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thirty years, under the reigns of two weak princes, * is a subject of a different nature: when the balance was in danger to be overturned by the hands that held it, which was at last very seasonably prevented by the late revolution. However, as it is the talent of human nature to run from one extreme to another, so in a very few years we have made inighty leaps from prerogative heights into the depth of po. pularity, and I doubt to the very last degree that our constitution will bear. It were to be wished, that the most august assembly of the commons would please to form a pandect of their own power and privileges, to be confirmed by the entire legislative authority, and that in as solemn a manner (if they please) as the magna charta. But to fix one foot of their compass wherever they think fit, and extend the other to such terrible lengths, without describing any circumference at all, is to leave us and themselves in a very uncertain state, and in a sort of rotation, that the author of the Oceana t never dreamed on. I believe the most hardy tribune will not venture to affirm. at present, that any just fears of encroachment are given us from the regal power, or the few : and is it then impossible to err on the other side? How far must we proceed, or where shall we stop? The raging of the sea, and the madness of the people, are put together in holy writ; and it is God alone who can

* Charles II. and James II.

+ Mr James Harrington, who, in the time of the Commonwealth, published an Utopian scheme of government, entitled, The Commonwealth of Oceana. Several speculative persons, and among others Mr Henry Neville, embraced his visions as realities, and held a club called the Rota, in Palace Yard, Westminster, to consider of means to make his plan efficient. One article was, that a part of the senate should go out by rote, and become incapable of serving for a certain time. VOL. III.


say to either, Hitherto shalt thou pass, and no farther.

The balance of power in a limited state, is of such absolute necessity, that Cromwell himself, before he had perfectly confirmed his tyranny, having some occasions for the appearance of a parliament, was forced to create and erect an entire new House of Lords (such as it was) for a counterpoise to the commons. And indeed, considering the vileness of the clay, I have sometimes wondered, that no tribune of that age dust ever venture to ask the potter, What dost thou make ? * But it was then about the last act of a popular usurpation; and fate, or Cromwell, had already prepared them for that of a single person.

I have been often amazed at the rude, passionate, and mistaken results, which have at certain times fallen from great assemblies, both ancient and inodern, and of other countries as well as our own.This gave me the opinion, I mentioned a while ago, that public conventions are liable to all the infirmities, follies, and vices of private men. Το which, if there be any exception, it must be of such assemblies, who act by universal concert, upon public principles, and for public ends; such as proceed upon debates without unbecoming warmths, or influence from particular leaders and inflamers ; such, whose members, instead of canvassing to procure majorities for their private opinions, are ready to comply with general sober results, though contrary to their own sentiments. Whatever assemblies act by these, and other methods of the like nature, must be allowed to be exempt from several imperfections, to which particular men are subjected. But I think the source of most mistakes and miscarriages in matters debated by public assemblies, arises from the influence of private persons upon great numbers, styled in common phrase, leading men and parties. And therefore, when we sometimes meet a few words put together, which is called the vote or resolution of an assembly, and which we cannot possibly reconcile to prudence, or public good, it is most charitable to conjecture, that such a vote has been conceived, and born, and bred in a private brain; afterward raised and supported by an obsequious party; and then with usual methods confirmed by an artificial majority. For, let us suppose five hundred men, mixed in point of sense and honesty, as usually assemblies are ; and let us suppose these men proposing, debating, resolving, voting, according to the mere natural motions of their own little or much reason and understanding ; I do allow, that abundance of indigested and abortive, many pernicious and foolish overtures would arise, and float a few minutes ; but then they would die and disappear. Because, this must be said in behalf of humankind, that common sense and plain reason, while men are disengaged from acquired opinions, will ever have some general influence upon their minds ; whereas the species of folly and vice are infinite, and so different in every individual, that they could never procure a majority, if other corruptions did not enter to pervert men's understandings, and misguide their wills.

* Pride the Brewer, Hewson the Cobler, and such other up. starts as the civil war had called into eminence, were summoned to this Upper House by writ.

To describe how parties are bred in an assembly, would be a work too difficult at present, and perhaps not altogether safe. Periculosa plenum opus aleve. Whether those, who are leaders, usually arrive at that station more by a sort of instinct or se

very violent.

cret composition of their nature, or influence of the stars, than by the possession of any great abilities, may be a point of much dispute; but when the leader is once fixed, there will never fail to be followers. And man is so apt to imitate, so much of the nature of sheep, (imitatores, servum pecus,) that whoever is so bold to give the first great leap over the heads of those about him, though he be the worst of the flock, shall be quickly followed by the rest. Besides, when parties are once formed, the stragglers look so ridiculous, and become so insig. nificant, that they have no other way, but to run into the herd, which at least will hide and protect them : and where to be much considered, requires only to be

But there is one circumstance with relation to parties, which I take to be, of all others, most pernicious in a state ; and I would be glad any partizan would help me to a tolerable reason, that because Clodius and Curio happen to agree with me in a few singular notions, I must therefore blindly follow them in all : or, to state it at best, that because Bibulus the party-man is persuaded, that Clodius and Curio do really propose the good of their country as their chief end; therefore Bibulus shall be wholly guided and governed by them in the means and measures toward it. Is it enough for Bibulus, and the rest of the herd, to say, without farther examining, I am of the side with Clodius, or I vote with Curio? Are these proper methods to form and make up what they think fit to call the united wisdom of the nation? Is it not possible, that upon some occasion Clodius may be bold and insolent, borne away by his passion, malicious and revengeful? That Curio may be corrupt, and expose to sale his tongue or his pen ? I conceive it far below the dignity both of human nature, and human reason, to be engaged in any party, the most plausible soever, upon such servile conditions.

This influence of one upon many, which seems to be as great in a people represented, as it was of old in the commons collective, together with the consequences it has had upon the legislature, has given me frequent occasion to reflect upon what Diodorus tells us of one Charondas, a lawgiver to the Sybarites, an ancient people of Italy, who was so averse from all innovation, especially when it was to proceed from particular persons, (and I suppose, that he might put it out of the power of men fond of their own notions to disturb the constitution at their pleasures, by advancing private schemes) that he provided a statute, that whoever proposed any alteration to be made, should step out and do it with a rope about his neck: if the matter proposed were generally approved, then it should pass into a law; if it went into the negative, the proposer to be immediately hanged. Great ministers may talk of what projects they please ; but I am deceived if a more effectual one could ever be found for taking off (as the present phrase is) those hot, unquiet spirits, who disturb assemblies, and obstruct public affairs, by gratifying their pride, their malice, their ambition, or their avarice.

Those who in a late reign began the distinction between the personal and politic capacity, seem to have had reason, if they judged of princes by themselves : for, I think, there is hardly to be found through all nature a greater difference between two things, than there is between a representing com, moner in the function of his public calling, and the same person when he acts in the common offices of life. Here he allows himself to be upon a level with the rest of mortals ; here he follows his own reason, and his own way; and rather affects a sin,

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