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they'certainly would be, if accomplished at all, with more honour and satisfaction.
Instead of separating their interests, I would say, let our commerce and our constitution' ever flourish together. Certain I am, that a flourishing commerce, by giving power and consequence to the middle and lower ranks of the people, tends more than all the military associations to preserve the genuine spirit of the constitution.
The Spirit of Despotism displaying itself in private Life, and pror
ceeding thence to avail įtself of the Church and the Military.
Many who enjoy the great advantages of distinguished rank and enormous wealth, either hereditary or acquired, not contented with those advantages, seem, by their behaviour, to envy the less fortunate of their species the little happiness they retain in their humble sphere. Unsatisfied with the elevation which their birth or fortune has given them, they wish to trample on their inferiors, and to force them still lower in society. Base pride! sordid greediness of wretches, who, notwithstanding they are gratified with all external splendour, and pampered even to loathing with plenty of all good things, yet insult those who minister to their luxuries, and who (however deserving by virtue all that the others possess by chance) sit down with a bare competence, and often in want of real necessaries, food, raiment, and habitation. : The insolence of many among the great, who possess neither knowledge nor virtue, nor any quality, useful to mankind, and the contempt with which they look down upon men, whom, though both: virtuous
and useful, they call their inferiors, excites the honest indignation of all who can think and feel, and who are remote from the sphere of corrupting influence. The natural sensations of an honest heart revolt against it. It is not only most highly culpable in a moral view, but extremely dangerous in a political. It arises from the genuine spirit of despotism, and if not checked by the people, must lead to its universal prevalence. Such a spirit would allow no rights to the poor, but those which cannot be taken away, such as the swine possess; the rights of mere animal nature. Such a spirit hates the people, and would gladly annihilate all of them, but those who administer to pride and luxury, either as menial servants, dependent tradesmen or mechanics, or common soldiers, ready to shed their own and others’ blood for a morsel of bread. If no considerable district of a country be without persons animated with this spirit; if they are viewed without abhorrence, and considered as assuming only the common privileges of country gentlemen; if such men, availing themselves of a corrupt state of representation, often procure a share in the legislature; is not that country, if there be such a one, in danger of being over-run with despotism? Are not the yeomanry, who are usually tenants of these persons, likely to be influenced by them, through fear of losing their farms, in their votes, and in all their sentiments and conduct? And will not liberty lose some of her ablest, as they were probably among her sincerest and manliest, defenders, when the yeomanry desert her banners? Among all that description of persons who have been lately called Aristocrats, proud and selfish in their nature, Tories and Jacobites in their political principles, it is obvious to remark the most haughty,
overbearing manners in the transactions of common life, in their domestic arrangements, in their pleasurable excursions, their visits, their conversation, and general intercourse. In all these, their grand object is to keep the vulgar, under which appellation they comprehend many truly, though not nomi: nally, noble, at a distance. They herd in exclusive sets, and form a little world of their own, and entitle it, the circles of fashion. Folly and vanity govern this little world with despotic rule; and virtue, learning, usefulness, have no claim to admission into it. Pride, servility to courts, and a mutual though tacit agreement to treat the people with contempt, are among the principal recommendations to it. The grand secret of its constitution is to claim dignity, distinction, power, and place, exclusively, without the painful labour of deserving either by personal merit or by services to the commonwealth.
These people push themselves forward to notice at all public places. Though they contribute no : more than others to the support of such places, (for they are generally parsimonious,) yet they claim a right to dictate every regulation. Countenanced by each other, they assume at theatres a bold behaviour, such as argues a sovereign contempt of the canaille. They talk loud, they laugh loud, they applaud each other's wit, they strut with airs of perfect self-complacency; but would not be supposed to cast an eye at the inferior crowd, whose admiration they are at the same time courting, by every silly effort of pragmatical vanity. They cannot live long at home. No; they must have the eyes of the very people whom they affect to despise, constantly upon their persons, their coaches, their livery servants; or else wealth loses its power to gratify, and grandeur is no better than insignificance.
Nothing flatters such persons more, than to have . a number of their fellow-creatures engaged as servants about their persons, with nothing to do, or with such employments as a man, properly so called, could not endure to have done by another. It adds greatly to their happiness, if they can clothe these superfluous menials in very fine and costly dress, far exceeding any thing which the middle (yet independent) ranks of the people can either afford or would choose to display. They also choose that their footmen should be handsome in their persons, as well as sumptuously clad; the intention being to lead the spectator to exclaim, when even the servants are such respectable personages, “how stupendously great must be the lordly master!”
A court, with all its forms and finery, is the very element of such persons. They flutter about it like butterflies in the sunshine; and happy he, who, in his way to it, excites the most admiration of his gaudy coach and coat in the crowd of St. James'sstreet; that crowd, which nevertheless they scorn, through fear of pollution, to look at, with eyes destined in a few minutes to enjoy the beatific vision of royalty. But as a court is their delight, no wonder that their sentiments on political matters are perfectly courtier-like. They are for extending the powers and prerogatives of royalty, from a selfish idea that they can recommend themselves to the notice and patronage of courts by servile compliance, by riches and pomp; whereas the people would require personal merit as the passport to their favour. They think the people have little to bestow but bare esteem, or such offices as are honourable only in proportion as they are well or ill discharged; such as require virtues and abilities: whereas a court can bestow on its favourites, without requiring painful virtues, ribands, garters, stars, and titles, all which gratify superficial minds by their external finery and distinction, independently of any idea that they are, or should be, the public rewards of long and faithful services, in promoting the welfare of the community, and the happiness of the human race. To form an adequate idea of the proud and frivolous minds of those who are intent on nothing but aggrandizing themselves by augmenting the power of courts and ministers, whose favour they seek with the most despicable meanness, it will be necessary to entertain right notions of the court of France, and the manners of the noblesse, previously to the revolution. “The two great aims” says an observing French writer, “ of the modern courtiers of France, like some of another nation, were dissipation, and the means of repairing the ruinous consequences of that dissipation to their private fortunes. To obtain the former end, they pursued her through all the fantastical labyrinth of versatile folly; and to accomplish the latter, they startled at no depravity or corruption which presented itself.” Thus the greatest personages in the nation were most distinguishable for vice and meanness; the sole object was to indulge in every vain and every sensual gratification, and then to procure places and appointments, the profits of which were to pay the expenses of pride and debauchery. The financier robbed the people. The great (as they are abusively called) received the stolen goods; and the people, in return for their property thus extorted from them, were at once oppressed, plundered, and despised. If a nobleman, impoverished by his enormous vices and silly vanity, married into a rich but plebeian family, they called this degrading conduct, the taking dung to fertilize their estates. At the same time, pollution