« AnteriorContinuar »
Here first I observe, how difficult it is of the pale upon account of a few cereto get rid of a phrase which the world is monies, which all sides confess to be once grown fond of, though the occa- things indifferent; that this alone will efsion that first produced it be entirely fectually answer the great ends of a taken away. For several years past, if a scheme for comprehension, by opening a man had but an ill-favored nose, the deep- large noble gate, at which all bodies may thinkers of the age would some way or enter; whereas the chaffering with disother contrive to impute the cause to the senters, and dodging about this prejudice of his education. From this
t'other ceremony, is but like opening a fountain were said to be derived all our few wickets, and leaving them at jar, by foolish notions of justice, piety, love of which no more than one can get in at a our country; all our opinions of God or time, and that not without stooping, and a future state, Heaven, Hell, and the sideling, and squeezing his body. like; and there might formerly, perhaps, To all this I answer, that there is one have been some pretence for this charge. darling inclination of mankind which But so effectual care has been taken to usually affects to be a retainer to religion, remove those prejudices by an entire though she be neither its parent, its godchange in the methods of education, that mother, or its friend; I mean the spirit (with honor I mention it to our polite of opposition, that lived long before innovators) the young gentlemen who Christianity, and can easily subsist withare now on the scene seem to have not out it. Let us, for instance, examine the least tincture of those infusions, or wherein the opposition of sectaries among string of those weeds; and by conse- us consists; we shall find Christianity to quence, the reason for abolishing nominal have no share in it at all. Does the gosChristianity upon that pretext is wholly pel anywhere prescribe starched, ceased.
squeezed countenance, a stiff formal gait, For the rest, it may perhaps admit a a singularity of manners and habit, or any controversy whether the banishing of all affected modes of speech, different from notions of religion whatsoever would be the reasonable part of mankind? Yet, convenient for the vulgar. Not that I if Christianity did not lend its name to am in the least of opinion with those who stand in the gap, and to employ or dihold religion to have been the invention vert these humors, they must of neof politicians to keep the lower port of cessity be spent in contraventions to the the world in awe, by the fear of invisible laws of the land, and disturbance of the powers; unless mankind were then very public peace. There is a portion of endifferent to what it is now: for I look thusiasm assigned to every nation, which upon the mass or body of our people here if it hath not proper objects to work on, in England to be as freethinkers, that is will burst out and set all in a flame. If to say, as staunch unbelievers, as any of the quiet of a state can be bought by only the highest rank. But I conceive some flinging men a few ceremonies to devour, scattered notions about a superior power it is a purchase no wise man would reto be of singular use for the common peo
fuse. Let the mastiffs amuse themselves ple, as furnishing excellent materials to about a sheep's skin stuffed with hay, keep children quiet when they grow provided it will keep them from worrypeevish, and providing topics of amuse- ing the flock. The institution of conment in a tedious winter-night.
vents abroad seems in one point a strain Lastly, it is proposed as a singular ad- of great wisdom; there being few irreguvantage, that the abolishing of Chris- larities in human passions that may not
tianity will very much contribute to the have recourse to vent themselves in some | uniting of Protestants, by enlarging the of those orders, which are so many re
terms of communion, so as to take in all treats for the speculative, the melancholy, sorts of dissenters, who are now shut out the proud, the silent, the politic, and the
morose, to spend themselves, and evapo- the only, topic we have left? Who rate the noxious particles; for each of would ever have suspected Asgil for a whom we in this island are forced to pro- wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the vide a several sect of religion, to keep inexhaustible stock of Christianity had them quiet; and whenever Christianity not been at hand to provide them with shall be abolished, the legislature must materials? what other subject, through find some other expedient to employ and all art or nature, could have produced entertain them. For what imports it Tindal for a profound author, or furhow large a gate you open, if there will nished him with readers? it is the wise be always left a number, who place a choice of the subject that alone adorns pride and a merit in refusing to enter? and distinguishes the writer. For had a
Having thus considered the most im- hundred such pens as these been employed portant objections against Christianity, on the side of religion, they would have and the chief advantages proposed by the immediately sunk into silence and abolishing thereof, I shall now, with oblivion. equal deference and submission to wiser Nor do I think it wholly groundless, of judgments, as before, proceed to mention my fears altogether imaginary, that the a few inconveniences that may happen, abolishing Christianity may perhaps if the gospel should be repealed, which bring the church into danger, or at least perhaps the projectors may not have suf- put the senate to the trouble of another ficiently considered.
securing vote. I desire I may not be misAnd first, I am very sensible how much taken; I am far from presuming to the gentlemen of wit and pleasure are apt affirm or think that the church is in danto murmur, and be shocked at the sight ger at present, or as things now stand; of so many daggled-tail parsons, who hap- but we know not how soon it may be so, pen to fall in their way and offend their when the Christian religion is repealed. eyes; but, at the same time, these wise As plausible as this project seems, there reformers do not consider what an ad- may be a dangerous design lurking unvantage and felicity it is for great wits to der it. Nothing can be more notorious be always provided with objects of scorn than that the atheists, deists, socinians, and contempt, in order to exercise and anti-trinitarians, and other sub-divisions improve their talents, and divert their of freethinkers, are persons of little zeal spleen from falling on each other or on for the present ecclesiastical establishthemselves; especially when all this may ment; their declared opinion is for rebe done without the least imaginable dan- pealing the sacramental test; they are ger to their persons.
very indifferent with regard to cereAnd to urge another argument of a monies, nor do they hold the jus divinparallel nature: if Christianity were once um of episcopacy; therefore this may abolished, how could the freethinkers, the be intended as one politic step toward strong reasoners, and the men of profound altering the constitution of the church learning, be able to find another subject, established, and setting up presbytery in so calculated in all points, whereon to the stead, which I leave to be further condisplay their abilities? what wonderful sidered by those at the helm. productions of wit should we be deprived of from those whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly turned upon And therefore if, notwithstanding all raillery and invectives against religion, I have said, it still be thought necessary and would therefore never be able to to have a bill brought in for repealing shine or distinguish themselves upon any Christianity, I would humbly offer an other subject! We are daily complaining amendment, that instead of the word of the great decline of wit among us, and would we take away the greatest, perhaps 1 "Divine right."
Christianity, may be put religion in gen- ture, to disoblige our allies, who, as it eral, which, I conceive, will much better falls out, are all Christians, and many of answer all the good ends proposed by the them, by the prejudices of their educaprojectors of it. For, as long as we tion, so bigoted as to place a sort of pride leave in being a God and his providence, in the appellation. If, upon being rewith all the necessary consequences jected by them, we are to trust to an alliwhich curious and inquisitive men will ance with the Turk, we shall find ourbe apt to draw from such premises, we do selves much deceived: for, as he is too not strike at the root of the evil, though remote, and generally engaged in war we should ever so effectually annihilate with the Persian Emperor, so his people the present scheme of the gospel: for of would be more scandilized at our infiwhat use is freedom of thought, if it will delity than Christian neighbors. not produce freedom of action? which is For the Turks are not only strict observthe sole end, how remote soever in ap- ers of religious worship, but, what is pearance, of all objections against Chris- worse, believe a God; which is more tianity; and therefore the freethinkers than is required of us, even while we preconsider it as a sort of edifice, wherein all serve the name of Christians. the parts have such a mutual dependence To conclude: whatever
may on each other, that if you happen to pull think of the great advantages to trade by out one single nail the whole fabric must this favorite scheme, I do very much apfall to the ground.
prehend that, in six months time after the act is passed for the extirpation of
the gospel, the Bank and East India stock Upon the whole, if it shall still be may fall at least one per cent. And thought for the benefit of church and since that is fifty times more than ever the state that Christianity be abolished, I wisdom of our age thought fit to venture conceive, however, it may be more con- for the preservation of Christianity, there venient to defer the excution to a time of is no reason we should be at so great a peace, and not venture, in this conjunc- loss, merely for the sake of destroying it.
ON THE CONDUCT OF REPRESENTATIVES IN PARLIAMENT
Edmund Burke (1729-1797), British statesman and orator, was distinguished by a breadth of view which enabled him to see justice even on the unpopular side of an argument-as in the controversy with the American Colonies. His penetrating comprehension of the trend of public events is manifest in the following selection from Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), in which he boldly argues the necessity for a higher order of public representation. There was need for this, for the votes of the members of the House of Commons were largely at the disposal of a Court Party, referred to by Burke as the “cabal,” the "faction,” the "king's men." The successive ministries (the "exterior administrations") were in fact little more than figure-heads. Burke was convinced that the only remedy lay in achieving the solidarity of conscientious voters through their “political connection, that is, through consistent support of their respective Parties.
The distempers of monarchy were the lished, the people ought to be excited to great subjects of apprehension and re- a more strict and detailed attention to dress, in the last century; in this the dis- the conduct of their representatives. tempers of Parliament. It is not in Par- Standards for judging more systematically liament alone that the remedy for Parlia- upon their conduct ought to be settled in mentary disorders can be completed; the meetings of counties and corporations. hardly indeed can it begin there. Until Frequentand correct lists of the voters in all a confidence in government is re-estab- 1 important questions ought to be procured.
By such means something may be done. at present equally well, in whatever By such means it may appear who those hands, whether high or low, wise or foolare, that, by an indiscriminate support of ish, scandalous or reputable; there is all administrations, have totally banished nothing therefore to hold it firm to any all integrity and confidence out of pub- one body of men, or to any one consistlic proceedings; have confounded the best ent scheme of politics. Nothing intermen with the worst; and weakened and poses, to prevent the full operation of all dissolved, instead of strengthening and the caprices and all the passions of a compacting, the general frame of gov- court upon the servants of the public. ernment. If any person is more con- The system of administration is open to cerned for government and order, than continual shocks and changes, upon the for the liberties of his country; even he is principles of the meanest cabal, and the equally concerned to put an end to this most contemptible
contemptible intrigue. Nothing course of indiscriminate support
. It is can be solid and permanent. All good this blind and undistinguishing support, men at length fly with horror from such that feeds the spring of those very dis- a service. Men of rank and ability, with orders, by which he is frightened into the the spirit which ought to animate such arms of the faction which contains in it- men in a free state, while they decline self the source of all disorders, by en- the jurisdiction of dark cabal on their feebling all the visible and regular actions and their fortunes, will, for both, authority of the state. The distemper is cheerfully put themselves upon their increased by his injudicious and prepos- country. They will trust an inquisitive terous endeavors, or pretences, for the and distinguishing Parliament; because it cure of it.
does inquire, and does distinguish. If An exterior administration, chosen for they act well, they know, that, in such a its impotency, or after it is chosen pur- Parliament they will be supported against posely rendered impotent, in order to be any intrigue; if they act ill, they know rendered subservient, will not be obeyed. that no intrigue can protect them. This The laws themselves will not be re- situation, however awful, is honorable. spected, when those who execute them
But in one hour, and in the self-same asare depised: and they will be despised, sembly, without any assigned or assignwhen their power is not immediate from able cause, to be precipitated from the the crown, or natural in the kingdom. highest authority to the most marked Never were ministers better supported in neglect, possibly into the greatest peril Parliament. Parliamentary support comes
of life and reputation, is a situation full and goes with office, totally regardless of of danger, and destitute of honor. It the man, or the merit. Is government will be shunned equally by every man of strengthened? It grows weaker and prudence, and every man of spirit. weaker. The popular torrent gains upon
Such are the consequences of the diviit every hour. Let us learn from our
sion of court from the administration; experience. It is not support that is and of the division of public men among wanting to government, but reformation.
themselves. By the former of these, lawWhen ministry rests upon public opin ful government is undone; by the latter, ion, it is not indeed built upon a rock of
all opposition to lawless power is renadamant; it has, however, some stability. I dered impotent.
dered impotent. Government may in a But when it stands upon private humor,
great measure be restored, if any considits structure is of stubble, and its founda
erable bodies of men have honesty and tion is on quicksand. I repeat it again resolution enough never to accept adminHe that supports every administration istration, unless this garrison of king's subverts all government. The reason is
men, which is stationed, as in a citadel, to this: The whole business in which a control and enslave it, be entirely broken court usually takes an interest goes on and disbanded, and every work they have
thrown up be levelled with the ground. public men. This decree was solemnly The disposition of public men to keep promulgated by the head of the court this corps together, and to act under it, corps, the Earl of Bute himself, in a or to coöperate with it, is a touchstone speech which he made, in the year 1766, by which every administration ought in against the then administration, the only future to be tried.
administration which he has ever been There has not been one which has known directly and publicly to oppose. not sufficiently experienced the utter in- It is indeed in no way wonderful, that compatibility of that faction with the such persons should make such declarapublic peace, and with all the ends of tions. That connection and faction are good government since, if they opposed it, equivalent terms, is an opinion which has they soon lost every power of serving the been carefully inculcated at all times by crown; if they submitted to it, they lost unconstitutional statesmen. The reason all the estcem of their country. Until is evident. Whilst men are linked toministers give to the public a full proof gether, they easily and speedily communiof their entire alienation from that sys- cate the alarm of any evil design. They tem, however plausible their pretences, are enabled to fathom it with common we may be sure they are more intent on counsel, and to oppose it with united the emoluments than the duties of office. strength. Whereas, when they lie disIf they refuse to give this proof, we know persed, without concert, order, or disciof what stuff they are made. In this pline, communication is uncertain, counparticular, it ought to be the electors' sel difficult, and resistance impracticable. business to look to their representatives. Where men are not acquainted with each The electors ought to esteem it no less other's principles, nor experienced in each culpable in their member to give a single other's talents, nor at all practised in vote in Parliament to such an administra- their mutual habitudes and dispositions tion, than to take an office under it; to by joint efforts in business; no personal endure it, than to act in it. The notori- confidence, no friendship, no common inous infidelity and versatility of members terest, subsisting among them; it is eviof Parliament, in their opinions of men dently impossible that they can act a puband things, ought in a particular manner lic part with uniformity, perseverance, or to be considered by the electors in the in- efficacy. In a connection, the most inquiry which is recommended to them. considerable man, by adding to the weight This is one of the principal holdings of of the whole, has his value, and his use; that destructive system, which has en- out of it, the greatest talents are wholly deavored to unhinge all the virtuous, hon- unserviceable to the public.
No man, orable, and useful connections in the king- who is not inflamed by vainglory into dom.
enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his This cabal has, with great success, single, unsupported, desultory, unsyspropagated a doctrine which serves for a tematic endeavors are of power to defeat color to those acts of treachery; and the subtle designs and united cabals of whilst it receives any degree of coun- ambitious citizens. When bad men comtenance it will be utterly senseless to look bine, the good must associate; else they for a vigorous opposition to the court will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice party. The doctrine is this: That all in a contemptible struggle. political connections are in their nature It is not enough in a situation of trust factious, and as such ought to be dissi- in the commonwealth, that a man means pated and destroyed; and that the rule well to his country; it is not enough that for forming administrations is mere per- in his single person he never did an evil sonal ability, rated by the judgment of act, but always voted according to his this cabal upon it, and taken by draughts conscience, and even harangued against from every division and denomination of every design which he apprehended to be