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No. 13. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3.
Ignavum fucos pecus à præsepibus arcent. VIRG.
THE most common, and indeed the most natural division of all offences, is into those of omission and commission. We may make the same division of that particular set of crimes which regard human society. The greatest crime which can be committed against it is rebellion; as was shown in my last paper. The greatest crime of omission, is an indifference in the particular members of a society, when a rebellion is actually begun among them. In such a juncture, though a man may innocent of the great breach which is made upon government, he is highly culpable if he does not use all the means that are suitable to his station, for reducing the community into its former state of peace and good order.
Our obligation to be active on such an occasion appears from the nature of civil government, which is an institution whereby we are all confederated together for our mutual defence and security. Men who profess a state of neutrality in times of public danger, desert the common interest of their fellow-subjects; and act with independence to1 that constitution into which they are incorporated. The safety of the whole requires our joint endeavours. When this is at stake, the indifferent are not properly a part of the community; or rather are like dead limbs, which are an encumbrance to the body, instead of being of use to it. Besides that the protection which all receive from the same government, justly calls upon the gratitude of all to strengthen it, as well as upon their self-interest to preserve it.
But further; if men, who in their hearts are friends to a government, forbear giving it their utmost assistance against its enemies, they put it in the power of a few desperate men to ruin the welfare of those who are much superior to them in strength, number, and interest. It was a remarkable law of Solon, the great legislator of the Athenians, that any person who in the civil tumults and commotions of the republic remained neuter, or an indifferent spectator of the contending parties, should, after the re-establishment of the public
1 To.] Rather on. But the expression is hardly English. It should be-and act as if they had no dependence on.
peace, forfeit all his possessions, and be condemned to perpetual banishment. This law made it necessary for every citizen to take his party, because it was highly probable the majority would be so wise as to espouse that cause which was most agreeable to the public weal, and by that means hinder a sedition from making a successful progress. At least, as every prudent and honest man, who might otherwise favour an indolence in his own temper, was hereby engaged to be active, such a one would be sure to join himself to that side which had the good of their country most at heart. For this reason their famous lawgiver condemned the persons who sat idle in divisions so dangerous to the government, as aliens to the community, and therefore to be cut off from it as unprofitable members.
Further; Indifference cannot but be criminal, when it is conversant about objects which are so far from being of an indifferent nature, that they are of the highest importance to ourselves and our country. If it be indifferent to us whether we are free subjects or slaves; whether our prince be of our own religion, or of one that obliges him to extirpate it; we are in the right to give ourselves no trouble in the present juncture. A man governs himself by the dictates of virtue and good sense, who acts without zeal or passion in points that are of no consequence; but when the whole community is shaken, and the safety of the public endangered, the appearance of a philosophical or an affected indolence must arise either from stupidity or perfidiousness.
When in the division of parties among us, men only strove for the first place in the prince's favour; when all were attached to the same form of government, and contended only for the highest offices in it; a prudent and an honest man might look upon the struggle with indifference, and be in no great pain for the success of either side. But at present the contest is not in reality between Whigs and Tories, but between Loyalists and Rebels. Our country is not now divided into two parties, who propose the same end by different means; but into such as would preserve and such as would destroy it. Whatever denominations we might range ourselves under in former times, men who have any natural love to their country, or sense of their duty, should exert their united strength in a cause that is common to all parties, as they are Protestants and Britons. In such a case, an
avowed indifference is treachery to our fellow-subjects; and a lukewarm allegiance may prove as pernicious in its consequences as treason.
I need not repeat here what I have proved at large in a former paper, that we are obliged to an active obedience by the solemn oaths we have taken to his Majesty; and that the neutral kind of indifference, which is the subject of this paper, falls short of that obligation they lie under, who have taken such oaths; as will easily appear to any one who considers the form of those sacred and religious engagements.
How then can any man answer it to himself, if, for the sake of managing his interest or character among a party, or out of any personal pique to those who are the most conspicuous for their zeal in his Majesty's service, or from any other private and self-interested motive, he stands as a looker-on when the government is attacked by an open rebellion? especially when those engaged in it cannot have the least prospect of success, but by the assistance of the ancient and hereditary enemies to the British nation? It is strange that these lukewarm friends to the government, whose zeal for their sovereign rises and falls with their credit at court, do not consider, before it be too late, that as they strengthen the rebels by their present indifference, they at the same time establish the interest of those who are their rivals and competitors for public posts of honour. When there is an end put to this rebellion, these gentlemen cannot pretend to have had any merit in so good a work; and they may well believe the nation will never care to see those men in the highest offices of trust, who, when they are out of them, will not stir a finger in its defence.
No. 14. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6.
Periculosum est credere, et non credere :
HAVING in the seventh paper considered many of those falsehoods, by which the cause of our malecontents is sup
ported, I shall here speak of that extravagant credulity, which disposes each particular member of their party to believe them. This strange alacrity in believing absurdity and inconsistence may be called the political faith of a Tory.
A person who is thoroughly endowed with this political faith, like a man in a dream, is entertained from one end of his life to the other with objects that have no reality or existence. He is daily nourished and kept in humour by fiction and delusion; and may be compared to the old obstinate knight in Rabelais, that every morning swallowed a chimera for his breakfast.
This political faith of a malecontent is altogether founded on hope. He does not give credit to anything because it is probable, but because it is pleasing. His wishes serve him instead of reasons, to confirm the truth of what he hears. There is no report so incredible or contradictory in itself which he doth not cheerfully believe, if it tends to the advancement of the cause. In short, a malecontent who is a good believer, has generally reason to repeat the celebrated rant of an ancient father," Credo quia impossibile est:" which is as much as to say, "It must be true, because it is impossible."
It has been very well observed, that the most credulous man in the world is the atheist, who believes the universe to be the production of chance. In the same manner a Tory, who is the greatest believer in what is improbable, is the greatest infidel in what is certain. Let a friend to the government relate to him a matter of fact, he turns away his ear from him, and gives him the lie in every look. But if one of his own stamp should tell him that the king of Sweden would be suddenly at Perth, and that his army is now actually marching thither upon the ice; he hugs himself at the good news, and gets drunk upon it before he goes to bed. This sort of people puts one in mind of several towns in Europe that are inaccessible on the one side, while they lie open and unguarded on the other. The minds of our malecontents are indeed so depraved with those falsehoods which they are perpetually imbibing, that they have a natural relish for error, and have quite lost the taste of truth in political matters. I shall therefore dismiss this head with a saying of King Charles the Second. This monarch, when he was at Windsor, used to amuse himself with the conversation of
the famous Vossius, who was full of stories relating to the antiquity, learning, and manners of the Chinese; and at the same time a free-thinker in points of religion. The king, upon hearing him repeat some incredible accounts of these eastern people, turning to those who were about him, “This learned divine," said he, " is a very strange man: he believes everything but the Bible.”
Having thus far considered the political faith of the party as it regards matters of fact, let us, in the next place, take a view of it with respect to those doctrines which it embraces, and which are the fundamental points whereby they are distinguished from those whom they used to represent as enemies to the constitution in church and state. How far their great articles of political faith, with respect to our ecclesiastical and civil government, are consistent with themselves, and agreeable to reason and truth, may be seen in the following paradoxes, which are the essentials of a Tory's creed, with relation to political matters. Under the name of Tories, I do not here comprehend multitudes of well-designing men, who were formerly included under that denomination, but are now in the interest of his Majesty and the present government. These have already seen the evil tendency of such principles, which are the Credenda of the party, as it is opposite to that of the Whigs.
That the church of England will be always in danger, till it has a Popish king for its defender.
That, for the safety of the church, no subject should be tolerated in any religion different from the established; but that the head of our church may be of that religion which is most repugnant to it.
That the Protestant interest in this nation, and in all Europe, could not but flourish under the protection of one, who thinks himself obliged, on pain of damnation, to do all that lies in his power for the extirpation of it.
That we may safely rely upon the promises of one, whose religion allows him to make them, and at the same time, obliges him to break them.