Изображения страниц

writes the Evidences of Christianity, Locke the Reasonableness of Christianity, Ray the Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of the Creation. Over and above this concert of serious words is heard a ringing voice: Swift compliments with his terrible irony the elegant rogues who entertained the wise idea of abolishing Christianity. If they had been ten times more numer sus they would not have succeeded, for ney had nothing to substitute in its place. Lofty speculation, which alone could take the ground, was shown or declared to be impotent. On all sides philosophical conceptions dwindle or come to nought. If Berkeley lighted on one, the denial of matter, it stands alone, without influence on the public, as it were a theological coup d'état, like a pious man who wants to undermine immorality and materialism at their basis. Newton attained at most an incomplete idea of space, and was only a mathematician. Locke, almost as poor,* gropes about, hesitates, does little more than guess, doubt, start an opinion to advance and withdraw it by turns, not seeing its far-off consequences, nor, above all, exhausting any thing. In short, he forbids himself lofty questions, and is very much inclined to forbid them to us. He has written a book to inquire what objects are within our reach, or above our comprehension. He seeks for our limitations; he soon finds them, and troubles himself no further. Let us shut our selves in our own little domain, and work there diligently. Our business in this world is not to know all things, but those which regard the conduct of our life. If Hume, more bold, goes furher, it is in the same track: he preserves nothing of lofty science; he abolishes speculation altogether. According to him, we know neither substances, causes, nor laws. When we firm that an object is conjoined to nother object, it is because we choose, custom; "all events seem entirely -ose and separate." If we give them a tie," it is our imagination which creates it; there is nothing true but

#66 Paupertina philosophia," says Leibnitz. † After the constant conjunction two objects-heat and flame, for instance, weight and solidity-we are determined by custom alone to expect the one from the appearance of the other.

doubt, and even we must doubt this The conclusion is, that we shall do well to purge our mind of all theory, and only believe in order that we may act Let us examine our wings only in or der to cut them off, and let us confine ourselves to walking with our legs. So finished a pyrrhonism serves only to cast the world back upon established beliefs. In fact, Reid, being honest, is alarmed. He sees society broker up, God vanishing in smoke, the family evaporating in hypotheses. He objects as a father of a family, a good citizen, a religious man, and sets up common sense as a sovereign judge of truth Rarely, I think, in this world has specu lation fallen lower. Reid does not even understand the systems which he discusses; he lifts his hands to heaven when he tries to expound Aristotle and Leibnitz. If some municipal body were to order a ystem, it would be this churchwarden-philosophy. In reality the men of this country did not care for metaphysics; to interest them it must be reduced to psychology. Then it becomes a science of observation, positive and useful, like botany; still the best fruit which they pluck from it is a theory of moral sentiments. In this domain Shaftesbury, Hutche son, Price, Smith, Ferguson, and Hume himself prefer to labor; here they find their most original and durable ideas. On this point the public instinct is so strong, that it enrols the most independent minds in its service, and only permit them the discoveries which benefit it. Except two or three, chiefly purely literary men, and who are French or Frenchified in mind, they busy themselves only with morals. This idea rallies round Christianity all the forces which in France Voltaire ranges against it. They all defend it on the same ground-as a tie for civil society, and as a support for private virtue. Formerly instinct supported it; now opinion consecrates it; and it

All inferences from experience are effects of custom, not of reasoning.... "Upon the whole, there appears not, throughout all na ture, any one instance of connection which is conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate; one event follows another but we can never observe any tie between them They seem conjoined, but never connected."Hume's Essays, 4 vols. 1760, iii. 117.

the same secret force which, by a | also of equality." "In the State of Nagradual labor, at present adds the ture every one has the Executive power weight of opinion to the pressure of in- of the Law of Nature," ie. of judg stinct. Moral sense, having preserved ing, punishing, making war, ruling his for it the fidelity of the lower classes, family and dependents. "There only conquered for it the approval of the lof- is political society where every one of tier intellects. Moral sense transfers it the members hath quitted this natural from the public conscience to the lit- Power, resign'd it up into the Hands erary world, and from being popular of the Community in all Cases that exclude him not from appealing for Protection to the Law established by it."

makes it official.



"Those who are united into one body and have a common established law and judicature to appeal to, with authority... to punish offenders, are in civil society one with another.§ As for the ruler (they are ready to tell you), he ought to be absolute. Because he has power to do more hurt and wrong, 'tis right when he does it.... This is to think, that what mischiefs may be done them by polecats men are so foolish, that they take care to avoid or foxes; but are content, nay think it safety, to be devoured by lions. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natura liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of t." T

We would hardly suspect this public tendency after taking a distant view of the English constitution; but on a closer view it is the first thing we see. It appears to be an aggregate of privileges, that is, of sanctioned injustices. The truth is, that it is a body of contracts, that is, of recognized rights. Every one, great or small, has its own, which he defends with all his might. My lands, my property, my chartered right, whatsoever it be, antiquated, indirect, superfluous, individual, public, none shall touch it, king, lords, or commons. Is it of the value of five shil-it." lings? I will defend it as if it were worth a million sterling; it is my person Umpires, rules of arbitration, this is which they would attack. I will leave all which their federation can impose my business, lose my time, throw away upon them. They are freemen, who, my money, form associations, pay fines, having made a mutual treaty, are still go to prison, perish in the attempt; no free. Their society does not found, but guarantees their rights. I shall show that I am no matter; coward, that I will not bend under injustice, that I will not yield a portion of my right.

By this sentiment Englishmen have conquered and preserved public liberty. This feeling, after they had dethroned Charles I. and James II., is shaped into principles in the declaration of 1689, and is developed by Locke in demonstra tions.* "All men," says Locke, are naturally in a state of perfect freedom,

We must read Sir Robert Filmer's Pariarcha, London, 1680, on the prevailing theory, in order to see from what quagmire of follies people emerged. He said that Adam, on his creation, had received an absolute and regal power over the universe; that in every society of men there was one legitimate king, the direct heir of Adam. Some say it was by lot, and others that Noah sailed round the Mediterranean in ten years, and divided the world into Asia, Africa, and Europe " (p. 15)-portions for his three sons. Compare Bossuet, Politique fondle sur l'Ecriture. At this epoch moral science was being emancipated from theology.



When the

official acts here sustain abstract theory.
When Parliament declares the throne
vacant, its first argument is, that the
king has violated the original contract
by which he was king.
Commons impeach Sacheverell, it was
in order publicly to maintain that the
constitution of England was founded
on a contract, and that the subjects of
this kingdom have, in their different
public and private capacities, as legal
a title to the possession of the rights
accorded to them by law, as the prince
has to the possession of the crown
When Lord Chatham defended the
election of Wilkes, it was by laying
down that the rights of the greatest and
of the meanest subjects now stand
upon the same foundation, the security
* Locke, of Civil Government, 1714, book
ii. ch. ii. 4.
↑ Ibid. 13.
Ibid. ii. ch. vii. § 87
Ibid. ii. ch vii. $93.
Ibid. ii. ch. viii. § 95.

of law common to all. When the people had lost their rights, those of of the peerage would soon become insignificant. It was no supposition or philosophy which fcunded them, but an act and deed, Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights, the Habeas Corpus Act, and the whole body of the statute


These rights are there, inscribed on parchments, stored up in archives, signed, sealed, authentic; those of the farmer and prince are traced on the same page, in the same ink, by the same writer; both are on an equality on this vellum; the gloved hand clasps the horny palm. What though they are unequal? It is by mutual accord; the peasant is as much a master in his cottage, with his rye-bread and his nine shillings a week,* as the Duke of Marlborough in Blenheim Castle, with his many thousands a year in places and pensions.

There they are, these men, standing erect and ready to defend themselves. Pursue this sentiment of right in the details of political life; the force of brutal temperament and concentrated or savage passions provides arms. If we go to an election, the first thing we see is the full tables. They cram themselves at the candidate's expense: ale, gin, brandy are set flowing without concealment ; the victuals descend into their electoral stomachs, and their faces grow red. At the same time they become furious. "Every glass they pour down serves to increase their animosity. Many an honest man, before as harmless as a tame rabbit, when loaded with a single election dinner, has become more dangerous than a charged culverin." The wrangle turns into a fight, and the pugnacious

De Foe's estimate.


"Their eating, indeed, amazes me; had I Ive hundred heads, and were each head fur nished with brains, yet would they all be insufficient to compute the number of cows, pigs, geese, and turkies which upon this occasion die for the good of their country! On the contrary, they seem to lose their temper as they lose their appetites; every morsel they swallow serves to increase their animosity.... The mob meet upon the debate, fight themselves sober, and then draw off to get drunk again, and charge for another encounter."-Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, Letter cxii., "An Election described." See also Hogarth's prints. Ibid.

instinct, once loosed, craves for blows The candidates bawl against each other till they are hoarse. They are chaired, to the great peril of their necks; the mob yells, cheers, grows warm with the motion, the defiance the row; big words of patriotism peal out, anger and drink inflame thei. blood, fists are clenched, cudgels are at work, and bulldog passions regulate the greatest interests of the country Let all beware how they draw these passions down on their heads: Lords Commons, King, they will spare nc one and when Government would oppress a man in spite of them, they will compel Government to suppress their own law.

They are not to be muzzled, they make that a matter of pride. With them, pride assists instinct in defendir.g the right.

Each feels that "his house in his castle," and that the law keeps guard at his door. Each tells himself that he is defended against private insolence, that the public arbitrary power will never touch him, that he has "his body," and can answer blows by blows, wounds by wounds, that he will be judged by an impartial jury and a law common to all. "Even if an Englishman," says Montesquieu, "has as many enemies as hairs on his head, nothing will happen to him. The laws there were not made for one more than for an. other; each looks on himself as a king, and the men of this nation are more confederates than fellow-citizens." This goes so far, "that there is hardly a day when some one does not lose respect for the king. Lately my Lady Bell Molineux, a regular virago, sent to have the trees pulled up from a small piece of land which the queen had bought for Kensington, and went to law with her, without hav. ing wished, under any pretext, to come to terms with her; she made the queen's secretary wait three hours." "When Englishmen come to France, they are deeply astonished to see the sway of the king's good pleasure,' the Bastile, the lettres de cachet; a gentleman who dare not live on his es tate in the country, for fear of the gov. ernor of the province; a groom of the king's chamber, who, for a cut with the * Montesquieu, Notes sur l'Angleterre.

[ocr errors]


razor, kills a poor barber with impu- | treds, like Presbyterians, Anglicans, nity." In England, 'one man does not fear another." If we converse with any of them, we will find how greatly this security raises their hearts and courage. A sailor who rows Voltaire about, and may be pressed next day into the fleet, prefers bis condition to that of the Frenchman, and looks on him with pity, whilst taking his five shillings. The vastness of their pride breaks forth at every step and in every page. An Englishman, says Chesterfield, thinks himself equal to beating three Frenchmen. They would willingly declare that they are in the herd of men as bulls in a herd of catle. We hear them bragging of their Joxing, of their meat and ale, of all that can support the force and energy of their virile will. Roast-beef and beer make stronger arms than cold water and frogs.† In the eyes of the vulgar, the French are starved wigmakers, papists, and serfs, an inferior kind of creatures, who can neither call their bodies nor their souls their own, puppets and tools in the hands of a master and a priest. As for themselves,

[blocks in formation]

Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
True to imagin'd right, above control,

and Quakers. The country squire
rails, over his wire, at the House of
Hanover, drinks to the king over the
water; the Whig in London, on the
30th of January, drinks to the man in
the mask, and then to the man who
will do the same thing without a mask.
They imprisoned, exiled, beheaded
each other, and Parliament resounded
daily with the fury of their animadver
sions. Political, like religious life,
wells up and overflows, and its out-
bursts only mark the force of the flame
which nourishes it. The passion of
parties, in state affairs as in matters of
belief, is a proof of zeal; constant
quiet is only general indifference; and
if people fight at elections, it is be-
cause they take an interest in them.
Here "a tiler had the newspaper
brought to him on the roof that he
might read it." A stranger who reads
the papers "would think the country
on the eve of a revolution." When
Government takes a step, the public
feels itself involved in it; its honor
and its property are being disposed of
by the minister; let the minister be-
ware if he disposes of them ill.
the French, M. de Conflans, who lost
his fleet through cowardice, is pun-
ished by an epigram; here, Admiral
Byng, who was too prudent to risk his,
was shot. Every man in his due posi-
tion, and according to his power, takes
part in public business: the mob
broke the heads of those who would


While even the peasant boasts these rights not drink Dr. Sacheverell's health;

to scan,

And learns to venerate himself as man." +

Men thus constituted can become impassioned in public concerns, for they are their own concerns; in France,

they are only the business of the king and of Madame de Pompadour. § In England, political parties are as ardent as sects: High Church and Low Church, capitalists and landed proprietors, court nobility and county families, they have their dogmas, their theories their manners, and their ha

Smollett, Peregrine Pickle, ch. 40. ↑ See Hogarth's prints. Goldsmith's Traveller.

Chesterfield observes that a Frenchman of

gentlemen came in mounted troops to meet him. Some public favorite or enemy is always exciting open demonthe people cheer, and on whom the strations. One day it is Pitt whom gold boxes; another day it is Gren municipal corporations bestow many ville, whom people go to hiss when coming out of the house; then again is hissed, and who is burned under the Lord Bute, whom the queen loves, who effigy of a boot, a pun on his name, burned under the effigy of a petticoat; whilst the princess of Wales was or the Duke of Bedford, whose town house is attacked by a mob, and who is only saved by a gairison of horse

his time did not understand the word Country; and foot; Wilkes, whose papers the

you must speak to him of his Prince.

* The executioner of Charles.

Government seize, and to whom the | soning freedom of discourse and a jury assign one thousand pounds damages. Every morning appear newspapers and pamphlets to discuss affairs, criticize characters, denounce by name lords, orators, ministers, the king himself. He who wants to speak speaks. In this wrangle of writings and associations opinion swells, mounts like a wave, and falling upon Parliament and Court, drowns intrigue and carries away all differences. After all, in spite of the rotten boroughs, it is public opinion which rules. What though the king be obstinate, the men in power band together? Public opinion growls, and every thing bends or breaks. The Pitts rose as high as they did, only because public opinion raised them, and the independence of the individual ended in the sovereignty of the people.

In such a state, "all passions being free, hatred, envy, jealousy, the fervor for wealth and distinction, would be displayed in all their fulness." * We can imagine with what force and energy eloquence must have been implanted and flourished. For the first time since the fall of the ancient tribune, it found a soil in which it could take root and live, and a harvest of orators sprang up, equal, in the diversity of their talents, the energy of their convictions, and the magnificence of their style, to that which once covered the Greek agora and the Roman forum. For a long time it seemed that liberty of speech, experience in affairs, the im portance of the interests involved, and the greatness of the rewards offered, should have forced its growth; but eloquence came to nothing, encrusted in theological pedantry, or limited in local aims; and the privacy of the parliamentary sittings deprived it of half its force by removing from it the light of day. Now at last there was light; pelicity, at first incomplete, then entire, gives Parliament the nation for an audience. Speech becomes elevated and enlarged at the same time that the public is polished and more numerous. Classical art, become perfect, furnishes method and development. Modern culture introduces into technical rea

Montesquieu, De l'Esprit des lois, book ziz. ch. 27.

breadth of general ideas. In place o arguing, men conversed; they were attorneys, they became orators. With Addison, Steele, and Swift, taste and genius invade politics. Voltaire can not say whether the meditated har angues once delivered in Athens and Rome excelled the unpremeditated speeches of Windham, Carteret, and their rivals. In short, discourse suc ceeds in overcoming the dryness of special questions and the coldness of compassed action, which had so long restricted it; it boldly and irregularly extends its force and luxuriance; and in contrast with the fine abbés of the drawing-room, who in France compose their academical compliments, we see appear, the manly eloquence of Junius, Chatham, Fox, Pitt, Burke, and Sheridan.

I need not relate their lives nor unfold their characters; I should_have to enter upon political details. Three of them, Lord Chatham, Fox, and Pitt, were ministers, and their eloquence is part of their power and their acts. That eloquence is the concern of those men who may record their political history; I can simply take note of its tone and accent.


An extraordinary afflatus, a sort of through all these speeches. Men speak quivering of intense determination, runs and they speak as if they fought. No caution, politeness, restraint. They are unfettered, they abandon them. selves, they hurl themselves onward; and if they restrain themselves, it is only that they may strike more pitielder Pitt first filled the House with lessly and more forcibly. When the his vibrating voice, he already possessed his indomitable audacity. In vain Walpole tried to "muzzle ́him,” then to crush him; his sarcasm was sent back to him with a prodigality of outrages, and the all-powerful minister bent, smitten with the truth of the flicted on him. A lofty haughtiness, biting insult which the young man in

*Junius wrote anonymously, and critics have not yet been able with certainty to reveal his true name. Most probably he was Sir Philip Francis.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »