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this state. fo me, who am but a plain man, the proceeding looks a little too refined, and too ingenious ; it has too much the air of a political stratagem, adopted for the sake of giving, under an high-sounding name, an importance to the public declarations of this club, which, when the matter came to be closely inspected, they did not altogether so well deserve. It is a policy that has very much the coinplexion of a fraud.
I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of that society, be he who he will; and perhaps I have given as good proofs of my attachment to that cause, in the whole courfe of my public conduct. I think I envy liberty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and folitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for now thing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour, and discriminating effeat
. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. Abstractedly speaking,
. government, as well as liberty, is good , yet could I, in common sense, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government (for she then had a government) without enquiry what the nature of that govern ment was, or how it was administered? Can I now congratulate the same nation upon its freedom ? Is it because liberty in the abstract may be classed amongst the blessings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darknels of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoy ment of light and liberty ? Am I to congratulare an highwayman and murderer, who has broke prison, upon the recovery of his natural rights ? This would be to act over again the scene of the criminals condemned to the gallies, and their heroic deliverer, the metaphysic Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.
When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work ; and this, for a while, is all I can
possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air is plainly broke loo'e : hut we ought to suspend our judgment until the first efferve cence is a little fubsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver ; and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was inforrned how it had been combined with government ; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the solid ty of property; with peace and order ; with civil and foc al manners. All these (in their way) are good things too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilit it lasts, and is not likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they pleafe: We ought to see what it will please them to do, berore we risque congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints.
Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate insulated private men; but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Considerate people before they declare themselves will observe the use which is made of power; and particularly of so trying a thing as now power in new perfons, of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions, they have little or no experience, and in fituations where those who appear the most stirring in the scene may possibly not be the real movers.
All these confiderations however were below the trancendental dignity of the Revolution Society. Whilft I continued in the country, from whence I had the honor of writing to you, I had but an imperfect dea of their transact ons. On my coming to town, I sent for an account orteir proceedings, which had been published by their authority, containing a sermon of Dr. Pric, with the Duke de Rochesaucault's and the Archbishop of Aix's letter, and ieveral otlier documents annexed. The whole of that publication, with the manifeit design of connecting the affairs of France with those of England, by drawing
us into an imitation of the condu&t of the National Affembly, gave me a considerable degree of uneasine.s. The effea of that conduct upon the power, credit, prosperity, and tranquility of France, became every day more evident. The form of constitution to be settled, for its future polity, became more clear. We are now in a condition to di cern, with tolerable exactness, the true nature of the object held up to our imitation. If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates silence in some circumstances, in others prudence of an higher order may justify us in speaking our thoughts. The beginnings of confusion with us in England are at present feeble enough ; but with you, we have seen an infancy still more feeble, growing by moments into a strength to heap mountains
upon niountains, and to wage war with Heaven it elf. Whenever our neighbour's house is on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play a little on our own. Better to be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident a security.
Sol.citous chiefly for the peace of my own country, but by no means unconcerned for your's, I wish to communicate more largely, what was at first intended only for your private satisfaction. I shall still keep your affairs in my eye, and continue to address my felt to you. Indulging myself in the freedom of epistolary intercourle, I ! eg leave to throw out my thoughts, and express my feelings, just as they arise in my mind, with very little attention to formal method. Í set out with the proceedings of the Revolution Society; hut I shall not contine myieli to them. Is it possible I should ? It locks to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the affairs of France alone, but of all Europe, perhaps of more than Europe. All circumftances taken together, the French revolution is the most afton shing that has hitherto happened in the world. The moit wonderful things are brought about in many instances by means the most absurd and ridiculous ; in the rest ridiculous modes ; and apparently, by the most contemptible instruments. Every thing seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and feroc ty, and of all forts of crimes jumbled together with all forts or follies. In viewing this monstrous tragi-comic Scene, the most opposite
paffions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and indig at on; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror.
It cannot however be denied, that to some this strange scene appeared in quite another point of view. Into them it inspired no other sentiments than those of exultation and rapture. They saw nothing in what has been done in France, but a firm and temperate exertion of freedom ; 10 confiftent, on the whole, with morals and with p.ety, as to make it deserving not only of the secular applause of dashing Machiavelian politicians, but to render it a fit theme for all the devout effusions of sacred eloquence.
On the forenoon of the 4th of November last, Doctor Richard Price, a non-conforming minister of eminence, preached at the diffenting meeting-house of the Old Jewry, to his club or society, a very extraordinary miscellaneous sermon, in which there are some good moral and religious sentiments, and not ill expressed, mixed up in a fort of porridge of various political opinions and reflections : but the revolution in France is the grand ingredient in the cauldron. I consider the address transmitted by 'the Revolution Society to the National Assembly, through Earl Stanhope, as originating in the principles of the fermon, and as a corollary from them. It was moved by the preacher of that discourse. It was passed by those who came reeking from the effect of the fermon, without any cenfure or qualification, expressed or implied. If, however, any of the gentlemen concerned shall wish to separate the fermon from the resolution, they know how to acknowledge the one, and to disavow the other. They may do it ; ! cannot.
For my part, I looked on that sermon as the public declaration of a man much connected with literary caballers, and intriguing philosophers; with political theologians, and theological politicians, both at home and abroad. I know they set him up as a sort of oracle ; because, with the best intentions in the world, he naturally philippizes, and chaunts his prophetic song in exaa unison with their designs.
That fermon is in a strain which I believe has not been heard in this kingdom, in any of the pulpits which are
tolerated or encouraged in it, since the year 1648, when a predecessor of Dr. Price, the Reverend Hugh Peters, made the vault of the king's own chapel at St. James's ring with the honour and privilege of the Saints, who, with the “ high praises of God in their mouths, and a “ two-edged sword in their hands, were to execute judge“ ment on the heathen, and punishments upon the people;
; “ to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with “ fetters of iron."* Few harangues from the pulpit, except in the days of your league in France, or in the days of our solemn league and covenant in England, have ever breathed less of the spirit of moderation than this lec, ture in the Old Jewry. Supposing, however, that something like moderation were visible in this political sermon; yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No found ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character, to affume what does not belong to them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the chara&er they leave, and of the character they assume. Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.
This pulpit style, revived after so long a discontinuance, had to me the air of novelty, and of a novelty not wholly without danger. I do not charge this danger equally to every part of the discourse. The hint given to a noble and reverend lay-divine, who is supposed high in office in one of our universities, † and to other lay-divines
rank and literature,” may be proper and seasonable, though somewhat new. If the noble Seekers should find nothing to satisfy their pious fancies in the old staple of the national church, or in all the rich variety to be found
# Pralm cxlix.
f Dilcourse on the Love of our Couatry, Nov. 4, 1789, by Dr. Richard Price, 3d edition, p. 17 and 18.