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It may be speciously enough proposed, that the bounty should be discontinued sooner. Of this every man will have his own opinion; which, as no general principles can reach it, will always seem to him more reasonable than that of another. This is a question of which the state is always changing with time and place, and which it is, therefore, very difficult to state or to discuss.
It may, however, be considered, that the change of old establishments is always an evil; and that, therefore, where the good of the change is not certain and constant, it is better to preserve that reverence and that confidence, which is produced by consistency of conduct and permapency of laws: · That, since the bounty was so fixed, the price of money has been much diminished; so that the bounty does not operate so far as when it was first fixed, but the price at which it ceases, though nominally the same, has, in effect and in reality, gradually diminished.
It is difficult to discover any reason why that bounty, which has produced so much good, and has hitherto produced no harm, should be withdrawn or abated. It is possible, that if it were reduced lower, it would still be the motive of agriculture, and the cause of plenty; but why we should desert experience for conjecture, and exchange a known for a possible good, will not easily be discovered. If, by a balance of probabilities, in which a grain of dust may turn the scale—or, by a curious scheme of calculation, in which, if one postulate in a thousand be erroneous, the deduction which promises plenty may end in famine ;-if, by a specious mode of uncertain ratiocination, the critical point at which the bounty should stop, might seem to be discovered, I shall still continue to believe that it is more safe to trust what we have already tried; and cannot but think bread a product of too much importance to be made the sport of subtilty, and the topick of hypothetical disputation..
The advantage of the bounty is evident and irrefragable. Since the bounty was given, multitudes eat wheat who did
not eat it before, and yet the price of wheat has abated. What more is to be hoped from any change of practice? An alteration cannot make our condition better, and is, therefore, very likely to make it worse y
y This little essay on the Corn Laws was written by Dr. Johnson, which is in the very best style of that great master of reason, so early as the year 1766; and at a period when subjects of this kind were but imperfectly understood, even by those who had devoted themselves to their study. It is truly admirable to see with what vigorous alacrity his powerful mind could apply itself to an investigation so foreign from his habitual occupations. We do not know that a more sound, enlightened argument, in favour of the bounty on exportation, could be collected from all that has since been published on the subject; and, convinced as we are of the radical insufficiency of that argument, it is im. possible not to be delighted with the clearness and force of the statement. There are few of his smaller productions that show the great range of Johnson's capacity in a more striking light.—Edin. Review, October, 1809. p. 175.—ED. A COMPLETE VINDICATION
LICENSERS OF THE STAGE,
MALICIOUS AND SCANDALOUS ASPERSIONS
AUTHOR OF GUSTAVUS VASA;
WITH A PROPOSAL FOR MAKING THE OFFICE OF LICENSER MORE EXTENSIVE
BY AN IMPARTIAL HAND.?
It is generally agreed by the writers of all parties, that few crimes are equal, in their degree of guilt, to that of calumniating a good and gentle, or defending a wicked and oppressive administration,
It is, therefore, with the utmost satisfaction of mind, that I reflect how often I have employed my pen in vindication of the present ministry, and their dependants and adherents; how often I have detected the specious fallacies of the advocates for independence; how often I have softened the obstinacy of patriotism; and how often triumphed over the clamour of opposition.
I have, indeed, observed but one set of men, upon whom all my arguments have been thrown away; whom neither flattery can draw to compliance, nor threats reduce to submission ; and who have, notwithstanding all expedients that either invention or experience could suggest,
? This admirable piece of irony was first printed in the year 1739. A comparison of its sarcastic strokes with the serious arguments of lord Chesterfield's speech in the house of lords against the bill for licensing the stage, will be both amusing and instructive.- Ep.
continued to exert their abilities in a vigorous and constant opposition of all our measures.
The unaccountable behaviour of these men, the enthusiastick resolution with which, after a hundred successive defeats, they still renewed their attacks; the spirit with which they continued to repeat their arguments in the senate, though they found a majority determined to condemn them; and the inflexibility with which they rejected all offers of places and preferments, at last excited my curiosity so far, that I applied myself to inquire, with great diligence, into the real motives of their conduct, and to discover what principle it was that had force to inspire such unextinguishable zeal, and to animate such unwearied efforts.
For this reason I attempted to cultivate a nearer acquaintance with some of the chiefs of that party, and imagined that it would be necessary, for some time, to dissemble my sentiments, that I might learn theirs.
Dissimulation, to a true politician, is not difficult, and, therefore, I readily assumed the character of a proselyte; but found, that their principle of action was no other, than that which they make no scruple of avowing in the most publick manner, notwithstanding the contempt and ridicule to which it every day exposes them, and the loss of those honours and profits from which it excludes them.
This wild passion, or principle, is a kind of fanaticism by which they distinguish those of their own party, and which they look upon as a certain indication of a great mind. We have no name for it at court ; but, among themselves, they term it by a kind of cant phrase, “ a regard for posterity.”
This passion seems to predominate in all their conduct, to regulate every action of their lives, and sentiment of their minds: I have heard — and P_^, wben they have made a vigorous opposition, or blasted the blossom of some ministerial scheme, cry out, in the height of their ex
* Lyttelton and Pitt.
ultations, “ This will deserve the thanks of posterity !" And when their adversaries, as it much more frequently falls out, have outnumbered and overthrown them, they will say, with an air of revenge and a kind of gloomy triumph, “ Posterity will curse you for this."
It is common among men, under the influence of any kind of phrensy, to believe that all the world has the same odd notions that disorder their own imaginations. Did these unhappy men, these deluded patriots, know how little we are concerned about posterity, they would never attempt to fright us with their curses, or tempt us to a neglect of our own interest by a prospect of their gratitude.
But so strong is their infatuation, that they seem to have forgotten even the primary law of self-preservation ; for they sacrifice, without scruple, every flattering hope, every darling enjoyment, and every satisfaction of life, to this ruling passion, and appear, in every step, to consult not so much their own advantage, as that of posterity.
Strange delusion! that can confine all their thoughts to a race of men whom they neither know, nor can know; from whom nothing is to be feared, nor any thing expected; who cannot even bribe a special jury, nor have so much as a single riband to bestow.
This fondness for posterity is a kind of madness which at Rome was once almost epidemical, and infected even the women and the children. It reigned there till the entire destruction of Carthage; after which it began to be less general, and in a few years afterwards a remedy was discovered, by which it was almost entirely extinguished.
In England it never prevailed in any such degree : some few of the ancient barons seem, indeed, to have been disordered by it; but the contagion has been, for the most part, timely checked, and our ladies have been generally free.
But there has been, in every age, a set of men, much admired and reverenced, who have affected to be always talking of posterity, and have laid out their lives upon the com