Page images
PDF
EPUB

from our taverns and our brothels, from our towns and villages to the rank and dignity of senators. For, should the management of the republic be entrusted to persons to whom no one would willingly entrust the management of his private concerns; and the treasury of the state be left to the care of those who had lavished their own for. tunes in an infamous prodigality? Should they have the charge of the public purse, which they would soon convert into a private, by their unprincipled peculations ? Are they fit to be the legislators of a whole people who themselves know not what law, what reason, what right and wrong, what crooked and straight, what licit and illicit means? who think that all power consists in outrage, all dignity in the parade of insolence? who neglect every other consideration for the corrupt gratification of their friendships, or the prosecution of their resentments? who disperse their own relations and crea. tures through the provinces for the sake of levying taxes and confiscating goods ; men, for the greater part, the most profligate and vile, who buy up for themselves what they pretend to expose to fale, who thence collect an exorbitant mass of wealth, which they fraudulently divert from the public service; who thus spread their pillage through the country, and in a moment emerge from penury and rags, to a state of fplendour and of wealth ? Who could endure such thievith servants, such vicegeYents of their lords ? Who could believe that the masters and the patrons of a banditti could be the proper guardians of liberty ? or who would suppose that he should ever be made one hair more free by such a set of public functionaries (though they might amount to five hundred elected in this manner from the counties and boroughs) when among them who are the very guardians of liberty, and to whose custody it is committed, there mufl be so many, who know not either how to ufe or to enjoy liberty, who either understand the principles or merit the posfeffion? But what is worthy of remark, those who are the most unworthy of liberty, are wont to behave most un. gratefully towards their deliverèrs. Among such persons, who would be willing either to fight for liberty, or to encounter the least peril in its defence? It is not agreea

ble

ble to the nature of things, that such persons ever should be free. However much they may brawl about liberty, they are slaves, both at home and abroad, but without perceiving it, and when they do perceive it, like unruly horses, that are impatient of the bit, they will endeavour to throw off the yoke, not from the love of genuine li. berty, (which a good man only loves and knows how to obtain, but from the impulses of pride, and little pasa sions. But though they often attempt it by arms, they will make no advances to the execution; they may change their masters, but will never be able to get rid of their servitude. This often happened to the ancient Romans, wasted by excess, and enervated by luxury : and it has still more so been the fate of the moderns; when after a long interval of years they aspired under the auspices of Crescentius, Nomentanus, and afterwards of Nicolas Rentius, who had assumed the title of Tri. bune of the People, to restore the fplendour, and reestablish the government of antient Rome. For, inftead of fretting with yexation, or thinking that you can lay the blame on any one but yourselves, know that to be free is the same thing as to be pious, to be wise, to be temperate and just, to be frugal and abstinent, and lastly, to be magnanimous and brave; so to be the opposite of allthese is the same as to be a slave, and it usually happens by the appointment, and as it were retributive Justice of the Deity, that that people which cannot govern themselves, and moderate their passions, but crouch under the slavery of their lusts, should be delivered up to the sway of those whom they abhor, and made to submit to an involuntary fervitude. It is also fanctioned by the dictates of justice and by the constitution of nature, that he, who from the imbeci. lity or derangement of his intellect is incapableof governing himself, should like a minor be committed to the government of another; and least of all, should he be appointed to superintend the affairs of others or the interest of the state. You therefore, who wilh to remain free, ei-ther instantly be wise or, as soon as soon as possible, cease

to be fools; if you think slavery an intolerable evil, learn obedience to reason and the government of yourselves; and finally bid adieu to your diffentions, your jealousies, your

superstitions, superstitions, your outrages, your rapine and your lufts. Unless you will spare no pains to effect this, you must be judged unfit, both by God and mankind, to be entrusted with the possession of liberty and the administration of the government; but will rather, like a nation in a state of pupillage, want some active and courageous guardian to undertake the management of your affairs. With respect to myself, whatever turn things may take, I thought that my exertions on the present occasion would be serviceable to my country, and, as they have been cheerfully bestowed, I hope that they have not been bestowed in vain. And I have not circumscribed my defence of liberty within any petty circle around me, but have made it so general and comprehensive, that the justice and the reasonableness of such uncommon occurrences explained and defended, both among our my countrymen and among foreigners, and which all good men cannot but approve, may serve to exalt the glory of my country, and to excite the imitation of posterity. If the conclusion do not answer to the beginning, that is their concern ; I have delivered my testimony, I would almost fay, have erected a monument, that will not readily be destroyed, to the reality of those fingular and mighty achievements, which were above all praise. As the Epic Poet, who adheres at all to the rules of that species of composition, does not profess to describe the whole life of the hero whom he celebrates, but only some particular action of his life as the resentment of Achilles at Troy, the return of Ulysses, or the coming of ŽEneas into Italy; so it will be sufficient, either for my juftification or apology, that I have heroically celebrated at least one exploit of my countrymen ; I pass by the rest, for who could recite the achievements of a whole people ? If after such a display of ccurage and of vigour, you bafely relinquish the path of virtue, if you do any thing unworthy of yourselves, posterity will fit in judgment on your con. duct. They will see that the foundations were well laid; that the beginning (nay it was more than a beginning) was glorious; but, with deep emotions of concern will they regret, that those were wanting who might have completed the structure. They will lament that perseverance was not conjoined with such exertions and such virtues.

They They will see that there was a rich harvest of glory, and an opportunity afforded for the greatest achievements, but that men only were wanting for the execution; while they were not wanting who could rightly counsel, exhort, inspire, and bind an unfading wreath of praise round the. brows of the illustrious actors in so glorious a scene,

« PreviousContinue »