Category Archives: Politics

Item of the Day: The Honourable Charles James Fox (1801)

Found In: Public Characters of 1798-9. The Third Edition. Enlarged and Corrected to the 20th of April, 1801. To Be Continued Annually. London: Printed for R. Phillips, No. 71, St. Paul’s Church Yard; and sold by T. Hurst, J. Wallie and West and Hughes, Paternoster-Row; Carpenter and Co. Old Bond-Street; R. H. Westley, Strand; and by all other booksellers, 1801.

 

THE HONOURABLE (LATELY RIGHT HONOURABLE)

CHARLES JAMES FOX.

ALL the great men of the present day are either the offspring of, or immediately descended from, new families. The ancient nobility repose under the laurels of their ancestors. Not deigning to apply to any of the learned professions, and deeming commerce and agriculture unworthy of their pursuits (a few illustrious characters excepted) they delegate their domestic concerns to the care of their upper servants, and not unfrequently the business of the nation is entrusted to their proxies. This, perhaps, will be the best apology for the multitude of the plebeian scions, recently engrafted on the stock of ancient aristocracy; and, although it may puzzle Garter, Norroy, and Clarencieux, to find them either arms or ancestors, certain it is, that the life-blood of nobility has been infused into the peerage through the conduit of democracy.

It may also be necessary to preface this article with another observation, of which some of the most conspicious characters of the present political drama, afford more than one pregnant instance: that the younger sons of our nobility are more successful in their political efforts, than the elder. This may be easily accounted for: the heir to a great fortune, and an illustrious title, knows not how soon both may devolve upon him; and when that event takes place, to what further object can his expectations point? He finds that he has been born a legislator, and that a large fortune is intailed upon his person; here, then, are wealth and honours not only within his grasp, but actually in his possission. It is otherwise with the juniro brances, for they have in general but little in possesion, and every thing to look for; they inhereit all the exquisite relish for pleasure that their seniors enjoy to satiety, and are only deficient in the means of gratification. Like the dove of Noah, they scarcely find a resting-place for the soles of their feet, on their own earth; and they are exactly in the situation of an invading general who has burnt his ships, for they must go on, or perish!

Charles James Fox is the younger son of Henry, who was himself a younger son of Sir Stephen Fox, celebrated less for his own birth, than the circumstance of being a father at the age of eighty, an event not incredible, however, and rendered, in the present instance, unsuspicious, by the decorous conduct, and acknowledged virtue of the partner of his bed. Henry entered early into public life, and such was his address in parliament, during the reign of George II. that he soon attained not only some of the most arduous and honourable but also the most lucrative situations in the gift of the crown; for, in the year 1754, he was appointed secretary at war; then secretary of state for the southern department; and, after being ousted by the great Mr. Pitt, less celbrated uner the name of Earl of Chatham, we find him filling the immensely beneficial office of pay-master general of the forces, accumulating great wealth, and thereby incurring the animadversions of the first city of the empire. Such, indeed, was his consequence, that at a time when patents of peerage were not very common, he was ennobled by his present Majesty, in 1763, by the title of Baron Holland of Foxley.

His son, Charles James, was born January 13th, 1749, and if on his father’s side he classed among the novi homines, by his mother’s, his descent must be allowed to be illustrious; for Lady Georgiana Carolina Lenox was the daughter of the late Duke of Richmond; and, as such, in addition to that of the King of Sardinia, she was allied to the two rival, but related families, which had so long contested the throne of Great Britain — those of Brunswick and Stuart.

But it is not to such claims as these that the future historian will have recourse; he will dwell with ardour on the early promise of a genius, the precocious talents of the boy, the matured wisdom of the philosopher and the statesman; and while the ablilities and virtues that adorn the character of his hero bring him forward on the canvas, these inefficient and involuntry pretensions will be cast into the shade, and scarcely be distinguished in the background. . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Biography, Culture, Eighteenth century, Government, Great Britain, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry (1800)

Full Title: Manuscript letter from Charles Carroll to Secretary of War, James McHenry, November 4, 1800.

 

Annapolis, 4th Nov. 1800

I regret my absence form this city when Mr. Caldwell brought your letter of the 21st past, as it deprived me of shewing those attentions & that civility to which his character & his connection with you justly entitled him.

I hoped to have had the pleasure of a visit from you at the Manor. I wished much to see you to discourse on a variety of subjects & particularly on the present critical situation of this country. The President remarks that we are fallen upon evil times. I fear a great part of the evil may be attributed to his shifting conduct, his passions, his indescretion, vanity & jealousy. I had a high opinion of Mr. Adams, & still I believe him to be an honest man, but his integrity cannot compensate for his weaknesses, which unfit him for his present station. With a competition for places & power between the friends & opposers of the administration the only object of the contest, it would be a matter of indifference to me by what party the governt. should be administered. If Mr. Adams should be reelected I fear our Constitution would be more injured by his unruly passions, anitpathies & jealousy, than by the whimsies of Jefferson. I am not acquainted with the characters of the leaders of the opposition but it is to be apprehanded [sic], that to obtain & retain power they might sacrifice the true interests & real independence of this country to France. Judge Duvall says that now well informed man can doubt of there being a british faction among us wishing to establish a monarchy in lieu of a republican govent. If he unites the north I own I am not one of the number of the well informed. I know of no such faction; if it exists & is endeavouring to effect such a change, its attempts should be crushed. If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France. Yet the men so far as I am informed, who stile themselves republicans, very generally wish success to France; in other words, the friends of freedom here are the friends of Bounaparte, who has established by a military force the most despotic government in Europe; how are we to reconcile this contradiciton of their avowed principles? Is their aversion to the English constitution the cause of this inconsistency? Do they consider the naval power of that nation as the strongest barrier to the revolutionary arts by which all the rulers of France, each in their turn, have endeavoured & are endeavouring to weaken & subvert all othe governments, that France may establish an influence over all, & thus become too powerful? They dare not avow the sentiments, yet their wishes & their conduct point to it. I wish the british to retain the empire of the seas, while the rulers of France are activated by such motives; the decided naval superiority of Britain is ye only effectual check to ye ambition of that republick; the true interests and independence of this country require that those rival nations should be balanced.

If the people of this coutnry were united it would have nothing to fear from foreign powers; but unhappily this is not the case. Many of the opposers of the present administration, I suspect want a change of the federal constitution; if that should be altered or weakened so as to be rendered a dead letter, it will not answer the purposes of its formation and will expire from mere inanity: other confederacies will start up & ye scene of ye Grecian states after an interval of more than two thousand years will be renewed on this contintent, & some Philip or Bounaparte will met the whole of them into one mass of despotism.

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amont us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only soruce of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree form the turbulance of passions may be vituous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most waanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without mortals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are underming the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

If there be force in this reasoning what judgement ought we to form of our pretended republicans, who admire & applaud the proceedings of the revolutionary France!

These disclaimers in favor of freedom and equality act in such a questionable shape that I cannot help suspecting their sincerity.

This is a long & preaching letter and I fear a tedious & dull one, but you wished to know my sentiments about the present parties & impending fate of our country, and I could not give them without developing the reasons for my opinion. You see that I almost despair of the Commonwealth. The end of every legitimate government is the security of life, liberty and property: if this country is to be revolutionised none of these will be secure. Perhaps the leaders of the opposition, when they get into office, may be content to let the Constitution remain as it is, & may pursue the policy & measures of Washington’s administration, but what will become in that case of their consistency? Patriots you will say are not always consistent; granted, yet other patriots and opposers will arise to arraign this inconsistency, & the storm once raised, who will stop its fury?

Celui que met un pein a la fureur des flots

Sait aussi des mechans arreter les complots

My only hope is in that being who educes good out of evil. May he in his abundant mercy incline the hearts of our countrymen to tpeace, justice and concord.

I have read Mr. Hamilton’s pamphlet; the drift of its publication at this time I conjecture was not so mcuh with a view of vindicating his character as to prevent the electors in Massachusetts from scattering their votes in order to secure the election of Mr. Adams in preference to Mr. Pinckney. All with whom I have conversed, blame however Mr. Hamilton and consider his publication as ill timed, altho I pay a deference to the opinions of others, whose motives I know to be good, yet I cannot help differing from them in this instance. The assertions of the pamphlet I take it for granted are true, and if true, surely it must be admitted that Mr. Adams is not fit to be president, and his unfitness should be made known to the electors, and ye public. I conceive it a species of treason to conceal from the publick his incapacity . . .

Although your remaining rather a spectator of than an actor in the passing scenes is founded on a proper motive, yet you will find it impossible to retain an neutral character, nor do I think it fit you should. We ought all, each in our several spheres, to endeavour to set the publick mind right, & to administer antodotes to the poison that is widely spreading throughout the country.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Elections, Federalists, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, John Adams, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York in 1765 (1767)

Full Title: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York, in MDCCLXV, on the SUBJECT of the AMERICAN STAMP ACT.  MDCCLXVII. [1767]

 

PROCEEDINGS

OF THE

CONGRESS

AT

NEW-YORK.

Boston, June 1765.

SIR,

 The House of Representatives of this province, in the present session of the general court, have unanaimously agreed to propose a meeting, as soon as may be, of COMMITTEES, from the houses of representatives or burgesses of the several British colonies on this continent, to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are, and must be reduced, by the operation of the acts of parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies; and to consider of a general, and united, dutiful, loyal and humble representation of their condition, to his Majesty and the Parliament, and to implore relief. The house of reprsentatives of this province have also voted to propose, That such meeting be at the city of New-York, in the province of New-York, on the first Tuesday in October next; and have appointed a committee of three of their members to attend that service, with such as the other houses of representatives, or burgesses, in the several colonies, may think fit to appoint to meet them. And the committee of the house of representatives of this province, are directed to repair to said New-York, on said first Tuesday in October next, accordingly.

If, therefore, your honourable house should agree to this proposal, it would be acceptable, that as early notice of it as possible, might be transmitted to the speaker of the house of representatives of this province.

SAMUEL WHITE, Speaker

In consequence of the foregoing circular letter, the following gentlemen met at New-York, in the province of New-York, on Monday the seventh day of October, 1765, viz.

From the province of Massachusetts-bay, JAMES OTIS, OLIVER PATRIDGE, TIMOTHY RUGGLES, Esquires.

From the colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence plantation, METCALF BOWLER, HENRY WARD, Esquires.

From the colony of Connecticut, ELIPHALET DYER, DAVID ROWLAND, WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, Esquires.

From the colony of New-York, ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON, JOHN CRUGER, PHILIP LIVINGSTON, WILLIAM BAYARD, LEONARD LISPENARD, Esquires.

From the colony of New-Jersey, ROBERT OGDEN, HENDRICK FISHER, JOSEPH BORDEN, Esquires.

From the government of the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, CAESAR RODNEY, THOMAS M’KEAN, Esquires.

From the province of Maryland, WILLIAM MURDOCK, EDWARD TILGHMAN, THOMAS RINGGOLD, Esquires.

From the province of South-Carolina, THOMAS LYNCH, CHRISTOPHER GADSDEN, JOHN RUTLEDGE, Esquires.

Then the said committees proceeded to chuse a chariman by ballot, and Timothy Ruggles, esq; on sorting and counting the votes, appeared to have a majority, and thereupon was placed in the chair.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Congress, Great Britain, New York, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Stamp Act

Item of the Day: Almon’s Anecdotes (1797)

Full Title:

Biographical, Literary, and Political Anecdotes of Several of the Most Eminent Persons of the Present Age.  Never Before Printed.  With an Appendix; Consisting of Original, Explanatory, and Scarce Papers.  By the Author of Anecdotes of the Late Earl of Chatham.  In Three Volumes.  Volume I.  London: Printed for T. N. Longman, and L. B. Seeley.  In Pater-Noster-Row.  1797. 

CHAPTER XI.

Secret and True History of the Irish Octennial Bill.

Irish Electors instruct their Representatives to bring in a Septennial Bill.  Extraordinary Preamble to it, with a View to Defeat it.  Sent to England.  Delayed.  Remarks.  Altered.  Returned to Ireland.  People of Dublin assemble in immense Numbers, and compel their Representative to pass the Bill. Further Remarks.  Management of the Parliament of Ireland, and of the last Parliament of Scotland.  Anecdote of Lord William Gordon. 

Before the year 1768, when this bill passed, the Parliament of Ireland was only determined by the King’s life; but now (according to this law) the Parliament of that kingdom is to be chosen once in eight years.  A short history of this extraordinary event cannot be underserving the reader’s attention.  No blame attached to the Lord Lieutentant in this affair; but a great deal of something worse attaches to the secret cabinet at St. James’s, whose design was to have defeated the measure, and to have transferred the odium of that defeat upon those, who, for other purposes, they had encouraged to demand it. 

In the month of August, 1767, Lord Townshend was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  During the preceding year, a considerable majority of the electors of Ireland instructed their representatives on the subject, or, as they termed it, on the necessity of bringing in, and passing, a bill, to limit the duration of Parliament to seven years; in like manner, as the Parliament of Great Britain is limited; and so warm and so numerous were the electors, particularly all the lower class, in support of this measure, that there was scarcely a town or country throughout the kingdom which did not instruct or insist upon their representatives voting for such bill; and the electors of some places carried their enthusiasm so far, as to compel their Members to make oath they would vote for it.  Accordingly, when the Irish Parliament met in the month of November, 1767, the heads of a bill for limiting the duration of Parliaments to seven years were brought into the House of Commons, and immediately passed.  But, agreeable to the mode of enacting laws at that time in Ireland, these heads of the bill were transmitted to England, for the approbabtion of the King and Council, that being the next stage of progress.  And here it must be observed, that the reason of the Commons passing the bill, was not the positive commands of their Constituents, but the sanguine hopes which the Irish Patriots themselves entertained, that it would, without a doubt, be rejected in England.  And therefore, in order to make this wished-fo rejection as certain as possible, the preamble of the bill stated, that, “Whereas it it the undoubted right of the people of Ireland to a more frequent choice of their representatives, &c.” They they changed the request of a boon into a demand of a right; which was certainly neither a respectful nor a proper mode of soliciting the resignation of a power that had been exercised by the Crown during a long period of years; for it implied, that the right had been withheld from the subject all that time […] 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1760's, 1790's, Ireland, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Citizen of the World (1792)

Full Title: The Citizen of the World, or, Letters from a Chinese Philosopher residing in London to his friends in the East. By Oliver Goldsmith. Vol. 1. London. Printed for T. Vernor, W. Otridge, Scatchard & Whitaker, Ogilvy & Speare, Darton & Harvey & W. Millar. Dec. 1. 1792. [Originally pub. 1762.]

LETTER IV.

To the Same [From Lien Chi Altangi, to the care of Fipsihi, Resident in Moscow; to be forwarded by the Russian Ravan to Fum Hoam, First President of the Ceremonial Academy at Pekin, in China].

The English seem as silent as the Japanese, yet vainer than the inhabitants of Siam. Upon my arrival, I attributed the reserve to modesty, which I now find has its origins in pride.  Condescend to address them first, and you are sure of their acquaintance; stoop to flattery, and you conciliate their friendship and esteem. They bear hunger, cold, fatique, and all the miseries of life without shrinking: danger only calls forth their fortitude; they even exult in calamity; but contempt is what they cannot bear. An Englishman fears contempt more than death: he often flies to death as a refuge from its pressure; and dies when he fancies the world has ceased to esteem him.

Pride seems the source not only of their national vices, but of their national virtues. An Englishman is taught to love his king as his friend, but to acknowledge no other master than the laws which himself has contributed to enact. He despises those nations, who, that one may be free, are all content to be slaves; who first lift a tyrant into terror, and then shrink under his power as if delegated from heaven. Liberty is echoed in all their assemblies, and thousands might be found ready to offer up their lives for the sound, though perhaps not one of all the number understands its meaning. The lowest mechanic however looks upon it as his duty to be a watchful guardian of his country’s freedom, and often uses a language that might seem haughty, even in the mouth of the great emperor who traces his ancestry to the moon.  

A few days ago, passing by one of their prisons, I could not avoid stopping, in order to listen to a dialogue which I thought might afford me some entertainment. The conversation carried on between a debtor through the grate of his prison, a porter, who had stopped to rest his burthen, and a soldier at the window. The subject was upon a threatened invasion from France, and each seemed extremely anxious to rescue his country from the impending danger. “For my part, (cries the prisoner), the greatest of my apprehensions is for our freedom; if the French should conquer, what would become of English liberty? My dear friends, liberty is the Englishman’s prerogative; we must preserve that at the expence of our lives; of that the French shall never deprive us: it is not to be expected that men who are slaves themselves, would preserve our freedom should they happen to conquer:” Ay, slaves, cries the porter, they are all slaves, fit only to carry burthens every one of them. Before I would stoop to slavery, may this be my poison (and he held the goblet in his hand), may this be my poison–but I would sooner lift for a soldier.

The soldier, taking the goblet from his friend, with much awe (fervently cried out), It is not so much our liberties as our religion that would suffer by a change: Ay, our religion, my lads, May the devil sink me into flames, (such was the solemnity of his adjuration), if the French should come over, but our religion would be utterly undone. So saying, instead of a libation, he applied the goblet to his lips, and confirmed his sentiments with a ceremony of the most preseving devotion.

In short, every man here pretends to be a politician; even the fair sex are sometimes found to mix the severity of national altercation with the blandishments of love, and often become conquerors by more weapons of destruction than their eyes.

The universal passion for politics is gratified by Daily Gazettes, as with us at China. But as in ours, the emperor endeavors to instruct his people; in theirs they endeavor to instruct the administration. You must not, however, imagine, that they who compile these papers have any actual knowledge of the politics, or the goverment of a state; they only collect their materials from the oracle of some coffee-house, which oracle has himself gathered them the night before from a beau at a gaming table, who has pillaged his knowledge from a great man’s porter, who has all the information from the great man’s gentleman, who has invented the whole stroy for his own amusement the night preceding.

The English in general seem fonder of gaining the esteem than the love of those they converse with: this gives a formality to their amusements; their gayest conversations have something too wise for innocent relaxation; though in company you are seldom disgusted with the absurdity of a fool; you are seldom lifted into rapture by those strokes of vivacity which give instant, though not permanent, pleasure.

What they want, however, in gaiety thay make up in politeness. You smile at hearing me praise the English for their politeness; you who have heard very different accounts from missionaries at Pekin, who have seen such a different behaviour in their merchants and seamen at home. But I must still repeat it, the English seem more polite than any of their neighbours: their great art in this respect lies in endeavouring, while they oblige, to lessen the force of the favour. Other countries are fond of obliging a stranger; but seem desirous that he should be so sensible of the obligation. The English confer this kindness with the appearance of indifference, and give away benefits with an air as if they despised them.

Walking a few days ago between an English and a Frenchman in the suburbs of the city, we were overtaken by a heavy shower of rain. I was unprepared; but they each ahd large coats which defended them from what seemed to me a perfect inundation. The Englishman seeing me shrink from the wather, accosted me thus: “Psha, man, what dost shrink at? Here take this coat; I don’t want it; I find it no way useful to me: I had a lief be without it.” The Frenchman began to show his politeness in turn. “My dear friend, (cries he) why won’t you oblige me by making use of my coat; you see how well it defends me from the rain; I should not chuse to part with it to others, but to such a friend as you, I could even part with my skin to do him service.”

From such minute instances as these, most reverend Fum Hoam, I am sensible your sagacity will collect instruction. The volume of nature is the book of knowledge; and he becomes wise who makes the most judicious selection. Farewell.     

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Fiction, Letters, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: The Works of Algernon Sydney (1772)

Full Title: The Works of Algernon Sydney. A New Edition. London, Printed by W. Strahan IUN. For T. Becket and Co. and T. Cadell, in the Strand; T. Davies, in Russel Street; and T. Evans, in King Street.  MDCCLXXII. 

Discourses Concerning Government

Section II

The Common Notions of Liberty are not From School Divines, but from Nature.

In the first lines of his book [Filmer’s Patriarcha] he seems to denounce war against mankind, endeavoring to overthrow the principle in which God created us, and which includes the chief advantages of the life we enjoy, as well as the greatest helps towards the felicity, that is the end of our hopes in the other. To this end he absurdly imputes to the school divines that which was taken up by them as a common notion, written in the heart of every man, denied by none, but such as were degenerated into beats, from whence they might prove such points as of themselves were less evident. Thus did Euclid lay down certain axioms, which none could deny that did not renounce common sense, from whence he drew the proofs of such propositions as were less obvious to the understanding. And they may with as much reason be accused of paganism, who say that the whole is greater that a part, that two halves make the whole, or that a straight line is the shortest way from point to point, as to say, that they who in politics lay such foundations, as have been taken up by schoolmen as undeniable truths, do therefore follow them, or have any regard for their authority. Though the schoolmen were corrupt, they were neither stupid nor unlearned: they could not but see that which all men saw, not lay more approved foundations, than, that man is naturally free; that he cannot justly be deprived of that liberty without cause; and that he doth not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself. But if he doth unjustly impute the invention of this to school divinesm he in some measure repairs his fault in saying, “this hath been fostered by all succeeding papists for good divinity; the divines of the reformed churches have entertained it, and the common people every where tenderly embrace it.” That is to say, all christian divines, whether reformed or unreformed do approve it, and the people every where magnify it, as the height of human felicity. But Filmer, and such as are like to him, being neither reformed nor unreformed christians, nor of the people, can have no title to christianity; and, inasmuch as they set themselves against that which is the height of human felicity, they declare themselves enemies to all that are concerned in it, that is, to all mankind.  

But, says he, “they do not remember, that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of man.” And I desire it may not be forgotten, that the liberty asserted is not a licentiousness of doing what is pleasing to everyone against the command of God, but an exemption from all human laws, to which they have not given their assent. If he would make us believe there was any thing of this in Adam’s sin, he ought to have proved, that the law which he transgressed was imposed upon him by man, and, consequently, that there was a man to impose it; for it will easily appear that neither the reformed nor the unreformed divines, nor the people following them, do place the felicity of man in the exemption from the laws of God, but in the most perfect conformity to them. Our Saviour taught us “not to fear such as could kill the body, but him that could kill, and cast us into hell;” and the apostle tells us, that “we should obey God rather than man.” It has beeen ever hereupon observed, that they, who most preciously adhere to the lwas of God, are least solicitous concerning the commands of men, unless they are well grounded; and those, who most delight in the glorious liberty of the sons of God, do not only subject themselves to him, but are most regular observers of the just ordinances of man, made by the consent of such as are concerned, according to the will of God. 

The error of not observing this may perhaps deserve to be pardoned in a man that had read no books, as proceeding from ignorance; if such as are grossly ignorant can be excusedm when they take upon them to write of such matters as require the highest knowledge: but in Sir Robert it is prevarication and fraud to impute to schoolmen and purtitans that which in his first page he acknowledged to be the doctrine of all reformed and unreformed christian churches, and that he knows to have been the principle in which the Grecians, Italians, Spaniards, Gauls, Germans, and Britons, and all other generous nations ever lived, before the name of Christ was known in the world; insomuch that the base effeminate Asiatics and Africans, for being careless of their liberty, or unable to govern themselves, were by Aristotle and other wise men called “slaves by nature,” and looked upon as little different from beasts.

This which hath its root in common sense, not being overthrown by reason, he spares his pains of seeking any; but thinks it enough to render his doctrine plausible to his own party, by joining the Jesuits to Geneva, and coupling Buchanan to Doleman as both maintaining the same doctrine; though he might as well have joined the puritans with the Turks, because they all think that one and one makes two.  But whoever marks the proceedings of Filmer and his masters, as well as his disciples, will rather believe, that they have learned from Rome and the Jesuits to hate Geneva, than that Geneva and Rome can agree in any thing farther, than as they are obliged to submit to the evidence of truth; or that Geneva and Rome can concur in any design or interest that is not common to mankind.

These men allowed to “the people a liberty of deposing their princes.” This is a “desparate” opinion. “Bellarmine and Calvin look asquint at it.” But why is this a desparate opinion? If disagreements happen between king and people, why is it a more desparate opinion to think the king should be subject to the censures of the people, than the people subject to the will of the king? Did the people make the king, or the king make the people? Is the king for the people, or the people for the king? Did God create Hebrews, that Saul might reign over them? or did they, from an opinion of procuring their own good, ask a king that might judge them, and fight their battles?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government, Liberty, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams, Religion

Item of the Day: Bolingbroke’s Dissertation on Parties (1754)

Full Title: The Works of the Right Honorable Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke. Vol. II. London: Printed in the Year MDCCLIV.

A Dissertation on Parties.  Letter I.

Sir, To corrupt and to divide are the trite and wicked expedients, by which some ministers in all ages have affected to govern; but especially such as have been least capable of exerting the true arts of government.  There is however a difference to be made between these two expedients, to the advantage of the latter, and by consequence between the characters of those who put them in practice.

Every busy, ambitious child of fortune, who hath himself a corrupt heart, and becomes master of a larger purse, hath all that is necessary to employ the expedient of corruption with success.  A bribe, in the hand of the most blundering coxcomb that ever disgraced honor and wealth and power, will prevail as much as in the hand of a man of sense, and go farther too, if it weigh more.  An intriguing chamber-maid may flip a bank-note into a griping paw, as well as the most subtle daemon of hell.  H**E may govern as triumphantly by this expedient as the great knight his brother, and the great knight as BURLEIGH himself.

But every character cannot attempt the other expedient of dividing, or keeping up divisions, with equal success.  There is, indeed, no occasion for any extraordinary genius to divide; and true wisdom despises the infamous task.  But there is need of that left-handed wisdom, called cunning, and of those habits in business, called experience.  He that is corrupted, co-operates with him that corrupts.  He runs into his arms at the first beckon; or, in order sometimes to raise the price, he meets him but half way.  On the other hand, to divide, or to maintain and renew the divisions of parties in a state, a system of seduction and fraud is necessary to be carried on.  The divided are so far from being accessory to the guilt, that they would not be divided, if they were not first deceived.

From these differences, which I have observed between the two expedients, and the characters and means proper to put them in practice with success, it may be discovered perhaps why, upon former occasions, as I shall hereafter shew, the expedient of dividing prospered so much better than that of corrupting; and why, upon some later occasions, the expedient of corrupting succeeds so well in those hands, which are not, and I trust, will not be so lucky in maintaining or renewing our party divisions.   

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Government, Political Philosophy, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams