« AnteriorContinuar »
of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or, have we found angels in the form of kings, to govern him ? Let history answer this question.
About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our government, and consequently, those which ought to shape its administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principles, but not all their limitations :
Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political ; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none: the support of the state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies ; the preservation of the general government in its whole constitutional vigour, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home, and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people: a mild and safe corrective of abuses, which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided : absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which there is no appeal but to force, the vital prin: ciple and immediate parent of despotism: a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace, and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them : the supremacy of the civil over the military authority: economy in the public expense, that labour may be lightly burdened: the honest payment of our debts, and sacred preservation of the public faith : encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its hand-maid: the diffusion of information, and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason: freedom of religion: freedom of the press ; and freedom of person, under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected.
These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages, and blood of our heroes, have been devoted to their attainment: they should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.
FISHER A MES.
It seems as if newspaper wares were made to suit a market, as much as any other. The starers, and wonderers, and gapers, engross a very large share of the attention of all the sons of the type. Extraordinary
events multiply upon us surprisingly. Gazettes, it is seriously to be feared, will not long allow room to anything, that is not loathsome or shocking. A newspaper is pronounced to be very lean and destitute of matter, if it contains no account of murders, suicides, prodigies, or monstrous births.
Some of these tales excite horror, and others disgust; yet the fashion reigns, like a tyrant, to relish wonders, and almost to relish nothing else. Is this a reasonable taste; or is it monstrous and worthy of ridicule ? Is the history of Newgate the only one worth reading? Are oddities only to be hunted ? Pray tell us, men of ink, if our free presses are to diffuse information, and we, the poor ignorant people, can get it no other way than by newspapers, what knowledge we are to glean from the blundering lies, or the tiresome truths about thunderstorms, that, strange to tell! kill oxen or burn barns? The crowing of a hen is supposed to forebode cuckoldom; and the ticking of a little bug in the wall threatens yellow fever. It seems really as if our newspapers were busy to spread superstition.—Omens, and dreams, and prodigies, are recorded, as if they were worth minding. The increasing fashion for printing wonderful tales of crimes and accidents is worse than ridiculous, as it corrupts both the public taste and morals. It multiplies fables, prodigious monsters, and crimes, and thus makes shocking things familiar; while it withdraws all popular attention from familiar truth, because it is not shocking.
Surely, extraordinary events have not the best title to our studious attention. To study nature or man, we ought to know things that are in the ordinary
course, not the unaccountable things that happen out of it.
This country is said to measure seven hundred millions of acres, and it is inhabited by almost six millions of people. Who can doubt, then, that a great many crines will be committed, and a great many strange things will happen every seven years? There will be thunder showers, that will split tough white oak trees; and hail storms, that will cost some farmers the full amount of twenty shillings to mend their glass windows; there will be taverns, and boxing matches, and elections, and gouging, and drinking, and love, and murder, and running in debt, and running away, and suicide. Now, if a man supposes eight or ten, or twenty dozen of these amusing events will happen in a single year, is he not just as wise as another man, who reads fifty columns of amazing particulars, and of course, knows that they have happened?
This state has alınost one hundred thousand dwelling houses: it would be strange, if all of them should escape fire for twelve months. Yet is it very profitable for a man to become a deep student of all the accidents, by which they are consumed ? He should take good care of his chimney corner, and put a sender before the back-log before he goes to bed. Having done this, he may let his aunt or grandmother read by day, or meditate by night, the terrible newspaper articles of fires.
Some of the shocking articles in the papers raise simple, and very simple, wonder; some, terror; and some, horror and disgust. Now what instruction is there in these endless wonders ?-Who is the wiser or happier for reading the accounts of them? On the contrary, do they not shock tender minds, and addle shallow brains ? Worse than this happens; for some eccentric minds are turned to mischief by such accounts, as they receive of troops of incendiaries burning our cities: the spirit of imitation is contagious; and boys are found unaccountably bent to do as men do. When the man flew from the steeple of the North Church fifty years ago, every unlucky boy thought of nothing but flying from a sign-post.
[The Duke of Grafton had in the House of Lords reproached Lord THURLOW with his plebeian extraction, and his recent admission to the peerage. Lord Thurlow rose from the woolsack, and advanced slowly to the place from which the chancellor addresses the house; then fixing his eye upon the duke, spoke as follows.]
My lords, I am amazed, yes, my lords, I am amazed at his grace's speech. The noble duke cannot look before him, behind him, or on either side of him, without seeing some noble peer, who owes his seat in this house to his successful exertions in the profession to which I belong. Does he not feel that it is as honourable to owe it to these, as to being the accident of an accident? To all these noble lords, the language of the noble duke is as applicable and insulting as it is to myself. But I do not fear to meet it single and alone. No one venerates the peerage more than I do. But,