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MAXIMS AND OPINIONS,
MORAL, POLITICAL, AND ECONOMICAL.
MINISTERS OF STATE.
MINISTERS turning their backs on the reputation which properly belongs to them, aspire at the glory of being speculative writers. The duties of these two situations are, in general, directly opposite to each other. Speculators ought to be neutral. A minister cannot be so. He is to support the interest of the public as connected with that of his master. He is his master's trustee, advocate, attorney, and steward—and he is not to indulge in any speculation which contradicts that character or even detracts from its efficacy. Necker had an extreme thirst for this sort of glory; so had others; and this pursuit of a misplaced and misunderstood reputation, was one of the causes of the ruin of these ministers, and of their unhappy master.
It is undoubtedly the business of ministers very much to consult the inclinations of the people, but they ought to take great care that they do not receive
that inclination from the few persons who may happen to approach them. The petty interests of such gentlemen, their low conceptions of things, their fears arising from the danger to which the
arduous and critical situation of public affairs may expose their places; their apprehensions from the hazards to which the discontents of a few popular men at elections may expose their seats in parliament; all these causes trouble and confuse the representations which they make to ministers of the real temper of the nation. If ministers, instead of following the great indications of the constitution, proceed on such reports, they will take the whispers of a cabal for the voice of the people, and the counsels of imprudent timidity for the wisdom of a nation.
It is no excuse at all for a minister, who at our desire, takes a measure contrary to our safety, that it is our own act. He who does not stay the hand of suicide, is guilty of murder. On our part I say, that to be instructed, is not to be degraded or enslaved. Information is an advantage to us; and we have a right to demand it. He that is bound to act in the dark cannot be said to act freely. When it appears evident to our governors that our desires and our interests are at variance, they ought not to gratify the former at the expence of the latter. Statesmen are placed on an eminence, that they may have a larger horizon than we can possibly command. They have a whole before them, which we can contemplate only in the parts, and often without the necessary relations. Ministers are not only our natural rulers but our natural guides. Reason clearly and manfully delivered,
has in itself a mighty force: but reason in the mouth of legal authority, is, I may fairly say, irresistible.
I admit that reason of state will not, in many circumstances, permit the disclosure of the true ground of a public proceeding. In that case silence is manly and it is wise. It is fair to call for trust when the principle of reason itself suspends its public use. I take the distinction to be this : The ground of a particular measure, making a part of a plan, it is rarely proper to divulge; all the broader grounds of policyon which the general plan is to be adopted, ought as rarely to be concealed. They who have not the whole cause before them, call them politicians, call them people, call them what you will, are no judges. The difficulties of the case, as well as its fair side, ought to be presented. This ought to be done ; and it is all that can be done. When we have our true situation distinctly presented to us, if then we resolve with a blind and headlong violence, to resist the admonitions of our friends, and to cast ourselves into the hands of our potent and irreconcileable foes, then, and not till then, the ministers stand acquitted before God and man, for whatever may come.
A minister of this country is to be controlled by the house of commons. He is to be
ed, not controlled, by his colleagues in office; if he were to be controlled, government, which ought to be the source of order, would itself become a scene of anarchy,
A man is generally rendered somewhat a worse reasoner for having been a minister. In private, the