Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

interest, the concurrence and co-operation of various dispositions and abilities of men, whom he assimilated to his character, and associated in his labours. For it was his aim through life to convert party connection, and personal friendship, (which others had rendered subservient only to temporary views and the purposes of ambition) into a lasting depository of his principles; that their energy should not depend upon his life, nor fluctuate with the intrigues of a court, or with capricious fashions amongst the people. But that, by securing a succession in support of his maxims, the British constitution might be preserved according to its true genius, on ancient foundations, and institutions of tried utility.

The virtues of his private life, and those which he exhibited in the service of the state, were not in him separate principles. His private virtues, without any change in their character, expanded with the occasion into enlarged public affections. The very same tender, benevolent, feeling, liberal mind, which in the internal relations of life conciliated the genuine love of those who see men as they are, rendered him an inflexible patriot. He was devoted to the cause of freedom, not because he was haughty and intractable, but because he was beneficent and humane.

A sober, unaffected, unassuming, piety, the basis of all true morality, gave truth and permanence to his virtues.

He died at a fortunate time, before he could feel, by a decisive proof, that virtue like his must be nourished from its own substance only, and cannot be assured of any external support.

Let his successors, who daily behold this inonument, consider that it was not built to entertain the eye, bu

to instruct the mind! Let them reflect, that their conduct will make it their glory or their reproach. Let them feel that similarity of manners, not proximity of blood, gives them an interest in this statue. Remember; resemble; persevere.

ROLAND.

ROLAND was the chief and the most accredited of the faction:-His morals had furnished little matter of exception against him; old, domestic, and uxorious, he led a private life sufficiently blameless.— He was therefore set up as the Cato of the republican party, which did not abound in such characters.

This man like most of the chiefs, was the manager of a newspaper, in which he promoted the interest of his party. He was a fatal present made by the revolutionists to the unhappy king, as one of his ministers under the new constitution.

ROUSSEAU.

We have had the great professor and founder of the philosophy of vanity in England. As I had good opportunities of knowing his proceedings almost from day to day, he left no doubt on my mind, that he entertained no principle either to influence his heart, or to guide his understanding, but vanity. With this vice he was possessed to a degree little short of madness. It is from the same deranged eccentric vanity, that this, the insane Socrates of the national assembly,

was impelled to publish a mad confession of his mad faults, and to attempt a new sort of glory, from bringing hardily to light the obscure and vulgar vices which we know may sometimes be blended with eminent talents. He has not observed on the nature of vanity, who does not know that it is omnivorous; that it has no choice in its food; that it is fond to talk even of its own faults and vices, as what will excite surprize and draw attention, and what will pass at worst for openness and candour. It was this abuse and perversion, which vanity makes even of hypocrisy, which has driven Rousseau to record a life not so much as chequered, or spotted here and there, with virtues, or even distinguished by a single good action. It is such a life he chooses to offer to the attention of mankind. It is such a life, that with a wild defiance, he flings in the face of his Creator, whom he acknowledges only to brave. Your assembly, knowing how much more powerful example is found than precept, has chosen this man (by his own account without a single virtue) for a model. To him they erect their first statue. From him they commence their series of honours and distinctions.

It is that new-invented virtue which your masters canonize, that led their moral hero constantly to exhaust the stores of his powerful rhetoric in the expression of universal benevolence; whilst his heart was incapable of harbouring one spark of common parental affection. Benevolence to the whole species, and want of feeling for every individual with whom the professors come in contact, form the character of the new philosophy. Setting up for an unsocial independence, this their hero of vanity refuses the just price of common labour, as well as the tribute which

opulence owes to genius, and which, when paid, honours the giver and the receiver; and then he pleads his beggary as an excuse for his crimes. He melts with tenderness for those only who touch him by the remotest relation, and then, without one natural pang, casts away, as a sort of offal and excrement, the spawn of his disgustful amours, and sends his children to the hospital of foundlings. The bear loves, licks, and forms her young; but bears are not philosophers. Vanity, however, finds its account in reversing the train of our natural feelings. Thousands admire the sentimental writer; the affectionate father is hardly known in his parish.

Under this philosophic instructor in the ethics of vanity, they have attempted in France a regeneration of the moral constitution of man. Statesmen, like your present rulers, exist by every thing which is spurious, fictitious, and false; by every thing which takes the man from his house, and sets him on a stage, which makes him up an artificial creature, with painted theatric sentiments, fit to be seen by the glare of candle-light, and formed to be contemplated at a due distance. Vanity is too apt to prevail in all of us, and in all countries. To the improvement of Frenchmen it seems not absolutely necessary that it should be taught upon system. But it is plain that the present rebellion was its legitimate offspring, and it is piously fed by that rebellion with a daily dole.

If the system of institution recommended by the assembly, is false and theatric, it is because their system of government is of the same character. To that, and to that alone, it is strictly conformable. To understand either, we must connect the morals with

the politics of the legislators. Your practical philosophers, systematic in every thing, have wisely began at the source. As the relation between parents and children is the first among the elements of vulgar, · natural morality *, they erect statues to a wild, ferocious, low-minded, hard-hearted father, of fine general feelings; a lover of his kind, but a hater of his kindred. Your masters reject the duties of this vulgar relation, as contrary to liberty; as not founded in the social compact; and not binding according to the rights of men; because the relation is not, of course, the result of free election; never so on the side of the children, not always on the part of the parents.

The next relation which they regenerate by their statues to Rousseau, is that which is next in sanctity to that of a father. They differ from those oldfashioned thinkers, who considered pedagogues as sober and venerable characters, and allied to the parental. The moralists of the dark times, preceptorem sancti voluere parentis esse loco. In this age of light, they teach the people, that preceptors ought to be in the place of gallants. They systematically corrupt a very corruptible race, (for some time a growing nuisance amongst you) a set of pert, petulant literators, to whom, instead of their proper, but severe unostentatious duties, they assign the brilliant part of

* Filiola tua te delectari lætor et probari tibi quaixnv esse, wgos Ta Texva: etenim, si hæc non est, nulla potest homini esse ad hominem naturæ adjunctio: qua sublata vitæ societas tollitur. Valete Patron (Rousseau) et tui condiscipuli! (L'Assemblée Nationale.)-Cic. Ep. ad Atticum,

« ForrigeFortsæt »