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“ of easy attainment." I
Sincerely thankful, my Lord, for your obliging compliance with my request, that I might be permitted to put this declaration of your grace's sentiments into my book, sentiments which must be as gratifying to an English people, as they are worthy of an English nobleman, let me here add to your grace's testimony in favour of reformation, the well known aphorism of our immortal Bacon.
THAT. TIME IS THE GREATEST INNOVATOR; AND IF TIME OF COURSE ALTER THINGS FOR THE WORSE, AND IF WISDOM AND COUNSEL SHALL NOT ALTER THEM FOR THE BETTER, WHAT SHALL BE THE END?
1 Extract of a letter dated the 29th of April, 1805.
. MY LORD,
IN having, on occasion of the county meeting on the 2d. of May, consented, in deference to the opinions of persons highly to be respected, to postpone till another opportunity the motions I had prepared, for extending our ideas of reformation to the house of commons itself, I should not have been altogether satisfied, had I not since employed the time given up to póstponement, in considering how that effort when a proper time arrived should be made with the best effect.
The result of that consideration I now submit to your grace and to the public, accompanied with the
best counsel I have to offer, nainely, to đetermine on forth with calling together our countrymen in their cities and counties throughout the kingdom, to consult on this most important of all objects to Englishmen; but, under the circumstances of our case, to take the same opportunity of petitioning for a removal of ministers. To every intelligent mind I trust it will appear that these objects ought not now either to be severed; to please the " bafflers," nor to be omitted, under the stale pretence of its embarrassing government in opposing our combined enemies, (which by the way are only a part of those with whom we had to contend when the ministry of Lord North was displaced; for then in addition to France, Spain, and Holland, we were at war also with America,) although this no doubt would be highly pleasing to ministers and factions whose continuance in power is the greatest of our dangers, and who, if they were not the worst of all our enemies, would resign that power they have so greatly abused, and in imitation of Mr. Trotter (when he pointed out to his successor in the pay-office how misapplications of the public money might in future be prevented) would recommend a correction of the very defect which they know by experience to have been the chief cause of all their own misgovernment.
From the franknes and true whig rectitude of your grace's own declaration on the most essential of the iwo points we have to consider, as well as from the identity there is between misrule in ministers and its immediate cause, I am well persuaded you will not disapprove of the two subjects, or, as I may say, these two branches of the same subject, being brought under discussion together, whereby each may the more strongly be enforced and the better illustrated. The very act of persons moving in the sphere of your grace would at once remove the fears of the honest but politically timid, and the doubls of superficial thinkers. These, how well meaning soever, do not always clearly see the propriety of a proposed measure, how constitutional,' how correct, how essential soever, until the great and powerful of their party are in full career for carrying it into effect; but when these beckon, they pour forth in strength, and shew that although diffident in counsel, they are energetic in action. You see, my Lord, the high responsibility attaching to eminence of situation and influence of character.
But I beseech you to beware of, and carefully to watch a species of politician, to whom it is very important to stand well with persons of your rank and political opinions. I allude to the pretended whig, for the breed is not extinct in the person of Mr. Burke. The pretended whig, is sometimes thrown into the party by accident; that is, from birth, as in modern cases that will readily oceur to every mind; or from the reputation of talents, as in the case of the adventurerer I have just named. Sometimes this accident proceeds from the weakewpassions before they are overpowered by the stronger ; and sometimes the pretended whig, wholly unprincipled, enters on a course of patriotism as the beaten path to power; or insidiously steals into the party, as a spy on public spirit, to betray its counsels, and to become a false guide whenever it can be done without detection.
Of this last species of pretended whig, could you see his heart, it is as pallid as the buff waistcoat he wears for a disguise. ; it glows not with one generous rosy drop of true English blood. . Talk to him of a meeting for parliamentary reformation, he becomes profound in his air, he is solemn in his manner, mysterious in his words, and shakes his sagacious head; with a smooth affectation of sincerity, he hintingly, as if reluctant to damp your zeal, deals out his feigned doubts and apprehensions; and he insidiously praises, while he strives to defeat your virtue; he affects to dread the opposition of prejudice and to tremble at the consequences of a defeat. Although in all this he only hints and hesitates, and cautions, yet, artfully leading you to the ground of French revolutions, and English alarms, a crouded arena of combating opinions as favourable to dishonest ideas as a mob is to pick-pockets, here, thinking himself secure from detection, he Jaunches out with less reserve and more fluency.
HAS ALTERED TO
Basely affecting ignorance of the plain distinctions which shew the absurdity of arguing from the case of France, against preserving and fortifying the constitution of England, he is now no longer troubled with the modesty of doubt, or the timidity of hesitation, but is talkative and dogmatical; while his arguments, when scrutinized and brought to the test of either political science, or human experience, are as contemptible for their superficial froth and puerile nonsense, as all attempts to " baffle" parliamentary reformation, which is simply to ALTER THINGS TO The better,” which
THE GREAT INNOVATOR TIME “ The worse,” are diabolical for their wickedness.
What admirable reasoning it would be, that, because a Frenchman who had been stripped of nine tenths of his estate, had, by appealing to venal and profligate courts of French law, not only lost the remaining tenth, but got his throat cut for making the appeal, therefore, from thence forward for ever, no Englishman should appeal to an English court of law for the recovery of an estate of which he had been robbed by a treacherous guardian or trustee, although the inheritance were ever so valuable, and his proofs as clear as the sun!!!
Is there more sense or honesty, in quoting the miscarriage of the French REVOLUTION, as an argument against an English REFORMATION by an Act OF PARLIAMENT? In France, besides the natural levity of the people, unfitting them for their enterprize, they had no habits of free men, no knowledge, no precedents; all which are so essential to the restoring and firmly establishing of national liberty: in England, every thing is the very reverse; the people are grave and persevering; their habits disqualify them for servitude, and impel them to the preservation of constitutional freedom ; their knowledge directs their pursuit, and keeps them in the right course; and their whole history is made up of precedents of REFORMATION; they are literally countless; and every day of our lives, even while the great question of this particular reformation is pendente lite, we are adding to their number. Keep in mind, that the French object was a REVOLUTION; the English object is a BEFORMATION by act of PARLIAMENT !
Observe likewise, the different powers to which the parties appeal! In France, the original appeal of the patriots was made to a non entity, that is, to an imaginary public opinion, where, from the nature of the government, and the fact of the case, a public opinion could not, and did not exist. So late as 1789, Mr. Young in his “ Travels” says, “the backwardness of France is beyond “ credibility in every thing that pertains to intelligence. “ From Strasbourg hither, [Besancon] I have not “ been able to see a newspaper. The whole town of “ Besancon has not been able to afford me a sight of “ the Journal de Paris, nor of any paper that gives a « detail of the transactions of the stales; yet it is the " capital of a province, large as balf a dozen English “ counties, and containing 25000 souls.” 1 In England, for a real public opinion, we are pre-eminent; or, in the words of Mr. Young, for “the universal illumina« tion of knowledge, acting by rapid intelligence on “ minds prepared by habitual energy of reasoning to “ receive, combine, and comprehend it.”In France, the first fervours of a fickle character produced novel powers of their own creation; a legislature with more sail than ballast ; a constitution, as new as the legislature; and a system of law, as new as all the rest. Here was no practice of past ages, no knowledge rooted in experience, no compass derived from the usages of their forefathers, no rudder of an authority rendered venerable and sacred, through time. Such were the powers on which their reliance was then placed. In England, on the contrary, our reliance is on PARLIAMent; awful for its antiquity, and venerable even to superstition ; on a constitution, of still higher antiquity, and still more an object of superstitious veneration; and on a law, which is the gathered wisdom of ages, and is defined “the perfection of reason.” We tread in the constant footsteps of wise and virtuous ancestors on like occasions; keeping always in sight the land marks of the constitution, and the maxims of our law. In France, when the shock of war and faction put the solidity of their new fabric to the test, its cement for want of age having acquired no adhesion, was unable
1 Pe 146. 2 p. 147.