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a canker upon his estate, and perhaps rottenness into his bones. But in lieu of these, he has now (whatever may be hereafter) a continual serenity of mind, a constant evenness and composure of temper, "a peace which passeth all understanding." He has learned in every state wherein he is, therewith to be content; nay, to give thanks, as being clearly persuaded it is better for him than any other. He feels continual gratitude to his supreme Benefactor, Father of Spirits, Parent of Good; and tender, disinterested benevolence to all the children of this common Father. May the Father of your spirit, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, make you such a Claristian! May he work in your soul a divine conviction of things not discerned by eyes of flesh and blood! May he give you to see him that is invisible, and to taste of the powers of the world to come! May he fill you with all peace and joy in believe ing, that you may be happy in life, in death, in eternity!

FREE THOUGHTS

ON

THE PRESENT STATE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS.

IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND.

WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1768.

Periculosce plenum opus alec
Tractas; et incedis per ignes

Suppositos cineri doloso.—Horat. [You treat a subject full of danger; and go through fires covered with deceitful ashes./

You desire me to give you my thoughts freely on the present state of public affairs. But do you consider? I am no politician ; politics lie quite out of my province. Neither have I any acquaintance, at least no intimacy, with any that bear that character. And it is no casy matter to form any judgment concerning things of so complicated a nature. It is the more difficult, because, in order to form our judgment, such a multitude of facts should be known, few of which can be known with tolerable exactness by any but those who are eye witnesses of them. And how few of these will relate what they have seen precisely as it was, without adding, omitting, or altering any circumstance, either with or without design! And may not a sligut addition or alteration give a quite different colour to the whole ?

And as we cannot easily know, with any accuracy, the facts on which we are chiefly to form our judgment; so, much less can we expect to know the various springs of action which gave rise to those facts, and on which, more than on the bare actions themselves, the characters of the actors depend. It is on this account that an old writer advises us to judge nothing before the time; to abstain, as far as possible, from judging peremptorily, either of things or persons, till the time comes, when “ the hidden things of darkness,” the facts now concealed, “ will be brought to light," and the hidden springs of action will be discovered, _" the thoughts and intents of” every human “ heart.”

Perhaps you will say, “ Nay, every Englishman is a politician; 'we suck in politics with our mother's milk. It is as natural for us to talk politics as to breathe ; we can instruct both the king and his council. We can in a trice reform the state, point out every blunder of this or that minister, and tell every step they ought to take to be arbiters of all Europe."

I grant, every cobbler, tinker, porter, and hackney coachman can do this ; but I am not so deep learned : while they are sure of every thing, I am in a manner sure of nothing; except of that very litt!e which I see with my own eyes, or hear with my own ears. However, since you desire me to tell you what I think, I will do it with all openness. Only please to remember, I do not take upon me to dictate either to you or to any one.

I only use the privilege of an Englishman, to speak my naked thoughts; setting down just what appears to me to be the truth, till I have better information.

At present, indeed, I have not much information, having read little upon this head but the public papers ; and you know these are mostly on one side; in them little is to be seen on the other side ; and that little is seldom wrote by masterly writers. How few of them have such a pen as Junius!

But supposing we have ever so much information, how little can one rely on it! on the information given by either party! For is not one as warm as the other? And who does not know how impossible it is for a man to see things right when he is angry? Does not passion blind the eyes of the understanding, as smoke does the bodily eyes? And how little of the truth can we learn from those who see nothing but through a cloud ?

This advantage then I have over both parties,-the being angry at neither. So that if I have a little understanding from nature or experience, it is (in this instance at least) unclouded by passion. I wish the same happiness which I wish to myself, to those on one side and on the other. I would not hurt either in the least degree; I would not willingly give them any pain.

I have likewise another advantage, that of having no bias one way or the other. I have no interest depending; I want no man's favour, having no hopes, no fears, from any man; and having no particular attachment of any kind to either of the contending parties.

But am I so weak as to imagine, that because I am not angry at them, they will not be angry at me No; I do not imagine any such thing. Probably both will be angry enough; that is, the warm men on both sides, were it only for this,—that I am not as warm as themselves. For what is more insufferable to a man in a passion, than to see you keep your temper? And is it not a farther provocation, that I do not behave as he does to his opponent; that I call him no ill names ; that I give him no ill words? I expect, therefore, to be abused on all sides; and cannot be disappointed, unless by being treated with ccmmon humanity. This premised, I come to the point, to give you my

“ free thoughts on the present state of public affairs ;" the causes and consequences of the present commotions. But permit me to remind you, that I say nothing peremptorily. I do not take upon me to affirm that things are thus or thus. I just set down my naked thoughts, and that without any art or colouring.

" What then do you think is the direct and principal cause of the present public commotions, of the amazing ferment among the people, the general discontent of the nation ?" which now rises to a higher degree than it has done in the memory of man ; insomuch that I have heard it affirmed with my own ears, “ King George ought to be treated as King Charles was !” Is it the extraordinary bad character of the king? I do not apprehend it is. Certainly, if he is not, as some think, the best prince in Europe, he is far from being the worst. One not greatly prejudiced in his favour does not charge him with want of virtue, (of this he judges him to have more than enough,) but with wanting those royal vices, which (with Machiavel and the ingenious Doctor Mandeville) be supposes would be public benefits.

* But does he not likewise want understanding ?" So it has been boldly affirmed. And it must be acknowledged, this charge is supported by facts which cannot be denied. The First is, he believes the Bible; the Second, he fears God; the Third, he loves the queen. Now, suppose the First of these, considering the prejudice of education, might consist with some share of understanding, yet how can this be allowed with regard to the Second ? For although, in the times of ignorance and barbarism men imagined, " the fear of God” was "the beginning of wisdorn,” our enlightened age has discovered it is the end of it ; that whenever the fear of God begins, wisdom is an end. And with regard to the Third, for a man to love his wife, unless perhaps for a month or two, must argue such utter want of sense, as most men of rank are now ashamed of. But, after all, there are some, who, allowing the facts, deny the consequence; who still believe, and that after the most accurate inquiry, from such as have had the best means of information, that there are few noblemen or gentlemen in the nation, (and we have many not inferior to most in Europe,) who have either so good a natural understanding, or so general a knowledge of all the valuable parts of learning.

* But suppose something might be said for his majesty's understanding, what can be said in excuse of his bad actions; as, First, his pardoning a murderer?” I really think something may be said on this head also. Can you or I believe that the king knew him to be such ? understood him to be a wilful murderer? I am not sure of it at all; neither have you any rational proof, even supposing this to have been the case, which is far from being clear. And if he did not know or believe him to be such, how can he be blamed for pardoning him? Not to have pardoned him in this case would have been inexcusable before God and man.

“ But what can be said in excuse of his being governed by his mother, and fixing all his measures at Carlton House ?" It may be said, that if it was so, it is past, and so is no matter of present complaint. But who informed you that it was ? any eye and ear witness? “ 0, it is in every body's mouth.” Very well ; but every body is nobody; so this proof is no proof at all. And what better proof have you, or any man, of his fixing any of his measures there? This has been affirmed a hundred times, but never was proved yet. “ Nay, but is it not undeniable fact, that he spent hour after hour with her; and especially when he was hard pressed, and knew not which way to turn ?" And what then? Who loves him better than his parent? And whom has he a right to love better than her? Who is more faithful to him, more steadily desirous of his welfare? And whom can he trust better ? Suppose then it was true, (which is more than any man can prove,) that he did consult her on all occasions, and particularly when he was in trouble and perplexity, who can blame him for so doing?

Well, be this as it may, who can help blaming him for giving so many pensions ?” This is a thing which I do not understand, and can therefore neither praise nor blame. Some indeed, I think, are well bestowed on men eminent in their several professions. All, I believe, are well designed, particularly those given to men who are removed from public employments. Yet, I fear, some of these are ill bestowed on those who not only fly in the face of their benefactor, but avail themselves of his favours to wound the deeper. "For were he not in the wrong, these would never turn against him!” What pity they should enjoy them another day, after such foul and flagrant ingratitude !

This fault (if it were really such) would argue too great easiness of temper. But this is quite the reverse of what is commonly objected, inflexible stubbornness. Nay, what else could occasion the settled disregard of so many petitions and remonstrances, signed by so many thousand hands, and declaring the sense of the nation.” The sense of the nation! Who can imagine this that knows the manner wherein nine in ten, I might say ninety-nine in a hundred, of those petitions are procured? A lord or squire (sometimes two or more) goes, or sends his steward, round the town where his seat is, with a paper, which he tells the honest men is for the good of their king and country. He desires each to set his name or mark to this. And who has the hardiness to gainsay; especially if my lord keeps open house? Meantime, the contents of it they know nothing about.

I was not long since at a town in Kent, when one of these petitions was carrying about. I asked one and another, “ Have you signed the petition ?” and found none that had refused it. And yet not one single person to whom I spoke had either read it, or heard it read.

Now, I would ask any man of common sense, what stress is to be Jeid on these petitions ; and how they do declare “ the sense of the nation;" nay, of the very persons that have signed them? What a shocking insult is it then on the whole kingdom, to palm these petitions upon us, of which the very subscribers have not read three lines, as the general “ sense of the nation ?”

But suppose they had read all that they have subscribed, what judges are they of these matters ? To put this beyond dispute, let us only propose one case out of a thousand. Step back a few years, and suppose Mr. Pitt at the head of the administration. Here comes up a petition from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, signed by five hundred hands, begging his majesty to dismiss that corrupt minister, who was taking such measures as tended to the utter ruin of the nation. W would Mr. Pitt say to this? Would he not ask, “ How came these colliers and keelmen to be so well acquainted with affairs of state? How long have they been judges of public administration of naval and military operations ? How came they to understand the propriety or impropriety of the measures I take? Do they comprehend the balance of Europe? Do they know the weakness and strength of its several kingdoms; the characters of the monarchs and their ministers; the springs of this and that public motion? Else, why do they take upon them to scan my conduct? Ne sutor ultra crepidam! · Let them mind their own work,' keep to their pits and keels, and leave state affairs to me."

“But surely you do not place the citizens of London on a level with the colliers of Newcastle !" I do not. And yet I suppose they were equally incompetent judges of the measures which Mr. Pitt took. And I doubt they are full as incompetent judges of the measures taken by the present ministry. To form a tolerable judgment of them requires, not only a good understanding, but more time than common tradesmen can spare, and better information than they can possibly procure. I think, therefore, that the encouraging them to pass their verdict on ministers of state, yea, on king, lords, and commons, is not only putting them out of their way, but doing them more mischief than you are aware of.

* But the remonstrance ! Surely the king ought to have paid more regard to the remonstrance of the city of London.” Consider the case: The city bad presented a petition which he could by no means approve of, as he judged it was designed not so much to inform him as to inflame his subjects. After he had rejected this, as mildly as could be done, whilst be viewed it in this light, they present a remonstrance to the same effect, and (as he judged) with the same design. What then could he do less than he did ? Could he seem to approve what he did not approve? If not, how could he testify his full disapprobation in more inoffensive terms?

As to the idle, shameless tale of his bursting out into laughter at the magistrates, any who know his majesty's temper would as soon believe that he spit in their faces, or struck them a box on the ear.

His majesty's character, then, after all the pains which have been taken to make him odious, as well as contemptible, remains unimpeached ; and therefore cannot be, in any degree, the cause of the present comotions. His whole conduct, both in public and private, ever since he began his reign, the uniform tenor of his behaviour, the general course both of his words and actions, has been worthy of an Englishman, worthy of a Christian, and worthy of a king.

“ Are not, then, the present conmotions owing to his having extraordinary bad ministers ? Can you say that his ministers are as blameless as himself ?” I do not say this; I do not think so. But I think they are not one jot worse than those that went before them ; nor than any set of ministers who have been in place for at least thirty years last past. I think they are not a jot worse than their opponents, than those who bawl the loudest against them, either with regard to intellectual or moral abilities, with regard to sense or honesty. Set twenty against twenty, or ten against ten; and is there a pin to choose ?

“ However, are not these commotions owing to the extraordinary bad measures they have taken? Surely you will not attempt to defend all their mcasures!" No, indeed. I do not defend general warrants. But I observe, 1. The giving these, be it good or bad, is no extraordinary

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