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Thoughts on Present Discontents
Burke
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Thoughts on the Present Discontents, and Speeches
by Edmund Burke
May, 2000 [Etext #2173]
Project Gutenberg Etext Thoughts on Present Discontents by Burke
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THOUGHTS ON THE PRESENT DISCONTENTS AND SPEECHES
by Edmund Burke
Contents
Introduction
Thoughts on the Present Discontents
Speech on the Middlesex Election.
Speech on the Powers of Juries in Prosecutions for Libels.
Speech on a Bill for Shortening the Duration of Parliaments
Speech on Reform of Representation in the House of Commons
INTRODUCTION
Edmund Burke was born at Dublin on the first of January, 1730. His
father was an attorney, who had fifteen children, of whom all but
four died in their youth. Edmund, the second son, being of delicate
health in his childhood, was taught at home and at his grandfather's
house in the country before he was sent with his two brothers
Garrett and Richard to a school at Ballitore, under Abraham
Shackleton, a member of the Society of Friends. For nearly forty
years afterwards Burke paid an annual visit to Ballitore.
In 1744, after leaving school, Burke entered Trinity College,
Dublin. He graduated B.A. in 1748; M.A., 1751. In 1750 he came to
London, to the Middle Temple. In 1756 Burke became known as a
writer, by two pieces. One was a pamphlet called "A Vindication of
Natural Society." This was an ironical piece, reducing to absurdity
those theories of the excellence of uncivilised humanity which were
gathering strength in France, and had been favoured in the
philosophical works of Bolingbroke, then lately published. Burke's
other work published in 1756, was his "Essay on the Sublime and
Beautiful."
At this time Burke's health broke down. He was cared for in the
house of a kindly physician, Dr. Nugent, and the result was that in
the spring of 1757 he married Dr. Nugent's daughter. In the
following year Burke made Samuel Johnson's acquaintance, and
acquaintance ripened fast into close friendship. In 1758, also, a
son was born; and, as a way of adding to his income, Burke suggested
the plan of "The Annual Register."
In 1761 Burke became private secretary to William Gerard Hamilton,
who was then appointed Chief Secretary to Ireland. In April, 1763,
Burke's services were recognised by a pension of 300 pounds a year;
but he threw this up in April, 1765, when he found that his services
were considered to have been not only recognised, but also bought.
On the 10th of July in that year (1765) Lord Rockingham became
Premier, and a week later Burke, through the good offices of an
admiring friend who had come to know him in the newly-founded Turk's
Head Club, became Rockingham's private secretary. He was now the
mainstay, if not the inspirer, of Rockingham's policy of pacific
compromise in the vexed questions between England and the American
colonies. Burke's elder brother, who had lately succeeded to his
father's property, died also in 1765, and Burke sold the estate in
Cork for 4,000 pounds.
Having become private secretary to Lord Rockingham, Burke entered
Parliament as member for Wendover, and promptly took his place among
the leading speakers in the House.
On the 30th of July, 1766, the Rockingham Ministry went out, and
Burke wrote a defence of its policy in "A Short Account of a late
Short Administration." In 1768 Burke bought for 23,000 pounds an
estate called Gregories or Butler's Court, about a mile from
Beaconsfield. He called it by the more territorial name of
Beaconsfield, and made it his home. Burke's endeavours to stay the
policy that was driving the American colonies to revolution, caused
the State of New York, in 1771, to nominate him as its agent. About
May, 1769, Edmund Burke began the pamphlet here given, Thoughts on
the Present Discontents. It was published in 1770, and four
editions of it were issued before the end of the year. It was
directed chiefly against Court influence, that had first been used
successfully against the Rockingham Ministry. Allegiance to
Rockingham caused Burke to write the pamphlet, but he based his
argument upon essentials of his own faith as a statesman. It was
the beginning of the larger utterance of his political mind.
Court influence was strengthened in those days by the large number
of newly-rich men, who bought their way into the House of Commons
for personal reasons and could easily be attached to the King's
party. In a population of 8,000,000 there were then but 160,000
electors, mostly nominal. The great land-owners generally held the
counties. When two great houses disputed the county of York, the
election lasted fourteen days, and the costs, chiefly in bribery,
were said to have reached three hundred thousand pounds. Many seats
in Parliament were regarded as hereditary possessions, which could
be let at rental, or to which the nominations could be sold. Town
corporations often let, to the highest bidders, seats in Parliament,
for the benefit of the town funds. The election of John Wilkes for
Middlesex, in 1768, was taken as a triumph of the people. The King
and his ministers then brought the House of Commons into conflict
with the freeholders of Westminster. Discontent became active and
general. "Junius" began, in his letters, to attack boldly the
King's friends, and into the midst of the discontent was thrown a
message from the Crown asking for half a million, to make good a
shortcoming in the Civil List. Men asked in vain what had been done
with the lost money. Confusion at home was increased by the great
conflict with the American colonies; discontents, ever present, were
colonial as well as home. In such a time Burke endeavoured to show
by what pilotage he would have men weather the storm.
H. M.
THOUGHTS ON THE PRESENT DISCONTENTS
It is an undertaking of some degree of delicacy to examine into the
cause of public disorders. If a man happens not to succeed in such
an inquiry, he will be thought weak and visionary; if he touches the
true grievance, there is a danger that he may come near to persons
of weight and consequence, who will rather be exasperated at the
discovery of their errors than thankful for the occasion of
correcting them. If he should be obliged to blame the favourites of
the people, he will be considered as the tool of power; if he
censures those in power, he will be looked on as an instrument of
faction. But in all exertions of duty something is to be hazarded.
In cases of tumult and disorder, our law has invested every man, in
some sort, with the authority of a magistrate. When the affairs of
the nation are distracted, private people are, by the spirit of that
law, justified in stepping a little out of their ordinary sphere.
They enjoy a privilege of somewhat more dignity and effect than that
of idle lamentation over the calamities of their country. They may
look into them narrowly; they may reason upon them liberally; and if
they should be so fortunate as to discover the true source of the
mischief, and to suggest any probable method of removing it, though
they may displease the rulers for the day, they are certainly of
service to the cause of Government. Government is deeply interested
in everything which, even through the medium of some temporary
uneasiness, may tend finally to compose the minds of the subjects,
and to conciliate their affections. I have nothing to do here with
the abstract value of the voice of the people. But as long as
reputation, the most precious possession of every individual, and as
long as opinion, the great support of the State, depend entirely
upon that voice, it can never be considered as a thing of little
consequence either to individuals or to Government. Nations are not
primarily ruled by laws; less by violence. Whatever original energy
may be supposed either in force or regulation, the operation of both
is, in truth, merely instrumental. Nations are governed by the same
methods, and on the same principles, by which an individual without
authority is often able to govern those who are his equals or his
superiors, by a knowledge of their temper, and by a judicious
management of it; I mean, when public affairs are steadily and
quietly conducted: not when Government is nothing but a continued
scuffle between the magistrate and the multitude, in which sometimes
the one and sometimes the other is uppermost--in which they
alternately yield and prevail, in a series of contemptible victories
and scandalous submissions. The temper of the people amongst whom
he presides ought therefore to be the first study of a statesman.
And the knowledge of this temper it is by no means impossible for
him to attain, if he has not an interest in being ignorant of what
it is his duty to learn.
To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present
possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant
hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greater part
of mankind--indeed, the necessary effects of the ignorance and
levity of the vulgar. Such complaints and humours have existed in
all times; yet as all times have NOT been alike, true political
sagacity manifests itself, in distinguishing that complaint which
only characterises the general infirmity of human nature from those
which are symptoms of the particular distemperature of our own air
and season.
Nobody, I believe, will consider it merely as the language of spleen
or disappointment, if I say that there is something particularly
alarming in the present conjuncture. There is hardly a man, in or
out of power, who holds any other language. That Government is at
once dreaded and contemned; that the laws are despoiled of all their
respected and salutary terrors; that their inaction is a subject of
ridicule, and their exertion of abhorrence; that rank, and office,
and title, and all the solemn plausibilities of the world, have lost
their reverence and effect; that our foreign politics are as much
deranged as our domestic economy; that our dependencies are
slackened in their affection, and loosened from their obedience;
that we know neither how to yield nor how to enforce; that hardly
anything above or below, abroad or at home, is sound and entire; but
that disconnection and confusion, in offices, in parties, in
families, in Parliament, in the nation, prevail beyond the disorders
of any former time: these are facts universally admitted and
lamented.
This state of things is the more extraordinary, because the great
parties which formerly divided and agitated the kingdom are known to
be in a manner entirely dissolved. No great external calamity has
visited the nation; no pestilence or famine. We do not labour at
present under any scheme of taxation new or oppressive in the
quantity or in the mode. Nor are we engaged in unsuccessful war, in
which our misfortunes might easily pervert our judgment, and our
minds, sore from the loss of national glory, might feel every blow
of fortune as a crime in Government.
It is impossible that the cause of this strange distemper should not
sometimes become a subject of discourse. It is a compliment due,
and which I willingly pay, to those who administer our affairs, to
take notice in the first place of their speculation. Our Ministers
are of opinion that the increase of our trade and manufactures, that
our growth by colonisation and by conquest, have concurred to
accumulate immense wealth in the hands of some individuals; and this
again being dispersed amongst the people, has rendered them
universally proud, ferocious, and ungovernable; that the insolence
of some from their enormous wealth, and the boldness of others from
a guilty poverty, have rendered them capable of the most atrocious
attempts; so that they have trampled upon all subordination, and
violently borne down the unarmed laws of a free Government--barriers
too feeble against the fury of a populace so fierce and licentious
as ours. They contend that no adequate provocation has been given
for so spreading a discontent, our affairs having been conducted
throughout with remarkable temper and consummate wisdom. The wicked
industry of some libellers, joined to the intrigues of a few
disappointed politicians, have, in their opinion, been able to
produce this unnatural ferment in the nation.
Nothing indeed can be more unnatural than the present convulsions of
this country, if the above account be a true one. I confess I shall
assent to it with great reluctance, and only on the compulsion of
the clearest and firmest proofs; because their account resolves
itself into this short but discouraging proposition, "That we have a
very good Ministry, but that we are a very bad people;" that we set
ourselves to bite the hand that feeds us; that with a malignant
insanity we oppose the measures, and ungratefully vilify the
persons, of those whose sole object is our own peace and prosperity.
If a few puny libellers, acting under a knot of factious
politicians, without virtue, parts, or character (such they are
constantly represented by these gentlemen), are sufficient to excite
this disturbance, very perverse must be the disposition of that
people amongst whom such a disturbance can be excited by such means.
It is besides no small aggravation of the public misfortune that the
disease, on this hypothesis, appears to be without remedy. If the
wealth of the nation be the cause of its turbulence, I imagine it is
not proposed to introduce poverty as a constable to keep the peace.
If our dominions abroad are the roots which feed all this rank
luxuriance of sedition, it is not intended to cut them off in order
to famish the fruit. If our liberty has enfeebled the executive
power, there is no design, I hope, to call in the aid of despotism
to fill up the deficiencies of law. Whatever may be intended, these
things are not yet professed. We seem therefore to be driven to
absolute despair, for we have no other materials to work upon but
those out of which God has been pleased to form the inhabitants of
this island. If these be radically and essentially vicious, all
that can be said is that those men are very unhappy to whose fortune
or duty it falls to administer the affairs of this untoward people.
I hear it indeed sometimes asserted that a steady perseverance in
the present measures, and a rigorous punishment of those who oppose
them, will in course of time infallibly put an end to these
disorders. But this, in my opinion, is said without much
observation of our present disposition, and without any knowledge at
all of the general nature of mankind. If the matter of which this
nation is composed be so very fermentable as these gentlemen
describe it, leaven never will be wanting to work it up, as long as
discontent, revenge, and ambition have existence in the world.
Particular punishments are the cure for accidental distempers in the
State; they inflame rather than allay those heats which arise from
the settled mismanagement of the Government, or from a natural ill
disposition in the people. It is of the utmost moment not to make
mistakes in the use of strong measures, and firmness is then only a
virtue when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. In truth,
inconstancy is a sort of natural corrective of folly and ignorance.
I am not one of those who think that the people are never in the
wrong. They have been so, frequently and outrageously, both in
other countries and in this. But I do say that in all disputes
between them and their rulers the presumption is at least upon a par
in favour of the people. Experience may perhaps justify me in going
further. When popular discontents have been very prevalent, it may
well be affirmed and supported that there has been generally
something found amiss in the constitution or in the conduct of
Government. The people have no interest in disorder. When they do
wrong, it is their error, and not their crime. But with the
governing part of the State it is far otherwise. They certainly may
act ill by design, as well as by mistake. "Les revolutions qui
arrivent dans les grands etats ne sont point un effect du hasard, ni
du caprice des peuples. Rien ne revolte les grands d'un royaume
comme un Gouvernoment foible et derange. Pour la populace, ce n'est
jamais par envie d'attaquer qu'elle se souleve, mais par impatience
de souffrir." These are the words of a great man, of a Minister of
State, and a zealous assertor of Monarchy. They are applied to the
system of favouritism which was adopted by Henry the Third of
France, and to the dreadful consequences it produced. What he says
of revolutions is equally true of all great disturbances. If this
presumption in favour of the subjects against the trustees of power
be not the more probable, I am sure it is the more comfortable
speculation, because it is more easy to change an Administration
than to reform a people.
Upon a supposition, therefore, that, in the opening of the cause,
the presumptions stand equally balanced between the parties, there
seems sufficient ground to entitle any person to a fair hearing who
attempts some other scheme besides that easy one which is
fashionable in some fashionable companies, to account for the
present discontents. It is not to be argued that we endure no
grievance, because our grievances are not of the same sort with
those under which we laboured formerly--not precisely those which we
bore from the Tudors, or vindicated on the Stuarts. A great change
has taken place in the affairs of this country. For in the silent
lapse of events as material alterations have been insensibly brought
about in the policy and character of governments and nations as
those which have been marked by the tumult of public revolutions.
It is very rare indeed for men to be wrong in their feelings
concerning public misconduct; as rare to be right in their
speculation upon the cause of it. I have constantly observed that
the generality of people are fifty years, at least, behindhand in
their politics. There are but very few who are capable of comparing
and digesting what passes before their eyes at different times and
occasions, so as to form the whole into a distinct system. But in
books everything is settled for them, without the exertion of any
considerable diligence or sagacity. For which reason men are wise
with but little reflection, and good with little self-denial, in the
business of all times except their own. We are very uncorrupt and
tolerably enlightened judges of the transactions of past ages; where
no passions deceive, and where the whole train of circumstances,
from the trifling cause to the tragical event, is set in an orderly
series before us. Few are the partisans of departed tyranny; and to
be a Whig on the business of a hundred years ago is very consistent
with every advantage of present servility. This retrospective
wisdom and historical patriotism are things of wonderful
convenience, and serve admirably to reconcile the old quarrel
between speculation and practice. Many a stern republican, after
gorging himself with a full feast of admiration of the Grecian
commonwealths and of our true Saxon constitution, and discharging
all the splendid bile of his virtuous indignation on King John and
King James, sits down perfectly satisfied to the coarsest work and
homeliest job of the day he lives in. I believe there was no
professed admirer of Henry the Eighth among the instruments of the
last King James; nor in the court of Henry the Eighth was there, I
dare say, to be found a single advocate for the favourites of
Richard the Second.
No complaisance to our Court, or to our age, can make me believe
nature to be so changed but that public liberty will be among us, as
among our ancestors, obnoxious to some person or other, and that
opportunities will be furnished for attempting, at least, some
alteration to the prejudice of our constitution. These attempts
will naturally vary in their mode, according to times and
circumstances. For ambition, though it has ever the same general
views, has not at all times the same means, nor the same particular
objects. A great deal of the furniture of ancient tyranny is worn
to rags; the rest is entirely out of fashion. Besides, there are
few statesmen so very clumsy and awkward in their business as to
fall into the identical snare which has proved fatal to their
predecessors. When an arbitrary imposition is attempted upon the
subject, undoubtedly it will not bear on its forehead the name of
SHIP-MONEY. There is no danger that an extension of the FOREST LAWS
should be the chosen mode of oppression in this age. And when we
hear any instance of ministerial rapacity to the prejudice of the
rights of private life, it will certainly not be the exaction of two
hundred pullets, from a woman of fashion, for leave to lie with her
own husband.
Every age has its own manners, and its politics dependent upon them;
and the same attempts will not be made against a constitution fully
formed and matured, that were used to destroy it in the cradle, or
to resist its growth during its infancy.
Against the being of Parliament, I am satisfied, no designs have
ever been entertained since the Revolution. Every one must perceive
that it is strongly the interest of the Court to have some second
cause interposed between the Ministers and the people. The
gentlemen of the House of Commons have an interest equally strong in
sustaining the part of that intermediate cause. However they may
hire out the usufruct of their voices, they never will part with the
FEE AND INHERITANCE. Accordingly those who have been of the most
known devotion to the will and pleasure of a Court, have at the same
time been most forward in asserting a high authority in the House of
Commons. When they knew who were to use that authority, and how it
was to be employed, they thought it never could be carried too far.
It must be always the wish of an unconstitutional statesman, that a
House of Commons who are entirely dependent upon him, should have
every right of the people entirely dependent upon their pleasure.
It was soon discovered that the forms of a free, and the ends of an
arbitrary Government, were things not altogether incompatible.
The power of the Crown, almost dead and rotten as Prerogative, has
grown up anew, with much more strength, and far less odium, under
the name of Influence. An influence which operated without noise
and without violence; an influence which converted the very
antagonist into the instrument of power; which contained in itself a
perpetual principle of growth and renovation; and which the
distresses and the prosperity of the country equally tended to
augment, was an admirable substitute for a prerogative that, being
only the offspring of antiquated prejudices, had moulded in its
original stamina irresistible principles of decay and dissolution.
The ignorance of the people is a bottom but for a temporary system;
the interest of active men in the State is a foundation perpetual
and infallible. However, some circumstances, arising, it must be
confessed, in a great degree from accident, prevented the effects of
this influence for a long time from breaking out in a manner capable
of exciting any serious apprehensions. Although Government was
strong and flourished exceedingly, the COURT had drawn far less
advantage than one would imagine from this great source of power.
At the Revolution, the Crown, deprived, for the ends of the
Revolution itself, of many prerogatives, was found too weak to
struggle against all the difficulties which pressed so new and
unsettled a Government. The Court was obliged therefore to delegate
a part of its powers to men of such interest as could support, and
of such fidelity as would adhere to, its establishment. Such men
were able to draw in a greater number to a concurrence in the common
defence. This connection, necessary at first, continued long after
convenient; and properly conducted might indeed, in all situations,
be a useful instrument of Government. At the same time, through the
intervention of men of popular weight and character, the people
possessed a security for their just proportion of importance in the
State. But as the title to the Crown grew stronger by long
possession, and by the constant increase of its influence, these
helps have of late seemed to certain persons no better than
incumbrances. The powerful managers for Government were not
sufficiently submissive to the pleasure of the possessors of
immediate and personal favour, sometimes from a confidence in their
own strength, natural and acquired; sometimes from a fear of
offending their friends, and weakening that lead in the country,
which gave them a consideration independent of the Court. Men acted
as if the Court could receive, as well as confer, an obligation.
The influence of Government, thus divided in appearance between the
Court and the leaders of parties, became in many cases an accession
rather to the popular than to the royal scale; and some part of that
influence, which would otherwise have been possessed as in a sort of
mortmain and unalienable domain, returned again to the great ocean
from whence it arose, and circulated among the people. This method
therefore of governing by men of great natural interest or great
acquired consideration, was viewed in a very invidious light by the
true lovers of absolute monarchy. It is the nature of despotism to
abhor power held by any means but its own momentary pleasure; and to
annihilate all intermediate situations between boundless strength on
its own part, and total debility on the part of the people.
To get rid of all this intermediate and independent importance, and
TO SECURE TO THE COURT THE UNLIMITED AND UNCONTROLLED USE OF ITS OWN
VAST INFLUENCE, UNDER THE SOLE DIRECTION OF ITS OWN PRIVATE FAVOUR,
has for some years past been the great object of policy. If this
were compassed, the influence of the Crown must of course produce
all the effects which the most sanguine partisans of the Court could
possibly desire. Government might then be carried on without any
concurrence on the part of the people; without any attention to the
dignity of the greater, or to the affections of the lower sorts. A
new project was therefore devised by a certain set of intriguing
men, totally different from the system of Administration which had
prevailed since the accession of the House of Brunswick. This
project, I have heard, was first conceived by some persons in the
Court of Frederick, Prince of Wales.
The earliest attempt in the execution of this design was to set up
for Minister a person, in rank indeed respectable, and very ample in
fortune; but who, to the moment of this vast and sudden elevation,
was little known or considered in the kingdom. To him the whole
nation was to yield an immediate and implicit submission. But
whether it was from want of firmness to bear up against the first
opposition, or that things were not yet fully ripened, or that this
method was not found the most eligible, that idea was soon
abandoned. The instrumental part of the project was a little
altered, to accommodate it to the time, and to bring things more
gradually and more surely to the one great end proposed.
The first part of the reformed plan was to draw A LINE WHICH SHOULD
SEPARATE THE COURT FROM THE MINISTRY. Hitherto these names had been
looked upon as synonymous; but, for the future, Court and
Administration were to be considered as things totally distinct. By
this operation, two systems of Administration were to be formed:
one which should be in the real secret and confidence; the other
merely ostensible, to perform the official and executory duties of
Government. The latter were alone to be responsible; whilst the
real advisers, who enjoyed all the power, were effectually removed
from all the danger.
Secondly, A PARTY UNDER THESE LEADERS WAS TO BE FORMED IN FAVOUR OF
THE COURT AGAINST THE MINISTRY: this party was to have a large
share in the emoluments of Government, and to hold it totally
separate from, and independent of, ostensible Administration.
The third point, and that on which the success of the whole scheme
ultimately depended, was TO BRING PARLIAMENT TO AN ACQUIESCENCE IN
THIS PROJECT. Parliament was therefore to be taught by degrees a
total indifference to the persons, rank, influence, abilities,
connections, and character of the Ministers of the Crown. By means
of a discipline, on which I shall say more hereafter, that body was
to be habituated to the most opposite interests, and the most
discordant politics. All connections and dependencies among
subjects were to be entirely dissolved. As hitherto business had
gone through the hands of leaders of Whigs or Tories, men of talents
to conciliate the people, and to engage their confidence, now the
method was to be altered; and the lead was to be given to men of no
sort of consideration or credit in the country. This want of
natural importance was to be their very title to delegated power.
Members of parliament were to be hardened into an insensibility to
pride as well as to duty. Those high and haughty sentiments, which
are the great support of independence, were to be let down
gradually. Point of honour and precedence were no more to be
regarded in Parliamentary decorum than in a Turkish army. It was to
be avowed, as a constitutional maxim, that the King might appoint
one of his footmen, or one of your footmen, for Minister; and that
he ought to be, and that he would be, as well followed as the first
name for rank or wisdom in the nation. Thus Parliament was to look
on, as if perfectly unconcerned while a cabal of the closet and
back-stairs was substituted in the place of a national
Administration.
With such a degree of acquiescence, any measure of any Court might
well be deemed thoroughly secure. The capital objects, and by much
the most flattering characteristics of arbitrary power, would be
obtained. Everything would be drawn from its holdings in the
country to the personal favour and inclination of the Prince. This
favour would be the sole introduction to power, and the only tenure
by which it was to be held: so that no person looking towards
another, and all looking towards the Court, it was impossible but
that the motive which solely influenced every man's hopes must come
in time to govern every man's conduct; till at last the servility
became universal, in spite of the dead letter of any laws or
institutions whatsoever.
How it should happen that any man could be tempted to venture upon
such a project of Government, may at first view appear surprising.
But the fact is that opportunities very inviting to such an attempt
have offered; and the scheme itself was not destitute of some
arguments, not wholly unplausible, to recommend it. These
opportunities and these arguments, the use that has been made of
both, the plan for carrying this new scheme of government into
execution, and the effects which it has produced, are in my opinion
worthy of our serious consideration.
His Majesty came to the throne of these kingdoms with more
advantages than any of his predecessors since the Revolution.
Fourth in descent, and third in succession of his Royal family, even
the zealots of hereditary right, in him, saw something to flatter
their favourite prejudices; and to justify a transfer of their
attachments, without a change in their principles. The person and
cause of the Pretender were become contemptible; his title disowned
throughout Europe, his party disbanded in England. His Majesty came
indeed to the inheritance of a mighty war; but, victorious in every
part of the globe, peace was always in his power, not to negotiate,
but to dictate. No foreign habitudes or attachments withdrew him
from the cultivation of his power at home. His revenue for the
Civil establishment, fixed (as it was then thought) at a large, but
definite sum, was ample, without being invidious; his influence, by
additions from conquest, by an augmentation of debt, by an increase
of military and naval establishment, much strengthened and extended.
And coming to the throne in the prime and full vigour of youth, as
from affection there was a strong dislike, so from dread there
seemed to be a general averseness from giving anything like offence
to a monarch against whose resentment opposition could not look for
a refuge in any sort of reversionary hope.
These singular advantages inspired his Majesty only with a more
ardent desire to preserve unimpaired the spirit of that national
freedom to which he owed a situation so full of glory. But to
others it suggested sentiments of a very different nature. They
thought they now beheld an opportunity (by a certain sort of
statesman never long undiscovered or unemployed) of drawing to
themselves, by the aggrandisement of a Court faction, a degree of
power which they could never hope to derive from natural influence
or from honourable service; and which it was impossible they could
hold with the least security, whilst the system of Administration
rested upon its former bottom. In order to facilitate the execution
of their design, it was necessary to make many alterations in
political arrangement, and a signal change in the opinions, habits,
and connections of the greater part of those who at that time acted
in public.
In the first place, they proceeded gradually, but not slowly, to
destroy everything of strength which did not derive its principal
nourishment from the immediate pleasure of the Court. The greatest
weight of popular opinion and party connection were then with the
Duke of Newcastle and Mr. Pitt. Neither of these held his
importance by the NEW TENURE of the Court; they were not, therefore,
thought to be so proper as others for the services which were
required by that tenure. It happened very favourably for the new
system, that under a forced coalition there rankled an incurable
alienation and disgust between the parties which composed the
Administration. Mr. Pitt was first attacked. Not satisfied with
removing him from power, they endeavoured by various artifices to
ruin his character. The other party seemed rather pleased to get
rid of so oppressive a support; not perceiving that their own fall
was prepared by his, and involved in it. Many other reasons
prevented them from daring to look their true situation in the face.
To the great Whig families it was extremely disagreeable, and seemed
almost unnatural, to oppose the Administration of a Prince of the
House of Brunswick. Day after day they hesitated, and doubted, and
lingered, expecting that other counsels would take place; and were
slow to be persuaded that all which had been done by the Cabal was
the effect, not of humour, but of system. It was more strongly and
evidently the interest of the new Court faction to get rid of the
great Whig connections than to destroy Mr. Pitt. The power of that
gentleman was vast indeed, and merited; but it was in a great degree
personal, and therefore transient. Theirs was rooted in the
country. For, with a good deal less of popularity, they possessed a
far more natural and fixed influence. Long possession of
Government; vast property; obligations of favours given and
received; connection of office; ties of blood, of alliance, of
friendship (things at that time supposed of some force); the name of
Whig, dear to the majority of the people; the zeal early begun and
steadily continued to the Royal Family; all these together formed a
body of power in the nation, which was criminal and devoted. The
great ruling principle of the Cabal, and that which animated and
harmonised all their proceedings, how various soever they may have
been, was to signify to the world that the Court would proceed upon
its own proper forces only; and that the pretence of bringing any
other into its service was an affront to it, and not a support.
Therefore when the chiefs were removed, in order to go to the root,
the whole party was put under a proscription, so general and severe
as to take their hard-earned bread from the lowest officers, in a
manner which had never been known before, even in general
revolutions. But it was thought necessary effectually to destroy
all dependencies but one, and to show an example of the firmness and
rigour with which the new system was to be supported.
Thus for the time were pulled down, in the persons of the Whig
leaders and of Mr. Pitt (in spite of the services of the one at the
accession of the Royal Family, and the recent services of the other
in the war), the TWO ONLY SECURITIES FOR THE IMPORTANCE OF THE
PEOPLE: POWER ARISING FROM POPULARITY, AND POWER ARISING FROM
CONNECTION. Here and there indeed a few individuals were left
standing, who gave security for their total estrangement from the
odious principles of party connection and personal attachment; and
it must be confessed that most of them have religiously kept their
faith. Such a change could not, however, be made without a mighty
shock to Government.
To reconcile the minds of the people to all these movements,
principles correspondent to them had been preached up with great
zeal. Every one must remember that the Cabal set out with the most
astonishing prudery, both moral and political. Those who in a few
months after soused over head and ears into the deepest and dirtiest
pits of corruption, cried out violently against the indirect
practices in the electing and managing of Parliaments, which had
formerly prevailed. This marvellous abhorrence which the Court had
suddenly taken to all influence, was not only circulated in
conversation through the kingdom, but pompously announced to the
public, with many other extraordinary things, in a pamphlet which
had all the appearance of a manifesto preparatory to some
considerable enterprise. Throughout, it was a satire, though in
terms managed and decent enough, on the politics of the former
reign. It was indeed written with no small art and address.
In this piece appeared the first dawning of the new system; there
first appeared the idea (then only in speculation) of SEPARATING THE
COURT FROM THE ADMINISTRATION; of carrying everything from national
connection to personal regards; and of forming a regular party for
that purpose, under the name of KING'S MEN.
To recommend this system to the people, a perspective view of the
Court, gorgeously painted, and finely illuminated from within, was
exhibited to the gaping multitude. Party was to be totally done
away, with all its evil works. Corruption was to be cast down from
Court, as Ate was from heaven. Power was thenceforward to be the
chosen residence of public spirit; and no one was to be supposed
under any sinister influence, except those who had the misfortune to
be in disgrace at Court, which was to stand in lieu of all vices and
all corruptions. A scheme of perfection to be realised in a
Monarchy, far beyond the visionary Republic of Plato. The whole
scenery was exactly disposed to captivate those good souls, whose
credulous morality is so invaluable a treasure to crafty
politicians. Indeed, there was wherewithal to charm everybody,
except those few who are not much pleased with professions of
supernatural virtue, who know of what stuff such professions are
made, for what purposes they are designed, and in what they are sure
constantly to end. Many innocent gentlemen, who had been talking
prose all their lives without knowing anything of the matter, began
at last to open their eyes upon their own merits, and to attribute
their not having been Lords of the Treasury and Lords of Trade many
years before merely to the prevalence of party, and to the
Ministerial power, which had frustrated the good intentions of the
Court in favour of their abilities. Now was the time to unlock the
sealed fountain of Royal bounty, which had been infamously
monopolised and huckstered, and to let it flow at large upon the
whole people. The time was come to restore Royalty to its original
splendour. Mettre le Roy hors de page, became a sort of watchword.
And it was constantly in the mouths of all the runners of the Court,
that nothing could preserve the balance of the constitution from
being overturned by the rabble, or by a faction of the nobility, but
to free the Sovereign effectually from that Ministerial tyranny
under which the Royal dignity had been oppressed in the person of
his Majesty's grandfather.
These were some of the many artifices used to reconcile the people
to the great change which was made in the persons who composed the
Ministry, and the still greater which was made and avowed in its
constitution. As to individuals, other methods were employed with
them, in order so thoroughly to disunite every party, and even every
family, that NO CONCERT, ORDER, OR EFFECT, MIGHT APPEAR IN ANY
FUTURE OPPOSITION. And in this manner an Administration without
connection with the people, or with one another, was first put in
possession of Government. What good consequences followed from it,
we have all seen; whether with regard to virtue, public or private;
to the ease and happiness of the Sovereign; or to the real strength
of Government. But as so much stress was then laid on the necessity
of this new project, it will not be amiss to take a view of the
effects of this Royal servitude and vile durance, which was so
deplored in the reign of the late Monarch, and was so carefully to
be avoided in the reign of his successor. The effects were these.
In times full of doubt and danger to his person and family, George
the Second maintained the dignity of his Crown connected with the
liberty of his people, not only unimpaired, but improved, for the
space of thirty-three years. He overcame a dangerous rebellion,
abetted by foreign force, and raging in the heart of his kingdoms;
and thereby destroyed the seeds of all future rebellion that could
arise upon the same principle. He carried the glory, the power, the
commerce of England, to a height unknown even to this renowned
nation in the times of its greatest prosperity: and he left his
succession resting on the true and only true foundation of all
national and all regal greatness; affection at home, reputation
abroad, trust in allies, terror in rival nations. The most ardent
lover of his country cannot wish for Great Britain a happier fate
than to continue as she was then left. A people emulous as we are
in affection to our present Sovereign, know not how to form a prayer
to Heaven for a greater blessing upon his virtues, or a higher state
of felicity and glory, than that he should live, and should reign,
and, when Providence ordains it, should die, exactly like his
illustrious predecessor.
A great Prince may be obliged (though such a thing cannot happen
very often) to sacrifice his private inclination to his public
interest. A wise Prince will not think that such a restraint
implies a condition of servility; and truly, if such was the
condition of the last reign, and the effects were also such as we
have described, we ought, no less for the sake of the Sovereign whom
we love, than for our own, to hear arguments convincing indeed,
before we depart from the maxims of that reign, or fly in the face
of this great body of strong and recent experience.
One of the principal topics which was then, and has been since, much
employed by that political school, is an effectual terror of the
growth of an aristocratic power, prejudicial to the rights of the
Crown, and the balance of the constitution. Any new powers
exercised in the House of Lords, or in the House of Commons, or by
the Crown, ought certainly to excite the vigilant and anxious
jealousy of a free people. Even a new and unprecedented course of
action in the whole Legislature, without great and evident reason,
may be a subject of just uneasiness. I will not affirm, that there
may not have lately appeared in the House of Lords a disposition to
some attempts derogatory to the legal rights of the subject. If any
such have really appeared, they have arisen, not from a power
properly aristocratic, but from the same influence which is charged
with having excited attempts of a similar nature in the House of
Commons; which House, if it should have been betrayed into an
unfortunate quarrel with its constituents, and involved in a charge
of the very same nature, could have neither power nor inclination to
repel such attempts in others. Those attempts in the House of Lords
can no more be called aristocratic proceedings, than the proceedings
with regard to the county of Middlesex in the House of Commons can
with any sense be called democratical.
It is true, that the Peers have a great influence in the kingdom,
and in every part of the public concerns. While they are men of
property, it is impossible to prevent it, except by such means as
must prevent all property from its natural operation: an event not
easily to be compassed, while property is power; nor by any means to
be wished, while the least notion exists of the method by which the
spirit of liberty acts, and of the means by which it is preserved.
If any particular Peers, by their uniform, upright, constitutional
conduct, by their public and their private virtues, have acquired an
influence in the country; the people on whose favour that influence
depends, and from whom it arose, will never be duped into an
opinion, that such greatness in a Peer is the despotism of an
aristocracy, when they know and feel it to be the effect and pledge
of their own importance.
I am no friend to aristocracy, in the sense at least in which that
word is usually understood. If it were not a bad habit to moot
cases on the supposed ruin of the constitution, I should be free to
declare, that if it must perish, I would rather by far see it
resolved into any other form, than lost in that austere and insolent
domination. But, whatever my dislikes may be, my fears are not upon
that quarter. The question, on the influence of a Court, and of a
Peerage, is not, which of the two dangers is the most eligible, but
which is the most imminent. He is but a poor observer, who has not
seen, that the generality of Peers, far from supporting themselves
in a state of independent greatness, are but too apt to fall into an
oblivion of their proper dignity, and to run headlong into an abject
servitude. Would to God it were true, that the fault of our Peers
were too much spirit! It is worthy of some observation, that these
gentlemen, so jealous of aristocracy, make no complaints of the
power of those peers (neither few nor inconsiderable) who are always
in the train of a Court, and whose whole weight must be considered
as a portion of the settled influence of the Crown. This is all
safe and right; but if some Peers (I am very sorry they are not as
many as they ought to be) set themselves, in the great concern of
Peers and Commons, against a back-stairs influence and clandestine
government, then the alarm begins; then the constitution is in
danger of being forced into an aristocracy.
I rest a little the longer on this Court topic, because it was much
insisted upon at the time of the great change, and has been since
frequently revived by many of the agents of that party: for, whilst
they are terrifying the great and opulent with the horrors of mob-
government, they are by other managers attempting (though hitherto
with little success) to alarm the people with a phantom of tyranny
in the Nobles. All this is done upon their favourite principle of
disunion, of sowing jealousies amongst the different orders of the
State, and of disjointing the natural strength of the kingdom; that
it may be rendered incapable of resisting the sinister designs of
wicked men, who have engrossed the Royal power.
Thus much of the topics chosen by the courtiers to recommend their
system; it will be necessary to open a little more at large the
nature of that party which was formed for its support. Without
this, the whole would have been no better than a visionary
amusement, like the scheme of Harrington's political club, and not a
business in which the nation had a real concern. As a powerful
party, and a party constructed on a new principle, it is a very
inviting object of curiosity.
It must be remembered, that since the Revolution, until the period
we are speaking of, the influence of the Crown had been always
employed in supporting the Ministers of State, and in carrying on
the public business according to their opinions. But the party now
in question is formed upon a very different idea. It is to
intercept the favour, protection, and confidence of the Crown in the
passage to its Ministers; it is to come between them and their
importance in Parliament; it is to separate them from all their
natural and acquired dependencies; it is intended as the control,
not the support, of Administration. The machinery of this system is
perplexed in its movements, and false in its principle. It is
formed on a supposition that the King is something external to his
government; and that he may be honoured and aggrandised, even by its
debility and disgrace. The plan proceeds expressly on the idea of
enfeebling the regular executory power. It proceeds on the idea of
weakening the State in order to strengthen the Court. The scheme
depending entirely on distrust, on disconnection, on mutability by
principle, on systematic weakness in every particular member; it is
impossible that the total result should be substantial strength of
any kind.
As a foundation of their scheme, the Cabal have established a sort
of Rota in the Court. All sorts of parties, by this means, have
been brought into Administration, from whence few have had the good
fortune to escape without disgrace; none at all without considerable
losses. In the beginning of each arrangement no professions of
confidence and support are wanting, to induce the leading men to
engage. But while the Ministers of the day appear in all the pomp
and pride of power, while they have all their canvas spread out to
the wind, and every sail filled with the fair and prosperous gale of
Royal favour, in a short time they find, they know not how, a
current, which sets directly against them; which prevents all
progress, and even drives them backwards. They grow ashamed and
mortified in a situation, which, by its vicinity to power, only
serves to remind them the more strongly of their insignificance.
They are obliged either to execute the orders of their inferiors, or
to see themselves opposed by the natural instruments of their
office. With the loss of their dignity, they lose their temper. In
their turn they grow troublesome to that Cabal, which, whether it
supports or opposes, equally disgraces and equally betrays them. It
is soon found necessary to get rid of the heads of Administration;
but it is of the heads only. As there always are many rotten
members belonging to the best connections, it is not hard to
persuade several to continue in office without their leaders. By
this means the party goes out much thinner than it came in; and is
only reduced in strength by its temporary possession of power.
Besides, if by accident, or in course of changes, that power should
be recovered, the Junto have thrown up a retrenchment of these
carcases, which may serve to cover themselves in a day of danger.
They conclude, not unwisely, that such rotten members will become
the first objects of disgust and resentment to their ancient
connections.
They contrive to form in the outward Administration two parties at
the least; which, whilst they are tearing one another to pieces, are
both competitors for the favour and protection of the Cabal; and, by
their emulation, contribute to throw everything more and more into
the hands of the interior managers.
A Minister of State will sometimes keep himself totally estranged
from all his colleagues; will differ from them in their counsels,
will privately traverse, and publicly oppose, their measures. He
will, however, continue in his employment. Instead of suffering any
mark of displeasure, he will be distinguished by an unbounded
profusion of Court rewards and caresses; because he does what is
expected, and all that is expected, from men in office. He helps to
keep some form of Administration in being, and keeps it at the same
time as weak and divided as possible.
However, we must take care not to be mistaken, or to imagine that
such persons have any weight in their opposition. When, by them,
Administration is convinced of its insignificancy, they are soon to
be convinced of their own. They never are suffered to succeed in
their opposition. They and the world are to be satisfied, that
neither office, nor authority, nor property, nor ability, eloquence,
counsel, skill, or union, are of the least importance; but that the
mere influence of the Court, naked of all support, and destitute of
all management, is abundantly sufficient for all its own purposes.
When any adverse connection is to be destroyed, the Cabal seldom
appear in the work themselves. They find out some person of whom
the party entertains a high opinion. Such a person they endeavour
to delude with various pretences. They teach him first to distrust,
and then to quarrel with his friends; among whom, by the same arts,
they excite a similar diffidence of him; so that in this mutual fear
and distrust, he may suffer himself to be employed as the instrument
in the change which is brought about. Afterwards they are sure to
destroy him in his turn; by setting up in his place some person in
whom he had himself reposed the greatest confidence, and who serves
to carry on a considerable part of his adherents.
When such a person has broke in this manner with his connections, he
is soon compelled to commit some flagrant act of iniquitous personal
hostility against some of them (such as an attempt to strip a
particular friend of his family estate), by which the Cabal hope to
render the parties utterly irreconcilable. In truth, they have so
contrived matters, that people have a greater hatred to the
subordinate instruments than to the principal movers.
As in destroying their enemies they make use of instruments not
immediately belonging to their corps, so in advancing their own
friends they pursue exactly the same method. To promote any of them
to considerable rank or emolument, they commonly take care that the
recommendation shall pass through the hands of the ostensible
Ministry: such a recommendation might, however, appear to the world
as some proof of the credit of Ministers, and some means of
increasing their strength. To prevent this, the persons so advanced
are directed in all companies, industriously to declare, that they
are under no obligations whatsoever to Administration; that they
have received their office from another quarter; that they are
totally free and independent.
When the Faction has any job of lucre to obtain, or of vengeance to
perpetrate, their way is, to select, for the execution, those very
persons to whose habits, friendships, principles, and declarations,
such proceedings are publicly known to be the most adverse; at once
to render the instruments the more odious, and therefore the more
dependent, and to prevent the people from ever reposing a confidence
in any appearance of private friendship, or public principle.
If the Administration seem now and then, from remissness, or from
fear of making themselves disagreeable, to suffer any popular
excesses to go unpunished, the Cabal immediately sets up some
creature of theirs to raise a clamour against the Ministers, as
having shamefully betrayed the dignity of Government. Then they
compel the Ministry to become active in conferring rewards and
honours on the persons who have been the instruments of their
disgrace; and, after having first vilified them with the higher
orders for suffering the laws to sleep over the licentiousness of
the populace, they drive them (in order to make amends for their
former inactivity) to some act of atrocious violence, which renders
them completely abhorred by the people. They who remember the riots
which attended the Middlesex Election; the opening of the present
Parliament; and the transactions relative to Saint George's Fields,
will not be at a loss for an application of these remarks.
That this body may be enabled to compass all the ends of its
institution, its members are scarcely ever to aim at the high and
responsible offices of the State. They are distributed with art and
judgment through all the secondary, but efficient, departments of
office, and through the households of all the branches of the Royal
Family: so as on one hand to occupy all the avenues to the Throne;
and on the other to forward or frustrate the execution of any
measure, according to their own interests. For with the credit and
support which they are known to have, though for the greater part in
places which are only a genteel excuse for salary, they possess all
the influence of the highest posts; and they dictate publicly in
almost everything, even with a parade of superiority. Whenever they
dissent (as it often happens) from their nominal leaders, the
trained part of the Senate, instinctively in the secret, is sure to
follow them; provided the leaders, sensible of their situation, do
not of themselves recede in time from their most declared opinions.
This latter is generally the case. It will not be conceivable to
any one who has not seen it, what pleasure is taken by the Cabal in
rendering these heads of office thoroughly contemptible and
ridiculous. And when they are become so, they have then the best
chance, for being well supported.
The members of the Court faction are fully indemnified for not
holding places on the slippery heights of the kingdom, not only by
the lead in all affairs, but also by the perfect security in which
they enjoy less conspicuous, but very advantageous, situations.
Their places are, in express legal tenure, or in effect, all of them
for life. Whilst the first and most respectable persons in the
kingdom are tossed about like tennis balls, the sport of a blind and
insolent caprice, no Minister dares even to cast an oblique glance
at the lowest of their body. If an attempt be made upon one of this
corps, immediately he flies to sanctuary, and pretends to the most
inviolable of all promises. No conveniency of public arrangement is
available to remove any one of them from the specific situation he
holds; and the slightest attempt upon one of them, by the most
powerful Minister, is a certain preliminary to his own destruction.
Conscious of their independence, they bear themselves with a lofty
air to the exterior Ministers. Like Janissaries, they derive a kind
of freedom from the very condition of their servitude. They may act
just as they please; provided they are true to the great ruling
principle of their institution. It is, therefore, not at all
wonderful, that people should be so desirous of adding themselves to
that body, in which they may possess and reconcile satisfactions the
most alluring, and seemingly the most contradictory; enjoying at
once all the spirited pleasure of independence, and all the gross
lucre and fat emoluments of servitude.
Here is a sketch, though a slight one, of the constitution, laws,
and policy, of this new Court corporation. The name by which they
choose to distinguish themselves, is that of KING'S MEN, or the
KING'S FRIENDS, by an invidious exclusion of the rest of his
Majesty's most loyal and affectionate subjects. The whole system,
comprehending the exterior and interior Administrations, is commonly
called, in the technical language of the Court, DOUBLE CABINET; in
French or English, as you choose to pronounce it.
Whether all this be a vision of a distracted brain, or the invention
of a malicious heart, or a real faction in the country, must be
judged by the appearances which things have worn for eight years
past. Thus far I am certain, that there is not a single public man,
in or out of office, who has not, at some time or other, borne
testimony to the truth of what I have now related. In particular,
no persons have been more strong in their assertions, and louder and
more indecent in their complaints, than those who compose all the
exterior part of the present Administration; in whose time that
faction has arrived at such a height of power, and of boldness in
the use of it, as may, in the end, perhaps bring about its total
destruction.
It is true, that about four years ago, during the administration of
the Marquis of Rockingham, an attempt was made to carry on
Government without their concurrence. However, this was only a
transient cloud; they were hid but for a moment; and their
constellation blazed out with greater brightness, and a far more
vigorous influence, some time after it was blown over. An attempt
was at that time made (but without any idea of proscription) to
break their corps, to discountenance their doctrines, to revive
connections of a different kind, to restore the principles and
policy of the Whigs, to reanimate the cause of Liberty by
Ministerial countenance; and then for the first time were men seen
attached in office to every principle they had maintained in
opposition. No one will doubt, that such men were abhorred and
violently opposed by the Court faction, and that such a system could
have but a short duration.
It may appear somewhat affected, that in so much discourse upon this
extraordinary party, I should say so little of the Earl of Bute, who
is the supposed head of it. But this was neither owing to
affectation nor inadvertence. I have carefully avoided the
introduction of personal reflections of any kind. Much the greater
part of the topics which have been used to blacken this nobleman are
either unjust or frivolous. At best, they have a tendency to give
the resentment of this bitter calamity a wrong direction, and to
turn a public grievance into a mean personal, or a dangerous
national, quarrel. Where there is a regular scheme of operations
carried on, it is the system, and not any individual person who acts
in it, that is truly dangerous. This system has not risen solely
from the ambition of Lord Bute, but from the circumstances which
favoured it, and from an indifference to the constitution which had
been for some time growing among our gentry. We should have been
tried with it, if the Earl of Bute had never existed; and it will
want neither a contriving head nor active members, when the Earl of
Bute exists no longer. It is not, therefore, to rail at Lord Bute,
but firmly to embody against this Court party and its practices,
which can afford us any prospect of relief in our present condition.
Another motive induces me to put the personal consideration of Lord
Bute wholly out of the question. He communicates very little in a
direct manner with the greater part of our men of business. This
has never been his custom. It is enough for him that he surrounds
them with his creatures. Several imagine, therefore, that they have
a very good excuse for doing all the work of this faction, when they
have no personal connection with Lord Bute. But whoever becomes a
party to an Administration, composed of insulated individuals,
without faith plighted, tie, or common principle; an Administration
constitutionally impotent, because supported by no party in the
nation; he who contributes to destroy the connections of men and
their trust in one another, or in any sort to throw the dependence
of public counsels upon private will and favour, possibly may have
nothing to do with the Earl of Bute. It matters little whether he
be the friend or the enemy of that particular person. But let him
be who or what he will, he abets a faction that is driving hard to
the ruin of his country. He is sapping the foundation of its
liberty, disturbing the sources of its domestic tranquillity,
weakening its government over its dependencies, degrading it from
all its importance in the system of Europe.
It is this unnatural infusion of a SYSTEM OF FAVOURITISM into a
Government which in a great part of its constitution is popular,
that has raised the present ferment in the nation. The people,
without entering deeply into its principles, could plainly perceive
its effects, in much violence, in a great spirit of innovation, and
a general disorder in all the functions of Government. I keep my
eye solely on this system; if I speak of those measures which have
arisen from it, it will be so far only as they illustrate the
general scheme. This is the fountain of all those bitter waters of
which, through a hundred different conducts, we have drunk until we
are ready to burst. The discretionary power of the Crown in the
formation of Ministry, abused by bad or weak men, has given rise to
a system, which, without directly violating the letter of any law,
operates against the spirit of the whole constitution.
A plan of Favouritism for our executory Government is essentially at
variance with the plan of our Legislature. One great end
undoubtedly of a mixed Government like ours, composed of Monarchy,
and of controls, on the part of the higher people and the lower, is
that the Prince shall not be able to violate the laws. This is
useful indeed and fundamental. But this, even at first view, is no
more than a negative advantage; an armour merely defensive. It is
therefore next in order, and equal in importance, THAT THE
DISCRETIONARY POWERS WHICH ARE NECESSARILY VESTED IN THE MONARCH,
WHETHER FOR THE EXECUTION OF THE LAWS, OR FOR THE NOMINATION TO
MAGISTRACY AND OFFICE, OR FOR CONDUCTING THE AFFAIRS OF PEACE AND
WAR, OR FOR ORDERING THE REVENUE, SHOULD ALL BE EXERCISED UPON
PUBLIC PRINCIPLES AND NATIONAL GROUNDS, AND NOT ON THE LIKINGS OR
PREJUDICES, THE INTRIGUES OR POLICIES OF A COURT. This, I said, is
equal in importance to the securing a Government according to law.
The laws reach but a very little way. Constitute Government how you
please, infinitely the greater part of it must depend upon the
exercise of the powers which are left at large to the prudence and
uprightness of Ministers of State. Even all the use and potency of
the laws depends upon them. Without them, your Commonwealth is no
better than a scheme upon paper; and not a living, active, effective
constitution. It is possible, that through negligence, or
ignorance, or design artfully conducted, Ministers may suffer one
part of Government to languish, another to be perverted from its
purposes: and every valuable interest of the country to fall into
ruin and decay, without possibility of fixing any single act on
which a criminal prosecution can be justly grounded. The due
arrangement of men in the active part of the state, far from being
foreign to the purposes of a wise Government, ought to be among its
very first and dearest objects. When, therefore, the abettors of
new system tell us, that between them and their opposers there is
nothing but a struggle for power, and that therefore we are no-ways
concerned in it; we must tell those who have the impudence to insult
us in this manner, that, of all things, we ought to be the most
concerned, who and what sort of men they are, that hold the trust of
everything that is dear to us. Nothing can render this a point of
indifference to the nation, but what must either render us totally
desperate, or soothe us into the security of idiots. We must soften
into a credulity below the milkiness of infancy, to think all men
virtuous. We must be tainted with a malignity truly diabolical, to
believe all the world to be equally wicked and corrupt. Men are in
public life as in private--some good, some evil. The elevation of
the one, and the depression of the other, are the first objects of
all true policy. But that form of Government, which, neither in its
direct institutions, nor in their immediate tendency, has contrived
to throw its affairs into the most trustworthy hands, but has left
its whole executory system to be disposed of agreeably to the
uncontrolled pleasure of any one man, however excellent or virtuous,
is a plan of polity defective not only in that member, but
consequentially erroneous in every part of it.
In arbitrary Governments, the constitution of the Ministry follows
the constitution of the Legislature. Both the Law and the
Magistrate are the creatures of Will. It must be so. Nothing,
indeed, will appear more certain, on any tolerable consideration of
this matter, than that EVERY SORT OF GOVERNMENT OUGHT TO HAVE ITS
ADMINISTRATION CORRESPONDENT TO ITS LEGISLATURE. If it should be
otherwise, things must fall into a hideous disorder. The people of
a free C