صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

mean vicious people, by their dexterity in that art, might not arrive at great riches, and sometimes keep our very nobles in dependance, as well as habituate them to vile companions; wholly take them from the improvement of their minds, and force them, by the losses they * received, to learn and practise that infamous dexterity upon others.

He was perfectly astonished, with the historical account I gave him of our affairs, during the last century; protesting it was only a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and anbition could produce.

His majesty, in another audience, was at the pains to recapitulate the sum of all I had spoken ; compared the questions he made, with the answers I had given; then taking me into his hands, and stroking nie gently, delivered himself in these words, which I shall never forget, nor the manner he spoke them in : My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyrick upon your country; you have clearly proved, that ignorance, idleness, and vice, are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator ; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied, by those, whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them. I observe among you some lines of an institution, which in its original might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions. It does not appear, from all you have said, how any

* Receiving a loss, is certainly not a good expression; it should be, the losses they sustained.'

one

one perfection is required, toward the procurement of any one station among you; much less, that '

men are ennobled, on account of their virtue ; that priests are advanced, for their piety or learning ; soldiers, for their conduct or valour ; judges, for their integrity ; senators, for the love of their country; or counsellors, for their wisdom. As for yourself, continued the king, who have spent the

greatest part

of

your life in travelling, I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have escaped many vices of your country. But by what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains * wringed and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be, the most pernicious race of little odious vermin, that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.

CHAP. VII.

The author's love of his country. He makes a pro

posal of much advantage to the king, which is rejected. The king's great ignorance in politicks. The learning of that country very imperfect and confined. The laws, and military affairs, and parties in the

state.

NOTHING but an extreme love of truth, could have hindered me from concealing this part

of

my

* Instead of wringed, it should have been, 'wrung.' L 3

story.

story. It was in vain to discover my resentments, which were always turned into ridicule; and I was forced to rest with patience, while my noble and beloved country, was so injuriously treated. I am as heartily sorry as any of my readers can possibly be, that such an occasion was given : but this prince happened to be so curious and inquisitive upon every particular, that it could not consist either with gratitude or good manners, to refuse giving him what satisfaction I was able. Yet thus much I may

be allowed to say in my own vindication, that I artfully eluded many of his questions, and gave to every point a more favourable turn, by many degrees, than the strictness of truth would allow. For I have always born that laudable partiality to my own country, which Dionysius Halicarnassensis, with so much justice, recommends to an historian: I would hide the frailties and deformities of my political mother, and place her virtues and beauties in the most advantageous light. This was my sincere endeavour, in those many discourses I had with that monarch, although it unfortunately failed of success.

But great allowances should be given to a king, who lives wholly secluded from the rest of the world, and must therefore be altogether unacquainted with the manners and customs, that most prevail in other nations : the want of which knowledge, will ever produce many prejudices, and a certain narrowness of thinking, from which, we, and the politer countries of Europe, are wholly exempted. And it would be hard indeed, if so remote a prince's notions of virtue and vice, were to be offered as a standard for all mankind. To confirm what I have now said, and farther to show the miserable effects of a confined education, I shall here insert a passage, which will hardly obtain belief. In hopes to ingratiate myself farther into his majesty's favour, I told him of an invention, discovered between three and four hundred years ago, to make a certain powder, into a heap of which, the smallest spark of fire falling, would kindle the whole in a moment, although it were as big as a mountain, and make it all fly up in the air together, with a noise and agitation greater than thunder. That a proper quantity of this powder rammed into a hollow tube of brass or iron, according to its bigness, would drive a ball of iron or lead, with such violence and speed, as nothing was able to sustain its force. That the largest balls thus discharged, would not only destroy whole ranks of an army at once, but batter the strongest walls to the ground, sink down ships, with a thousand men in each, to the bottom of the sea; and when linked together by a chain, would cut through masts and rigging, divide hundreds of bodies in the middle, and lay all waste before them. That we often put this powder into large hollow balls of iron, and discharged them by an engine into some city we were besieging, which would rip up the

pavements, tear the houses to pieces, burst and throw splinters on every side, dashing out the brains of all who came near. That I knew the ingredients very well, which were cheap and common; I understood the manner of compounding them, and could direct his workmen how to make those tubes, of a size proportionable to all other things in his majesty's kingdom, and the largest need not be above a hundred feet long ; twenty or thirty of which tubes, charged with the proper quantity of powder and balls, would L 4

batter virtues

batter down the walls of the strongest town in his dominions, in a few hours, or destroy the whole metropolis, if ever it should pretend to dispute his absolute commands. This I humbly offered to his majesty, as a small tribute of acknowledgment, in return of so many marks that I had received, of his royal favour and protection.

The king was struck with horrour at the description I had given of those terrible engines, and the proposal I had made. He was amazed, how so impotent and groveling an insect as I, (these were his expressions) could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner, as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation, which I had painted, as the common effects of those destructive machines ; whereof, he said, some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first contriver. As for himself, he protested, that although few things delighted him so much, as new discoveries in art or in nature, yet he would rather lose half his kingdom, than be privy to such a secret ; which he commanded me, as I valued my life, never to mention any

more.

A strange effect of narrow principles and views ! that a prince possessed of every quality which procures veneration, love, and esteem ; of strong parts, great wisdom, and profound learning, endowed with admirable talents, and almost adored by his subjects, should, from a nice unnecessary scruple, whereof in Europe we can have no conception, let slip an opportunity put into his hands, that would have made him absolute master of the lives, the liberties, and the fortunes of his people. Neither do I say this, with the least intention to detract from the many

« السابقةمتابعة »