Category Archives: 1750’s

Item of the Day: Hume’s History of England (1757)

Full Title:  The History of Great Britain.  Vol. II. Containing the Commonwealth, and the Reigns of Charles II. and James II. By David Hume, Esq; London: Printed for A. Millar, opposite Catharine-Street, in the Strand.  M.DCC.LVII.

Chap. VI.

17th of November. 1680.

One of the most innocent artifices, practiced by party-men at this time, was the additional ceremony, pomp, and expence, with which a pope-burning was celebrated in London: This spectacle served to entertain, and amuse, and enflame the populace. The duke of Monmouth likewise came over without leave, and made a triumphant procession thro’ many parts of the kingdom, extremely caressed and admired by the people.  All these arts seemed requisite to support the general prejudices, during the long interval of Parliament.  Great endeavors were also used to obtain the King [Charles II]’s consent for the meeting of that assembly.  Seventeen peers presented a petition to that purpose.  Many of the corporations imitated this example. Notwithstanding several marks of displeasure, and even a menacing proclamation from the King, petitions came from all parts, earnestly insisting on a session of Parliament.  The danger of popery, the terrors of the plot, were never forgot in any of these addresses.

Tumultuous petitioning was one of the chief artifices, by which the malecontents in the last reign had attacked the Crown: And tho’ the manner of subscribing and delivering petitions was now somewhat limited by act of Parliament, the thing itself still remained; and was an admirable expedient for infecting the Court, for spreading discontent, and for uniting the nation in any popular clamor.  As the King found no law, by which he could punish those importunate, and as he esteemed them, undutiful sollicitations; he was obliged to encounter them by popular applications of a contrary tendency.  Wherever the church and court party prevailed, addresses were framed, containing expressions of the highest regard to his Majesty, the most entire acquiescence in his wisdom, the most dutiful submission to his prerogative, and the deepest abhorrence of those, who endeavored to encroach on it, by prescribing to him any time for assembling the Parliament.  Thus the nation came to be distinguished into Petitioners and Abhorrers.  Factions indeed were at this time extremely animated against each other.  The very names, by which each party denominated its antagonist, discover the virulence and rancor, which prevailed.  For besides Petitioner and Abhorrer, appellations which were soon forgot; this year is remarkable for being the epoch of the well-known epithets of WHIG and TORY, by which, and sometimes without any very material difference, this island has been so long divided.  The court party reproached their antagonists with their affinity to the fanatical conventiclers of Scotland, who were known by the name of Whigs: The country party found a resemblance between the courtiers and the popish banditti in Ireland, to whom the appellation of Tory was affixed.  And after this manner, these foolish terms of reproach came into public and general use; and even at present seem not nearer their end than when they were first invented. 

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Filed under 1680's, 1750's, History, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: First Philippic Oration of Demosthenes (1757)

Full Title: Orations of Demosthenes, Translated by the Rev. Mr. Francis, with Critical and Historical Notes. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar in the Strand, MDCCLVII.





THE Rapidity of his Conquests, the numerous Forces he commanded, and his own enterprising Spirit, had long since made Philip of Macedon an Object of much Apprehension to the Athenians. He had lately taken several Tracian Cities; Confederates and Allies of Athens. The Year before this Oration, he had totally routed the Phocaens, and this present Year had attempted to march into Phoci, through the Pass of Thermopylae. The Athenians opposed him, and with Success. They now deliberate upon their Conduct towards him. Demosthenes advises an immediate Declaration of War. Shews the Necessity of such a Measure, both from Motives of Interest and Glory. Lays down a Plan for military Operations. Paints the Dangers of the Republic in the strongest Colours. Flatters and reproaches. Terrifies and encourages; for while he presents Philip as truly formidable, he represents him indebted for the Power, which made him thus formidable, only to the Indolence and Inactivity of the Athenians.

Our Author pronounced this Oration in the first year of the hundred and seventh Olympiad, when he was nine and twenty Years of Age. [Rev. Mr. Francis]


IF any new Affair, O Men of Athens, were appointed for your Debates, restraining my Impatience,  until the greatest Part of those, who are authorised by Custom, had laid before you their Opinions, I had continued silent, if the Measures they proposed had pleased me; if otherwise, I would then have endeavoured to speak my own Sentiments. But since the same Conjunctures, upon which they have often spoken are still the Subject of your Deliberations, I think, I may with Reason expect to be forgiven, though I rise before them in this Debate. For if they had ever given you that salutary Advice, your Affairs, required, there could be no Neccessity for your present Counsils.

LET it be therefore our first Resolution, O men of Athens, not to despair of our present Situation, however totally distressed, since even the worst Circumstance in your past Conduct is now become the best Foundation for your future Hopes. What Circumstance? That your never having acted in any single Instance, as you ought, hath occasioned your Misfortunes; for if you had constantly pursued the Measures necessary for your Welfare, and still the Commonwealth had continued thus distress, there could not even an Hope remain of its ever hereafter being a happier situation.

YOU should next with Confidence recollect, both what you have heard from others, and what you may remember you yourselves have seen, how formidable a Power the Lacedaemonians not long since possessed, and how generously, how consistently with  the Dignity of your Character, you then acted; not in any one Partiuclar unworthy of the Republic, but supporting, in Defence of the common Rights of Greece, the whole Weight of the War against them. Why do I mention these Instances? That you may be convinced, O Men of Athens, that nothing is capable of alarming you, while you are attentive to your Interests; nothing, while you are thus thoughtlessly negligent, will succeed as you desire. As Examples of this Truth, consider the Power of the Cadedaemonians, which you subdued by paying a just Attention to your Affairs; consider the Insolence of this Man, by which you are now alarmed, only through your own exceeding Indolence.

YET whoever reflects upon the numerous Forces he commands; upon all the Places he hath wrested from the Republic, and then concludes, that Philip is not without Difficulty to be conquered, indeed concludes justly. Let him reflect, however, that we, O Men of Athens, were formerly Masters of Pydna, Potidaea, Methone, with all that large Extent of Country round them, upon the very Frontiers of Macedonia; that many of the Nations, now in Confederacy with him, were once governed by their own Laws; were absolutely free, and then greatly preferred your Alliance to that of Philip. Had Philip therefore at that Time entertained an Opinion, that it would be dangerous to enter into a War with the Athenians, possessed of Fortresses, from which they might make Incursions into Macedonia, while he himself was wholly destitute of Allies, he never had attempted what he hath since executed; he had never gained so formidable a Strength. But he was wisely conscious, O Men of Athens, that all these Countries were placed, as common Prize of War, between the contending Parties; that in the very Nature of Things, to the Present belong the Possession of the Absent; to them, who are willing to support the Labour, attempt the Danger, to them belong the Treasures of the Indolent. Acting upon this Principle, he universally subdues and takes Possession; sometimes by Right of Conquest; sometimes, under the Name of Friendship and Alliance. For all Mankind with Chearfulness [sic] enter into Alliances, and engage their whole Attention to those, whom they behold ready and resolute to act in support of their proper Interests.

IF, therfore, you could even now resolve to form your Conduct upon these Maxims, which you have never yet regarded; if every Man, according to his Duty, and in Proportion to his Ablilities, would render himself useful to the Republic, and without disguising or concealing those Ablilities, would act with Vigour and Alacrity; the rich, by a voluntry Contribution of his Riches; the young, by enlisting in the Army; or, at once, and simply to express myself, if you resolve to be Masters of your own Fortune; if every single Citizen will no longer expect, while he himself does absolutely nothing, that his Neighbour will do every Thing for him, then shall you preserve, if such the Will of Jupiter, what you now possess; recover what you have lost by your Inactivity, and chastise this Macedonian. For do not imagine, his present Success is fixed and immortal, as if he were a God. There are, even among those, who seem in strictest Amity with him, who hate, who fear, O Men of Athens, who envy him. Every Passion, incident to the rest of Mankind, you ought assuredly to believe inhabits the Bosoms of his present Allies. But all these Passions are suppressed by their not having whither to fly for Refuge and Protection, through your Indolence, your Dejection of Spirit, which, I pronounce, must be now laid aside for ever. For behold, to what Excess of Arrogance this Man proceeds, who neither gives you the Choice of Peace or War; who threatens, and, as it is reported, talks of you with utmost Insolence; who not contented with the Possession of what he hath blasted with the Lightnings of is War, perpetually throws abroad his Toils, and having on every side inclosed us, sitting here, and indolently forming some future Schemes of Conguest, now stalks around his Prey.

WHEN therefore, O Men of Athens, when will you act, as your Glory, your Interest demands? When some new Event shall happen? When, in the Name of Jupiter! some strong Necessity shall compel you? What then shall we deem our present Circumstances? In my Judgement, the strongest Necessity to a free People, is a Dishonour attending their public Measures. Or, tell me, do you purpose, perpetually wandering in the Market-place, to ask each other, “Is any Thing new reported?” Can any Thing new, than a Man of Macedon, conquering the Athenians, and directing at his Pleasure the Affairs of Greece? “Is Philip dead? Not yet, by Jupiter, but extremely weakened by Sickness.” His Sickness, or his Death, of what Importance to you? Should any Accident happen to this Philip, you yourselves would instantly create another, if such, as at present your Attention to your Affairs. For not so much by his own proper Strength has he grown to this exceeding Greatness, as by your Indolence. However, should some Accident really happen to him; should Fortune be so far propitious to us (she, who is always more attentive in her Concern for us, than we are for ouselves, and may she one Day perfect this her own Work) be assured, if you were near his Dominions, and ready to advance upon the general Disorder of his Affairs, you might dispose of every Thing according to your Pleasure. But in your present Disposition should some favourable Conjucture even deliver up Amphipolis to you, thus fluctuating in your Operations and your Councils, you could not receive the least Benefit from the Possession, with Regard to Macedonia. . . .


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Filed under 1750's, Ancient Greece, Greek/Roman Translations, Oratory, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Orations of Demosthenes Translated by Mr. Francis (1757)

Full Title: Orations of Demosthenes, Translated by the Rev. Mr. Francis, with Critical and Historical Notes. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar in the Strand, MDCCLVII.




PERHAPS, never any one Form of Government appeard among Mankind, of which there was not some Resemblance among the States of Greece. An Argument of much Probability, that the Laws and Institutions of different Countries are generally founded upon the original Manners and Genius of their People. However, it may be not unentertaining, certainly not unuseful, to give a general Idea of their political History: the Principles, upon which their various Constitutions of Government were formed, and the Revolutions, to which they were liable, by the Nature of those Principles. Yet as a Knowledge of the Polity of Athens will be more necessary, than any other, with Regard to the follwoing Orations, we shall there fix our principal Attention.

In the earliest Period of their History, the Grecians are in general represented as Wanderers and Vagabonds, perhaps not unlike the Indians of America. They supported this miserable Life by Rapine and Plunder. The Sea-Coasts were infested with Pryracies, the inland Country with Robberies. Their Wars, however, were of short Continuance, for they had not yet learned, that to slaughter and enslave their Fellow-Creatures could be disquised with the Names of Conquest and Ambition.

But while Thessaly, Peloponnesus and the more fertile Parts of Greece were laid waste with perpetual Ravages and Depredations, the People of Attica enjoyed Tranquility and Security, for which they were indebted to the Barrenness of their Country. As Foreigners and Strangers very seldom resided among them, the original Inhabitants were more unmixed, and the Descent of Families more exactly preserved. From hence, perhaps, their best Claim to the Vanity of being created with the Sun, and Natives of the Soil. Undoubtedly, its natural Sterility obliged them to the Labours of Agriculture, with which the mechanical Arts have a necessary Connexion. These Arts exercised, improved, and enlarged their Understandings. The Passions began to unfold themselves in artifical Wants. A kind of Luxury, frugal indeed and temperate, introduced among them the first Sciences, that civilise Mankind. Industry now produced Ideas of Property; Laws were enacted for its Preservation, and the Possessors united in mutal Defence of each other, when invaded by any foreign Enemy.

This Account of Athenians, without any Compliment to their superior Genius, will support the Assertions of their Historians, who assure us, that this People first threw off the universal Barbarism of their Country. They formed themselves, probably under the parental Authority, into little Communities. These afterwards extended into Villages, which had, each of them, its own Magistrates and Laws, and Forms of Government, peculiar to itself and independent. In any common Danger or Invasion, the Man of supposed greatest Ablities and Integrity was chosen by general Consent, and intrusted, during the War, with whatever Power appeared necessary for the public Safety.

From hence their first Ideas of regal Authority. But their Kings were rather Generals in War, than Magistrates in Peace, until the Credit and Influence, gained in their military Character, by Degrees enlarged their Authority, and extended it to the civil Administration. They reigned, however, in Consciousness of having been promoted by the Affection and Esteem of their People. Whatever Prerogatives were annexd to their high Office were exercised with a Temper, which seemed to acknowledge, that Liberty can never, without apparent Absurdity, allow any Power to contradict or dispense with the Laws that were made for its Preservation.

In other Countries, Liberty rose occasionally from the abuse of Authority delegated to the Magistrate; from Tyranny, from Revolutions, in which the Rights of Mankind were successfully asserted. That of the Athenians was really, and without a Metaphor, a Native of the Soil. It sprung like their other Blessings, itself the greatest of all Blessings, from the Barrenness of their Lands. The Fertility of a Country is a Temptation to the Ambition and Avarice of its Neighbours. The Plains, in which alone this Fertility must exist, are open to their Incursions. The Inhabitants, enervated by Luxury, are easily conquered; they submit, and are enslaved. Thus by Folly of Mankind, the Countries, which Nature intended for our Happiness, are made the Scenes of Misery and Devastation. On the contrary, the Mountain-Nymph, sweet Liberty, if we may be permitted to use the Language of Poetry, and Milton, chooses to fix her Residence in barren, uncultivated Sands, or Mountains inaccessible to her Enemies, like those of Attica. Exercised by a necessary Industry, and inured to Labour, her People are already formed to the Fatigues of War; they are conscious of their own Strength; they feel the Courage, inspired by Independece, and as Liberty is their sole Good, the Preservation of it is the sole Object of their Attention.

To these Reflexions upon their first Situation, let us add a Zeal for Religion, and we shall finish the Character of the Athenians during this Period of their History. Cecrops, the Founder of Athens, was an Aegyptian, and he probably carried with him into Greece the Superstitions of his Country. He dedicated his new City to Minerva, and by the fabulous Contest between her and Neptune for the Honour of partronizing it, we may believe, that all the Influences of Religion were employed in the Dedication. The Athenians now saw themselves collected into one Body, and from thence conceived a formidable Idea of their own Strength. They enjoyed the Blessings of Society; grew civilized in their Manners, and cultivated the Arts and Sciences under a Spirit of Liberty best fitted to improve them, while all the other Nations of Greece continued in their original Barbarism. From this Period, therefore, we may date the high Ideas they ever afterwards entertained of their own superior Genius and Abilities, with that extravagant Opinion, which they maintained with so much Obstinacy, that they were destined to be the future Conquerors of the World, and that those Countries alone, where neither Corn, or Vines, or Olives grew, should be the Boundaries of their Empire.They imagined themselves the chosen, peculiar People of the Goddess, whose Name they had assumed; who presided over the Arts of Peace, and was worshippped as the Patroness of all military Virtues. . . .



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Filed under 1750's, Ancient Greece, Greek/Roman Translations, History, Oratory, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Swift’s Rules for Servants (1753)

Full Title:  Miscellanies.  By Dr. Swift.  The Eleventh Volume.  London:  Printed for C. Hitch, C. Davis, C. Bathurst, R. Dodsley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLIII.

RULES that concern All Servants in general.

 When your Master or Lady calls a Servant by Name, if that Servant be not in the Way, none of you are to answer, for then there will be no end of your Drudgery:  And Masters themselves allow, that, if a Servant comes when he is called, it is sufficient.

When you have done a Fault, be always pert and insolent, and behave yourself as if you were the injured Person; this will immediately put your Master or Lady off their Mettle.

If you see your Master wronged by any of your Fellow-Servants, be sure to conceal it, for fear of being called a Tell-tale:  However there is one Exception, in case of a favourite Servant, who is justly hated by the whole Family; who therefore are bound in Prudence to lay all the Faults you can upon the Favourite.

The Cook, the Butler, the Groom, the Market-man, and every other Servant who is concerned in the Expences of the Family, should act as if his Master’s whole Estate ought to be applied to that Servant’s particular Business.  For instance, if the Cook computes his Master’s Estate to be a Thousand Pounds a Year will afford Meat enough, and therefore he need not be sparing; the Butler makes the same Judgment, so may the Groom and the Coachman, and thus every Branch of Expence will be filled to your Master’s Honour.

When you are chid before Company (which with Submission to our Masters and Ladies is an unmannerly Practice) it often happens that some Stranger will have the Good-nature to drop a Word in your Excuse; in such a Case, you will have a good Title to Justify yourself, and may rightly conclude, that, whenever he chides you afterwards on other occasions, he may be in the wrong; in which opinion you will be the better confirmed by stating the Case to your Fellow-servants in your own Way, who will certainly decide in your Favour:  therefore, as I have said before, whenever you are chidden, complain as if you were injured.

It often happens, that Servants sent on Messages are apt to stay out somewhat longer than the Message requires, perhaps, two, four, six, or eight Hours, or some such Trifle, for the Temptation to be sure was great, and Flesh and Blood cannot always resist:  When you return, the Master storms, the Lady scolds; stripping, cudgelling, and turning off, is the Word.  But here you ought to be provided with a Set of Excuses, enough to serve on all occasions:  For instance, your Uncle came Fourscore Miles to Town this Morning, on purpose to see you, and goes back by Break of Day To-morrow:  A Brother-servant, that borrowed Money of you when he was out of Place, was running away to Ireland:  You were taking Leave of an old Fellow-Servant, who was shipping for Barbados:  Your Father sent a Cow to you to sell, and you could not get a Chapman till Nine at Night:  You were taking leave of a dear Cousin, who is to be hanged next Saturday:  You wrencht your Foot against a Stone, and were forced to stay three Hours in a Shop, before you could Stir a Step:  Some Nastiness was thrown on you out of a Garret-Window, and you were ashamed to come Home before you were cleaned, and the Smell went off:  You were pressed for the Sea-service, and carried before a Justice of Peace, who kept you three Hours before he examined you, and you got off with much a-do:  A Bailiff by mistake seized you for a Debtor, and kept you the whole Evening in a Spunging-house:  You were told your Master had gone to a Tavern, and came to some Mischance, and your Grief was so great that you enquired for his Honour in a hundred Taverns between Pall-mall and Temple-bar.

Take all Tradesmen Parts against your Master, and when you are sent to buy any Thing, never offer to cheapen it, but generously pay the full Demand.  This is highly to your Master’s Honour ; and may be some Shillings in your Pocket; and you are to consider, if your Master hath paid too much, he can better afford the Loss than a poor Tradesman.

Never submit to stir a Finger in any Business but that for which you were particularly hired.  For Example, if the Groom be drunk, or absent, and the Butler be ordered to shut the Stable Door, the Answer is ready, An please your Honour, I don’t understand Horses:  If a Corner of the Hanging wants a single Nail to flatten it, and the Footman be directed to tack it up, he may say, he doth not understand that sort of Work, but his Honour may send for the Upholsterer.

Masters and Ladies are usually quarrelling with the Servants for not shutting the Doors after them:  But neither Masters nor Ladies consider, that those Doors mus be open before they can be shut, and that the Labour is double to open and shut the Doors; therefore the best, and shortest, and easiest Way is to do neither.  But if you are so often teized to shut the Door, that you cannot easily forget it, then give the Door such a Clap as you go out, as will shake the whole Room, and make every Thing rattle in it, to put your Master and Lady in Mind that you observe their Directions.

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, Jonathan Swift, Manners, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Satire

Item of the Day: The Adventurer (1770)

Full Title:  The ADVENTURER. By John Hawkesworth. Volume the Fourth.  New Edition.  London:  Printed for W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, etc.  MDCCLXX.

Tuesday, November 27, 1753.

The evils inseparably annexed to the present condition of man, are so numerous and afflictive, that it has been, from age to age, the task of some to bewail, and of others to solace them;  and he, therefore, will be in danger of seeming a common enemy, who shall attempt to depreciate the few pleasures and felicities which nature has allowed us.

Yet I will confess, that I have sometimes employed my thoughts in examining the pretensions that are made to happiness, by the splendid and envied conditions of life; and have not thought the hour unprofitably spent, when I have detected the imposture of counterfeit advantages, and found disquiet lurking under false appearances of gaiety and greatness.

It is asserted by a tragic poet, that “est miser nemo nisi comparatus,” “no man is miserable but as he is compared with others happier than himself:” this position is not strictly and philosophically true.  He might have said, with rigorous propriety, that no man is happy but as he is compared with the miserable; for such is the state of this world, that we find in it absolute misery, but happiness only comparative; we may incur as much pain as we can possibly endure, though we can never obtain as much happiness as we might possibly enjoy.

Yet it is certain likewise, that many of our miseries are merely comparative:  we are often made unhappy, not by the presence of any real evil, but by the absence of some fictitious good, of something which is not required by any real want of nature, which has not in itself any power of gratification, and which neither reason nor fancy would have prompted us to wish, did we not see it in the possession of others.

For a mind diseased with vain longings after unattainable advantages, no medicine can be prescribed, but an impartial enquiry into the real worth of that which is so ardently desired.  It is well known, how much the mind, as well as the eye, is deceived by distance; and, perhaps, it will be found, that of many imagined blessings it may be doubted, whether he that wants or possesses them has more reason to be satisfied with his lot.

The dignity of high birth and long extraction, no man, to whom nature has denied it, can confer upon himself; and, therefore, it deserves to be considered, whether the want of that which can never be gained, may not easily be endured.  It is true, that if we consider the triumph and delight with which most of those recount their ancestors who have ancestors to recount, and the artifices by which some who have risen to unexpected fortune endeavour to insert themselves into an honourable stem, we shall be inclined to fancy that wisdom or virtue may be had by inheritance, or that all the excellencies of a line of progenitors are accumulated on their descendant.  Reason, indeed, will soon inform us, that our estimation of birth is arbitrary and capricious, and that dead ancestors can have no influence but upon imagination:  let it then be examined, whether one dream may not operate in the place of another; whether he that owes nothing to fore-fathers, may not receive equal pleasure from the consciousness of owing all to himself; whether he may not, with a little meditation, find it more honourable to found than to continue a family, and to gain dignity than transmit it; whether, if he receives no dignity from the virtues of his family, he does not likewise escape the danger of being disgraced by their crimes; and whether he that brings a new name into the world, has not the convenience of playing the game of life without a stake, an opportunity of winning much though he has nothing to lose.

There is another opinion concerning happiness, which approaches much more nearly to universality, but which may, perhaps, with equal reason be disputed.  The pretensions to ancestral honours many of the sons of earth easily see to be ill-grounded; but all agree to celebrate the advantage of  hereditary riches, and to consider those as the minions of fortune, who are wealthy from their cradles, whose estate is “res non parta labore sed relicta;” “the acquisition of another, not of themselves; ” and whom a father’s industry has dispensed from a laborious attention to arts and commerce, and left at liberty to dispose of life as fancy shall direct them.

If every man were wise and virtuous, capable to discern the best use of time, and resolute to practice it; it might be granted, I think, without hesitation, that total liberty would be a blessing; and that it would be desirable to be left at large to the exercise of religious and social duties, without the interruption of importunate avocations.

But since felicity is relative, and that which is the means of happiness to one man may be to another the cause of misery, we are to consider, what state is best adapted to human nature in its present degeneracy and frailty.  And, surely, to far the greater number it is highly expedient, that they should by some settled scheme of duties be rescued from the tyranny of caprice, that they should be driven on by necessity through the paths of life with their attention confined to a stated task, that they may be less at leisure to deviate into mischief at the call of folly.

When we observe the lives of those whom an ample inheritance has let loose to their own direction, what do we discover that can excite our energy?  Their time seems not to pass with much applause from others, or satisfaction to themselves:  many squander their exuberance of fortune in luxury and debauchery, and have no other use of money than to inflame their passions, and riot in a wider range of licentiousness; others, less criminal indeed, but surely, not much to be praised, lie down to sleep, and rise up to trifle, are employed every morning in finding expedients to rid themselves of the day, chase pleasure through all the places of public resort, fly from London to Bath and from Bath to London, without any other reason for changing place, but that they go in quest of company as idle and as vagrant as themselves, always endeavouring to raise some new desire that they may have something to pursue, to rekindle some hope which they know will be disappointed, changing one amusement for another which a few months will make equally insipid, or sinking into languor and disease for want of something to actuate their bodies or exhilarate their minds.

Whoever has frequented those places, where idlers assemble to escape from solitude, knows that this is generally the state of the wealthy; and from this state it is no great hardship to be debarred.  No man can be happy in total idleness:  he that should be condemned to lie torpid and motionless, “would fly for recreation,” says South, “to the mines and the gallies,” and it is well, when nature or fortune find employment for those, who would not have known how to procure it for themselves.

He, whose mind is engaged by the acquision or improvement of a fortune, not only escapes the insipidity of indifference, and the tediousness of inactivity, but gains enjoyments wholly unknown to those, who live lazily on the toil of others; for life affords no higher pleasure, than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes, and seeing them gratified.  He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking, has his fatigues first supported by hope, and afterwards rewarded by joy; he is always moving to a certain end, and when he has attained it, an end more distant invites him to a new pursuit.

It does not, indeed, always happen, that diligence is fortunate; the wisest schemes are broken by unexpected accidents; the most constant perseverance sometimes toils through life without a recompense:  but labour, though unsuccessful, is more eligible than idleness:  he that prosecutes a lawful purpose by lawful means, acts always with the approbation of his own reason; he is animated through the course of his endeavours by an expectation which, though not certain, he knows to be just; and is at last comforted in his disappointment, by the consciousness that he has not failed by his own fault.

That kind of life is most happy which affords us most opportunities of gaining our own esteem; and what can any man infer in his own favour from a condition to which, however prosperous, he contributed nothing, and which the vilest and weakest of the species would have obtained by the same right, had he happened to be the son of the same father.

To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity; the next, is to strive, and deserve to conquer:  but he whose life has passed without a contest, and who can boast neither success nor merit, can survey himself only as a useless filler of existence; and if he is content with his own character, must owe his satisfaction to insensibility.

Thus it appears that the satirist advised right, when he directed us to resign ourselves to the hands of Heaven, and to leave to superior power the determination of our lot:
Intrust thy fortune to the pow’rs above:

Leave them to manage for thee, and to grant

What their unerring wisdom sees thee want.

In goodness as in greatness they excel:

Ah! that we lov’d ourselves but half so well.


What state of life admits most happiness, is uncertain; but that uncertainty ought to repress the petulance of comparison, and silence the murmurs of discontent.

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, England, Enlightenment, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times (1758)

Full Title: An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times. By John Brown. Seventh Edition. London, Printed;  Boston, New-England: Re-printed and sold by Green and Russell, at their Printing-Office in Queen-Street, MDCCLVIII.


A Delineation of the Ruling Manners and Principles.



SUPERFICIAL, though zealous, Observers, think they see the Source of all our public Miscarriages in the particular and accidental Misconduct of Individuals. This is not much to be wondered at, because it is so easy a Solution.

THIS pretence, too, is plausibly urged upon the People by profligate Scribblers, who find their Account in it. It is a sort of Compliment paid the Public, to persuade them, that they have no Share in the Production of these national Misfortunes.

BUT a candid and mature Consideration will convince us, that the Malady lies deeper than what is commonly suspected: and, on impartial Enquiry, it will probably be found springing, not from varying and incidental, but from permanent and established Causes.

 It is the Observation of the greatest of political Writers, that “it is by no means Fortune that rules the World; for this we may appeal to the Romans, who had a long Series of Prosperities, when they acted upon a certain Plan; and an uninterrupted Course of Misfortunes, when they conducted themselves upon another. There are general Causes, natural or moral, which operate in every State; which raise, support, or overturn it.” *

Among all these various Causes, none perhaps so much contributes to raise or sink a Nation, as the Manners and Principles of its People. But as there never was any declining Nation, which had not Causes of Declension peculiar to itself, so it will require a minute Investigation in the leading Manners and Principles of the present Time, to throw a just Light on the peculiar causes of our calamitous Situation.

To delineate these Manners and Principles without Aggravation or Weakness, to unravel their Effects on the publick State and Welfare, and to trace them to their real though distant Sources, is indeed a Task of equal Difficulty and Importance.

IT may be necessary therefore to apologize even for the Attempt; as being supposed to lie beyond the Sphere of him who makes it. To this it can only be replied, that a common Eye may possibly discover a lurking Rock or Sand, while the able and experienced Mariners overlook the Danger, through their Attention to the Helm, the Sails or the Rigging.

He will be much mistaken, who expects to find here a Vein of undistinguishing and licentious Satire. To rail at the Times at large, can serve no good Purpose: and generally ariseth from a Want of Knowledge or a Want of Honesty. There never was an Age or a Nation that had not Virtues and Vices peculiar to itself: And in some Respects, perhaps, there is no Time nor Country delivered down to us in Story, in which a wise Man would so much wish to have lived, as in our own.

NOTWITHSTANDING this, our Situation seems most dangerous: We are rolling to the Brink of a Precipe that must destroy us.

AT such a Juncture, to hold up a true Mirror to the Public, and let the Nation see themselves as the Authors of their own Misfortunes, cannot be a very popular Design. But as the Writer is not sollicitous about private Consequence, he can with the greater Security adopt the Words of an honest and Sensible Man.

“MOST commonly, such as palliate Evils, and represent the State of Things in a sounder Condition than truly they are, do thereby consult best for themselves, and better recommend their own Business and Pretensions in the World: But he who, to the utmost of his Skill and Power, speaks the Truth, where the Good of his King and Country are concerned, will be most esteemed by Persons of Virtue and Wisdom: And to the Favour and Protection of such, these Papers are committed.” **


* “Ce n’est pas la Fortune qui domine le Monde: on peut le demander aux Romains, qui eurent une suite continuelle des Prosperites quand ils se gouvernerent sur un certain Plan, & une suitenon interrompue de revers lors qu’ils se conduisirent sur un autre. Il y a des Causes generales, soit morales, soit physiques, qui agissent dans chaque Monarchie, l’elevent, la maintiennent, ou la precipitent” — Grandeur, &c. des Romains, c. 18.

 ** Dr. Davenant, on Trade.

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, Enlightenment, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Dr. Mayhew’s Election Sermon (1754)

Full Title:  A Sermon Preach’d in the Audience of His Excellency William Shirley, Esq; Captain General, Governour and Commander in Chief, The Honourable His Majesty’s Council, and the Honourable House of Representatives, Of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, in New England May 29th 1754.  Being the Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty’s Council for the Province. By Jonathan Mayhew, D.D. Pastor of the West Church in Boston.  Boston: N.E. Printed by Samuel Kneeland, Printer to the Honourable House of Representatives, 1754.

An Election SERMON.

MATT. XXV. 21.

His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful Servant; thou hast been faithful —-

This is part of our Savior’s well-known parable of the talents; the moral of which is in general this, That whatever powers and advantages of any kind, men severally enjoy, are committed to them in trust by the great Lord and Proprietor of all, to whom they are accountable for the use they make of them; and from whom they shall, in the close of this present scene, receive either a glorious recompence of their fidelity, or the punishment due to their sloth and wickedness.  The subject, then, is very general, and equally interesting.  All men, of whatever rank or character, are concerned in it.  It leads our thoughts from what we possess, up to the great source thereof; from what we are at present, to what we shall be hereafter.  It connects this world with another; and comprehends both our probationary and final state, under the righteous administration of God.

But tho’ the subject is very general, and of the last importance to all; yet civil power being one of the principal of those talents which Heaven commits to men, and the present occasion requiring a more particular consideration of it, the ensuing discourse will be confined thereto.  Nor would I injure our honoured rulers by the least suspicion, that they can possibly take it amiss to be reminded of their duty to God and Man upon this occasion, with all the plainness and simplicity becoming a minister of the Gospel, and consistent with decency; the rules of which, it is hoped, will not be violated. . . .

As to the source and origin of civil power; the parable on which my discourse is grounded, suggests that it is ultimately derived from God, whose “kingdom ruleth over all;” this being as truly a talent committed by Him, to the fidelity of men, as any thing else can be.  In this light it is considered in the holy scriptures.  It is not only agreeable to the original scheme and plan of God’s universal government, that civil rule should take place among men, in subordination to His own; but his providence is actually concerned in raising those persons to power and dominion, who are possessed of it.  In the language of the Prophet, “Wisdom and might are His.  He removeth kings, and setteth up kings.  the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”  The language of the apostles is not less emphatical.  They tell us, that “there is no power, but of God”; and that “they are God’s Ministers.”

But then it is to be remembered, that this power is derived from God, not immediately, but mediately, as other talents and blessings are.  The notions of any particular form of government explicitly instituted by God, as designed for a universal model; of the divine right of monarchy, in contradistinction from all other modes; of the hereditary, unalienable right of succession; of the despotic, unlimited power of kings, by the immediate grant of Heaven; and the like; these notions are not drawn from the holy scriptures, but from a far less pure and sacred fountain.  They are only the devices of lawned parasites, or other graceless politicians, to serve the purposes of ambition and tyranny.  And tho’ they are of late date, yet being traced up to their true original, they will be found to come, by uninterrupted succession, from him who was a politician from the beginning. . . .

All the different constitutions of government now in the world, are immediately the creatures of man’s making, not of God’s.  And indeed the vestiges of human imperfection are so manifest in them, that it would be a reproach to the all-wise God to attribute them directly to Him.  And as they are the creatures of man’s making; so from man, from common consent, it is that lawful rulers immediately receive their power.  This is the channel in which it flows from God, the original source of it.  Nor are any possessed of a greater portion of it, than what is conveyed to them in this Way.  Or at least, if they have any more, they have it only as the thief or the robber has the spoil, which fraud or violence has put into his hands.  Agreably to what is here said, concerning the medium or channel thro’ which power is derived from God, government is spoken of in scripture, as being both the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man:  Of God, in reference to His original plan, and universal Providence; and of man, as it is more immediately the result of human prudence, wisdom and concert.

In the second place, we are just to mention the great end of government.  And after the glory of God, which we usually consider as the end of all things in general, that can be no other than the good of man, the common benefit of society.  This is equally evident whether we consider it as a divine, or an human institution.

As it is God’s ordinance, it is designed for a blessing to the world.  It is instituted for the preservation of mens persons, properties & various rights, against fraud and lawless violence; and that, by means of it, we may both procure, and quietly enjoy, those numerous blessings and advantages, which are unattainable out of society, and being unconnected by the bonds of it.  It is not conceivable that the all-wise and good God, should ordain government amongst men, but with a view to its being subservient to their happiness, and well-being in the world:  to be sure, not, that it might be subservient to a contrary one, their misery.  We cannot imagine it possible that He who is good unto all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works, should exalt a few persons to power over the rest, to be their oppressors; or merely for their own sakes, that they may amass riches, that they may live in ease and splendor, that they may riot on the produce of other’s toil, and receive the homage of millions, without doing them any good.  It were blasphemous to think that God has instituted government for such a partial, unworthy end.



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Filed under 1750's, Colonial America, Government, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Religion