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poise and influence. Such an one will readily, at first, acknowlege, that all political questions are infinitely complicated ; and that there scarce ever occurs in any deliberation, a choice, which is either purely good, or purely ill. Consequences, mixed and varied, may be foreseen to flow from every measure : and many consequences, unforeseen, do always, in fact, result from it. Hesitation, and reserve, and suspense, are, therefore, the only sentiments he brings to this essay or trial. Or if he indulges any passion, 'tis that of derision and ridicule against the ignorant multitude, who are always clamorous and dogmatical, even in the nicest questions, of which, from want of temper, perhaps still more than of understanding, they are altogether unfit judges.
But to say something more determinate on this head, the following reflections will, I hope, show the temper, if not the understanding of a philosopher.
WERE we to judge merely by first appearance, and by past experience, we must allow that the advantages of a parliamentary title in the house of HANOVER are much greater than those of an undisputed hereditary title in the house of StuART ; and that our fathers acted wisely in preferring the former to the latter. So long as the house of STUART reigned in Britain, which, with some interruptions, was above 80 years, the government was kept in a continual fever, by the contentions betwixt the privileges of the people and the prerogatives of the crown. If arms were dropt, the noise of disputes continued: Or if these were silenced, jealousy still corroded the heart, and threw the nation into an unnatural ferment and disorder. And while we were thus occupied in domestic contentions, a foreign power, dangerous, if not fatal, to public liberty, erected itself in EUROPE, without any opposition from us, and even sometimes with our assistance.
But during these last sixty years, when a parliamentary establishment has taken place; whatever factions may have prevailed either among the people or in public assemblies, the whole force of our constitution has always fallen to one lide, and an uninterrupted harmony has been preserved between our princes and our parliaments. Public liberty, with internal peace and order, has forished almost without interruption : Trade and manufactures and agriculture have increased : The arts and sciences and philosophy have been cultivated : Even religious parties have been necessitated to lay aside their mutual rancor : And the glory of the nation has spred itself all over EUROPE ; while we stand the bulwark against oppression, and the great antagonist of that power which threatens every people with conquest and subjection. So long and so glorious a period no nation almost can boast of: Nor is there another instance, in the whole history of mankind, that so many millions of people have, during such a space of time, been held together, in a manner so free, so rational, and so suitable to the dignity of human nature.
But tho' this recent instance seems clearly to decide in favor of the present eftablishment, there are some circumstances to be thrown into the other scale ; and 'tis dangerous to regulate our judgment by one event or example.
We have had two rebellions during the forishing period above mentioned, besides plots and conspiracies without number. And if none of these have produced any very fatal event, we may ascribe our escape chiefly to the narrow genius of those princes who disputed our establishment; and may esteem ourselves so far
fortunate. But the claims of the banished family, I fear, are not yet antiquated ; and who can foretel, that their future attempts will produce no greater disorder?
The disputes betwixt privilege and prerogative may easily be composed by laws, and votes, and conferences, and concessions; where there is tolerable temper or prudence on both sides, or on either side. Among contending titles, the question can only be determined by the sword, and by devastation, and by civil war.
A PRINCE who fills the throne with a disputed title, dares not arm his subjects; the only method of securing a people fully, both against domestic oppression and foreign conquest.
NotWITHSTANDING all our riches and renown, what a critical escape did we lately make from dangers, which were owing not so much to bad conduct and ill success in war, as to the pernicious practice of mortgaging our finances, and the ftill more pernicious maxim of never paying off our incumbrances ? Such fatal measures could never have been embraced, had it not been to secure a precarious establishment
But to convince us, that an hereditary title is to be embraced rather than a parliamentary one, which is not supported by any other views or motives; a man needs only transport himself back to the æra of the restoration, and suppose, that he had had a seat in that parliament which recalled the royal family, and put a period to the greatest disorders that ever arose from the opposite pretensions of prince and people. What would have been thought of one, that had proposed, at that time, to set aside CHARLES II. and settle the crown on the Duke of YORK or GLOCESTER, merely in order to exclude all high claims, like those of their father and grandfather? Would not such an one have been regarded as a very extravagant projector, who loved dangerous remedies, and could tamper and play with a government and national constitution, like a quack with a sickly patient ?
The advantages which result from a parliamentary title, preferably to an hereditary one, tho' they are great, are too refined ever to enter into the conception of the vulgar. The bulk of mankind would never allow them to be sufficient for committing what would be regarded as an injustice to the prince. They must be fupported by some gross, popular, and familiar topics; and wise men, tho' convinced of their force, would reject them, in compliance with the weakness and prejudices of the people. An incroaching tyrant or deluded bigot alone, by his misconduct, is able to enrage the nation, and render practicable what was always, perhaps, desireable.
In reality, the reason assigned by the nation for excluding the race of STUART, and so many other branches of the royal family, is not on account of their hereditary title, (which, however just in itself, would, to vulgar apprehensions, have appeared altogether' absurd) but on account of their religion. Which leads us to compare the disadvantages above mentioned of each establishment.
I CONFESS, that, considering the matter in general, it were rather to be wished, that our prince had no foreign dominions, and could confine all his attention to the government of this island. For, not to mention some real inconveniencies that
advernment an who loved not fuchs lude all the crown on that hade tensions
1 Those who consider how universal this perpicious practice of funding has become all over EUROPE, may perhaps dispute this last opini.
on. But we lay under lefs necessity than other states.
may, result from territories on the continent, they afford such a handle for calumny and defamation, as is greedily seized by the people, who are always disposed to think ill of their superiors. It must, however, be acknowleged, that HanoVer is, perhaps, the spot of ground in Europe the least inconvenient for a King of Britain. It lies in the heart of Germany, at a distance from the great powers, which are our natural rivals: It is protected by the laws of the empire, as well as by the arms of its own sovereign : And it serves only to connect us more closely with the house of Austria, which is our natural ally.
In the last war, it has been of service to us, by furnishing us with a considerable body of auxiliary troops, the bravest and most faithful in the world. The Elector of Hanover is the only considerable prince in the empire, who has pursued no separate end, and has raised up no ftale pretensions, during the late commotions of EUROPE ; but has acted, all along, with the dignity of a king of BRITAIN. And ever since the accession of that family, it would be difficult to show any harm we have ever received from the electoral dominions, except that short disgust in 1718, with CHARLES XII, who, regulating himself by maxims very different from those of other princes, made a personal quarrel of every public injury.
The religious persuasion of the house of STUART is an inconvenience of a much deeper dye, and would threaten us with much more dismal consequences. The Roman Catholic religion, with its huge train of priests and friers, is vastly more expensive than ours : Even tho' unaccompanied with its natural attendants of inquisitors, and stakes, and gibbets, it is less tolerating: And not contented with dividing the facerdotal from the regal office, (which must be prejudicial to any ftate) it bestows the former on a foreigner, who has always a separate, and may often have an opposite interest to that of the public.
But were this religion ever so advantageous to society, it is contrary to that which is established among us, and which is likely to keep poffeffion, for a long time, of the minds of the people. And tho it is much to be hoped, that the progress of reason and philofophy will, by degrees, abate the virulent acriniony of opposite religions all over EUROPE; yet the spirit of moderation has, as yer, made too Now advances to be entirely trusted. The conduct of the Saxon family, where the same person can be a Catholic King and a Protestant Elector, is, perhaps, the first instance, in modern times, of so reasonable and prudent a behavior. And the gradual progress of the Catholic superstition does, even there, prognosticate a speedy alteration: After which, 'tis juftly to be apprehended, that persecutions will put a speedy period to the Protestant religion in the place of its nativity. · Thus, upon the whole, the advantages of the settlement in the family of StuART, which frees us from a disputed title, seem to bear some proportion with those of the settlement in the family of HANOVER, which frees us from the claims of prerogative : But at the same time, its disadvantages, by placing on the throne a Roman Catholic, are much greater than those of the other establishment, in settling the crown on a foreign prince. What party an impartial patriot, in the reign of K. WILLIAM or Q. Anne, would have chosen amidst these opposite views, may, perhaps, to some appear hard to determine. For may part, I esteem Jiberty so invaluable a blessing in society, that whatever favors its progress and
often have an opp religion ever fo advantages likely to keep pomimoped, that the
nisters, our own pa only blame fortuned with a settlement hould
ong nations, itseen lo religiously od rebellious disponi
; and if
have been gufted with tlelves.
fecurity, can scarce be too fondly cherished by every one who is a lover of human kind.
But the settlement in the house of Hanover has actually taken place. The princes of that family, without intrigue, without cabal, without solicitation on their part, have been called to mount our throne, by the united voice of the whole legislative body. They have, since their accession, displayed, in all their actions, the utmost mildness, equity, and regard to the laws and constitution. Our own ministers, our own parliaments, ourselves have governed us; and if aught ill has befallen us, we can only blame fortune or ourselves. What a reproach must we become among nations, if, disgusted with a settlement so deli-, berately made, and whose conditions have been lo religiously observed, we should throw every thing again into confusion ; and by our levity and rebellious disposi. tion, prove ourselves totally unfit for any state but that of absolute Navery and subjection?
The greatest inconvenience attending a disputed title, is, that it brings us in danger of civil wars and rebellions. What wise man, to avoid this inconvenience, would run directly upon a civil war and rebellion ? Not to mention, that so long poffeffion, secured by so many laws, mult, ere this time, in the apprehension of a great part of the nation, have begot a title in the house of Hanover, independent of their present poffeffion : So that now. we should not, even by a revolution, obtain the end, of avoiding a disputed title.
No revolution made by national forces, will ever be able, without fome other great neceffity, to abolish our debts and incumbrances, in which the interest of so many persons is concerned. And a revolution made by foreign forces, is a con-. queft: A calamity with which the precarious balance of power very nearly threatens us, and which our civil dissensions are likely, above all other circumstances, to bring suddenly upon us.
E S S A Y XIV. IDEA OF A PERFECT COMMONWEALTH.
F all mankind, there are none so pernicious as political projectors, if they
have power; nor so ridiculous, if they want it : As on the other hand, a wise politician is the most beneficial character in nature, if accompanied with authority; and the most innocent, and not altogether useless, even if deprived of it. 'Tis not with forms of government, as with other artificial contrivances; where an old engine may be rejected, if we can discover another more accurate and commodious, or where trials may safely be made, even tho' the success be doubtful. An established government has an infinite advantage, by that very circumstance of its being established ; the bulk of mankind being governed by authority, not reason, and never attributing authority to any thing that has not the recommendation of antiquity. To tamper, therefore, in this affair, or try projects merely
upon upon the credit of supposed argument and philosophy, can never be the part of a wise magistrate, who will bear a reverence to what carries the marks of age ; and tho' he may attempt some improvement for the public good, yet will he adjust his innovations, as much as possible, to the antient fabric, and preserve entire the chief pillars and supports of the constitution. .
The mathematicians in Europe have been much divided concerning that figure of a ship, which is the most commodious for failing; and Huygens, who at last determined this controversy, is justly thought to have obliged the learned, as well as commercial world; tho' COLUMBUS had failed to AMERICA, and Sir FRANCIS DRAKE made the tour of the world, without any such discovery. As one form of government must be allowed more perfect than another, independent of the manners and humors of particular men ; why may we not inquire, what is the most perfect of all, tho' the common botched and inaccurate governments seem to serve the purposes of society, and tho' it be not so easy to establish a new government, as to build a vessel upon a new plan ? The subject is surely the most worthy curiosity of any the wit of man can possibly devise. And who knows, if this controversy were fixed by the universal consent of the learned, but in some future age, an opportunity might be afforded of reducing the theory to practice, either by a diffolution of the old governments, or the combination of men to form a new one, in some distant part of the world ? In all cases, it must be advantageous to know what is most perfect in the kind, that we may be able to bring any real constitution or form of government as near it as possible, by such gentle alterations and innovations as may not give too great disturbance to society.
ALL I pretend to in the present essay is to revive this subject of speculation ; and therefore I shall deliver my sentiments in as few words as possible. A long dissertation on that head would not, I apprehend, be very acceptable to the public, who will be apt to regard such disquisitions, both as useless and chimerical.
All plans of government, which suppose great reformation in the manners of mankind, are plainly imaginary. Of this nature, are the Republic of Plato, and the Utopia of Sir THOMAS More. The OCEANA is the only valuable model of a commonwealth, that has as yet been offered to the public.
The chief defects of the OCEANA seem to be these. First, Its rotation is inconvenient, by throwing men, of whatever ability, by intervals, out of pub. Jic employments. Secondly, Its Agrarian is impracticable. Men will soon learn the art, which was practised in antient Rome, of concealing their poffeffions under other people's names ; till at last, the abuse will become so common, that they will throw off, even the appearance of restraint. Thirdly, The OCEANA provides not a sufficient security for liberty, or the redress of grievances. The senate must propose, and the people consent; by which means, the senate have not only a negative upon the people, but, what is of infinitely greater consequence, their negative goes before the votes of the people. Were the King's negative of the same nature in the English constitution, and could he prevent any bill from coming into parliament, he would be an absolute monarch. As his negative follows the votes of the houses, it is of little consequence: Such a difference is there in the manner of placing the same thing. When a popular bill has been