Sidor som bilder

cation to the duties of their peculiar calling Another portion consists of those who voluntarily withdraw themselves from public affairs, either, as supposing there is no need of their interference; or from a love of retirement; or from a predominant pursuit of some particular object; or as reserving themselves for occasions of special service; and the propriety of their conduct depends on the justness of the views and principles by which they are severally determined. A third portion (which in this country I hope is not very numerous) is made up of the idle, the curious, the pragmatical, or the factious citizens; not unlike those whom we have endeavoured to describe in the last section.

The citizen to whom the present rule is directed, belongs to none of these classes. He is one who has leisure and influence; and who takes an honest as well as active interest in whatever relates to the general welfare. This is the citizen we wish to guard against the dangers stated in the title of this section; and whom we shall consider under the two following characters :

Either, first, as one whose superior talents and established reputation, enable him to co-operate occasionally with every party; and, when he sees fit, to act independently of them all. Or, secondly, as one who needs the regular aid and encouragement to be derived from an associated body, in order to bear him up in his public conduct, and to render his endeavours efficient.

I. There are in every age a few distinguished men, who, by the eminency of their virtues and talents, are formed to stand alone, and to act their own part with a noble spirit of independence; who, by the superiority of their views, are able to judge of all parties, and by their inflexible integrity and true patriotism, to unite with none of them further than the public good may require; and whose reputation is so well established, that, without suffering from any charge of weakness or duplicity, they can thus by turns co-operate with men of very different descriptions. They can vote to-day with the court, and to-morrow with the opposition; join with the whigs on one occasion, and with the torics on another; and still retain their place in the favourable opinion of their country *. .

For any man who is capable of sustaining such a character to enlist in a party, would certainly be degrading to himself, and might prove injurious to his country; which it is probable he could never serve so effectually, as when, by extending his care to all parties, he moderated the violence of one, softened the prejudices of another, excited and directed the efforts of a third, allayed their mutual animosities, and caused a variety of jarring passions and interests to conspire to the good of the whole. Even at the head of a ruling party, he might be less able to promote the common welfare, than by his acting more at a distance in the mild and conciliating character of a general moderator.

* Perhaps, in our own times, no man has approached nearer to this character than that eminent and disinterested patriot, the late Sir George Savile, Bart. to whom the writer of these lines is indebted for the leisure he enjoys; and to whose public and private virtues he gladly embraces this opportunity of offering his small, tribute.

The following anecdote may show in how high estimation this distinguished senator was held for his political integrity.-When thc Marquis of Rockingham was placed at the head of administration ; upon being congratulated on the support he might expect from such a friend as Sir George in the house of commons, he replied, “Sir, I doubt not of his support so long as I continue to act for the good of my country, should I do otherwise, he would be the first man to impeach me.”

II. To a citizen of the second description, (which comprehends a class much more numerous) who is disposed to take a part in public affairs, but is only qualified to act in concert with others; I would suggest a few obvious rules, which may be of use to direct him in his public conduct.

1. Let him be wary in his choice of a party. Let it be one which, among its other good properties, is disinterested in its views, modest in its professions, and temperate in its measures.

(1.) Disinterested in its views; that is, as much so as can be expected from such imperfect beings as men; from whom, if on the whole they prefer the general interest to their own, it is vain to look for more.

This is true of every man separately, and holds yet more strongly when they are united in a body, where the selfish passions act with less restraint, either from duty, fear, or shame. Should our well-meaning citizen mistake in this first point, instead of a party he would embrace a faction; and, under a notion of public good, might be made an instrument of mischief or of ruin to his country. .

(2.) Modest in its professions. When a party holds out large and magnificent promises, it is commonly a sure proof, either of its weakness, or of its bad designs; either that it is the dupe of its own vain presumption, or means to practise on the credulous simplicity of the vulgar. Should it say, advance us into power, and every evil shall find a remedy, poverty and toil, misery and oppression shall soon vanish out of the land, every virtue and talent shall meet with their honourable reward, and every vice with its merited punishment; it might as well tell us, that our oaks shall distil with honey, and the rocks pour out rivers of oil. Or should it pretend to a purity of princi

« FöregåendeFortsätt »