صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

tion, is always inspired by the despair of rendering our. selves illustrious; we boast of what we have, and despise what we have not. This is the necessary effect of pride ; and we should rebel against it, were we not its dupes. Helvetius.

CXL. Reason.-Without reason, as on a tempestuous sea, we are the sport of every wind and wave, and know not, till the event hath determined it, how the next billow will dispose of us; whether it will dash us against a rock, or drive us into a quiet harbour.-Lucas on Happiness.

CXLI. Idleness. The worst vices, springing from the worst principles, the excesses of the libertine, and the outrages of the plunderer, usually take their rise from early and unsubdued idleness.—Parr's Discourse on Education.

. CXLII. Evils of Individual Accumulation. The accumulation of that power which is conferred by wealth, in the hands of the few, is the perpetual source of oppression and ne. glect to the mass of mankind. The power of the wealthy is farther concentrated by their tendency to combination, from which, number, dispersion,'indigence, and ignorance, equally preclude the poor. The wealthy are formed into bodies by their professions, their different degrees of opulence called ranks, their knowledge, and their small number. They necessarily, in all countries, administer government; for they alone have skill and leisure for its functions. Thus circumstanced, nothing can be more evident than their inevitable preponderance in the politi. cal scale. The preference of partial to general interests

is, however, the greatest of all public evils. It should, therefore, have been the object of its laws to repress this malady; but it has been their perpetual tendency to ag. gravate it. Not content with the inevitable inequality of fortune, they have superadded to it honorary and political distinctions. Not content with the inevitable tendency of the wealthy to combine, they have imbodied them in classes. They have fortified those conspiracies against the ge. neral interest, which they ought to have resisted, though they could not disarm. Laws, it is said, cannot equalize men. No: but ought they, for that reason, to aggravate the inequality which they cannot cure? Laws cannot in. spire unmixed patriotism; but ought they, for that reason, to foment that corporation spirit which is its most fatal enemy?-Sir James Mackintosh-Vindicæ Gallicæ. ;

CXLIII. Indolence.-Inconsistent soul that man is!-languish. ing under wounds which he has power to heal !-his whole life a contradiction to his knowledge !-his reason, that precious gift of God to him, (instead of pouring in oil) serving but to sharpen his sensibilities, to multiply his pains, and render him more melancholy and uneasy under them -Poor unhappy creature, that he should do so! Are not the necessary causes of misery in this life enow, but he must add voluntary ones to his stock of sorrow; struggle against evils which cannot be avoided, and submit to others, which a tenth part of the trouble they create him would remove from his heart for ever?-Sterne.

CXLIV. Titles.-A titled nobility is the most undisputed progeny of feudal barbarism. Titles had, in all ages, denoted

offices : it was reserved for Gothic Europe to attach them to ranks; yet this conduct of our remote ancestors admits explanation; for, with them, offices were hereditary, and hence the titles denoting them became hereditary too. But we, who have rejected hereditary offices, retain a usage to which it gave rise, and which it alone could jus. tify. So egregiously is this recent origin of titled nobili. ty misconceived, that it has even been pretended to be necessary to the order and existence of society: a narrow and arrogant bigotry, which would limit all political remark to the Gothic states of Europe, or establish gene. ral principles on events that occupy so short a period of history, and manners that have been adopted by so slender a portion of the human race. A titled nobility was equally unknown to the splendid monarchies of Asia, and to the manly simplicity of the ancient common. · wealths. It arose from the peculiar circumstances of mo

dern Europe; and yet its necessity is now erected on the basis of universal experience, as if these other renowned and polished states were effaced from the records of his. tory, and banished from the society of nations. “Nobili. ty is the Corinthian capital of polished states.” The au. gust fabric of society is deformed and encumbered by such Gothic ornaments. The massy Doric that sustains it is labour, and the splendid variety of arts and talents that solace and'embellish life, form the decorations of its Corinthian and Ionic capitals.—Sir James Mackintosh Vindicæ Gallicæ.

cxLv. Reform needs Agitation.- Power vegetates with more vigour after gentle purgings. A slender reform amuses and lulls the people the popular enthusiasm subsides,

and the moment of effectual reform is irretrievably lost, No important political improvement was ever obtained in a period of tranquillity. The corrupt interest of the go. vernment is so strong, and the cry of the people so feeble, that it were vain to expect it. If the effervescence of the popular mind is suffered to pass away without effect, it would be absurd to expect from languor what enthusi. asm has not obtained. If radical reform is not, at such a moment, procured, all partial changes are evaded or de. feated in the tranquillity that succeeds. The gradual reform that arises from the presiding principle exhibited in the specious theory of Mr. Burke, is belied by the experience of all ages. Whatever excellence, whatever freedom is discoverable in governments, has been infused into them by the shock of a revolution, and their subsequent progress has been only the accumulation of abuse. It is hence that the most enlightened politicians have recog. nised the necessity of frequently recalling governments to their first principles. Whatever is good ought to be pursued at the moment it is attainable. The public voice, irresistible in a period of convulsion, is contemned with impunity, when directed by that lethargy into which na. tions are lulled by the tranquil course of their ordinary affairs. The ardour of reform languishes in unsupport. ed tediousness. It perishes in an impotent struggle with adversaries, who receive new strength from the progress of the day. No hope of great political improvement (let us repeat it) is to be entertained from tranquillity, for its natural operation is to strengthen all those who are interested in perpetuating abuse. The only apparent exception to this principle is, the case where sovereigns make important concessions to appease discontent, and to avert convulsion. This, however, rightly understood,

is no exception, for it arises evidently from the same causes, acting at a period less advanced in the progress of popular interposition.-Ibid.

[ocr errors]

1. Improvability of Governments.Who will be hardy enough to assert that a better constitution is not attain. able than any which has hitherto appeared? Is the limit of human wisdom to be estimated, in the science of politics alone, by the extent of its present attainments? Is the inost sublime and difficult of all arts--the improvement of the social order, the alleviation of the miseries of the civil condition of man-to be alone stationary, amid the rapid progress of every other art, liberal and vulgar, to perfection? Where would be the atrocious guilt of a grand experiment, to ascertain the portion of freedom and happiness that can be created by political institutions?-Ibid.

CXLVII. Before and after Dinner.-Before dinner, men meet with great inequality of understanding; and those who are conscious of their inferiority, have the modesty not to talk: when they have drunk wine, every man feels himself happy, and loses that modesty, and grows impu. dent and vociferous; but he is not improved; he is only not sensible of his defects.-Johnson.

[ocr errors]

Humanity.—The most eloquent speaker, the most ingenious writer, and the most accomplished statesman, cannot effect so much as the mere presence of the man who

« السابقةمتابعة »