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Burke and his book, and of course of all the principles of the ancient, constitutional Whigs of this kingdom. Certainly they are not owned. But are they condemned with the same zeal as Mr. Burke and his book are condemned? Are they condemned at all? Are they rejected or discountenanced in any way whatsoever? Is any man who would fairly examine into the demeanour and principles of those societies, and that too very moderately, and in the way rather of admonition than of punishment, is such a man even decently treated? Is he not reproached, as if, in condemning such principles, he had belied
the conduct of his whole life, suggesting that his life had been . governed by principles similar to those which he now reprobates? The French system is in the mean time, by many active agents out of doors, rapturously praised; the British Constitution is coldly tolerated. But these Constitutions are different, both in the foundation and in the whole superstructure ; and it is plain that you cannot build up the one but on the ruins of the other. After all, if the French be a superior system of liberty, why should we not adopt it? To what end are our praises? Is excellence held out to us only that we should not copy after it? And what is there in the manners of the people, or in the climate of France, which renders that species of republic fitted for them, and unsuitable to us? A strong and marked difference between the two nations ought to be shown, before we can admit a constant, affected panegyric, a standing annual commemoration, to be without any tendency to an example.
But the leaders of party will not go the length of the doctrines taught by the seditious clubs 'P I am sure they do not mean to do so. God forbid | Perhaps even those who are directly carrying on the work of this pernicious foreign faction do not all of them intend to produce all the mischiefs which must inevitably follow from their having any success in their proceedings. As to leaders in parties, nothing is more common than to see them blindly led. The world is governed by gobetweens. These go-betweens influence the persons with whom they carry on the intercourse, by stating their own sense to each of them as the sense of the other; and thus they reciprocally master both sides. It is first buzzed about the ears of leaders, that “their friends without-doors are very eager for some measure, or very warm about some opinion,--that you must not be too rigid with them. They are useful persons, and zealous in the cause. They may be a little wrong ; but the spirit of liberty must not be damped; and, by the influence you obtain from some degree of concurrence with them at present, you may be enabled to set them right hereafter.” Thus the leaders are at first drawn to a connivance with senti
ments and proceedings often totally different from their serious and deliberate notions. But their acquiescence answers every purpose. With no better than such powers, the go-betweens assume a new representative character. What at best was but an acquiescence, is magnified into an authority, and thence into a desire on the part of the leaders; and it is carried down as such to the subordinate members of parties. By this artifice they in their turn are led into measures which at first, perhaps, few of them wished at all, or at least did not desire vehemently or systematically. There is in all parties, between the principal leaders in Parliament and the lowest followers out of doors, a middle sort of men, a sort of equestrian order, who, by the spirit of that middle situation, are the fittest for preventing things from running to excess. But indecision, though a vice of a totally different character, is the natural accomplice of violence. The irresolution and timidity of those who compose this middle order often prevent the effect of their controlling situation. The fear of differing with the authority of leaders on the one hand, and of contradicting the desires of the multitude on the other, induces them to give a careless and passive assent to measures in which they never were consulted: and thus things proceed, by a sort of activity of inertness, until whole bodies, leaders, middle men, and followers, are all hurried, with every appearance, and with many of the effects, of unanimity, into schemes of politics, in the substance of which no two of them were ever fully agreed, and the origin and authors of which, in this circular mode of communication, none of them find it possible to trace. In my experience I have seen much of this in affairs which, though trifling in comparison to the present, were yet of some importance to parties; and I have known them suffer by it. The sober part give their sanction, at first through inattention and levity; at last they give it through necessity. A violent spirit is raised, which the presiding minds, after a time, find it impracticable to stop at their pleasure, to control, to regulate, or even to direct. This shows, in my opinion, how very quick and awakened all men ought to be, who are looked up to by the public, and, who deserve that confidence, to prevent a surprise on their opinions, when dogmas are spread, and projects pursued, by which the foundations of society may be affected. Before they listen even to moderate alterations in the government of their country, they ought to take care that principles are not propagated for that purpose, which are too big for their object. Doctrines limited in their present application, and wide in their general principles, are never meant to be confined to what they at first pretend. If I were to form a prognostic of the effect of the present machinations on the people from their sense of any grievance they suffer under this Constitution, my mind would be at ease. But there is a wide difference between the multitude, when they act against their government from a sense of grievance, or from zeal for some opinions. When men are thoroughly possessed with that zeal, it is difficult to calculate its force. It is certain that its power is by no means in exact proportion to its reasonableness. It must always have been discoverable by persons of reflection, but it is now obvious to the world, that a theory concerning government may become as much a cause of fanaticism as a dogma in religion. There is a boundary to men's passions when they act from feeling; none when they are under the influence of imagination. Remove a grievance, and, when men act from feeling, you go a great way towards quieting a commotion. But the good or bad conduct of a government, the protection men have enjoyed, or the oppression they have suffered, under it, are of no sort of moment, when a faction, proceeding upon speculative grounds, is thoroughly heated against its form. When a man is, from system, furious against monarchy or episcopacy, the good conduct of the monarch or the bishop has no other effect than further to irritate the adversary. He is provoked at it as furnishing a plea for preserving the thing which he wishes to destroy. His mind will be heated as much by the sight of a sceptre, a mace, or a verge, as if he had been daily bruised and wounded by these symbols of authority. Mere spectacles, mere names, will become sufficient causes to stimulate the people to war and tumult. Some gentlemen are not terrified by the facility with which government has been overturned in France. The people of France, they say, had nothing to lose in the destruction of a bad Constitution; but, though not the best possible, we have still a good stake in ours, which will hinder us from desperate risks. Is this any security at all against those who seem to persuade themselves, and who labour to persuade others, that our Constitution is an usurpation in its origin, unwise in its contrivance, mischievous in its effects, contrary to the rights of man, and in all its parts a perfect nuisance? What motive has any rational man, who thinks in that manner, to spill his blood, or even to risk a shilling of his fortune, or to waste a moment of his leisure, to preserve it? If he has any duty relative to it, his duty is to destroy it. A Constitution on sufferance is a Constitution condemned. Sentence is already passed upon it. The execution is only delayed. On the principles of these gentlemen it neither has nor ought to have any security. So far as regards them, it is left naked, without friends, partisans, assertors, or protectors. Let us examine into the value of this security upon the principles of those who are more sober; of those who think, indeed, the French Constitution better, or at least as good, as the British, without going to all the lengths of the warmer politicians in reprobating their own. Their security amounts in reality to nothing more than this, that the difference between their republican system and the British limited monarchy is not worth a civil war. This opinion, I admit, will prevent people, not very enterprising in their nature, from an active undertaking against the British Constitution. But it is the poorest defensive principle that ever was infused into the mind of man against the attempts of those who will enterprise. It will tend totally to remove from their minds that very terror of a civil war which is held out as our sole security. They who think so well of the French Constitution certainly will not be the persons to carry on a war to prevent their obtaining a great benefit, or at worst a fair exchange. They will not go to battle in favour of a cause in which their defeat might be more advantageous to the public than their victory. They must at least tacitly abet those who endeavour to make converts to a sound opinion; they must discountenance those who would oppose its propagation. In proportion as by these means the enterprising party is strengthened, the dread of a struggle is lessened. See what an encouragement this is to the enemies of the Constitution 1 A few assassinations, and a very great destruction of property, we know they consider as no real obstacles in the way of a grand political change. And they will hope that here, if anti-monarchical opinions gain ground, as they have done in France, they may, as in France, accomplish a revolution without a war. They who think so well of the French Constitution cannot be seriously alarmed by any progress made by its partisans. Provisions for security are not to be received from those who think that there is no danger. No 1 there is no plan of security to be listened to but from those who entertain the same fears with ourselves; from those who think that the thing to be secured is a great blessing ; and the thing against which we would secure it a great mischief. Every person of a different opinion must be careless about security. I believe the author of the IRéflections, whether he fears the designs of that set of people with reason or not, cannot prevail on himself to despise them. He cannot despise them for their numbers, which, though small compared with the sound part of the community, are not inconsiderable; he cannot look with contempt on their influence, their activity, or the kind of talents and tempers which they possess, exactly calculated for the work they have in hand, and the minds they chiefly apply to. Do we not see their most considerable and accredited ministers, and several of their party of weight and importance, active in spreading mischievous opinions, in giving sanction to seditious writings, in promoting seditious anniversaries 2 And what part of their description has disowned them or their proceedings? When men, circumstanced as these are, publicly declare such admiration of a foreign Constitution, and such contempt of our own, it would be, in the author of the IRéflections, thinking as he does of the French Constitution, infamously to cheat the rest of the nation to their ruin, to say there is no danger. In estimating danger, we are obliged to take into our calculation the character and disposition of the enemy into whose hands we may chance to fall. The genius of this faction is easily discerned, by observing with what a very different eye they have viewed the late foreign revolutions. Two have passed before them; —that of France and that of Poland. The state of Poland was such, that there could scarcely exist two opinions, but that a reformation of its Constitution, even at some expense of blood, might be seen without much disapprobation. No confusion could be feared in such an enterprise, because the establishment to be reformed was itself a state of confusion. A king without authority; nobles without union or subordination ; a people without arts, industry, commerce, or liberty; no order within, no defence without ; no effective public force, but a foreign force, which entered a naked country at will, and disposed of every thing at pleasure. Here was a state of things which seemed to invite, and might perhaps justify, bold enterprise and desperate experiment. But in what manner was this chaos brought into order? The means were as striking to the imagination as satisfactory to the reason and soothing to the moral sentiments. In contemplating that change, humanity has every thing to rejoice and to glory in ; nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to suffer. So far as it has gone, it probably is the most pure and defecated public good which ever has been conferred on mankind. We have seen anarchy and servitude at once removed; a throne strengthened for the protection of the people, without trenching on their liberties; all foreign cabal banished, by changing the Crown from elective to hereditary ; and, what was a matter of pleasing wonder, we have seen a reigning king, from an heroic love to his country, exerting himself with all the toil, the dexterity, the management, the intrigue, in favour of a family of strangers,