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the British liberties, were the danger great enough to require it. Should the king be reduced to the necessity of setting up the royal standard, how many
thousands would range themselves under it! what a concourse would there be of nobles and patriots! We should see men of another spirit than what has appeared among the enemies to our country, and such as would outshine the rebellious part of their fellow subjects as much in their gallantry as in their cause.
I shall not so much suspect the understandings of our adversaries, as to think it necessary to enforce these considerations, by putting them in mind of that fidelity and allegiance which is so visible in his majesty's fleet and army; or of many other particulars; which, in all human probability, will perpetuate our present form of government, and which may be suggested to them by their own private thoughts.
The party, indeed, that is opposite to our present happy settlement, seem to be driven out of the hopes of all human methods for carrying on their cause, and are therefore reduced to the poor comfort of prodigies and old women's fables. They begin to see armies in the clouds, when all upon the earth have forsaken them. Nay, I have been lately shown a written prophecy, that is handed among them with great secrecy, by which it appears their chief reliance at present is upon a Cheshire miller who was born with two thumbs upon one hand.
I have addressed this whole paper to the despair of our malecontents, not with a design to aggravate the pain of it, but to use it as a means of making them happy. Let them seriously consider the vexation and disquietude of mind that they are treasuring up for themselves, by struggling with a power which will be always too hard for them; and by converting his majesty's reign into their own misfortune, which every impartial man must look upon as the greatest blessing to his country. Let them extinguish those passions, which can only imbitter their lives to them, and deprive them of their share in the happiness of the community. They may conclude that his majesty, in spite of any opposition they can form againt him, will maintain his just authority over them; and whatever uneasiness they may give themselves, they can create none in him, excepting only because they prevent him from exerting equally his natural goodness and benevolence to every subject in his dominions.
No. 25. FRIDAY, MARCH 16.
Quid est sapientia ? semper idem velle atque idem nolle. SENECA.
F we may believe the observation which is made of us by foreigners, there is no nation in Europe so much given to change as the English. There are some who ascribe this to the fickleness of our climate; and others to the freedom of our government. From one, or both of these causes, their writers derive that variety of humours which appears among the people in general, and that inconsistency of character which is to be found in almost every particular person. But as a man should always be upon his guard against the vices to which he is most exposed, so we should take a more than ordinary care not to lie at the mercy of the weather in our moral conduct, nor to make a capricious use of that liberty which we enjoy by the happiness of our civil constitution.
This instability of temper ought, in å particular manner, to be checked, when it shows itself in political affairs, and disposes men to wander from one scheme of government to another: since such a fickleness of behaviour in public measures cannot but be attended with very fatal effects to our country.
In the first place, it hinders any great undertaking, which requires length of time for its accomplishment, from being brought to its due perfection. There is not any instance in history which better confirms this observation, than that which is still fresh in every one's memory. We engaged in the late war with a design to reduce an exorbitant growth of power in the most dangerous enemy to Great Britain. We gained a long and wonderful series of victories, and had scarce any thing left to do, but to reap the fruits of them: when, on a sudden, our patience failed us; we grew tired of our undertaking; and received terms from those who were upon the point of giving us whatever we could have demanded of them.
This mutability of mind in the English makes the ancient friends of our nation very backward to engage with us in such alliances as are necessary for our mutual defence and security. It is a common notion among foreigners, that the English are good confederates in an enterprise which may be dispatched within a short compass of time; but that they are not to be depended upon in a work which cannot be finished without constancy and perseverance.
Our late measures have so blemished our national credit in this particular, that those potentates, who are entered into treaties with his present majesty, have been solely encouraged to it by their confidence in his personal firmness and integrity.
I need not, after this, suggest to my reader the ignominy and reproach that falls upon a nation, which distinguishes itself among its neighbours by such a wavering and unsettled conduct.
This our inconsistency in the pursuit of schemes which have been thoroughly digested, has as bad an influence on our domestic as on our foreign affairs. We are told, that the famous Prince of Condé used to ask the English ambassador, upon the arrival of a mail, “Who was secretary of state in England by that post?' as a piece of raillery upon the fickleness of our politics. But what has rendered this a misfortune to our country, is, that public ministers have no sooner made themselves masters of their business, than they have been dismissed from their employments; and that this disgrace has befallen very many of them, not because they have deserved it, but because the people love to see new faces in high posts of honour.
It is a double misfortune to a nation, which is thus given to change, when they have a sovereign at the head of them, that is prone to fall in with all the turns and veerings of the people. Sallust, the gravest of all the Roman historians, who had formed his notions of regal authority from the manner in which he saw it exerted among the barbarous nations, makes the following remark: Plerumque regiæ voluntates, uti rehementes, sic mobiles, sæpe ipsæ sibi advorsæ. “The wills of kings, as they are generally vehement, are likewise very fickle, and at different times opposite to themselves." Were there any colour for this general observation, how much does it redound to the honour of such princes who are exceptions to it!
The natural consequence of an unsteady government, is the perpetuating of strife and faction among a divided people. Whereas, a king, who persists in those schemes which he has laid, and has no other view in them but the good of his subjects, extinguishes all hopes of advancement in those who would grow great by an opposition to his measures, and insensibly unites the contending parties in their common interest.
Queen Elizabeth, who makes the greatest figure among our English sovereigns, was most eminently remarkable for that steadiness and uniformity which ran through all her actions, during that long and glorious reign. She kept up to her chosen motto in every part of her life; and never lost sight of those great ends, which she proposed to herself on her accession to the throne, the happiness of her people, and the strengthening of the Protestant interest. She often interposed her royal authority to break the cabals which were forming against her first ministers, who grew old, and died in those stations which they filled with so great abilities. By this means she baffled the many attempts of her foreign and domestic enemies, and entirely broke the whole force and spirit of that party among her subjects, which was popishly affected, and which was not a little formidable in the beginning of her reign.
The frequent changes and alterations in public proceedings, the multiplicity of schemes introduced upon one another, with the variety of short-lived favourites, that prevailed in their several turns under the government of her successors, have, by degrees, broken us into those unhappy distinctions and parties, which have given so much uneasiness to our kings, and so often endangered the safety of their people.
I question not but every impartial reader hath been beforehand with me, in considering, on this occasion, the happiness of our country under the government of his present majesty; who is so deservedly famous for an inflexible adherence to those counsels which have a visible tendency to the public good, and to those persons who heartily concur with him in promoting these his generous designs.
A prince of this character will be dreaded by his enemies, and served with courage and zeal by his friends; and will either instruct us, by his example, to fix the unsteadiness of our politics, or, by his conduct, hinder it from doing us any prejudice.
Upon the whole, as there is no temper of mind more unmanly in a private person, nor more pernicious to the public in a member of the community, than that changeableness with which we are too justly branded by all our neighbours, it is to be hoped, that the sound part of the nation will give no farther occasion for this reproach, but continue steady to that happy establishment which has now taken place among us. obstinacy in prejudices, which are detrimental to our country, ought not to be mistaken for that virtuous resolution and firmness of mind which is necessary to our preservation, it is to be wished that the enemies