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"was NOT SO MUCH AS MENTIONED
and expensive war, the right of British ships to navigate the American seas without being searched, We never would have suffered a Spanish fhip to navigate the seas of North America without being searched; so that our right was founded on the most egregious insolence. Yet in this war we at least had, and we had no more than the fhadow of an object. In the German war even that was wanting. In the former,. Britain may be compared with a country gentleman, worth twenty thousand pounds a-year, who has been detected in attempting to steal a horse worth twenty fhillings.
In the latter case, we resembled a
person setting his house on fire, and then driving his wife and children over the windows. FOUR MILLIONS: sterling per annum for a queen of Hungary! Were ever mortal ears invaded with such another sound!. We began this war by bribing her to fight her own battles against the king of Prufsia; and, within ten years, we gave the king of Prussia six hundred and seventy thousand pounds per annum to fight his own battles against her! If this be not folly, what are we to
Naval Memoirs, &c. vol. i. p. 392.
† At this day, what better is our conduct? While our agriculture, manufactures, and fisheries are in want of hands, eighteen months have not pased over since we were on the point of fighting and dying for the privilege of killing whales at the South Pole, and wild cats at twice that dis–
Even since that time we have also interfered, like a terrier between two mastiffs, in the quarrels of Turkey and Russia. When Britain was divided into two independent kingdoms, Berwick upon Tweed was a frequent object of contention; and the Turk or the Muscovite of the four. teenth century, might, with equal reason, have interested himself in the fate of Berwick, as Britons of the present age in the fate of Oczakow,
call it? What service could a king of Sardinia return us adequate to three hundred thousand pounds per annum? As for the sums paid to the Hefsians, and the various sums of five hundred thousand pounds voted in confidence, it would be needlefs to ask the reader's opinion. What could Rabelais or Cer-vantes have invented more extravagantly ridiculous, than the circumstance of paying an hundred thousand pounds a-year to a king of Poland, and to a king of Poland too who was more than half an idiot*, to guarantee our dominions? This was just as if a lion had solicited protection from a mouse. The bank of England might, with equal propriety, haverequested one of their porters to add his name to the firm of their company. The horrid infamy of such a breach of trust defies exaggeration. As for the faction in parliament, who committed such fathomless depredations on the property of their countrymen, they are to be detested as a herd of banditti, more formidable to Britain than all her enemies put together-as wretches fitter for the cells of Newgate than: the benches of a senate house.
Could I from the building's top
Crack the stones, and melt the lead
Drive them down on every skull,
While THE DEN OF THIEVES is full;
Quite destroy that harpies nest,
How might then our isle be blest t!
*The king of Prussia has favoured us with some curious anecdotes of this unhappy figure.
+ Swift, on the Irish House of Commons,
A short, but convincing answer may be given to the miserable farce of German campaigns, and German subsidies. Were the whole continent of Europe embodied under a single sovereign, yet, while we pofsefs a superior navy, we can always meet him on at least equal terms; and even were our navy to be destroyed, our hereditary bravery is so well known, that few statesmen, either sleeping or waking, would dream of landing an army on the coast of Britain.
I fhall by your indulgence close my remarks on this memorable war in my next letter.
Laurencekirk, May 15. 1792.
A WORD TO THE WISE.
A SPIRIT of innovation seems to be the reigning, foible of the times.
Our neighbours, the French,. have turned their plough fhares into swords, in order to maintain the deprefsion which they have effected, of their ancient government, and the establishment of a new one. The Swedes have fhot their king, because he was growing old in promoting the welfare of his people; and the British parliament has invented the new expedient of prohibiting internal commerce in grain. From these political objects, not being able to decide whether the alterations remarked are beneficial or hurtful, I turn away my attention; but by glancing at them I am led to observe another innovation in a very different mat
The alteration of language, on which, presuming it to be an object of importance to the literary
circle, wherein the Bee operates, in blending the useful, with the agreeable branches of knowledge, I fhall offer to the public my lucubrations.
It is well known that the pronounciation of every language is very liable to alteration, from many causes; such as the eventual connection with foreign countries, for example, the accent that the inhabitants of those parts of Ireland, where English is spoken, have acquired, has been got from the conversation and mixture of the aboriginal natives, the caprices of fashion, which being, as I have read in the Bee, built upon the weaknefs and folly of mankind, will rule with eternal sway, the affectation of popular. orators and players, many of whom gain their reputation by being remarkable, and having something new about them, and others of a similar nature. There is a very prevailing opinion, which, being plausible, is the more dangerous, that the spelling of words fhould be accommodated to their pronounci ation. This opinion I have it in view to refute.
When orthography was invented, the characters which were to denote certain words would have powers to exprefs the sounds by which these words. were articulated, and the inventors would endeavour to make these powers be as nearly the same in one word as another; but, from the great nicety in the distinction betwixt sounds, nearly similar in different words, he would be obliged, in order not to swell his alphabet to an inconvenient magnitude, to make the same character exprefs sounds somewhat different in different words, such as was and all.
The orthography being thus established, every person would have in his mind a distinet idea of the
175 sounds of these characters, according to the pronounciation of the words in which he found them used, and so would the orthography remain unaltered, if the language did not undergo any change.
But, from what I have animadverted to above, the language being continually changing, some words come to have a sound perfectly different from others, in which the same characters are used, and which were originally pronounced alike; for example,-live an adjective, and live a verb, are pronounced very differently, though the same characters are used in both; and who knows whether they were originally articulated alike or not?
The attentive reader may see from what I have said that where one begins to alter the spelling, in order to accommodate it to the words, he enters on an endless thread of innovation. He would, in the quoted example, have a new vowel for one of the words, as struck his fancy: Perhaps he would have written lyve animals; and no one knows that I live may not, in the course of a century, be pronounced I lave, and of course, provided these vowels retain, in the notion of the public at large, the same sound as at present they do, were the altering system adopted, would be so written.
I need not animadvert on the numberlefs evil consequences that would attend such a practice, as that of mutilating the spelling of words, as the fancy of the public fhould suggest to be agreeable to the pronounciation. Every language would be the language of a day; our Thomson, our Milton, our Shakespeare, would in a hundred years be unintelligible; and to preserve our laws and our records from eternal obs