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petuosity of her rival, she has been put to a great deal of unneceffary expence, yet he had the wisdom to see at lait bow matters really stood; and to acquiesce in the good old proverb, that it was more for. her interest to The. proverb is so trite, that it is unnecessary to repeat it. To thew, however, to all the world, that there was no other object aimed at but an apparent victory, and to prove that the real victory, was on the other side, she has dictated a pacification in such terms, as to throw every real advantage the could aim at into her own scale, while she made a show of giving something to her opponents. This kind of legerde. main in politics, however, at best, a mean fort of attainment, which a candid mind would think it beneath its dig-. nity to adopt, whatever were the temptation to do it.
Vanity is the ruling principle of nations. It has been the immediate cause of the ruin of almost every state that has ever attained celebrity in the world, and will be fo to the end of time. Wherever power is lodged, there will this passion be displayed; and wherever it is displayed, it must. provoke other nations, fooner or later, to humble it. Britain, for some time past, has been placed in more fortunate circumítances, than the rival powers around her; and has ihewn that she has pofleffed this filly passion in as eminent. a degree as any other nation. She also felt, during the last war, some of its natural consequences; but not in such a degree as to eradicate, but merely to moderate it for a time. It is to be regretted, that the present circumstances of other nations tend so powerfully to nourilh this propensity in her.. May the time soon come, when we shall be obliged to view them with a greater degree of respect; for it is then only. that ihe shall be enabled, as a nation, to act in a rational and respectable manner !
. With regard to the internal administration of this country, it is like that of every other nation, a tissue of good and bad blended together, in which the bad greatly preponderates. This, indeed, muft ever be expected to be the case; because the good produced by government, can only be the result of knowledge, while the bad is the consequence of er. ror. But truth is only one, and the road to that folitary one is often difficult to be discovered; whereas every devi. ation from it leads to error ; nor can a minifter, embarassed
with the multiplicity of affairs, that for ever claim his at-; tention, find leisure to enter into the many difficult investi. gations necessary to keep lijm from deviating from the right path: if therefore, he has not kad time to make these necefsary investigations, while he was in a private station, he cannot afterwards do it himself. These important discusfions must then be left to others; and so many finifter views may induce these counsellors to give improper advice, that it is next to impossible he should be able to avoid being wilfully led into error. It ought, therefore, to be an object of greater wonder, that a minister should be ever right, than that he should be often wrong. a
These few general observations on the government of a free country, are enough to give some flight notion of the present political state of Britain ; for to censure or to applaud individuals, is no part of the plan of this work. When particular laws or regulations shall come to be considered separately, in the course of this work, their tendency will. be pointed out with that candour, it is hoped, which is becoming a liberal mind, and with that freedom which ought to accompany disquisitions that are indeed intended to enlighten the people, without any intention of either hurting or serving any party whatever ; so that the remarks will sometimes seem to favour the one, and sometimes the other, as circumstances shall render necessary. It is not difficult, however, to foresee, that if truth be the fole object of pursuit, it must naturally happen, that those who, from their situation in the state, are obliged to take the lead, will be found, more frequently deviating into error, than those who are only allowed to act a negative part. ' . - The only other great object respecting the internal state of this country, that seems to be necessary to be here taken notice of, is the trial of Mr Hastings ;-a trial which has given room for a great display of talents, and which has." brought to light many of those abuses in government, which must make every individual in his private capacity shudder with horror. These abuses, however, seem to be rather the consequences of the oihce of a delegated power in a distant. country, than an imputation against the individual who exercises it at the time. Perhaps a perfon lefs culpable in that high ftation, could not have been pitched upon than the.
object of the present prosecution, and certainly no one could have been selected, who was more generally popular among those who were under his adininiftration. The result of the trial is not difficult to foresee. . One.good effect, Irowever, has certainly resulted from the late parliamentary discussion concerning it, viz. that it is not in the power of a king of this realm to screen a great delinquent from punishment, when the general sense of the most enlightened part of the nation shall think it is merited.
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Observations on the Laws of Britain respecting Imprifone
cit. 1. ment for Debte, At a time when the British parliament is making such å distinguished stand in defence of the rights of justice and humanity, supposed to have been injured in Asia, and when the people at large have interested themselves fo conspicuously in favour of those unfortunate negroes who have been reduced to a state of slavery in our West India settlements, it feems to be somewhat surprising, that we should quietly tolerate among ourselves a species of slavery of a more oppressive nature, than that of which they fo justly complain, while it is at the fame time fo impolitic, as to seem to admit of no defence. I here allude to the power of imprisonment for debt, as at present permitted by our laws, which, in its nature is so cruel, and in its consequences to society is fo pernicious, that it never could have been tolerated by a sensible and humane people, had not the distresses which it oca casions, and which are so much concealed from public view, in a great meafure escaped the notice of person's in the higher ranks of life..
The confequences of this species of flavery, however, with regard to the unfortunate sufferers themfelves, and their families, are so obvious, that the slightest degree of attention will discover them; and the subsequent VOL. I:
hurt that results from it to the community at large, has been well pointed out by others, that I shall not enlarge upon it here. On thiş head I shall only make one remark, that cannot be too often repeated : viz. That prisons in general may be confidered as the most successful schools of vice that this nation affords; and that many persons, who, when carried thither on account of unavoidable misfortunes only, were pofseffed of the most upright dispositions of mind, have returned from thence,depraved in their morals, and thoroughly school. ed in every species of vice; these lessons of depravity are quickly communicated to their children and near connections, who fail not to reduce them to practice on the community at large, by a thousand ingenious devices they never could have thought of by themfelves, and which only could have been invented, by the united efforts of the numbers who are left at leisure to brood over their diabolical schemes, and bring them to perfect maturity, in these numerous seminaries of vice and idleness t. · Imprisonment, if viewed in a political light, can only be reconciled to justice, from two confiderations. First, as being the means of preventing a person from escaping justice, who has been, to appearance, guilty of some crime : And second, as a punishment for delinquencies of a certain fort. How far this mode of punishment is judicious or the reverse, I mean not at prefent to enquire. I shall only observe at this time, that unless imprisonment fall evidently tend to answer the one or other of these purposes, it must certainly be unjust, and therefore it ought not to be tolerated.
Imprisonment in every case, is fo fevere in its effects, on the person who is subjected to it, that our forefathers feem to have viewed it in general as a kind of punishment, the severity of which ought to be mitigated as much as poflille : Hence a provision has been made by
* See on this subject, a most excellent dissertation written by Sir Enofipherous Paul, and the other obfervations of Mr. Howard on prisons, where these evils are so fully displayed as to leave nothing new to be added by me on this head.