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to be actuated by a spirit of political innovation.
This jealousy ought eminently to be directed against those who are not only dissatisfied with particular laws and institutions, but would have the whole civil state dissolved, all rank, and title, and property abolished, and the entire political system recomposed after a better model. To such enterprizing revolutionists, a good citizen might be supposed thus to address himself: Your ideas, it must be acknowledged, are bold, and bespeak the genius of modern philosophy. But do you understand clearly what you mean by a better model; and have you well considered, that it is often better to adapt the form to the matter, than with violence to reduce the matter to the form? Have you seriously counted the cost, and are you sure that the probable benefit is greater than the certain risk? If not, you are a dangerous projector; and had you power to enforce your speculations, might prove a fatal enemy to your country. To which he might add, that no prudent man would pull down his mansion, the ancient residence of his family, and the admiration of all beholders, at the suggestion of some modish architect, that it was old, that it was built at different periods, and therefore irregular, having some apartments too large, and others too small, with many winding and narrow passages; if it was probable that, notwithstanding all its imperfections, a better would not be erected in its stead.
It is not meant by this to insinuate, that the political state of a country may not be such as to render a general revolution advisable, provided it can be accomplished without war and violence; nay, further, it might be allowed, that the necessity of the case may be so great and pressing, as to justify even a recourse to arms, after every gentler method had been tried without effect. Short of this unhappy necessity, a wise man will be disposed to sit down quietly, and make the best of the existing circumstances; while things remain tolerable he will be satisfied, as knowing that human life, in its ordinary tenor, admits of nothing more.
Another consideration which may help to
guard us against wrong impressions from Utopian projectors, is, that the question of laws and government ought to be determined by the relation they bear to the particular circumstances in which a people are placed. A nation during its youth, while simple manners prevail, and the principles of industry ando frugality continue in vigour, requires much less wisdom to manage it than an old nation, refined to artificial life, and in possession of the objects which the other is striving to obtain. In this stage, it is hardly possible to recover a country to its sober habits, or to preserve it from the fatal consequences of inveterate vice and dissipation; and to charge upon the existing government all the evils which have been accumulating, perhaps, for ages, must be highly unreasonable and unjust. Moreover, to the moral situation of a people, must be added their political habits, which often dispose them to regard, with a favourable partiality, even the defects of the government they have been long under; which,
therefore, on the whole, may suit them "better than another theoretically more perfect *. And it is good for every man to cherish in himself and his fellow-citizens, a generous predilection for the political frame and constitution of his own country, without invidiously comparing it with that of others. As when Sir Jaines Melvil was asked by Queen Elizabeth, whether herself or the Queen of Scots was the greater beauty; after a prudent pause upon so deli
* “ Rien ne parut plus insupportable aux Germains, que le tribunal de Varus. Celui que Justinien érigea chez les Laziens, pour faire le procés au meurtrièr de leur roi, leur parut une chose horrible et barbare. Mithridate haranguant contre les Romains, leur reproche sur-tout les formalités de leur justice. Les Parthes ne purent supporter ce roi, qui ayant été élevé à Rome se rendit affable, et accessible à tout le monde. La liberté même a paru insupportable à des peuples, qui n'etoient pas accoutumés à en jouir. C'est ainsi qu'un air pur est quelquefois nuisible à ceux qui ont vécu dans · des païs marécageux.
“Un Venitien nommé Balbi, étant au Pégu, fut introduit chez le roi. Quand celui-ci apprit qu'il n'y avoit point de roi à Venise, il fit un si grand éclat de rire, qu'une toux le prit, et qu'il eut beaucoup de peine à parler à ses courtisans. Quel est le législateur qui pourroit proposer le governement populaire à des peuples pareils ?”
MONTESQ. liv. xix. ch. 2.
cate a question, replied, “ Your majesty is the fairest woman in England, and my mistress in Scotland.”
The British constitution has now for a considerable period been the object of zealous attachment at home, and of admiration abroad; after struggling through the obstructions of many ages, it attained at the revolution to a purity and vigour, which has given an energy before unknown to the exertions of a great nation, in manufactures and commerce, in arts and sciences; while every good citizen has reposed in security under its shadow. It must therefore be perfect madness, after such experience of its effects, to aim a blow at the root, and attempt its extirpation, instead of prudently endeavouring to lop away the decayed, or prune the luxuriant branches.
Another reason against Utopian politics, is the example of the Jewish nation. Never was there a people that had statutes and judgments so righteous, besides the privilege of consulting the divine oracle upon every extraordinary emergence. Never was there a civil constitution better calcu