« AnteriorContinuar »
impatient to conclude a treaty. There is in reserve, not only something of dignity, but a great deal of prudence too. A sort of courage belongs to negotiation as well as to operations of the field. A negotiator must often seem willing to hazard the whole issue of his treaty, if he wishes to secure any one material point.
There is always an augury to be taken of what a peace is likely to be, from the preliminary steps that are made to bring it about. We may gather something from the time in which the first overtures are made ; from the quarter whence they come ; from the manner in which they are received. These discover the temper of the parties. If your enemy offers peace in the moment of success, it indicates that he is satisfied with something. It shews that there are limits to his ambition or his resentment. If he offers nothing under misfortune, it is probable, that it is more painful to him to abandon the prospect of advantage than to endure calamity. If he rejects solicitation, and will not give even a nod to the suppliants for peace, until a change in the fortune of the war threatens him with ruin, then I think it evident, that he wishes nothing more than to disarm his adversary to gain time. Afterwards a question arises, which of the parties is likely to obtain the greater advantages, by continuing disarmed and by the use of time.
It is true, that the peers have great influence in the kingdom, and in every part of the public concerns.
While they are men of property, it is impossible to prevent it, except by such means as must prevent all property from its natural operation : an event not easily to be compassed, while property is power; nor by any means to be wished, while the least notion exists of the method by which the spirit of liberty acts, and of the means by which it is preserved. If any particular peers, by their uniform, upright, constitutional conduct, by their public and their private virtues, have acquired an influence in the country; the people, on whose favour that influence depends, and from whom it arose, will never be duped into an opinion, that such greatness in a peer is the despotism of an aristocracy, when they know and feel it to be the effect and pledge of their own importance.
* * * *
Mr. Fox and the friends of the people are not so ignorant as not to know, that peers do not interfere in elections as peers, but as men of property--they well know that the house of lords is by itself the feeblest part of the constitution; they know that the house of lords is supported only by its connexions with the crown, and with the house of commons; and that without this double connexion the lords could not exist a single year. They know, that all these parts of our constitution, whilst they are balanced as opposing interests, are also connected as friends ; otherwise nothing but confusion could be the result of such a complex constitution.
The power of perpetuating our property in our families is one of the most valuable and interesting circumstances belonging to it, and that which tends
the most to the perpetuation of society itself. It makes our weakness subservient to our virtue ; it grafts benevolence even upon avarice. The possessors of family wealth, and of the distinction which attends hereditary possession (as most concerned in it) are the natural securities for this transmission. With us, the house of peers is formed upon this principle. It is wholly composed of hereditary property and hereditary distinction; and made therefore the third of the legislature; and in the last event, the sole judge of all property in all its subdivisions.
A PENSION, given as a reward for service to the state, is surely as good a ground of property as any security for money advanced to the state. It is a better; for money is paid, and well paid to obtain that service.
I looked on the consideration of public service, or public ornament, to be real and very justice: and I ever held a scanty and penurious justice to partake of the nature of a wrong. I held it to be, in its consequences, the worst economy in the world. In saving money, I soon can count up all the good I do;
but when by a cold penury, I blast the abilities of a nation, and stunt the growth of its active energies, the ill I may do is beyond all calculation.
* * * *
Indeed no man knows, when he cuts off the incitements to a virtuous ambition, and the just rewards of public service, what infinite mischief he may do bis country, through all generations. Such saving to the public may prove the worst mode of robbing it. The crown, which has in its hands the trust of the daily pay for national service, ought to have in its hands also the means for the repose of public labour, and the fixed settlement of acknowledged merit. There is a time, when the weather-beaten vessels of the state ought to come into harbour. They must at length have a retreat from the malice of rivals, from the perfidy of political friends, and the inconstancy of the people. Many of the persons, who in all times have filled the great offices of state, have been younger brothers, who had originally little, if any fortune. These offices do not furnish the means of amassing wealth. There ought to be some power in the crown of granting pensions out of the reach of its own caprices. An intail of dependence is a bad reward of merit.
I would, therefore, leave to the crown the possibility of conferring some favours, which, whilst they are received as a reward, do not operate as corruption. When men receiveobligations from the crown through the pious hands of fathers, or of connexions as venerable as the paternal, the dependences which arise from thence, are the obligations of gratitude, and not the fetters of servility. Such ties originate in virtue, and they promote it. They continue men in those habitudes of friendship, those political connexions, and those political principles in which they began life. They are antidotes against a corrupt levity, instead of causes of it. What an unseemly spectacle would it afford, what a disgrace would it be to the commonwealth that suffered such things, to see the hopeful son of a meritorious minister begging his bread at the door of that treasury, from whence his father dispensed the æconomy of an empire, and promoted the happiness and glory of his country? Why should he be
obliged to prostrate his honour, and to submit his principles at the levee of some proud favourite, shouldered and thrust aside by every impudent pretender, on the very spot where a few days before he saw himself adored?-obliged to cringe to the author of the calamities of his house, and to kiss the hands that are red with his father's blood ? No, Sir, these things are unfit— They are intolerable.
* * * *
The service of the public is a thing which cannot be put to auction, and struck down to those who will agree to execute it the cheapest. When the proportion between reward and service is our object, we must always consider of what nature the service is, and what sort of men they are that must perform it. What is just payment for one kind of labour, and full encouragement for one kind of talents, is fraud and discouragement to others.
I will even go so far as to affirm, that if men were willing to serve in such situations without salary, they ought not to be permitted to do it. Ordinary service must be secured by the motives to ordinary integrity. I do not hesitate to say, that, that state which lays its foundation in rare and heroic virtues, will be sure to have its superstructure in the basest profligacy and corruption.
When the supreme authority of the people is in question, before we attempt to extend or to confine it, we ought to fix in our minds, with some degree of disa tinctness, an idea of what it is we mean, when we say the PEOPLE.