Monthly Archives: April 2007

Item of the Day: Inchiquin, The Jesuit Letters (1810)

Full Title:  Inchiquin, the Jesuit Letters, During A Late Residence in the United States of America:  Being a Fragment of A Private Correspondence, Accidentally Discovered in Europe Containing  a Favourable View of the Manners, Literature, and State of Society, of the United States, And a Refutation of Many of the Aspersions Cast upon this Country, by Former Residents and Tourists.  By Some Unknown Foreigner (Charles Jarred Ingersoll), New York:  Printed and Published by I. Riley, 1810.

Letter VII.

From Inchiquin.

Dated at Washington.

Though the literature of this country seems to have incurred the scorn of Europe, there certainly are two works, which as literary compositions on national subjects, are at least comparable, if not superior to any that have appeared in Europe since the independence of the United States:  I mean Mr. Barlow’s epic and Mr. Marshall’s history; of which, as they have been grossly misrepresented by what are called the critics of Europe, I propose, in this letter, to take a transient review.

To begin with the Columbiad, of which the American press has just put forth a splendid edition, ornamented with rich engravings, and executed altogether in such a style as to place it decidedly at the head of American typography.  The poet with a venial, if not a laudable partiality, has himself contributed larges sums from his private fortune to the embellishment of this work, which does great honour to its author and his country; yet I cannot help regretting that so excellent, dispassionate and benevolent a writer did not bestow the time, talents and expense appropriated to poetry, on some theme better suited to his genius, and which might have been more extensively useful.  Mr. Barlow is yet only a living poet, and fame seldom gives the whole scope of her clarion but to the dead.  He has every reason to be satisfied with his ltierary rank; though his pen is probably capable of productions superior to the Columbiad.

Poetry is so much the language of nature, that almost every youth of any fancy ventures a flight into its realms, but so exclusively the prerogative of a peculiar genius, that from the age of Miriam down to these unharmonious days, the number of its elect is extremely precious.  “Many have been called but few chosen.”  The facilities of [printing have added to the number of poets, without improving their melody or sublimity.  Smoothness of numbers, regularity of measure, skillfulness in short in the business of rhyming, are more common since the invention of types:  but when we see all these prerequisites so frequently combined without creating a captivating or lasting poem, the inference is so much the stronger that genuine poetry is the offspring of a native genius.  Of the great quantity of literary matter afloat good poetry constitutes a small proportion.  By poetry I mean not generally the language of harmony or fiction, but a metrical disposition of articulate sounds varying according to the taste of different nations, but so distinguished from all other writings as to be universally designated poetry.

Of all others the epic is that department of the divine art, which fewest have successfully attempted.  Lyrical, dramatic, satiric, didactic, and other species, have had their shrines crowded with votaries, and with some, of almost all ages, who have been distinguished.  But the epic poem is universally allowed to be of all poetical works most dignified, and at the same time most difficult of execution.  An epic poem, the critics agree, is the greatest work nature is capable of, and genius is its first qualification.  Many nations celebrated for learning and refinement have flourished for centuries, without producing an epic poem; and one, perhaps the most enlightened of modern nations, after remaining till a very late era without this honour, seems at last to have made the effort, only to show its incapacity to accomplish it.  Critically speaking, Homer, Virgil and Milton occupy exclusively this illustrious quarter of parnassus, and time alone can determine whether Barlow shall be seated with them.

The design of the Columbiad is vast and bold, more so than any other except Milton’s.  The discovery of a new world, involving all the noble images arising out of the first passage of the Atlantic ocean, affords a broader foundation for the sublime than any poet, except Milton, ever built upon.   And the subject being national and even political, adds considerable interest to its essential grandeur.  The conquest of America, its magnificent rivers, stupendous mountains, immense wealth, and the avultion of these states from their mother country, afford as fruitful and fine an argument, as could be imagined for epic operation.  But the story of the Columbiad is at once one of the noblest and the most arduous that could have been essayed.  To make men heroes, they should be exhibited through the magnifying medium of time; for familiar characters and recent dates are hard to fashion to the epic standard.

The moral interwoven with the story is unexceptionably beautiful; and in respect to design and moral, the poem may be pronounced perfect.  It is difficult for a lover of the Iliad and Eneid to subscribe to Mr. Barlow’s opinion, that they are calculated to provoke wars and sustain tyrannies; though it may be admitted that they are not such systematic inculcations, as the Columbiad, of peace, virtue and the amelioration of mankind. When we reflect that Mr. Barlow has lived through the most tempestuous epoch of politics, that he participated in the revolution of is own country, and was a zealous coadjutor to the revolution in France, that he has always professed very decided sentiments relative to these thorny topics, and that, like other men, he must have his prepossessions and antipathies connected with them, it is impossible to applaud too highly the candour and impartiality with which he has treated the living personages and contested principles introduced into his poem.  In benevolence and liberality he is pre-eminent.  The good of mankind, much more than their pleasure, seems to have been the end of his work: and with a strength of reason and abstraction from all prejudice, worthy so glorious a purpose, he pursues his aim in a strain purely and truly philosophical.  There are many philosophising poets, and those who blend the useful with the sweet:  but where shall we find a poem, in which the best interests of humanity are as steadily kept in view, or displayed with as much fascination, as in the Columbiad?


Leave a comment

Filed under 1810's, Early Republic, Poetry, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: The Trial of Elizabeth Dutchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy (1776)

Full Title:  The Trial of Elizabeth Dutchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy before the Right Honourable The House of Peers, in Westminster-Hall, in Full Parliament, on Monday the 15th, Tuesday the 16th, Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th, and Monday the 22d of April, 1776; on the last of which Days the said Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was found Guilty.  Published by Order of the House of Peers.  London:  Printed for Charles Bathurst, in Fleet-Street.  M.DCC.LXXVI.

Monday, April the 15th, 1776.

In the Court erected in Westminster-Hall, for the Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy.

About ten of the clock the Lords came from their own House into the Court erected in Westminster Hall, for the Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston, in the Manner following:

The Lord High Steward’s Gentlemen Attendants, Two and Two.

The Clerks Assistant to the House of Lords, and the Clerk of the Parliament.

Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, bearing the King’s Commission to the Lord High Steward, and the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench.

The Masters in Chancery, Two and Two.

The Judges, Two and Two.

The Peers eldest Sons, Two and Two.

Peers Minors, Two and Two.

Chester and Somerset Heralds.

Four Serjeants at Arms with their Maces, Two and Two.

The Yeoman Usher of the House.

The Barons, Two and Two, beginning with the youngest Baron.

The Bishops, Two and Two.

The Viscounts and other Peers, Two and Two.

The Lord Privy Seal and Lord President.

The Archbishop of York and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Four Serjeants at Arms and their Maces, Two and Two.

The Serjeant at Arms attending the Great Seal, and Purse-Bearer.

Then Garter King at Arms, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod carrying the White Staff before the Lord High Steward.

Henry Earl Bathurst, Chancellor of Great Britain, Lord High Steward, alone, his Train Borne.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, his Train borne.

The Lords being placed in their proper Seats, and the Lord High Steward upon the Woolpack, the House was resumed.

The Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, having his Majesty’s Commission to the Lord High Steward in his Hand, and the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench, standing before the Clerk’s Table with their Faces towards the State, made Three Reverences; the First at the Table, the Second in the Midway, and the third near the Woolpack, then kneeled down; and the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, on his Knee, presented the Commission to the Lord High Steward, who delivered the same to the Clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench to read:  Then rising, they made Three Reverences, and returned to the Table.  And then Proclamation was made for Silence, in this Manner:

Serjeant at Arms.  Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!  Our Sovereign Lord the King strictly charges and commands all Manner of Persons to keep Silence, upon Pain of imprisonment.

Then the Lord High Steward stood up, and spoke to the Peers.

Lord High Steward.  His Majesty’s commission is about to be read:  Your Lordships are desired to attend to it in the usual Manner; and all others are likewise to stand up uncovered while the Commission is reading.

All the Peers uncovered themselves; and they, and all others, stood up uncovered, while the Commission was read.

George R.

George the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, and so forth.  To our Right Trusty and Right well-beloved Cousin and Counsellor Henry Earl Bathurst, our Chancellor of Great Britain, greeting.  Know ye, that whereas Elizabeth the Wife of August John Hervey, late of the Parish of Saint George, Hanover Square, in our County of Middlesex, Esquire, before our Justices of Oyer and Terminer, at Hick’s Hall, in Saint John-Street, in and for Our County of Middlesex, upon the Oath of Twelve Jurors, good and lawful Men of the said County of Middlesex, then and there sworn and charged to enquire for Us for the Body of the said County, stands indicted of Polygamy and feloniously marrying Evelyn Pierrepont late Duke of Kingston, she being married, and the wife of the said August John Hervey:  We, considering that Justice is an excellent Virtue, and pleasing to the Most High, and being willing that the said Elizabeth, of and for the Felony whereof she is indicted as aforesaid, before Us, in Our present Parliament, according to the Law and Custom of Our Kingdom of Great Britain, may be heard, examined, sentenced, and adjudged; and that all other Things which are necessary in this Behalf may be duly exercised and executed; and for that the Office of High Steward of Great Britain, (whose Presence in this Behalf is required) is now vacant (as We are informed) We, very much confiding in your fidelity, Prudence, provident circumspection, and industry, have for this Cause ordained and constituted you Steward of Great Britain, to hear, execute, and exercise for this Time and said Office, with all Things due and belonging to the same Office in this Behalf:  And therefore We command you, that you diligently set about the Premises, and for this Time do exercise and execute with Effect all those Things which belong to the Office of Steward of Great Britain, and which are required in this Behalf.  In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.  Witness Ourself at Westminster the Fifteenth Day of April, in the Sixteenth Year of Our Reign.

By the KING Himself, signed with his own Hand.   YORKE.

Serjeant at Arms.  God save the King!

Then Garter, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, after Three Reverences, kneeling, jointly presented the white Staff to his Grace the Lord High Steward:  And then his Grace, attended by Garter, Block Rod, and the Purse-Bearer (making his proper Reverences towards the Throne) removed from the Woolpack to an armed Chair, which was placed on the uppermost Step but one of the throne, as it was prepared for that Purpose; and then seated himself in the Chair, and delivered the Staff to the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod on his Right Hand, the Purse-Bearer holding the Purse on his Left.

Clerk of the Crown.  Serjeant at Arms, make Proclamation.

Serjeant at Arms.  Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Our Sovereign Lord the King strictly charges and commands all manner of Persons to keep Silence, upon Pain of Imprisonment.

. . .

Lord High Steward.


You stand indicted for having married a Second Husband, your First Husband being living.

A Crime so destructive of the Peace and Happiness of private Families, and so injurious in its Consequences to the Welfare and good Order of Society, that by the Statute Law of this Kingdom it was for many Years (in your Sex) punishable with Death; the Lenity, however, of later Times has substituted a milder Punishment in its Stead.

This Consideration must necessarily tend to lessen the Perturbation of our Spirits upon this awful occasion.

But that, Madam! which, next to the inward feelings of your own conscience, will afford you most comfort is, reflecting upon the Honour, the Wisdom, and the Candour of the High Court of criminal Jurisdiction.

It is, Madam, by your particular Desire that you now stand at that Bar:  You were not brought there by any Prosecutor.

In your Petition to the Lords, praying for a speedy Trial, you assumed the Title of Duchess Dowager of Kingston, and it was by that Title that the Court of King’s Bench admitted you to Bail; in your Petition you likewise averrred, that Augustus John Hervey, whose Wife the Indictment charges you with being, is at this Time Earl of Bristol:  Upon examining their Records the Lords were satisfied of the Truth of the Averrment; and have accordingly allowed you the Privilege you petitioned for, of being tried by your Peers in full Parliament, and from them you will be sure to meet with nothing but Justice tempered with Humanity. . . .

Lord High Steward.  Madam, your Ladyship will do well to give Attention, while you are arriagned on your Indictment.

Then Proclamation was made for Silence.

After which Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was arraigned, in the Form of the said Indictment against her, by the clerk of the Crown in the King’s Bench.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, England, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

Item of the Day: The Trial at Large of Thomas Paine (1792)

 Full Title:  The Trial at Large of Thomas Paine for a Libel, in The Second Part of Rights of Man. Before Lord Kenyon and a Special Jury, in the Court of King’s Bench, Guildhall, Dec. 18, 1792. By A Student or the Inner Temple.  London:  Printed for James Ridgway, York-Street, St. James’s Square.

Mr. Percival opened the pleadings on the part of the Crown.  he said, this was an information against Thomas Paine, for that he being a person of a wicked, malicious, and seditious disposition; and wishing to introduce disorder and confusion, and to cause it to be believed, that the Crown of this kingdom was contrary to the Rights of the Inhabitants of this kingdom; and to cause it to be believed also, that the Bill of Rights was a Bill of Wrongs and Insults; all tending to bring the government of this country into contempt, and endeavouring to cause it to be believed, that the Parliament of this country was openly corrupt in the face of day; and in order to withdraw the affection of the people of this kingdom, against the Law and Constitution of this country; that he, Thomas Paine, wishing and intending this mischief, did, on the 16th of February, 1791, wickedly, falsely, maliciously, scandalously, and seditiously publish a certain book, called Second Part of the Rights of Man, signed Thomas Paine, containing many false, wicked, scandalous, malicious, and seditious assertions; with which he should not trouble the Jury, as they would have them from the Attorney General.  The Defendant had pleaded Not Guilty, upon which issue was joined.

The Attorney General said, the Jury would permit him to state, in this stage of the proceeding, that in his mind a cause, which brought its own merit with it, a cause more plain, more clear, more certain, and indisputable, never came before a Court.  Was it not that certain circumstances had happened, and contributed to make the book in question an object of considerable magnitude, and rendered it important, he should at once propose reading the pages of the book, as they were included in the information, to the Jury, and then have left the case to be disposed by their good sense; but the particular mischief that naturally flowed from this wicked publication, had rendered it necessary for him to open the case in a fuller way than usual upon such occasions.  To speak of himself was what he had no delight in, and what could not be entertaining to the Jury; but as circumstances made it necessary, he hoped the Jury would forgive it.  A rumour had been spread, that this prosecution did not correspond with his private judgment.  To this he answered, that if he did not think this a fit object for prosecution, he should think such an opinion disqualified him from holding the office he now filled, he would be degraded in the estimation of every professional man, and he ought to be despised if he felt any unwillingness to bring this enormous case before a Jury of this Country.

This was not the first of the kind which this defendant had thought fit to published against Government.  He was not, perhaps, warranted in not bringing the first before the Gentlemen of the Jury.  He passed it by, however, as it was ushered into the world in that shape, that it was likely to fall only into the hands of tolerably informed persons, who would have the sense to see the poison, and consequently would be able to apply the antidote, and refute it as they went along; but when another appeared in a smaller size, printed on white-brown paper, and thrust into the hands of all persons, of all ages, sexes, and conditions: they were even wrapped up with sweetmeats for children.  Such were the steps that had been taken to forward the publication, and he did what his duty demanded of him, he filed an information against the defendant the first day of the succeeding term, putting the queestion upon record, which they, the Jury had to try.

What it was that was the intention of this man by these publications, would not be matter of difficulty for the Jury to discover; it was manifested by every test that could apply to the explanation of a man’s intention, and the Jury would have to say, whether they were not satisfied that the whole of the book in question did not deserve the flame which had been imputed to it by the information.  It was written with a view to villify, degrade, and to bring into abhorrence and contempt all the establishments of this country in all the departments of the state.  The whole of the book, the Jury would see, was artfully written for the purpose for which it was intended, namely to make the lower orders of society disaffected to Government, and it was the most gross artifice that ever imposed upon the credulous part of mankind.  It was all written in the dogmatical manner.  It consisted of so many ready made propositions; without regard to truth, and without the least application to circumstances, and also without the least reasoning or deduction whatever; addressed to men who were very properly anxious about their rights, but who, from too little knowledge of our Constitution, and from being too little habituated to reflection, were easily imposed upon by shallow artifice,  and when these honest, but deluded men, came to be persuaded, that they were deprived by the despotic temper of government of Rights, to which they were certainly intitled, it was a matter of no wonder they should manifest an abhorrence at the whole fabric.  He defied any man to shew a system capable of creating more mischief than this book.   It stated that the regular system of our legislation was inherently corrupt, that the Legislature altogether was, without a single exception, grounded upon usurpation; that this usurped authority framed what was called law, but that in reality there was scarcely such a thing as law in the country.  thus ten or twelve millions of people were told they were governed by usurpation; and that of course, as there was no such thing as law, each individual would be left to govern all his actions by his own partial notions of moral duty.  Were we indeed to follow these doctrines?  Were we to fall into a lawless banditti?  Were we to be reduced back again into a savage state of nature, where man was the enemy of man, where all his faculties were useless, except strength and cunning?  Were we to return to this state?  The Jury knew what the answer was to these questions.  What was to be said to a man who would thus, with a general sweep take away all law, or the force of all law, by asserting that all laws which had been hitherto made, are null and void; this sort of artifice was very  gross, it was true, but it did not appear so to those who could not detect the artifice.  Objections too were stated in this book to Monarchy, in general terms, without one word being said of its advantages.  The power of the Aristocracy was objected to, but not a word was said about the Democratic part of our Constitution.  It was well known that England had a powerful Democracy, but not a word of that, because it would not make the lower classes of the people discontented; this was the common artifice; and artifice so very shallow, that some people might wonder perhaps at the success of it; but to whom were these things addressed?  To the ignorant, the credulous, and the desperate — the latter were naturally the enemies of all government, order, or regularity; every restraint was irksome to them, and nothing was so plausible or convincing to them, even upon the point of propriety, as to inform them we shall have no government at all; the others were easily to be imposed upon, and made the dupes of the crafty and designing, who might chuse to deceive them.

1 Comment

Filed under 1790's, England, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

Item of the Day: Gordon’s Sallust (1744)

Full Title:

The Works of Sallust, Translated into English. With Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a Translation of Cicero’s Four Orations Against Catiline. [Trans. T. Gordon.] Printed in London for T. Woodward, and J. Peele, sold by J. Osborn at the Golden Bell in Pater-noster Row, 1744.

From the translator’s Introduction:

An able Writer not only gives, but enforces, his own Meaning: His Manner is as significant as his Words, and therefore becomes Part of his Sentiments. It is thus in Speaking as well as Writing: The liveliest Speech in the World, rehearsed by a heavy Man, will sound heavily. What moved, and fired, and charmed the Audience, out of one Mouth, would put them to Sleep out of another. An Oration of Demosthenes, repeated like a Lease by a Clerk; or one of Cicero‘s, pronounced by a Pedant; instead of Rage and Terror, would rouse Laughter and Impatience.

Who can discover the Ardour and Vivacity of Horace, in the Version of Monsieur D’Acier? Yet D’Acier knew, as well as any Man, the Meaning of every Word in Horace, with all his Figures, Allusions, and References.

Plutarch, the entertaining judicious Plutarch, is a dry Writer, as translated by the same D’Acier, though accurately translated: Plutarch, translated by Amyot, is an entertaining, a pleasing Author: Yet, in Amyot‘s Translation, there are numberless Mistakes: A French Critic, and a very learned Man, Monsieur Meziriac, reckons them at Two thousand, all very gross ones. D’Acier‘s is an exact Translation of Plutarch‘s Words: Amyot is a Copy of Plutarch himself; resembles his Author, and writes as well. Amyot is a Genius: D’Acier is a learned Man.

I am much concerned to see so learned and useful a Writer as Plutarch, make so ill a Figure in English: Most of his Lives are poorly Englished; nor is bad Language the worst Fault: They are full of egregious Blunders. Several of them are ill translated from Amyot, by such as understood not French. Many of the instructive Pieces, called his Morals, have fared as ill. A good Translation of all his Works would be a valuable Performance.

Who would not rather read a Discourse of Archbiship Tillotson‘s upon any ordinary Subject, though ever so full of Inaccuracies, than a learned Dissertation of the correct Mr. Thomas Hearn on the best Subject?

I doubt no Work of Genius can be well translated, but by an Author of Genius; and therefore, there can never be many tolerable Translations in the World. Cicero, in translating the noblest Greek Writers, has excelled them all: Cicero was a good Translator, because he was a great Genius.

Terence is only a Translator; but he had fine Taste, Politeness, and Parts, and a Genius for Comedy and genteel Conversation. This was his great Qualification: His Knowlege of the two Languages only helped him to shew it. He might have had great Skill in both, without success, or Fame, as a Comic Poet. Terence translated Comedy with Applause, becasue he had a fine Genius for Comedy. He himself is shamefully travestied by Sir Roger L’Estrange, and Dr. Echard, and much gross Ribaldry fathered upon so pure and polite a Writer.

Mr. Hobbes has translated the Historian Thucydides well; for Mr. Hobbes had equal Talents for History: But he has ill translated Homer, though he well understood Homer; for he had not equal Talents for Poetry. Mr. Dryden, with all his Faults, and many unwarrantable Freedoms, has mad a fine Translation of Virgil, because he was as great a Poet as Virgil; indeed, a great and various Poet: We have Poems of his, such as, I think, Virgil could not write; one Ode particularly, equal, if not superior, to any in Antiquity.

Many of the Speeches and brightest Passages in Lucan, are rendered by Mr. Row with an equal Force, in a Language so unequal, because he had a Genius as warm and poetical as Lucan; though Lucan, with infinite Sinkings, has infinite Elevation, and many glorious Lines.

I have often wished, that such a fine Genius as Dr. Burnet of the Charter-house, had translated Livy. He had grave and grand Conceptions, with harmonious flowing Periods, equal to those of the great Roman Historian. Sir Walter Raleigh would have still done it better, as he was a wonderful Master of such Subjects, and wonderfully qualified to represent them. Many Parts of his History of the World are hardly to be matched, never to be exceeded; particularly his Relation of the second Punic War; where he recounts the Conduct of the Roman and Carthaginian Commonwealths, and of their several Commanders, especially of Hannibal, with surprising Capacity, Clearness, and Force.

There occurs to me one Passage out of the English Livy, which will shew what Justice we have done that noble and elegant Writer. A great Officer says to a Roman General in the Field, (I think he calls him Sir, too) ‘Whilst you stand Shilly-shally here, as a Man may say, the Enemy will tread upon your Toes.’ Could a Groom of that General have used meaner Language to a Fellow Groom? I give the Passage upon Memory—-The Words are either Shilly-shally, or with your Hands in your Pockets, or both.

A Writer of Genius, translated by one who has none, or a mean one, will appear meanly. Even the Meaning of every Word may be conveyed, yet the Meaning of the Writer missed or mangled. It is in Translating, as in Painting: Where the Air, the Spirit, and Dignity of the Original are wanting, Resemblance is wanting. To be able to translate, a Man must be able to do something like what he translates.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1740's, Greek/Roman Translations, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Roman Empire

Item of the Day: Trial of Louis XVI (1793)

Full Title:  Proceedings of the French National Convention on the Trial of Louis XVI. Late King of France and Navarre; To Which Are Added, Several Interesting Occurrences and Particulars Attending the Treatment, Sentence, and Execution of the Ill-Fated Monarch; The Whole Carefully collected from Authentic Documents, and Republished with Additions, from the Paper of The World by Joseph Trapp, A.M.   London: Printed for the Author; Sold by Messrs. Murray, Kearsley, and Wenman and co. Fleet-street; Ridgeway, York-street, St. James’s; Deighton, Holborn; Downes, and McQueen, Strand; and at the World Office, 1793.

 From pp. 53 – 58

I  shall now state the proceedings of the Convention before the King was permitted to be at the bar.  Barrere was the member who occupied the chair as President.

In the beginning of this sitting, which will ever be memorable in the annals of history, Barbaroux presented the declaratory act of the crimes of Louis XVI. — On the motion of several members, various additions were made to the black catalogue of accusation, which, with the act, was passed a decree.  The members and tribunes were ordered to keep profound silence, and to express their sentiments neither by murmurs nor applause.  It was next decreed, that Louis XVI. should be immediately summoned to the Convention, and to wait for orders to be put to the bar.  It was next decreed that the series of questions to be asked of Louis, and which were presented by Valaze, in the name of the United Committees, should be suppressed, and that the whole act of accusation should be read to Louis XVI. article by article:  and that at the end of each charge, he should be asked — What have you to answer?  It was likewise decreed, on the motion of Fremont, that a chair should be put within the bar, and Louis permitted to sit down.  The convention were about entering on some other discussions, when Barrere, the President, rose and addressed the Convention.

President. — I inform the Assembly, that Louis is at the gate of the Feuillans.


“You are on the point of exercising the right of national justice; you made yourselves answerable to all the citizens, for the wise and firm conduct which you are to pursue on this momentous occasion.

“Europe observes you; history records your thoughts and actions; incorruptible posterity will judge you with inflexible severity.  Let your attitudes correspond with the new functions you are about to perform; impassibility and silence become judges; the dignity of your sitting ought to be responsible to the majesty of the French Nation; she is ready by your organ to give a great lesson to Kings, and to set an useful example for the emancipation of nations.

Citizens in the Tribunes.

You are associated with the glory and freedom of the nation you make a part of.  You know that justice presides only in quiet deliberations.  the National Convention reposes entirely in your devotion to your country, and in your respect towards the representations of the people.  The citizens of Paris will not forego this fresh opportunity of evincing the patriotism and the public spirit with which they are animated.  Let them only remember the awful silence which followed Louis, when he was brought back from Varennes — a precursory silence of the judgment of Kings by nations.

Half past Two o’clock.

General Santerre Commander in Chief of the Parisian Forces. — “I have the honour to inform you that I have put your decree in execution. — Louis Capet waits your orders.”

(Louis entered the bar, dressed in a yellow great coat, with firm countenance, attended by the Mayor, two Municipal Officers, and Generals Santerre and Witenkof.  The guards remained without the hall, and the most awful silence reigned throughout the Convention.)

President.– Louis, the French Nation accuses you.  The National Convention have decreed, on the 3d of December, that you should be judged by them; they have decreed on the 6th of December, that you shall be arraigned at their bar.  We are ready to read to you the declaratory act, of the crimes laid to your charge. — You may sit down.  (Louis sat down!)

[Here Mailhe, the Secretary, read the whole act; at every distinct charge, the president summoned Louis XVI. to answer each separate article.]

President. — “Louis, the French Nation accuses you of having committed a multitude of crimes to establish your tyranny, in destroying her freedom.  You have, on the 20th of June, 1789, attempted the sovereignty of the people, by suspending the assemblies of their representatives, and driving them with violence from the places of their sittings.  This is proved  in the Proces Veral set up at the Tennis-Court of Versailles by the members of the Constituent Assembly.  On the 23d of June you wanted to dictate laws to the nation — you surrounded their representatives with troops — you presented to them two royal declarations, subversive of all liberty, and ordered them to separate.  Your own declarations, and the minutes of the Assembly prove these attempts — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “No laws were then existing to prevent me from it.”

President. — “You ordered an army to march against the citizens of Paris.  Your satellites have spilt the blood of several of them, and you would not remove this army til the taking of the Bastille, and a general insurrection announced to you that the people were victorious.  The speeches you made on the 9th, 12th, and 14th of July, to the divers deputations of the constituent Assembly, shew what were your intentions; and the massacres of the Thuilleries rise in evidence against you. — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “I was master at that time to order the troops to march; but I never had an intention of spilling blood.”

President. — “After these events, and in spite of the promises which you made on the 15th, in the Constituent Assembly, and on the 17th in the Townhouse of Paris, you have persisted in your projects against national liberty; you have long eluded the execution of the decree of the 11th of August, respecting the abolition of personal servitude, the feudal government and tithes.  You have long refused acknowledging the rights of man; you have doubled the number of the life-guards, and called the regiment of Flanders to Versailles:  You have permitted, in orgies held before your eyes, the national cockade to be trampled under foot, the white cockade to be hoisted, and the nation to be blasphemed.  At last, you have rendered necessary a fresh insurrection; occasioned the death of several citizens, and not changed your language till after your guards had been defeated, when you renewed your perfidious promises.  The proofs of these facts are in your observations of the 18th of September, in the decrees of the 11th of August, in the minutes of the Constituent Assembly, the the events of Versailles, of the 5th and 6th of October, and in the conversation you had on the same day, with a deputation of the Constituent Assembly, when you told them, You would enlighten yourself with their councils, and never recede from them. — What have you to answer?

Louis. — “I have made the observations which I thought just on the two first heads.  As to the cockade, it is false:  it did not happen before me.”

President — “You have taken an oath, at the Federation of the 14th of July, which you did not keep.  You soon tried to corrupt the public opinion, with the assistance of Talon, who acted in Paris, and Mirabeau, who was to have excited counter-revolutionary movements in the provinces. — What have you to answer?”

Louis — “I do not recollect what happened at that time, but the whole is anterior to my acceptance of the Constitution.”

President — “You have lavished millions of money to effect this corruption, and you would even use popularity as a means of enslaving the people.  These facts are the result of a memorial of Talon, which you have made your marginal comments on in your own hand writing, and of a letter which Laporte wrote to you on the 19th of April, in which recapitulating a conversation he had with Rivarol, he told you, that the millions which you had been prevailed upon to throw away, had been productive of nothing.  For a long time you had meditated on a plan of escape.  A memorial was delivered to you on the 18th of February, which pointed out the means for you to effect it; you approve of it by marginal notes. — What have you to answer?”

Louis. — “I felt no greater pleasure, than that of relieving the needy — This proves no design.”

President. — On the 18th a great number of the nobles and military came into your apartments in the castle of the Thuilleries, to favour that escape; you wanted to quit Paris on the 10th of April to go to St. Cloud. — what have you to answer?

Louis. –“The accusation is absurd.”

President. — But the resistance of the citizens made you sensible that distrust was great; you endeavoured to discard it by communicating to the Constituent Assembly a letter which you addressed to the agents of the nation near foreign powers, to announce to them, that you had freely accepted the Constitutional Articles, which had been presented to you; and notwithstanding on the 21st you took flight with a false passport; you left behind a protest against these self-same Constitutional Articles.  You ordered the ministers to sign none of the acts issued by the National Assembly; and you forbid the minister of justice to deliver up the seals of states.  The public money was lavished to insure the success of this treachery, and the public force was to protect it, under the orders of Bouille, who shortly before had been charged with the massacre of Nancy, and to whom you wrote on this head, To take care of his popularity, because it would be of service to you.  These facts are proved by the memorial of the 23d of February, wth marginal comments in your own hand-writing:  by your declaration of the 20th of June, wholly in your own hand-writing: by your letter of the 4th of September, 1790, to Bouille; and by a note of the latter, in which he gives you an account of the use he made of 993,000 livres, given by you, and employed partly in the trepanning of the troops who were to escort you.  — What have you to answer?

Louis. — “I have no knowledge whatever of the memorial of the 23d of February.  As to what related to my journey to Varennes, I appeal to what I said to the Commissaries of the Constituent Assembly, at that period.”

1 Comment

Filed under 1790's, France, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Trials

Item of the Day: An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare (1775)

Full Title:  An Appendix to a Letter to Dr. Shebbeare. To Which are Added, Some Observations on a Pamphlet Entitled, Taxation no Tyranny: In Which the Sophistry of that Author’s Reasoning is Detected.  By A Doctor of Laws.  London:  Printed for J. Donaldson, Corner of Arundel Street, in the Strand.  MDCCLXXV.

 . . .

The block up of the Port of Boston, and ruining the trade of North America, by a law now proposed to be made to starve the Americans, by preventing their fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, appears to me to be such severity as to be inconsistent with the treatment a government owes a free people; especially when it is considered, that the pretence for this severity is only this, that they refuse to submit to a Tax imposed contrary to their charters and the privileges they have been in possession of for 200 years.  There was a motion made in a great assembly, that had the appearance of moderation, by a minister, some weeks ago, but had no meaning in the opinion of people of understanding, but to divide the provinces of America, the only way to ruin them one after another; for no man of understanding can believe, that a minister, capable of ruining a whole province, where some hundred thousands of his Majesty’s subjects dwell, and which has distinguished itself by its zeal to sever Great Britain against its enemies, because a mob there threw into the Sea some chests of Tea, can have any good intentions to any province in America, who will not submit themselves to his absolute will.  By which submission the fund of corruption must be increased, to destroy the liberties both of America and Great Britain; and we should soon see pensioners and placemen multiply in America, as they do here and in Ireland, in order to carry on the arbitrary views of a minister. . . .

I hear the people in America are so alarmed on hearing the intention of our ministry to send a great army and fleet against them, that they are raising an army of observation, to prevent their being under the absolute power of that army, as to their lives, liberties and properties.  I wish, that before we had sent that army, our ministry, if they really mean to make up that matters with America in a peaceful way, had first tried the inclination of the Americans as to what proposals they had to make; for using force on one side, naturally produces force on the other, especially when that force is sent by people who had shown no friendly disposition towards them; and that old saying of a Trojan, when the Greeks professed friendship to them, has been always thought wise, Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes.

I am told there has been a pamphlet published by one Becket, advancing a very extraordinary doctrine, viz. That it would be proper to impower the crown to raise taxes by its own authority, in times of necessity.  If this doctrine was approved by our parliament, our situation would be the same with that of Spain in Charles V. the emperor’s time, when the Cortez of Spain granted that power to the crown, under the pretence of necessity; which enabled the crown never to call a Cortez afterwards, for they always found out some cause of necessity for continuing that power.  I hear the house of peers have ordered that pamphlet to be burnt by the hands of the hangman — but is that sufficient punishment for an author, who durst advance a doctrine which at once destroys the British constitution, and establishes arbitrary power; which, as I have said before, I look upon as political damnation.  It appears how the Romans prized the least breathing by liberty, during the time of their emperors, by looking into Tacitus’s history of the reign of Trojan, which he calls Rara Tempora, when the Romans could speak or write what they thought, without being ruined by it:  for as the most part of those emperors were monsters of cruelty, so they persecuted every body who regarded virtue, and who did not approve of their vile actions.

Tavernier, the famous jeweller, who went round the globe oftener than once, and made a considerable fortune, at length bought an estate in Switzerland: afterwards being at the court of France, he was asked by Lewis XIV why he did not rather chuse to buy an estate in France, he made him this answer:  I chose to settle what I had acquired by so much pains-taking, in a country where I could call what I had my own, without its being in the power of any body to take it from me.

To conclude; I am so much of Tavernier’s opinion, that I would rather live in the wildest parts of the Highlands of Scotland, under our present happy constitution, than in the finest county of England, under an arbitrary prince.  And as I bore arms against the Pretender in 1715, in defence of the liberties and religion of my country, so I shall end life in wishing there may be always found a sufficient number of British subjects, who will be able to defend that happy constitution which that great prince king William put us in possession of, till time shall be no more — and for that purpose, hope some method shall be found to destroy luxury and dissipation, which at present threatens the destruction of this country — This, and a good correspondence with America, is necessary to save us from Ruin.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, England, Massachusetts, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: A Vocabulary (1816)

Full Title: A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases which have been supposed to be peculiar to the United States of America. To which is prefixed An Essay on the Present State of the English Language in the United States. By John Pickering. Boston: Published by Cummings and Hilliard; Cambridge: Williard and Metcalf, 1816.


The preservation of the English language in its purity throughout the United States is an object deserving the attention of every American, who is a friend of the literature and science of his country. It is in a particular manner entitled to the consideration of the Academy; for, though subjects, which are usually ranked under the head of Physical Science, were doubtless chiefly in view with the founders of the Academy, yet, our language also, which is to be the instrument of communicating to the public the speculations and discoveries of our countrymen, seems necessarily “to fall within the design of the insitution;” because, unless the language is well settled, and can be read with ease by all to whom it is addresssed, our authors will write and publish, certainly under many disadvantages, though perhaps not altogether in vain.

It is true, indeed, that our countrymen may speak and write in a dialect of English, which will be understood in the United States; but if they are ambitious of having their words read by Englishmen as well as by Americans, they must write the language that Englishmen can read with pleasure. And if for some time to come it should not be the lot of many Americans to publish works, which will be read out of their own country, yet all, who have the least tincture of learning, will continue to feel an ardent desire to acquaint themselves with English authors. Let us then for a moment imagine the time to have arrived, when Americans shall no longer be able to understand the works of Milton, Pope, Swift, Addison, and other English authors, justly styled classic, without the aid of a translation into a language, that is to be called at some future day the American tongue! By such a change, it is true, our loss would not be so great in works purely scientific, as in those which are usually termed works of taste; for the obvious reason, that the design of the former is merely to communicate information, without regard to elegance of language or the force and beauty of the sentiments. But the excellencies of works of taste cannot be felt even in the best translations;–a truth, which, without resorting to the example of the matchless ancients, will be acknowledged by every man, who is acquainted with the admirable works extant in various living languages. Nor is this the only view in which a radical change of language would be an evil. To say nothing of the facilities afforded by a common language in the ordinary intercourse of business, it should not be forgotten, that our religion and our laws are studied in the language of the nation, from which we are descended; and, with the loss of the language, we should finally suffer the loss of those peculiar advantages, which we now derive from the investigations of the jurists and divines of that country.

But, it is often asked among us, do not the people of this country now speak and write the English language with purity? A brief consideration of the subject will furnish a satisfactory answer to this question; it will also enable us to correct the erroneous opinions entertained by some Americans on this point, and at the same time to defend our countrymen against the charge made by some English writers, of a design to effect an entire change in the language.

As the inquiry before us is a simple question of fact, it is to be determined, like every other quiestion of this nature, by proper evidence. What evidence then have we, that the English language is not spoken and written in America, with the same degree of purity that is to be found in the writers and orators of England?

 In the first place, although it is agreed, that there is greater uniformity of the dialect throughout the United States (in consequence of the frequent removals of people from one part of the country to another) than is to be found throughout England; yet none of our countrymen, not even those who are the most zealous in supporting what they imagine to be the honour of the American character, will contend, that we have not in some instances departed from the standard of the language. We have formed some new words; and to some old ones, that are still used in England, we have affixed with new significations: while others, which have long been obsolete in England, are still retained in common use with us. If then, in addition to these acknowledgments of our own countrymen, we allow any weight of the opinions of the Englishmen, (who must be content judges in this case,) it cannot be denied, that we  have in several instances deviated from the standard of the language, as spoken and written in England at the present day. By this, however, I do not mean, that so great a deviation has taken place, as to have rendered any considerable part of our language unintelligible to Englishmen; but merely, that so many corruptions have crept into our Enlgish, as to have become the subject of much animadversion and regret with the learned of Great Britain. And as we are hardly aware of the opinion entertained by them of the extent of these corruptions, it may be useful, if it should not be very flattering to our pride, to hear their remarks on this subject in their own words. We shall find that these corruptions censured, not be mere pretenders to learning, but (so far as the fact is to be ascertained from English publications,) by all the scholars of that country, who take an interest in American literature. In proof of this, I request the attention of the Academy to the follwoing extracts from several of the British Reviews; some of which are the most distinguished of the present day, and all of which together may be considered as expressing the general opinion of the literary men of Great Britain, who have attended to this subject. That all the remarks are just, to the extent in which they will naturally be understood, few of our countrymen will be willing to admit. . . .



Leave a comment

Filed under 1810's, Culture, Grammar, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Vocabulary

Item of the Day: The Rights of the British Colonies by James Otis (1764)

Full Title:  The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. By James Otis, Esq.  Boston, Printed and Sold by Edes and Gill, in Queen Street. M,DCC,LXIV.


Of the Origin of Government.

The origin of government has in all ages no less perplexed the heads of lawyers and politicians, than the origin of evil has embarrassed divines and philosophers:  And ’tis probable the world may receive a satisfactory solution on both those points of enquiry at the same time.

The various opinions on the origin of government have been reduced to four.  1.  That dominion is founded in Grace.        2.  On force or meer power.  3.  On compact.  4.  On property.

The first of these opinions is so absurd, and the world has paid so very dear for embracing it, especially under the administration of the roman pontiffs, that mankind seem at this day to be in a great measure cured of their madness in this particular; and the notion is pretty generally exploded, and hiss’d off the stage.

To those who lay the foundation of government force and meer brutal power, it is objected; that, their system destroys all distinction between right and wrong; that it overturns all morality, and leaves it to every man to do what is right in his own eyes; that it leads directly to scepticism, and ends in atheism.  When a man’s will and pleasure is his only rule and guide, what safety can there be either for him or against him, but in the point of a sword?

On the other hand the gentlemen in favor of the original compact have been often told that their system is chimerical and unsupported by reason or experience.  Questions like the following have been frequently asked them, and may be again.

“When and where was the original compact for introducing government into any society, or for creating a society, made?  Who were present and parties to such a compact?  Who acted for infants and women, or who appointed guardians for them? Had these guardians power to bind both infants and women during life, and their posterity after them?  Is it nature or reason that a guardian should by his own act perpetuate his power over his ward, and bind him and his posterity in chains?  Is not every man born as free by nature as his father?  Has he not the same natural right to think and act and contract for himself?  Is it possible for a man to have a natural right to make a slave of himself or of his posterity?  Can a father supersede the laws of nature?  What man is or ever was born free, if every man is not?  What will there be to distinguish the next generation of men from their forefathers, that they should not have the same right to make original compacts as their ancestors had?  If every man has such a right, may there not be as many original compacts as there are men and women born or to be born?  Are not women born as free as men?  would it not be infamous to assert that the ladies are all slaves by nature?  If every man and woman born or to be born has, and will have, a right to be consulted, and must accede to the original compact before they can with any kind of justice be said to be bound by it, will not the compact be ever forming and never finished, ever making but never done?  Can it with propriety be called a compact original or derivative, that is ever in treaty but never concluded?”

When it has been said that each man is bound as soon as he accedes, and that the content may be either express or tacit, it has been asked, “What is a tacit consent or compact?  Does it not appear plain that those who refuse their assent can not be bound?  If one is at liberty to acede or not, is he not also at liberty to recede on the discovery of some intolerable fraud and abuse that hs been palm’d upon him by the rest of the high contracting parties?  Will not natural equity in several special cases rescind the original compacts of great men as effectually as those of little men are rendered null and void in the ordinary course of a court of chancery?”

These are other questions which have been started, and a resolution of them demanded, which may perhaps be deemed indecent by those who hold the prerogatives of an earthly monarch, and even the power of a plantation government, so sacred as to think it little less than blasphemy to enquire into their origin and foundation:  while the government of the supreme ruler of the universe is every day discussed with less ceremony and decency than the administration of a petty German prince.  I hope the reader will consider that I am at present only mentioning such questions as have been put by high-flyers & others in church and state, who would exclude all compact between a Sovereign and his people, without offering my own sentiments upon them; this however I presume I may be allowed hereafter to do without offence.  Those who want a full answer to them may consult Mr. Locke’s discourses on government, M. De Vattel’s law of nature and nations, and their own consciences. . . .

With regard to the fourth opinion, that dominion is founded in property, what is it but playing with words?  Dominion in one sense of the term is synonimous with property, so one cannot be called the foundation of the other, but as one name may appear to be the foundation or cause of another.

Property cannot be the foundation of dominion as synonimous with government; for on the supposition that property has a precarious existence antecedent to government, and tho’ it is also admitted that the security of property is one end of government, but that of little estimation even in the view of a miser when life and liberty of locomotion and further accumulation are placed in competition, it must be a very absurd way of speaking to assert that one end of government is the foundation of government.  If the ends of government are to be considered as its foundation, it cannot with truth or propriety be said that government is founded on any one of those ends; and therefore government is not founded on property or it security alone, but at least on something else in conjunction. . . .  It will never follow from all this, that government is rightfully founded on property, alone.  What shall we say then?  Is not government founded on grace?  No.  Not on force?  No.  Nor on compact?  Nor property?  Not altogether on either.  Has it any solid foundation?  any chief corner stone, but what accident, chance or confusion may lay one moment and destroy the next?  I think it has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God, the author of nature, whose laws never vary.  The same omniscient, omnipotent, infinitely good and gracious Creator of the universe, who has been pleased to make it necessary that what we call matter should gravitate, for the celestial bodies to roll round their axes, dance their orbits and perform their various revolutions in that beautiful order and concert, which we all admire, has made it equally necessary from Adam and Eve to these degenerate days, the different sexes should sweetly attract each other, form societies of single families, of which larger bodies and communities are as naturally, mechanically, and necessarily combined, as the dew of Heaven and the soft distilling rain is collected by the all enliv’ning heat of the sun.  Government is therefore most evidently founded on the necessities of our nature.  It is by no means an arbitrary thing, depending merely on compact or human will for its existence.


Leave a comment

Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Political Commentary, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Cobden’s Sermon on Chastity (1749)

Printed in:

Sylvanus Urban, Gent., Editor. The Gentleman’s Magazine for March 1749. Printed by Edward Cave. Volume 19, 1750.

EXTRACT from a famed Sermon, preached before the King at St James‘s, on Dec. 11 1748, by Edw. Cobden, D.D. Archdeacon of London, and Chaplain in ordinary to his Majesty.

The Dr entitles his Sermon, A PERSUASIVE TO CHASTITY, and advertises the reader, that, it having given occasion to some unjust censures, he thought proper to publish it, hoping that nothing in the sentiment or expression, will be found unworthy of the sacred function of a preacher of the gospel, or of the serious attention of a christian assembly.

GEN. xxxix. 9. How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against GOD?

THESE words express the utmost abhorrence of the sin to which Joseph was tempted by his perfidious mistress; and what I intend from them, and from the example of his faithful conduct, is, a dissuasive from the sins of immodesty; which are risen, perhaps, to a greater height, and spread to a wider extent than was ever known in former ages.

It would not become me to mention some of those monstrous and unnatural obscenities with which our land hath been stained: they would be offensive, indeed, to the ears of a modest heathen. I shall therefore only insist on two, which are plainly and frequently condemned in scripture; nor any where more expressly than in these words: Whoremongers and adulterers GOD will judge. Heb. xiii. 4.

The heinous guilt and destructive consequences of adultery, appear so shocking at first sight, even to reason, unassisted by revelation, that, however frequent the commission of it may be, yet few, I am persuaded, are so hardened and irrational as to become advocates for it. But single persons are too apt to imagine that all obligations of chastity are confined to the marriage vow. —-Thus Abimelech thought it no crime to take Sarah for his concubine, when he imagined she was espoused to no other person: but no sooner was he informed of her being Abraham‘s wife, than he rejected his first design with abhorrence and disdain. But whatever notions the heathen world might have of these matters, we, who have received the more pure and perfect law of the gospel, are sufficiently and clearly instructed to avoid impurity of every kind.

If we consider fornication with the unprejudiced eye of reason, before the passions have corrupted the judgment, I am persuaded there are few sins which people condemn more in their own breasts; which they commit at first with more reluctance and recoilings of conscience; and which, upon cool reflection, fills them with more horror and keener censures of their own conduct. And, would a man give himself leave to reflect upon the irreparable injury done to the unhappy female partner in the iniquity, it would open such a scene of misery to his view, as would be sufficient to check the most inflamed appetite of the most abandoned libertine.—Alas! that virgin innocence, which was once her comfort and her glory, which was her brightest ornament, and most valuable dowry, is lost, irrecoverably lost; and *shame, guilt and sorrow are to be her continual attendants. The person who has been the occasion of her ruin, will hardly (tho’ obliged to it in duty) deal with her upon terms of honour. And who else will venture to take her for a companion for life, and believe she can be faithful to him, after having been thus flase to herself? ‘Tis well is she does not endeavour to screen herself from censure, by the commission of a more dreaful sin in the murder of a spurious infant; and discard the bowels of a mother, to avoid the scandal of being known to be one. The best and wisest course indeed she can take, is, to endeavour to wash away the stain she has contracted, with the tears of unfeigned repentance, and to take off her reproach in the eyes of the world, by giving the regularity of her future conduct, as an evidence fo the sincerity of her contrition. Would to God this method were, after so unhappy a step, more frequently taken! but alas! it is too often far otherwise. It is to be feared the first breach of chastity will be followed with a train of others, and that she will proceed on in iniquity, till she becomes totally abandoned: a situation almost as miserable in this present life, as that which these unhappy criminals must expect in the next. There is no reflecting on so wretched an object, without the deepest compassion for her miser, as well as the utmost detestation of her guilt. For however light these afflictions may be made of in the seat of the scorner, and however the lascivious debauchee may flatter himself that there was no injury done, because there was no violence used, as she was consenting, perhaps, to her own ruin: Alas! that very consent is the sting of her afflictions: and if his brutal appetites had not effaced every sentiment of humanity in his breast, he could not think of these things without a bleeding heart. Exceeding barbarous therefore and wicked must they be, who, for the sake of gratifying a low and vile inclination, shall tempt and persuade a thoughtless young creature, in an unguarded hour, to an act which is attended with such a train of miseries, and which so evidently leads to her absolute destruction. It is to be considered likewise, that young persons are the property of their parents; and let any man who has the least remains of reason and humanity, tho’ he should be void of all principles of religion, lay his hand upon his heart, and make the case of such a parent his own. Let him consider what indignation, what anguish he himself should feel under the weight of so afflicting, so irreparable an injury. Few parents, I am persuaded, but would rather, much rather, follow their children to the grave, than see them thus forfeit their own peace an happiness, and bring such an indelible stain of infamy upon their family.

But if the sensual libertine is regardless of the afflictions of others, yet, as honour is his boast, and pleasure his pursuit, he cannot, surely, be unaffected with what concerns the dignity of his nature, and the happiness of his life. Let him consider, then, that unrestrained and criminal indugencies of this kind peculiarly enervate the body, and debase the mind, and bring him upon a level brute beasts, that have no understanding: Reason, which was intended by the gracious creator to direct and govern in the human frame, is, by these practices, enslaved to the tyranny of the most contemptible of the passions. When men are given over to vile affections, their understandings become darkened; and it is seldom that they ever again recover the proper government of themselves. The insatiable appetite still rages through all the infirmities of a distemper’d body, and is not extinguished even by old age: If indeed (which is very uncommon) they should happen to arrive at that period.

The Preacher proceeds to display the sacred obligations of matrimony, and the cruel injustice of endeavouring to break them; and shows the turpitude of uncleanness and adultery, with such elegance, that we must copy the whole, or injure his arguments.

* Of this wretched state, a most lively and striking picture is exhibited in Roderick Random, which we have here copied as a warning to one sex, and a remonstrance against t’other.

Miss Williams, who had been betray’d into a course of vice, by the fraud and cruelty of a man of pleasure, is introduced relating the story of her own misfortunes:

“I have often seen (said she) while I strolled about the streets at midnight, a number of naked wretches reduced to rags and filth, huddled together like swine, in the corner of a dark alley; some of whom, but eighteen months before, I had known the favourites of the town, rolling in affluence, and glittering in all the pomp of equipage and dress.”

—And indeed the gradation is easily conceived; the most fashionable woman of the town is as liable to contagion, as one in a much humbler sphere; she infects her admirers, her situation is publick, she is avoided, neglected, unable to support her usual appearance, which however she strives to maintain as long as possible; her credit fails, she is obliged to retrench and become a night-walker, her malady gains ground, her complexion fades, she grows nauseous to every body, finds herself reduced to a starving condition, is tempted to pick pockets, is detected, committed to Newgate, where she remains in a miserable condition, ’till she is discharged because the plaintiff will not appear to prosecute her. No body will afford her lodging, the symptoms of her distempter are grown outrageous, she sues to be admitted into an hospital, where she is cured at the expence of her nose; she is turned out naked into the streets, depends on the addresses of the canaille, is fain to allay the rage of hunger and cold with gin, degenerates into a state of brutal insensibility, rots and dies upon a dunghill.—

“Miserable wretch that I am! perhaps the same horrors are decreed for me!—”

Some strokes of this kind appear also in Tom Jones, and in Mrs Philips‘s Apology.—Indeed as this subject is capable of very high colouring, almost every writer has exercised upon it his skill in painting. However, the loose images in these pieces perhaps incite to vice more strongly than the contrast figures alarm us into virtue.

1 Comment

Filed under 1740's, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Religion

Item of the Day: The Speech of Thomas Erskine at a Meeting of the Friends to the Liberty of the Press (1792)

Full Title:  The Speech of the Honorable Thomas Erskine, at a Meeting of the Friends to the Liberty of the Press, at Free-Mason’s Tavern, Dec. 22, 1792.  With the Resolutions, &c of that Truly Patriotic Society.  London:  Printed for James Ridgway, York-Street, St. James’s-Square. (Price Threepence, or Twenty Shillings per Hundred.) 1792.

 “. . . From the temper the firmness, and the perseverance which you have evinced this day, I augur that England will feel, from one extremity to the other, the good effects of your deliberations. — One of the Resolutions you have passed, is, “that a system of arbitrary coercion has always been dangerous to the Government of England.” — This is the fact; and should ever any Administration adopt such a system, I trust that we shall convince them that it is not only dangerous to the peace of the country, but personally dangerous to themselves. . . .

In the defence of Mr. Paine, I neither supported nor surrendered the doctrines he has advanced.  I pleaded his cause in the same manner as he would have been permitted to plead it himself.  I told the Jury that should they even be satisfied that Monarchy was an evil, and that a Republican form of Government was, as Harrington in his Oceana calls it, the ancient prudence of the world, yet that they would not be justified in pronouncing a verdict of acquittal, if it should be proved that what was done was done with a view to excite sedition, and to overturn the Constitution of the Country.

Gentlemen, when I look back and see what has happened in this kingdom within the last seven months, I consider it more as a shocking prodigy than and natural charge in human affairs.  What was the cause of the abolition of the infamous Star Chamber?  That men might discuss all public measures.  It was destroyed on this principle, That all Governments proceeded from the people, and stood alone on their will for their continuance.  The right of discussing the private character of a man is not within the right of the people, because if such man shall have violated the laws, the laws are competent to punish that violation, and the people cannot be his judges.  But the liberty of discussing public subjects, subjects that affect the community does belong to the people; because there the people may be judges.

Gentlemen, I should indeed consider myself as a most disgraceful being, if I did not devote myself to the service of those to whom I owe every thing.  When I left the Army, struggling with distress and want, I learned what was the practice in cases of libels, and thought it strange if the Law was so.  I trusted that perseverance and fortitude would renovate what was necessary to be renovated; and I thank God that I have not been disappointed.  When I addressed the Jury in the case of the Dean of St. Asaph, I observed at large on those words, wicked, scandalous and seditious words, that are to be found in every pleader’s shop.  I contended for the right of publishing opinions on Government, and was told, as a child is, not to disturb the Court with my idle prattle.  And here, Gentlemen, in justice to Lord Mansfield, I must say, that the exploded doctrine of Libels had not its origin in him.  No blame, therefore, is to be attached to his character on this account.  If he does deserve reprehension, it is for not exercising the great talents he possessed in throwing off a system so destructive to the liberties of the subject.  Eight years ago I was told that the Jury had no power — that they were only to see whether print was print, and to decide whether a book had been published, and on such proof were they to pronounce a Defendant guilty of a Libel alledged to be most scandalous, wicked, and seditious.  I was considered then, as I shall be to-morrow, and I hope to all eternity by these Associations, as using language dangerous to the constitution — I was beat down by a yell as loud as that which has occasioned us to assemble here at this present moment.  I came back to the charge again and again as those ought to do who are once foiled.  The people of England in the mean time were spiritless and dead.  But there is a time when delusion must end.  If we look back into the history of the world we shall find that all our Liberties have been produced from sparks. — The People, spiritless and dead so long, began to rouse themselves.  The danger at length grew greater and greater, and as in the beginning of the storm, wave impels wave to the shore, till at length the whole sea becomes agitated; so the storm of popular indignation arose to such a height, that even this virtuous House of Commons at last attended to the wishes of the People.  It became now a consideration who was to be the Midwife.  If I had introduced the Libel Bill into the House of Commons, I am convinced that there were so many devoted to the judges that the Bill would not have passed.  I therefore committed it to a man possessed of infinite judgment, of the clearest mind, of the soundest heart.  I committed it to Mr. Fox — there my voyage ended. . . .

The People now awoke as from a deep sleep — They flocked round the standard of Mr. Fox, and the House of Commons acceded to the Bill.  but when it went up to the House of Lords there were some there who stuck it to the very bone. — Am I angry with them?  No.  But it ought to be a lesson to them who are only as three in a whole country, how they convict people of Libels, merely to support the singularity of their opinions.

If I am asked what is the definition of an insurrection, I reply that I do not know.  Is it a few boys planting the Tree of Liberty at Dundee?  I remember rather a vulgar song, which I wish I had recollected on a recent occasion.  It began with —

“There was an Old Woman who lived at Dundee,

And out of her Backside there grew a Plumb-Tree.”

If should seem as if this good old Lady had risen from the dead, in pity to the present Administration, and for the purpose of giving some countenance to their Proclamation.

If the people were convened to decide whether the Power of Judgment in Libels should be restored to the Judges, I am convinced that not one hand would be held up in support of such a proposition.  When a man has an opinion, he ought to publish it without being calumniated.  The Administration of Justice, is or ought to be pure and impartial.  Freedom of discussion ought to be allowed, and ‘the issue of the brain,’ in the words of Milton, ‘ought to be as free as the issue of the womb.’

If these Associations, Gentlemen, continue, I shall move for establishment of a public licenser.  The danger and the oppression will be less.  I may give him my book, and if he refuses to license it, I know the consequences of publishing it.  But if the purses of all the placement and pensioners in England are to be employed in rewarding spies and informers, if the wealth of the treasury, and those who live on the treasury is to be spent in checking the operation of thought, how are the poor to resist the oppression, and to avert the evil?

Let us, therefore, Gentlemen, oppose law to those who are not guided by law.  In a short time, the people will look at each picture, and find which is right and which is wrong.  These Associators will then separate fast enough; they will be dissipated as the insects are at the rising of the sun.

I am happy, Gentlemen, that we have met:  Let us continue to meet, and our numbers will rapidly encrease. — I belong to the people — they raised me from poverty to affluence — from obscurity to notice — they have a right to demand my services — they shall have them.”

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, England, Legal, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Press