« ForrigeFortsæt »
have yet suffered ? how would he be surprised to hear, that, notwithstanding his majesty's troops have been victorious in every engagement, more of his friends have lost their lives in this rebellion, than of his traitorous subjects; though we add to those who have died by the hand of justice, those of them who fell in battle and yet we find a more popular compassion endeavoured to be raised for the deaths of the guilty, who have brought such calamities on their country, than for the innocent who perished in the defence of it. · This middle method of proceeding, which has been pursued by his majesty, and is wilfully overlooked by the author, best answers the ends of government; which is to maintain the safety of the public by rewards and punishments. It is also incumbent on a governor, according to the received dictates of religion: which instructs us, that he beareth not the sword in vain; but ought to be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well.' It is likewise in a particular manner the duty of a British king, who obliges himself by his coronation oath to execute justice in mercy, that is, to mix them in his administration, and not to exercise either of them to the total exclusion of the other.
But if we consider the arguments which this author gives for clemency, from the good effects it would produce, we shall find, that they hold true only when applied to such a mercy as serves rather to mitigate than exclude justice. The excellence of that unlimited clemency, which the author contends for, is recommended by the following arguments.
First, That it endears a prince to his people. This he descants on in several parts of his book. 'Clemency will endear his person to the nation; and then they will neither have the power nor will to disturb him,' (p. 8.) Was there ever a cruel prince, that was not hated by his subjects ?' (p. 24.) 'A merciful, good-natured disposition is of all others the most amiable quality, and in princes always attended with a popular love,' (p. 18.)
It is certain, that such a popular love will always rise towards a good prince, who exercises such a mercy as I have before described, which is consistent with the safety of the constitution, and the good of his kingdom. But if it be thrown away at random, it loses its virtue, lessens the esteem and authority of a prince, and cannot long recommend him, even to the weakest of his subjects, who will find all the effects of cruelty in such an ill-grounded compassion. It was a famous saying of William Rufus, and is quoted to his honour by historians: “Whosoever spares perjured men, robbers, plunderers, and traitors, deprives all good men of their peace and quietness, and lays a foundation of innumerable mischiefs to the virtuous and innocent.' ;
Another argument for unlimited clemency, is, that it shows a courageous temper : Clemency is likewise an argument of fearlessness; whereas cruelty not only betrays a weak, abject, depraved spirit, but also is for the most part a certain sign of cowardice,' (p. 19.)
- He had a truly great soul, and such will always disdain the coward's virtue, which is fear; and the consequence of it, which is revenge,' (p. 27:) This panegyric on clemency, when it is governed by reason, is likewisę very right; but it may so happen, that the putting of laws in execution against traitors to their country, may be the argument of fearlessness, when our governors are told that they dare not do it; and such methods may be made use of to extort pardons as would make it look like cowardice to grant them. In this last case the author should have remembered his own words, that 'then only mercy is meritorious when it is voluntary, and not extorted by the necessity of affairs,' (p. 13.) Besides, the author should have considered, that another argument which he makes use of for his clemency, are the resentments that may arise from the execution of a rebel; an argument adapted to a cowardly, not a fearless temper. This he infers from the disposition of the friends, wellwishers, or associates of the sufferers, (p. 4.) Re
sentment will inflame some; in others compassion will, by degrees, rise into resentment. This will naturally beget a disposition to overturn what they dislike, and then there will want only a fair opportunity,' (p. 11.) This argument, like most of the others, pleads equally for malefactors of all kinds, whom the government can never bring to justice, without disobliging their friends, well-wishers, or associates. But, I believe, if the author would converse with any friend, well-wisher, or associate of these sufferers, he would find them rather deterred from their practices by their sufferings, than disposed to rise in a new rebellion to revenge them. A government must be in a very weak and melancholy condition, that is not armed with a sufficient power for its own defence against the resentment of its enemies, and is afraid of being overturned, if it does justice on those who attempt it.
But I am afraid the main reason why these friends, well-wishers, and associates are against punishing any of the rebels, is that which must be an argument with every wise governor for doing justice upon some of them; namely, that it is a likely means to come at the bottom of this conspiracy, and to detect those who have been the private abettors of it, and who are still at work in the same design ; if we give credit to the suggestions of our malecontents themselves, who labour to make us believe that there is still life in this wicked project.
I am wonderfully surprised to see another argument made use of for a general pardon, which might have been urged more properly for a general execution. The words are these; “The generality will never be brought to believe, but that those who suffer only for treason have very hard measure, nor can you, with all your severity, undeceive them of their error.' If the generality of the English have such a favourable opinion of treason, nothing can so well cure them of an error so fatal to their country, as the punishment of those who are guilty of it. It is evident, that a general impunity would confirm them in such an opinion :
for the vulgar will never be brought to believe, that . there is a crime where they see no penalty. As it is certain no error can be more destructive to the very being of government than this, a proper remedy ought to be applied to it: and I would ask this author, whether upon this occasion, the doctrine of making examples of traitors' be not very seasonable; though he declares himself not over fond of it.' The way to awaken men's minds to the sense of this guilt, is to let them see, by the sufferings of some who have incurred it, how heinous a crime it is in the eye of the law.
The foregoing anster may be applied likewise to another argument of the same nature. If the faction be as numerous as is pretended; if the spirit has spread itself over the whole kingdom; if it has mixed with the mass of the people; then certainly all bloody measures will but whet men the more for revenge. If justice inflicted on a few of the most flagrant criminals, with mercy extended to the multitude, may be called bloody measures, they are without doubt absolutely necessary, in case the spirit of faction be thus spread among the mass of the people; who will readily conclude, that if open rebellion goes unpunished, every degree of faction which leads to it must be altogether innocent.
I am come now to another argument for pardoning all the rebels, which is, that it would inspire them all with gratitude, and reduce them to their allegiance, 'It is truly heroic to overcome the hearts of ones enemies; and when it is compassed, the undertaking is truly politic,' (p. 8.) ^ He has now a fair opportunity of conquering more enemies by one act of clemency, than the most successful general will be able to do in many campaigns,' (p. 9.) ‘Are there not infinite numbers who would become most dutiful upon any fair invitation, upon the least appearance of grace?' (p. 13.)
Which of the rebels could be ungrateful enough to resist or abuse goodness exemplified in practice, as well as extolled in theory?' (p. 20.) Has
not his majesty then shown the least appearance of grace in that generous forgiveness which he has already extended to such great numbers of his rebellious subjects, who must have died by the laws of their country, had not his mercy interposed in their behalf? But if the author means (as he doth through this whole pamphlet by the like expressions) a universal forgiveness, no unprejudiced man can be of his opinion, that it would have had this good effect. see how little the conversion of rebels is to be depended on, when we observe that several of the leaders in this rebellion were men who had been pardoned for practices of the same nature: and that most of those who have suffered, have avowed their perseverance in their rebellious principles, when they spoke their minds at the place of execution, notwithstanding their professions to the contrary while they solicited forgiveness. Besides, were pardon extended indifferently to all, which of them would think himself under any particular obligation? Whereas, by that prudent discrimination which his majesty has made between the offenders of different degrees, he naturally obliges those whom he has considered with so much tenderness, and distinguished as the most proper objects of mercy. In short, those who are pardoned would not have known the value of grace, if none had felt the effects of justice.
I must not omit another reason which the author makes use of against punishments; “Because,' he says, those
very means, or the apprehensions of them, have brought things to the pass in which they are, and consequently will reduce them from bad to worse,' (p. 10.) And afterwards, “The growth of disaffection is in a great measure owing to the groundless jealousies men entertained of the present administration, as if they were to expect nothing but cruelty under it.' If our author would have spoken out, and have applied these effects to the real cause, he could ascribe this change of affections among the people to nothing else but the