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against it's injustice and impolicy as a single and unconnected individual; but, by promoting the plan of public petitions, he gave that form and body to the expression of the popular voice, in which alone it could operate with effect. And to the honour of Nottingham it may be recorded, that, in it's endeavours for the preservation of peace, not only on this occasion but during the continuance of the late hostilities with France, she exhibited to the rest of the kingdom a singular example of political wisdom and of public spirit; which, had it more generally obtained, might have been the means of averting the calamities, that have marked the
progress of those ill-fated wars*. These petitions, or rather remonstrances, that at various times were presented to the different departments of government, were the productions of his pen, and are distinguished
..* In 1798 Mr. Walker left Nottingham. The late proceedings, therefore, of that town, which have been subjected to so much misrepresentation and unjust animadversion, were subsequent to his reinoval.
by his characteristic energy of sentiment and language*.
In his ministerial character also Mr. Walker was led to advert to the circumstances of the times in three discourses, which, at the request of his hearers, were published in the years 1776, 1778, and 1784. The first and second of these were delivered on days appointed for a general fast; and the third on the day of thanksgiving on account of the reconciliation with America. Of the propriety of a compliance with these ordi . nances of government he entertained considerable doubts; and, as he has observed himself, he was induced to it more by the importunity of his best and soberest friends, than any approval of his own conscience. In after life he formed more determined opinions
upon the subject, nor could any per
* Mr. Burke was so forcibly struck with the spirit of one of these compositions, that in the subsequent debate to which it gave rise, he declared, that he would rather have been the author of it than of all his works.
suasions have then induced him to have borne a part in such a solemn mockery of religion, such an unmeaning and hypocritical parade of humiliation and contrition, assumed at the mere bidding of authority, dictated by no feeling of a truly repentant spirit, which alone can sanctify the act, or render it an acceptable homage; and where, on the
of those who exact this appearance of national sorrow, it is accompanied by a renunciation of no one public or private vice, or scarcely one act, that manifests a spirit according with the penitent language of their proclamation. But however little sincerity might generally enter into this religious act, or whatever doubts he might entertain respecting a compliance with it, the honesty of his own motives is apparent, in the spirit that pervades these discourses, which are characterized by such a zeal for reformation, public and
ate, such an indignant disdain of vice, exhibited with so much vigour of sentiment and energy of language, as entitle them to
rank not only among the best of his own compositions, but with any of the most admired specimens, of the hortatory eloquence of the pulpit.
The little success that had attended the progress of the American war, the increasing distresses of the times, the vast accumulation of the public debts, joined to the fear of those consequences that might arise to the parent state from the total separation of her colonies, had spread a universal gloom throughout the nation, and excited the most alarming apprehensions for the future. With this general sentiment Mr. Walker deeply sympathized ; and in the present discourses he has in feeling terms lamented the degradation of his country: but when he indulges his despondency so far as to predict her approaching decline; and to declare, that he even then regarded her only in the light of the venerable dead, he may be thought to have carried his apprehensions farther, than the nature of the circumstances justified. The reasons on which he
grounded this opinion, however, were not those, that are the most obvious to superficial observers. They were not the consequences of defeat, or a mal-administration of public affairs ; for to these the energies of a virtuous people will always rise superior: but they were the well-grounded apprehensions of one accustomed sedately to reflect upon the causes, that contribute to the rise and fall of nations; one who possessed an enlarged and comprehensive knowledge of mankind, drawn from his own experience, and that of past ages, which taught him, that, as no state derived it's
greatness from fortuitous circumstances alone, so none ever fell from the rank it held but by the decline of that public spirit and virtue, to which it owed it's elevation. This decline Mr. Walker saw, or thought he saw, in the general insensibility to national disgrace and humiliation ; in the barefaced profligacy and dissipation of the great; in the open and avowed contempt for religion, and abandonment of all her precepts ; in the prostitu