bar all claim, set up against all
possession, but they look on prescription as itself a bar against the
possessor and proprietor. They hold an immemorial possession to be no
more than a long-continued, and therefore an aggravated injustice.

Such are THEIR ideas, such THEIR religion, and such THEIR law. But as to
OUR country and OUR race, as long as the well-compacted structure of our
church and state, the sanctuary, the holy of holies of that ancient law,
defended by reverence, defended by power, a fortress at once and a
temple, shall stand inviolate on the brow of the British Sion; as long
as the British monarchy, not more limited than fenced by the orders of
the state, shall, like the proud Keep of Windsor, rising in the majesty
of proportion, and girt with the double belt of its kindred and coeval
towers,--as long as this awful structure shall oversee and guard the
subjected land--so long the mounds and dykes of the low, fat Bedford
Level will have nothing to fear from all the pickaxes of all the
levellers of France. As long as our sovereign lord the king, and his
faithful subjects, the lords and commons of this realm,--the triple
cord, which no man can break; the solemn, sworn, constitutional
frank-pledge of this nation; the firm guarantees of each other's being,
and each other's rights; the joint and several securities, each in its
place and order, for every kind and every quality, of property and of
dignity:--as long as these endure, so long the duke of Bedford is safe:
and we are all safe together--the high from the blights of envy and the
spoliations of rapacity; the low from the iron hand of oppression and
the insolent spurn of contempt. Amen! and so be it: and so it will be,--

"Dum domus Aeneae Capitoli immobile saxum
Accolet; imperiumque pater Romanus habebit."


Novelty is not the only source of zeal. Why should not a Maccabeus
and his brethren arise to assert the honour of the ancient law, and
to defend the temple of their forefathers, with as ardent a spirit as
can inspire any innovator to destroy the monuments of the piety and
the glory of ancient ages? It is not a hazarded assertion, it is a
great truth, that when once things are gone out of their ordinary
course, it is by acts out of the ordinary course they can alone be
re-established. Republican spirit can only be combated by a spirit of
the same nature: of the same nature, but informed with another
principle, and pointing to another end. I would persuade a
resistance, both to the corruption and to the reformation that
prevails. It will not be the weaker, but much the stronger, for
combating both together. A victory over real corruptions would enable
us to baffle the spurious and pretended reformations. I would not
wish to excite, or even to tolerate, that kind of evil spirit which
invokes the powers of hell to rectify the disorders of the earth. No!
I would add my voice with better, and I trust, more potent charms, to
draw down justice and wisdom and fortitude from heaven, for the
correction of human vice, and the recalling of human error from the
devious ways into which it has been betrayed. I would wish to call
the impulses of individuals at once to the aid and to the control of
authority. By this, which I call the true republican spirit,
paradoxical as it may appear, monarchies alone can be rescued from
the imbecility of courts and the madness of the crowd. This
republican spirit would not suffer men in high place to bring ruin on
their country and on themselves. It would reform, not by destroying,
but by saving, the great, the rich, and the powerful. Such a
republican spirit, we perhaps fondly conceive to have animated the
distinguished heroes and patriots of old, who knew no mode of policy
but religion and virtue. These they would have paramount to all
constitutions; they would not suffer monarchs, or senates, or popular
assemblies, under pretences of dignity, or authority, or freedom, to
shake off those moral riders which reason has appointed to govern
every sort of rude power. These, in appearance loading them by their
weight, do by that pressure augment their essential force. The
momentum is increased by the extraneous weight. It is true in moral,
as it is in mechanical science. It is true, not only in the draught,
but in the race. These riders of the great, in effect, hold the reins
which guide them in their course, and wear the spur that stimulates
them to the goals of honour and of safety. The great must submit to
the dominion of prudence and of virtue, or none will long submit to
the dominion of the great.

"Dis te minorem quod geris imperas."

This is the feudal tenure which they cannot alter.


The revenue of the state is the state. In effect all depends upon it,
whether for support or for reformation. The dignity of every occupation
wholly depends upon the quantity and the kind of virtue that may be
exerted in it. As all great qualities of the mind which operate in
public, and are not merely suffering and passive, require force for
their display, I had almost said for their unequivocal existence, the
revenue, which is the spring of all power, becomes in its administration
the sphere of every active virtue. Public virtue, being of a nature
magnificent and splendid, instituted for great things, and conversant
about great concerns, requires abundant scope and room, and cannot
spread and grow under confinement, and in circumstances straitened,
narrow, and sordid. Through the revenue alone the body politic can act
in its true genius and character, and therefore it will display just as
much of its collective virtue, and as much of that virtue which may
characterize those who move it, and are, as it were, its life and
guiding principle, as it is possessed of a just revenue. For from hence
not only magnanimity, and liberality, and beneficence, and fortitude,
and providence, and the tutelary protection of all good arts, derive
their food, and the growth of their organs, but continence, and
self-denial, and labour, and vigilance, and frugality, and whatever else
there is in which the mind shows itself above the appetite, are nowhere
more in their proper element than in the provision and distribution of
the public wealth. It is therefore not without reason that the science
of speculative and practical finance, which must take to its aid so many
auxiliary branches of knowledge, stands high in the estimation, not only
of the ordinary sort, but of the wisest and best men; and as this
science has grown with the progress of its object, the prosperity and
improvement of nations has generally increased with the increase of
their revenues; and they will both continue to grow and flourish, as
long as the balance between what is left to strengthen the efforts of
individuals, and what is collected for the common efforts of the state,
bear to each other a due reciprocal proportion, and are kept in a close
correspondence and communication.


These philosophers are fanatics; independent of any interest, which
if it operated alone would make them much more tractable, they are
carried with such a headlong rage towards every desperate trial, that
they would sacrifice the whole human race to the slightest of their
experiments. I am better able to enter into the character of this
description of men than the noble duke can be. I have lived long and
variously in the world. Without any considerable pretensions to
literature in myself, I have aspired to the love of letters. I have
lived for a great many years in habitudes with those who professed
them. I can form a tolerable estimate of what is likely to happen
from a character chiefly dependent for fame and fortune on knowledge
and talent, as well in its morbid and perverted state as in that
which is sound and natural. Naturally, men so formed and finished are
the first gifts of Providence to the world. But when they have once
thrown off the fear of God, which was in all ages too often the case,
and the fear of men, which is now the case, and when in that state
they come to understand one another, and to act in corps, a more
dreadful calamity cannot arise out of hell to scourge mankind.
Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred
metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked
spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of
the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed,
dephlegmated, defecated evil. It is no easy operation to eradicate
humanity from the human breast. What Shakespeare calls "the
compunctious visitings of nature," will sometimes knock at their
hearts, and protest against their murderous speculations. But they
have a means of compounding with their nature. Their humanity is not
dissolved. They only give it a long prorogation. They are ready to
declare, that they do not think two thousand years too long a period
for the good that they pursue. It is remarkable, that they never see
any way to their projected good but by the road of some evil. Their
imagination is not fatigued with the contemplation of human suffering
through the wild waste of centuries added to centuries of misery and
desolation. Their humanity is at their horizon--and, like the
horizon, it always flies before them. The geometricians and the
chemists bring the one from the dry bones of their diagrams, and the
other from the soot of their furnaces, dispositions that make them
worse than indifferent about those feelings and habitudes which are
the supports of the moral world. Ambition is come upon them suddenly;
they are intoxicated with it, and it has rendered them fearless of
the danger which may from thence arise to others or to themselves.
These philosophers consider men in their experiments no more than
they do mice in an air-pump, or in a recipient of mephitic gas.
Whatever his grace may think of himself, they look upon him, and
everything that belongs to him, with no more regard than they do upon
the whiskers of that little long-tailed animal, that has been long
the game of the grave, demure, insidious, spring-nailed,
velvet-pawed, green-eyed philosophers, whether going upon two legs or
upon four.


I really am at a loss to draw any sort of parallel between the public
merits of his grace, by which he justifies the grants he holds, and
these services of mine, on the favourable construction of which I have
obtained what his grace so much disapproves. In private life, I have not
at all the honour of acquaintance with the noble duke. But I ought to
presume, and it costs me nothing to do so, that he abundantly deserves
the esteem and love of all who live with him. But as to public service,
why truly it would not be more ridiculous for me to compare myself in
rank, in fortune, in splendid descent, in youth, strength, or figure,
with the duke of Bedford, than to make a parallel between his services
and my attempts to be useful to my country. It would not be gross
adulation, but uncivil irony, to say, that he has any public merit of
his own to keep alive the idea of the services by which his vast landed
pensions were obtained. My merits, whatever they are, are original and
personal; his are derivative. It is his ancestor, the original
pensioner, that has laid up this inexhaustible fund of merit, which
makes his grace so very delicate and exceptious about the merit of all
other grantees of the crown. Had he permitted me to remain in quiet, I
should have said, 'Tis his estate; that's enough. It is his by law; what
have I to do with it or its history? He would naturally have said on his
side, 'Tis this man's fortune. He is as good now as my ancestor was two
hundred and fifty years ago. I am a young man with very old pensions: he
is an old man with very young pensions,--that's all. Why will his grace,
by attacking me, force me reluctantly to compare my little merit with
that which obtained from the crown those prodigies of profuse donation
by which he tramples on the mediocrity of humble and laborious
individuals? I would willingly leave him to the herald's college, which
the philosophy of the sans culottes (prouder by far than all the
Garters, and Norroys, and Clarencieux, and Rouge Dragons, that ever
pranced in a procession of what his friends call aristocrats and
despots) will abolish with contumely and scorn. These historians,
recorders, and blazoners of virtues and arms, differ wholly from that
other description of historians, who never assign any act of politicians
to a good motive. These gentle historians, on the contrary, dip their
pens in nothing but the milk of human kindness. They seek no further for
merit than the preamble of a patent, or the inscription of a tomb. With
them every man created a peer is first a hero ready made. They judge of
every man's capacity for office by the offices he has filled; and the
more offices, the more ability. Every general-officer with them is a
Marlborough; every statesman a Burleigh; every judge a Murray or a
Yorke. They who, alive, were laughed at or pitied by all their
acquaintance, make as good a figure as the best of them in the pages of
Guillim, Edmondson, and Collins.


But the institutions savour of superstition in their very principle; and
they nourish it by a permanent and standing influence. This I do not
mean to dispute; but this ought not to hinder you from deriving from
superstition itself any resources which may thence be furnished for the
public advantage. You derive benefits from many dispositions and many
passions of the human mind, which are of as doubtful a colour, in the
moral eye, as superstition itself. It was your business to correct and
mitigate everything which was noxious in this passion, as in all the
passions. But is superstition the greatest of all possible vices? In its
possible excess I think it becomes a very great evil. It is, however, a
moral subject; and of course admits of all degrees and all
modifications. Superstition is the religion of feeble minds; and they
must be tolerated in an intermixture of it, in some trifling or some
enthusiastic shape or other, else you will deprive weak minds of a
resource found necessary to the strongest. The body of all true religion
consists, to be sure, in obedience to the will of the Sovereign of the
world; in a confidence in his declarations, and in imitation of his
perfections. The rest is our own. It may be prejudicial to the great
end; it may be auxiliary. Wise men, who as such are not ADMIRERS (not
admirers at least of the munera terrae), are not violently attached to
these things, nor do they violently hate them. Wisdom is not the most
severe corrector of folly. They are the rival follies, which mutually
wage so unrelenting a war; and which make so cruel a use of their
advantages, as they can happen to engage the immoderate vulgar, on the
one side, or the other, in their quarrels. Prudence would be neuter; but
if, in the contention between fond attachment and fierce antipathy
concerning things in their nature not made to produce such heats, a
prudent man were obliged to make a choice of what errors and excesses of
enthusiasm he would condemn or bear, perhaps he would think the
superstition which builds, to be more tolerable than that which
demolishes; that which adorns a country, than that which deforms it;
that which endows, than that which plunders; that which disposes to
mistaken beneficence, than that which stimulates to real injustice; that
which leads a man to refuse to himself lawful pleasures, than that which
snatches from others the scanty subsistence of their self-denial. Such,
I think, is very nearly the state of the question between the ancient
founders of monkish superstition, and the superstition of the pretended
philosophers of the hour.


There are moments in the fortune of states when particular men are
called to make improvements by great mental exertion. In those
moments, even when they seem to enjoy the confidence of their prince
and country, and to be invested with full authority, they have not
always apt instruments. A politician, to do great things, looks for a
POWER, what our workmen call a PURCHASE; and if he finds that power,
in politics as in mechanics, he cannot be at a loss to apply it. In
the monastic institutions, in my opinion, was found a great POWER for
the mechanism of politic benevolence. There were revenues with a
public direction; there were men wholly set apart and dedicated to
public purposes, without any other than public ties and public
principles; men without the possibility of converting the estate of
the community into a private fortune; men denied to self-interests,
whose avarice is for some community; men to whom personal poverty is
honour, and implicit obedience stands in the place of freedom. In
vain shall a man look to the possibility of making such things when
he wants them. The winds blow as they list. These institutions are
the products of enthusiasm; they are the instruments of wisdom.
Wisdom cannot create materials; they are the gifts of nature or of
chance; her pride is in the use. The perennial existence of bodies
corporate and their fortunes are things particularly suited to a man
who has long views; who meditates designs that require time in
fashioning, and which propose duration when they are accomplished. He
is not deserving to rank high, or even to be mentioned in the order
of great statesmen, who, having obtained the command and direction of
such a power as existed in the wealth, the discipline, and the habits
of such corporations, as those which you have rashly destroyed,
cannot find any way of converting it to the great and lasting benefit
of his country. On the view of this subject, a thousand uses suggest
themselves to a contriving mind. To destroy any power, growing wild
from the rank productive force of the human mind, is almost
tantamount, in the moral world, to the destruction of the apparently
active properties of bodies in the material. It would be like the
attempt to destroy (if it were in our competence to destroy) the
expansive force of fixed air in nitre, or the power of steam, or of
electricity, or of magnetism. These energies always existed in
nature, and they were always discernible. They seemed, some of them
unserviceable, some noxious, some no better than a sport to children;
until contemplative ability, combining with practic skill, tamed
their wild nature, subdued them to use, and rendered them at once the
most powerful and the most tractable agents, in subservience to the
great views and designs of men. Did fifty thousand persons, whose
mental and whose bodily labour you might direct, and so many hundred
thousand a year of a revenue, which was neither lazy nor
superstitious, appear too big for your abilities to wield? Had you no
way of using the men but by converting monks into pensioners? Had you
no way of turning the revenue to account but through the improvident
resource of a spendthrift sale? If you were thus destitute of mental
funds, the proceeding is in its natural course. Your politicians do
not understand their trade; and therefore they sell their tools.


"Protestantism of the English Church," very indefinite, because the term
PROTESTANT, which you apply, is too general for the conclusions which
one of your accurate understanding would wish to draw from it; and
because a great deal of argument will depend on the use that is made of
that term. It is NOT a fundamental part of the settlement at the
Revolution, that the state should be protestant without ANY
QUALIFICATION OF THE TERM. With a qualification it is unquestionably
true; not in all its latitude. With the qualification, it was true
before the Revolution. Our predecessors in legislation were not so
irrational (not to say impious) as to form an operose ecclesiastical
establishment, and even to render the state itself in some degree
subservient to it, when their religion (if such it might be called) was
nothing but a mere NEGATION of some other--without any positive idea
either of doctrine, discipline, worship, or morals, in the scheme which
they professed themselves, and which they imposed upon others, even
under penalties and incapacities.--No! no! This never could have been
done even by reasonable atheists. They who think religion of no
importance to the state, have abandoned it to the conscience or caprice
of the individual; they make no provision for it whatsoever, but leave
every club to make, or not, a voluntary contribution towards its
support, according to their fancies. This would be consistent. The other
always appeared to me to be a monster of contradiction and absurdity. It
was for that reason that, some years ago, I strenuously opposed the
clergy who petitioned, to the number of about three hundred, to be freed
from the subscription to the thirty-nine articles, without proposing to
substitute any other in their place. There never has been a religion of
the state (the few years of the Parliament only excepted), but that of
THE ESPISCOPAL CHURCH OF ENGLAND; the Episcopal Church of England,
before the Reformation, connected with the see of Rome, since then,
disconnected and protesting against some of her doctrines, and against
the whole of her authority, as binding in our national church: nor did
the fundamental laws of this kingdom (in Ireland it has been the same)
ever know, at any period, any other church AS AN OBJECT OF
ESTABLISHMENT; or in that light, any other protestant religion. Nay, our
protestant TOLERATION itself at the Revolution, and until within a few
years, required a signature of thirty-six, and a part of the
thirty-seventh, out of the thirty-nine articles. So little idea had they
at the Revolution of ESTABLISHING Protestantism indefinitely, that they
did not indefinitely TOLERATE it under that name. I do not mean to
praise that strictness, where nothing more than merely religious
toleration is concerned. Toleration, being a part of moral and political
prudence, ought to be tender and large. A tolerant government ought not
to be too scrupulous in its investigations; but may bear without blame,
not only very ill-grounded doctrines, but even many things that are
positively vices, where they are adulta et praevalida. The good of the
commonwealth is the rule which rides over the rest; and to this every
other must completely submit.


A brave people will certainly prefer liberty accompanied with a virtuous
poverty to a depraved and wealthy servitude. But before the price of
comfort and opulence is paid, one ought to be pretty sure it is real
liberty which is purchased, and that she is to be purchased at no other
price. I shall always, however, consider that liberty as very equivocal
in her appearance, which has not wisdom and justice for her companions,
and does not lead prosperity and plenty in her train.


When I assert anything else, as concerning the people of England, I
speak from observation, not from authority; but I speak from the
experience I have had in a pretty extensive and mixed communication
with the inhabitants of this kingdom, of all descriptions and ranks,
and after a course of attentive observation, begun in early life, and
continued for nearly forty years. I have often been astonished,
considering that we are divided from you but by a slender dyke of
about twenty-four miles, and that the mutual intercourse between the
two countries has lately been very great, to find how little you seem
to know of us. I suspect that this is owing to your forming a
judgment of this nation from certain publications, which do, very
erroneously, if they do at all, represent the opinions and
dispositions generally prevalent in England. The vanity,
restlessness, petulance, and spirit of intrigue, of several petty
cabals, who attempt to hide their total want of consequence in bustle
and noise, and puffing, and mutual quotation of each other, makes you
imagine that our contemptuous neglect of their abilities is a general
mark of acquiescence in their opinions. No such thing, I assure you.
Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring
with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle,
reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are
silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the
only inhabitants of the field; that, of course, they are many in
number; or that, after all, they are other than the little,
shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of
the hour.


When the supreme authority of the people is in question, before we
attempt to extend or to confine it, we ought to fix in our minds, with
some degree of distinctness, an idea of what it is we mean when we say

In a state of RUDE nature there is no such thing as a people. A number
of men in themselves have no collective capacity. The idea of a people
is the idea of a corporation. It is wholly artificial; and made like all
other legal fictions by common agreement. What the particular nature of
that agreement was, is collected from the form into which the particular
society has been cast. Any other is not THEIR covenant. When men,
therefore, break up the original compact or agreement, which gives its
corporate form and capacity to a state, they are no longer a people;
they have no longer a corporate existence; they have no longer a legal,
coactive force to bind within, nor a claim to be recognised abroad. They
are a number of vague, loose individuals, and nothing more. With them
all is to begin again. Alas! they little know how many a weary step is
to be taken before they can form themselves into a mass, which has a
true, politic personality.

We hear much from men, who have not acquired their hardness of assertion
from the profundity of their thinking, about the omnipotence of a
MAJORITY, in such a dissolution of an ancient society as hath taken
place in France. But amongst men so disbanded, there can be no such
thing as majority or minority; or power in any one person to bind
another. The power of acting by a majority, which the gentlemen
theorists seem to assume so readily, after they have violated the
contract out of which it has arisen (if at all it existed), must be
grounded on two assumptions; first, that of an incorporation produced by
unanimity; and, secondly, an unanimous agreement, that the act of a mere
majority (say of one) shall pass with them and with others as the act of
the whole.

We are so little affected by things which are habitual, that we consider
this idea of the decision of a MAJORITY as if it were a law of our
original nature; but such constructive whole, residing in a part only,
is one of the most violent fictions of positive law that ever has been
or can be made on the principles of artificial incorporation. Out of
civil society nature knows nothing of it; nor are men, even when
arranged according to civil order, otherwise than by very long training,
brought at all to submit to it. The mind is brought far more easily to
acquiesce in the proceedings of one man, or a few, who act under a
general procuration for the state, than in the vote of a victorious
majority in councils, in which every man has his share in the
deliberation. For there the beaten party are exasperated and soured by
the previous contention, and mortified by the conclusive defeat. This
mode of decision, where wills may be so nearly equal, where, according
to circumstances, the smaller number may be the stronger force, and
where apparent reason may be all upon one side, and on the other little
else than impetuous appetite; all this must be the result of a very
particular and special convention, confirmed afterwards by long habits
of obedience, by a sort of discipline in society, and by a strong hand,
vested with stationary, permanent power, to enforce this sort of
constructive general will. What organ it is that shall declare the
corporate mind is so much a matter of positive arrangement, that several
states, for the validity of several of their acts, have required a
proportion of voices much greater than that of a mere majority. These
proportions are so entirely governed by convention, that in some cases
the minority decides.


I do not accuse the people of England. As to the great majority of
the nation, they have done whatever in their several ranks, and
conditions, and descriptions, was required of them by their relative
situations in society; and from those the great mass of mankind
cannot depart, without the subversion of all public order. They look
up to that government which they obey that they may be protected.
They ask to be led and directed by those rulers whom Providence and
the laws of their country have set over them, and under their
guidance to walk in the ways of safety and honour. They have again
delegated the greatest trust which they have to bestow to those
faithful representatives who made their true voice heard against the
disturbers and destroyers of Europe. They suffered, with unapproving
acquiescence, solicitations which they had in no shape desired, to an
unjust and usurping power whom they had never provoked, and whose
hostile menaces they did not dread. When the exigencies of the public
service could only be met by their voluntary zeal, they started forth
with an ardour which out-stripped the wishes of those who had injured
them by doubting whether it might not be necessary to have recourse
to compulsion. They have, in all things, reposed an enduring, but not
an unreflecting, confidence. That confidence demands a full return,
and fixes a responsibility on the ministers entire and undivided. The
people stands acquitted, if the war is not carried on in a manner
suited to its objects. If the public honour is tarnished, if the
public safety suffers any detriment, the ministers, not the people,
are to answer it, and they alone. Its armies, its navies, are given
to them without stint or restriction. Its treasures are poured out at
their feet. Its constancy is ready to second all their efforts. They
are not to fear a responsibility for acts of manly adventure. The
responsibility which they are to dread is, lest they should show
themselves unequal to the expectation of a brave people. The more
doubtful may be the constitutional and economical questions upon
which they have received so marked a support, the more loudly they
are called upon to support this great war, for the success of which
their country is willing to supersede considerations of no slight
importance. Where I speak of responsibility, I do not mean to exclude
that species of it which the legal powers of the country have a right
finally to exact from those who abuse a public trust; but high as
this is, there is a responsibility which attaches on them, from which
the whole legitimate power of this kingdom cannot absolve them: there
is a responsibility to conscience and to glory; a responsibility to
the existing world, and to that posterity which men of their eminence
cannot avoid for glory or for shame; a responsibility to a tribunal
at which not only ministers, but kings and parliaments, but even
nations themselves, must one day answer.


We know, and what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the
basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort.
In England we are so convinced of this, that there is no rust of
superstition with which the accumulated absurdity of the human mind
might have crusted it over in the course of ages, that ninety-nine in a
hundred of the people of England would not prefer to impiety. We shall
never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the substance of any
system to remove its corruptions, to supply its defects, or to perfect
its construction. If our religious tenets should ever want a further
elucidation, we shall not call on atheism to explain them. We shall not
light up our temple from that unhallowed fire. It will be illuminated
with other lights. It will be perfumed with other incense than the
infectious stuff which is imported by the smugglers of adulterated
metaphysics. If our ecclesiastical establishment should want a revision,
it is not avarice or rapacity, public or private, that we shall employ
for the audit, or receipt, or application of its consecrated revenue.
Violently condemning neither the Greek nor the Armenian, nor, since
heats are subsided, the Roman system of religion, we prefer the
Protestant; not because we think it has less of the Christian religion
in it, but because, in our judgment, it has more. We are Protestants,
not from indifference, but from zeal. We know, and it is our pride to
know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism
is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot
prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium
from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is
now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness, by throwing
off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and
comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and among many
other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will
not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading
superstition might take place of it.


It is undoubtedly true, though it may seem paradoxical, but in general,
those who are habitually employed in finding and displaying faults, are
unqualified for the work of reformation; because their minds are not
only unfurnished with patterns of the fair and good, but by habit they
come to take no delight in the contemplation of those things. By hating
vices too much, they come to love men too little. It is therefore not
wonderful that they should be indisposed and unable to serve them. From
hence arises the complexional disposition of some of your guides to pull
everything in pieces. At this malicious game they display the whole of
their quadrimanous activity. As to the rest, the paradoxes of eloquent
writers, brought forth purely as a sport of fancy, to try their talents,
to rouse attention and excite surprise, are taken up by these gentleman,
not in the spirit of the original authors, as means of cultivating their
taste and improving their style. These paradoxes become with them
serious grounds of action, upon which they proceed in regulating the
most important concerns of the state. Cicero ludicrously describes Cato
as endeavouring to act, in the commonwealth, upon the school paradoxes,
which exercised the wits of the junior students in the Stoic philosophy.
If this was true of Cato, these gentlemen copy after him in the manner
of some persons who lived about his time--pede nudo Catonem. Mr. Hume
told me that he had from Rousseau himself the secret of his principles
of composition. That acute, though eccentric observer, had perceived,
that to strike and interest the public, the marvellous must be produced;
that the marvellous of the heathen mythology had long since lost its
effects; that giants, magicians, fairies, and heroes of romance which
succeeded, had exhausted the portion of credulity which belonged to
their age; that now nothing was left to a writer but that species of the
marvellous which might still be produced, and with as great an effect as
ever, though in another way; that is, the marvellous in life, in
manners, in characters, and in extraordinary situations, giving rise to
new and unlooked-for strokes in politics and morals. I believe, that
were Rousseau alive, and in one of his lucid intervals, he would be
shocked at the practical frenzy of his scholars, who in their paradoxes
are servile imitators, and even in their incredulity discover an
implicit faith.


Mankind has no title to demand that we should be slaves to their
guilt and insolence; or that we should serve them in spite of
themselves. Minds, sore with the poignant sense of insulted virtue,
filled with high disdain against the pride of triumphant baseness,
often have it not in their choice to stand their ground. Their
complexion (which might defy the rack) cannot go through such a
trial. Something very high must fortify men to that proof. But when I
am driven to comparison, surely I cannot hesitate for a moment to
prefer to such men as are common, those heroes who, in the midst of
despair, perform all the tasks of hope; who subdue their feelings to
their duties; who, in the cause of humanity, liberty, and honour,
abandon all the satisfactions of life, and every day incur a fresh
risk of life itself. Do me the justice to believe that I never can
prefer any fastidious virtue (virtue still) to the unconquered
perseverance, to the affectionate patience of those who watch day and
night by the bedside of their delirious country, who, for their love
to that dear and venerable name, bear all the disgusts and all the
buffets they receive from their frantic mother. Sir, I do look on you
as true martyrs; I regard you as soldiers who act far more in the
spirit of our Commander-in-Chief and the Captain of our salvation,
than those who have left you; though I must first bolt myself very
thoroughly, and know that I could do better, before I can censure
them. I assure you, sir, that, when I consider your unconquerable
fidelity to your sovereign, and to your country; the courage,
fortitude, magnanimity, and long-suffering of yourself, and the Abbe
Maury, and of Mr. Cazales, and of many worthy persons of all orders
in your Assembly, I forget, in the lustre of these great qualities,
that on your side has been displayed an eloquence so rational, manly,
and convincing, that no time or country, perhaps, has ever excelled.
But your talents disappear in my admiration of your virtues.


When I consider the face of the kingdom of France; the multitude and
opulence of her cities; the useful magnificence of her spacious
high-roads and bridges; the opportunity of her artificial canals and
navigations, opening the conveniences of maritime communication through
a solid continent of so immense an extent; when I turn my eyes to the
stupendous works of her ports and harbours, and to her whole naval
apparatus, whether for war or trade; when I bring before my view the
number of her fortifications, constructed with so bold and masterly a
skill, and made and maintained at so prodigious a charge, presenting an
armed front and impenetrable barrier to her enemies upon every side;
when I recollect how very small a part of that extensive region is
without cultivation, and to what complete perfection the culture of many
of the best productions of the earth have been brought in France; when I
reflect on the excellence of her manufactures and fabrics, second to
none but ours, and in some particulars not second; when I contemplate
the grand foundations of charity, public and private; when I survey the
state of all the arts that beautify and polish life; when I reckon the
men she has bred for extending her fame in war, her able statesmen, the
multitude of her profound lawyers and theologians, her philosophers, her
critics, her historians and antiquaries, her poets and her orators,
sacred and profane; I behold in all this something which awes and
commands the imagination, which checks the mind on the brink of
precipitate and indiscriminate censure, and which demands that we should
very seriously examine, what and how great are the latent vices that
could authorize us at once to level so specious a fabric with the
ground. I do not recognise in this view of things, the despotism of
Turkey. Nor do I discern the character of a government that has been, on
the whole, so oppressive, or so corrupt, or so negligent, as to be
utterly UNFIT FOR ALL REFORMATION. I must think such a government well
deserved to have its excellences heightened, its faults corrected, and
its capacities improved into a British constitution.


This shows, in my opinion, how very quick and awakened all men ought
to be who are looked up to by the public, and who deserve that
confidence, to prevent a surprise on their opinions, when dogmas are
spread, and projects pursued, by which the foundations of society may
be affected. Before they listen even to moderate alterations in the
government of their country, they ought to take care that principles
are not propagated for that purpose, which are too big for their
object. Doctrines limited in their present application, and wide in
their general principles, are never meant to be confined to what they
at first pretend. If I were to form a prognostic of the effect of the
present machinations on the people, from their sense of any grievance
they suffer under this constitution, my mind would be at ease. But
there is a wide difference between the multitude, when they act
against their government from a sense of grievance, or from zeal for
some opinions. When men are thoroughly possessed with that zeal, it
is difficult to calculate its force. It is certain that its power is
by no means in exact proportion to its reasonableness. It must always
have been discoverable by persons of reflection, but it is now
obvious to the world, that a theory concerning government may become
as much a cause of fanaticism as a dogma in religion. There is a
boundary to men's passions when they act from feeling; none when they
are under the influence of imagination. Remove a grievance, and, when
men act from feeling, you go a great way towards quieting a
commotion. But the good or bad conduct of a government, the
protection men have enjoyed, or the oppression they have suffered,
under it, are of no sort of moment when a faction, proceeding upon
speculative grounds, is thoroughly heated against its form. When a
man is, from system, furious against monarchy or episcopacy, the good
conduct of the monarch or the bishop has no other effect than further
to irritate the adversary. He is provoked at it, as furnishing a plea
for preserving the thing which he wishes to destroy. His mind will
be heated as much by the sight of a sceptre, a mace, or a verge, as
if he had been daily bruised and wounded by these symbols of
authority. Mere spectacles, mere names, will become sufficient causes
to stimulate the people to war and tumult.


Let us not deceive ourselves: we are at the beginning of great troubles.
I readily acknowledge that the state of public affairs is infinitely
more unpromising than at the period I have just now alluded to; and the
position of all the powers of Europe, in relation to us, and in relation
to each other, is more intricate and critical beyond all comparison.
Difficult indeed is our situation. In all situations of difficulty men
will be influenced in the part they take, not only by the reason of the
case, but by the peculiar turn of their own character. The same ways to
safety do not present themselves to all men, nor to the same men in
different tempers. There is a courageous wisdom; there is also a false,
reptile prudence, the result not of caution, but of fear. Under
misfortunes it often happens that the nerves of the understanding are so
relaxed, the pressing peril of the hour so completely confounds all the
faculties, that no future danger can be properly provided for, can be
justly estimated, can be so much as fully seen. The eye of the mind is
dazzled and vanquished. An abject distrust of ourselves, an extravagant
admiration of the enemy, present us with no hope but in a compromise
with his pride, by a submission to his will. This short plan of policy
is the only counsel which will obtain a hearing. We plunge into a dark
gulf with all the rash precipitation of fear. The nature of courage is,
without a question, to be conversant with danger: but in the palpable
night of their terrors, men under consternation suppose, not that it is
the danger, which, by a sure instinct, calls out the courage to resist
it, but that it is the courage which produces the danger. They therefore
seek for a refuge from their fears in the fears themselves, and consider
a temporizing meanness as the only source of safety.

The rules and definitions of prudence can rarely be exact; never
universal. I do not deny, that, in small, truckling states, a timely
compromise with power has often been the means, and the only means, of
drawling out their puny existence: but a great state is too much envied,
too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation. To be secure, it must
be respected. Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to
be begged. They must be commanded: and they who supplicate for mercy
from others, can never hope for justice through themselves. What justice
they are to obtain, as the alms of an enemy, depends upon his character;
and that they ought well to know before they implicitly confide.


Such is the effect of the perversion of history, by those, who, for
the same nefarious purposes, have perverted every other part of
learning. But those who will stand upon that elevation of reason,
which places centuries under our eye, and brings things to the true
point of comparison, which obscures little names, and effaces the
colours of little parties, and to which nothing can ascend but the
spirit and moral quality of human actions, will say to the teachers
of the Palais Royal,--the cardinal of Lorraine was the murderer of
the sixteenth century, you have the glory of being the murderers in
the eighteenth; and this is the only difference between you. But
history, in the nineteenth century, better understood, and better
employed, will, I trust, teach a civilized posterity to abhor the
misdeeds of both these barbarous ages. It will teach future priests
and magistrates not to retaliate upon the speculative and inactive
atheists of future times, the enormities committed by the present
practical zealots and furious fanatics of that wretched error, which,
in its quiescent state, is more than punished, whenever it is
embraced. It will teach posterity not to make war upon either
religion or philosophy, for the abuse which the hypocrites of both
have made of the two most valuable blessings conferred upon us by the
bounty of the universal Patron, who in all things eminently favours
and protects the race of man.


Place, for instance, before your eyes, such a man as Montesquieu. Think
of a genius not born in every country, or every time; a man gifted by
nature with a penetrating, aquiline eye; with a judgment prepared with
the most extensive erudition; with an herculean robustness of mind, and
nerves not to be broken with labour; a man who could spend twenty years
in one pursuit. Think of a man, like the universal patriarch in Milton
(who had drawn up before him in his prophetic vision the whole series of
the generations which were to issue from his loins), a man capable of
placing in review, after having brought together from the east, the
west, the north, and the south, from the coarseness of the rudest
barbarism to the most refined and subtle civilization, all the schemes
of government which had ever prevailed amongst mankind, weighing,
measuring, collating, and comparing them all, joining fact with theory,
and calling into council, upon all this infinite assemblage of things,
all the speculations which have fatigued the understandings of profound
reasoners in all times! Let us then consider, that all these were but so
many preparatory steps to qualify a man, and such a man, tinctured with
no national prejudice, with no domestic affection, to admire, and to
hold out to the admiration of mankind, the constitution of England! And
shall we Englishmen revoke to such a suit? Shall we, when so much more
than he has produced remains still to be understood and admired, instead
of keeping ourselves in the schools of real science, choose for our
teachers men incapable of being taught, whose only claim to know is,
that they have never doubted; from whom we can learn nothing but their
own indocility; who would teach us to scorn what in the silence of our
hearts we ought to adore?


If you will have religion publicly practised and publicly taught, you
must have a power to say what that religion will be, which you will
protect and encourage; and to distinguish it by such marks and
characteristics, as you in your wisdom shall think fit. As I said
before, your determination may be unwise in this as in other matters;
but it cannot be unjust, hard, or oppressive, or contrary to the liberty
of any man, or in the least degree exceeding your province.

It is therefore as a grievance fairly none at all, nothing but what is
essential not only to the order, but to the liberty of the whole
community. The petitioners are so sensible of the force of these
arguments, that they do admit of one subscription, that is, to the
Scripture. I shall not consider how forcibly this argument militates
with their whole principle against subscription as an usurpation on the
rights of Providence: I content myself with submitting to the
consideration of the house, that, if that rule were once established, it
must have some authority to enforce the obedience; because you well
know, a law without a sanction will be ridiculous. Somebody must sit in
judgment on his conformity; he must judge on the charge; if he judges,
he must ordain execution. These things are necessary consequences one of
the other; and then this judgment is an equal and a superior violation
of private judgment; the right of private judgment is violated in a much
greater degree than it can be by any previous subscription. You come
round again to subscription, as the best and easiest method; men must
judge of his doctrine, and judge definitively; so that either his test
is nugatory, or men must first or last prescribe his public
interpretation of it.


It is one of the finest problems in legislation, and what has often
engaged my thoughts whilst I followed that profession, "What the state
ought to take upon itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it
ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual
discretion." Nothing, certainly, can be laid down on the subject that
will not admit of exceptions, many permanent, some occasional. But the
clearest line of distinction which I could draw, whilst I had my chalk
to draw any line, was this; that the state ought to confine itself to
what regards the state, or the creatures of the state;--namely, the
exterior establishment of its religion; its magistracy; its revenue; its
military force by sea and land; the corporations that owe their
existence to its fiat; in a word, to everything that is TRULY AND
PROPERLY public; to the public peace, to the public safety, to the
public order, to the public prosperity. In its preventive police it
ought to be sparing of its efforts, and to employ means, rather few,
unfrequent, and strong, than many and frequent, and, of course, as they
multiply their puny politic race, and dwindle, small and feeble.
Statesmen who know themselves will, with the dignity which belongs to
wisdom, proceed only in this the superior orb and first mover of their
duty steadily, vigilantly, severely, courageously: whatever remains
will, in a manner, provide for itself. But as they descend from the
state to a province, from a province to a parish, and from a parish to a
private house, they go on accelerated in their fall. They CANNOT do the
lower duty; and, in proportion as they try it, they will certainly fail
in the higher. They ought to know the different departments of things;
what belongs to laws, and what manners alone can regulate. To these,
great politicians may give a leaning, but they cannot give a law.


To tell the people that they are relieved by the dilapidation of
their public estate, is a cruel and insolent imposition. Statesmen,
before they valued themselves on the relief given to the people by
the destruction of their revenue, ought first to have carefully
attended to the solution of this problem:--Whether it be more
advantageous to the people to pay considerably, and to gain in
proportion; or to gain little or nothing, and to be disburthened of
all contribution? My mind is made up to decide in favour of the first
proposition. Experience is with me, and, I believe, the best opinions
also. To keep a balance between the power of acquisition on the part
of the subject, and the demands he is to answer on the part of the
state, is the fundamental part of the skill of a true politician. The
means of acquisition are prior in time and in arrangement. Good order
is the foundation of all good things. To be enabled to acquire, the
people, without being servile, must be tractable and obedient. The
magistrate must have his reverence, the laws their authority. The
body of the people must not find the principles of natural
subordination by art rooted out of their minds. They must respect
that property of which they cannot partake. They must labour to
obtain what by labour can be obtained; and when they find, as they
commonly do, the success disproportioned to the endeavour, they must
be taught their consolation in the final proportions of eternal
justice. Of this consolation whoever deprives them, deadens their
industry, and strikes at the root of all acquisition as of all
conservation. He that does this is the cruel oppressor, the merciless
enemy of the poor and wretched; at the same time that by his wicked
speculations he exposes the fruits of successful industry, and the
accumulations of fortune, to the plunder of the negligent, the
disappointed, and the unprosperous.


This strange law is not made for a trivial object, not for a single
port, or for a single fortress, but for a great kingdom; for the
religion, the morals, the laws, the liberties, the lives and fortunes of
millions of human creatures, who without their consent, or that of their
lawful government, are, by an arbitrary act of this regicide and
homicide government, which they call a law, incorporated into their

In other words, their will is the law, not only at home, but as to the
concerns of every nation. Who has made that law but the regicide
republic itself, whose laws, like those of the Medes and Persians, they
cannot alter or abrogate, or even so much as take into consideration?
Without the least ceremony or compliment, they have sent out of the
world whole sets of laws and lawgivers. They have swept away the very
constitutions under which the legislators acted, and the laws were made.
Even the fundamental sacred rights of man they have not scrupled to
profane. They have set this holy code at naught with ignominy and scorn.
Thus they treat all their domestic laws and constitutions, and even what
they had considered as a law of nature; but whatever they have put their
seal on for the purposes of their ambition, and the ruin of their
neighbours, this alone is invulnerable, impassible, immortal. Assuming
to be masters of everything human and divine, here, and here alone, it
seems they are limited, "cooped and cabined in;" and this omnipotent
legislature finds itself wholly without the power of exercising its
favourite attribute, the love of peace. In other words, they are
powerful to usurp, impotent to restore; and equally by their power and
their impotence they aggrandize themselves, and weaken and impoverish
you and all other nations.


The PURPOSE for which the abuses of government are brought into view,
forms a very material consideration in the mode of treating them. The
complaints of a friend are things very different from the invectives of
an enemy. The charge of abuses on the late monarchy of France was not
intended to lead to its reformation, but to justify its destruction.
They, who have raked into all history for the faults of kings, and who
have aggravated every fault they have found, have acted consistently;
because they acted as enemies. No man can be a friend to a tempered
monarchy who bears a decided hatred to monarchy itself. He, who at the
present time, is favourable, or even fair, to that system, must act
towards it as towards a friend with frailties, who is under the
prosecution of implacable foes. I think it a duty, in that case, not to
inflame the public mind against the obnoxious person by any exaggeration
of his faults. It is our duty rather to palliate his errors and defects,
or to cast them into the shade, and industriously to bring forward any
good qualities that he may happen to possess. But when the man is to be
amended, and by amendment to be preserved, then the line of duty takes
another direction. When his safety is effectually provided for, it then
becomes the office of a friend to urge his faults and vices with all the
energy of enlightened affection, to paint them in their most vivid
colours, and to bring the moral patient to a better habit. Thus I think
with regard to individuals; thus I think with regard to ancient and
respected governments and orders of men. A spirit of reformation is
never more consistent with itself than when it refuses to be rendered
the means of destruction.


Etiquette, if I understand rightly the term, which in any extent is
of modern usage, had its original application to those ceremonial and
formal observances practised at courts, which had been established by
long usage, in order to preserve the sovereign power from the rude
intrusion of licentious familiarity, as well as to preserve majesty
itself from a disposition to consult its ease at the expense of its
dignity. The term came afterwards to have a greater latitude, and to
be employed to signify certain formal methods used in the
transactions between sovereign states.

In the more limited, as well as in the larger sense of the term, without
knowing what the etiquette is, it is impossible to determine whether it
is a vain and captious punctilio, or a form necessary to preserve
decorum in character and order in business. I readily admit, that
nothing tends to facilitate the issue of all public transactions more
than a mutual disposition in the parties treating to waive all ceremony.
But the use of this temporary suspension of the recognised modes of
respect consists in its being mutual, and in the spirit of conciliation,
in which all ceremony is laid aside. On the contrary, when one of the
parties to a treaty intrenches himself up to the chin in these
ceremonies, and will not on his side abate a single punctilio, and that
all the concessions are upon one side only, the party so conceding does
by this act place himself in a relation of inferiority, and thereby
fundamentally subverts that equality which is of the very essence of all


Old establishments are tried by their effects. If the people are happy,
united, wealthy, and powerful, we presume the rest. We conclude that to
be good, from whence good is derived. In old establishments, various
correctives have been found for their aberrations from theory. Indeed,
they are the results of various necessities and expediencies. They are
not often constructed after any theory; theories are rather drawn from
them. In them we often see the end best obtained, where the means seem
not perfectly reconcilable to what we may fancy was the original scheme.
The means taught by experience may be better suited to political ends
than those contrived in the original project. They again re-act upon the
primitive constitution; and sometimes improve the design itself, from
which they seem to have departed. I think all this might be curiously
exemplified in the British constitution. At worst, the errors and
deviations of every kind in reckoning are found and computed, and the
ship proceeds in her course. This is the case of old establishments; but
in a new and merely theoretic system, it is expected that every
contrivance shall appear, on the face of it, to answer its ends;
especially where the projectors are no way embarrassed with an endeavour
to accommodate the new building to an old one, either in the walls or on
the foundations.


Never was there a jar or discord between genuine sentiment and sound
policy. Never, no never, did Nature say one thing and Wisdom say
another. Nor are sentiments of elevation in themselves turgid and
unnatural. Nature is never more truly herself than in her grandest
form. The Apollo of Belvedere (if the universal robber has yet left
him at Belvedere) is as much in nature as any figure from the pencil
of Rembrandt, or any clown in the rustic revels of Teniers. Indeed,
it is when a great nation is in great difficulties that minds must
exalt themselves to the occasion, or all is lost. Strong passion,
under the direction of a feeble reason, feeds a low fever, which
serves only to destroy the body that entertains it. But vehement
passion does not always indicate an infirm judgment. It often
accompanies, and actuates, and is even auxiliary to a powerful
understanding; and when they both conspire and act harmoniously,
their force is great to destroy disorder within, and to repel injury
from abroad. If ever there was a time that calls on us for no vulgar
conception of things, and for exertions in no vulgar strain, it is
the awful hour that Providence has now appointed to this nation.
Every little measure is a great error; and every great error will
bring on no small ruin. Nothing can be directed above the mark that
we must aim at: everything below it is absolutely thrown away.


I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and much
impartiality. They come from one who has been no tool of power, no
flatterer of greatness; and who in his last acts does not wish to belie
the tenor of his life. They come from one, almost the whole of whose
public exertions has been a struggle for the liberty of others; from one
in whose breast no anger durable or vehement has ever been kindled, but
by what he considered as tyranny; and who snatches from his share in the
endeavours which are used by good men to discredit opulent oppression,
the hours he has employed on your affairs; and who in so doing persuades
himself he has not departed from his usual office: they come from one
who desires honours, distinctions, and emoluments, but little, and who
expects them not at all; who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of
obloquy; who shuns contention, though he will hazard an opinion; who
would preserve consistency by varying his means to secure the unity of
his end; and, when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be
endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the
small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise.


The only excuse to be made for all our mendicant diplomacy is the same
as in the case of all other mendicancy;--namely, that it has been
founded on absolute necessity. This deserves consideration. Necessity,
as it has no law, so it has no shame: but moral necessity is not like
metaphysical, or even physical. In that category it is a word of loose
signification, and conveys different ideas to different minds. To the
low-minded, the slightest necessity becomes an invincible necessity.
"The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way, and I shall be
devoured in the streets." But when the necessity pleaded is not in the
nature of things, but in the vices of him who alleges it, the whining
tones of commonplace beggarly rhetoric produce nothing but indignation;
because they indicate a desire of keeping up a dishonourable existence,
without utility to others, and without dignity to itself; because they
aim at obtaining the dues of labour without industry; and by frauds
would draw from the compassion of others what men ought to owe to their
own spirit and their own exertions.


He began with exacting an oath from the king, by which, without showing
the extent of his design, he engaged him to everything he could ask.
John swore to submit to the legate in all things relating to his
excommunication. And first he was obliged to accept Langton as
archbishop; then to restore the monks of Canterbury, and other deprived
ecclesiastics, and to make them a full indemnification for all their
losses. And now, by these concessions, all things seemed to be perfectly
settled. The cause of the quarrel was entirely removed. But when the
king expected for so perfect a submission a full absolution, the legate
began a laboured harangue on his rebellion, his tyranny, and the
innumerable sins he had committed; and in conclusion declared, that
there was no way left to appease God and the Church but to resign his
crown to the Holy See, from whose hands he should receive it purified
from all pollutions, and hold it for the future by homage, and an annual
tribute. John was struck motionless at a demand so extravagant and
unexpected. He knew not on which side to turn. If he cast his eyes
toward the coast of France, he there saw his enemy Philip, who
considered him as a criminal as well as an enemy, and who aimed not only
at his crown but his life, at the head of an innumerable multitude of
fierce people, ready to rush in upon him. If he looked at his own army,
he saw nothing there but coldness, disaffection, uncertainty, distrust,
and a strength, in which he knew not whether he ought most to confide or
fear. On the other hand, the papal thunders, from the wounds of which he
was still sore, were leveled full at his head. He could not look
steadily at these complicated difficulties; and truly it is hard to say
what choice he had, if any choice were left to kings in what concerns
the independence of their crown. Surrounded, therefore, with these
difficulties; and that all his late humiliations might not be rendered
as ineffectual as they were ignominious, he took the last step; and, in
the presence of a numerous assembly of his peers and prelates, who
turned their eyes from this mortifying sight, formally resigned his
crown to the pope's legate; to whom at the same time he did homage, and
paid the first fruits of his tribute. Nothing could be added to the
humiliation of the king upon this occasion, but the insolence of the
legate, who spurned the treasure with his foot, and let the crown remain
a long time on the ground before he restored it to the degraded owner.

In this proceeding the motives of the king may be easily discovered; but
how the barons of the kingdom, who were deeply concerned, suffered,
without any protestation, the independency of the crown to be thus
forfeited, is mentioned by no historian of that time. In civil tumults
it is astonishing how little regard is paid by all parties to the honour
or safety of their country. The king's friends were probably induced to
acquiesce by the same motives that had influenced the king. His enemies,
who were the most numerous, perhaps saw his abasement with pleasure, as
they knew this action might be one day employed against him with effect.
To the bigots it was enough, that it aggrandized the pope. It is,
perhaps, worthy of observation, that the conduct of Pandulph towards
King John bore a very great affinity to that of the Roman consuls to the
people of Carthage in the last Punic war; drawing them from concession
to concession, and carefully concealing their design, until they made it
impossible for the Carthaginians to resist. Such a strong resemblance
did the same ambition produce in such distant times; and it is far from
the sole instance, in which we may trace a similarity between the spirit
and conduct of the former and latter Rome in their common design on the
liberties of mankind.


The balance between consumption and production makes price. The market
settles, and alone can settle, that price. Market is the meeting and
conference of the CONSUMER and PRODUCER, when they mutually discover
each other's wants. Nobody, I believe, has observed with any reflection
what market is, without being astonished at the truth, the correctness,
the celerity, the general equity, with which the balance of wants is
settled. They, who wish the destruction of that balance, and would fain
by arbitrary regulation decree, that defective production should not be
compensated by increased price, directly lay their AXE to the root of
production itself.


His Grace, like an able orator, as he is, begins with giving me a
great deal of praise for talents which I do not possess. He does this
to entitle himself, on the credit of this gratuitous kindness, to
exaggerate my abuse of the parts which his bounty, and not that of
nature, has bestowed upon me. In this, too, he has condescended to
copy Mr. Erskine. These priests (I hope they will excuse me; I mean
priests of the rights of man) begin by crowning me with their flowers

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