Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Beaconsfield, May 26, 1795. | (as I hear he did, in three or four speeches made

in defence of certain worthy citizens,) I was raMy Dear Sir,

ther let down a little. Though still somewhat I have been told of the voluntary, which, for proud of myself, I was not quite so proud of my the entertainment of the house of lords, has been voucher. Though he is no idolater of fame, in lately played by his Grace the **** of *******

some way or other, Mr. Erskine will always do a great deal at my expence, and a little at his own. himself honour. Methinks, however, in followI confess I should have liked the composition rather | ing the precedents of these toasts, he seemed to better, if it had been quite new. But every man do more credit to his diligence, as a special pleader, has his taste, and his Grace is an admirer of ancient than to his invention as an orator. To those who musick.

did not know the abundance of his resources, There may be sometimes too much even of a both of genius and erudition, there was something good thing. A toast is good, and a bumper is not in it that indicated the want of a good assortment, bad; but the best toast may be so often repeated with regard to richness and variety, in the magazine as to disgust the palate, and ceaseless rounds of of topicks and common-places which I suppose he bumpers may nauseate and overload the stomach. keeps by him, in imitation of Cicero and other The ears of the most steady-voting politicians renowned declaimers of antiquity. may at last be stunned with “ three times three." Mr. Erskine supplied something, I allow, from I am sure I have been very grateful for the flat- the stores of his imagination, in metamorphosing tering remembrance made of me in the toasts of the jovial toasts of clubs into solemn special arguthe Revolution Society, and of other clubs formed ments at the bar. So far the thing shewed talent: on the same laudable plan. After giving the brim- however I must still prefer the bar of the tavern ming honours to citizen Thomas Paine, and to to the other bar. The toasts at the first hand citizen Dr. Priestley, the gentlemen of these clubs were better than the arguments at the second. seldom failed to bring me forth in my turn, and to Even when the toasts began to grow old as sardrink, “ Mr. Burke, and thanks to him for the dis- casmis, they were washed down with still older “ cussion he has provoked.”

pricked election port; then the acid of the wine I found myself elevated with this honour; for, made some amends for the want of any thing even by the collision of resistance, to be the means piquant in the wit. But when his Grace gave of striking out sparkles of truth, if not merit, is at them a second transformation, and brought out least felicity

the vapid stuff, which had varied the clubs and Here I might have rested. But when I found disgusted the courts ; the drug made up of the that the great advocate, Mr. Erskine, condescended bottoms of rejected bottles, all smelling so woto resort to these bumper toasts, as the pure and fully of the cork and of the cask, and of every exuberant fountains of politicks and of rhetorick, thing except the honest old lamp, and when that

me.

sad draught had been farther infected with the His Grace, like an able orator, as he is, begins gaol pollution of the Old Bailey, and was dashed with giving me a great deal of praise for talents and brewed, and ineffectually stummed again into which I do not possess. He does this to intitle a senatorial exordium in the house of lords, I himself, on the credit of this gratuitous kindness, found all the high flavour and mantling of my to exaggerate my abuse of the parts which his honours, tasteless, flat, and stale. Unluckily, the bounty, and not that of nature, has bestowed upon new tax on wine is felt even in the greatest for In this, too, he has condescended to copy tunes, and his Grace submits to take up with the Mr. Erskine. These priests (I hope they will heel-taps of Mr. Erskine.

excuse me; I mean priests of the rights of man) I have had the ill or good fortune to provoke begin by crowning me with their flowers and their two great men of this age to the publication of fillets, and bedewing me with their odours, as a their opinions; I mean, citizen Thomas Paine, preface to the knocking me on the head with and his Grace the **** of ***. I am not so

their consecrated axes. I have injured, say they, great a leveller as to put these two great men on the constitution; and I have abandoned the Whig a par, either in the state, or the republick of let- party and the Whig principles that I professed. I ters: but, “the field of glory is a field for all.” do not mean, my dear sir, to defend myself against It is a large one indeed, and we all may run, God his Grace. I have not much interest in what the knows where, in chase of glory, over the bound-world shall think or say of me; as little has the less expanse of that wild heath, whose horizon world an interest in what I shall think or say of always fies before us. I assure his Grace (if he any one in it; and I wish that his Grace had sufwill yet give me leave to call him so) whatever fered an unhappy man to enjoy, in his retreat, the may be said on the authority of the clubs, or of melancholy privileges of obscurity and sorrow. At the bar, that citizen Paine (who, they will have any rate, I have spoken, and I have written, on the it, hunts with me in couples, and who only moves subject. If I have written or spoken so poorly as as I drag him along) has a sufficient activity in to be quite forgot, a fresh apology will not make his own native benevolence to dispose and enable a more lasting impression. “ I must let the tree lie him to take the lead for himself. He is ready tu " as it falls.” Perhaps I must take some shame to blaspheme his God, to insult his king, and to libel myself. I confess that I have acted on my own the constitution of his country, without any pro- principles of government, and not on those of his vocation from me, or any encouragement from his Grace, which are, I dare say, profound and wise ; Grace. I assure him, that I shall not be guilty of but which I do not pretend to understand. As to the injustice of charging Mr. Paine's next work the party to which he alludes, and which has long against religion and human society, upon his taken its leave of me, I believe the principles Grace's excellent speech in the house of lords. I of the book which he condemns are very confarther assure this noble duke, that I neither formable to the opinions of many of the most encouraged nor provoked that worthy citizen to considerable and most grave in that description of seek for plenty, liberty, safety, justice, or lenity, in politicians. A few indeed, who, I admit, are equally the famine, in the prisons, in the decrees of con- respectable in all points, differ from me, and talk vention, in the revolutionary tribunal, and in the his Grace's language. I am too feeble to contend guillotine of Paris, rather than quietly to take up with them. They have the field to themselves. with what he could find in the glutted markets, There are others, very young and very ingenious the unbarricadoed streets, the drowsy Old Bailey persons, who form, probably, the largest part of judges, or, at worst, the airy, wholesome pillory what his Grace, I believe, is pleased to consider of Old England. The choice of country was his as that party. Some of them were not born into own taste. The writings were the effects of his the world, and all of them were children, when I own zeal. In spite of his friend Dr. Priestley, he entered into that connexion. I give due credit to was a free agent. I admit, indeed, that my praises the censorial brow, to the broad phylacteries, and of the British government, loaded with all its in- to the imposing gravity, of those magisterial rabcumbrances; clogged with its peers and its beef; bins and doctors in the cabala of political science. its parsons and its pudding; its commons and its I admit that “wisdom is as the grey hair to man, beer; and its dull slavish liberty of going about " and that learning is like honourable old age. just as one pleases ; had something to provoke a But, at a time when liberty is a good deal talked jockey of Norfolk,* who was inspired with the of, perhaps I might be excused, if I caught someresolute ambition of becoming a citizen of France, thing of the general indocility. It might not be to do something which might render him worthy surprising, if I lengthened my chain a link or two, of naturalization in that grand asylum of persecut and, in an age of relaxed discipline, gave a trifling ed merit; something which should intitle' him to a indulgence to my own notions. If that could be place in the senate of the adoptive country of all allowed, perhaps I might sometimes (by accident, the gallant, generous, and humane. This, I say, and without an unpardonable crime) trust as much was possible. But the truth is, (with great defer- to my own very careful, and very laborious, ence to his Grace I say it,) citizen Paine acted with though, perhaps, somewhat purblind disquisitions, out any provocation at all; he acted solely from as to their soaring, intuitive, eagle-eyed authothe native impulses of his own excellent heart. rity. But the modern liberty is a precious thing.

• Mr. Paine is a Norfolk man, from Thetford,

VOL. II.

R

mons.

oppressed

It must not be profaned by too vulgar an use. It poor, puny, private sophist, was defending the belongs only to the chosen few, who are born to declaration of Pilnitz, his majesty might refute me the hereditary representation of the whole demo- by the treaty of Basle. Such a monarch may

decracy, and who leave nothing at all, no, not the stroy one republick because it had a king at its offal, to us poor outcasts of the plebeian race. head, and he may balance this extraordinary act

Amongst those gentlemen who came to autho- by founding another republick that has cut off the rity, as soon, or sooner than they came of age, I head of its king. I defended that great potentate do not mean to include his Grace. With all those for associating in a grand alliance for the preservanative titles to empire over our minds which dis- tion of the old governments of Europe ; but he tinguish the others, he has a large share of expe- puts me to silence by delivering up all those gorience. He certainly ought to understand the yernments (his own virtually included) to the new British constitution better than I do. He has system of France. If he is accused before the studied it in the fundamental part. For one elec- Parisian tribunal (constituted for the trial of kings) tion I have seen, he has been concerned in twenty. for having polluted the soil of liberty by the tracks Nobody is less of a visionary theorist; nobody has of his disciplined slaves, he clears himself by surdrawn his speculations more from practice.' No rendering the finest parts of Germany (with a peer has condescended to superintend with more handsome cut of his own territories) to the offended vigilance the declining franchises of the poor com- majesty of the regicides of France. Can I resist

“ With thrice great Hermes he has out- this ? Am I responsible for it, if, with a torch in “ watched the bear.” Often have his candles been his hand, and a rope about his neck, he makes burned to the snuff, and glimmered and stunk in amende honorable to the Sans-Culotterie of the the sockets, whilst he grew pale at his constitutional republick one and indivisible ? In that humiliatstudies ; long sleepless nights has he wasted ; ing attitude, in spite of my protests, he may supplilong, laborious, shiftless journies has he made, and cate pardon for his menacing proclamations; and, great sums has he expended, in order to secure as an expiation to those whom he failed to terrify the purity, the independence, and the sobriety of with his threats, he may abandon those whom he elections, and to give a check, if possible, to the had seduced by his promises. He may sacrifice ruinous charges that go nearly to the destruction the royalists of France whom he had called to his of the right of election itself.

standard, as a salutary example to those who shall Amidst these his labours, his Grace will be adhere to their native sovereign, or shall confide pleased to forgive me, if my zeal, less enlightened in any other who undertakes the cause of to be sure than his by midnight lamps and studies, kings and of loyal subjects. has presumed to talk too favourably of this con- How can I help it, if this high-minded prince stitution, and even to say something sounding like will subscribe to the invectives which the regicides approbation of that body which has the honour to have made against all kings, and particularly reckon his Grace at the head of it. Those, who against himself ? How can I help it, if this royal dislike this partiality, or, if his Grace pleases, this propagandist will preach the doctrine of the rights flattery of mine, have a comfort at hand. I may of men ? Is it my fault if his professors of literabe refuted and brought to shame by the most con- ture read lectures on that code in all his acadevincing of all refutations, a practical refutation. mies, and if all the pensioned managers of the Every individual peer for himself may shew that newspapers in his dominions diffuse it throughI was ridiculously wrong: the whole body of those out Europe in an hundred journals? Can it be noble persons may refute me for the whole corps. attributed to me, if he will initiate all his grenaIf they please, they are more powerful advocates diers, and all his hussars, in these high mysteries? against themselves, than a thousand scribblers like Am I responsible, if he will make le droit de me can be in their favour. If I were even pos- l'homme, or la souveraineté du peuple, the favourite sessed of those powers which his Grace, in order parole of his military orders ? Now that his troops to heighten my offence, is pleased to attribute to are to act with the brave legions of freedom, no me, there would be little difference. The eloquence doubt he will fit them for their fraternity. He will of Mr. Erskine might save Mr. **** from the gal- teach the Prussians to think, to feel, and to act, lows, but no eloquence could save Mr. Jackson like them, and to emulate the glories of the regifrom the effects of his own potion.

ment de l'échaffaut. He will employ the illusIn that unfortunate book of mine, which is put trious citizen Santerre, the general of his new in the index expurgatorius of the modern Whigs, allies, to instruct the dull Germans how they shall I might have spoken too favourably not only of conduct themselves towards persons who, like those who wear coronets, but of those who wear Louis the XVIth, (whose cause and person he once crowns. Kings, however, have not only long arms, took into his protection,) shall dare, without the but strong ones too. A great northern potentate, sanction of the people, or with it, to consider for instance, is able in one moment, and with one themselves as hereditary kings. Can I arrest bold stroke of his diplomatick pen, to efface all the this great potentate in his career of glory? Am volumes which I could write in a century, or which I blamable in recommending virtue and religion the most laborious publicists of Germany ever as the true foundation of all monarchies, becarried to the fair of Leipsick, as an apology for cause the protector of the three religions of the monarchs and monarchy." Whilst I, or any other Westphalian arrangement, to ingratiate himself with the republick of philosophy, shall abolish | their conclusums should taste of the prejudices of all the three? It is not in my power to pre-country or of faction, whether political or relivent the grand patron of the reformed church, gious. Some degree, even of corruption, should if he chooses it, from annulling the Calvinistick not make me think them guilty of suicide; but sabbath, and establishing the decadi of atheism if we could suppose, that the aulick council, not in all his states. He may even renounce and ab. regarding duty or even common decorum, listenjure his favourite mysticism in the temple of rea- ing neither to the secret admonitions of conson. In these things, at least, he is truly despotick. science, nor to the publick voice of fame, some He has now shaken hands with every thing which of the members basely abandoning their post, at first had inspired him with horrour. It would and others continuing in it only the more infabe curious indeed to see (what I shall not how-mously to betray it, should give a judgment so ever travel so far to see) the ingenious devices, and shameless and so prostitute, of such monstrous the elegant transparencies, which, on the restora- and even portentous corruption, that no example tion of peace and the commencement of Prussian in the history of human depravity, or even in the liberty, are to decorate Potzdam and Charlotten- fictions of poetick imagination, could possibly burgh festigiante. What shades of his armed match it; if it should be a judgment which with ancestors of the house of Brandenburgh will the cold unfeeling cruelty, after long deliberations, committee of illuminés raise up in the opera-house should condemn millions of innocent people to of Berlin, to dance a grand ballet in the rejoicings extortion, to rapine, and to blood, and should defor this auspicious event? Is it a grand master vote some of the finest countries upon earth to of the Teutonick order, or is it the great elector ? ravage and desolation-does any one think that Is it the first king of Prussia or the last ? or is the any servile apologies of mine, or any strutting and whole long line (long, I mean a parte anté) to bullying insolence of their own, can save them appear like Banquo's royal procession in the tra- from the ruin that must fall on all institutions of gedy of Macbeth ?

dignity or of authority, that are perverted from How can I prevent all these arts of royal po- their purport to the oppression of human nature licy, and all these displays of royal magnificence ? in others, and to its disgrace in themselves ? As How can I prevent the successor of Frederick the the wisdom of men makes such institutions, the Great from aspiring to a new, and, in this age, folly of men destroys them. Whatever we may unexampled kind of glory? Is it in my power to pretend, there is always more in the soundness of say, that he shall not make his confessions in the the materials, than in the fashion of the work. style of St. Austin or of Rousseau ? That he shall The order of a good building is something. But not assume the character of the penitent and fla- if it be wholly declined from its perpendicular, if gellant, and, grafting monkery on philosophy, the cement is loose and incoherent, if the stones strip himself of his regal purple, clothe his gigan- are scaling with every change of the weather, and tick limbs in the sackcloth and the hair-shirt, and the whole toppling on our heads, what matter is exercise on his broad shoulders the disciplinary it whether we are crushed by a Corinthian or a scourge of the holy order of the sans-culottes? | Dorick ruin ? The fine form of a vessel is a matIt is not in me to hinder kings from making new ter of use and of delight. It is pleasant to see her orders of religious and martial knighthood. I am decorated with cost and art. But what signifies not Hercules enough to uphold those orbs which even the mathematical truth of her form? What the Atlasses of the world are so desirous of shift- signify all the art and cost with which she can be ing from their weary shoulders. What can be done carved, and painted, and gilded, and covered with against the magnanimous resolution of the great, decorations from stem to stern? what signify all to accomplish the degradation and the ruin of their her rigging and sails, her flags, her pendants and own character and situation ?

her streamers? what signify even her cannon, her What I say of the German princes, that I say stores and her provisions, if all her planks and of all the other dignities and all the other institu- timbers be unsound and rotten? tions of the holy Roman empire. If they have a mind to destroy themselves, they may put their

Quamvis Pontica pinus advocates to silence and their advisers to shame.

Silva filia nobilis

Jactes et genus et nomen inutile. I have often praised the aulick council. It is very true I did so. I thought it a tribunal, as I have been stimulated, I know not how, to well formed as human wisdom could form a tri- give you this trouble by what very few, except bunal, for coercing the great, the rich, and the myself, would think worth any trouble at all. İn powerful; for obliging them to submit their necks a speech in the house of lords, I have been atto the imperial laws, and to those of nature and tacked for the defence of a scheme of governof nations; a tribunal well conceived for extir-ment, in which that body inheres, and in which pating peculation, corruption, and oppression, alone it can exist. Peers of Great Britain may from all the parts of that vast, heterogeneous become as penitent as the sovereign of Prussia. mass, called the Germanick body. I should not They may repent of what they have done in asserbe inclined to retract these praises upon any of tion of the honour of the king, and in favour of the ordinary lapses into which human infirmity their own safety. But never the gloom that lowers will fall; they might still stand though some of over the fortune of the cause, nor any thing which

was

the great may do towards hastening their own fall, “I will indulge in effeminacy, in indolence, can make me repent of what I have done by pen “ in corruption ; I will give way to all my peror voice (the only arms I possess) in favour of the verse and vitious humours, because you canorder of things into which I was born, and in “ not punish me without the hazard of ruining which I fondly hope to die.

yourselves ?" In the long series of ages which have furnished I wished to warn the people against the greatest the matter of history, never was so beautiful and of all evils,-a blind and furious spirit of innovaso august a spectacle presented to the moral eye, tion, under the name of reform. * I was indeed as Europe afforded the day before the Revolution well aware that power rarely reforms itself. So it in France. I knew indeed that this prosperity is undoubtedly when all is quiet about it. contained in itself the seeds of its own danger. was in hopes that provident fear might prevent In one part of the society it caused laxity and fruitless penitence. I trusted that danger might debility ; in the other it produced bold spirits produce at least circumspection; I flattered myand dark designs. A false philosophy passed from self, in a moment like this, that nothing would be academies into courts; and the great themselves added to make authority top-heavy; that the very were infected with the theories which conducted moment of an earthquake would not be the time to their ruin. Knowledge, which in the two last chosen for adding a story to our houses. I hoped centuries either did not exist at all, or existed to see the surest of all reforms, perhaps the only solidly on right principles and in chosen hands, sure reform, the ceasing to do ill. In the mean

now diffused, weakened, and perverted. time I wished to the people, the wisdom of knowGeneral wealth loosened morals, relaxed vigi- ing how to tolerate a condition which none of lance, and encreased presumption. Men of talent their efforts can render much more than tolerable. began to compare, in the partition of the common It was a condition, however, in which every thing stock of publiek prosperity, the proportions of was to be found that could enable them to live to the dividends with the merits of the claimants. nature, and, if so they pleased, to live to virtue As usual, they found their portion not equal to and to honour. their estimate (or perhaps to the publick estimate) I do not repent that I thought better of those of their own worth. When it was once discover- to whom I wished well, than they will suffer me ed by the Revolution in France, that a struggle long to think that they deserved. Far from rebetween establishment and rapacity could be penting, I would to God that new faculties had maintained, though but for one year, and in one been called up in me, in favour not of this or that place, I was sure that a practicable breach was man, or this or that system, but of the general, made in the whole order of things and in every vital principle, that whilst it was in its vigour procountry. Religion, that held the materials of the duced the state of things transmitted to us from fabrick together, was first systematically loosened. our fathers; but which, through the joint operaAll other opinions, under the name of prejudices, tions of the abuses of authority and liberty, may must fall along with it; and property, left un- perish in our hands. I am not of opinion that the defended by principles, became a repository of race of men, and the commonwealths they create, spoils to tempt cupidity, and not a magazine like the bodies of individuals, grow effete and to furnish arms for defence. I knew, that, attack- languid and bloodless, and ossify by the necessities ed on all sides by the infernal energies of talents of their own conformation, and the fatal operaset in action by vice and disorder, authority tion of longevity and time. These analogies becould not stand upon authority alone. It wanted tween bodies natural and politick, though they some other support than the poise of its own gra- may sometimes illustrate arguments, furnish no vity. Situations formerly supported persons. It argument of themselves. They are but too often now became necessary that personal qualities used under the colour of a specious philosophy, should support situations. Formerly, where au- to find apologies for the despair of laziness and puthority was found, wisdom and virtue were re- sillanimity, and to excuse the want of all manly sumed. But now the veil was torn, and, to keep efforts, when the exigencies of our country call for off sacrilegious intrusion, it was necessary that in them more loudly. the sanctuary of government something should be How often has publick calamity been arrested disclosed not only venerable, but dreadful. Go- on the very brink of ruin by the seasonable vernment was at once to shew itself full of virtue of a single man! Have we no such man amongst and full of force. It was to invite partisans, by us? I am as sure as I am of my being, that one making it appear to the world that a generous vigorous mind without office, without situation, cause was to be asserted; one fit for a generous without publick functions of any kind, (at a time people to engage in. From passive submission when the want of such a thing is felt, as I am sure was it to expect resolute defence ?

No!

It must it is,) I say, one such man, confiding in the aid have warm advocates and passionate defenders, of God, and full of just reliance in his own fortiwhich a heavy, discontented acquiescence never tude, vigour, enterprise, and perseverance, would could produce. What a base and foolish thing first draw to him some few like himself, and then is it for any consolidated body of authority to that multitudes, hardly thought to be in existence, say, or to act as if it said, “ I will put my trust would appear, and troop about him. not in my own virtue, but in your patience; If I saw this auspicious beginning, baffled and

energy

« ForrigeFortsæt »