« VorigeDoorgaan »
Alas! cried I to myself, upon returning from fuch a fpectacle, is this the nation which affumes fuch dignity at the court of Pekin! Is this that people that appear fo proud at home, and in every country where they have the leaft authority! How does a love of gain transform the graveft of mankind into the most contemptible and ridiculous! I had rather continue poor all my life than become rich at fuch a rate. Perish those riches which are acquired at the expence of my honour or my humanity let me quit, faid I, a country where there are none but fuch as treat all others like flaves, and more detestable still, in suffering such treatment. I have seen enough of this nation to defire to fee more of others. Let me leave a people fufpicious to excefs, whofe morals are corrupted, and equally debased by superftition and vice; where the sciences are left uncultivated, where the great are flaves to the prince, and tyrants to the people; where the women are chaste only when debarred of the power of tranfgreffion; where the true difciples of Confucius are not lefs perfecuted than thofe of Chriftianity; in a word, a country where men are forbidden to think, and confequently labour under the most miferable flavery, that of mental fervitude. Adieu.
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI TO FUM HOAM,
THE misfortunes of the great, my friend, are held
up to engage our attention, are enlarged upon in tones of declamation, and the world is called upon to gaze at the noble sufferers; they have at once the comforts of admiration and pity.
Yet where is the magnanimity of bearing misfortunes, when the whole world is looking on? Men in fuch circumstances can act bravely even from motives of vanity. He only, who, in the vale of obscurity, can brave adverfity, who, without friends to encourage, acquaintances to pity, or even without hope to alleviate his distresses, can behave with tranquillity and indifference, is truly great whether peafant or courtier, he deferves admiration, and should be held up for our imitation and respect.
The miseries of the poor are, however, entirely difregarded, though fome undergo more real hardships in one day, than the great in their whole lives. It is, indeed, inconceivable what difficulties the meanest English, failor or foldier endures without murmuring or regret. Every day to him is a day of mifery, and yet he bears his hard fate without repining.
With what indignation do I hear the heroes of tragedy, complain of misfortunes and hardships, whose greatest ca
lamity is founded in arrogance and pride. Their fevereft diftreffes are pleasures, compared to what many of the adventuring poor every day sustain, without murmuring. These may eat, drink, and fleep, have flaves to attend them and are sure of subsistence for life, while many of their fellow-creatures are obliged to wander, without a friend to comfort or to affift them, find enmity in every law, and are too poor to obtain even justice.
I have been led into thefe reflections, from accidentally meeting some days ago, a poor fellow begging at one of the outlets of this town, with a wooden-leg: I was curious to learn what had reduced him to his prefent fituation; after giving him what I thought proper, defired to know the hiftory of his life and misfortunes, and the manner in which he was reduced to his present diftrefs. The difabled foldier, for fuch he was, with an intrepidity truly British, leaning on his crutch, put himfelf into an attitude to comply with my requeft, and gave me his hiftory as follows:
"As for misfortunes, Sir, I can't pretend to have gone through more than others. Except the lofs of my limbs, and my being obliged to beg, I don't know any reason, thank Heaven, that I have to complain: there are fome who have loft both legs and an eye; but, thank Heaven, it is not quite fo bad with me.
My father was a labourer in the country, and died when I was five years old; fo I was put upon the parish. As he had been a wandering fort of a man, the parishioners were not able to tell to what parifh I belonged, or where I was born: so they sent me to another parish, and that parish sent me to a third; till at last it was thought I belonged to no parish at all. At length, however, they
fixed me. I had fome difpofition to be a scholar, and had actually learned my letters; but the master of the work-house put me to business as foon as I was able to handle a mallet,
"Here I lived an eafy kind of a life for five years. I only wrought ten hours in the day, and had my meat and drink provided for my labour. It is true I was not fuffered to ftir far from the house, for fear I should run away: but what of that, I had the liberty of the whole house, and the yard before the door, and that was enough for
"I was next bound out to a farmer, where I was up both early and late, but I eat and drank well, and liked my business well enough, till he died. Being then obliged to provide for myself, I was refolved to go and feek my fortune. Thus I lived and went from town to town, working when I could get employment, and ftarving when I could get none, and might have lived fo ftill; but happening one day to go through a field belonging to a magistrate, I spyed a hare croffing the path just before me: I believe the devil put it in my head to fling my stick at it: well, what will you have on't? I killed the hare, and was bringing it away in triumph, when the justice himself met me: he called me a villian, and collaring me, defired I would give an account of myself. I began immediately to give a full account of all that I knew of my breed, feed, and generation: but though I gave a very long account, the justice said, I could give no account of myself; fo I was indicted, and found guilty of being poor, and fent to Newgate, in or. der to be transported to the Plantations.
People may fay this and that of being in jail; but for my part, I found Newgate as agreeable a place as ever I was in, in all my life. I had my belly full to eat and drink, and did no work; but alas! this kind of life was too good to last for ever! I was taken out of prison, after five months, put on board of a ship, and sent off with two hundred more. Our paffage was but indifferent, for we were all confined in the hold, and died very fast for want of sweet air and provisions; but for my part, I did not want meat, because I had a fever all the way; Providence was kind, when provifions grew fhort it took away my defire of eating. When we came on shore we were fold to the planters. I was bound for seven years, and as I was no scholar, (for I had forgot my letters,) I was obliged to work among the negroes; and ferved out my time, as in duty bound to do.
"When my time was expired I worked my passage home, and glad I was to fee Old England again, because I loved my country. O liberty! liberty! liberty! that is the property of every Englishman, and I will die in its defence: I was afraid, however, that I fhould be indicted for a vagabond once more, so did not much care to go into the country, but kept about town, and did little jobs when I could get them. I was very happy in this manner for fome time; till one evening, coming home from work, two men knocked me down, and then defired me to ftand still. They belonged to a prefs-gang; I was carried before the justice, and as I could give no account of myself (that was the thing that always hobbled me) I had my choice left, whether to go on board a man of war, or lift for a foldier; I chofe to be a foldier, and in this part of a gentleman I ferved two campaigns, was at the