H́nh ảnh trang

to which the buoy rope is fixed. The other parts will be easily intelligible to persons versant in mat¬ ters of this sort, by inspection only, without any far ther description.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

THERE are not many things which can be so grate ful to the mind of a patriot as the general diffusion of political knowledge. That such knowledge is va luable has never been questioned; but the time may be remembered, when it was thought to be of diffi❤ cult attainment, and of course to be necefsarily confined to the few. To entitle a man to give lectures in political science, our forefathers imagined that great compass of mind, much study, and some experience were requisite; and such of them as had not themselves enjoyed these advantages, seldom hazarded an opinion respecting the principles of government, unless it had been sanctioned by the authority of Aristotle or Plato, Locke or Montesquieu. To these once celebrated names, the writers of the present day profefs no reverence; for they well know that such feelings would cramp their native genius.

[ocr errors]


The consequence of this emancipation from authority, is apparent in the number of pamplets. which daily ifsue from the prefs; and which, fraught with political wisdom, afford a complete evidence that their authors have employed their time to better purpose than in turning over the musty, vo


lumes of antiquated philosophers. Aristotle was the inventor of syllogism, which every polite scholar holds justly in contempt. Locke, and Montesquieu do not indeed syllogise; but they reason according to the rules of logic, with which modern education very properly disdains to bring her pupils acquainted. The political writers who at present devote their time to the instruction of the public, have too much sense and too much spirit, to`pace in the narrow trammels of mode and figure. As their opinions are original, they enforce them by original reasonings, which neither Aristotle nor Galen, were they to rise from the dead, could resolve into what they would call legitimate syllogisms. The effects of this novel and powerful species of reasoning are seen in the conversions which are daily made from one party to another; and which writers such as Locke and Montesquieu, arguing in the dry and scientific form of the schools, could never produce in the minds of a free and enlightened people.

But whilst I thus pay a willing tribute of respect to the judgement and ingenuity of those who are labouring to enlighten the public mind, let me not forget to congratulate that public itself upon the love of truth, and the openness to conviction which all ranks of men so conspicuously display. Our authors, great as they are, would write in vain, were not their readers endued with these amiable virtues. Did mankind now, as they were wont to do formerly, consider themselves as bound to go along with their party in every case, demonstration itself would make no imprefsion on them, and we should not have beheld

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Feb. 13. so many beautiful changes of political principles, as some individuals have lately exhibited. The first of these changes which attracted my notice, appeared. indeed to my inexperience so sudden and so violent, that I attributed them not to patriotism, or the love of truth, but to the restlefs spirit of faction. When I observed gentlemen who had long made loud pretences to the love of their country, and of the principles of the British constitution, as settled in 1688, leading clubs to congratulate that afsembly which had in France abolished nobility, and in a manner imprisoned their king, I confefs that I was inclined to suspect the sincerity of their pretences, and to call them in the language of Johnson, the hypocrites of patriotism." But having since observed the same men, present in associations to support the government, as established by king, lords, and commons, candour obliges me to consider them as influenced by a determination to fellow truth whither soever he may lead, and their conduct as the consistent result of that most respectable principle. Whilst the arguments for the excellence of the British constitution predominated in their minds, they embraced every opportunity of exprefsing their attachment to that constitution; when the reasonings in behalf of democracy appeared to preponderate, like honest mes, they become democrates and republicans. Now that the number and abilities of our constitutional writers have driven Paine and his satellites. off the field, they have reverted to their original principles. And should some more powerful champion than has yet appeared on either side, step forward


in defence of the French republic, it would be immoral to suppose, that the same virtuous attachment to truth, which has influenced these reasoning, men in all their former changes, would not induce them to change once more, and again to declare themselves for a democratical government.

[ocr errors]

To fhew how regardlefs our forefathers were of the abstract truth, or love of truth, which so powerfully operates upon the conduct of their posterity, I fhall conclude this letter with a few reflections of George Saville, marquis of Halifax, whom Mr Hume pronounces to have been a man of the finest genius, and most extensive capacity, of all employed in public offices during the reign of the second Charles.

The best party, (says this statesman,) is but a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation. It puts every body else out of its protection; and like the Jews to the Gentiles, considers all who are not of it as the offscourings of the world.

Men value themselves upon their principles, so as to neglect practice, abilities, industry, &c. They consider attachinent to their party, like faith without works, as a dispensation from all other duties, which is the worst kind of dispensing power.

Party turaeth ill thoughts into talking instead of doing. Men get a habit of being unuseful to the public by turning in a circle of wrangling and railing, which they cannot get out of; and it may be remembered that a speculative coxcomb is not only uselefs, but nrischievous, and a practical coxcomb, under discipline, may be made use of. /

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

"Party maketh a man thrust his understanding into a corner, and confine it, till by degrees he destroy it.

"Men in parties find fault with those in the administration, not without reason, but forget that they would be exposed to the same objections, and perhaps greater, if it were their adversary's turn to have the fault finding part.

"Most men enter into a party rafhly, and retreat from it as shamefully. As they encourage one another at first, so they betray one another at last. And because every qualification is capable of being corrupted by the excefs, they fall upon the extreme, to fix mutual reproaches upon one another.

"Party is little lefs than an inquisition, where men are under such discipline, in carrying on the common cause, as leaves no liberty of private opinion.

"No original party ever prevailed in a turn; it brought up something else, but the first projectors were thrown off.

"If there be two parties, a man ought to adhere to that which he disliketh least, though in the whole he doth not approve it. For whilst he doth not list himself in the one or the other party, he is looked upon as such a straggler, that he is fallen upon by both. Therefore a man under such a misfortune of singularity, is neither to provoke the world, nor disquiet himself by taking any particular station. becometh him to live in the fhade, and keep his mis takes from giving offence; but if they are his opinions, he cannot put them off as he doth his clothes.


« TrướcTiếp tục »