« EelmineJätka »
R E M A R K S
HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
L E T T E R I..
E T R
INCE the busy scene of the year is over at home, and we may perhaps wait several months before the successful negotiations of France furnish us with new hopes of a general pacification, and give you occasion to carry your speculations forward, it may be proper enough for you to cast your eyes backwards, to reflect on your own conduct, and to call yourself to account before your own tribunal.
I am so much persuaded of the integrity of your intentions, that I do not in the least suspect you will think my advice impertinent; and therefore I shall attempt to lead your thoughts on this subject, by giving you an account of some parts of a con.
* As the dedication and preface, that stood at the head of these remarks, were written by another and a very inferior hand, they are therefore omitted here.
versation, at which I happened to be present very lately.
Several of your papers and several of those which have been written against you, lay before a company, which often meets, rather to live than to drink to. gether; according to that distinction which Tully makes to the advantage of his own nation over the Greeks. They dispute without strife, and examine as dispassionately the events and the characters of the present age, as they reason about those which are found in history. When I came in, a gentle. man was saying, that your victories had been cheaply bought; and that he had not feen one champion, able to break a launce, enter the lists against you; upon which some were ready to observe the incona fistencies of human nature, and how hard it often proves to hire men to avow and defend even that which they are hired to act. Others were willing to hope that corruption had not spread very wide, nor taken root very deep amongst us.
All agreed, that if your papers could be suspected to be written in opposition to the present ministers, the feeble and low opposition you have met with, would deferve to be looked upon as a very melancholy symptom for them; fince it would denote that their caufe was deemed universally bad; or that their persons were grown universally odious among men of fense, ingenuity and knowledge. It would denote their guilt, or their misfortune, perhaps both.
Here one of the company interpofed, by obserye ing very prudently, that any thing fo void of pro
bability, as not to fall even under fufpicion, was
unworthy of farther confideration. But, said he, • whatever particular views Mr. D'Anvers may
have had, one general effect, which I cannot ap
prove, has followed from his writings. We must o reinember that when he began to publish his
weekly lucubrations, universal quiet prevailed, if not universal satisfaction; for in what place, or at
what time was the last ever found ? Few people
enquired ; fewer grumbled ; none clamored ; all • acquiesced. Now the humor of the nation is al• tered. Every man enquires with eagerness, and
examines with freedom. All orders of men are
more intent than I ever observed them to be on • the course of public affairs, and deliver their judg• ments with less reserve upon the most important.
From this alteration, for which the Craftsman is chiefly answerable, no good consequence can, 1
think, proceed ; and it is visible that several in• conveniencies may.'
To this many of us could by no means assent. We apprehended that in a country, circumstanced like ours, and under a government constituted like ours, the people had a right to be informed and to reason about public affairs; that when wise and how nest measures are pursued, and the nation reaps the advantage of them, the exercise of this right will always be agreeable to the men in power; that, indeed, if weak and wicked measures are pursued, the men in power might find the exercise of this right disagreea. ble, inconvenient, and sometimes dangerous to them ; but that, even in this case, there would be no pretence for attempting to deprive the people of this right, or for discouraging the exercise of it: and that to forbid men to complain, when they suffer, would be an instance of tyranny but one degree below that which the triumvirs gave, during the Naughter and terror of the proscriptions, when by edict they commanded all men to be merry upon pain of death.
The person from whom we differed, brought us back to the particular case of your writings, Mr. D'Anvers. He endeavored to support what he had faid against them in this manner:
• There was no good reason for raising this spirit, ' which I dislike, in the nation, when the Craftsman . began to write, or there was such a reason. If
there was none, why has he given so much alarm?
• If there was one, how has it come to pass that fo
great an alarm has produced so little effect ? Will
you say that he had very good reason to rouze · this spirit, but that it has hitherto had no oppor
tunity of exerting itself? Or will you say that his • reasons were good and the opportunity fair, but " that the minds of men, which have been con
vinced by the former, have not yet been determined ' to improve the latter ? I observe on all these alter
natives, that if there was no good and even presfing reason to raise such a spirit in the nation as I
dislike, (because I expect no national benefit, and • I fear much inconveniency from it) Mr. D'An
vers has acted a very wicked part, and is little « better than a lower of fedition. If there was such
a reason, but no such opportunity, he has acted a very weak part, and is but a shallow politician. -If there was such a reason and such an opportunity, but no disposition in the minds of men to follow their conviction, you may excuse
your favourite author, perhaps, by alledging that " the ininds of men are in the power of God • alone ; but you will represent our national con• dition to be more desperate than I ever thought ' it, or am yet willing to believe it.--Upon this < supposition I affirm that Mr. D'Anvers is not to
be excused, if he continues to write ; for if he • cannot raise this disposition by persuasion, what
does he aim at farther? I hope that he and you, (who defend him, admire as much as I profess to « do that divine saying of Plato : “ We may en“ deavor to persuade our fellow citizens ; but it is " not lawful to force them even to that which is 6 best for them."
Whilst all this passed, I took notice that an antient venerable gentleman shewed more emotion, and greater impatience than I remembered to have teen him ever express before. As soon as the other