Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

ESSAY IX.

I TAKE the liberty to communicate to the public a few loose thoughts upon a subject, which, though often handled, has not yet in my opinion been fully discussed: I mean national concord, or unanimity, which in this kingdom has been generally considered as a bare possibility, that existed nowhere but in speculation. Such a union is perhaps neither to be expected nor wished for in country, whose liberty depends rather upon the genius of the people, than upon any precautions which they have taken in a constitutional way for the guard and preservation of this inestimable blessing.

There is a very honest gentleman, with whom I have been acquainted these thirty years, during which there has not been one speech uttered against the ministry in parliament, nor struggle at an election for a burgess to serve in the House of Commons, nor a pamphlet published in opposition to any measure of the administration, nor even a private censure passed in his hearing upon the misconduct of any person concerned in public affairs, but he is immediately alarmed, and loudly exclaims against such factious doings, in order to set the people by the ears together at such a delicate juncture. « At any other time (says he) such opposition might not be improper, and I don't question the facts that are alleged; but at this crisis, sir, to inflame the nation!--the man deserves to be punished as a traitor to his country.» In a word, according to this gentleman's opinion, the nation has been in a violent crisis at any time these thirty years; and were it possible for him to live another century, he would never

tent.

find any period, at which a man might with safety impugn the infallibility of a minister.

The case is no more than this : my honest friend has invested his whole fortune in the stocks, on Government security, and trembles at every whiff of popular disconWere

every British subject of the same tame and timid disposition Magna Charta (to use the coarse phrase of Oliver Cromwell) would be no more regarded by an ambitious prince than Magna F—ta, and the liberties of England expire without a groan. Opposition, when restrained within due bounds, is the salubrious gale that ventilates the opinions of the people, which might otherwise stagnate into the most abject submission. It may be said to purify the atmosphere of politics ; to dispel the gross vapours raised by the influence of ministerial artifice and corruption, until the constitution, like a mighty rock, stands full disclosed to the view of every individual who dwells within the shade of its protection. Even when this gale blows with augmented violence, it generally tends to the advantage of the commonwealth: it awakes the apprehension, and consequently arouses all the faculties of the pilot at the helm, who redoubles his vigilance and caution, exerts his utmost skill, and, becoming acquainted with the nature of the navigation, in a little time learns to suit his canvass to the roughness of the sea and the trim of the vessel. Without these intervening storms of opposition to exercise his faculties, he would become enervate, negligent, and presumptuous;

and in the wantonness of his power, trusting to some deceitful calm, perhaps hazard a step that would wreck the constitution. Yet there is a measure in all things. A moderate frost will fertilize the glebe with nitrous particles, and destroy the eggs of pernicious insects that

prey upon the infancy of the year: but if this frost in

/

creases in severity and duration, it will chill the seeds, and even freeze up the roots of vegetables; it will check the bloom, nip the buds, and blast all the promise of the spring. The vernal breeze that drives the fogs before it, that brushes the cobwebs from the boughs, that fans the air and fosters vegetation, if augmented to a tempest, will strip the leaves, overthrow the tree, and desolate the garden. The auspicious gale before which the trim vessel ploughs the bosom of the sea, while the mariners are kept alert in duty and in spirits, if converted to a hurricane, overwhelms the crew with terror and confusion. The sails are rent, the cordage cracked, the masts give way; the master eyes the havock with mute despair, and the vessel founders in the storm. Opposition, when confined within its proper channels, sweeps away those beds of soil and banks of sand which corruptive power had gathered; but when it overflows its banks, and deluges the plain, its course is marked by ruin and devastation.

The opposition necessary in a free state, like that of Great Britain, is not at all incompatible with that national concord which ought to unite the people on all emergencies, in which the general safety is at stake. It is the jealousy of patriotism, not the rancour of party ; the warmth of candour, not the virulence of hate ; a transient dispute among friends, not an implacable feud that admits of no reconciliation. The history of all ages teems with the fatal effects of internal discord: and were history and tradition annihilated, common sense would plainly point out the mischiefs that must arise from want of harmony and national union. Every school-boy can have recourse to the fable of the rods, which, when united in a bundle, no strength could bend; but when separated into single twigs, a child could break with ease.

ESSAY X.

I Haye spent the greater part of my life in making observations on men and things, and in projecting schemes for the advantage of my country; and though my labours met with an ungrateful return, I will still persist in my endeavours for its service, like that venerable, unshaken, and neglected patriot, Mr Jacob Henriquez, who, though of the Hebrew nation, hath exhibited a shining example of Christian fortitude and perseverance. And here my conscience urges me to confess, that the hint upon which the following proposals are built, was taken from an advertisement of the said patriot Henriquez, in which he gave the public to understand, that Heaven had indulged him with a seven blessed daughters.» Blessed they are, no doubt, on account of their own and their father's virtues ; but more blessed may they be, if the scheme I offer should be adopted by the legislature.

The proportion which the number of females born in these kingdoms bears to the male children, is, I think, supposed to be as thirteen to fourteen : but as women are not so subject as the other sex to accidents and intemperance, in numbering adults we shall find the balance on the female side. If, in calculating the numbers of the people, we take in the multitudes that emigrate to the plantations, whence they never return; those that die at

A man well known at this period (1762), as well as during many preceding years, for the numerous schemes he was daily offering to various ministers for the purpose of raising money by loans, paying off the national encumbrances, etc. etc., none of which, however, were ever known to have received the smallest notice.

sea, and make their exit at Tyburn ; together with the consumption of the present war, by sea and land, in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, in the German and Indian Oceans, in Old France, New France, North America, the Leeward Islands, Germany, Africa, and Asia, we may fairly state the loss of men during the war at one hundred thousand. If this be the case, there must be a superplus of the other sex, amounting to the same number, and this superplus will consist of women able to bear arms; as I take it for granted, that all those who are fit to bear children are likewise fit to bear arms. Now, as we have seen the nation governed by old women, I hope to make it appear, that it may be defended by young women; and surely this scheme will not be rejected as unnecessary at such a juncture, when our armies, in the four quarters of the globe, are in want of recruits; when we find ourselves entangled in a new war with Spain, on the eve of a rupture in Italy, and indeed in a fair way of being obliged to make head against all the great potentates of Europe.

But, before I unfold my design, it may be necessary to obviate, from experience as well as argument, the objections which may be made to the delicate frame and tender disposition of the female sex, rendering them incapable of the toils, and insuperably averse to the horrors of war. All the world has heard of the nation of Amazons, who inhabited the banks of the river Thermodon in Cappadocia ; who expelled their men by force of arms, defended themselves by their own prowess, managed the reins of government, prosecuted the operations in war, and held the other sex in the utmost contempt. We are informed by Homer, that Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, acted

· In the

year 1762.

« PředchozíPokračovat »