« AnteriorContinuar »
I question not but the reader will conceive a respect for the author of this paper, from the title of it; since he may be sure I am so considerable a man, that I cannot have less than forty shillings a year.
I have rather chosen this title than any other, because it is what I most glory in, and what most effectually calls to my mind the happiness of that government under which I live. As a British freeholder, I should not scruple taking place of a French marquis ; and when I see one of my countrymen amusing himself in his little cabbage-garden, I naturally look upon him as a greater person than the owner of the richest vineyard in Champagne.
The House of Commons is the representative of men in my condition. I consider myself as one who give my consent to every law which passes: a freeholder in our government being of the nature of a citizen of Rome in that famous commonwealth ; who, by the election of a tribune, had a kind of remote voice in every law that was enacted. So that a freeholder is but one remove from a legislator, and for that reason ought to stand up in the defence of those laws which are in some degree of his own making. For such is the nature of our happy constitution, that the bulk of the people virtually give their approbation to everything they are bound to obey, and prescribe to themselves those rules by which they are to walk.
At the same time that I declare I am a freeholder, I do not exclude myself from any other title. A freeholder may be either a voter, or a knight of the shire; a wit, or a foxhunter; a scholar, or a soldier ; an alderman, or a courtier ; a patriot, or a stock-jobber. But I choose to be distinguished by this denomination, as the freeholder is the basis of all other titles. Dignities may be grafted upon it; but this is the substantial stock, that conveys to them their life, taste, and beauty; and without which they are no more than blossoms, that would fall away with every shake of wind.2
And here I cannot but take occasion to congratulate my country upon the increase of this happy tribe of men, since, by the wisdom of the present parliament I find the race of
? Who refers to one, and not to I. He should then have said—who gives his consent.
Shake of wind.] Better, blast, or, breath. We say, a shake in music, but in nothing else,
freeholders spreading into the remotest corners of the island. I mean that act which passed in the late session for the encouragement of loyalty in Scotland: by which it is provided, “That all and every vassal and vassals in Scotland, who shall continue peaceable, and in dutiful allegiance to his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, holding lands or tenements of any offender (guilty of high-treason) who holds such lands or tenements immediately of the Crown, shall be vested and seized, and are hereby enacted and ordained to hold the said lands or tenements of his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, in fee and heritage for ever, by such manner of holding, as any such offender held such lands or tenements of the Crown,” &c.
By this means it will be in the power of a Highlander to be at all times a good tenant, without being a rebel ; and to deserve the character of a faithful servant, without thinking himself obliged to follow his master to the gallows.
How can we sufficiently extol the goodness of his present Majesty, who is not willing to have a single slave in his dominions! or enough to rejoice in the exercise of that loyalty, which, instead of betraying a man into the most ignominious servitude, (as it does in some of our neighbouring kingdoms.) entitles him to the highest privileges of freedom and property! It is now to be hoped that we shall have few vassals, but to the laws of our country.
When these men have a taste of property, they will naturally love that constitution from which they derive so greau a blessing: There is an unspeakable pleasure in calling any. thing one's own. A freehold, though it be but in ice and snow, will make the owner pleased in the possession, and stout in the defence of it; and is a very proper reward of our allegiance to our present king, who (by an unparalleled instance of goodness in a sovereign, and infatuation in subjects) contends for the freedom of his people against themselves; and will not suffer many of them to fall into a state of slavery, which they are bent upon with so much eagerness and obstinacy.
A freeholder of Great Britain is bred with an aversion to everything that tends to bring him under a subjection to the arbitrary will of another. Of this we find frequent instances in all our histories; where the persons, whose characters are the most amiable, and strike us with the highest veneration,
are those who stood up manfully against the invasions of
to keep out ?
To this end, I shall in the course of this paper (to be published every Monday and Friday) endeavour to open the eyes of my countrymen to their own interest, to show them the privileges of an English freeholder, which they enjoy in common with myself, and to make them sensible how these blessings are secured to us by his Majesty's title, his administration, and his personal character.
I have only one request to make to my readers, that they will peruse these
papers with the same candour and impartiality in which they are written; and shall hope for no other prepossession in favour of them, than what one would think should be natural to every man, a desire to be happy, and a good will toward those who are the instruments of making them so.
No. 2. MONDAY, DECEMBER 26.
Non de domino, sed de parente loquimur. Intelligamus ergo bona nostra,
dignosque nos illius usu probemus; atque identidem cogitemus, si majus principibus præstemus obsequium, qui servitute civium, quam qui libertate lætantur.
set forth the happiness of my station as a freeholder of Great Britain, and the nature of that property which is secured to me by the laws of my country; I cannot forbear considering, in the next place, that
person who is intrusted with the guardianship and execution of those laws. I have lived in one reign, when the prince, instead of invigorating the laws of our country, or giving them their proper course, assumed a power of dispensing with them; and in another, when the sovereign was Aattered by a set of men into a persuasion, that the regal authority was unlimited and uncircumscribed. In either of these cases, good laws are at best but a dead letter; and, by showing the people how happy they ought to be, only serve to aggravate the sense of their oppressions.
We have the pleasure at this time to see a king upon the throne who hath too much goodness to wish for any power, that does not enable him to promote the welfare of his subjects; and too much wisdom to look upon those as his friends, who would make their court to him by the profession of an obedience which they never practised, and which has always proved fatal to those princes who have put it to the trial. His Majesty gave a proof of his sovereign virtues, before he came to the exercise of them in this kingdom. His inclination to justice led him to rule his German subjects in the same manner, that our constitution directs him to govern the English. He regarded those which are our civil liberties, as the natural rights of mankind; and therefore indulged them to a people, who pleaded no other claim to them than from his known goodness and humanity. This experience of a good prince, before we had the happiness to enjoy him, must give great satisfaction to every thinking man, who considers how apt sovereignty is to deprave human nature; and how many of our own princes made very ill figures upon the
throne, who, before they ascended it, were the favourites of the people.
What gives us the greatest security in the conduct of so excellent a prince is, that consistency of behaviour, whereby he inflexibly pursues those measures which appear the most just and equitable. As he hath the character of being the most prudent in laying proper schemes ; he is no less remarkable for being steady in accomplishing what he has once concerted. Indeed, if we look into the history of his present Majesty, and reflect upon that wonderful series of successes which have attended him, I think they cannot be ascribed to anything so much as to his uniformity and firmness of mind, which has always discovered itself in his proceedings. It was by this that he surmounted those many difficulties which lay in the way to his succession; and by which, we have reason to hope, he will daily make all opposition fall before him. The fickle and unsteady politics of our late British monarchs have been the perpetual source of those dissensions and animosities which have made the nation unhappy: whereas the constant and unshaken temper of his present Majesty must have a natural tendency to the peace of his government, and the unanimity of his people.
Whilst I am enumerating the public virtues of our sovereign, which are so conducive to the advantage of those who are to obey him, I cannot but take notice, that his Majesty
from his infancy with a love to this our nation, under a princess, who was the most accomplished woman of her age, and particularly famous for her affection to the English. Our countrymen were dear to him, before there was any prospect of their being his subjects; and every one knows, that nothing recommended a man so much to the distinguishing civilities of his court, as the being born in Great Britain.
To the fame of his Majesty's civil virtues, we may add the reputation he has acquired by his martial achievements. It is observed by Sir William Temple, that the English are particularly fond of a king who is valiant; upon which account his Majesty has a title to all the esteem that can be paid the most warlike prince; though at the same time, for the good of his subjects, he studies to decline all occasions of military glory; and chooses rather to be distinguished as the father, than as the captain of his people. I am glad his re