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he had in his hands the power to punish them, they were encouraged by knowing that he had not the inclination. In a word, they presumed upon that mercy, which in all their conversations they endeavour to depreciate and misrepresent.
It is a very sensible concern to every one, who has a true and unfeigned respect of our national religion, to hear these vile miscreants calling themselves sons of the church of England, amidst such impious tumults and disorders; and joining in the cry of high-church, at the same time that they bear a badge, which implies their inclination to destroy the reformed religion. Their concern for the church always rises highest, when they are acting in direct opposition to its doctrines. Our streets are filled at the same time with zeal and drunkenness, riots and religion. We must confess, if noise and clamour, slander and calumny, treason and perjury, were articles of their communion, there would be none living more punctual in the performance of their duties; but if a peaceable behaviour, a love of truth, and a submission to superiors, are the genuine marks of our profession, we ought to be very heartily ashamed of such a profligate brotherhood. Or if we will still think and own these men to be true sons of the church of England, I dare say there is no church in Europe which will envy her the glory of such disciples. But it is to be hoped we are not so fond of party, as to look upon a man, because he is a bad Christian, to be a good church of England
No. 53. FRIDAY, JUNE 22.
There is scarce any man in England, of what denomination soever, that is not a free thinker in politics, and hath not some particular notions of his own, by which he distinguishes himself from the rest of the community. Our island, which was former. ly called a nation of saints, may now be called a nation of statesAlmost every age, profession, and sex among us,
has its favourite set of ministers, and scheme of government.
Our children are initiated into factions before they know their right hand from their left. They no sooner begin to speak, but whig and tory are the first words they learn. They are taught in their infancy to hate one half of the nation; and contract all the virulence and passion of a party, before they come to the use of their reason.
As for our nobility, they are politicians by birth; and though the commons of the nation delegate their power in the community to certain representatives, every one reserves to himself a private jurisdiction, or privilege, of censuring their conduct, and rectifying the legislature. There is scarce a fresh man in either university, who is not able to mend the constitution in several particulars. We see 'squires and yeomen coming up to town every day, so full of politics, that, to use the thought of an ingenious gentleman, we are frequently put in mind of Roman dictators, who were called from the plough. I have often heard of a senior alderman in Buckinghamshire, who, at all public meetings, grows drunk in praise of aristocracy, and is as often encountered by an old justice of the peace who lives in the neighbourhood, and will talk you from morning till night on the Gothic balance. Who hath not observed several parish clerks, that have ransacked Hopkins and Sternhold for staves in favour of the race of Jacob; after the example of their politic predecessors in Oliver's days, who, on every Sabbath were for binding kings in chains, and nobles in links of iron! You can scarce see a bench of porters without two or three casuists in it, that will settle you the right of princes, and state the bounds of the civil and ecclesiastical power, in the drinking of a pot of ale. What is more usual than on a rejoicing night to meet with a drunken cobler bawling out for the church, and perhaps knocked down a little after, by an enemy in his own profession, who is a lover of moderation !
We have taken notice in former papers of this political ferment being got into the female sex, and of the wild work it makes among them. We have had a late most remarkable instance of it in a contest between a sister of the white rose, and a beautiful and loyal young lady, who, to shew her zeal for revolutionprinciples, had adorned her pretty bosom with a sweet-william. The rabble of the sex have not been ashamed very lately to gather about bonfires, and scream out their principles in the public streets. In short, there is hardly a female in this our metropolis, who is not a competent judge of our highest controversies in church and state. We have several oyster-women that hold the unlawfulness of episcopacy; and cinder wenches that are great sticklers for indefeasible right.
Of all the ways and means by which this political humour hath been propagated among the people of Great Britain, I cannot single out any so prevalent and universal, as the late constant application of the press to the publishing of state-matters. We hear of several that are newly crected in the country, and set apart for this particular use. For, it seems, the people of Exeter, Salisbury, and other large towns, are resolved to be as
- What was only then resolved in one or two of our chief cities, is now executed in almost every great town of the kingdom. I write this in 1770. great politicians as the inhabitants of London and Westminster; and deal out such news of their own printing, as is best suited to the genius of the market-people, and the taste of the county.
One cannot but be sorry, for the sake of these places, that such a pernicious machine is erected among them; for it is very well known here, that the making of the politician is the breaking of the tradesman. When a citizen turns a Machiavel, he grows too cunning to mind his own business; and I have heard a curious observation, that the woollen manufacture has of late years decayed in proportion as the paper manufacture has increased. Whether the one may not properly be looked upon as the occasion of the other, I shall leave to the judgment of persons more profound in political inquiries.
As our news writers record many facts which, to use their own phrase, ' afford great matter of speculation,' their readers speculate accordingly, and by their variety of conjectures, in a few years become consummate statesmen ; besides, as their papers are filled with a different party-spirit, they naturally divide the people into different sentiments, who generally consider rather the principles, than the truth of the news-writer. This humour prevails to such a degree, that there are several well-meaning persons in the nation, who have been so misled by their favourite authors of this kind, that in the present contention between the Turk and the emperor, they are gone over insensibly from the interests of Christianity, and become well-wishers to the Mahometan cause. In a word, almost every news-writer has his sect, which considering the natural genius of our countrymen to mix, vary, or refine, in notions of state) furnishes every man, by degrees, with a particular system of policy. For, however any one may concur in the general scheme of his party, it is still with certain reserves and deviations, and with a salvo to his own private judgment.
Among this innumerable herd of politicians, I cannot but take notice of one set, who do not seem to play fair with the rest of the fraternity, and make a very considerable class of men. These are such as we may call the Afterwise, who, when any project fails, or hath not had its desired effect, foresaw all the inconveniences that would arise from it, though they kept their thoughts to themselves till they discovered the issue. Nay, there is nothing more usual than for some of these wise men, who applauded public measures, before they were put in execution, to condemn them upon their proving unsuccessful. The dictators in coffee-houses are generally of this rank, who often give shrewd intimations that things would have taken another turn, had they been members of the cabinet.
How difficult must it be for any form of government to continue undisturbed, or any ruler to be uncensured, where every one of the community is thus qualified for modelling the constitution, and is so good a judge in matters of state ! A famous French wit, to shew how the monarch of that nation, who has no partners in his sovereignty, is better able to make his way through all the difficulties of government, than an emperor of Germany, who acts in concert with many inferior fellow-sovereigns; compares the first to a serpent with many tails to one head; and the other to a serpent with one tail to many heads : and puts the question, which of them is like to glide with most ease and activity through a thicket? The same comparison will hold in the business of a nation conducted by a ministry, or a whole kingdom of politicians.