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of more than ordinary talent; and I cannot but regret that the talent which you evidently possess should have been employed with so little honor to yourself, and advantage to your country, as in mis-stating facts, exaggerating evils, exciting prejudices, and disseminating principles calculated rather to foment than tranquillise the discontents of which you so feelingly complain. As a model of ingenious sophistry and studied art your letters claim considerable admiration, as an heterogeneous compound of truth and misrepresentation, of apparent candor and simplicity with real contradiction and inconsistency, they stand unrivalled. Tropes, figures, epithets, and images, deities and idols, all the real and visionary creations of a prolific brain dance through your letters in all the mazes of metaphorical confusion, dazzle and perplex the bewildered sense, and combine in the production of those phenomena in political literature, THE LETTERS OF CATO; letters calculated rather to lead the mind astray from the real point in issue, than to convince and satisfy the judgment; and soaring far, I should conceive, above the reach of those poor deluded, credulous, and ignorant lower orders, whom you affect to treat with such indifference and contempt, but for whose opinion you must, one would suppose, have no inconsiderable regard, if a judgment can be formed from the eagerness which has been evinced to circulate your opinions among them.
To an unwillingness, then, that assertions unfounded in fact, conclusions unsupported by reasoning, and political doctrines and opinions at once dangerous to the constitution, and destructive of the laws, should go forth uncontradicted, uncontroverted, to the world; should be forced upon the notice, and infused into the minds of men, who if we may believe you, know nothing of the constitution, nothing of the laws, nothing of the complicated interests of their country, men who implicitly believe every thing which prejudice has not taught them to reject, who swallow the most monstrous falsehoods who are utterly incapable of forming an opinion for themselves,-you may attribute the present letter; and though I have not the vanity to hope that I can administer an antidote co-extensive with the poison, neither can I dare to emulate the adventurous flights of Cato, through regions of poetic fancy, or captivate my readers with the charms of eloquence; yet should I be fortunate enough in plain straight-forward simple language, to detect, expose, and refute the errors into which you have your self been led, and into which it seems your aim to lead your readers, and to exhibit in their true and proper colors the mischievous doc, trines you have advanced, my object will be gained, my purpose answered.
With respect to your observations on the Earl of Liverpool, I
have but a word to say-Let him wear the laurels he has justly earned. If the gratitude of a rescued nation be due to him, for having brought to a successful issue the mighty conflict with a foreign foe, by a steady perseverance in a course of actions honora ble, consistent, and patriotic, let him long continue to enjoy it. A grateful nation will not withhold the proud reward; but, if in the conduct of a scarcely less important conflict, he has departed from those principles of honor for which you give him credit, if either from timidity and irresolution, or from motives of self-interest, he has left the path of duty, and sacrificed his own consistency and integrity, and the true interests of his country to the caprices or the passions of another, however exalted in rank or station, fet him not be surprised that he should have entailed upon himself dishonor, hatred, and contempt. The prosecution and punishment of a Queen for adultery on principles of public justice, might perhaps have been a triumph no less for the minister, than for morals and religion; but how far even such a triumph might be salutary, or conduce to the security of lawful and established governments, I have yet to learn. Let the Sovereign himself reflect well on the principles on which such a measure must be founded, on the consequences which may result, the conclusions which may be drawn, from such a precedent. Well may monarchs tremble on the throne, if doomed to answer at the tribunal of their ministers for every private vice; and tottering must be the crown of him, whom every secret failing, every departure from the path of moral rectitude, might expose to legal degradation and dethronement. Nay, not even the name and memory of the best of monarchs and the best of men, might be adequate to oppose a barrier to the progress of so dread an inquisition. But whatever might have been the merits, whatever the final issue of such a prosecution, founded on such principles, and conducted by the known established rules of law, it cannot but be deemed a far more noble triumph, that a prosecution founded on the principles, and conducted in the manner we have witnessed, attempted to be supported by a mass of perjured testimony, and whose object was to insult, dishonor, and oppress, an already too much injured, abused, and unprotected female, should meet with failure and disgrace. The inconsistencies into which you have fallen, on this branch of the subject, are somewhat singular. By what mode of reasoning do you arrive at your conclusion, that his Lordship secured the victory, that he defeat ed and discomfited the enemy, when, according to your own statement, the opponents with whom he had to contend, have triumphed over that which you designate as the cause of law and justice? It will, I think, establish a new era in military tactics, when re treat shall be deemed the signal of victory, and the triumph of an
enemy the proof of his discomfiture. His Lordship did indeed fight the battle in which his rashness had engaged him: he fought it obstinately, but he did not secure the victory. You yourself tell us he withdrew. He withdrew because he was defeated, not by those opponents whom you have specified, but by that vigilant and acute opposition which watched his motions, those respectable public men, whose conduct you describe as free from crooked motives. He withdrew, because he was opposed by a Grosvenor, a Holland, an Erskine, a Lansdown, and a Grey; men, who in spite of invective and abuse, will still maintain an honorable post in the affections of their country. Their talent, their honor, their integrity, are too well known, too highly estimated, to fear the breath of slander, or dread a conflict with a foe like him I now address. In the good opinion of the people they possess a shield, from which the poisoned dart of calumny will glance aside, or fall blunted at their feet. Who is the man that presumes thus to calumniate the first, the ablest nobles in the land? who the man that dares impute to their language or their conduct, vulgar senseless abuse, unmanly shrinking, pitiful inconsistency, sophisticated quibbling, imbecility, and political dishonesty? Come forward, Sir, and show yourself. Strip off your borrowed garment; appear in person to substantiate your charge. The noble Roman, whose character you assume, scorned to act so base a part. He greatly dared in open day, and in his proper person, to expose the vices of the age. You trust for safety to the recesses of your closet, while you traduce the characters, impugn the motives, and insult the honor of the men, whose honor, whose abilities, whose political integrity, you, I am persuaded, cannot, dare not, openly call in question. It is to the lofty spirit, unsullied reputation, untainted principles of these men, and of men like these, that the people ever have been, and ever will be, indebted for their security. They shun no conflict, they are ever ready at their post to assert the people's rights and avenge the people's wrongs.
The picture you have drawn of the present alarming situation of the country, as contrasted with the circumstances which you say combine to render it at once loyal, unanimous, tranquil, and happy, is colored and exaggerated to an extravagant and unwarrantable extent. On two points we shall agree; that great and alarming discontents exist, and that the ministry has done every thing but endeavour to remove them. With respect to the causes of the disorder, and the remedies necessary for its extirpation, we wholly differ. The readiness with which you impute to the remissness of the ministers, the existing disorders of the state, in order that you may urge them to the assumption of a power still more unconstitutional than that which they have hitherto assumed,
is singular. It has at least an air of novelty, it may claim the praise of ingenuity. But beware, Sir, the experiment is hazardous. The people may, the people do accede to the proposition, that the misconduct of the minister has brought the country to the brink of ruin; but they will not permit him to apply the remedy which you propose. The people too demand imperatively, that the minister should do his duty; but on the important question,, what is that duty?-the people differ, Sir, from you. The people charge the minister as the author of their miseries; not because the minister has been too timid and relaxed, not because the strong arm of power has not crushed the opponent of the minister, nor the lightnings of the law struck the miserable wretch who presumes to raise his voice against his conduct; but because the minister has already adopted too successfully in practice, the principles which you espouse; because he has already treated the great body of the British people as a mass of those materials of which you would fain persuade us they are composed-ignorance and credulityprejudice and passion-faction and sedition; because he has already suffered the people's voice to pass unheeded as the western breeze; and because, trusting to their supposed ignorance of the constitution, he has invaded their great constitutional rights; trusting to their ignorance of the laws, he has prostituted the laws to the purpose of supporting and extending his own political power; and trusting to their ignorance of the interests of the country, he has sacrificed those interests to state necessity and political expedien'cy.
"Were I the minister," you exclaim; God forbid that you should ever be the minister! Ignorant indeed of the first principles of the constitution must that minister be, who could hope to retain his place in spite of the opinion of the people! May England never know the man unprincipled enough to entertain, or bold enough to attempt the execution of so horrible a scheme; or should such a man appear, may he quickly meet the fate he justly merits! That the minister should yield to the clamor of the mob, I do not assert, but he must bow to the opinion of the people, or the constitution is gone. As well might you attempt to stop the progress of the lightning, as to check the expression of popular opinion. The voice of the people will, it must be heard. The minister must quit the helm, when he ceases to possess the confidence of the people, or he will inevitably involve his country in riot and confusion, and himself perish in the struggle.
You assert that there exist at present scarcely any natural causes of discontent. What, let me ask you, are natural causes of discontent? If an excessive and superabundant population, with its necessary attendants, deficiency of employment, deficiency of subsistence, poverty and want; if an immense load of debt, without the means of payment; if a revenue daily wasting, without a
proportionate diminution of expenditure; if a total stagnation of trade and commerce; if a system of taxation, burdensome, oppressive, and bearing most severely on the lower orders; if a standing army, numerous beyond all former precedent, recently enlarged in a manner the most unconstitutional, and preying on the vitals of the state; if a system of poor laws, tending rather to aggravate than alleviate the distresses of the poor; if a criminal code, disgustingly bloody and severe, but ineffectual to prevent the frequent repetition of crime; if an unblushing perseverance in a system of abuse, venality, and corruption; if a ministry which hears, but heeds not the murmurs of the people, and grasps at every opportunity of infringing the liberty of the subject, by new enactments, rather than put in execution the existing laws; if these be among the natural causes of discontent, then, alas! has England ample causes for complaint. Still however, with all these incentives to disaffection, we are not on the eve of a revolution; nor if the neutrality of the army could be depended on, would the lower orders rise to-morrow in one mass of rebellion, to overthrow the constitution. You have yourself shown the fallacy of such assertions. You have told us that the neutrality of the army, or rather its co-operation with the lower orders, may be depended on; and yet no rebellion exists. But in truth, you totally mistake the feelings of the lower orders: honest enthusiasm, and noble pride towards their king, their country, their religion, have not vanished. Loyalty to the throne, affection to the house of Brunswick, and attachment to the principles which placed that house upon the throne, are the sentiments which still glow within the hearts, and possess the minds of the great body of the people, as warmly, as strongly as at any former period. The error lies in attempting to identify the cause of the ministers, with the cause of the king and constitution. LOYALTY TO THE THRONE, AND AFFECTION TO THE KING, ARE NOT INCONSISTENT WITH A HATRED OF HIS MINIS
TERS; nor is an attachment to the principles of the constitution incompatible with an abhorrence of principles and practices which tend to the restoration of unconstitutional prerogatives and arbitrary power. The great body of the people, comprising in itself all those classes, which by their rank, their wealth, and their collective force, could alone accomplish the revolution you anticipate, seeks no such revolution. It is attached to the constitution, to the government; it is hostile only to those ministers, who seek to bring the monarch and his government into contempt, by advising him to meet the supplications of his people with unmerited insult and neglect.
Amongst whom you may have been cradled, with whom educated, or what opportunities you may have had for forming a correct