Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

filled with every thing illuftrious in rank, in de fcent, in hereditary and in acquired opulence, in cultivated talents, in military, civil, naval, and politic diftinction, that the country can af ford. But fuppofing, what hardly can be fuppofed as a cafe, that the house of commons fhould be compofed in the fame manner with the Tiers Etat in France, would this dominion of chicane be borne with patience, or even conceived without horror? God forbid I should infinuate any thing derogatory to that profeffion, which is another priefthood, adminiftering the rites of facred juftice. But whilst I revere men in the functions which belong to them, and would do, as much as one man can do, to prevent their exclufion from any, I cannot, to flatter them, give the lye to nature. They are good and useful in the compofition; they must be mifchievous if they preponderate fo as virtually to become the whole. Their very excellence in their peculiar functions may be far from a qualification for, others. It cannot escape obfervation, that when men are too much confined to profeffional and faculty habits, and, as it were, inveterate in the recurrent employment of that narrow circle, they are rather disabled than qualified for whatever depends on the knowledge of mankind, on experience in mixed affairs, on a comprehenfive connected view of the various complicated external and internal interests which go to the formation of that multifarious thing called a ftate?

[blocks in formation]

After all, if the houfe of commons were to have an wholly profeffional and faculty compofition, what is the power of the house of commons, circumfcribed and fhut in by the immoveable barriers of laws, ufages, pofitive rules of doctrine and practice, counterpoized by the houfe of lords, and every moment of its exiftence at the difcretion of the crown to continue, prorogue, or diffolve us? The power of the house of commons, direct or indirect, is indeed great; and long may it be able to preferve its greatness, and the fpirit belonging to true greatnefs, at the full; and it will do fo, as long as it can keep the breakers of law in India from becoming the makers of law for England. The power, however, of the houfe of commons, when leaft diminished, is as a drop of water in the ocean, compared to that refiding in a settled majority of your National Affembly. That Affembly, fince the deftruction of the orders, has no fundamental law, no ftrict convention, no refpected ufage to reftrain it. Inftead of finding themfelves obliged to conform to a fixed conftitution, they have a power to make a conftitution which fhall conform to their defigns. Nothing in heaven or upon earth can ferve as a control on them. What ought to be the heads, the hearts, the difpofitions, that are qualified, or that dare, not only to make laws under a fixed conftitution, but at one heat to strike out a totally new conftitution for a great kingdom, and in every part of it, from the monarch on the throne to the veftry of a parish?

parish? But-" fools rush in where angels fear to tread." In fuch a ftate of unbounded power, for undefined and undefinable purposes, the evil of a moral and almoft phyfical inaptitude of the man to the function must be the greatest we can conceive to happen in the management of human affairs.

Having confidered the compofition of the third eftate as it stood in its original frame, I took a view of the reprefentatives of the clergy. There too it appeared, that full as little regard was had to the general fecurity of property, or to the aptitude of the deputies for their public purposes, in the principles of their election. That election was fo contrived as to fend a very large proportion of mere country curates to the great and arduous work of new-modelling a state; men who never had seen the ftate fo much as in a picture men who knew nothing of the world beyond the bounds of an obfcure village; who, immerfed in hopeless poverty, could regard all property, whether fecular or ecclefiaftical, with no other eye than that of envy; among whom must be many, who, for the smallest hope of the meaneft dividend in plunder, would readily join in any attempts upon a body of wealth, in which they could hardly look to have any fhare, except in a general fcramble. Inftead of balancing the power of the active chicaners in the other affembly, thefe curates must neceffarily become the active coadjutors, or at best the paffive inftruments of those with whom they had been habitually guided in their petty village village con

[blocks in formation]

cerns. They too could hardly be the moft confcientious of their kind, who, prefuming upon their incompetent understanding, could intrigue for a truft which led them from their natural relation to their flocks, and their natural spheres of action, to undertake the regeneration of kingdoms. This preponderating weight being added to the force of the body chicane in the Tiers Etat, compleated that momentum of ignorance, rafhnefs, prefumption, and luft of plunder, which nothing has been able to refift.

To obferving men it muft have appeared from the beginning, that the majority of the Third Eftate, in conjunction with fuch a deputation from the clergy as I have defcribed, whilft it pursued the deftruction of the nobility, would inevitably become fubfervient to the worft defigns of individuals in that class. In the spoil

and humiliation of their own order these individuals would poffefs a fure fund for the pay of their new followers. To fquander away the objects which made the happiness of their fellows, would be to them no facrifice at all. Turbulent, difcontented men of quality, in proportion as they are puffed up with personal pride and arrogance, generally defpife their own order. One of the firft fymptoms they discover of a felfifh and mifchievous ambition, is a profligate difregard of a dignity which they partake with others. To be attached to the fubdivifion, to love the little platoon we belong to in fociety, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the firft link in the fe


ries by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind. The interefts of that portion of focial arrangement is a truft in the hands of all thofe who compofe it; and as none but bad men would juftify it in abufe, none but traitors would barter it away for their own perfonal advantage.

There were, in the time of our civil troubles in England (I do not know whether you have any fuch in your Affembly in France) feveral perfons, like the then Earl of Holland, who by themfelves or their families had brought an odium on the throne, by the prodigal difpenfation of its bounties towards them, who afterwards joined in the rebellions arifing from the difcontents of which they were themselves the caufe; men who helped to fubvert that throne to which they owed, fome of them, their existence, others all that power which they employed to ruin their benefactor. If any bounds are set to the rapacious demands of that fort of people, or that others are permitted to partake in the objects they would engross, revenge and envy foon fill up the craving void that is left in their avarice. Confounded by the complication of dif tempered paffions, their reafon is disturbed; their views become vaft and perplexed; to others inexplicable; to themfelves uncertain. They find, on all fides, bounds to their unprincipled ambition in any fixed order of things. But in the fog and haze of confufion all is enlarged, and appears without any limit.

F 3


« ForrigeFortsæt »