« PreviousContinue »
have travelled ! when a person is injured in his property, he commences a suit at a great expense, and after a long train of pleadings on both sides, the determination both of law and fact is left to the judge, who may possibly be biassed in favour of one party, or which is still worse, may be corrupted. But in criminal prosecutions, the unhappy defendant labours under still more deplorable circumstances. When a man is apprehended on suspicion of murder, or any other capital offence, he is immediately shut up a close prisoner, and the witnesses against him are examined, not vita cooe, but perhaps a mile distant, and their evidence written at large in a journal kept for that purpose. All this is done, and even the judgment agreed on by the court, whilst the prisioner is confined in the dungeon. The witnesses are ordered to attend on another day, when the prisoner is brought into court ? the evidence is read to him, and thus, for the first time, he knows who are his accusers. He is then asked if he is guilty of the facts sworn against him: If he confesses, he receives judgment of death ; but if he denies the whole, or any part, he is immediately put to the torture, where perhaps, by the extremity of pain, he may be forced to confess crimes he never committed, and afterwards suffer death. Again, the property of individuals may be seized by an arbitrary tyrant, to reward the iniquity of a favourite, or gratify the ambition of a mistress. Happy England ; where the cottager is as secure in the enjoyment of the fruits of his honest industry, as the prince in possession of his revenues or the throne.
I come now to speak of their religion, which triumphs with as much vigour over the mind and conscience, as the civil power over the body. Religion has been justly defined, “A dedication of the whole man to the will of God;" but popery, so far from answering the description, seems to be a slavish submission to the dictates of idle, useless spirits, who rule the consciences of the vulgar, and bend them to whatever purpose they please; and indeed, there is no great wonder, when we consider that auricular confession puts them in possession of every family secret in their parishes. I am already sufficiently tired with the sight of their follies. The accounts which you have read of the Inquisition are far from being exaggerated. I intend to return in an English vessel bound for Marseilles, and from thence hasten to England.—I shall expect a letter from you, to be left with my banker at Paris, and remain,-Yours affectionately.
His Friend's Answer. My dear friend,-Your account of the civil and religious tyranny under which the people groan in foreign nations, together with the progress of deism, exhibits to our view a melancholy picture of human nature, Your description reminds me of that beautiful passage in Addison's letters from Italy, where he says,
They starve, in midst of nature's bounty curst,
And in the loaded vineyard die for thirst. These people once enjoyed the same privileges as ourselves, and possibly thạt time may not be far distant when we may be as abject slaves as they. However disagreeable some things may have been to you on your travels, yet I congratulate you on the happiness of being absent from England in these times of public divisions. Never was our Saviour's words more plainly verified in this coun
try than at present, when there is scarce ore family wherein the most violent dissensions have not happened. An author of no mean rank has asserted, that if ever English liberty is destroyed, it must arise from the people themselves ; and that if ever the people should become jealous of the conduct of their representatives in parliament, and those jealousies are well-founded, they will soon throw themselves into the arms of arbitrary power,
They'll fly from petty tyrants to Virtue and unanimity have at all times preserved liberty ; vice and discord have always procured its ruin. At present there is an universal discontent among nine-tenths of the people. The majority of the people not only complain of the conduct of the ministry, but have even gone so far as to impeach the conduct of the House of Commons. These complaints are at present carried to an extraordinary height; and where they will end, God only knows. For my own part, I often reflect on it with sorrow, as I am afraid it must at last prove fatal to our excellent constitution, and involve us in those miseries to which the people of other nations are subject.
If I go into a coffee-house, the first thing I hear is a political dispute concerning the conduct of the ministry; and when I happen to be invited to dine at the house of a friend, all social converse is destroyed, and the pleasure I used formerly to enjoy on such occasions is lost in violent altercation amongst the nearest relations.
I am far from condemning all ranks of people. There are many worthy persons who can view the conduct of each party with impartiality, and see the faults on both sides. They can see that the ministry have not enough considered themselves the
servants of the people, and on many occasions abused the confidence of their sovereign. On the other hand, they think that the people have carried their jealousies to an unreasonable height, and insisted on the prince exerting a branch of the regal authority which in the end might prove fatal to themselves. Such is the state of affairs at present in this once happy country. I shall therefore, being tired with the subject, imitate your example, and put an end to this letter. Hoping to see you soon,
I am yours sincerely.
LETTER CXVII. From a young Gentleman, settled in one of the Inns
of Court, to a Clergyman in the Country. Reverend Sir, I promised to write to you as soon as I was settled in this place. I have now procured a good set of chambers, and am determined to prosecute my studies with the greatest assiduity. The pious care you always took in my education, whilst I remained in your family, will, I hope, never be forgotten, but continue to operate on the whole of my conduct in life. I am sensible that my
situation in London subjects me to a great variety of temptations, and, therefore, stand as much in need of your advice as ever. I am obliged, by the rules of the society, to dine in common with the other students during the term ; and am sorry to say, that the greatest part of them are not only ignorant of the principles of our holy religion, but also greatly corrupted in their morals. The city itself, as well as the suburbs, present us daily with such tricks and impositions on the unwary, that few would believe the accounts of them unless they were really eye-witnesses. If I walk through some of the streets in the evening, I am every minute accosted by the most abandoned prostitutes. If I go into other parts, I am well off if I escape with my handkerchief or pocket-book. Nay, so hackneyed are those unhappy wretches in the paths of iniquity, that they even commit these crimes in the face of open day, and in the most public thorough-fares; and so dexterous are they in the mystery of their profession, that the most cautious can scarce escape their snares. If I take a walk into the park I am not able to distinguish betwixt peers, sharpers, and French barbers; and if I spend an evening at the theatre, I am obliged to leave my watch at my chambers, lest I should be under the necessity of purchasing another in the morning. You have often told me, that it is the duty of every man to remain contented with his situation and circumstances, in that station wherein Providence has placed him : and that the temptations with which we are surrounded, ought to be considered as so many motives to duty and watchfulness; that the more vigilant we are in watching against temptations to vice, the greater will be our reward hereafter. For my own part, my present resolution is to apply myself with the greatest diligence to my studies, and associate myself with as few strangers as possible. But as I am well convinced of the frailty of human nature, and the vanity of our most virtuous resolutions, I must still beg to hear from you as often as is convenient. Your instructions were always as pleasing as useful when I was present with you, and will be much more so now that I am removed so far distant. I shall not trouble you with any more at this time, but subscribe myself,