Imatges de pÓgina

ceedings and debates of the senate; the conduct and characters of ministers; the revolutions, intrigues, and contention of parties; and, in general, from the discussion of public measures, questions, and occurrences. Subjects of this fort excite just enough of interest and emotion, 'to afford a moderate engagement to the thoughts, without rising to any painful degree of anxiety, or ever leaving a fixed oppression upon the spirits—and what is this, but the end and aim of all those amusements, which compose so much of the business of life and of the value of riches? For my part, and I believe it to be the case with most men who are arrived at the middle age, and occupy the middle classes of life; had I all the money which I


in taxes to government, at liberty to lay out upon amusement and diverfion, I know not whether I could make choice of any,

in which I could find greater pleasure, than what I receive from expecting, hearing, and relating public news; reading parliamentary debates and proceedings; canvassing the political arguments, projects, predictions, and intelligence, which are conveyed, by various channels, to every corner of the kingdom. These topics, exciting universal, curiosity, and being such as alınost every man is ready to form, and

prepared prepared to deliver their opinion about, greatly promote, and, I think, improve conversation. They render it more rational and more innocent. They supply a substitute for drinking, gaming, scandal, and obscenity. Now the secrely, the jealousy, the solitude, and precipitation of despotic governments, exclude all this. But the loss, you say, is trising. I know that it is possible to render even the mention of it ridiculous, by representing it as the idle employment of the most insignificant part of the nation, the folly of village-statesmen and coffee-house politicians: but I allow nothing to be a trille, which ministers to the harmlefs gratification of multitudes ; nor any order of men to be infignificant, whose number bears a respectable proportion to the sum of the whole community.

We have been accustomed to an opinion, that a REPUBLICAN form of government suits only with the affairs of a finall state : which opinion is founded in the confideration, that unless the people, in every district of the empire, be admitted to a Mare in the national representation, the government is not, as to them, a republic : that elccions, where the conftituents are numerous, and dispersed through a wide extent of country, are conducted with difficulty, cr ratlıer,

indeed, indeed, managed by the intrigues and combination of a few, who are situated near the place of election, each voter considering his single suffrage as too minute a portion of the general interest to deserve his care or attendance, much less to be worth any opposition to influence and application ; that whilst we contract the reprefentation within a compass small enough to admit of orderly debate, the interest of the constituent becomes too small, of the representative too great. It is difficult also to maintain any connection between them,

He who represents two hundred thousands, is necessarily a stranger to the greatest part of those who elect him; and when his interest amongst them ceases to depend upon an acquaintance with their persons and character, or a care or knowledge of their affairs; when such a representative finds the treasures and honours of a great empire at the disposal of a few, and himself one of the few, there is little reason to hope that he will not prefer to his public duty, those temptations of personal aggrandizement which his situation offers, and which the price of his vote will always purchase. All appeal to the people is precluded by the impossibility of collecting a fufficient proportion of their force and numbers.


The fadions, and the unanimity, of the fenate are equally dangerous. Add to these considerations, that in a democratic constitution the mechanism is too complicated, and the motions too flow for the operations of a great empire; whose defence and government require execution and dispatch, in proportion to the magnitude, extent, and variety of its concerns. There is weight, no doubt, in these reasons ; but much of the objection seems to be done away by the contrivance of a federal republic, which, distributing the country into distrids of a commodious extent, and leaving to each district its internal legislation, reserves to a convention of the states, the adjustment of their relative claims; the levying, direcion, and government of the common force of the confederacy; the requisition of subsidies for the support of this force ; the making of peace and war; the entering into treaties ; the regulation of foreign commerce ; the equalization of duties upon imports, so as to prevent the defrauding of the revenue of one province by smuggling articles of taxation from the borders of another; and likewise so as to guard against undue partialities in the encouragement of trade. To what limits such a republic might, without inconveniency, enlarge its


dominions, by assuming neighbouring provinces into the confederation; or how far it is capable of uniting the liberty of a small commonwealth, with the safety of a powerful empire; or whether, amongit co-ordinate powers, dissensions and jealousies would not be likely to arise, which, for want of a common superior, might proceed to fatal extremities, are questions, upon which the records of mankind do not authorize us to decide with tolerable certainty. The experiment is about to be tried in America' upon a large scale.

C H A P.

« AnteriorContinua »