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advertised him, that the power there given to the consul, was in the time of a conspiracy. "The senate, therefore, made a decree, as usual, when they have matters before them of so horrid a nature, That the consuls should take care the commonwealth did not suffer any prejudice. By virtue of this very great power which the senate allows to the magistrate, according to the ancient customs of Rome, he may raise an army, wage war, make use of all kinds of methods to restrain the associates and citizens of Rome, and exercise the supreme authority both at home and abroad in matters civil and military; whereas otherwise the consul is not invested with any of these powers without the express command of the people."
There now only remains to show, that his Majesty is legally possessed of this power; and that the necessity of the present affairs requires he should be so. He is intrusted with it by the legislature of the nation; and in the very notion of a legislature is implied a power to change, repeal, and suspend, what laws are in being, as well as to make what new laws they shall think fit for the good of the people. This is so uncontroverted a maxim, that I believe never anybody attempted to refute it. Our legislature have, however, had that just regard for their fellow-subjects, as not to entertain a thought of abrogating this law, but only to hinder it from operating at a time when it would endanger the constitution. The king is empowered to act but for a few months by virtue of this suspension; and by that means differs from a king of France, or any other tyrannical prince, who in times of peace and tranquillity, and upon what occasion he pleases, sends any of his subjects out of the knowledge of their friends into such castles, dungeons, or imprisonments, as he thinks fit. Nor did the legislature do anything in this that was unprecedented. The Habeas Corpus act was made about five and thirty years ago, and since that time has been suspended four times before his present Majesty's accession to the throne: twice under the reign of King William and Queen Mary; once under the reign of King William; and once under the reign of Queen Anne.
The necessity of this law at this time arose from the prospect of an invasion, which has since broke out into an actual rebellion; and from informations of secret and dangerous
practices among men of considerable figure, who could not have been prevented from doing mischief to their country but by such a suspension of this act of parliament.
I cannot, however, but observe, that notwithstanding the lawfulness and necessity of such a suspension, had not the rebellion broke out after the passing of this act of parliament, I do not know how those who had been the most instrumental in procuring it could have escaped that popular odium, which their malicious and artful enemies have now in vain endeavoured to stir up against them. Had it been possible for the vigilance and endeavours of a ministry to have hindered even the attempts of an invasion, their very endeavours might have proved prejudicial to them. Their prudent and resolute precautions would have turned to their disadvantage, had they not been justified by those events, which they did all that was in their power to obviate. This naturally brings to mind the reflection of Tully in the like circumstances, "That amidst the divisions of Rome, a man was in an unhappy condition who had a share in the administration, nay, even in the preservation of the commonwealth. O conditionem miseram non modo administrandæ, verum etiam conservandæ Reipublicæ !
Besides, every unprejudiced man will consider how mildly and equitably this power has been used. The persons confined have been treated with all possible humanity, and abridged of nothing but the liberty of hurting their country, and very probably of ruining both themselves and their families. And as to the numbers of those who are under this short restraint, it is very observable, that people do not seem so much surprised at the confinement of some, as at the liberty of many others. But we may from hence conclude, what every Englishman must observe with great pleasure, that his Majesty does not in this great point regulate himself by any private jealousies or suspicions, but by those evidences and informations he has received.
We have already found the good consequences of this suspension, in that it has hindered the rebellion from gathering the strength it would otherwise have gained; not to mention those numbers it has kept from engaging in so desperate an enterprise, with the many lives it has preserved, and the desolations it has prevented.
For these and many other reasons, the representatives of Great Britain in parliament could never have answered it
to the people they represent, who have found such great benefits from the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, and without it must have felt such fatal consequences, had they not, in a case of such great necessity, made use of this customary, legal, and reasonable method for securing his Majesty on the throne, and their country from misery or ruin.
No. 17. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17.
-Hic niger est: hunc tu, Romane, caveto.
WE are told that in Turkey, when any man is the author of notorious falsehoods, it is usual to blacken the whole front of his house: nay, we have sometimes heard, that an ambassador whose "business it is" (if I may quote his character in Sir Henry Wotton's words) "to lie for the good of his country," has sometimes had this mark set upon his house; when he has been detected in any piece of feigned intelligence, that has prejudiced the government, and misled the minds of the people. One could almost wish that the habitations of such of our countrymen as deal in forgeries detrimental to the public were distinguished in the same manner; that their fellow-subjects might be cautioned not to be too easy in giving credit to them. Were such a method put in practice, this metropolis would be strangely checquered; some entire parishes would be in mourning, and several streets darkened from one end to the other.
But I have given my thoughts in two preceding papers, both on the inventors and the believers of these public falsehoods and calumnies, and shall here speak of that contempt with which they are and ought to be received by those in high stations, at whom they are levelled. Any person, indeed, who is zealous for promoting the interest of his country, must conquer all that tenderness and delicacy which may make him afraid of being ill spoken of; or his endeavours will often produce no less uneasiness to himself, than benefit to the public. Among a people who indulge themselves in the utmost freedoms of thought and speech, a man must either be insignificant, or able to bear an undeserved reproach. A true patriot may comfort himself under the attacks of falsehood and obloquy, from several motives and reflections.
In the first place he should consider, that the chief of his antagonists are generally acted by a spirit of envy; which would not rise against him, if it were not provoked by his desert. A statesman, who is possessed of real merit, should look upon his political censurers with the same neglect, that a good writer regards his critics; who are generally a race of men that are not able to discover the beauties of a work they examine, and deny that approbation to others which they never met with themselves. Patriots, therefore, should rather rejoice in the success of their honest designs, than be mortified by those who misrepresent them.
They should likewise consider, that not only envy, but vanity, has a share in the detraction of their adversaries. Such aspersions, therefore, do them honour at the same time that they are intended to lessen their reputation. They should reflect, That those who endeavour to stir up the multitude against them, do it to be thought considerable; and not a little applaud themselves in a talent that can raise clamours out of nothing, and throw a ferment among the people, by murmurs or complaints, which they know in their own hearts are altogether groundless. There is a pleasant instance of this nature recorded at length in the first book of the Annals of Tacitus. When a great part of the Roman legions were in a disposition to mutiny, an impudent varlet, who was a private sentinel, being mounted upon the shoulders of his fellow-soldiers, and resolved to try the power of his eloquence, addressed himself to the army, in all the postures of an orator, after the following manner: "You have given liberty to these miserable men," said he, (pointing to some criminals whom they had rescued,) "but which of you can restore life to my brother? who can give me back my brother? he was murdered no longer ago than last night, by the hands of those ruffians, who are entertained by the general to butcher the poor soldiery. Tell me, Blæsus, (for that was the name of the general, who was then sitting on the tribunal,) tell me, where hast thou cast his dead body? An enemy does not grudge the rites of burial. When I have tired myself with kissing his cold corpse, and weeping over it, order me to be slain upon it. All I ask of my fellowsoldiers, since we both die in their cause, is, that they would lay me in the same grave with my brother." The whole army was in an uproar at this moving speech, and resolved
to do the speaker justice, when, upon inquiry, they found that he never had a brother in his life; and that he had stirred up the sedition only to show his parts.
Public ministers would likewise do well to consider, that the principal authors of such reproaches as are cast upon them, are those who have a mind to get their places and as for a censure arising from this motive, it is in their power to escape it when they please, and turn it upon their competitors. Malecontents of an inferior character are acted by the same principle; for so long as there are employments of all sizes, there will be murmurers of all degrees. I have heard of a country gentleman, who made a very long and melancholy complaint to the late Duke of Buckingham, when he was in great power at court, of several public grievances. The Duke, after having given him a very patient hearing, "My dear friend, (says he,) this is but too true; but I have thought of an expedient which will set all things right, and that very soon." His country friend asked him, what it was. "You must know, (says the duke,) there's a place for five hundred pounds a year fallen this very morning, which I intend to put you in possession of." The gentleman thanked his Grace, went away satisfied, and thought the nation the happiest under heaven, during that whole ministry.
But farther, every man in a public station ought to consider, that when there are two different parties in a nation, they will see things in different lights. An action, however conducive to the good of their country, will be represented by the artful and appear to the ignorant as prejudicial to it. Since I have here, according to the usual liberty of essaywriters, rambled into several stories, I shall fetch one to my present purpose out of the Persian history. We there read of a virtuous young emperor, who was very much afflicted to find his actions misconstrued and defamed by a party among his subjects that favoured another interest. As he was one day sitting among the ministers of his Divan, and amusing himself after the Eastern manner, with the solution of difficult problems and enigmas, he proposed to them in his turn the following one. "What is the tree that bears three hundred and sixty-five leaves, which are all black on the one side, and white on the other?” His Grand Vizier immediately replied, it was the year, which consisted of three