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THE RIGHTS OF ENGLISHMEN.
BY BASIL MONTAGU, Esq.
He that takes
[This Essay was published a few years since, with the hope of
rendering some assistance in counteracting the mischievous opinions which were at that time circulated through the country under the title of Liberty.--I reprint it from the belief that it is calculated to do good; the drops of rain which fall separately into the river mix themselves at once with the stream, and · strengthen the general current.']
DIFFERENT visiustaries have at different times appeared in society, and will for ever appear, and contend that all men are or oughtto be equal : that all men are or ought to be free: that law is oppression, and that general rules of conduct are improper restraints.
These visionaries are certain of a favorable reception from the multitude, because they are supposed to be disinterested, and because the sentiments which they inculcate are acceptable to their audience. .
They are supposed to be disinterested, because, from the nature of their opinions, they cannot be expected to seek preferment.
Their sentiments are acceptable to the multitude, either because they are recommended by their novelty to that want of knowlege to which all things are new; or, because they proclaim the defects to which all human institutions are subject; or, because they pamper the vicious by promising sensual delights or an increase of property, which they represent as having been unjustly witheld; or, because they mislead the generous through their virtues, by recommending equality and liberty, which they describe as the right of all men.
The different considerations on this subject appear then to be,
A supposition of the disinterestedness of Demagogues has for ever existed, and will for ever exist, until knowlege is so diffused through the community that the people are able to distinguish between the true Patriot and the headstrong Demagogue; but this is attended with some difficulty ; for,
False patriotism, till it gain its end,
It wins those hearts for which its bait is thrown. There are, however, certain tests by which the Demagogue may be known.
The foundation of patriotism is virtue in private life. The Patriot is reared amidst the charities of home: he learns to love his country, from his mother's song: from his father's prayer: from his wife's respect and tenderness : from his children's love and duty.--Such were the Patriots of old : such was William Tell : such was Washington: such are thousands in England. The Demagogue has neither hearth nor household god : he wanders to and fro: he shows his aptness to manage the affairs of the commonwealth by the neglect and ruin of his own family. Such was Catiline : such are the modern Demagogues.
The Patriot prefers the good of his country to his private good. When Pompey was in the commission for purveyance for a famine at Rome, he was vehemently dissuaded by his friends from risking his life by venturing to sea in an extremity of weather : . It is necessary that I should sail, not that I should live,'-Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam,—was his answer. The Demagogue refers all things to himself as if he were the world's centre, and cares not in all tempests what becomes of the ship of the state, so that he may save himself in the cockboat of his own fortune. The Patriot's conduct originates in love of his country : the Demagogue’s in love of himself, either to gratify his irritability because a reasonable or an unreasonable request has been refused ; or to force his way by virulence and invective; or to be pleased with the sound of his own harangues; or as some reason for neglecting his nearest connexions ;- Il aime les Tartares pour être dispensé d'aimer ses voisins.'
As the good sailor obtains knowlege of the art of navigation, that his vessel may not strike on a rock, and be wrecked; so the Patriot studies the science of government, that he may not mislead or be misled by injudiciuos zeal. He remembers the admonition
mates cockboot the world's
nce and request habis irritabilit the Der
of John Milton, that he who is born to promote the public good, should read the Law of God above his years, and make it his whole delight.' He remembers the admonition of Socrates, that the meanest trade is not attempted without an apprenticeship, but every man thinks himself qualified by intuition for the hardest of all trades, that of government. The Demagogue can manage a ship in a tempest, although he never saw the ocean : he can cure diseases, although he is unacquainted with the structure of the human body: he would be a governor, without any knowlege of the being to be governed.
Ship in a temhough he is be a gover
'In a discourse between Phocion, Nicocles, and Aristias; Nicocles says, - Phocion was going to answer me, when he was interrujited by Aristias, a young man naturally of the happiest dispositions, but whose mind the Sophists had begun already to vitiate. He came in with the volatility of a coxcomb who imagines himself profoundly acquainted with weighty truths, because his opinions are singular, and full of himself for his fortitude in throwing off some vulgar prejudices. "My business, Phocion,' abruptly making up to him, is to ask your friendship, and deny me you cannot, it being for the good of our country that I ask it. Our magistrates seem not to know how to avail themselves of our abilities; it is plain to me that the republic, which should rule Greece with a high hand, droops, and is in a sensible decline; and this from our own fault.'.
iPhocion answered this exordium only with a careless smile; but for my part, I could hardly forbear checking this pragmatical spark, who drew on himself our contempt, whilst he fancied he was raising our admiration : however, I remained silent, leaving Aristias to pursue his reflections, which he did with equal warmth and volubility. No part of our government escaped his lash; and such unhappily is our folly, that I must own the young coxcomb was not seldom in the right; but then the remedies he proposed are most egregiously irrational. He was greatly pleased with his discoveries. At length when he conceited that he had approved himself the tutelar genius of Athens, and that should the republic decline, the fault did not lie at his door, he ended. i
"I must return you thanks, said Phocion to him, for the insight you have given me, and cannot but commend your zeal for our country. You have with great perspicuity laid open several flaws in our republic, and indeed in all Greece: however, in the many remedies you suggest, methinks you do not observe that order and method which appear to me necessary, and without which all you propose, though it might for a while patch up our distempers, will not effectually cure them...
« Would you take upon you to set up for a physician before you have closely studied the whole texture of the human system? Undoubtedly no; you would first get a knowlege of all its several parts; you would inform yourself of their functions, their different relations, and carefully examine the virtue and the propriety of every medicament. Politics, Aristias, is a science in which knowlege and exact disquisition are not less necessary than in the other branches. Before you strike out so many schemes for the prosperity and glory of our country, have you naturely weighed the motives for which men consented to give up their natural independence, and erected among themselves government, laws, and magistrates? Have you well considered the nature of the human heart and mind, and the hap
· The Patriot is seldom a member of any party. He does not surrender his judgment to any man, or to any body of men. He does not adopt opinions upon trust. He does not unite himself to the opposers of government; nor does he join those herds and flocks of people who follow any body that whistles to them or drives them to pasture. The happiness of his country is his rule of conduct: his mode of ascertaining it, the exercise of his own understanding. The Demagogue is the worst of all partisans. He is the leader of the mob: the triton amongst the minnows.
The Patriot does not deny his governors their due praise. He says, with John Milton, “this is not the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise in the commonwealth ; that let no man in this world expect. But when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost hound of civil liberty attained, that wise men look for.
“This is true liberty, when freeborn men,
Having to advise the public, may speak free.' The Demagogue is marked by acrimonious and unremitting opposition to the court. His love of the people consists in exciting hate against the government. If public distress incline the lower orders to turbulence, he infuses vindictive and discontented fancies into their minds. He exaggerates the evils to produce riot. He inflates passing events into permanent causes of misery. He displays defects without their accompanying advantages. He misleads by chains of simple questions where the apparent answers are obvious, but the real answers require the comprehension of a system.
piness we are susceptible of? Have you traced our passions up to the source? Are you well acquainted with their strength, their activity, their caprices? Have you endeavoured to divest yourself of your prepossessions, that you may consult only genuine reason, and by its help attain to a knowlege of nature's general view concerning us? In a word, have you endeavoured to distinguish our real wants from those to which we ourselves have given rise ; from those artificial wants which perhaps are the sources of all our misfortunes, procuring us only short intervals and some transient pleasures, of which we are drawn into fatal delusions ?
Without these previous lights, who can warrant you that the object you have in view is in reality that which deserves your attention? How will you be sure that the remedy you are making use of will produce the good expected; or, that the application of it to one part of society will not hurt the other? Pulilics would be an art no less contemptible than our superficial Grecian practitioners of it, if in'ridding us of one disease it brings on another, and does not recur to the primary cause of the several disorders and morbid humors in the body of the republic. If all you want, Aristias, be but a collection of empirical nostrums, or juggling prestiges, I am not your man; but let nie tell you, none of those things belong to politics. . The art of deceiving men and the art of making them happy are totally different.".