but one similar to that of its author, and, it may be added, but for purposes resembling those for which he employed it. Few authors, accordingly, have attempted to imitate the style of Junius, and the few that have attempted it have not succeeded. His style was exquisitely fitted for the purpose to which he destined it, and should be studied, carefully and repeatedly, by those who would see the English language in one of its happiest forms. But the nerve of Junius must belong to the man who can hope to use, successfully, the instrument which he used; for that instrument was fitted to his grasp, and among ordinary men there are none who can pretend to wield it."1


I dedicate to you a collection of Letters, written by one of yourselves for the common benefit of us all. They would never have grown to this size, without your continued encouragement and applause. To me they originally owe nothing, but a healthy, sanguine constitution. Under your care they have thriven. To you they are indebted for whatever strength or beauty they possess. When kings and ministers are forgotten, when the force and direction of personal satire is no longer understood, and when measures are only felt in their remotest consequences, this book will, I believe, be found to contain principles worthy to be transmitted to posterity. When you leave the unimpaired, hereditary freehold to your children, you do but half your duty. Both liberty and property are precarious, unless the possessors have sense and spirit enough to defend them. This is not the language of vanity. If I am a vain man, my gratification lies within a narrow circle. I am the sole depositary of my own secret, and it shall perish with me.3

I cannot doubt that you will unanimously assert the freedom of election, and vindicate your exclusive right to choose your representatives. But other questions have been started, on which your determination should be equally clear and unanimous. Let it be impressed upon your minds, let it be instilled into your children, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights of an Englishman, and that the right of juries to return a general verdict, in all cases whatsoever, is an essential part of our constitution, not to be controlled or limited by the judges, nor in any shape questionable by the legislature. The power of king, lords, and commons, is not an arbitrary power. They are the trustees, not the owners of the estate. The fee

1 Woodfall's is generally considered the best edition of Junius; but an admirable one is that published by Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh, 1822, with notes and preliminary dissertations, and to which I am indebted for a portion of the above remarks.

2 By hereditary freehold he evidently means the constitution in its original purity.

8 The author of the "Letters of Junius" is now clearly ascertained to be Sir Philip Francis. Seo ▲ very interesting letter from Lady Francis, in Lord Campbell's "Lives of the Chancellors," vol vi. p. 282, American edition.

simple is in us. They cannot alienate, they cannot waste. When we say that the legislature is supreme, we mean that it is the highest power known to the constitution :-that it is the highest in comparison with the other subordinate powers established by the laws. In this sense, the word supreme is relative, not absolute. The power of the legislature is limited, not only by the general rules of natural justice, and the welfare of the community, but by the forms and principles of our particular constitution. If this doctrine be not true, we must admit that king, lords, and commons have no rule to direct their resolutions, but merely their own will and pleasure. They might unite the legislative and executive power in the same hands, and dissolve the constitution by an act of parliament. But I am persuaded you will not leave it to the choice of seven hundred persons, notoriously corrupted by the crown, whether seven millions of their equals shall be freemen or slaves. These are truths unquestionable.-If they make no impression, it is because they are too vulgar and notorious. But the inattention or indifference of the nation has continued too long. You are roused at last to a sense of your danger.-The remedy will soon be in your power. If Junius lives, you shall often be reminded of it. If, when the opportunity presents itself, you neglect to do your duty to yourselves and to posterity,-to God and to your country, I shall have one consolation left, in common with the meanest and basest of mankind-civil liberty may still last the life of JUNIUS.


MY LORD:-You are so little accustomed to receive any marks of respect or esteem from the public, that if, in the following lines, a compliment or expression of applause should escape me, I fear you would consider it as a mockery of your established character, and, perhaps, an insult to your understanding. You have nice feelings, my lord, if we may judge from your resentments. Cautious, therefore, of giving offence, where you have so little deserved it, I shall leave the illustration of your virtues to other hands. Your friends have a privilege to play upon the easiness of your temper, or possibly they are better acquainted with your good qualities than I am. You have done good by stealth. The rest is upon record. You have still left ample room for speculation, when panegyric is exhausted.

You are, indeed, a very considerable man. The highest rank; a splendid fortune; and a name, glorious till it was yours, were sufficient to have supported you with meaner abilities than I think

1 This is one of the most labored of our author's letters: and perhaps there is none of them which displays, in so striking a manner, his unrelenting spirit.

you possess. From the first you derived a constitutional claim to respect; from the second, a natural extensive authority;—the last created a partial expectation of hereditary virtues. The use you have made of these uncommon advantages might have been more honorable to yourself, but could not be more instructive to mankind. We may trace it in the veneration of your country, the choice of your friends, and in the accomplishment of every sanguine hope, which the public might have conceived from the illustrious name of Russell.

The eminence of your station gave you a commanding prospect of your duty. The road, which led to honor, was open to your view. You could not lose it by mistake, and you had no temptation to depart from it by design. Compare the natural dignity and importance of the richest peer of England;—the noble independence, which he might have maintained in parliament, and the real interest and respect, which he might have acquired, not only in parliament, but through the whole kingdom; compare these glorious distinctions with the ambition of holding a share in government, the emoluments of a place, the sale of a borough, or the purchase of a corporation; and though you may not regret the virtues which create respect, you may see, with anguish, how much real importance and authority you have lost. Consider the character of an independent, virtuous Duke of Bedford; imagine what he might be in this country, then reflect one moment upon what you are. If it be possible for me to withdraw my attention from the fact, I will tell you in theory what such a man might be.

Conscious of his own weight and importance, his conduct in parliament would be directed by nothing but the constitutional duty of a peer. He would consider himself as a guardian of the laws. Willing to support the just measures of government, but determined to observe the conduct of the minister with suspicion, he would oppose the violence of faction with as much firmness as the encroachments of prerogative. He would be as little capable of bargaining with the minister for places for himself, or his dependants, as of descending to mix himself in the intrigues of opposition. Whenever an important question called for his opinion in parliament, he would be heard, by the most profligate minister, with deference and respect. His authority would either sanctify or disgrace the measures of government. The people would look up to him as to their protector, and a virtuous prince would have one honest man in his dominions, in whose integrity and judgment he might safely confide. If it should be the will of Providence to afflict him with a domestic misfortune,1 he would submit to the stroke, with feeling, but not without dignity. He would

1 The duke lately lost his only son by a fall from his horse.

consider the people as his children, and receive a generous heartfelt consolation, in the sympathizing tears and blessings of his country.

Your grace may probably discover something more intelligible in the negative part of this illustrious character. The man I have described would never prostitute his dignity in parliament by an indecent violence either in opposing or defending a minister. He would not at one moment rancorously persecute, at another basely cringe to the favorite of his sovereign. After outraging the royal dignity with peremptory conditions, little short of menace and hostility, he would never descend to the humility of soliciting an interview with the favorite, and of offering to recover, at any price, the honor of his friendship. Though deceived perhaps in his youth, he would not, through the course of a long life, have invariably chosen his friends from among the most profligate of mankind. His own honor would have forbidden him from mixing his private pleasures or conversation with jockeys, gamesters, blasphemers, gladiators, or buffoons. He would then have never felt, much less would he have submitted to the humiliating, dishonest necessity of engaging in the interest and intrigues of his dependants, of supplying their vices, or relieving their beggary, at the expense of his country. He would not have betrayed such ignorance, or such contempt of the constitution, as openly to avow, in a court of justice, the purchase and sale of a borough. He would not have thought it consistent with his rank in the state, or even with his personal importance, to be the little tyrant of a little corporation. He would never have been insulted with virtues which he had labored to extinguish, nor suffered the disgrace of a mortifying defeat, which has made him ridiculous and contemptible, even to the few by whom he was not detested. I reverence the afflictions of a good man, his sorrows are sacred. But how can we take part in the distresses of a man whom we can neither love nor esteem; or feel for a calamity of which he himself is insensible? Where was the father's heart, when he could look for, or find an immediate consolation for the loss of an only son, in consultations and bargains for a place at court, and even m the misery of balloting at the India House!


To the Printer of the " Public Advertiser."

When the complaints of a brave and powerful people are observed to increase in proportion to the wrongs they have suffered;

1 This celebrated letter to the king is, perhaps, the most remarkable political address ever published in England. At the time of its appearance it made a very great impression upon the public mind; and the importance which the author himself attached to it, is evinced by the following note which he addressed to his printer, announcing it: "I am now meditating a capital, and I hope a final piece."

when, instead of sinking into submission, they are roused to resistance, the time will soon arrive at which every inferior consideration must yield to the security of the sovereign, and to the general safety of the state. There is a moment of difficulty and danger, at which flattery and falsehood can no longer deceive, and simplicity itself can no longer be misled. Let us suppose it arrived. Let us suppose a gracious, well-intentioned prince, made sensible at last of the great duty he owes to his people, and of his own disgraceful situation; that he looks round him for assistance, and asks for no advice, but how to gratify the wishes, and secure the happiness of his subjects. In these circumstances, it may be matter of curious speculation to consider, if an honest man were permitted to approach a king, in what terms he would address himself to his sovereign. Let it be imagined, no matter how improbable, that the first prejudice against his character is removed; that the ceremonious difficulties of an audience are surmounted; that he feels himself animated by the purest and most honorable affections to his king and country; and that the great person, whom he addresses, has spirit enough to bid him speak freely, and understanding enough to listen to him with attention. Unacquainted with the vain impertinence of forms, he would deliver his sentiments with dignity and firmness, but not without respect.

SIR-It is the misfortune of your life, and originally the cause of every reproach and distress which has attended your government, that you should never have been acquainted with the language of truth, until you heard it in the complaints of your people. It is not, however, too late to correct the error of your education. We are still inclined to make an indulgent allowance for the pernicious lessons you received in your youth, and to form the most sanguine hopes from the natural benevolence of your disposition. We are far from thinking you capable of a direct, deliberate purpose to invade those original rights of your subjects, on which all their civil and political liberties depend. Had it been possible for us to entertain a suspicion so dishonorable to your character, we should long since have adopted a style of remonstrance very distant from the humility of complaint. The doctrine inculcated by our laws, That the king can do no wrong, is admitted without reluctance. We separate the amiable, good-natured prince, from the folly and treachery of his servants, and the private virtues of the man, from the vices of his government. Were it not for this just distinction, I know not whether your majesty's condition, or that of the English nation, would deserve most to be lamented. I would prepare your mind for a favorable reception of truth, by removing every painful offensive idea of personal reproach. Your subjects, sir, wish for nothing but that, as they are reasonable and affectionate enough to separate your person from

« VorigeDoorgaan »