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get drunk in wine or punch, or enjoy the cool collations of tea and coffee, still, the reckoning recalls ideas that lead to execrations on the whole system of finance and taxation, from the department of the first minister to the walk of the lowest exciseman; and, by an easy transition, the dislike of the system and the offices passes, in some degree, to the persons of those who fill them.
But as the same cause of unmerited obloquy does not exist with respect to our admirals and generals, they have been often and much the objects of this species of public gratitude. It is needless to go far back. In the year 1739, Admiral Vernon took Porto-Bello, with six ships only. The public gratitude to him was boundless. He was sung in ballads. At the ensuing general election, in 1741, he was returned from three different corporations; but, above all, his portrait filled every sign-post, and he may be figuratively said to have sold the ale, beer, porter, and purl of England for six years.
Towards the close of that period, the admiral's favour began to fade apace with the colours of his uniform, and the battle of Culloden was total anni. hilation to him. When the news of that victory reached England, a new object presented itself to the public favour ; and the honest admiral, in every sign-post, made way for the more portly figure of the glorious Duke of Cumberland.
The Duke kept possession of the sign-posts a long time. In the beginning of last war, our admiral in the Mediterranean, and our generals in North America, did nothing that could tend, in the least degree, to move His Royal Highness from his place; but the doubtful battle of Hamellan, followed by the unfortunate convention of Stade, and the rising glories of the King of Prussia, obliterated the glorious
Duke of Cumberland as effectually as His Royal
The duke was so totally displaced by his Prus-
“The glorious Protestant Hero" was unrivalled; but the French being beat at Minden, upon the 1st of August, 1759, by the army under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, the King of Prussia began to give place a little to two popular favourites, who started at the same time, - I mean Prince Ferdinand and the Marquis of Granby. Prince Ferdinand was supported altogether by his good conduct at Minden, and his high reputation over Europe as a general; the Marquis of Granby behaved with spirit and personal courage everywhere; but his success in the sign-posts of England was much owing to a comparison generally made between him and another British general of higher rank, but who was supposed not to have behaved so well. Perhaps, too, he was a good deal indebted to another circumstance, to wit, the baldness of his head.
The next who figured in the sign-post way was
the celebrated John Wilkes, Esq. This public honour conferred on him was also an effusion of gratitude, for he was supposed to have written the Earl of Bute, who was both a Scotsman and a favourite, out of power, and to have resisted and explained the illegality of general warrants. Besides, he fought a bloodless duel with Earl Talbot, and was shot in the cause of liberty by Mr. Martin, of the treasury. All these were great weights in the scale of popularity, and, though Mr. Wilkes never attained the glory either of Admiral Vernon or the Duke of Cumberland, yet his visage has filled many a sign-post, and much ale and gin has been sold under his auspices.
These are the last whom the people of Great Britain have thought worthy of being so honoured ; and though the thing itself may seem ludicrous, yet the tale has a moral, by no means flattering to the well-wishers of this country. We have been now for five years employed in attempting to reduce our rebellious colonies; we have been two years at war with France, and one with Spain; many troops have been raised, many millions have been expended ; expeditions without number have been planned and supported, and the most powerful fleets have been fitted out that the coasts and dock-yards of England ever beheld ; yet, during this long period, with so many opportunities and so much force, we have not an admiral whose head would sell a single can of flip, nor a general whose full length would procure custom for an additional pot of porter.
That this expression of public gratitude may be sometimes misplaced, I will by no means deny; but still, this tribute paid by the people is more likely than any other circumstance to be a sure proof of real merit. The sovereign may be misinformed as
to the deservings of those whom he is pleased to honour; and although, in the present reign, no substantial mark of unmerited favour has been conferred, yet everybody remembers the late General Blakeney, who gave up Minorca, made a lord for defending it, merely to support a sinking administration. What reliance can be had on the thanks of parliament as a proof of public merit, may be learned from the answer of a gallant sea-officer, not an admiral, who, upon being told that the House of Commons meant to give him thanks for his intrepid and successful conduct on the coast of France, swore if they did he would instantly resign his commission.
Perhaps at that time some recent instance of party injustice and partiality had brought the thanks of parliament into disrepute; but, be that
may, I shall never think our affairs, either by sea or land, in a prosperous condition, till I see the sign-posts of England filled with fresh figures of generals and admirals. When that happens, it will be a sure proof that our affairs have taken a favourable turn, and that some of our commanders have, at last, acted in a manner suitable to the troops and treasure with which, from the beginning of this war, they have all been so liberally supplied.
No. 83. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 1780.
In a paper published at Edinburgh, it would be improper to enter into any comparison of the writers of this country with those on the other side of the Tweed; but, whatever be the comparative rank of Scottish and English authors, it must surely be allowed, that, of late, there have been writers in this country, upon different subjects, who are possessed of very considerable merit. In one species of writing, however, in works and compositions of humour, there can be no sort of doubt that the English stand perfectly unrivalled by their northern neighbours. The English excel in comedy; several of their romances are replete with the most humorous representations of life and character, and many of their other works are full of excellent ridicule. But, in Scotland, we have hardly any book which aims at humour, and of the very few which do, still fewer have any degree of merit. Though we have tragedies written by Scots authors, we have no comedy, excepting Ramsey's Gentle Shepherd; and though we have tender novels, we have none of humour, excepting those of Smollet, who, from his long residence in England, can hardly be said to have acquired in this country his talent for writing ; nor can we, for the same reason, lay a perfect claim to Arbuthnot, who is still a more illustrious exception to my general remark. There must be something in the national genius of the two people which makes this remarkable difference in their writings,