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OU are pleased to call again, and with some earnestnefs, for my thoughts on the late proceedings in France. I will not give you reafon to imagine, that I think my fentiments of fuch value as to wish myself to be folicited about them. They are of too little confequence to be very anxiously either communicated or withheld, It was from attention to you, and to you only, that I hefitated at the time, when you firft defired to receive them. In the first letter I had the honour to write to you, and which at length I fend, I wrote neither for nor from any defcription of men; nor fhall I in this. My errors, halation if any, are my own. My reputation alone is to anfwer for them.
You fee, Sir, by the long letter I have tranfmitted to you, that, though I do moft heartily with that France may be animated by a fpirit of rational liberty, and that I think you bound in all honeft policy, to provide, a permanent body, in which that fpirit may refide, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning feveral material points in your late tranfactions.
You imagined, when you wrote laft, that I might poffibly be reckoned among the approvers of certain pro ceedings in France, from the folemn public feal of fanction they have received from two clubs of gentlemen in London, called the Conftitutional Society, and the Revolution Society.
I certainly have the honour to belong to more clubs than one, in which the conftitution of this kingdom and the principles of the glorious Revolution, are held in high reverence; and I reckon myfelf among the most forward in my zeal for maintaining that conftitution and thofe principles in their utmost purity and vigour. It is because I do fo, that I think it neceffary for me, that
there fhould be no mistake. Thofe who cultivate the memory of our revolution, and those who are attached to the constitution of this kingdom, will take good care how they are involved with perfons who, under the pretext of zeal towards the Revolution and Conftitution, too frequently wander from their true principles; and are ready on every occafion to depart from the firm but cau tious and deliberate fpirit which produced the one, and which prefides in the other. Before I proceed to answer the more material particulars in your letter, I fhall beg leave to give you fuch information as I have been able to obtain of the two clubs which have thought proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns of France; first assuring you, that I am not, and that I have never been, a member of either of thofe focieties.
The first calling itself the Conftitutional Society, or Society for Conftitutional Information, or by fome fuch title, is, I believe, of feven or eight years ftanding. The institution of this fociety appears to be of a charitable, and fo far of a laudable nature: it was intended for the circulation at the expence of the members, of many books, which few others would be at the expence of buying; and which might lie on the hands of the bookfellers, to the great lofs of an useful body of men. Whether the books fo charitably circulated, were ever as charitably read, is more than I know. Poffibly feveral of them have been exported to France; and like goods not in request here, may with you have found a market. I have heard much talk of the lights to be drawn from books that are fent from hence. What improvements they have had in their paffage (as it is faid fome liquors are meliorated by croffing the fea) I cannot tell: But I never heard a man of common judgment, or the leaft degree of information, speak a word in praife of the greater part of the publications circulated by that fociety; nor have their proceedings been accounted, except by fome of themselves, as of any serious confequence.
Your National Affembly feems to entertain much the fame opinion that I do of this poor charitable club. As a nation, you referved the whole ftock of your eloquent acknowledgments for the Revolution Society when their
fellows in the Constitutional were, in equity, entitled to fome fhare. Since you have selected the Revolution Society as the great object of your national thanks and praifes, you will think me excufeable in making its late conduct the subject of my obfervations. The National Affembly of France has given importance to thefe gentlemen by adopting them; and they return the favour, by acting as a fort of fub-committee in England for extending the principles of the National Affembly. Henceforward we must confider them as a kind of privileged per fons; as no inconfiderable members in the diplomatic body. This is one among the revolutions which have given fplendour to obfcurity, and diftinction to undif cerned merit. Until very lately I do not recollect to have heard of this club. I am quite fure that it never occupied a moment of my thoughts; nor, I believe, thofe of any perfon out of their own fet. I find, upon enquiry, that on the anniverfary of the Revolution in 1688, a club of diffenters, but of what denomination I know not, have long had the custom of hearing a fermon in one of their churches; and that afterwards they spent the day cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern. But I never heard that any public measure, or political fyftem, much less that the merits of the conftitution of any foreign nation, had been the fubject of a formal proceeding at their feftivals; until, to my inexpreffible surprise, I found them in a fort of public capacity, by a congratulatory address, giving an authoritative fanction to the proceedings of the National Affembly in France.
In the ancient principles and conduct of the club, fo far at least as they were declared, I fee nothing to which I, or any fober man, could poffibly take exception. I think it very probable, that for fome purpofe, new members may have entered among them; and that fome truly chriftian politicians, who love to difpenfe benefits, but are careful to conceal the hand which diftributes the dole, may have made them the inftruments of their pious defigns. Whatever I may have reafon to fufpect concerning private management, I shall speak of nothing as of a certainty, but what is public.
For one, I fhould be forry to be thought, directly or
Indirectly, concerned in their proceedings. I certainly take my full share along with the reft of the world, in my individual and private capacity, in fpeculating on what has been done, or is doing, on the public ftage; in any place ancient or modern; in the republic of Rome, or the republic of Paris: but having no general apoftolical miffion, being a citizen of a particular state, and being bound up in a confiderable degree, by its public will, I fhould think it, at least improper and irregular, for me to open a formal public correfpondence with the actual government of a foreign nation, without the exprefs authority of the government under which I live.
I fhould be still more unwilling to enter into that correspondence, under any thing like an equivocal description, which to many, unacquainted with our ufages, might make the address, in which I joined, appear as the act of perfons in fome fort of corporate capacity, acknowledged by the laws of this kingdom, and authorised to speak the fenfe of fome part of it. On account of the ambiguity and uncertainty of unauthorifed general defcriptions, and of the deceit which may be practifed under them, and not from mere formality, the houfe of Commons would reject the most sneaking petition for the molt trifling object, under that mode of fignature to which you have thrown open the folding-doors of your prefence chamber, and have ufhered into your National Affembly, with as much ceremony and parade, and with as great a buftle of applaufe, as if you had been vifited by the whole reprefentative majesty of the whole English nation. If what this fociety has thought proper to fend forth had been a piece of argument, it would have fignified little whofe argument it was. It would be neither the more nor the lefs convincing on account of the party it came from. But this is only a vote and refolution. It stands folely on authority; and in this cafe it is mere authority of individuals, few of whom appear. Their fignatures ought, in my opinion, to have been annexed to their inftrument. The world would then have the means of knowing how many they are; who they are; and of what value their opinions may be, from their perfonal abilities, from their knowledge, their experience, or their lead and authority in