« ПретходнаНастави »
in knowing it is by his generosity alone that the peer, whose footman's instep he measures, is able to keep his chaplain from a jail. This disposition is the true source of the passion which many men, in very humble life, have taken to the American war. Our subjects in Amer- 5 ica ; our Colonies ; our dependents. This lust of party power is the liberty they hunger and thirst for; and this siren song of ambition has charmed ears that one would have thought were never organized to that sort of music.
This way of proscribing the citizens by denominations and general descriptions, dignified by the name of reason of state and security for constitutions and commonwealths, is nothing better, at bottom, than the miserable invention of an ungenerous ambition, which would fain 15 hold the sacred trust of power without any of the virtues or any of the energies that give a title to it: a receipt of policy made up of a detestable compound of malice, cowardice, and sloth. They would govern men against their will; but in that government they would 20 be discharged from the exercise of vigilance, providence, and fortitude; and therefore, that they may sleep on their watch, they consent to take some one division of the society into partnership of the tyranny over the rest. But let government, in what form it may be, comprehend 25 the whole in its justice, and restrain the suspicious by its vigilance ; let it keep watch and ward; let it discover by its sagacity, and punish by its firmness, all delinquency against its power, whenever delinquency exists in the overt acts; and then it will be as safe as ever God 30 and nature intended it should be. Crimes are the acts of individuals, and not of denominations; and therefore arbitrarily to class men under general descriptions in order to proscribe and punish them in the lump for a presumed delinquency, of which perhaps but a part, 35
perhaps none at all, are guilty, is indeed a compendious method, and saves a world of trouble about proof; but such a method, instead of being law, is an act of unnatural rebellion against the legal dominion of reason 5 and justice; and this vice, in any constitution that entertains it, at one time or other will certainly bring on its ruin.
We are told that this is not a religious persecution; and its abettors are loud in disclaiming all severities on 10 account of conscience. Very fine indeed! Then let it be
so: they are not persecutors; they are only tyrants. With all my heart. I am perfectly indifferent concerning the pretexts upon which we torment one another; or whether
it be for the Constitution of the Church of England, or 15 for the Constitution of the State of England, that people
choose to make their fellow-creatures wretched. When we were sent into a place of authority, you that sent us had yourselves but one commission to give. You could
give us none to wrong or oppress, or even to suffer any 20 kind of oppression or wrong, on' any grounds whatso
ever; not on political, as in the affairs of America ; not on commercial, as in those of Ireland ; not in civil, as in the laws for debt; not in religious, as in the statutes
against Protestant or Catholic dissenters. The diversi25 fied but connected fabric of universal justice is well cramped and bolted together in all its parts; and, depend upon it, I never have employed, and I never shall employ, any engine of power which may come into my
hands to wrench it asunder. All shall stand, if I can 30 help it, and all shall stand connected. After all, to
complete this work much remains to be done; much in the East, much in the West. But, great as the work is, if our will be ready, our powers are not deficient.
Since you have suffered me to trouble you so much on
this subject, permit me, gentlemen, to detain you a little longer. I am indeed most solicitous to give you perfect satisfaction. I find there are some of a better and softer nature than the persons with whom I have supposed myself in debate, who neither think ill of the Act of Relief, 5 nor by any means desire the repeal ; yet who, not accusing but lamenting what was done, on account of the consequences, have frequently expressed their wish that the late Act had never been made. Some of this description, and persons of worth, I have met with in this 10 city. They conceive that the prejudices, whatever they might be, of a large part of the people ought not to have been shocked ; that their opinions ought to have been previously taken, and much attended to; and that thereby the late horrid scenes might have been pre- 15 vented.
I confess my notions are widely different, and I never was less sorry for any action of my life. I like the bill the better on account of the events of all kinds that followed it. It relieved the real sufferers; it strengthened 20 the state; and, by the disorders that ensued, we had clear evidence that there lurked a temper somewhere which ought not to be fostered by the laws. No ill consequences whatever could be attributed to the Act itself. We knew beforehand, or we were poorly instructed, that tol- 25 eration is odious to the intolerant; freedom to oppressors; property to robbers ; and all kinds and degrees of prosperity to the envious. We knew that all these kinds of men would gladly gratify their evil dispositions under the sanction of law and religion if they could; if they 30 could not, yet, to make way to their objects, they would do their utmost to subvert all religion and all law. This we certainly knew but, knowing this, is there any reason, because thieves break in and steal, and thus bring detriment to you, and draw ruin on themselves, that I 35 Or, if
am to be sorry that you are in the possession of shops, and of warehouses, and of wholesome laws to protect them ? Are you to build no houses because desperate men may pull them down upon their own heads ? 5 a malignant wretch will cut his own throat because he
sees you give alms to the necessitous and deserving, shall his destruction be attributed to your charity, and not to his own deplorable madness? If we repent of our good
actions, what, I pray you, is left for our faults and fol10 lies ? It is not the beneficence of the laws; it is the
unnatural temper, which beneficence can fret and sour, that is to be lamented. It is this temper which, by all rational means, ought to be sweetened and corrected. If
froward men should refuse this cure, can they vitiate 15 anything but themselves? Does evil so react upon good
as not only to retard its motion, but to change its nature ? If it can so operate, then good men will always be in the power of the bad; and virtue, by a dreadful reverse of
order, must lie under perpetual subjection and bondage 20 to vice.
As to the opinion of the people, which some think, in such cases, is to be implicitly obeyed. - Nearly two years' tranquillity which followed the Act, and its instant imi
tation in Ireland, proved abundantly that the late horri25 ble spirit was, in a great measure, the effect of insidious
art, and perverse industry, and gross misrepresentation. But suppose
that the dislike had been much more deliberate and much more general than I am persuaded it
When we know that the opinions of even the 30 greatest multitudes are the standard of rectitude, I shall
think myself obliged to make those opinions the masters of my conscience; but if it may be doubted whether Omnipotence itself is competent to alter the essential
constitution of right and wrong, sure I am that such 35 things as they and I are possessed of no such power.
No man carries further than I do the policy of making government pleasing to the people; but the widest range of this politic complaisance is confined within the limits of justice. I would not only consult the interest of the people, but I would cheerfully gratify their humors. We 5 are all a sort of children that must be soothed and managed. I think I am not austere or formal in my nature. I would bear, I would even myself play my part in, any innocent buffooneries to divert them ; but I never will act the tyrant for their amusement. If they will mix 10 malice in their sports, I shall never consent to throw them any living sentient creature whatsoever, no, not so much as a kitling, toʻtorment.
“But, if I profess all this impolitic stubbornness, I may chance never to be elected into Parliament." It is cer- 15 tainly not pleasing to be put out of the public service; but I wish to be a member of Parliament to have my share of doing good and resisting evil. It would therefore be absurd to renounce my objects in order to obtain my seat. I deceive myself indeed most grossly if I had 20 not much rather pass the remainder of my life hidden in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding my mind even with the visions and imaginations of such things, than to be placed on the most splendid throne of the universe, tantalized with a denial of the practice of all 25 which can make the greatest situation any other than the greatest curse. Gentlemen, I have had my day. I can never sufficiently express my gratitude to you for having set me in a place wherein I could lend the slightest help to great and laudable designs. If I have had my share 30 in any measure giving quiet to private property and private conscience; if by my vote I have aided in securing to families the best possession, peace; if I have joined in reconciling kings to their subjects, and subjects to their prince; if I have assisted to loosen the foreign 35