תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

TEMPORA! But had this plan been adopted, it is possible that we should, at this day, have looked back with regret on the humiliating, yet tranquil despotism of a Scotch, or a Cornish borough.

“ The style of this work is concise and plain ; and it is. hoped that it will be found sufficiently respectful to all parties. The question to be decided is, are we to proceed with the war system? Are we, in the progress of the nineteenth century, to embrace five thousand fresh taxes,-tosquander a second five hundred millions sterling,--and to extirpate twenty millions of people ?"

The progress of human reason is but slow ; and when any one begins to combat prejudices that have long been cherished by a whole nation, many individuals are displeased to find, that the doctrines they have been accustomed from their infancy to think infallible, are treated with little respect. In this way, some readers will no doubt be displeased at meeting with the disagreeable truths which this pamphlet contains. Thus it was that many a well disposed Christian was shocked at the blasphemous heresies, as they were then called, of Wickliffe and of Luther : we now view them in another light. Thus it also

was,

that ten years ago, the first pamphlets that were written to prove that Britain would be a gainer by the loss of her Ameri. can colonies, were considered as absurd and ridiculous paradoxes, though no person now disputes the unerring truth of these conclusions; and thus it ever will be with the first efforts of reason towards eradicating prejudices of every sort.

No national prejudice is of longer standing, or has had a more extensive influence in Europe, than the war system, or requires to be combated with greater ardour ; because none has been productive of so much pational mischief, or individual distress. National glory, the balance of power, and the extension of trade, are the principal pleas that have ever been urged for going to war ; pleas that, if they are admitted, will be sufficient to perpetuate wars till there be scarcely an individual of the human race existing on the globe. Can national glory ever be augmented by acts of rapine, bloodshed, and injustice ? yet it is actions of this kind which have been cried up, as constituting national glory, from the days of Cyrus to those of George 1. The balance of power! what is it but a bubble to amuse the mul.' titude,-a pretext for exalting the favourite nation of the day, which we must pull down the next? Within this century Britain has expended her blood and treasure succefsively to exalt and to abase almost every power in Europe ; and so it ever must be, while this Quixote doctrine prevails. Heaven alone can set bounds to the power of cmpires, which cannot be overcome ; and nothing else ever will do it effectually, till mankind shall be endowed with a greater degree of foreknowledge, honesty, and steadiness, than they ever yet have pofsessed. As to wars for the extension of trade, of all the absurdities that ever marked the ravings of the human mind, that is doubtless the most remarkable :-it amounts to this, to make other nations purchase your goods to a greater extent you must enhance the price of these goods ;-to make a customer buy them in greater quantities, you must render those purchasers poorer than they otherwise would have been. The public are indeed amused by a grand display of treaties and restraints, by which this trade is to be forced, by inniquitous stipulations, to run in their favours : as if every man of common sense did not know, that it would be equally wise to attempt to make the sea flow upwards on the side of a hill, as to continue in any natiou a brik de-' mand for goods that are dearer or worse in quality than those of neighbouring countries,

War can serve no other good purpose therefore but to augment the power of the minister, by furnishing individuals with the means of suddenly enriching themselves by plunder, at the expence of the community at large. It is the hope of this plunder that makes so many voices join in the favourite cry of national glory,-balance of power,--and benefits of trade. It is the hopes of profiting by their aid, in gulling the people at large, that the minister so cordially ever leads the van in this general cry.

Shall man ever continue a child, and allow himself to be led to destruction in leading strings ?

The writer of the pamphlet before us, has here lent his aid to throw into disrepute the system of war. There still remains a wide field for discussion with regard to other doctrines, that have been cherished for ages from the same motives, to which he has not extended his views. These, it is hoped, will come successively to be examined, by persons who have the national good at heart ; and who have no connection with party' ; no prejudice at individual men; no hopes of being benefitted by the plunder either of enemies or of friends : for when once plunder becomes the object, the experience of ages clearly proves, that men have ever showed themselves as eager to obtain it from their neighbours as from strangers,-from their friends as from their foes.

Many of the readers of the Bee have imagined that Mr Thunderproof is inimical to the present minister; but this opinion does not appear to be well founded. One of the national prejudices that ever has, and probably ever will prevail, is, that the present minister, whoever he be, ought to be deemed in some measure sacred; and that every person who does not speak and write in that manner, must be ranked among those who have set themselves in opposition to him, and who, right or wrong, will oppose every measure that he shall adopt. There can be no doubt that every minister will endeavour to cherith this opinion, because it tends to screen his conduct for the present from an impartial investigation. It much imports the welfare of the state that this prejudice Thould be removed; and the writer deserves well.of the community for having endeavoured to weaken it. Of

any

individual we wilh not te speak; but there can be no doubt but every minister, ex oficio, lies under very strong temptations to impose upon the people, and to lead the nation into undertakings that have a necessary tendency to diminish its general prosperity: His conduct therefore should be at all times nicely watched. And though he should be cordially supported, wherever it is necessary to give the executive department its fula lest energy; yet in every attempt to extend his power beyond proper limits, in his legislative capacity, he should be checked with a becoming firmness. The distinction here made has been hitherto but too little attended to by political writers. A circumstance, which, for not having been at all adverted to in a neighbouring nation, has produced a scene of confusion, and multiplied atrocities, that makes the human mind shudder with horror. From not attending to this circumstance, also, many writings that perhaps were as well intended as any that ever issued from the press, may become extremely pernicious; and numbers of men, whose hearts glow with philanthropy, feel themselves at this moment disposed to lend their aid in forwarding mea. sures, which, if adopted, would prove in the highest degree destructive to the community and ruinous to individuals. A little time, and a more perfect knowledge of the essentials that constitute the true principles of a rational freedom in government, will probably tend to moderate these incautious wanderings.

[ocr errors]

A circumstance is mentioned in the above quotation that deserves to be attended to at present. The most perfect security of person and property constitutes the very elsence of civil liberty ; and could that be insured by an universal liberty of suffrage for representatives, every man ought to promote such a measure ; but if experience shows that this circumstance alone has never been sufficient to insure any thing like that security, it must be deemed a matter of very little moment at least. If it has proved destructive, it ought to be avoided. It would be well if gentlemen who are zealous in this cause, would consult the authorities there quoted, and satisfy themselves upon this head, before they place their whole reliance on a circumstance, which may, perhaps, instead of a prop on which they can safely lean, turn out to be a spear that shall pierce them to the heart.

The following curious fact respecting this circumstance deserves to be noted. The whole male inhabitants of the canton of Bale in Switzerland, on the first institution of that republic, had a right of voting for their rulers: but experience soon taught them, that this universal privilege of voting, was by no means sufficient to guard against the influence of wealth and popular manners.

Stili more effectually to do this, the mode of election was varied. Every man continued to retain the right of suff- ' rage, as before ; but instead of one, every wote included three persons, one of which was to be chosen by lot. Still, however, influence was found to have great sway in the clections, and it was deemed necessary, on this account, once more to change it. Instead of three, every vote was made to include six persons, one of whom only can be chosen, and that must be done by lot. In this state things remain at present. It requires not much foresight to see, that for the same reason as formerly, they will find it necel

VOL. xi.

« הקודםהמשך »