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and the Germans, as well as the Italians, when they would call a man a hair-brained coxcomb, say, he is a Frenchman. This is going too far, and is like the Governor of Sallee's saying of De Ruyter, the Dutch admiral, “ He is an honest man, 'tis a great pity he is a Christian.”
Having already run my paper out to its usual length, I have not room for many reflections on that which is the subject of it. The last cited author has been beforehand with me in its proper moral.
I shall only add to it, that there has been an unaccountable disposition among the English of late years, to fetch the fashion from the French, not only in their dress and behaviour, but even in their judgments and opinions of mankind. It would however be reasonable for us, if we concur with them in their contempt of other neighbouring nations, that we should likewise regard ourselves under the same view in which they are wont to place us. The representations they make of us, are as of a nation the least favoured by them; and, as these are agreeable to the natural aversion they have for us, are more disadvantageous than the pictures they have drawn of any other people in Europe.
No. 31. FRIDAY, APRIL 6.
Omnes homines, P. C. qui de rebus dubļis consultant, ab odio, amicitia,
ira, atque misericordia vacuos esse decet. CÆSAR APUD SALLUST. I HAVE purposely avoided, during the whole course of this paper, to speak any thing concerning the treatment which is due to such persons as have been concerned in the late rebellion, because I would not seem to irritate justice against those who are under the prosecution of the law, nor incense any of my readers against unhappy though guilty men.
But when we find the proceedings of our government, in this particular, traduced and misrepresented, it is the duty of every good subject to set them in their proper light.
I am the more prompted to this undertaking by a pamphlet, entitled, “An argument to prove the affections of the people of England to be the best security of the government; humbly offered to the consideration of the patrons of severity, and applied to the present juncture of affairs. Had the whole scope of the author been answerable to his title, he would have only undertaken to prove what every man in his wits is already convinced of. But the drift of the pamphlet is to stir up our compassion towards the rebels, and our indignation against the government. The author, who knew that such a design as this could not be carried on without a great deal of artifice and sophistry, has puzzled and perplexed his cause, by throwing his thoughts together in such a studied confusion, that upon this account, if any, his pamphlet is, as the party have represented it, unanswerable.
The famous Monsieur Bayle compares the answering of an immethodical author to the hunting of a duck: when you have him full in your sight, and fancy yourself within reach of him, he gives you the slip, and becomes invisible. His argument is lost in such a variety of matter, that you must catch it where you can, as it rises and disappears in the several parts of his discourse.
The writer of this pamphlet could, doubtless, have ranged his thoughts in much better order, if he had pleased: but he knew very well
, that error is not to be advanced by perspicuity. In order, therefore, to answer this pamphlet, I must reduce the substance of it under proper heads; and disembroil the thoughts of the author, since he did not think fit to do it himself.
In the first place I shall observe, that the terms which the author makes use of are loose, general, and undefined, as will be shown in the sequel of this paper; and, what less becomes a fair reasoner, he puts wrong and invidious names on every thing, to colour a false
way of arguing. He allows that 'the rebels indisputably merit to be severely chastised; that they deserve it according to law; and that if they are punished, they have none to thank but themselves,' (p. 7:) How can a man, after such a concession, make use sometimes of the word cruelty, but generally of revenge, when he pleads against the exercise of what, according to his own notion, is at the most but rigid justice? Or, why are such executions, which, according to his own opinion, are legal, so often to be called violences and slaughters? Not to mention the appellations given to those who do not agree with him in his opinion for clemency, as the blood-thirsty, the political butchers, state chirurgeons, and the like.
But I shall now speak of that point, which is the great and reigning fallacy of the pamphlet, and runs more or less through every paragraph. His whole argument turns upon this single consideration; Whether the king should exert mercy or justice towards those who have openly appeared in the present rebellion? By mercy he means a general pardon, by justice a general punishment: so that he supposes no other method practicable in this juncture, than either the forgiving all, or the executing all. Thus he puts the question, Whether it be the interest of the prince to destroy the rebels by fire, sword, or gibbet?' (p. 4.) And, speaking of the zealots for the government, he tells us, “They think no remedy so good, as to make clear work; and that they declare for the utter extirpation of all who are its enemies in the most minute circumstances : as if amputation were the sole remedy these political butchers could find out for the distempers of a state; or that they thought the only way to make the top flourish, were to lop off the under branches.' (p. 5.) He then speaks of the coffee-house politicians, and the casuists in red coats; who,' he tells us, ' are for the utmost rigour that their laws of war or laws of convenience can inspire them with,' (p. 5.) Again, “It is represented,' says he, that the Vol. IV.
rebels deserve the highest punishment the laws can inflict,” (p. 7.) And afterwards tells us, The question is, whether the government shall show mercy, or take a reverend divine's advice, to slay man and woman, infant and suckling? (p. 8.) Thus again he tells us, “The friends to severe counsels allege, that the government ought not to be moved' by compassion; and that the law should have its course, (p. 9.) And in another place puts these words in their mouths, . He may still retain their affection, and yet let the laws have their course in punishing the guilty,' (p. 18.) He goes upon the same supposition in the following passages: 'It is impracticable in so general a corruption, to destroy all who are infected; and unless you destroy all, you do nothing to the purpose,' (p. 10.) 'Shall our rightful king show himself less the true father of his people, and afford his pardon to none of those people, who, like King Lear to his daughters, had so great a confidence in his virtue as to give him all,' (p. 25.) I shall only add, that the concluding paragraph, which is worked up with so much artificial horror, goes upon a supposition answerable to the whole tenor of the pamphlet; and implies, that the impeached lords were to be executed without exception or discrimination.
Thus we see what is the author's idea of that justice against which all his arguments are levelled. If, in the next place, we consider the nature of that clemency which he recommends, we find it to be no less universal and unrestrained.
He declares for a “general act of indemnity,' (p. 20.) and tells us, “ It is the sense of every dispassionate man of the kingdom, that the rebels may, and ought to be pardoned,' (p. 19.) • One popular act,' says he, 'would even yet retrieve all,' (p. 21.) He declares himself not 'over-fond of the doctrines of making examples of traitors,' (ibid.) And that the way to prevent things from being brought to an extremity, is to deal mildly with those unfortunate gentlemen engaged in the rebellion.'
The reader may now see in how fallacious a manner this writer has stated the controversy: he supposes there are but two methods of treating the rebels; that is, by cutting off every one of them to a man, or pardoning every one of them without distinction. Now, if there be a third method between these two extremes, which is on all accounts more eligible than either of them, it is certain that the whole course of his
argumentation comes to nothing. Every man of the plainest understanding will easily conclude, that, in the case before us, as in most others, we ought to avoid both extremes; that to destroy every rebel would be an excessive severity, and to forgive every one of them an unreasonable weakness. The proper method of proceeding is, that which the author has purposely omitted, namely, to temper justice with mercy; and, according to the different circumstances that aggravate or alleviate the guilt of the offenders, to restrain the force of the laws, or to let them take their proper
Punishments are necessary to show there is justice in a government, and pardons to show there is mercy; and both together convince the people, that our constitution, under a good administration, does not only make a difference between the guilty and the innocent, but even, among the guilty, between such as are more or less criminal.
This middle method, which has always been practised by wise and good governors, has hitherto been made use of by our sovereign. If, indeed, a stranger, and one who is altogether unacquainted with his majesty's conduct, should read this pamphlet, he would conclude that every person engaged in the rebellion was to die by the sword, the halter, or the ax; nay, that their friends and abettors were involved in the same fate. Would it be possible for him to imagine, that of the several thousands openly taken in arms, and liable to death by the laws of their country, not above forty