Page images
PDF
EPUB

CORRUPTION, AND INTOLERANCE:

TWO POEMS:

ADDRESSED TO AN ENGLISHMAN BY AN IRISHMAN.

PREFACE.

golden opportunity of establishing and securing its

liberties for ever than the conjuncture of EightyThe practice which has been lately introduced eight presented to the people of Great Britain. into literature, of writing very long notes upon But the disgraceful reigns of Charles and James very indifferent verses, appears to me rather a had weakened and degraded the national character. happy invention; as it supplies us with a mode The bold notions of popular right, which had arisen of turning dull poetry to account; and as horses out of the struggles between Charles the First and too heavy for the saddle may yet serve well his Parliament, were gradually supplanted by those enough to draw lumber, so Poems of this kind slavish doctrines for which Lord H-kesb-ry enmake excellent beasts of burden, and will bear logises the churchmen of that period; and as the notes, though they may not bear reading. Be- Reformation had happened too soon for the purity sides, the comments in such cases are so little of religion, so the Revolution came too late for the under the necessity of paying any servile de spirit of liberty. Its advantages accordingly were ference to the text, that they may even adopt for the most part specious and transitory, while the that Socratic dogma, “ Quod supra nos nihil ad evils which it entailed are still felt and still innos.”

creasing. By rendering unnecessary the frequent In the first of the two following Poems, I exercise of Prerogative, - that unwieldly power have ventured to speak of the Revolution of which cannot move a step without alarm, -it di1688, in language which has sometimes been em- minished the only interference of the Crown, which ployed by Tory writers, and which is therefore is singly and independently exposed before the neither very new nor popular. But however an people, and whose abuses therefore are obvious to Englishman might be reproached with ingrati- their senses and capacities. Like the myrtle over tude, for depreciating the merits and results of a celebrated statue in Minerva's temple at Athens, a measure, which he is taught to regard as the it skilfully veiled from the public eye the only source of his liberties - however ungrateful it obtrusive feature of royalty. At the same time, might appear in Alderman Bếrch to question however, that the Revolution abridged this unfor a moment the purity of that glorious era, to popular attribute, it amply compensated by the which he is indebted for the seasoning of so substitution of a new power, as much more potent many orations yet an Irishman, who has none in its effect as it is more secret in its operations. of these obligations to acknowledge; to whose in the disposal of an immense revenue and the country the Revolution brought nothing but in- extensive patronage annexed to it, the first foundajury and insult, and who recollects that the book tions of this power of the Crown were laid ; the of Molyneux was burned, by order of William's innovation of a standing army at once increased Whig Parliament, for daring to extend to unfortu- and strengthened it, and the few slight barriers nate Ireland those principles on which the Revo- which the Act of Settlement opposed to its progress lution was professedly founded - an Irishman may have all been gradually removed during the whigbe allowed to criticise freely the measures of that gish reigns that succeeded ; till at length this spirit period, without exposing himself either to the im- of influence has become the vital principle of the putation of ingratitude, or to the suspicion of being state, — an agency, subtle and unseen, which perinfluenced by any Popish remains of Jacobitism. vades every part of the Constitution, lurks under No nation, it is true, was ever blessed with a more all its forms and regulates all its movements, and,

AN EPISTLE.

like the invisible sylph or grace which presides over the motions of beauty,

CORRUPTION, ** Illam, quicquid agit. quoquo vestigia flectit, Componit furtim subsequiturque.”

Νυν δ' ατανθ' ώστις εξ αγορας εκτετραται ταυτα αντεισακται The cause of Liberty and the Revolution are so

δε αντι τουτων, υφ' ών απολωλε και νανοσηκεν η Ελλας. Ταυτα habitually associated in the minds of Englishmen, | δ' εστι τι; ζηλος, ει τις ειληφε τι γελως αν ομολογη" συγγνωμη that probably in objecting to the latter I may be

τοις ελεγχομενους μισος, αν τουτους τις επιτιμα ταλλα παντα,

όσα εα του δωροδοκείν ηρτηται. . thought hostile or indifferent to the former. But

Demosth. Philipp. iii. assuredly nothing could be more unjust than such a suspicion. The very object, indeed, which my Boast on, my friend — though stript of all beside, humble animadversions would attain is, that in the Thy struggling nation still retains her pride : 1 crisis to which I think England is now hastening, That pride, which once in genuine glory woke and between which and foreign subjugation she When Marlborough fought, and brilliant St. John may soon be compelled to choose, the errors and spoke; omissions of 1688 should be remedied; and, as it That pride which still, by time and shame unstung, was then her fate to experience a Revolution with Outlives even Wh-tel-cke's sword and H-wk-soat Reform, so she may now endeavour to ac- b'ry's tongue! complish a Reform without Revolution.

Boast on, my friend, while in this humbled isle 2 In speaking of the parties which have so long Where Honour mourns and Freedom fears to smile, agitated England, it will be observed that I lean Where the bright light of England's fame is known as little to the Whigs as to their adversaries. Both But by the shadow o'er our fortunes thrown; factions have been equally cruel to Ireland, and Where, doom'd ourselves to nought but wrongs perhaps equally insincere in their efforts for the and slights, s liberties of England. There is one name, indeed, We hear you boast of Britain's glorious rights, connected with whiggism of which I can never As wretched slaves, that under hatches lie, think but with veneration and tenderness. As Hear those on deck extol the sun and sky! justly, however, might the light of the sun be Boast on, while wandering through my native elaimed by any particular nation, as the sanction haunts, of that name be monopolised by any party whatso- I coldly listen to thy patriot vaunts ; ever.

Mr. Fox belonged to mankind, and they And feel, though close our wedded countries twine, have lost in him their ablest friend.

More sorrow for my own than pride from thine. With respect to the few lines upon Intolerance, which I have sabjoined, they are but the imperfect Yet pause a moment and if truths severe beginning of a long series of Essays, with which I can find an inlet to that courtly ear, here menace my readers, upon the same important which hears no news but W—rd's gazetted lies, subject. I shall look to no higher merit in the And loves no politics in rhyme but Pye’s, – task, than that of giving a new form to claims and If aught can please thee but the good old saws remonstrances, which have often been much more Of " Church and State,” and “ William's matchless eloquently urged, and which would long ere now laws,” have produced their effect, but that the minds of And "Acts and Rights of glorious Eighty-eight,”— some of our statesmen, like the pupil of the human Things, which though now a century out of date, eve, contract themselves the more, the stronger Still serve to ballast, with convenient words, light there is shed upon them.

A few crank arguments for speeching lords, 4 —

1 Aagli scos ac sua omnia impense mirantur; cæteras na- which were made after the last event, were manifestly the tiones despectui habent.-- Barclay (as quoted in one of Dry- effects of national batred and scorn towards a conquered den's prefaces).

people, whom the victors delighted to trample upon, and 3 England began very early to feel the effects of cruelty were not at all afraid to provoke." Yet this is the era to tovards ber dependencies. “ The severity of her government which the wise Common Council of Dublin refer us for “in(says Macpherson) contributed more to deprive her of the valuable blessings," &c. continental dominions of the family of Plantagenet than the 4 It never seems to occur to those orators and addressers army of France." — See his History, vol. I.

who round off so many sentences and paragraphs with the 3"By the total reduction of the kingdom of Ireland in Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement, &c., that most of the 1691 (says Burke), the ruin of the native Irish, and in a great provisions which these Acts contained for the preservation of measure, too, of the first races of the English, was completely parliamentary independence have been long laid aside as rozootoplished. The new English interest was settled with mantic and troublesome. I never meet, I confess, with a as solid a stability as any thing in human affairs can look for. politician who quotes seriously the Declaration of Rights, &c., All the penal laws of that unparalleled code of oppression, to prove the actual existeuce of English liberty, that I do not

Turn, while I tell how England's freedom found, In fragments lay, till, patch'd and painted o'er Where most she look'd for life, her deadliest With fleur-de-lys, it shone and scourg'd once more.

wound; How brave she struggled, while her foe was seen, 'Twas then, my friend, thy kneeling nation quaffa How faint since Influence lent that foe a screen ; Long, long and deep, the churchman's opiate draught How strong o'er James and Popery she prevail’d, Of passive, prone obedience — then took flight How weakly fell, when Whigs and gold assaild. 1 All sense of man's true dignity and right;

And Britons slept so sluggish in their chain, While kings were poor, and all those schemes That Freedom's watch-voice call'd almost in vain. unknown

Oh England ! England ! what a chance was thine, Which drain the people, to enrich the throne; When the last tyrant of that ill-starr'd line Ere yet a yielding Commons had supplied Fled from his sullied crown, and left thee free Those chains of gold by which themselves are To found thy own eternal liberty!

How nobly high, in that propitious hour, Then proud Prerogative, untaught to creep Might patriot hands have rais’d the triple towers With bribery's silent foot on Freedom's sleep, Of British freedom, on a rock divine Frankly avow'd his bold enslaving plan,

Which neither force could storm nor treachery And claim'd a right from God to trample man !

mine! But Luther's schism had too much rous'd mankind But, no- the luminous, the lofty plan, For Hampden's truths to linger long behind ; Like mighty Babel, seem'd too bold for man; Nor then, when king-like popes had fallen so low, The curse of jarring tongues again was given Could pope-like kings 2 escape the levelling blow. To thwart a work which rais'd men nearer heaven. That ponderous sceptre (in whose place we bow While Tories marr'd what Whigs had scarce beTo the light talisman of influence now),

gun, Too gross, too visible to work the spell

While Whigs undid what Whigs themselves had Which modern power performs, in fragments fell: done, +

tied ;

think of that marquis, whom Montesquieu mentions a, who England's annals would dispose us to agree with the great set about looking for mines in the Pyrenees, on the strength historian's remark. For we find that at no period whatever of authorities which he had read in some ancient authors. has this balance of the three estates existed ; that the nobles The poor marquis toiled and searched in vain. He quoted predominated till the policy of Henry VII. and his successor his authorities to the last, but found no mines after all, reduced their weight by breaking up the feudal system of

| The chief, perhaps the only advantage which has resulted property ; that the power of the Crown became then supreme • from the system of influence, is that tranquil course of uninter- and absolute, till the bold encroachments of the Commons rupted action which it has given to the administration of go. subverted the fabric altogether ; that the alternate ascendency vernment. If kings must be paramount in the state (and their of prerogative and privilege distracted the period which fol. ministers for the time being always think so), the country lowed the Restoration; and that, lastly, the Acts of 1689, by is indebted to the Revolution for enabling them to become laying the foundation of an unbounded court-influence, have so quietly, and for removing skilfully the danger of those secured a preponderance to the Throne, which every succeed. shocks and collisions which the alarming efforts of prerogative ing year increases. So that the vaunted British constitution never failed to produce.

has never perhaps existed but in mere theory. Instead of vain and disturbing efforts to establish that spe- 4 The monarchs of Great Britain can never be sufficiently culative balance of the constitution, which, perhaps, has never grateful for that accommodating spirit which led the Revoexisted but in the pages of Montesquieu and De Lolme, a pre. lutionary Whigs to give away the crown, without imposing ponderance is now silently yielded to one of the three estates, any of those restraints or stipulations which other men might which carries the other two almost insensibly, but still effec- have taken advantage of so favor rable a moment to enforce, tually, along with it; and even though the path may lead and in the framing of which they had so good a model to eventually to destruction, yet its specious and gilded smooth- follow as the limitations proposed by the Lords Essex and ness almost atones for the danger; and, like Milton's bridge Halifax, in the debate upon the Exclusion Bill. They not over Chaos, it may be said to lead,

only condescended, however, to accept of places, but took care “ Smooth, easy, inoffensive, down to

that these dignities should be no impediment to their " voice 2 The drivelling correspondence between James I. and his potential ” in affairs of legislation ; and although an Act was “dog Steenie" (the Duke of Buckingham), which we find

after many years suffered to pass, which by one of its articles among the Hardwicke Papers, sufficiently shows, if we wanted disqualified placemen from serving as members of the House any such illustration, into what doting, idiotic brains the plan duence of the reigning monarch, nor with that of his successor

of Commons, it was yet not allowed to interfere with the inof arbitrary power may enter. 3 Tacitus has expressed his opinion, in a passage very fre

Anne. The purifying clause, indeed, was not to take effect quently quoted, that such a distribution of power as the

till after the decease of the latter sovereign, and she rers contheory of the British constitution exhibits is merely a subject siderately repealed it altogether. So that, as representation of bright speculation, "a system more easily praised than

has continued ever since, if the king were simple enough to practised, and which, even could it happen to exist, would

send to foreign courts ambassadors who were most of them in certainly not prove permanent;” and, in truth, a review of

the pay of those courts, he would be just as honestly and faith

fully represented as are his people. It would be endless to a Liv. xxi. chap. 2.

enumerate all the favours which were conferred upon William The hour was lost, and William, with a smile, Whose silent courtship wins securer joys, 2 Sav Freedom weeping o'er the unfinish'd pile ! Taints by degrees, and ruins without noise.

While parliainents, no more those sacred things Hence all the ills you suffer,- hence remain Which make and rule the destiny of kings, Such galling fragments of that feudal chain, 1 Like loaded dice by ministers are thrown, Whose links, around you by the Norman flung, And each new set of sharpers cog their own. Though loos'd and broke so often, still have Hence the rich oil, that from the Treasury steals, clung.

Drips smooth o'er all the Constitution's wheels, Hence sly Prerogative, like Jove of old,

Giving the old machine such pliant play, 3 Has turn’d his thunder into showers of gold,

That Court and Commons jog one joltless way,

2

by those “apostate Whigs." They complimented him with

fore enim tutum iter et patens the first suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act which had been

Converso in pretium Deo. hazarded since the confirmation of that privilege ; and this

Aurum per medios ire satellites, &c. example of our Deliverer's reign has not been lost upon any

HORAT. of his successors. They promoted the establishment of a It would be a task not uninstructive to trace the history of standing army, and circulated in its defence the celebrated Prerogative from the date of its strength under the Tudor • Balancing Letter," in which it is insinuated that England, princes, when Henry VII. and his successors " taught the even then, in her boasted hour of regeneration, was arrived people (as Nathaniel Bacon says)b to dance to the tune of at sucb a pitch of faction and corruption, that nothing could Allegiance," to the period of the Revolution, when the keep her in order but a Whig ministry and a standing army. Throne, in its attacks upon liberty, began to exchange the They refused, as long as they could, to shorten the duration noisy explosions of Prerogative for the silent and effecof parliaments, and though, in the Declaration of Rights, the tual air-gun of Influence. In following its course, too, since necessity of such a reform was acknowledged, they were able, that memorable era, we shall find that, while the royal bp arts not unknown to modern ministers, to brand those as power has been abridged in branches where it might be traitors and republicans who urged it. a But the grand and made conducive to the interests of the people, it has been distinguishing trait of their measures was the power they be- left in full and unshackled vigour against almost every point stored on the Crown of almost annihilating the freedom of where the integrity of the constitution is vulnerable. For elections, -of turning from its course, and for ever defiling instance, the power of chartering boroughs, to whose caprithat great stream of Representation, which had, even in the cious abuse in the hands of the Stuarts we are indebted for most agitated periods, reflected some features of the people, most of the present anomalies of representation, might, if but which, from thenceforth, became the Pactolus, the “au. suffered to remain, have in some degree atoned for its mis. rifer amnis," of the court, and served as a mirror of the chief, by restoring the old unchartered boroughs to their national will and popular feeling no longer. We need but rights, and widening more equally the basis of the legisconsult the writings of that time, to understand the astonish- lature. But, by the Act of Union with Scotland, this part nent tbea excited by measures, which the practice of a cen- of the prerogative was removed, lest Freedom should have tury has rendered not only familiar but necessary. See a a chance of being healed, even by the rust of the spear which pamphlet called “ The Danger of mercenary Parliaments," had formerly wounded her. The dangerous power, how165; State Tracts, Will. III. vol. ii. ; see also“ Some Para- ever, of creating peers, which has been so often exercised for doxes presented as a New Year's Gift." (State Poems, vol. iii.) the government against the constitution, is still left in free

The last great wound given to the feudal system was the and unqualified activity ; not withstanding the example of Act of the 12th of Charles II., which abolished the tenure of that celebrated Bill for the limitation of this ever-budding knight's service in capite, and which Blackstone compares, for branch of prerogative, which was proposed in the reign of its salutary influence upon property, to the boasted provisions George I. under the peculiar sanction and recommendation of of Magna Charta itself. Yet even in this Act we see the the Crown, but which the Whigs thought right to reject, with effects of that counteracting spirit which has contrived to all that characteristic delicacy, which, in general, prevents Trakea every effort of the English nation towards liberty. them, when enjoying the sweets of office themselves, from The exclusion of copyholders from their share of elective taking any uncourtly advantage of the Throne. It will be rights was permitted to remain as a brand of feudal servitude, recollected, however, that the creation of the twelve peers by and as an obstacle to the rise of that strong counterbalance the Tories in Anne's reign (a measure which Swift, like a which an equal representation of property would oppose to the true party man, defends) gave these upright Whigs all possiweight of the Crown. If the managers of the Revolution had ble alarm for their liberties. been sincere in their wishes for reform, they would not only With regard to the generous fit about his prerogative which have taken this setter off the rights of election, but would seized so unroyally the good king George I., historians have have renewed the mode adopted in Cromwell's time of in-hinted that the paroxysm originated far more in hatred to his creasing the number of knights of the shire, to the exclusion son than in love to the constitution.c This, of course, howof those rotten insignificant boroughs, which have tainted the ever, is a calumny: no loyal person, acquainted with the whole mass of the constitution. Lord Clarendon calls this annals of the three Georges, could possibly suspect any one Deasure of Cromwell's “an alteration fit to be more warrant. of those gracious monarchs either of ill-will to his heir, or able made, and in a better time." It formed part of Mr. Pitt's indifference for the constitution. plan in 1763; but Pitt's plan of reform was a kind of an. 3 “ They drove so fast (says Welwood of the ministers of bounced dramatic piece, about as likely to be ever acted as Charles I.), that it was no wonder that the wheels and chaMr. Sheridan's “ Foresters."

riot broke." (Memoirs, p. 35.) – But this fatal accident, if

we may judge from experience, is to be imputed far less to the * See a pamphlet published in 1693, upon the King's refusing to sign the folly and impetuosity of the drivers, than to the want of that Truennial Bui, called " A Discourse between a Yeoman of Kent and a Kasght of a Shtre." _ “ Hereupon (says the Yeoman) the gentleman grew

b Historic, and Politic. Discourse, &c. part il. p. 114. angry, and said that I talked like a base commons-wealth inan."

¢ Coxe says that this Bill was projected by Sunderland.

While Wisdom trembles for the crazy car,

The people !-ah, that Freedom's form should So gilt, so rotten, carrying fools so far ;

stay And the dup'd people, hourly doom'd to pay Where Freedom's spirit long hath pass'd away! The sums that bribe their liberties away, l- That a false smile should play around the dead, Like a young eagle, who has lent his plume And flush the features when the soul hath fled ! 3 To fledge the shaft by which he meets his doom, When Rome had lost her virtue with her rights, See their own feathers pluck'd, to wing the dart When her foul tyrant sat on Capreæ's heights + Which rank corruption destines for their heart ! Amid his ruffian spies, and doom'd to death But soft! methinks I hear thee proudly say Each noble name they blasted with their breath," What! shall I listen to the impious lay, Even then, (in mockery of that golden time, “ That dares, with Tory licence, to profane When the Republic rose revered, sublime, “ The bright bequests of William's glorious reign? And her proud sons, diffus'd from zone to zone, “ Shall the great wisdom of our patriot sires, Gave kings to every nation but their own,) “ Whom H-wks-b-y quotes and savoury Even then the senate and the tribunes stood, B—rch admires,

Insulting marks, to show how high the flood “ Be slander'd thus ? Shall honest St—le agree Of Freedom flow'd, in glory's by-gone day, “ With virtuous R-se to call us pure and free, And how it ebb’d, - for ever ebb’d away!5 “ Yet fail to prove it? Shall our patent pair “ Of wise state-poets waste their words in air, Look but around — though yet a tyrant's sword “ And P-e unheeded breathe his prosperous Nor haunts our sleep nor glitters o'er our board, strain,

Though blood be better drawn, by modern quacks, “ And C-nn--ng lake the people's sense in vain ?" 2 With Treasury leeches than with sword or axe;

4

suppling oil from the Treasury which has been found so ne- ? Somebody has said, “ Quand tous les poëtes seraient cessary to make a government like that of England run noyés, ce ne serait pas grand dommage;" but I am aware smoothly. Had Charles been as well provided with this that this is not fit language to be held at a time when our | article as his successors have been since the happy Revolu- birth-day odes and state-papers are written by such pretty tion, his Commons would never have merited from him the poets as Mr. P-e and Mr. C—nn-ng. All I wish is, that the harsh appellation of seditious vipers," but would have been (as latter gentleman would change places with his brother P-e, they now are, and I trust always will be) “dutiful Commons," by which means we should have somewhat less prose in our " Joyal Commons," &c. &c., and would have given him ship- odes, and certainly less poetry in our politics. money, or any other sort of money he might have fancied. 3 “ It is a scandal (said Sir Charles Sedley in William's

1 Among those auxiliaries which the Revolution of 1688 reign) that a government so sick at heart as ours is should marshalled on the side of the Throne, the bugbear of Popery | look so well in the face;" and Edmund Burke has said, in has not been the least convenient and serviceable. Those the present reign, " When the people conceive that laws and unskilful tyrants, Charles and James, instead of profiting by tribunals, and even popular assemblies, are perverted from that useful subserviency which has always distinguished the the ends of their institution, they find in these names of deministers of our religious establishment, were so infatuated generated establishments only new motives to discontent. as to plan the ruin of this best bulwark of their power, and, Those bodies which, when full of life and beauty, lay in their moreover, connected their designs upon the Church so undis. arms and were their joy and comfort, when dead and putrid guisedly with their attacks upon the Constitution, that they become more loathsome from remembrance of former endear. identified in the minds of the people the interests of their re- ments.” Thoughts on the present Discontents, 1770. ligion and their liberties. During those times, therefore,

Tutor haberi “No Popery” was the watch word of freedom, and served to

Principis, Augusta Caprearum in rupe sedentis keep the public spirit awake against the invasions of bigotry

Cum grege Chaldæo. JUVENAL. Sat. x. v. 92. and prerogative. The Revolution, however, by removing this object of jealousy, has produced a reliance on the ortho- The senate still continued, during the reign of Tiberius, to doxy of the Throne, of which the Throne has not failed to manage all the business of the public ; the money was then take advantage ; and the cry of " No Popery” having thus and long after coined by their authority, and every other lost its power of alarming the people against the inroads of public affair received their sanction the Crown, has served ever since the very different purpose We are told by Tacitus of a certain race of men, who made of strengthening the Crown against the pretensions and themselves particularly useful to the Roman emperors, and struggles of the people. The danger of the Church from were therefore called “instrumenta regni," or "court tools." Papists and Pretenders was the chief pretext for the repeal of From this it appears, that iny Lords M-C-, &c. &c. the Triennial Bill, for the adoption of a standing army, for are by no means things of modern invention. the numerous suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act, and, in 5 There is something very touching in what Tacitus tells short, for all those spirited infractions of the constitution by us of the hopes that revived in a few patriot bosoms, wben which the reigns of the last century were so eminently distin- the death of Augustus was near approaching, and the fond guished. We have seen very lately, too, how the Throne has expectation with which they already began "bona libertatis been enabled, by the same scarecrow sort of alarm, to select incassum disserere." its ministers from among men, whose servility is their only According to Ferguson, Cæsar's interference with the claim to elevation, and who are pledged (if such an alterna- rights of election “made the subversion of the republic more tive could arise) to take part with the scruples of the King felt than any of the former acts of his power.” — Roman Reagainst the salvation of the empire.

public, book v. chap. i.

« PreviousContinue »