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immediately after they had taken a spunge to their debts, zhan at present; as much as an opulent knave, even though one could not force him to pay, is a preferable debtor to an honest bankrupt : For the former, in order to carry on business, may find it his interest to dircharge his debts, where they are not exorbitant: The latter has it not in his power. The reasoning of Tacis TUS*, as it is eternally true, is very applicable to our present case. Sed vulgus ad magnitudinem beneficiorum aderat : Stultiffimus quisque pecuniis mercabatur : Apud sapientes calla habebantur,quæ neque dari neque accipi, salva republica, poterant, The public is a debtor, whom no man can oblige to pay. The only check which the creditors have upon her, is the interest of preserving credit; an interest, which may eafily be overbalanced by a great debt, and by a difficult and extraordinary emergence, even supposing that credit irrecoverable. Not to mention, that a present neceflity often forces states into meafures, which are, strictly speaking, against their interest.
These two events, supposed above, are calamitous, but not the most calamitous. Thousands are thereby sacrificed to the safety of millions. But we are not without danger, that the contrary event may take place, and that millions may be sacrificed for ever to the temporary safety of thousands t. Our popular government, perhaps, will render it difficult or dangerous for a minister to venture on so desperate an expedient, as that of a voluntary bankruptcy. And though the house of Lords be altogether composed of proprietors of land, and the house of Com. mons chiefly; and consequently neither of them can be supposed to have great property in the funds : Yet the connections of the members may be so great with the
* Hif. lib. iii.
proprietors, as to render them more tenacious of public faith, than prudence, policy, or even justice, ftrictly speaking, requires. And perhaps too, our foreign ene-, mies may be so politic as to discover, that our safety lies in despair, and may not, therefore, show the danger, open and barefaced, till it be inevitable. The balance of power in Europe, our grandfathers, our fathers, and we, have all esteemed too unequal to be preserved without our attention and assistance. But our children, weary of the struggle, and fettered with incumbrances, may siç down secure, and see their neighbours oppressed and conquered ; till, at last, they themselves and their creditors ļie both at the mercy of the conqueror. And this may properly enough be denominated the violent death of our
These seem to be the events, which are not very remote, and which reason foresees as clearly almost as the can do any thing that lies in the womb of time. And though the ancients maintained, that in order to reach the gift of prophecy, a certain divine fury or madness was requisite, one may safely affirm, that, in order to deliver such prophecies as these, no more is necessary, than merely to be in one's senses, free from the influence of popular mad. ness and delusion.
SHALL observe three remarkable cuftoms in three
celebrated governments; and shall conclude from the whole, that all general maxims in politics ought to be established with great caution; and that irregular and extraordinary appearances are frequently discovered in the moral, as well as in the physical world. The former, perhaps, we can better account for, after they happen, from springs and principles, of which every one has, within himself, or from observation, the strongest assurance and conviction : But it is often fully as impossible for human prudence, before-hand, to foresee and foretel them.
1. One would think it essential to every supreme council or assembly, which debates, that entire liberty of speech should be granted to every member, and that all motions or reasonings should be received, which can any wise tend to illustrate the point under deliberation. One would conclude, with still greater affyrance, that, after a motion was made, which was voted and approved by that assembly in which the legislative power is lodged, the member who made the motion must for ever be exempted from future trial or enquiry. But no political maxim can, at first sight, appear more undisputable, than
that he must, at least, be secured from all inferior jurif diction; and that nothing less than the same supreme legislative assembly, in their subsequent meetings, could tender him accountable for those motions and harangues, to which they had before given their approbation. But these axioms, however irrefragable they may appear, have all failed in the ATHENIAN government, from caufes and principles too, which appear almost inevitable.
By the year on wompavojev, or indi&tment of illegality, (though it has not been remarked by antiquaries or commentators) any man was tried and punished in a common court of judicature, for any law which had passed upon his motion, in the assembly of the people, if that law appeared to the court unjust, or prejudicial to the public. Thus Demosthenes, finding that ship-money was levied irregularly, and that the poor bore the same burden as the rich in equipping the gallies, corrected this inequality by a very useful law, which proportioned the expence to the revenue and income of each individual, He moved for this law in the assembly; he proved its advantages *; he convinced the people, the only legislature in ATHENS ; the law paffed, and was carried into execution : Yet was he tried in a criminal court for that law, upon the complaint of the rich, who refented the alteration that he had introduced into the finances t. He was indeed acquitted, upon proving anew the usefulness of his law.
CTESIPHON moved in the assembly of the people, that particular honours should be conferred on DEMOSTHENES, as on a citizen affectionate and useful to the commonwealth: The people, convinced of this truth,
* His harangue for it is Aill extant; wage Zuje proglaso