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movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth every thing, and all in all. Magnanimity in politicks is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our situation, and glow with zeal to fill our place as becomes our station and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our publick proceedings on America, with the old warning of the church, Sursum corda! We ought to ele. vate our minds to the greatness of that trust to which the order of Providence has called us. By adverting to the dignity of this high calling, our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire ; and have made the most extensive, and the only ho. nourable conquests; not by destroying, but by promoting, the wealth, the number, the happiness, of the human race. Let us get an American revenue as we have got an American empire. English privi. leges have made it all that it is; English privileges alone will make it all it can be.
In full confidence of this unalterable truth, I now ( quod felix faustumque sit ) lay the first stone of the temple of peace; and I move you,
“That the colonies and plantations of Great Britain in North America, consisting of fourteen separate governments, and containing two millions and upwards of free inhabitants, have not had the liberty and privilege of electing and sending any knights and burgesses, or others, to represent them in the high court of parliament.”
ON THE BILL INTRODUCED INTO THE HOUSE OF LORDS, MAY
24TH, 1737, FOR LICENSING AND REGULATING THE THEATRES.
It has been so confidently said, we know not exactly upon what authority, that the published speech of Earl Chesterfield on licensing the Theatres, was written by Doctor Johnson, that it is now, very generally admitted to be his production.
After having carefully perused the speech, we were persuaded that the existing belief respecting it was untrue, and that his lordship had unjustly been despoiled of this, perhaps, the brightest gem in his literary escutcheon. Neither in the construction of its sentences, nor in the vein of thought which pervades it, could we discern any close resemblance to the well marked manner of the illustrious moralist.
To the internal evidence which the speech supplies, in vindication of its genuineness, there may, moreover, be added a chain of very strong presumptive proof.
By recurring to the history of the proceedings of parliament, it will be seen that the speech was delivered in May, 1737. Attracting much attention, it was immediately printed, and for the first time appeared in Fog's Journal, a paper then under the patronage of Lord Chesterfield, and to which he occasionally contributed. The copy of the speech, however, was defective, and especially as regarded the quotation applied to Pompey,
“ Nostra miseria tu es Magnus." This, together with some other blemishes, exposed the noble earl to a virulent criticism from the Ga
zetteer, one of the journals of the opposite party, which produced a corrected impression of the speech in several of the magazines of the very next month, and, whence it was translated, without the slightest alteration, into the Parliamentary Register of the same year.
Certainly, it is not unreasonable to suppose that this revision was executed, and the republication directed by Earl Chesterfield himself.
Against the particular claim set up for Dr. Johnson, it will be sufficient to observe that, though he came to London in March 1737, a few weeks prior to the date of the speech, yet he lived in obscurity and had no literary engagements, or connexion with booksel. lers, for a considerable period afterwards.
The employment of reporting the parliamentary debates, he did not commence till so late as the opening of the session on the 19th of November, 1740, being upwards of three years subsequently to the appearance of the speech.
Taking into view with the preceding facts, the acknowledged talents and superiour powers of debate of Earl Chesterfield there can be little hesitation, we think, to the adoption of the present speech, as an authentick specimen of his eloquence.
In the following extract, the circumstances which gave
rise to the speech, are distinctly related. “ The only remarkable occurrence of this session, which remains to be taken notice of, is contained in the proceedings upon the bill, to explain and amend so much of an act made in the twelfth year of the reign of queen Anne, entitled, An act for reducing the laws relating to rogues, vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and vagrants, into one act of parliament ; and for the more effectual punishing such rogues, vagabonds, stur. dy beggars, and vagrants, and sending them whither they ought to be sent, as relates to common players of interludes. The bill, which was passed into a law, and remains still in force, was ordered by the house of commons to be prepared and brought in on Friday the 20th of May, and was occasioned by a farce called
the Golden Rump, which had been brought to the then master * of the theatre in Lincoln's-inn fields, who, upon perusal, found it was designed as a libel upon the government, and, therefore, instead of having it acted, he carried it to a gentleman concerned in the administration; and he having communicated it to some other member of the house of commons, it was resolved to move for leave to bring in a bill for preventing any such attempt for the future; and the motion being complied with by that house on the 20th of May, 1737, the bill was brought in on Tuesday the 24th, and passed through both houses with such despatch, that it was ready for the royal assent by Wednesday the 8th of June, and accordingly received the royal assent on Tuesday the 21st, when his majesty put an end to this session of parliament.”
SPEECH, &c. MY LORDS,
THE bill now before you I apprehend to be of a very extraordinary, a very dangerous nature. It seems designed not only as a restraint on the licentiousness of the stage; but it will prove a most arbi. trary restraint on the liberty of the stage; and I fear it looks yet further. I fear it tends towards a restraint on the liberty of the press, which will be a long stride towards the destruction of liberty itself. It is not only a bill, my lords, of a very extraordinary nature, but it has been brought in at a very extraordinary season, and pushed with most extraordinary despatch. When I considered how near it was to the end of the session, and how long this session had been protracted beyond the usual time of the year; when I considered that this bill passed through the other house with so much precipitancy, as even to get the start of a bill which deserved all the respect, and all the despatch, the forms of either house of parliament could admit of;
* One Gifford, who had removed thither with a company of players from Goodman's Fields, where he had a theatre, which was silenced by this yery act.
it set me upon inquiring, what could be the reason for introducing this bill at so unseasonable a time, and pressing it forward in a manner so very singular and uncommon. I have made all possible inquiry; and as yet, I must confess, I am at a loss to find out the great occasion, I have, it is true, learned from common report without doors, that a most seditious, a most heinous farce had been offered to one of the theatres, a farce for which the authors ought to be punished in the most exemplary manner : but what was the consequence? The master of that theatre behaved as he was in duty bound, and as common prudence directed. He not only refused to bring it upon the stage, but carried it to a certain honourable gentleman in the administration, as the surest method of having it absolutely suppressed. Could'this be the occasion of introducing such an extraordinary bill, at such an extraordinary season, and pushing it in so extraordi. nary a manner ? Surely no. The dutiful behaviour of the players, the prudent caution they showed upon that occasion, can never be a reason for subjecting them to such an arbitrary restraint. It is an argument in their favour; and a material one, in my opinion, against the bill. Nay, further, if we consider all circumstances, it is to me a full proof that the laws now in being are sufficient for punishing those players who shall venture to bring any seditious libel upon the stage, and, consequently, sufficient for deterring all the players from acting any thing that may have the least tendency towards giving a reasonable offence.
I do not, my lords, pretend to be a lawyer. I do not pretend to know perfectly the power and extent of our laws; but I have conversed with those that do, and by them I have been told, that our laws are suffi. cient for punishing any person that shall dare to represent upon the stage what may appear, either by the words or the representation, to be blasphemous, seditious, or immoral. I must own, indeed, I have observed of late a remarkable licentiousness in the stage. There have but very lately been two plays acted, which one would have thought should have