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• Thirdly, that this society in which the first principles of religion and government were debated, was the chief assembly in this country, and Mr. Whitebread the baker, the greatest man in it.
* And, lastly,' he says, “I think it can create no manner of surprize in any one that such a nation as this hath been long since swept away from the face of the earth, and the very name of such a people expunged out of the memory of man.'
When Fielding thus strongly and indignantly expressed bis own feelings upon this important subject, the circulation of opinions was slow because of the little intercourse between one part of the country and another. From London to York was then a week's journey, and there were no stages which travelled farther north. No provincial newspapers were extant; there were no circulating libraries, no book-clubs, no reviews, and the earliest magazines had but just been established. Every month now produces more books than were at that time published in a year, and the number of readers has multiplied in equal, or greater proportiou. The error of that day was not on the side of toleration or supineness, as the proceedings against Clarke and Whiston may prove: it was dangerous to attack the religion of the country, and whenever it was attempted, the attack was made covertly, and with at least an appearance of decorum. Yet even then the pestilence of infidelity was but too widely disseminated; it produced less certainly the disbelief of revealed religion than the hatred of it; and when men, either from profligacy, or from any mis-directed principle of faith, desire the overthrow of an ecclesiastical establishment, they are prepared to regard with complacency any political circumstances favourable to a consummation which they wish for so devoutly. In proportion therefore as irreligion and infidelity increased, they increased the number of bad subjects.
Infidels and atheists in catholic countries hate their own church, even where it is most intolerant, less than they abhor the reformed religion, which, standing upon the sure ground of reason and Scripture, challenges the freest, fullest investigation. Infidelity indeed allies itself easily with the Romish church as a system which it may safely despise in the gross, which requires only externals, and compounds at a moderate rate for transgressions of every kind. Boling broke would have betrayed this country to a popish sovereign. This man was a sciolist in philosophy and a traitor in politics. Though more than a century has elapsed since he and Harley impeded the course of Marlborough’s victories and blasted their fruits, a true Englishman cannot read or remember the history of those times without feeling his cheek glow with shame and indignation. England never had so much in her power as during the conferences at Utrecht, and never did she appear in so degraded
and disgraceful'a character: so notorions was the bad faith of the English cabinet, that Prince Eugene said to one of our ministers he knew vot whether he were speaking to an Englishman or a Frenchman. A charge even of direct corruption is brought against our nugociators, and by no light authority. D. Luiz da Cunha, one of the Portugueze ministers at the Congress, asserts, that the reason why Portugal obtained such unfavourable terms was that he had not money to bribe the English ministers, and the Spanish ambassador had.
The peace of Utrecht, with all the complicated treachery and baseness by which it was brought about, was the effect of faction, of that vile party-spirit which has been so often the reproach and the bane of England. The faction which then, for its own sinister purposes, betrayed the interests of Europe did not long enjoy their triumph; the great object of all their machinations was frustrated, and the happiest age of English history began with the accession of the House of Brunswick. The reigus of the first two Georges were disturbed by two rebellions, rashly undertaken, ill-conducted, and too rigorously punished. After the second of these explosions the Jacobites satisfied themselves with indulging their feelings in treasonable songs and toasts; and as the prince to whom they were so faithfully attached happily had no children by the remarkable woman whose life he rendered miserable, their loyalty died a natural death. The last remnant of this unfortunate family was no object of fear or jealousy to the reigning king, he became therefore an object of dignified compassion. At a time when Buonaparte, renewing the bloody practices of former usurpers, ordered the Duc d'Enghien to midnight execution, the last of the Stuarts received from the King of England an allowance suitable to his birth and rank. Upon his decease the Prince Regent gave him a monument; and it will perhaps be recorded in history that this act of honourable and princely feeling was censured as a waste of public money by some of that party who arrogate to themselves exclusively the praise of liberality.
The present king-an Englishman pot only by birth and education, but if ever there was one, by heart and habits also-succeeded to the throne of an united people, which none of his predecessors had done since Henry VIII. The Jacobites were now regarded ratber as humourists than as a party in the state: their politics were as much out of date as a ruff and fardingale, or a Steenkirk wig. The Catholics were quiet and contented; for the vexatious laws under which they lived had been suspended by the spirit of the age, and they were not molested. The Dissenters, enjoying the most full and perfect toleration, were more engaged in controversies among themselves than with the Church. Vigorous coupsels had
raised our military and naval reputation to its old and proper standard. Affairs were quiet at home and prosperous abroad. Our colonies were rapidly increasing in population, wealth and importance. Commerce was more flourishing than ever, arts and manufactures were improving,-a spirit of improvement seemed tv.characterize the age.
Literature and the fine arts were every where encouraged; scientific voyagers and travellers were sent out by England, France, Spain, Denmark and Russia ; and despotic sovereigns courted the correspondence of men of letters and affected the language of philosophy. But what a philosophy! Alas—they had · forsaken the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. The moral consequences of such philosophy were seen in the private life of Catherine, and in the tirst partition of Poland. The purchase and subjugation of Corsica by the French was another proof of the atrocious usurpations which might unblushingly be effected in an age of liberal ideas; and tortures too shocking to be remembered without shuddering, were inflicted upon a poor madman by a court which called itself the most polished in the world, and in a nation which boasted of its humanity and its fine feelings!
In England, notwithstanding all the fair appearances with which the present reign commenced, a spirit of insubordination had long been gaining ground. Steele remarked at the beginning of the century, that the newspapers of this island were as pernicions to weak heads in England as ever books of chivalry to Spain.' The temper which they produced was not dangerous in his days, and he regarded it rather as a malady and a misfortune in the individuals, than as an evil to the state; they are considered as lunatics,' he says, and therefore tolerated in their ravings. During the two preceding reigns the circulation of political writings had been comparatively trifling, and their effect not very great. We had not yet learned to talk of the reading public, or to call ourselves a thinking people. The pamphlets and Aying squibs of the day were above the reach of the multitude, and beneath the notice of the learned; they passed current therefore for as little as they were worth. But a tremendous alteration was now to take place, and the art of popular writing was at the same time carried to perfection and directed to the most mischievous of all purposes. This was accomplished by Junius: the most influential and the most pernicious English writer of his age. The works of other libellers have died with them; and the authors have either sunk into utter contempt, or been remembered only for infamy; but it has been this man's fate to have his falsehood, his malignity, and his wickedness overlooked or pardoned because of the skill with which he compouuded his poisonous ingredients. He may be considered as
the founder of that school of writers, wlio, setting truth at defiance, impose the most audacious misrepresentations upon a credulous public, and seasoning sophistry with slander, carry into literary and political disquisition a spirit of personal malevolence. He too was the first writer since the Restoration who set an example of traducing the sovereign; insulting the chief magistrate as an individual, while he laboured to bring the measures of his government into hatred and contempt.
M. Simond traces the American war with all its consequences to a personage who, in the part which he acted upon the political stage, bad certainly no other object than that of repairing his own ruived fortunes.
• Our new world,' says the Gallo-American traveller, ' bras generally the credit of having first lighted the torch which was to illuminate and soon set in a blaze the finest part of Europe : yet I think the fint was struck, and the first spark elicited by the patriot John Wilkes, a few years before. In a time of profound peace, the restless spirits of men, deprived of other objects of public curiosity, seized with avidity on those questions which were then agitated with so much violence in England, touching the rights of the people and of the government, and the nature of power. The end of the political drama was in favour of what was called, and in some respect was, the liberty of the people. Encouraged by the success of this great comedian, the curtain was no sooner dropt on the scene of Europe, than new actors hastened to raise it again in America, and to give the world a new play, infinitely more interesting and more brilliant than the first.'
Franklin was in London during the Saturnalia of Wilkes's triumph.
"Tis really,' he says, ' an extraordinary event to see an outlaw and exile, of bad personal character, not worth a farthing, come over from France, set himself up as candidate for the capital of the kingdom, miss his election only by being too late in his application, and immediately carrying it for the principal county. All respect to law and government seems to be lost among the common people, who are moreover continually inflamed by seditious scribblers to trample on authority, and every thing that used to keep them in order.—What the event will be, God only knows. But some punishment seems preparing for a people who are ungratefully abusing the best constitution and the best king any nation was ever blest with
These were the remarks of Franklin, made at the time and on the spot,--and he will not be suspected of undervaluing popular rights and popular feelings. He describes the people as intent on nothing but luxury, licentiousness, power, places, pensions and plunder ;' and the ministry as divided in their counsels, worried by perpetual oppositions, in continual apprehension of changes, and intent on securing popularity in case they should lose favour.'.
Titus Oates had been the first Roi des Halles in England; Dr. Sacheverel was the second, and to him, after an interregnum of threescore years, John Wilkes succeeded. After Wilkes there was a shorter interreign till the accession of Lord George Gordon : during the last twenty years the succession has been interrupted, and the distinguished office was filled by Mr. Hunt, when he was suddenly shorn of his beams by the Act against Seditious Meetings. Wilkes was very far the ablest man upon this notable list of worthies ; the government by its mis-management placed the laws on his side, and thus unfortunately provoked a host of generous feelings in aid of one of the greatest profligates of a profligate age. M. Simond is right in reckoning him among what Mr. Clarkson would call the forerunners and co-adjutors of the American and French Revolutions: beyond a doubt the seeds of disaffection and insubordination were scattered at that time wherever the affairs of England were canvassed; and they took root in America as well as at home. But the ground was ready for the sower. Wilkes would have produced little effect if the public mind had not been apt at the time to receive such influences. Concerning America, suffice it in this place to observe, that every thing in the history, habits, institutions and circumstances of that country tended surely and inevitably toward Republicanism. At home there was a great body of latent discontent; it was developed at this time by Wilkes, it was fostered by Junius and the writers of that school, and it was brought into full action by the American war.
Some influence must be attributed to the leaven which Jacobitism had left behind. The Jacobites, indeed, no longer existed as a faction, their hopes having no longer an object whereon to fix; but when disloyalty had ceased, disaffection would in very many instances remain; and men who had been trained up to regard the reigning family with dislike, and desire their overthrow, would be disposed to unite with any party in whom they could find the mere sympathy of opposition. If a generation of perfect tranquillity had intervened, this feeling would have worn out; and all the adherents of the old family would gradually and imperceptibly have transferred their entire allegiance, as many unquestionably did. But there was no such interval; and it is a curious fact that the last man in England who was a professed Jacobite became a furious Jacobine.
Infinitely more effect is attributable to the state of religion, and the progress of what are called liberal opivions. The American war inade the Dissenters feel once more as a political party. in the state. New England was more the country of their hearts than the England wherein they were born and bred; and when the flag of Republicanism was hoisted, it awakened hopes which were