Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

boys or men." Nay,” ," said Johnson, "it is the way to govern them; I know not whether it be the way to mend them."

Upon the state of the nation in 1775, he thus discoursed: "Sir, the great misfortune now is, that government has too little power. All that it has to bestow, must, of necessity, be given to support itself; so that it cannot reward merit. No man, for instance, can now be made a bishop for his learning and piety; his only chance, for promotion is his being connected with somebody who has parliamentary interest. Our several ministers in this reign have out-bid each other in concessions to the people. Lord Bute, though a very honourable man

a man who meant well-a man who had his blood full of prerogative—was a theoretical statesman,—~ a book-minister-and thought this country could be governed by the influence of the crown alone. Then, sir, he gave up a great deal: he advised the king to agree that the judges should hold their places for life, instead of losing them at the accession of a new king. Lord Bute, I suppose, thought to make the king popular by this concession; but the people never minded it; and it was a most impolitic measure. There is no reason why a judge should hold his office for life, more than any other person in public trust. A judge may be partial otherwise than to the crown: we have seen judges partial to the populace. A judge may become corrupt, and yet there may not be legal evidence against him. A judge may become froward from age. A judge may grow unfit for his office in inany ways: it was desirable that there should be a possibility of being delivered from him by a new king. That is now gone by an act of parliament ex

VOL. II.

G

gratia of the crown. Lord Bute advised the king to give up a very large sum of money, for which nobody thanked him. It was of consequence to the king, but nothing to the public, among whom it was divided. When I say lord Bute advised, I mean, that such acts were done when he was minister, and we are to suppose that he advised them.-Lord Bute showed an undue partiality to Scotchmeu. He turned out Dr. Nichols, a very eminent man, from being physician to the king, to make room for one of his countrymen, a man very low in his profession. He had ******* and **** to go on errands for him. He had occasion for people to go on errands for him, but he should not have had Scotchmen; and certainly, he should not have suffered them to have access to him before the first people in England." BOSWELL. "The admission of one of them before the first people in England, which has given the greatest offence, was no more than what happens at every minister's levee, where those who attend are admitted in the order that they have come, which is better than admitting them according to their rank; for, if that were to be the rule, a man who has waited all the morning might have the mortification to see a peer, newly come, go in before him, and keep him waiting still." JOHNSON. “True, sir; but **** should not have come to the levee, to be in the way of people of consequence. He saw lord Bute at all times; and could have said what he had to say at any time, as well as at the levee. There is now no prime minister: there is only an agent for government in the house of commons. We are governed by the cabinet: but there is no one head there since sir Robert Walpole's time." Boswell.

"What then, sir, is the use of parliament ?" JOHNSON. "Why, sir, parliament is a large council to the king; and the advantage of such a council is, having a great number of men of property concerned in the legislature, who, for their own interest, will not consent to bad laws. And you must have observed, sir, the administration is feeble and timid, and cannot act with that authority and resolution which is necessary. Were I in power, would turn out every man who dared to oppose me. Government has the distribution of offices, that it may be enabled to maintain its authority. Lord Bute took down too fast, without building up something new." BOSWELL. "Because, sir, he found a rotten building. The political coach was drawn by a set of bad horses; it was necessary to change them." JOHNSON. "But he should have changed them one by one."

On another occasion, he said, "The mode of government by one may be ill adapted to a small society, but is best for a great nation. The characteristic of our own government at present is imbecility. The magistrates dare not call the guards for fear of being hanged; the guards will not come, for fear of being given up to the blind rage of popular juries." [Tempora mutantur.]

Talking of different governments-JOHNSON. "The more contracted power is, the more easily it is destroyed. A country governed by a despot is an inverted cone. Government there cannot be so firm, as when it rests upon a broad basis gradually contracted, as the government of Great Britain, which is founded on the parliament, then is in the privycouncil, then in the king." BoswELL. "Power, when

contracted into the person of a despot, may be easily destroyed, as the prince may be cut off. So Caligula wished that the people of Rome had but one neck, that he might cut them off at a blow." GENERAL OGLETHORPE. "It was of the senate he wished that. The senate, by its usurpation, controlled both the emperor and the people. And don't you think that we see too much of that in our own parliament ?"

No. XIV.

MORALS.

ON this subject, he said, "The morality of an action depends on the motive from which we act. If I fling half a crown to a beggar with intention to break his head, and he picks it up and buys victuals with it, the physical effect is good; but, with respect to me, the action is very wrong. So, religious exercises, if not performed with an intention to please God, avail us nothing:-as our Saviour says of those who perform them from other motives, Verily they have their reward.'”

Of a gentleman who was mentioned, he said, "I have not met with any man, for a long time, who has given me such general displeasure: he is totally fixed in his principles, and wants to puzzle other people." Boswell said his principles had been poisoned by a noted infidel writer, but that he was nevertheless a benevolent good man. JOHNSON. "We can have no dependence upon that instinctive, that constitutional goodness, which is not founded upon principle. I grant you, that such a

man may be a very amiable member of society. I can conceive him placed in such a situation, that he is not much tempted to deviate from what is right; and as every man prefers virtue, when there is not some strong incitement to transgress its precepts, I can conceive him doing nothing wrong. But if such a man stood in need of money, I should not like to trust him; and I should certainly not trust him with young ladies, for there there is always temptation. Hume, and other sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expense truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to error. Truth, sir, is a cow, which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull. If I could have allowed myself to gratify my vanity at the expense of truth, what fame might I have acquired! Every thing, which Hume has advanced against Christianity, had passed through my mind long before he wrote. Always remember this -that, after a system is well settled upon positive evidence, a few partial objections ought not to shake it. The human mind is so limited, that it cannot take in all the parts of a subject; so that there may be objections raised against any thing. There are objections against a plenum, and objections against a vacuum; yet one of them must certainly be true."

JOHNSON. "I love the university of Salamanca; for when the Spaniards were in doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the university of Salamanca gave it as their opinion, that it was not lawful." He spoke this with great emotion, and with that generous warmth, which dic

« AnteriorContinua »