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want of feeling in their government, which abandoned them to the mercy of miserable extortioners.
The people of England are not ungenerous; they love to contribute to the becoming splendour of their monarch; they would glow with shame to fetter the free range of your Majesty's bounty, or, in this age of national prosperity, to narrow your appointments to the unprincely rule of a mercantile calculation. But are there no prodigalities or abuses in the current expenses of government, which, so far from being essential to the support of your Majesty's crown, are a real satire upon it, and conduce only to the maintenance of the fluctuating power of certain individuals, which has often no other dependence either on the regards of the prince, or the confidence of the people?
I would be understood to speak of no particular set of men : what truths I urge are plain general truths, and want no particular illustration from example. It is a galling thing for any part of a free people to know, that much of their poverty and calamity is artificially produced, in contradiction to the circumstances of the country at large, by the profuseness and ambition of a particular description of their fellow-subjects: it is a galling thing for a reflecting people to feel that their little ones must often forego a hearty meal, to pamper the luxury of those towards whom they acknowledge neither love nor obligation.
These would be the strongest arguments for the revolutionists to set forth, could they prove that this obliquity of principle was indelibly inherent in the constitution. Such a vital rottenness would well argue the want of a total change, and the wise and the good would be called upon to liberate their country from so reproachful a servitude; but my mind is satisfied that this is not the necessary condition of my countrymen; this constitutional beggary, this system of corruption, this forced state of society, has not been the nursery of those great men, whose labours have advanced human nature, or of those great exploits which decorate the English history. Places, and pensions, and salaries, are all good to a certain extent: as public rewards of merit, as officially useful in the various departments of the state, I recognise them as a part of the constitutional scheme; but, as instruments of corruption, as ministering to the support of the governing party, I regard them as mere incumbrances that ambition has formed about the constitution, to obstruct its free motions, and to depress the natural vigour of its life and action.
Were all the collateral and oblique expenses of government spared, somewhat of insecurity would result to the permanence of subsisting power, which might bring with it additional caution. Opposition too might be purified in its motives, in the ratio that power was stripped of its temptations; yet patronage enough might remain to inspire a just confidence into government, and to stimulate the hopes of temperate ambition. Corruption would feel a check in all its classes of venality; for private fortunes would be squandered with more reserve and timidity, when the situations to which the sacrifice was to be made, held out more limited compensations, and more frugal rewards. Where only private fortunes could be wasted in corruption, the fountains would speedily be exhausted, and the evil would furnish its own remedy: the action of bribery being thus suspensive and temporary, would afford frequent pauses for the true spirit of the constitution to revive; the downright plebeian good sense of the people would often exalt its tones; and the spring of men's minds would continually revert to its natural posture with renewed activity.
As much, therefore, as it may be in your Majesty's power to alleviate of the present burdens of the people without injury to your crown, it is doubtless your duty to attempt ; remembering, that the king of France lost his authority and his freedom by an inattention to the beginnings of complaint among his subjects; that, slumbering in the shadow of his ministers, he was himself overwhelmed in their fall; and that, being at first a sharer in the reproach of government, he soon became a principal in the ruin that followed.
As the incitement to revolutions in the minds of the community is rather the hope of an alleviation of their burdens than an exemption from restraint, it is doubtless religiously to be wished, that some moderate means might be adopted of assuaging whatever discontents prevail among the people. Some silent arrangements might perhaps be made, which would save an angry search into the failings of our constitution and government, at a time when a general spirit of cavilling, and wild ideas of regeneration prevail, together with some proportion of disaffection, obliquity, and rage, among certain descriptions of the community. I do not propose to declare myself an enemy to reform: I acknowledge, in the constitution of my country, a principle of improvement which fits it for the nearest approaches to perfection which human infirmity permits; but at this moment a spirit of rash refinement and visionary conceit is gone abroad, which is so opposite to the experimental character and the gradual growth and confirmation of our laws and liberties, that if it were once carried into the correction of our sys. tem, it might lead to its total demolition.
Whatever can be done on the ground of our constitution, to cultivate its natural advantages, and improve its capabilities, I shall rejoice in, with the good part of your Majesty's subjects ; but I dread to see all the floodgates opened, and the barriers removed, till the ocean burst in upon us, and deluge this fair land with all its fruits and its promises. The real friends of sober reform will see an end of all their plans and prospects in the wasting fury of a revolution, and must cherish a peculiar anxiety for those principles on which they propose to build their amendments and alterations; since to spoil and to improve, are terms of stronger opposition than to spoil and to preserve.
Let therefore your Majesty's heart be warmed towards your patriotic subjects, who forbear at this time to set forth the imperfections of government, as viewing it in the light of a friend under persecution: as considering the times as unpropitious to moderate and wholesome correction; as conceiving the present moment to call rather for restraints on licentiousness, than controul on power ; as weighing the inconvenience of delay against the dangers of precipitation, and the violence of enthusiasm. We must in the mean time keep firm together; we must be reserved and moderate in our actions and our speeches.
On your part, be just to your people; respect the privileges of your subjects, to whom your honour is pledged, and your affection belongs ; respect the rights of juries, and the rest of the rights of the people ; let no man be rashly prosecuted for speaking his mind, or for venting his malice: rather let us suffer the enemies of our wise constitution to lose their strength and their credit in the excesses of their hate, and the madness of their disappointment. The arch-theorist himself of the Rights of Man, of those rights which transfer the reins from his reason to his passion, of those rights which dissolve ties, which confound distinctions, which destroy security, let him shine with his new lights upon
govern. ments, till he call up the practical and solid parts into vapour, and lose himself in the fog which is gathered around him.
No. 24. TUESDAY, MAY 29.
Illud sis vide
TER. ADELPH. v. 1, 5. See the exemplary effects of discipline. It is now so long since my réaders have had their attention called towards our club, that I am afraid my good friends will think I neglect them. This, however, it is out of my power to do, while I have such daily instances before me of the admirable effects of our mode of discipline. It is indeed a sensible pleasure to reflect, that I am at the head of an institution whose benefits are solid, though circumscribed; and whose laws have introduced among a little community, a cheerfulness that arises out of temperance, and a good-humour that is nursed by tranquillity. I persuade myself too, that there is some merit in making a mere echo productive of substantial good, and in discovering the practical uses of an article in life, which has hitherto been looked upon as a mockery of sense, and the most barren of all modes of existence. This equalization of voice established by our echo, proves a sufficient remedy for most of the