« PreviousContinue »
ing that monstrous and overcharged picture of the distresses of our situation. No wonder that he, who finds this country in the same condition with that of France at the time of Henry the Fourth, could also find a resemblance between his political friend and the Duke of Sully. As to those personal resemblances, people will often judge of them from their affections: they may imagine in these clouds whatsoever figures they please; but what is the conformation of that eye which can discover a resemblance of this country and these times to those with which the author compares them? France, a country just recovered out of twenty-five years of the most cruel and desolating civil war that perhaps was ever known. The kingdom, under the veil of momentary quiet, full of the most atrocious political, operating upon the most furious fanatical factions. Some pretenders even to the crown; and those who did not pretend to the whole, aimed at the partition of the monarchy. There were almost as many competitors as provinces ; and all abetted by the greatest, the most ambitious, and most enterprising power in Europe. No place safe from treason; no, not the bosoms on which the most amiable prince that ever lived reposed his head; not his mistresses; not even his queen. As to the finances, they had scarce an existence, but as a matter of plunder to the managers, and of grants to insatiable and ungrateful courtiers.
How can our author have the heart to describe this as any sort of parallel to our situation? To be sure, an April shower has some resemblance to a waterspout; for they are both wet: and there is some likeness between a summer evening's breeze and a hurricane; they are both wind: but who can compare our
disturbances, our situation, or our finances, to those of France in the time of Henry? Great Britain is indeed at this time wearied, but not broken, with the efforts of a victorious foreign war; not sufficiently relieved by an inadequate peace, but somewhat benefited by that peace, and infinitely by the consequences of that war. The powers of Europe awed by our victories, and lying in ruins upon every side of us. Burdened indeed we are with debt, but abounding with resources. We have a trade, not perhaps equal to our wishes, but more than ever we possessed. In effect, no pretender to the crown; nor nutriment for such desperate and destructive factions as have formerly shaken this kingdom.
As to our finances, the author trifles with us. When Sully came to those of France, in what order was any part of the financial system? or what system was there at all? There is no man in office who must not be sensible that ours is, without the act of any parading minister, the most regular and orderly system perhaps that was ever known; the best secured against all frauds in the collection, and all misapplication in the expenditure of public money.
I admit that, in this flourishing state of things, there are appearances enough to excite uneasiness and apprehension. I admit there is a cankerworm in the rose:
Medio de fonte leporum
Surgit amari aliquid, quod in ipsis floribus angat. This is nothing else than a spirit of disconnection, of distrust, and of treachery among public men. It is no accidental evil, nor has its effect been trusted to the usual frailty of nature; the distemper has been inoculated. The author is sensible of it, and we la
ment it together. This distemper is alone sufficient to take away considerably from the benefits of our constitution and situation, and perhaps to render their continuance precarious. If these evil dispositions should spread much farther, they must end in our destruction; for nothing can save a people destitute of public and private faith. However, the author, for the present state of things, has extended the charge by much too widely; as men are but too apt to take the measure of all mankind from their own particular acquaintance. Barren as this age may be in the growth of honor and virtue, the country does not want, at this moment, as strong, and those not a few examples, as were ever known, of an unshaken adherence to principle, and attachment to connection, against every allurement of interest. Those examples are not furnished by the great alone; nor by those, whose activity in public affairs may render it suspected that they make such a character one of the rounds in their ladder of ambition; but by men more quiet, and more in the shade, on whom an unmixed sense of honor alone could operate. Such examples indeed are not furnished in great abundance amongst those who are the subjects of the author's panegyric. He must look for them in another camp. He who complains of the ill effects of a divided and heterogeneous administration, is not justifiable in laboring to render odious in the eyes of the public those men, whose principles, whose maxims of policy, and whose personal character, can alone administer a remedy to this capital evil of the age: neither is he consistent with himself, in constantly extolling those whom he knows to be the authors of the very mischief of which he complains, and which the whole nation feels so deeply.
The persons who are the objects of his dislike and complaint are many of them of the first families, and weightiest properties, in the kingdom; but infinitely more distinguished for their untainted honor, public and private, and their zealous, but sober attachment to the constitution of their country, than they can be by any birth, or any station. If they are the friends of any one great man rather than another, it is not that they make his aggrandizement the end of their union; or because they know him to be the most active in caballing for his connections the largest and speediest emoluments. It is because they know him, by personal experience, to have wise and enlarged ideas of the public good, and an invincible constancy in adhering to it; because they are convinced, by the whole tenor of his actions, that he will never negotiate away their honor or his own and that, in or out of power, change of situation will make no alteration in his conduct. This will give to such a person in such a body, an authority and respect that no minister ever enjoyed among his venal dependents, in the highest plenitude of his power; such as servility never can give, such as ambition never can receive or relish.
This body will often be reproached by their adversaries, for want of ability in their political transactions; they will be ridiculed for missing many favorable conjunctures, and not profiting of several brilliant opportunities of fortune; but they must be contented to endure that reproach; for they cannot acquire the reputation of that kind of ability without losing all the other reputation they possess.
They will be charged too with a dangerous spirit of exclusion and proscription, for being unwilling to
mix in schemes of administration, which have no bond of union, or principle of confidence. That charge too they must suffer with patience. If the reason of the thing had not spoken loudly enough, the miserable examples of the several administrations constructed upon the idea of systematic discord would be enough to frighten them from such monstrous and ruinous conjunctions. It is however false, that the idea of an united administration carries with it that of a proscription of any other party. It does indeed imply the necessity of having the great strongholds of government in well-united hands, in order to secure the predominance of right and uniform principles; of having the capital offices of deliberation and execution of those who can deliberate with mutual confidence, and who will execute what is resolved with firmness and fidelity. If this system cannot be rigorously adhered to in practice, (and what system can be so?) it ought to be the constant aim of good men to approach as nearly to it as possible. No system of that kind can be formed, which will not leave room fully sufficient for healing coalitions: but no coalition, which, under the specious name of independency, carries in its bosom the unreconciled principles of the original discord of parties, ever was, or will be, an healing coalition. Nor will the mind of our sovereign ever know repose, his kingdom settlement, or his business order, efficiency, or grace with his people, until things are established upon the basis of some set of men, who are trusted by the public, and who can trust one another.
This comes rather nearer to the mark than the author's description of a proper administration, under the name of men of ability and virtue, which