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TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT: 1721-1771..
Smollett, the rival of Fielding, after serving an apprenticeship to a surgeon
in Glasgow, went to London to bring out a tragedy he had written. Unsuccessful in this, he entered the navy as a surgeon's mate. On returning to England, he commenced practice as a physician, but meeting with little success, he devoted himself to literature as a profession. His chief works are-Adventures of Roderick Random, Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. He also wrote a History of England, a portion of which is usually appended to Hume's History.
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
From The Expedition of Humphry Clinker. We set out from Glasgow, by the way of Lanark, the county town of Clydesdale, in the neighbourhood of which the whole river Clyde, rushing down a steep rock, forms a very noble and stupendous cascade. Next day we were obliged to halt in a small borough, until the carriage, which had received some damage, should be repaired ; and here we met with an incident which warmly interested the benevolent spirit of Mr Bramble. As we stood at the window of an inn that fronted the public prison, a person arrived on horseback, genteelly though plainly dressed in a blue frock, with his own hair cut short, and a gold-laced hat upon his head. Alighting, and giving his horse to the landlord, he advanced to an old man who was at work in paving the street, and accosted him in these words : This is hard work for such an old man as you.' So saying, he took the instrument out of his hand, and began to thump the pavement. After a few strokes : ‘Have you never a son,' said he, “to ease you of this labour ?'
“Yes, an' please your honour,' replied the senior, 'I have three hopeful lads, but at present they are out of the way!
'Honour not me, cried the stranger; “it more becomes me to honour your gray hairs. Where are those sons you talk of ?'
The ancient paviour said his eldest son was a captain in the East Indies, and the youngest had lately enlisted as a soldier, in hopes of prospering like his brother. The gentleman desiring to know what was become of the second, he wiped his eyes, and owned he had taken upon him his old father's debts, for which he was now in the prison hard by.
The traveller made three quick steps towards the jail, then turning short : "Tell me,' said he, ‘has that unnatural captain sent you nothing to relieve your distresses ?'
*Call him not unnatural,' replied the other ; 'God's blessing be upon him! he sent me a great deal of money, but I made a bad use of it; I lost it by being security for a gentleman that was my landlord, and was stripped of all I had in the world besides.'
At that instant, a young man, thrusting out his head and neck between two iron bars in the prison window, exclaimed : 'Father! father! if my brother William is in life, that's he.'
'I am! I am!' cried the stranger, clasping the old man in his arms, and shedding a flood of tears—'I am your son Willy, sure enough!'
Before the father, who was quite confounded, could make any return to this tenderness, a decent old woman, bolting out from the door of a poor habitation, cried : “Where is my bairn ? where is my dear Willy?' The captain no sooner beheld her than he quitted his father, and ran into her embrace.
I can assure you, my uncle, who saw and heard everything that passed, was as much moved as any one of the parties concerned in this pathetic recognition. He sobbed, and wept, and clapped his hands, and hollooed, and finally ran down into the street. By this time the captain had retired with his parents, and all the inhabitants of the place were assembled at the door. Mr Bramble, nevertheless, pressed through the crowd, and entering the house, Captain,' said he, 'I beg the favour of your acquaintance. I would have travelled a hundred miles to see this affecting scene; and I shall think myself happy if you and your parents will dine with me at the public-house. The captain thanked him for his kind invitation, which, he said, he would accept with pleasure; but in the meantime he could not think of eating or drinking while his poor brother was in trouble. He forthwith deposited a sum equal to the debt in the hands of the magistrate, who ventured to set his brother at liberty without further process; and then the whole family repaired to the inn with my uncle, attended by the crowd, the individuals of which shook their townsman by the hand, while he returned their caresses without the least sign of pride or affectation.
This honest favourite of fortune, whose name was Brown, told my uncle that he had been bred a weaver, and about eighteen years ago had, from a spirit of idleness and dissipation, enlisted as a soldier in the service of the East India Company ; that in the course of duty he had the good-fortune to attract the notice and approbation of Lord Clive, who preferred him from one step to another till he had attained the rank of captain and paymaster to the regiment, in which capacities he had honestly amassed above twelve thousand pounds, and at the peace resigned his commission. He had sent several remittances to his father, who received the first only, consisting of one hundred pounds; the second had fallen into the hands of a bankrupt; and the third had been consigned to a gentleman in Scotland, who died before it arrived, so that it still remained to be accounted for by his executors. He now presented the old man with fifty pounds for his present occasions, over and above bank-notes for one hundred, which he had deposited for his brother's release. He brought along with him a deed, ready executed, by which he settled a perpetuity of fourscore pounds upon his parents, to be inherited by the other two sons after their decease. He promised to purchase a commission for his youngest brother ; to take the other as his own partner in a manufacture which he intends to set up to give employment and bread to the industrious; and to give five hundred pounds, by way of dower to his sister, who had married a farmer in low circumstances. Finally, he gave fifty pounds to the poor of the town where he was born, and feasted all the inhabitants without exception.
My uncle was so charmed with the character of Captain Brown, that he drank his health three times successively at dinner. He said he was proud of his acquaintance ; that he was an honour to his country, and had in some measure redeemed human nature from the reproach of pride, selfishness, and ingratitude. For my part, I was as much pleased with the modesty as with the filial virtue of this honest soldier, who assumed no merit from his success, and said very little of his own transactions, though the answers he made to our inquiries were equally sensible and laconic. Mrs Tabitha behaved very graciously to him, until she understood that he was going to make a tender of his hand to a person of low estate, who had been his sweetheart while he worked as a journeyman
Our aunt was no sooner made acquainted with this design, than she starched up her behaviour with a double portion of reserve ; and when the company broke up, she observed, with a toss of her nose, that Brown was a civil fellow enough, considering the lowness of his origin ; but that fortune, though she had mended his circumstances, was incapable to raise his ideas, which were still humble and plebeian.
SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE: 1723-1780.
William Blackstone, a lawyer, published in 1765 a series of Commentaries
on the Laws of England. This book, which is still the standard work on the subject, was the first attempt to popularise legal knowledge. Blackstone received the honour of knighthood, and was appointed a judge in the Court of Common Pleas,
THE TRIAL BY JURY.
From his Commentaries on the Laws of England.
The trial by jury ever has been, and I trust ever will be, looked upon as the glory of the English law. It is the most transcendent privilege which any subject can enjoy, or wish for, that he cannot be affected either in his property, his liberty, or his person, but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbours and equals. A constitution, that I may venture to affirm has, under providence, secured the just liberties of this nation for a long succession of ages.
Great as this eulogium may seem, it is no more than this admirable constitution, when traced to its principles, will be found in sober reason to deserve. The impartial administration of justice, which secures both our persons and our properties, is the great end of civil society. But if that be entirely intrusted to the magistracy, a select body of men, and those generally selected by the prince or such as enjoy the highest offices in the state, their decisions, in spite of their own natural integrity, will have frequently an involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity: it is not to be expected from human nature, that the few should be always attentive to the interests and good of the many. On the other hand, if the power of judicature were placed at random in the hands of the multitude, their decisions would be wild and capricious, and a new rule of action would be every day established in our courts. It is wisely therefore ordered, that the principles and axioms of law, which are general propositions, flowing from abstracted reason, and not accommodated to times or to men, should be deposited in the breasts of the judges, to be occasionally applied to such facts as come properly ascertained before them. For here partiality can have little scope: the law is well known, and is the same for all ranks and degrees; it follows as a regular conclusion from the premises of fact pre-established. But in settling and adjusting a question of fact, when intrusted to any single magistrate, partiality and injustice have an ample field to range in ; either by boldly asserting that to be proved which is not so, or more artfully by suppressing some circumstances, stretching and warping others, and distinguishing away the remainder. Here, therefore, a competent number of sensible and upright jurymen, chosen by lot from among those of the middle rank, will be found the best investigators of truth, and the surest guardians of public justice. For the most powerful individual in the state will be cautious of committing any flagrant invasion of another's right, when he knows that the fact of his oppression must be examined and decided by twelve indifferent men, not appointed till the hour of trial; and that, when once the fact is ascertained, the law must of course redress it. This therefore preserves in the hands of the people that share, which they ought to have in the administration of public justice, and prevents the encroachments of the more powerful and wealthy ens. Every new tribunal, erected for the decision of facts, without the intervention of a jury (whether composed of justices of the peace, commissioners of the revenue, judges of a court of conscience, or any other standing magistrates), is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute governments. The feudal system, which, for the sake of military subordination, pursued an aristocratical plan in all its arrangements of property, had been intolerable in times of peace, had it not been wisely counterpoised by that privilege, so universally diffused through every part of it, the trial by the feudal peers. And in every country on the continent, as the trial by the peers has been gradually disused, so the nobles have increased in power, till the state has been torn to pieces by rival factions, and oligarchy in effect has been established, though under the shadow of regal government; unless where the miserable commons have taken shelter under absolute monarchy, as the lighter evil of the two. It is therefore, upon the whole, a duty which every man owes to his country, his friends, his posterity, and himself, to maintain to the utmost of his power this valuable constitution in all its rights; to restore it to its ancient dignity, if at all impaired by the different value of property, or otherwise deviated from its first institution ; to amend it, wherever it is defective; and, above all, to guard with the most jealous circumspection against the introduction of new and arbitrary methods of trial, which, under a variety of plausible pretences, may in time imperceptibly undermine this best preservative of English liberty.