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No. 19. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24.
Pulchrum est bene facere reipublicæ; etiam bene dicere haud absurdum est. SALL.
Ir has been usual these many years for writers, who have approved the scheme of government which has taken place, to explain to the people the reasonableness of those principles which have prevailed, and to justify the conduct of those who act in conformity to such principles. It therefore happens well for the party which is undermost, when a work of this nature falls into the hands of those who content themselves to attack their principles, without exposing their persons, or singling out any particular objects for satire and ridicule. This manner of proceeding is no inconsiderable piece of merit in writers, who are often more influenced by a desire of fame, than a regard to the public good; and who, by this means, lose many fair opportunities of showing their own wit, or of gratifying the ill-nature of their readers.
When a man thinks a party engaged in such measures as tend to the ruin of his country, it is certainly a very laudable and virtuous action in him to make war after this manner upon the whole body. But as several casuists are of opinion, that in a battle you should discharge upon the gross of the enemy, without levelling your piece at any particular person; so in this kind of combat also, I cannot think it fair to aim at any one man, and make his character the mark of your hostilities. There is now to be seen in the castle of Milan, a cannon bullet, inscribed, "This to the Mareschal de Crequi," which was the very ball that shot him. An author who points his satire at a great man is to be looked upon in the same view with the engineer who signalized himself by this ungenerous practice.
But as the spirit of the Whigs and Tories shows itself, upon every occasion, to be very widely different from one another; so is it particularly visible in the writings of this kind, which have been published by each party. The latter may, indeed, assign one reason to justify themselves in this tice; that, having nothing of any manner of weight to offer against the principles of their antagonists, if they speak at all, it must be against their persons. When they cannot re
fute an adversary, the shortest way is to libel him; and to endeavour at the making his person odious, when they cannot represent his notions as absurd.
The Examiner was a paper, in the last reign, which was the favourite work of the party. It was ushered into the world by a letter from a secretary of state, setting forth the great genius of the author, the usefulness of his design, and the mighty consequences that were to be expected from it. It is said to have been written by those among them whom they looked upon as their most celebrated wits and politicians, and was dispersed into all quarters of the nation with great industry and expense. Who would not have expected, that at least the rules of decency and candour would be observed in such a performance ? but, instead of this, you saw all the great men, who had done eminent services to their country but a few years before, draughted out one by one, and baited in their turns. No sanctity of character, or privilege of sex, exempted persons from this barbarous usage. Several of our prelates were the standing marks of public raillery, and many ladies of the first quality branded by name for matters of fact, which as they were false, were not heeded, and if they had been true, were innocent. The dead themselves were not spared. And here I cannot forbear taking notice of a kind of wit which has lately grown into fashion among the versifiers, epigrammatists, and other authors, who think it sufficient to distinguish themselves by their zeal for what they call the high church, while they sport with the most tremendous parts of revealed religion. Every one has seen epigrams upon the deceased fathers of our church, where the whole thought was turned upon hell-fire. Patriots, who ought to be remembered with honour by their posterity, have been introduced as speakers in a state of torments. There is something dreadful even in repeating these execrable pieces of wit, which no man who really believes another life, can peruse without fear and trembling. It is astonishing to see readers who call themselves Christians, applauding such diabolical mirth, and seeming to rejoice in the doom which is pronounced against their enemies, by such abandoned scribblers. A wit of this kind may, with great truth, be compared to the fool in the Proverbs, "who plays with arrows, fire-brands, and death, and says, Am I not in sport!" I must, in justice to the more sober and considerate of
that party, confess, that many of them were highly scandalized at that personal slander and reflection which was flung out so freely by the libellers of the last reign, as well as by those profane liberties which have been since continued. And as for those who are either the authors or admirers of such compositions, I would have them consider with themselves, whether the name of a good church-man can atone for the want of that charity which is the most essential part of Christianity. They would likewise do well to reflect, how, by these methods, the poison has run freely into the minds of the weak and ignorant: heightened their rage against many of their fellow-subjects; and almost divested them of the common sentiments of humanity.
In the former part of this paper, I have hinted that the design of it is to oppose the principles of those who are enemies to the present government, and the main body of that party who espouse those principles. But even in such general attacks there are certain measures to be kept, which may have a tendency rather to gain, than to irritate those who differ with you in their sentiments. The Examiner would not allow such as were of a contrary opinion to him, to be either Christians or fellow-subjects. With him they were all atheists, deists, or apostates, and a separate commonwealth among themselves, that ought either to be extirpated, or, when he was in a better humour, only to be banished out of their native country. They were often put in mind of some approaching execution, and therefore all of them advised to prepare themselves for it, as men who had then nothing to take care of, but how to die decently. In short, the Examiner seemed to make no distinction between conquest and destruction.
The conduct of this work has hitherto been regulated by different views, and shall continue to be so; unless the party it has to deal with draw upon themselves another kind of treatment. For if they shall persist in pointing their batteries against particular persons, there are no laws of war that forbid the making of reprisals. In the mean time, this undertaking shall be managed with that generous spirit which was so remarkable among the Romans, who did not subdue a country in order to put the inhabitants to fire and sword, but to incorporate them into their own community, and make them happy in the same government with themselves.
No. 20. MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27.
Privatus illis census erat brevis,
Ir is very unlucky for those who make it their business to raise popular murmurs and discontents against his Majesty's government, that they find so very few and so very improper occasions for them. To show how hard they are set in this particular, there are several, who for want of other materials, are forced to represent the bill which has passed this session, for laying an additional tax of two shillings in the pound upon land, as a kind of grievance upon the subject. If this be a matter of complaint, it ought in justice to fall upon those who have made it necessary. Had there been no rebellion, there would have been no increase of the land-tax : so that in proportion as a man declares his aversion to the one, he ought to testify his abhorrence of the other. But it is very remarkable that those, who would persuade the people that they are aggrieved by this additional burden, are the very persons who endeavour, in their ordinary conversation, to extenuate the heinousness of the rebellion, and who express the greatest tenderness for the persons of the rebels. They show a particular indulgence for that unnatural insurrection which has drawn this load upon us, and are angry at the means which were necessary for suppressing it. There needs no clearer proof of the spirit and intention with which they act; I shall, therefore, advise my fellow-freeholders to consider the character of any person who would possess them with the notion of a hardship that is put upon the country by this tax. If he be one of known affection to the present establishment, they may imagine there is some reason for complaint. But if, on the contrary, he be one who has shown himself indifferent as to the success of the present rebellion, or is suspected as a private abettor of it, they may take it for granted, his complaint against the land-tax is either the rage of a disappointed man, or the artifice of one who would alienate their affections from the present government.
The expense which will arise to the nation from this rebellion, is already computed at near a million. And it is a melancholy consideration for the freeholders of Great Bri
tain, that the treason of their fellow-subjects should bring upon them as great a charge as the war with France. At the same time every reasonable man among them will pay a tax with at least as great cheerfulness for stifling a civil war in its birth, as for carrying on a war in a foreign country. Had not our first supplies been effectual for the crushing of our domestic enemies, we should immediately have beheld the whole kingdom a scene of slaughter and desolation: whereas, if we had failed in our first attempts upon a distant nation, we might have repaired the losses of one campaign by the advantages of another, and after several victories gained over us, might still have kept the enemy from our gates.
As it was thus absolutely necessary to raise a sum that might enable the government to put a speedy stop to the rebellion, so could there be no method thought of for raising such a sum more proper, than this of laying an additional tax of two shillings in the pound upon land.
In the first place: this tax has already been so often tried, that we know the exact produce of it, which in any new project is always very doubtful and uncertain. As we are thus acquainted with the produce of this tax, we find it is adequate to the services for which it is designed, and that the additional tax is proportioned to the supernumerary expense, which falls upon the kingdom this year by the unnatural rebellion, as it has been above stated.
In the next place: no other tax could have been thought of, upon which so much money would have been immediately advanced as was necessary in so critical a juncture for pushing our successes against the rebels, and preventing the attempts of their friends and confederates both at home and abroad. Nobody cares to make loans upon a new and untried project; whereas men never fail to bring in their money upon a land-tax, when the premium or interest allowed them, is suited to the hazard they run by such loans to the government. And bere one cannot but bewail the misfortune of our country, when we consider, that the House of Commons had last year reduced this interest to four per cent., by which means there was a considerable saving to the nation; but that this year they have been forced to give six per cent., as well knowing the fatal consequences that might have ensued, had there not been an interest allowed,