Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

After I had finished this paper, the printer sent me

two small pamphlets, called “The Management of the War” ; * written with some plausibility, much artifice, and abundance of misrepresentations, as well as direct falsehoods in point of fact. These I have thought worth examining, which I shall accordingly do, when I find an opportunity.

No. XXIV.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 1710-11.

Parva momenta in spem metumque impellunt aninos.

The merest trifles influence the human mind, and impel it to

hope or fear.

Hopes are natural to most men, especially to sanguine complexions; and among the various changes that happen in the course of public affairs, they are seldom without some grounds. Even in desperate cases, where it is impossible they should have any foundation, they are often affected to keep a countenance, and make an enemy think we have

[ocr errors]

* Dr Hare, chaplain to the Duke of Marlborough, published at separate times four pamphlets upon “ The Management of the War," entitled, Letters to a Tory member. The two first of these tracts are here alluded to.

some resource which they know nothing of. This appears to have been for several months past the condition of those people, whom I am forced, for want of other phrases, to call the ruined party. They have taken up, since their fall, some real, and some pretended hopes. When the Earl of Sunderland was discarded, they hoped her majesty would proceed no farther in the change of her ministry; and had the insolence to misrepresent her words to foreign states. They hoped nobody durst advise the dissolution of the parliament. * When this was done, and farther alterations made in court, they hoped, and endeavoured to ruin the credit of the nation. They likewise hoped, that we should have some terrible loss abroad, which would force us to unravel all, and begin again upon their bottom. But, of all their hopes, whether real or assumed, there is none more extraordinary than that in which they now would seem to place their whole confidence: that this great turn of affairs was only occasioned by a short madness of the people, from which they will recover in a little time, when their eyes are open, and they grow cool and sober enough to consider the truth of things, and how much they have been deceived. It is not improbable, that some few of the deepest sighted among these reasoners are well enough convinced, how vain all such hopes must be: but for the rest, the wisest of them seem to have been very ill judges of the people's dispositions; the want of which knowledge was a principal occasion to hasten their ruin; for surely, had they suspected which way the popular current inclined, they never would have run

* Which hope has been the feeble crutch of many a falling ministry.

ز

against it by that impeachment. I therefore conclude, they generally are so blind as to imagine some comfort from this fantastical opinion; that the people of England are at present distracted, but will shortly come to their senses again.

For the service therefore of our adversaries and friends, I shall briefly examine this point, by showing what are the causes and symptoms of a people's madness; and how it differs from their natural bent and inclination.

It is Machiavel's observation, that the people, when left to their own judgment, do seldom mistake their true interests ; and indeed they naturally love the constitution they are born under ; never desiring to change, but under great oppressions. However, they are to be deceived by several means. It has often happened in Greece, and sometimes in Rome, that those very men who have contributed to shake off a former tyranny, have, instead of restoring the old constitution, deluded the people into a worse and more ignominious slavery. Besides, all great changes have the same effects upon commonwealths that thunder has upon liquors, making the dregs fly up to the top; the lowest plebeians rise to the head of affairs, and these preserve themselves, by representing the nobles, and other friends to the old government, as enemies to the public. The encouraging of new mysteries and new deities, with the pretences of farther purity in religion, has likewise been a frequent topic to mislead the people. And, not to mention more, the promoting false reports of dangers from abroad, has often served to prevent them from fencing against real dangers at home. By these and the like arts, in conjunction with a great depravity of manners, and a weak or corrupt administration, the madness of the people has risen to such a height, as to break in

pieces the whole frame of the best-instituted

governments. But however, such great frenzies, being artificially raised, are a perfect force and constraint upon human nature; and under a wise steady prince, will certainly decline of themselves, settling like the sea after a storm; and then the true bent and genius of the people will appear. Ancient and modern story are full of instances to illustrate what I say.

In our own island we had a great example of a long madness in the people, kept up by a thousand artifices, like intoxicating medicines, until the constitution was destroyed ; yet the malignity being spent, and the humour exhausted that served to foment it, before the usurpers could fix upon a new scheme, the people suddenly recovered, and peaceably restored the old constitution.

From what I have offered, it will be easy to de cide whether this late change in the disposition of the people was a new madness, or a recovery from an old one. Neither do I see how it can be proved, that such a change had, in any circumstance, the least symptom of madness, whether my description of it be right or not. It is agreed, that the truest way of judging the disposition of the people in the choice of their representatives, is, by computing the county elections, and in these it is manifest, that five in six are entirely for the present measures; although the court was so far from interposing its credit, that there was no change in the admiralty, not above one or two in the lieutenancy, nor any other methods used to influence elections. * The

* The truth was, as Swift has told us in his Memoirs relating to the Change of Ministry, that the trial of Sacheverel kindled such a spirit through the country, that ministers saw a large ma

free, unextorted addresses, sent some time before from every part of the kingdom, plainly showed, what sort of bent the people had taken, and from what motives. The election of members for this great city, carried, contrary to all conjecture, against the united interest of those two great bodies, the Bank and East India Company, was another convincing argument. Besides, the Whigs themselves have always confessed, that the bulk of landed men in England was generally of Tories. So that this change must be allowed to be according to the natural genius and disposition of the people; whether it were just and reasonable in itself or not.

Notwithstanding all which, you shall frequently hear the partisans of the late men in power, gravely and decisively pronounce, that the present ministry cannot possibly stand. Now they who affirm this

, if they believe themselves, must ground their opinion upon the iniquity of the last being so far established and deeply rooted, that no endeavours of honest men will be able to restore things to their former state; or else these reasoners have been so misled by twenty years mismanagement, that they have forgot cur constitution, and talk as if our monarchy and revolution began together. But the body of the people is wiser; and, by the choice they have made, show they do understand our constitution, and would bring it back to the old form ; which, if the new ministers take care to maintain, they will and ought to stand; otherwise, they may fall like their predecessors. But I think, we may easily foresee what a parliament, freely chosen, without threatening or corruption, is likely to do,

!

jority of high-church members would be returned without the odium of government's interfering.

« PredošláPokračovať »