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for leave to file an Information against taining a Number of Original Letters and Mr. Ralph Dodd, upon the statute of other Papers connected with the Subject. 6 George I. for attempting to establish a By Andrew Halliday, M. D. 8vo. 38. rd. London Distillery Company, with transfer- The Surveyor's Guide, or a Treatise on able Shares. 2s. 6d.
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For OCTOBER, 1808.
Art. I. Lives of British Statesmen. By John Macdiarmid, Esq. Author
of an Inquiry into the System of National Defence in Great Britaing and of an Inquiry into the Principles of Subordination. 4to. pp. 600.
Price 21. 2s. Longman and Co. 1807. If we have not learnt to feel for statesmen, as such, a suffici
ent share of that reverential respect which pronounces their names with awe, which stands amazed at the immensity of their wisdom, which looks up to them as the concentrated reason of the human species, which trembles to insinuate or to hear insinuated against them the slightest suspicion of obliquity of understanding or corruption of moral principle, and which regards it as quite a point of religion to defend their reputation, it has not been that we have not received many grave instructions and rebukes on this head from much better men. A hundred times it has been repeated to us, that a peculiar and extraordinary genius is requisite to constitute à statesman ; that men, who by situation and office are conversant with great concerns, acquire à dignity and expansion of mind, that those who can manage the affairs of nations prove themselves by the fact itself to be great men; that their eles vated position gives them an incomparably. clearer and more comprehensive view of national subjects than is to be attained by us on the low level of private life; that we ought, in deference to them, to repress the presumption of our understandings; that in short it is our duty to applaud or be silent.
With a laudable obsequiousness we have often tried to conform ourselves to our duty, at least as prescribed in the latter part of this alternative, and we have listened respectfully to long panegyrics on the sagacity, fortitude, and disinterestedness of the chief actors and advisers in state affairs, and to inculcations of the gratitude due to men who will thus condescend, in their lofty stations, (which at the same time it is presumed they can claim to hold for no other purpose) to toil and care for us the vulgar mass of mankind.' Presently VOL. VI.
these laudatory and hortatory strains would soften into an elegiac plaintiveness, bewailing the distresses of men in high situations in the state. The pathetic song has deplored the oppressive labours of thought required in forming their schemes, their cruel exposure to the persecutions of an adverse party, the difficulty of preserving harmony of operation in a wide and complex system involving many men and many dispositions, their anxiety in providing for the wants of the state, the frequent failure of their best concerted measures, their sleepless nights, their aching heads, and their sufferings from the ungrateful reproaches of the people. Here our impatience has overcome our good resolutions, and we have been moved to reply. We have said, Is not the remedy for all these sorrows at all times in their reach? They can quit their stations and all the attendant distresses whenever they please, in behalf of other men who are waiting, eager almost to madness, to obtain their share of all the vexations you are commiserating. But while you are so generously deploring the hardships of their situation, they are anxiously devising every possible contrivance to secure themselves in possession of it, and nothing less than the power
, that put them in can wrench them out. It is vastly reasonable to be requiring le. nient judgements on the conduct, and respectful sympathy for the feelings, of public men, while we see with what a violent passion power and station are sought, with what desperate grappling claws of iron they are retained, and with what grief and mortification they are lost. It might be quite time enough, we should think, to commence this strain of tenderness, when in order to fill the places of power and emolument it has become necessary to drag by force retiring virtue and modest talent from private life, and to retain them in those situations by the same compulsion, in spite of the most earnest wishes to retreat, excited by delicacy of conscience, and a disgust at the pomp of state. So long as men are pressing as urgently into the avenues of place and power as ever the genteel rabble of the metropolis have pushed and crowded into the play-house to see the new actor, and so long as a most violent conflict is maintained between those wbo are in power and those who want to supplant them, we think statesmen form by eminence the class of persons, to whose characters both the contemporary examiner and the historian are not only authorised, but in duty bound, to administer justice in its utmost rigour, without one particle of extenuation. While forcing th offices in the state, and while maintaining the possession once acquired, they are apprised, or might and should be apprised, of the nature of the responsibility, and it is certain they are extremely well apprised of the privileges. They know that
the public welfare depends, in too great a degree, on their conduct, and that the people have a natural instinctive prejudice in favour of their leaders, and are disposed to confide to the utmost extent. They know that a measure of impunity, unfortunate for the public is enjoyed by statesmen, their very station affording the means both of concealment and defence for their delinquencies. They know that in point of emolument they are more than paid from the labours of the people for any services they render; and that they are not bestowing any particular favour on the country by holding their offices, as there are plenty of men, about as able and as good as themselves, ready to take their places if they would abdicate them. When to all this is added the acknowledged fact that the majority of this class of men have trifled with their high responsibility, and taken criminal advantage of their privileges, we can have no patience to hear of any claims for a special indulgence of charity, in reading and judging the actions of statesmen.
On the ground of inorality in the abstract, separately from any consideration of the effect of his representations, the biographer of statesmen is bound to a very strict application of the rules of justice, since these men constitute, or at least belong to, the uppermost class of the inhabitants of the earth. They have stronger inducements arising from situation, than other men, to be solicitous for the rectitude of their conduct'; their station has the utmost advantage for commanding the assistance of whatever illumination a country contains ; they see on the large scale the effect, of all the grand principles of action ; they make laws for the rest of mankind, and they direct the execution of justice. If the eternal laws of morality áre to be applied with a soft and lenient hand in the trial and judgement of such an order of men, it will not be worth while to apply them at all to the subordinate classes of mankind' ; 'as a morality, that exacts but little where the means and the res. ponsibility are the greatest, would betray itself to contempt by pretending to sit in solemn judgement on the humbler sub. jects of its authority. The laws of morality should operate, like those of nature, in the most palpable manner on the largest substances.
Another reason for the rigid administration of justice to the characters of men that have been high in the state, is, to secure the utility of history, or rather to preserve it from be. coming to the last degree immoral and noxious. For since history is almost entirely occupied with the actions of this class of men, and for the much greater part with their vices and their crimes, and the calamitous consequences, it is easy to see that a softened mode of awarding justice to these cha