Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

rious observations, which I shall reserve for another occasion. I cannot however conclude this paper without taking notice, that amidst these wild remarks there now and then appears something very reasonable. I cannot likewise forbear observing, that we are all guilty in some measure of the same narrow way of thinking, which we meet with in this abstract of the Indian journal, when we fancy the customs, dresses, and manners of other countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

In the Spectator, No. 575, August 2, 1714, the following article was proposed by Dr. Swift,

The following question is started by: one of the schoolmen : Supposing the body of the earth were a great ball or mass of the finest sand, and that a single grain or particle of this sand should be annihilated every thousand years. Supposing then that you had it in your choice to be happy all the while this prodigious mass of sand was consuming by this slow method, until there was not a grain of it left, on condition you were to be miserable for ever after; or supposing that you, might be happy for ever after, on condition you would be miserable until the whole mass of sand were thus annihilated at the rate of one sand in a thousand years; which of these two cases would you make your choice?" THE GUARDIAN, No. XCVI. *

AN ESSAY ON NATIONAL REWARDS;

BEING A PROPOSAL FOR BESTOWING THEM ON A PLAN

MORE DURABLE AND RESPECTABLE.

Cuncti adsint, meritæque expectent præmia palmæ. VIRG.

THERE is no maxim in politicks more indisputable, than that a nation should have many honours to reserve for those who do national services. This raises emulation, cherishes publick merit, and inspires every one with an ambition which promotes the good of his country. The less expensive these honours are to the publick, the more still do they turn to its advantage.

The Romans abounded with these little honorary rewards, that, without conferring wealth and riches, gave only place and distinction to the person who received them.

An oaken garland, to be worn on festivals and publick ceremonies, was the glorious recompense of one who had co

* This number of the Guardian is printed as Addison's, in the qnarto edition of his works, vol. iv. p. 196; but it has been generally attributed to Swift. N.

vered a citizen in battle. A soldier would not only venture his life for a mural crown, but think the most hazardous enterprize sufficiently repaid by so noble a donation.

But, among all honorary rewards which are neither dangerous 'nor detrimental to the donor, I remember none so remarkable as the titles which are bestowed by the emperor of China.

" These are never given to any subject,” says monsieur le Comte, “ till the subject is dead. If he has pleased his emperor to the last, he is called in all publick memorials by the title which the emperor confers on him after his death, and his children take their ranks accordingly. This keeps the ambitious subject in a perpetual dependence, making him always vigilant and active, and in every thing conformable to the will of his sove. reign.

There are no honorary rewards among us, which are more esteemed by the persons who receive them, and are cheaper to the prince, than the giving of medals. But there is something in the modern manner of celebrating a great action in medals, which makes such a reward much less valuable than it was among the Romans. There is generally but one coin stamped upon the occasion, which is made a present to the person who is celebrated on it. By this means the whole fame is in his own custody. The applause that is bestowed

upon

him is too much limited and confined. He is in possession of an honour which the world perhaps knows nothing of. He may be a great man in his own family; his wife and

children

VOL. VI.

[ocr errors]

children nay see the monument of an exploit, which the publick in a little time is a stranger to. The Romans took a quite different method in this particular. Their medals were their current money. When an action deserved to be recorded on a coin, it was stamped perhaps upon a hundred thousand pieces of money, like our shillings or halfpence, which were issued out of the mint, and became current. This method published every noble action to advantage, and in a short space of time spread through the whole Roman empire. The Romans were so careful to preserve the

memory of great events upon their coins, that when any particular piece of money grew very scarce, it was often recoined by a succeeding emperor, many years after the death of the emperor to whose honour it was first struck.

A friend of mine drew up a project of this kind during the late ministry, which would then have been put in execution, had it not been too busy a time for thoughts of that nature. As this project has been very much talked of by the gentleman abovementioned to men of the greatest genius as well as quality, I am informed there is now a design on foot for executing the proposal which was then made, and that we shall have several farthings and halfpence charged on the reverse with

many of the glorious particulars of her majesty's reign. This is one of those arts of peace which may very well deserve to be cultivated, and which

may be of great use to posterity. As I have in my possession the copy of the paper abovementioned, which was delivered to the

late

late lord treasurer*, I shall here give the publick a sight of it; for I do not question but that the curious part of my readers will be very well pleased to see so much matter, and so many useful hints upon this subject, laid together in so clear and concise a manner :

The English have not been so careful as other polite nations to preserve the memory of their great actions and events on medals. Their subjects are few, their mottoes and devices mean, and the coins themselves not numerous enough to spread among the people, or descend to posterity.

“ The French have outdone us in these particulars, and by the establishment of a society for the invention of proper inscriptions and designs, have the whole history of their present king in a regular series of medals.

"They have failed, as well as the English, in coining so small a number of each kind, and those of such costly metals that each species may be lost in a few ages, and is at present no where to be met with but in the cabinets of the cu. rious.

“ The ancient Romans took the only effectual method to disperse and preserve their medals, by making them their current money.

“ Every thing glorious or useful, as well in peace as war, gave occasion to a different coin. Not only an expedition, victory, or triumph, but the exercise of a solemn devotion, the remission

[ocr errors]

* Earl of Godolphin; not Oxford, as Mr. Granger supposes in the preface to his Biographical History. N.

« PredošláPokračovať »