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It was this reason that moved me to take the matter out of those rough as well as those dirty hands ; to let the remote and uninstructed part of the nation see that they have been misled on both sides by mad ridiculous extremes, at a wide distance on each side of the truth ; while the right path is so broad and plain as to be easily kept if they were once put into it.
Farther, I had lately entered on a resolution to take little notice of other papers, unless it were such where the malice and falsehood had so great a mixture of wit and spirit as would make them dangerous ; which, in the present circle of scribblers, from twelvepence to a halfpenny, I could easily foresee would not very frequently occur. But here again I am forced to dispense with my resolution, although it be only to tell my reader what measures I am likely to take on such occasions for the future. I was told that the paper called the Observator was twice filled last week with remarks upon a late Examiner. These I read with the first opportunity, and, to speak in the news-writers' phrase, they gave me occasion for many speculations. I observed with singular pleasure the nature of those things which the owners of them usually call answers, and with what dexterity this matchless author had fallen into the whole art and cant of them. To transcribe here and there three or four detached lines of least weight in a discourse, and by a foolish comment mistake every syllable of the meaning, is what I have known many, of a superior class to this formidable adversary, entitle an Answer. This is what he has exactly done, in about thrice as many words as my whole discourse ; which is so mighty an advantage over me,
that I shall by no means engage in so unequal
a combat ; but, as far as I can judge of my own temper, entirely dismiss him for the future ; heartily wishing he had a match exactly of his own size to meddle with, who should only have the odds of truth and honesty, which, as I take it, would be an effectual way to silence him for ever. Upon this occasion I cannot forbear a short story of a fanatic farmer, who lived in my neighbourhood, and was so great a disputant in religion that the servants in all the families thereabouts reported how he had confuted the bishop and all his clergy. I had then a footman who was fond of reading the Bible; and I borrowed a comment for him, which he studied so close that in a month or two I thought him a match for the farmer. They disputed at several houses, with a ring of servants and other people always about them ; where Ned explained his texts so full and clear to the capacity of his audience, and showed the insignificancy of his adversary's cant to the meanest understanding, that he got the whole country on his side, and the farmer was cured of his itch of disputation for ever after.
The worst of it is, that this sort of outrageous partywriters I have spoken of above are like a couple of makebates, who inflame small quarrels by a thousand stories, and, by keeping friends at a distance, hinder them from coming to a good understanding, as they certainly would if they were suffered to meet and debate between themselves; for let any one examine a reasonable honest man, of either side, upon those opinions in religion and government which both parties daily buffet each other about, he shall hardly find one material point in difference between them. I would be glad to ask a question about two great men of the
late ministry, how they came to be Whigs ? and by what figure of speech half a dozen others, lately put into great employments, can be called Tories ? I doubt whoever would suit the definition to the persons must make it directly contrary to what we understood it at the time of the Revolution.
In order to remove these misapprehensions among us, I believe it will be necessary, upon occasion, to detect the malice and falsehood of some popular maxims, which those idiots scatter from the press twice a-week, and draw a hundred absurd consequences from them.
For example, I have heard it often objected, as a great piece of insolence in the clergy and others, to say or hint that the church was in danger, when it was voted otherwise in parliament some years ago ; and the queen herself, in her last speech, did openly condemn all such insinuations. Notwithstanding which, I did then and do still believe the church has, since that vote, been in very imminent danger ; and I think I might then have said so without the least offence to her majesty or either of the two Houses. The queen's words, as near as I can remember, mentioned the church being in danger from her administration ; and whoever says or thinks that deserves, in my opinion, to be hanged for a traitor ; but that the church and state may be both in danger, under the best princes that ever reigned, and without the least guilt of theirs, is such a truth as a man must be a great stranger to history and common sense to doubt. The wisest prince on earth may be forced by the necessity of his affairs and the present power of an unruly faction, or deceived by the craft of ill-designing men. One or two ministers, most
in his confidence, may at first have good intentions, but grow corrupted by time, by avarice, by love, by ambition, and have fairer terms offered them to gratify their passions or interests from one set of men than another, until they are too far involved for a retreat, and so be forced to take seven spirits more wicked than themselves. This is a very possible case; and will not the last state of such men be worse than the first? that is to say, will not the public, which was safe at first, grow in danger by such proceedings as these? And shall a faithful subject, who foresees and trembles at the consequences, be called disaffected because he delivers his opinion, although the prince declares, as he justly may, that the danger is not owing to his administration? or shall the prince himself be blamed when, in such a juncture, he puts his affairs into other hands, with the universal applause of his people? As to the vote against those who should affirm the church was in danger, I think it likewise referred to danger from or under the queen's administration ; for I neither have it by me, nor can suddenly have recourse to it ; but, if it were otherwise, I know not how it can refer to any dangers but what were past, or at that time present ; or how it could affect the future, unless the senators were all inspired, or at least that majority which voted it : neither do I see it is any crime, farther than ill manners, to differ in opinion from a majority of either or both Houses; and that ill manners, I must confess, I have been often guilty of for some years past, although I hope I never shall again.
Another topic of great use to these weekly inflamers is the young pretender in France, to whom their whole party is in a high measure indebted for all their
greatness; and whenever it lies in their power they may perhaps return their acknowledgments, as, out of their zeal for frequent revolutions, they were ready to do to his supposed father, which is a piece of secret history that I hope will one day see the light; and I am sure it shall if ever I am master of it, without regarding whose ears may tingle. But at present the word pretender is a term of art in their profession. A secretary of state cannot desire leave to resign, but the pretender is at bottom ; the queen cannot dissolve a.parliament, but it is a plot to dethrone herself and bring in the pretender ; half-a-score stock-jobbers are playing the knave in Exchange-alley, and there goes the pretender with a sponge. One would be apt to think they bawl out the pretender so often to take off the terror, or tell so many lies about him to slacken our caution, that when he is really coming, by their connivance, we may not believe them, as the boy served the shepherds about the coming of the wolf; or perhaps they scare us with the pretender because they think he may be like some diseases that come with a fright. Do they not believe that the queen's present ministry love her majesty at least as well as some loved the church? And why is it not as great a mark of disaffection now to say the queen is in danger, as it was some months ago to affirm the same of the church? Suppose it be a false opinion that the queen's right is hereditary and indefeasible; yet how is it possible that those who hold and believe such a doctrine can be in the pretender's interest ? His title is weakened by every argument that strengthens hers : it is as plain as the words of an act of parliament can make it that her present majesty is heir to the survivor