« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
two boys for shop-lifting — remained at Galashiels till four o'clock, and returned starved. Could work none, and was idle all evening — try to-morrow.— Jan. 9. Went over to Galashiels, and was busied the whole time till three o'clock about a petty thieving affair, and had before me a pair of gallows-birds, to whom I could say nothing for total want of proof, except, like the sapient Elbow, “thou shalt continue there, know thou, thou shalt continue. A little gallowsbrood they were, and their fate will catch it. Sleepy, idle, and exhausted on this. Wrought little or none in the evening.–Jan. 10. Wrote a long letter to Henry Scott, who is a fine fellow, and what I call a Heart of Gold. He has sound parts, good sense, and is a true man. O that I could see a strong party banded together for the King and country, and if I see I can do anything, or have a chance of it, I will not fear for the skin-cutting. It is the selfishness of this generation that drives me mad.
The letter here alluded to contains some striking sentences :
“ To Henry Francis Scott, Esq., Younger of
“Abbotsford, 10th January 183!. “ My Dear Henry,
“...... Unassisted by any intercourse with the existing world, but thinking over the present state of matters with all the attention in my power, I see but one line which can be taken by public men, that is really open, manly, and consistent. In the medical people's phrase, Principiis obsta: Oppose anything that can in principle innovate on the Constitution, which has placed Great Britain at the head of the world, and will keep her there, unless she chooses to descend of her own accord from that eminence. There may, for aught I know, be with many people reasons for deranging it; but I take it on the broad basis that nothing will be ultimately gained by any one who is not prepared to go full republican lengths. To place elections on a more popular foot, would produce advantage in no view whatever. Increasing the numbers of the electors would not distinguish them with more judgment for selecting a candidate, nor render them less venal, though it might make their price cheaper. But it would expose them to a worse species of corruption than that of money — the same that has been and
is practised more or less in all republics - I mean that the intellects of the people will be liable to be besotted by oratory ad captandum, more dangerous than the worst intoxicating liquors. As for the chance of a beneficial alteration in the representatives, we need only point to Preston, and other suchlike places, for examples of the sense, modesty, and merit which would be added to our legislation by a democratic extension of the franchise. To answer these doubts, I find one general reply among those not actually calling themselves Whigs — who are now too deeply pledged to acknowledge their own rashness. All others reply by a reference to the spirit of the people — intimating a passive, though apparently unwilling resignation to the will of the multitude. When you bring them to the point, they grant all the dangers you state, and then comes their melancholy What can we do? The fact is, these timid men see they are likely to be called on for a pecuniary sacrifice, in the way of income - tax or otherwise— perhaps for military service in some constitutional fashion - certainly to exert themselves in various ways; and rather than do so, they will let the public take a risk. An able young man, not too much afraid of his own voice, nor over-modest, but who remembers that any one who can speak intelligibly is always taken current at the price at which he estimates himself, might at this crisis do much by tearing off the liniments with which they are daubing the wounds of the country, and crying peace, peace, when we are steering full sail towards civil
“ I am old enough to remember well a similar crisis. About 1792, when I was entering life, the admiration of the godlike system of the French Revolution was so rife, that only a few old-fashioned Jacobites and the like ventured to hint a preference for the land they lived in; or pretended to doubt that the new principles must be infused into our worn-out constitution. Barke appeared, and all the gibberish about the superior legislation of the French dissolved like an enchanted castle when the destined knight blows his horn before it. The talents — the almost prophetic powers of Burke are not needed on this occasion, for men can now argue from the past. We can point to the old British ensign floating from the British citadel ; while the tricolor has been to gather up from the mire and blood — the shambles of a thousand defeats — a prosperous standard to rally under. Still, however, this is a moment of dulness and universal apathy, and I fear that, unless an Orlando should blow the horn, it might, fail to awaken the sleepers. But though we cannot do all, we should at least do each of us whatever we can.
“ I would fain have a society formed for extending mutual understanding. Place yourselves at the head,
and call yourselves Sons of St Andrew -- anything or nothing — but let there be a mutual understanding. Unite and combine. You will be surprised to see how soon you will become fashionable. It was by something of this kind that the stand was made in 1791-2; vis unita fortior. I earnestly recommend to Charles Baillie, Johnston of Alva, and yourself, to lose no opportunity to gather together the opinions of your friends—especially of your companions ; for it is only among the young, I am sorry to say, that energy and real patriotism are now to be found. If it should be thought fit to admit peers, which will depend on the plans and objects adopted, our Chief ought naturally to be at the head. As for myself, no personal interests shall prevent my doing my best in the cause which I have always conceived to be that of my country. But I suspect there is little of me left to make my services worth the having. Why should not old Scotland have a party among her own children? — Yours very sincerely, my dear Henry,
DIARY — “ January 11.— Wrote and sent off about three of my own pages in the morning, then walked with Swanston. I tried to write before dinner, but, with drowsiness and pain in my head, made