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views of intereft; fathers guilty of inceft, and children of par
Was Auguftus, was Tiberius, was Caligula, was Nero, were the grandees of their courts, was that multitude of corrupt wretches who difgraced all the different orders of the empire, frighted at the fight of this picture of Tartarus? Did they change their conduct? alas, no! Was Virgil himself ftruck with the picture he drew? Three lines in his Georgics incline me to doubt of it,
• Felix qui potuit rerum cognofcere caufas;
Subjecit pedibus, ftrepitumque A. herontis avari.'
I might fay a great deal upon the Henriad; what a fermon! name to me a fingle moral virtue; a virtue beneficial to fociety; a real virtue which is not there placed in its strongest light. Valour, juftice, humanity, generofity, obedience to the laws, loyalty to the prince, appear in their most beautiful and affecting forms; the fame true and strong pencil draws, in the most terrible colours, thofe follics which ruined our fathers; that fanaticifm, for example, that blind and ftupid fury which reafon never tamed.-This poem has now been preaching to us for the space of forty years; what impreffion has it made? Our theological difputes, wherein our divines pelt one another with the ftones of the fanctuary; what has lately happened in a great city, where public clamour, furprifing the attention of juftice, made an innocent old man be put to death; the annual thankgivings that are offered up to Almighty God in the fame city for a religious maffacre, fhew that fanaticifm is still cherished in our breafts, and that this monster would still commit dreadful ravages, if the wifdom of government did not chain it down,'
But of all the epic poets, Milton has chofen the grandeft fubject, and the fitteft for a preacher: His plan is immenfe! it comprehends the counfels of the Almighty, and the whole creation; thofe torrents of light and pleafure which flowed for the angels, whilst they continued in their allegiance; that fea of fire into which their rebellion hurled them; their rage against man when innocent and happy in the garden of Eden! It comprehends their efforts to ruin him, and their fatal fuccefs; the terrible confequences of his tranfgreffion, the air covered with black clouds, winds let loofe, ftorms, tempefts, volcano's; earth refufing her fruits, war preparing her fcourges, force, tyranny, famine, with numberlefs plagues; and this horrid fcene not even terminated by death itfelf: heaven fhut and hell opened. for the miferable, who are born only to fuffer, and to fuffer, becaufe defcended from a guilty progenitor.'
But I weaken Milton; his poem, from the beginning to the end, is a fublime fermon, a difcourfe of the Almighty in a language of fire, a facred enthufiafm! His countrymen begun to read it in the reign of Charles the fecond; and in this reign, more than in any other, the allurements of riches, luxury, and debauchery, made England forget both the fall and the punishment of man. But it is not one nation only that is interested in this poem; it relates to the most important intereft of all nations. Accordingly, all Europe reads Paradife loft: It strikes, it aftonishes, but does it reform? alas, no!'
Our author now proceeds to confider what influence the dramatic writers, and the fatirifts of ancient and modern times, have had upon the morals of mankind.
He fhews, in a fprightly and agreeable manner, that men, whether they cry or laugh, ftill continue the fame; that laws are not better obeyed, focial virtues more practifed, juftice more refpected, or faith better kept. Hiftory too, which is more natural, more fimple than poetry, though it has always endea voured to correct the manners of mankind by facts and reflections arifing from them, has, he obferves, never attained its end; whilst it continues to relate the calamities that cover the earth, it fhews the inefficacy of its own efforts.
If the force of inftruction, continues he, could produce good morals, this glory, next to the preaching of the gospel, fhould feem to be peculiarly referved for philofophy. The phiJofopher, in order to establish morality, neither borrows the bitternefs of fatire, nor the enchantment of the theatre; neither the thunder of eloquence, nor the fublime of inspiration. He difdains to make ufe of any inftrument of furprife; he confines himself to the fimplicity of reafon; he opens before us the book of nature, which speaks an intelligible language to every underftanding; he looks for the foundation of morality in the confti'tution of things; he fuppofes nothing, but proves every thing. Is an action hurtful to fociety? it is bad, and he profcribes it. Is it beneficial to fociety? it is good, and he recommends it. Thus it is that he lays the line, and afcertains the boundaries between vice and virtue. He allows us the ufe of all the gifts of nature, and only defires us not to abuse them: he means not to form a man without paffions, but a worthy man with paffions.'
Does he speak of God? He takes care not to reprefent him as an arbitrary law-giver, who commands or forbids, without any other motive but that of being obeyed. He does not fay, honour and love your father and mother, because God commands it; but he fays, God commands it, because, if you refufe to hearken to this firft call of nature, there is no other being whom you will honour, none whom you will love. He
does not say abftain from violence, because God forbids it; but he fays, God forbids it, because with it, towns and countries would foon become an immenfe theatre of confufion, horror, and blood. He teaches us, after Cicero, that law is not a human invention, but the expreffion of that univerfal reason which governs the world; that, like it, it is eternal and unchangeable; that it does not vary according to times and places; that what it commanded or forbid in the beginning of the world, it ftill commands or forbids to every nation on earth; and after having fixed the boundaries between vice and virtue, far from feeing in the Deity an implacable judge, the philofopher fees in him a father, who never punishes, but in order to reform.'
Now this fublime, this fimple philofophy, this torch of reafon herself, which, after being extinguished in Grecce, was lighted up again in Italy, in England, and in France, and has fpread knowledge to the remoteft boundaries of the north, what effects has it produced upon morals? It has happily banished fome barbarous prejudices. Wills are no longer void, which bequeath nothing to the church. Churches no longer ferve as fanctuariest for affaffins; we no longer believe that Rome can abfolve fubjects from the oath of allegiance to their fovereign. We shall never go again to ruin our families and cut one anothers throats in Palestine. Witches are not committed to the flames, and: at the laft Auto-da-fe in Lisbon, no human being was facrificed; &c. &c.'
'Thefe maladies of the mind, and fome others of the fame kind, which are the offspring of ignorance, philofophy has cured; but all the vices which can infect enlightened nations still subfift; and their poifon, as it circulates through all ranks and conditions of men, from the cottage to the court, is ftill heightened in proportion as it afcends. The Stoic philofophy, in its greatest efforts, produced indeed fome good emperors, Trajan, Nerva, Adrian, the two Antonines, and fome individuals in every order of the ftate; but it had no effect upon the multitude. With more light and knowledge than it was then possesfed of, it labours ftill with as much ardour as ever to make profelytes; but this flower of the human fpecies will only make a very puny republic.'
it appears plainly, therefore, from the records of all ages, that preaching, under whatever form it is confidered, whether in the leffons of philofophers, in the examples of history, the enthusiasm of poets, the oracles of the gofpel, the precepts of the fynagogue, the infpiration of prophets, the zeal of patriarchs, has never formed, and never can form a virtuous people. Who then, it will be asked, is the true preacher? I anfwer Government. But it is not enough to affirm this, I must prove it'.
Our author, who is now come to the principal point he has in view, goes on to obferve, that as the centripetal and centrifugal forces regulate the phyfical world, fo there are two fprings in the power of government, which are capable of regulating the moral world, at least so far as regularity is compatible with liberty. The one keeps us at a diftance from vice, to wit, punishment; the other excites us to virtue, i. e. reward.
He endeavours to confirm and illuftrate this by examples taken from ancient and modern hiftory; and though fome of the examples which he produces will, no doubt, be objected to, yet the greatest part of them are extremely pertinent, and fhew that he is well acquainted with the policy of ancient and modern times he feems perfectly fenfible of the difficulties that attend all schemes of reformation, and that fine fpeculations upon this fubject are often like those mechanical inventions, which play perfectly well in the model, but fail in the execution. Accordingly he writes with a becoming degree of modefty and diffidence. After fhewing, in feveral inftances, the effects which rewards and punishments have had, and ftill have, upon the manners of mankind, he proceeds to give a sketch of a plan of veformation for a great city.
• Let us fuppofe then, says he, a city as large as Paris, and as corrupt as Sybaris; that luxury prevails in it; that the frivolpus arts are in the highest esteem, and the ufeful ones in contempt; that a varnisher, a toy-man, or a dancing mafter, gets more in one day, than all the labourers of a province in a month; that modefty is banished from it; that young women only wish for husbands, in order to have a cloak for licentioufnels; that the faith of marriages is cpenly violated by both fexes; that virtuous wives, if any fuch are to be found, mourn while curtezans triumph; that debauchery poisons the very fource of the human fpecies; that old men retain the vices of youth, and that young men are old in conftitution, before they arrive at the years of maturity; that in this city there is always money enough for theatrical entertainments, table, and drefs, none for the payments of debts, or the relief of the indigent; that public affemblies fhine in filk, gold, and jewels, whilft the streets and temples are filled with beggars; that every one finds his account in the ruin of his neighbour; that agreeable men are preferred to men of worth; that yice is a fubject only for mirth and pleafantry; that a man may have even every vice that difgraces humanity, provided he can only be witty upon himself; that all places are difpofed of by favour or purchafed by money; that the very right of judging and being judged is fold; that the public treafury is plundered; that the fanctuary is polluted; that the great are mean, and that the vulgar, worthy of thofe above them, are a nursery of rogues,
thieves, and affaffines. What a city! what a capital! I un-' dertake, however, to give it morals, and if I fucceed, the provinces, always lefs corrupt, will foon be reformed.
I begin by ftrengthening paternal authority, the first and the most facred of all. It is derived from God; it governed before there were any kings; it was the foundation and the model of the Chinese government for many ages, when the reft of the earth was at the mercy of tyrants; Romulus, who perhaps ftretched it too far, placed it at the head of his laws; he allowed a father, not only to put his children in prifon, to load them with chains, to order them to be publickly beaten with. rods, to condemn them to labour, to difinherit them, but even to fell them or put them to death. I would give fathers all this power, excepting that of felling their children, and putting them to death. When we confider, that it is a father who punishes, there is little reafon to be afraid of feverity. Romulus perhaps extended the duration of paternal authority too far; it was exercised over children of whatever age or dignity. It may continue till the age of five and twenty. When a child has been properly trained till this time, if he is guilty of any irregularity afterwards, let him be fubject to the laws.-A father, to whom fuch a power is committed, muft not be furprifed, if. after the example of China, he is obliged to answer for the conduct of his children, under the pain of being punished for their crimes. The law fuppofes, that if the father had educated his fon properly, the crime would not have been committed. And at the worst, the punishment of an innocent perfon, which is fometimes unavoidable under the beft form of government, would prevent a hundred other fathers from being guilty."
My next step fhould be, to re-establish the authority of hufbands. It is well known what this was in the days of the patriarchs. The great ftudy of Sarah and Rachel was to please their hufbands. This tender refpect for the head of the family would have kept them in their duty, even if they had been void of virtue. The fair fex, throughout all the eaft, was long faithful to this falutary fubordination; and thofe nations of the weft, which gave any attention to morals, placed it among their inftitutions. Under the firft laws of Rome, a wife that was guilty of any crime, had no other judge but her husband, who called her relations together, and, with them, fat in judgment upon her. It was owing to the wisdom of this law, that during feveral ages, there was no complaint against wives before any of the tribunals; no action for adultery, no divorce.
The Athenians had a particular magiftrate who watched over the conduct of wives; the true magiftrate, the magiftrate of nature, is the husband. A philofopher of our times, who is reproached with many paradoxes, has mixed fome truth with