Abbildungen der Seite

with rain and tempest; the blight of the spring, or the smut of the harvest ; will do more to cause the distress of the belly, than all the contrivances of all statesmen can do to relieve it. Let government protect and encourage industry, secure property, repress violence, and discountenance fraud, it is all that they have to do. In other respects, the less they meddle in these affairs the better; the rest is in the hands of our master and theirs. We are in a constitution of things wherein—" Modo sol nimius, modo corripit imber.”


My opinion is against an over-doing of any sort of administration, and more especially against this most momentous of all meddling on the part of authority ; the meddling with the subsistence of the people.

* * * *

Tyranny and cruelty may make men justly wish the downfal of abused powers, but I believe that no government ever yet perished from any other direct cause than its own weakness.

* * * *

Among the standards upon which the effects of government on any country are to be estimated, I must consider the state of its population as not the least certain. No country in which population flourishes, and is in progressive improvement, can be under a very mischievous government.

* * * *

I never will suppose that fabric of a state to be the worst of all political institutions, which, by experience, is found to contain a principle favourable Chowever latent it may be) to the increase of mankind.

* * * *

The wealth of a country is another, and no contemptible standard, by which we may judge whether, on the whole, a government be protecting or destructive.

* * * *

Executive magistracy ought to be constituted in such a manner, that those who compose it should be disposed to love and to venerate those whom they are bound to obey. A purposed neglect, or what is worse, a literal but perverse and malignant obedience, must be the ruin of the wisest counsels. In vain will the law attempt to anticipate or to follow such studied neglects and fraudulent attentions. To make men act zealously is not in the competence of law. Kings even such as are truly kings, may and ought to bear the freedom of subjects that are obnoxious to them. They may too, without derogating from themselves, bear even the authority of such persons if it promotes their service. Louis the XIIIth mortally hated the cardinal de Richelieu ; but his support of that minister against his rivals was the source of all the glory of his reign, and the solid foundation of his throne itself. Louis the XIVth, when come to the throne, did not love the cardinal Mazarin ; but for his interests he preserved him in power. When old, he detested Louvois ; but for years, whilst he faithfully served his greatness, he endured his person. When George the IId. took Mr. Pitt, who certainly was not agreeable to him, into his councils, he did nothing which could humble a wise sovereign. But these ministers, who were chosen by affairs, not by affections, acted in the name of, and in trust for, kings; and not as their avowed, constitutional, and ostensible masters,


* * * *

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.

Whatever is supreme in a state, ought to have, as much as possible, its judicial authority so constituted as not only not to depend upon it, but in some sort to balance it. It ought to give a security to its justice against its power. It ought to make its judicature, as it were, something exterior to the state.

* * * *


Is it that the people are change

that the commonwealth cannot be protected by its laws ? I hardly think it. On the contrary, I conceive, that these things happen because men are not changed, but re main always what they always were; they remain what the bulk of us must ever be, when abandoned to our vulgar propensities, without guide, leader, or controul : that is, made to be full of a blind elevation in prosperity; to despise untried dangers ; to be overpowered with unexpected reverses; to find no clue in a labyrinth of difficulties ; to get out of a present inconvenience with any risk of future ruin; to follow and to bow to fortune ; to admire successful though wicked enterprize, and to imitate what we admire ; to contemn the government which announces danger from sacrilege and regicide, whilst they are only in their infancy and their struggle, but which finds nothing that can alarm in their adult state and in the power and triumph of those destructive principles. In a mass we cannot be left to ourselves. We must have leaders. If none will undertake to lead us right, we shall find guides who will contrive to conduct us to shame and ruin.

* * * *

As well may we fancy, that, of itself the sea will swell, and that without winds the billows will insult the adverse shore, as that the gross mass of the people will be moved, and elevated, and continue by a steady and permanent direction to bear upon one point, without the influence of superior authority, or superior mind.

* * * *

They who always labour can have no true judge ment. You never give yourselves time to cool. You can never survey, from its proper point of sight, the work

you have finished, before you decree its final execution. You can never plan the future by the past. You never go into the country, soberly and dispassionately to observe the effect of your measures on their objects. You cannot feel distinctly how far the people are rendered better and improved, or more miserable and depraved, hy what you have done. You cannot see with your own eyes the sufferings and afflictions you cause.

You know them but at a distance, on the statements of those who always flatter the reigning power, and who, amidst their

representations of the grievances, inflame your minds against those who areoppressed. These are amongst the effects of unremitted labour, when men exhaust their attention, burn out their candles, and are left in the dark. Malo meorum negligentiam, quam istorum obscuram diligentiam.

* * * *

I have know merchants with the sentiments and the abilities of great statesmen ; and I have seen persons in the rank of statesmen, with the conceptions and character of pedlars. Indeed, my observation has furnished me with nothing that is to be found in any habits of life or education, which tends wholly to disqualify men for the functions of government, but that, by which the power of exercising those functions is very frequently obtained, I mean a spirit and habits of low cabal and intrigue ; which I have never, in one instance, seen united with a capacity for sound and manly policy.

It cannot escape observation, that when men are too much confined to professional and faculty habits, and, as it were, inveterate in the recurrent employment of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled than qualified for whatever depends on the knowledge of mankind, on experience in mixed affairs, on a comprehensive connected view of the various complicated external and internal interests which go to the formation of that multifarious thing called a state.

* *

There are a few moments in which decorum yields to an higher duty. Public calamity is a mighty leveller ; and there are occasions when any, even the slightest chance of doing good, must be laid hold on, even by the most inconsiderable person.

* * * *

It is not a hazarded assertion, it is a great truth, that when once things are gone out of their ordinary course, it is by acts out of the ordinary course they can alone be re-established. This republican spirit can only be combated by a spirit of the same nature : of the same nature, but informed with another principle and pointing to another

« ZurückWeiter »