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In the first place, he should consider, that the chief of his antagonists are generally acted by a spirit of envy; which would not rise against him, if it were not provoked by his desert. A statesman, who is possessed of real merit, should look upon his political censurers with the same neglect, that a good writer regards his critics; who are generally a race of men that are not able to discover the beauties of a work they examine, and deny that approbation to others, which they never met with themselves. Patriots, therefore, should rather rejoice in the success of their honest designs, than be mortified by those who misrepresent them.
They should likewise consider, that not only envy, but vanity has a share in the detraction of their adversaries. Such aspersions, therefore, do them honour at the same time that they are intended to lessen their reputation. They should reflect, that those who endeavour to stir up the multitude against them, do it to be thought considerable, and not a little applaud themselves in a talent that can raise clamours out of nothing, and throw a ferment among the people, by murmurs or complaints, which they know in their own hearts are altogether groundless. There is a pleasant instance of this nature recorded at length in the first book of the Annals of Tacitus. When a great part of the Roman legions were in a disposition to mutiny, an impudent varlet, who was a private centinel, being mounted upon the shoulders of his fellow soldiers, and resolved to try the power of his eloquence, addressed himself to the army, in all the postures of an orator, after the following manner:
You have given liberty to these miserable men,' said he, pointing to some criminals whom they had rescued, but which of can restore life to my brother ? Who can give me back my brother ? He was murdered no longer ago than last night, by the hands of those ruffians, who are entertained by the general to butcher the poor soldiery. Tell me, Blæsus, for that was the name of the general, who was then sitting on the tribunal,
tell me, where hast thou cast his dead body? An enemy does not grudge the rites of burial. When I have tired myself with kissing his cold corps, and weeping over it, order me to be slain upon it. All I ask of my fellow soldiers, since we both die in their cause, is, that they would lay me in the same grave with my brother." The whole army was in an uproar at this moving speech, and resolved to do the speaker justice, when, upon enquiry, they found that he never had a brother in his life; and that he stirred up the sedition only to show his parts.
Public ministers would likewise do well to consider, that the principal authors of such reproaches as are cast upon them, are those who have a mind to get their places: and as for a censure arising from this motive, it is in their power to escape it when they please, and turn it upon their competitors. Malecontents of an inferior character are actuated by the same principle; for so long as there are employments of all sizes, there will be murmurers of all degrees. I have heard of a country gentleman, who made a very long and melancholy complaint to the late Duke of Buckingham, when he was in great power at court, of several public grievances. The duke, after having given him a very patient hearing, ‘My dear friend,' says he, this is but too true; but I have thought of an expedient which will set all things right, and that very soon.' His country friend asked him, what it was?' 'You must know,' says the duke, there's a place of five hundred pounds a year fallen this very morning, which I intend to put you in possession of.' The gentleman thanked his grace, went away satisfied, and thought the nation the happiest under heaven, during that whole ministry.
But farther, every man in a public station ought to consider, that when there are two different parties in a nation, they will see things in different lights. An action, however conducive to the good of their country, will be represented by the artful, and appear to the ignorant, as prejudicial to it. Since I have here, according the usual liberty of essay-writers, rambled into several stories, I shall fetch one to my present purpose out of the Persian history. We there read of a virtuous young emperor, who was very much afflicted to find his actions misconstrued and defamed by a party among his subjects that favoured another interest. As he was one day sitting among the ministers of his divan, and amusing himself after the eastern manner, with the solution of difficult problems and enigmas, he proposed to them, in his turn, the following one. What is the tree that bears three hundred and sixty-five leaves, which are all black on the one side, and white on the other?? His grand visier immediately replied, it was the year, which consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days and nights : ‘But, Sir,' says he, permit me at the same time to take notice, that these leaves represent your actions, which carry different faces to your friends and enemies, and will always appear black to those who are resolved only to look
side of them.' A virtuous man, therefore, who lays out his endeavours for the good of his country, should never be troubled at the reports which are made of him, so long as he is conscious of his own integrity. He should rather be pleased to find people descanting upon his actions, because, when they are thoroughly canvassed and examined, they are sure, in the end, to turn to his honour and advantage. The reasonable and unprejudiced part of mankind will be of his side, and rejoice to see their common interest lodged in such honest hands. A strict examination of a great man's character, is like the trial of a suspected chastity, which was made among the Jews by the waters of jealousy. Moses assures us, that the criminal burst upon the drinking of them; but if she was accused wrongfully, the Rabbins tell us, they heightened her charms, and made her much more amiable than before; so that they destroyed the guilty, but beautified the innocent.
No. 18. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20.
-Inopem me copia fecit. Ovid. EVERY
ry Englishman will be a good subject to King George, in proportion as he is a good Englishman, and a lover of the constitution of his country. In ors der to 'awaken in my readers the love of this their constitution, it may be necessary to set forth its supe: rior excellency to that form of government, which many wicked and ignorant men have of late years endeavoured to introduce among us. I shall not, therefore, think it proper to take notice, from time to time, of any particular act of power, exerted by those among whom the pretender to his majesty's crown has been educated; which would prove fatal to this nation, should it be conquered and governed by a person who, in all probability, would put in practice the politics in which he has been so long instructed.
There has been nothing more observable in the reign of his present Gallic majesty, than the method he has taken for supplying his exchequer with a necessary sum of money. The ways and means for raising it has been an edict, or a command in writing signed by himself, to increase the value of louis d'ors from fourteen to sixteen livres, by virtue of a new stamp which shall be struck upon them. As this method will bring all the gold of the kingdom into his hands, it is provided by the same edict that they shall be paid out again to the people at twenty livres each; so that four livres in the score, by this means, accrue to his majesty out of all the money in the kingdom of France,
This method of raising money is consistent with that form of government, and with the repeated practice of their late grand monarque; so that I shall not here consider the many evil consequences which it must have upon their trade, their exchange, and public credit: I shall only take notice of the whimsical circumstances, à people must lie under, who can be thus made poor or rich by an edict, which can throw an alloy into a louis d'or, and debase it into half its former value, or, if his majesty pleases, raise the price of it, not by the accession of metal, but of a mark. By the present edict many a man in France will swell into a plum, who fell several thousand pounds short of it the day before its publication. This conveys a kind of fairy treasure into their chests, even whilst they are under lock and key; and is a secret of multiplication without addition. It is natural enough, however, for the vanity of the French nation to grow insolent upon this imaginary wealth, not considering that their neighbours think them no more rich, by virtue of an edict to make fourteen twenty, than they would think them more formidable should there be another edict to make every man in the kingdom seven foot high.
It was usual for his late most Christian majesty to sink the value of their louis d'ors about the time he was to receive the taxes of his good people, and to raise them when he had got them safe into his coffers. And there is no question but the present government in that kingdom will so far observe this kind of conduct, as to reduce the twenty livres to their old number of fourteen, when they have paid them out of their hands; which will immediately sink the present timpany of wealth, and re-establish the natural poverty of the Gallic nation.
One cannot but pity the melancholy condition of a miser in this country, who is perpetually telling his livres, without being able to know how rich he is. He is as ridiculously puzzled and perplexed as a man that counts the stones on Salisbury Plain, which can never be settled to any certain number, but are more or fewer every time he reckons them.
I have heard of a young French lady, a subject of Louis the Fourteenth, who was contracted to a marquis upon the foot of a five thousand pound fortune,