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bills of mortality, exclusive of London and Southwark, every sixth house retailed them.
The bill, under the influence of the duke of Newcastle, lord Carteret, Mr. Sandys and others, the then ministry, passed the commons with little or no opposition, and money was immediately raised on the tax thereby imposed. In the house of lords it was vehemently opposed by the bishops and many of the lay lords, with great force of reasoning, and by lord Chesterfield in the above speech, which has little of argument in it, though it goes to prove, that the practice ought to have been suppressed rather than tolerated. It howcver passed, and notwithstanding the subsequent laws since made to palliate it, the evil to a great degrec fubfifts at this day.
In the perusal of these debates, as written, we cannot but wonder at the powers that produced them. The author had never passed those gradations that lead to the knowledge of men and business: born to a narrow fortune, of no profession, conversant chiefly with books, and, if we believe some, so deficient in the formalities of discourse, and the practices of ceremony, as in conversation to be scarce tolerable; unacquainted with the stile of any other than academical disputation, and so great a stranger to senatorial man ners, that he never was within the walls of either house of parliament. That a man, under these disadvantages, should be able to frame a system of debate, to compose speeches of such excellence, both in matter and form, as scarcely to be equalled by those of the most able and experienced statesmen, is, I say, matter of astonishment, and a proof of talents that qualified him for a speaker in the most august assembly on earth,
Cave, who had no idea of the powers of eloquence over the human mind, became sensible of its effects in the profits it brought him : he had long thought that the success of his Magazine proceeded from those parts of it that were conducted by himself, which were the abridgement of weekly papers written against the ministry, such as the Craftsman, Fog's Journal, Common Sense, the Weekly Miscellany, the Westminster Journal, and others, and also marshalling the pastorals, the elegies, and the songs, the epigrams, and the rebuses that were sent him by various correspondents, and was scarcely able to see the causes that at this time increased the sale of his pamphlet from ten to fifteen thousand copies a month. But if he saw not, he felt them, and manifested his good fortune by buying an old coach and a pair of older horses; and, that he might avoid the suspicion of pride in setting up an equipage, he displayed to the world the source of his affluence, by a representation of St. John's gate, instead of his arms, on the door-pannel. This he told me himself was the reason of distinguishing his carriage from others, by what some might think a whimsical device, and also for causing it to be engraven on all
Johnson had his reward, over and above the pecuniary recompence vouchsafed him by Cave, in the general applause of his labours, which the increased demand for the Magazine implied, but this, as his performances fell short of his powers, gratified him but little ; on the contrary, he disapproved the deceit he was compelled to practice ; his notions of morality were so strict, that he would scarcely allow the violation of truth in the most trivial instances, and saw, in falfhood
of all kinds, a turpitude that he could never be thoroughly reconciled to: and though the fraud was perhaps not greater than the fictitious relations in Sir Thomas More's Utopia, lord Bacon's Nova Atlantis, and bishop Hall's Mundus alter et idem, Johnson was not easy till he had disclosed the deception.
In the mean time it was curious to observe how the deceit operated. It has above been remarked, that Johnson had the art to give different colours to the several speeches, so that some appear to be declamatory and energetic, resembling the orations of Demosthenes; others like those of Cicero, calın, persuasive; others, more particularly those attributed to such country-gentlemen, merchants, and feamen as had seats in parliament, bear the characteristic of plainnels, bluntness, and an affected honesty as opposed to the plausibility of such as were understood or suspected to be courtiers: the artifice had its effect; Voltaire was betrayed by it into a declaration, that the eloquence of ancient Greece and Rome was revived in the British fenate, and a speech of the late earl of Chatham when Mr. Pitt, in opposition to one of Mr. Horatio Walpole, received the highest applause, and was by all that red it taken for genuine ;* and we are further
The speech here alluded to, taking it 10 have been spoken as it is printed, was uttered in a debate on a bill for the encouragement and encrqafe of seamen, containing a clause for a register of seamen, and was intended to take away the neceflity of imprefling for the fea-service, which bill, as being a ministerial measure, was vehemently opposed. It is a reply,void of argument and loaded with abuse, to a fober reproof of a grave and experienced senator. To judge of its merits, and as a specimen of the speaker's method of debating at that early period of his life, it is necessary to compare it with that
cold of a person in a high office under the government, who being at breakfast at a gentleman's chambers in
to which it pretends to be an answer, and for that purpose both are here inserted, and first that of Mr. Walpole.
• SIR, • I was unwilling to interrupt the course of this debate while • it was carried on with calmness and decency by men who do not • suffer the ardour of opposition to cloud their reason, or transport them to such expressions as the dignity of this assembly does not admit. I have hitherto deferred to answer the gentleman who declaimed against the bill with such Auency of rhetoric, and fuch vehemence of gesture, who charged the advocates for the expedients now proposed, with having no regard to any intereft but
their own, and with making laws only to consume paper, and • threatened them with the defection of their adherents, and the • loss of their influence, upon this new discovery of their folly and their ignorance.
Nor, Sir, do I now answer him for any other purpose than to remind him how little the clamours of rage, and petulancy of invectives contribute to the purposes for which this affembly is called together; how little the discovery of truth is promoted, ' and the security of the nation established by pompous diction and " theatrical emotions.
• Formidable sounds and furious declamations, confident affer'tions, and lofty periods, may affect the young and unexperienced,
and perhaps the gentleman may have contracted bis habits of oratory by conversing more with those of his own age than ' with such as have had more opportunities of acquiring knowledge, and more successful methods of communicating their sentiments.
• If the heat of his temper, Sir, would suffer him to attend to those whose age and long acquaintance with business give
them an indisputable right to deference and superiority, he ' would learn, in time, to reason rather than declaim, and ! to prefer justness of argument, and an accurate knowledge of
Gray's inn, Johnson being also there, declared, that by the style alone of the speeches in the debates, he
• facts, to founding epithets and splendid fuperlatives, which may
disturb the imagination for a moment, but leave no lasting • impression on the mind.
• He will learn, Sir, that to accuse and prove very different, « and that reproaches, unsupported by evidence, affect only the • character of him that utters them. Excursions of fancy and • flights of oratory are indeed pardonable in young men, but in no other, and it would surely contribute more, even to the
pur• pose for which some gentlemen appear to speak, that of depre• ciating the conduct of the administration, to prove the incon. • veniences and injustice of this bill, than barely to assert them, • with whatever magnificence of language or appearance of zeal, « honesty or compaffion.'
To this sober and temperate speech uttered by a grave senator, who had served his country in various capacities, and whose moral character was irreproachable, the following was the answer of Mr. William Pitt :
• Sir, « The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the • honourable gentleman has with such fpirit and decency charged • upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but con• tent myself with wishing, that I may be one of those whose
follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number who • are ignorant in spite of experience.
• Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I • will not, Sir, assume the province of determining ; but surely • age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities which • it brings have passed away without improvement, and vice appears • to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch that, • after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, con
tinues still to blunder, and whose age has only added obftinacy • to stupidity, is surely the object of either abhorrence or con• tempt, and deserves not that his grey head should secure him from insults.