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With-true Honour and Greatness of Mind, let the silliest Reader judge.
Whatever Turn the Folly may chance to take, in whatever Form or Colour it may appear, it is the fame empty Bubble, diversified by some accidental Circumstance of Position, or the Medium through which it appears. Pride, in every Shape, is but Folly in a different Dress. It appears in the most ridiculous Light, when it grows out of the external and accidental Advantages of Birth and Fortune, in which, as we could have no Share, so, by Consequence, we could have no Merit. The Man that exalts himself above measure upon the Antiquity and Nobility of his Family, without those useful and amiable Qualities, which alone can make Men valuable and honourable, discovers as great a Desect of Sense, as of true Honour, or Greatness of Mind.
It is certain that the .virtuous Descendants of virtuous and honourable Ancestors, who not only support, but improve and increase, the original Fund of Family Merit, by a Train of correspondent Actions, stand. upon the highest Ground, are placed in the most advantageous Light, and have fairer Opportunities of exerting a just and decent Superiority, than those, though of equal Merit, who want those Distinctions, and are intitled to all that Esteem and Respect which will ever be paid, by Men of Sense and Virtue, to those, who, in Sbaiejpear's Phrase, bear their Honours meekly. But if a worthless Wretch grows vain and insolent upon the Merit of his Ancestors, and demands Respect and Submission from wiser and better Men than himself, purely on account of an empty Title, or a superior Estate, the Demand is ridiculous and i unreasonable,
unreasonable, being grounded on no Pretensions, or Shadow of Merit. A Man of superior Knowledge, Strength, or Fortune, which he employs upon all Occasions for the Good and Benesit of others, has a Right to the Esteem and Gratitude of those who receive Protection, Advice, Comfort, or Pleasure from the Communication of his Excellencies; but no Man has any real Merit, or Claim of Respect, from others, because his Ancestors were great and good Men, whilst he himself wears their honourable Distinctions to his own Shame. A pompous Title and glaring Equipage may attract the Attention and Reverence of the undiscerning Vulgar, whilst nothing but real Merit, an open, smcere, and generous Heart, can have any Kind of Pretension to the Esteem and Afsection of the Wise and the Good. A great Soul lies very often concealed under mean Appearances, and many a fad Wretch has glittered with all the external Badges of Honour, who, in a virtuous Age and Nation, would have been thought a Disgrace to the Pillory.
To set this Matter in a clearer Light, let us examine a little into the Ground and Foundation of this Family Merit, and see whether it will be sufficient to support that grand Superstructure that human Vanity generally raises upon it.—If the Honour of Families consists. in being able to trace back their Pedigrees to distant A^es, till they lose themselves in the Darkness and Obscurity of an unknown Antiquity, we are all equally honourable in this respect, being all descended from an Original equally antient, the fame common Father of Mankind; but if it consists in having our Ancestors distinguished by honourable Offices, Titles, Posts, and Badges of Honour, and great Estates, this
requires requires other previous Considerations in order to settle their Merit upon a just and solid Foundation. Let it be seriously enquired how these Estates were acquired; how these Titles and Honours were obtained. When, when we see a vain Man, puffed up with an Opinion of his superior Wealth, we naturally turn our Thoughts upon the Methods by which it was raised, and the Uses that are made of it. If it were raised by virtuous and honourable Means, by God's special Blessing upon the Industry, the Frugality, the Courage, the Knowledge, the Integrity, and the Piety of their virtuous Ancestors, there is a solid Ground of inward Satisfaction, if not of Glory; and if it be employed to such, and such only, Purposes as Reason and Reb%. gion direct; to Acts of Generosity, Hospitality, and Charity, the Owner of such a Fortune has double Reason to rejoice in his Portion, and to expect the Reverence and Affection of those who receive Comfort and Assistance from the Overflowings of his Prosperity: But if, on the other hand, the boasted Fortune were founded in Sacrilege or Blood, Rapine or Fraud, Oppression or Vice, private or public Plunder, the Original is corrupt, the Title is criminal, and the Tenure dishonourable; it is (as the Physicians fay) an Error in the first Concoction, which can never be rectified in the second; what is unjustly got, is as unjustly detained; whatever is, in its own Nature, wrong, can never, by any Length of Time or Prescription, be made right; and the Iniquity and Dishonour that cleave to an unjust Possession can never be done away; though, in the Opinion of the World, they may, by Length of Time, be diminished, or im (tirely forgotten. So as to Titles, if they were really
the the honourable Rewards of honourable Actions, they do honour to their virtuous and honourable Descendants; but if they were the Rewards of successful VilIany,Treachery, or Treason, Venality or Corruption, or an infamous Prostitution of public Faith and Character, to the Vices and Follies of a Court, they leave a Stain and a Blot upon the Bearer, which descends, without any real Diminution of Infamy or Guilt, to the latest Posterity. But you will fay, it is possible there may arise, in such a Family, a Man of superior Merit and Virtues who may retrieve its Honour, by being really worthy of all the undeserved Distinctions bestowed upon his worthless Ancestors. Doubtless this may be, and often is, the Case; but then this stifl returns to the old Foundation of personal Merit, as the only real and natural Fountain of Honour. Such a Person, as this View of the Case supposes, is not honourable because of his Descent from such a Stock, but because he has a sufficient Fund of Merit within himself, which would make him truly honourable, though he had sprung from the Dregs of the People. Personal Merit, therefore, founded in true Greatness of Soul, and real Virtue, always was, and always wiS be, the sole Foundation of Honour. Nobles have been seen to dishonour their Titles by base and abject Vices, and Persons of mean Extraction have advanced and ennobled their Families by their great and excellent Qualities: And as it is more blessed to give than to receive, so it is more honourable and glorious to leave Honours to our Posterity, than to receive them from our Predecessors, to be the Authors and Founders of our own Nobility, and, to use the Expression of Tiberius, recorded by Tacitus, Annal Lib. II. to be bom
of one's Self, when he was endeavouring to palliate the Desect of Birth in Curtius Rufus, who was, in every other respect, a very great Man, Curtius Rufus videtur mihi ex fe natus. The first Founders of every honourable Family must have been such; must have raised themselves from an inserior State of Obscurity and Poverty, must have been the Descendants of mean and ignoble Progenitors, unless we could suppose that the first great Man of the Family sprung out of the Earth, or dropt out of the Clouds, with all his Implements of Honour about him, laden with such a Stock of Titles, Coronets, Ribbands, and what not, as might be distributed among all his Posterity, from Generation to Generation.
Were the Genealogy of every Family, from the Flood down to this present Time, faithfully preserved, there would, probably, be no Man valued, or despised, on account of his Birth; there would not be a Beggar in the Street, or a Scoundrel in Newgate, but would find himself lineally descended from great Men: And it is no improbable Conjecture, that the poor Negroes, whom some of our Planters hardly consider as Part of our Species, are lineally descended from the Father of the Faithful, who was the Friend of God, (Isa. xli. 8.) Nor is -there in the World a Family so rich, as not to have some poor; or so noble and honourable, as not to have some vicious, lewd, lazy, worthless Branches descended from it, if not the Founders of it.—I was once at a noble Lord's Table, where a fawning Parasite was offering up a good deal of this nauseous Family Incense, in return for a good Dinner, which he had just received. My Lord, who had a Soul too great, and a Taste too delicate, to relish such fulsome