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part of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, persecution restrained, faction fubdued; the merit of all these bleflings is ascribed folely to the minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other merits by a religious care of the best constitution in the world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of the latest po, ferity.
When this accusation and panegyric are received by the partizans of each party, no wonder they beget an extraordinary ferment on both si’es, and fill the nation with violent animofities. But I would fain persuade these party-zea ots, hat there is a flat contradiction both in the accusation and panegyric, and that it were imposible for either of them to run so high, were it not for this contradiction. If our constitution be really that noble fabric, the pride of Britain, the envy of our neighbours, raised by the labour of so many centuries, repaired at the expence of so many millions, and cemented by such a profusion of blood*; I say, if our constitution does in any degree deserve these eulogies, it would never have suffered a wicked and weak minister to govern triumphantly for a course of twenty years, when opposed by the greatest geniuses in the nation, who exercised the utmost liberty of tongue and pen, in parliament, and in their frequent appeals to the people. But, if the minister be wicked and weak, to the degree so strenuously insisted on, the conftitution must be faulty in its original principles, and þe cannot consistently be charged with undermining the
Dissertation on parties, Letter 10,
best constitution in the world. A constitution is only fo far good, as it provides a remedy against mal-adminje stration, and if the BRITISH constitution, when in its greatest vigour, and repaired by two such remarkable events, as the Revolution and Acceffion, by which our ancient royal family was sacrificed to it; if our constitu. tion, I say, with so great advantages, does not, in fact, provide any such remedy, we are rather beholden to any minister who undermines it, and affords us an opportunity of erecting in its place a better conftitution.
I would employ the same topics to moderate the zeal of those who defend the minister. Is our constitution so excellent? Then a change of ministry can be no such dreadful event; since it is essential to such a constitution, in every ministry, both to preserve itself from violation, and to prevent all enormities in the administra. tion. Is our constitution very bad? Then so extraordinary a jealousy and apprehension, on account of changes, is ill-placed ; and a man should no more be anxious in this case, than a husband, who had married a woman from the stews, should be watchful to prevent her infia delity. Public affairs, in such a constitution, must necessarily go to confusion, by whatever hands they are conducted; and the zeal of patricts is in that case much Jefs requisite than the patience and submission of philofophers. The virtue and good intentions of Cato and BRUTUS are highly laudable ; but, to what purpose did their zeal serve? To nothing, but to haften the fatal period of the ROMAN government, and render its convulsions and dying agonies more violent and painful.
I would not be understood to mean, that public affairs dcserve no care and attention at all. Would men be
moderate and confiftent, their claims might be admitted ; at least might be examined. The country-party might still affert, that our constitution, though excellent, will admit of mal-administration to a certain degree; and therefore, if the minister be bad, it is proper to oppose him with a suitable degree of zeal. And, on the other hand, the court-party may be allowed, upon the suppofition that the minister were good, to defend, and with fome zeal too, his administration. I would only persuade men not to contend, as if they were fighting pro aris eges focis, and change a good conftitution into a bad one, by the violence of their factions.
I have not here considered any thing that is personal in the present controversy. In the best civil constitution, where every man is restrained by the most rigid laws, it is easy to discover either the good or bad intentions of a minister, and to judge, whether his personal character deserve love or hatred. But such questions are of little importance to the public, and lay those, who employ their pens upon them, under a just suspicion either of malevo, Jence or of Aattery
Of the First Principles of GOVERNMENT.
OTHING appears more surprizing to those,
who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men refign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as FORCE is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is therefore, on opinion only that government is founded ; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military
1 governments, as well as to the most free and most popular. The foldan of EGYPT, or the emperor of Rome, might drive his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and inclination : But he must, at least, have led his mamalukes, or prætorian bands, like men, by their opinion.
Opinion is of two kinds, to wit, opinion of INTEREST, and opinion of RIGHT. By opinion of interest, I chiefly understand the sense of the general advantage which is reaped from government; together with the persuasion that the particular government, which is established, is equally advantageous with any other that could easily be fettled. When this opinion prevails among the generality