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out of their obscurity: but I wish you would inquire what real use such a conduct is, to the cause they have been so largely paid to defend. The author of the three first Occasional Letters, a person altogether unknown, has been thought to glance (for what reasons he best knows) at some publick proceedings, as if they were not agreeable to his private opinions. In answer to this, the pamphleteers retained on the other side, are instructed by their superiours, to single out an adversary, whose abilities they have most reason to apprehend; and to load himself, his family, and friends, with all the infamy, that a perpetual conversation in Bridewell, Newgate, and the stews, could furnish them; but, at the same time, so very unluckily, that the most distinguishing parts of their characters, strike directly in the face of their benefactor; whose idea, presenting itself along with his guineas perpetually to their imagination, occasioned this desperate blunder.
But, allowing this heap of slander to be truth, and applied to the proper person ; what is to be the consequence ? Are our publick debts to be the sooner paid ; the corruptions that author complains of, to be the sooner cured ; an honourable peace, or a glorious war, the more likely to ensue ; trade to flourish; the Ostend company to be demolished; Gibraltar and Port Mahon left entire in our possession; the balace of Europe to be preserved; the malignity of parties to be for ever at an end; none but persons of merit, virtue, genius, and learning, to be encouraged? I ask whether any of these effects will follow, upon the publication of this author's libel, even supposing he could prove every syllable of it to be true ?
At the same time, I am well assured, that the only reason of ascribing those papers to a particular person, is built upon the information of a certain pragmatical spy of quality, well known to act in that capacity, by those, into whose company he insinuates himself; a sort of persons, who, although without much love, esteem, or dread of people in present power, yet have too much common prudence, to speak their thoughts with freedom, before such an intruder ; who, therefore, imposes grossly upon his masters, if he makes them pay
for any thing but his own conjectures. It is a grievous mistake in a great minister to neglect or despise, much more to irritate men of genius and learning. I have heard one of the wisest persons in my time observe, that an administration was to be known and judged, by the talents of those who appeared their advocates in print. This I must never allow to be a general rule ; yet I cannot but think it prodigiously unfortunate, that among the answerers, defenders, repliers, and panegyrists, started up in defence of present persons and proceedings, there has not yet arisen one, whose labours we can read with patience, however we may applaud their loyalty and good will: and all this, with the advantages of constant ready pay, of natural and acquired venom, and a grant of the whole fund of slander, to range over and riot in as they please.
On the other side, a turbulent writer of Occasional Letters, and other vexatious papers, in conjunction perhaps with one or two friends as bad as himself, is able to disconcert, tease, and sour us, whenever he thinks fit, merely by the strength of genius and truth; and after so dextrous a manner, that when we are vexed to the soul, and well know the reasons why we
are so, we are ashamed to own the first, and cannot tell how to express the other. In a word it seems to me that all the writers are on one side, and all the railers on the other.
However, I do not pretend to assert that it is impossible for an ill minister to find men of wit, who may be drawn, by a very valuable consideration, to undertake his defence: but the misfortune is, that the heads of such writers rebel against their hearts; their genius forsakes them, when they would offer to prostitute it to the service of injustice, corruption, party rage, and false representation of things and persons.
And this is the best argument I can offer in defence of great men, who have been of late so very unhappy in the choice of their paper-champions : although I cannot much commend their good husbandry, in those exorbitant payments, of twenty, and sixty guineas at a time, for a scurvy pamphlet; since the sort of work they require, is what will all come within the talents of any one, who has enjoyed the happiness of a very bad education, has kept the vilest company, is endowed with a servile spirit, is master of an empty purse, and a heart full of malice.
But, to speak the truth in soberness; it should seem a little hard, since the old whiggish principle has been recalled, of standing up for the liberty of the press, to a degree that no man, for several years past, durst venture out a thought, which did not square to a point, with the maxims and practices that then prevailed : I say, it is a little hard, that the vilest mercenaries should be countenanced, preferred, rewarded, for discharging their brutalities against men of honour, only upon a bare conjecture. If it should happen that these profligates have at
tacked an innocent person, I ask, what satisfaction can their hirers give in return ? Not all the wealth raked together by the most corrupt rapacious ministers, in the longest course of unlimited power, would be sufficient to atone for the hundredth part of such an injury.
In the common way of thinking, it is a situation sufficient in all conscience to satisfy a reasonable ambition, for a private person to command the laws, the forces, the revenues of a great kingdom ; to reward and advance his followers and flatterers as he pleases, and to keep his enemies (real or imaginary) in the dust. In such an exaltation, why should he be at the trouble to make use of fools to sound his praises, (because I always thought the lion was hard set, when he chose the ass for his trumpeter) or knaves to revenge his quarrel, at the expense of innocent men's reputations?
With all those advantages, I cannot see why persons in the height of power, should be under the least concern on account of their reputation, for which they have no manner of use ; or to ruin that of others, which may perhaps be the only possession their enemies have left them. Supposing times of corruption, which I am very far from doing; if a writer displays them in their proper colours, does he do any thing worse than sending customers to the shop? “Here only, at “ the sign of the Brazen Head, are to be sold places “ and pensions: beware of counterfeits, and take care “ of mistaking the door.”
For my own part, I think it very unnecessary to give the character of a great minister in the fullness of his power, because it is a thing that naturally does itself, and is obvious to the eyes of all mankind : for his personal qualities are all derived into the most minute parts of his administration. If this be just, prudent, regular, impartial, intent upon the publick good, prepared for present exigencies, and provident of the future ; such is the director himself in his private capacity: if it be rapacious, insolent, partial, palliating long and deep diseases of the publick, with empirical remedies, false, disguised, impudent, malicious, revengeful; you shall infallibly find the private life of the conductor, to answer in every point : nay, what is more, every twinge of the gout or gravel, will be felt in their consequences by the community: as the thief-catcher, upon viewing a house broke open, could immediately distinguish, from the manner of the workmanship, by what hand it was done.