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ES SAY XI. OF THE PARTIES OF GREAT BRITAIN.
TJERE the British government proposed as a subject of speculation to a W studious man, he would immediately perceive in it a source of division and party, which it would be almost impossible for it, under any administration, to avoid. The just balance between the republican and monarchical part of our constitution is really, in itself, fo extremely delicate and uncertain, that when joined to mens passions and prejudices, 'tis impossible but different opinions must arise concerning it, even among persons of the best understanding. Those of mild tempers, who love peace and order, and detest sedition and civil wars, will always entertain more favourable sentiments of monarchy, than men of bold and generous spirits, who are passionate lovers of liberty, and think no evil comparable to subjection and savery. And tho' all reasonable men agree in general to preserve our mixed government ; yet when they come to particulars, some will incline to trust larger powers to the crown, to bestow on it more influence, and to guard against its encroachments with less caution, than others who are terrified at the most distant approaches of tyranny and despotic power. Thus are there parties of PRINCIPLE involved in the very nature of our constitution, which may properly enough be denominated those of + Court and Country. The strength and violence of each of these parties will much depend upon the particular administration. An adminiftration may be so bad, as to throw a great majority into the opposition; as a good administration will reconcile to the court many of the most passionate lovers of liberty. But, however the nation may Auctuate betwixt them, the parties themselves will always subsist, so long as we are governed by a limited monarchy..
But, besides this difference of Principle, those parties are very much fo'mented by a difference of INTEREST, without which they could scarce ever be dangerous or violent. The crown will naturally bestow all its trust and power upon those, whose principles, real or pretended, are most favorable to monarchical government; and this temptation will naturally engage them to go greater lengths than their principles would otherwise carry them. Their antagonists, who are disappointed in their ambitious aims, throw themselves into the party whose principles incline them to be most jealous of royal power, and naturally carry those principles to a greater length than sound politics will justify. Thus, the Court and Country-parties, which are the genuine offspring of the British goyernment, are a kind of mixt parties, and are influenced both by principle and by
+ These words have become of general use, Optimates to be such as, in all their public conduct, and therefore I fhall employ them, without intende regulated themselves by the sentiments of the best ing to express by them an universal blame of the and worthiest of the ROMANS: Pro Sextio, cap. 45. one party, or approbation of the other. The The term of Country-party may afford a favorable court-party may, no doubt, on some occasions con- definition or etymology of the same kind: But it sult best the interest of the country, and the coun- would be folly to draw any argument from that try-party oppose it. In like manner, the Roman head, and I have no regard to it in employing parties were denominated O primates and Populares; these terms. and CICERO, like a true party-man, defines the
interest. The - heads of the factions are commonly most governed by the latter motive; the inferior members of them by the former. I must be understood to mean, this of persons who have motives for taking party on any side. . For, to tell the truth, the greatest part are commonly men who associate themselves they know not why; from example, from passion, from idleness. But still it is requisite, that there be some source of division, either in principle or interest'; otherwise such persons would not find parties, to which they could associate them. selves.
As to ecclefiaftical parties; we may observe, that, in all ages of the world, priests have been enemies to liberty *, and 'tis certain, that this steady conduct of theirs must have been founded on fixt reasons of interest and ambition. Liberty of thinking, and of expressing our thoughts, is always fatal to priestly power, and to those pious frauds, on which it is commonly founded ; and, by an infallible connexion, which prevails among every species of liberty, this privilege can never be enjoyed, at least, has never yet been enjoyed, but in a free government. Hence it must happen, in such a government as that of BRITAIN, that the established clergy, while things are in their natural situation, will always be of the Court-part; as, on the contrary, diflenters of all kinds will be of the Countryparty ; since they can never hope for that toleration, which they stand in need of, but by means of our free government. All princes, who have aimed at despotic power, have known of what importance it was to gain the established clergy: As the clergy, on their side, have shewn a great facility of entering into the views of such princes t. GUSTAVUS VAZA was, perhaps, the only ambitious monarch, that ever depressed the church, at the same time, that he discouraged liberty. But the exorbitant power of the bishops in Sweden, who, at that time, overtopped. the crown, together with their attachment to a foreign family, was the reason of his embracing such an unusual system of politics.
This obfervation concerning the propensity of priests to despotic power, and to the government of a single perfon, is not true with regard to one fect only. The Presbyterian and Calvinistic clergy in HOLLAND were always professed friends to the family of ORANGE ; as the Arminians, who were esteemed heretics, were always of the LoUvEstEin faction, and zealous for liberty. But if a prince has the choice of both, 'tis easy to fee, that he will prefer the episcopal to the presbyterian form of government, both because of the greater affinity between monarchy and episcopacy, and because of the facility which a prince finds, in such a government, of ruling the clergy, by means of their ecclefiaftical superiors I.
If we consider the first rise of parties in ENGLAND, during the civil wars, we fhall find, that it was exactly conformable to this general theory, and that the
* This proposition is true, notwithstanding, that fugas civium, urbium eversiones, fratrum, conju. in the early times of the ENGLISH government, gum, parentum neces, aliaque folita regibus auli, the clergy were the great and principal oppofers of fuperftitionem fovebant ; quia honor facerdotii firthe crown: But, at that time, their poflessions were mamentuin potentiæ affumebatur. Tacit. hift. so immenfely great, that they coinposed a confi lib. 5. derable part of the proprietors of ENGLAND, and Populi imperium juxta libertatem: paucoin many contests were direct rivals of the crown. rum dominatio regiæ libidini propior eft. Tacit.
t Judæi sibi ipsi reges imposuere ; qui mobilitate Ann, lib. 6. vulgi expulli, resumpta per arma dominacione;
species of government gave birth to these parties, by a regular and infallible operation. The English constitution, before that time, had lain in a kind of confusion; yet so, as that the subjects possessed many noble privileges, which, tho' not, perhaps, exactly bounded and secured by law, were universally deemed, from long possession, to belong to them as their birth-right. An ambitious, or rather an ignorant, prince arose, who esteemed all these privileges to be conceffions of his predecessors, revocable at pleasure ; and, in prosecution of this prin. ciple, he openly acted in violation of liberty, during the course of several years. Necessity, at laft, constrained him to call a parliament : the spirit of liberty arose and spred itself: The prince, being without any support, was obliged to grant every thing required of him : And his enemies, jealous and implacable, fet no bounds to their pretensions. Here then began those contests, in which it was no wonder, that men of that age were divided into different parties ; since, even at this day, the impartial are at a loss to decide concerning the justice of the quarrel. The pretensions of the parliament, if yielded to, broke the balance of our constitution, by rendering the government almost intirely republican. If not yielded to, we were, perhaps, still in danger of despotic power, from the settled principles and inveterate habits of the king, which had plainly appeared in every concession that he had been constrained to make to his people. In this question, so delicate and uncertain, men naturally fell to the side which was most conformable to their usual principles; and those, who were the most passionate favorers of monarchy, declared for the king, as the zealous friends of liberty sided with the parliament. The hopes of success being nearly equal on both sides, interest had no general influence in this contest : So that Round-HEAD and CAVALIER were merely parties of principle; neither of which disowned either monarchy or liberty ; but the former party inclined most to the republican part of our government, and the latter to the monarchical. In this respect they may be considered as court and country-party enflamed into a civil war, by an unhappy concurrence of circumstances, and by the turbulent spirit of the age. The commonwealth's men, and the partizans of despotic power, lay concealed in both parties, and formed but an inconsiderable part of them.
The clergy had concurred with the king's arbitrary designs, according to their usual maxims in such cases: And, in return, were allowed to persecute their ad.. versaries, whom they called heretics and schismatics. The established clergy were episcopal; the non-conformists presbyterian : So that all things concurred to throw the former, without reserve, into the king's party; and the latter into that of the parliament. The Cavaliers being the court-party, and the Roundbeads the country-party, the union was infallible between the former and the established prelacy, and between the latter and presbyterian non-conformists. This union is so natural, according to the general principles of politics, that it requires. some very extraordinary situation of affairs to break it. : · EVERY one knows the event of this quarrel ; fatal to the king first, and to the parliament afterwards. After many confusions and revolutions, the royal family was at last restored, and the government established on the same footing as before. CHARLES II. was not made wiser by the example of his father ; but prosecuted the same measures, tho' at first, with more secrecy and caution. New parties arose, under the appellations of Wbig and Tory, which have continued ever since to G 2
confound and distract our government. What the nature is of these parties, is, perhaps, one of the most difficult questions, which can be met with, and is a proof, that history may contain problems, as uncertain as any, which are to be found in the most abstract sciences. We have seen the conduct of these two parties, during the course of seventy years, in a vast variety of circumstances, porfeffed of power, and deprived of it, during peace and during war : Persons, who profess themselves of one side or other, we meet every hour, in company, in our pleasures, in our serious occupations : We ourselves are constrained, in a manner, to take party ; and living in a country of the highest liberty, every one may openly declare all his sentiments and opinions : And yet we are at a loss to tell the nature, pretensions, and principles of the two parties. The question is, perhaps, in itself, somewhat difficult; but has been rendered more so, by the prejudice and violence of party.
When we compare the parties of Whig and Tory, to those of ROUND-HEAD and CAVALIER, the most obvious différence, which appears betwixt them, consists in the principles of pasíve obedience, and indefeasible rigbt, which were but little heard of among the CAVALIERS, but became the universal doctrine, and were esteemed the true characteristic of a Tory. Were these principles pushed into their most obvious consequences, they imply a formal renunciation of all our liberries, and an avowal of absolute monarchy ; since nothing can be a greater abfurdity than a limited power, which must not be resisted, even when it exceeds its limitations. But as the most rational principles are often but a weak counterpoise to passion ; 'cis no wonder, that these absurd principles, sufficient, according to a celebrated * author, to lock the common sense of a HOTTENTOT or SAMOILDE, were found too weak for that effect. The TORIES, as men, were enemies to oppression; and also, as ENGLISHMEN, they were enemies to despotic power. Their zeal for liberty, was, perhaps, less fervent than that of their antagonists ; but was sufficient to make them forget all their general principles, when they saw themselves openly threatened with a subversion of the antient government. Fron these sentiments arose the revolution; an event of mighty consequence, and the firmest foundation of British liberty. The conduct of the Tories, during that event, and after it, will affords us a true insight into the nature of that party.
In the first place, They appear to have had the sentiments of true BRITONS in their affection to liberty, and in their determined resolution not to sacrifice it to any abstract principles whatsoever, or to any imaginary rights of princes. This part of their character might justly have been doubted of before the revolution, front the obvious tendency of their avowed principles, and from their great compliances with a court, which made little secret of its arbitrary designs. The revolution shewed them to have been, in this respect, nothing but a genuine court-party, such as might be expected in a British government : That is, Lovers of liberty, but greater lovers of monarchy. It must, however, be confessed, that they carried their monarchical principles further, even in practice, but more so in theory, than was, in any degree, consistent with a limited government.
Secondly, Neither their principles nor affections concurred, entirely or heartily, with the settlement made at the revolution, or with that which has since taken • Dissertation on parties, Letter 2d.
. place. place. This part of their character may seem contradictory to the former; since any other settlement, in those circumstances of the nation, must probably have been dangerous, if not fatal to liberty. But the heart of man is made to reconcile contradictions, and this contradiction is not greater than that betwixt passive obedience, and the resistance employed at the revolution. A Tory, therefore, since the revolution, may be defined in a few words, to be a lover of monarchy, thoʻ with. out abandoning liberty; and a partizan of the family of STUART. As a Whit may be defined to be a lover of liberty, tho without renouncing monarchy; and a friend to the settlement in the Protestant line *.
These different views, with regard to the settlement of the crown, were accidental, but natural additions to the principles of the court and country parties, which are the genuine parties of the British government. A passionate lover of monarchy is apt to be displeased at any change of the succession; as savoring too much of a commonwealth: A passionate lover of liberty, is apt to think that every part of the government ought to be subordinate to the interests of liberty. 'Tis however remarkable, that tho' the principles of WhiG and TORY were both of them of a compound nature ; yet the ingredients, which predominated in both, were not correspondent to each other. A Tory loved monarchy, and bore an affection to the family of STUART; but the latter affection was the predominant inclination of the party. 'A Whic loved liberty, and was a friend to the settlement in the PROTESTANT line; but the love of liberty was professedly his predominant inclination. The Tories have frequently acted as republicans, where either policy or revenge has engaged them to that conduct; and there was no one of
* The author above cited has asserted, that the absolutely indifferent to perfons, who concern REAL distinction betwixt Whig and TORÝ was lost themselves, in any degree, about the fortune of at the revolution, and that ever since they have con- the public; much less can it be supposed, that tinued to be mere personal parties, like the GUELFS the Tory party, who never valued themselves and GIBBELINES, after the emperors had lost all upon moderation, could maintain a stoical indiffeauthority in ITALY. Such an opinion, were it rence in a point of such importance. Were they, received, would turn our whole history into an therefore, zealous for the house of Hanover ? Or ænigma.
was there any thing, that kept an opposite zeal I shall first mention, as a proof of a real diftinc. from openly appearing, if it did not openly aption betwixt these parties, what every one may pear, but prudence, and a sense of decency? have observed or heard concerning the conduct and 'Tis monstrous to see an established episcopal conversation of all his friends and acquaintance on clergy in declared opposition to the court, and a both sides. Have not the Tordis always bore an non-conformist presbyterian clergy in conjunction avowed affection to the family of STUART, and with it. What could have produced such an unhave not their adversaries always opposed with vi natural conduct in both ? Nothing, but that the gor the succeffion of that family?
former espoused monarchical principles too high The Tory principles are confessedly the most for the present settlement, which is founded on :favorable to monarchy. Yet the tories have almost principles of liberty: And the latter, being afraid always opposed the court these fifty years ; ner of the prevalence of those high principles, adhered where they cordial friends to king WILLIAM, to that party, from whom they had reason to exeven when employed by hiin. Their quarrel, pect liberty and toleration. therefore, cannot be supposed to have lain with The different conduct of the two parties, with the throne, but with the person who fat on it. regard to foreign politics, is also a proof to the
They concurred heartily with the court during fame purpose. HOLLAND has always been most the four lait years of queen Anne. But is any favoured by one, and FRANCE by the other. In one at a loss to find the reason?
hort, the proofs of this kind seem so palpable and The succession of the crown in the BRITISH go evident, that 'tis almost needless to collect them. · yernment is a point of too great consequence to be