Obrazy na stronie

rational liberty, and that I think you bound, in all honeft policy, to provide a permanent body, in which that spirit may refide, and an effectual organ, by which it may act, it is my misfortune to entertain great doubts concerning several material points in your late tranfactions.

You imagined, when you wrote laft, that I might poffibly be reckoned among the approvers of certain proceedings in France, from the folemn public feal of fanction they have received from two clubs of gentlemen in London, called the Conftitutional Society, and, the Revolution Society.

I certainly have the honour to belong to more clubs than one, in which the conftitution of this kingdom and the principles of the glorious Revolution, are held in high reverence: and I reckon myself among the most forward in my zeal for maintaining that conftitution and thofe principles in their utmoft purity and vigour. It is because I do fo, that I think it neceffary for me, that there should be no mistake. Thofe who cultivate the memory of our revolution, and those who are attached to the conftitution of this kingdom, will take good care how they are involved with perfons who, under the pretext of zeal towards the Revolution and Conftitution, too frequently wander from their true principles; and are ready on every occafion to depart from the firm but cautious and deliberate fpirit which produced the one, and which prefides in the other. Before I proceed to answer the more material particulars

particulars in your letter, I fhall beg leave to give you fuch information as I have been able to obtain of the two clubs which have thought proper, as bodies, to interfere in the concerns of France; firft affuring you, that I am not, and that I have never been, a member of either of those focieties.

The firft, calling itself the Conftitutional Society, or Society for Conftitutional Information, or by fome fuch title, is, I believe, of feven or eight years ftanding. The inftitution of this fociety appears to be of a charitable, and fo far of a laudable, nature: it was intended for the circulation, at the expence of the members, of many books, which few others would be at the expence of buying; and which might lie on the hands of the bookfellers, to the great loss of an useful body of men. Whether the books fo charitably circulated, were ever as charitably read, is more than I know. Poffibly several of them have been exported to France; and, like goods not in request here, may with you have found a market. I have heard much talk of the lights to be drawn from books that are fent from hence. What improvements they have had in their paffage (as it is faid fome liquors are meliorated by croffing the fea) I cannot tell: But I never heard a man of common judgment, or the leaft degree of information, fpeak a word in praise of the greater part of the publications circulated by that fociety; nor have their proB 2 ceedings

ceedings been accounted, except by fome or themselves, as of any ferious confequence.

Your National Affembly feems to entertain much the fame opinion that I do of this poor charitable club. As a nation, you referved the whole ftock of your eloquent acknowledgments for the Revolution Society; when their fellows in the Conftitutional were, in equity, entitled to fome fhare. Since you have felected the Revolution Society as the great object of your national thanks and praifes, you will think me excufeable in making its late conduct the fubject of my obfervations. The National Affembly of France has given importance to thefe gentlemen by adopting them; and they return the favour, by acting as a fort of fub-committee in England for extending the principles of the National Affembly. Henceforward we muft confider them as a kind of privileged perfons; as no inconfiderable members in the diplomatic body. This is one among the revolutions which have given fplendour to obfcurity, and diftinction to undifcerned merit. Until very lately I do not recollect to have heard of this club. I. am quite fure that it never occupied a moment of my thoughts; nor, I believe, those of any perfon out of their own fet. I find, upon enquiry, that on the anniversary of the Revolution in 1688, a club of diffenters, but of what denomination I know not, have long had the custom of hearing a fermon in one of their

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churches; and that afterwards they spent the day cheerfully, as other clubs do, at the tavern. But I never heard that any public measure, or political fyftem, much less that the merits of the conftitution of any foreign nation, had been the fubject of a formal proceeding at their feftivals; until, to my inexpreffible furprize, I found them in a fort of public capacity, by a congratulatory addrefs, giving an authoritative fanction to the proceedings of the National Affembly in France.

In the antient principles and conduct of the club, fo far at least as they were declared, I fee nothing to which I, or any fober man, could poffibly take exception. I think it very probable, that for fome purpose, new members may have entered among them; and that fome truly christian politicians, who love to difpenfe benefits, but are careful to conceal the hand which diftributes the dole, may have made them the inftruments of their pious defigns. Whatever I may have reafon to fufpect concerning private management, I fhall fpeak of nothing as of a certainty, but what is public.

For one, I fhould be forry to be thought, directly or indirectly, concerned in their proceedings. I certainly take my full fhare, along with the rest of the world, in my individual and private capacity, in fpeculating on what has been done, or is doing, on the public stage; in any place antient or modern; in the republic of Rome, or the republic of Paris; but having no general

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general apoftolical miffion, being a citizen of a particular ftate, and being bound up in a confiderable degree, by its public will, I fhould think it, at least improper and irregular, for me to open a formal public correfpondence with the actual government of a foreign nation, without the exprefs authority of the government under which I live.

I should be still more unwilling to enter into that correfpondence, under any thing like an equivocal defcription, which to many, unacquainted with our ufages, might make the addrefs, in which I joined, appear as the act of perfons in fome fort of corporate capacity, acknowledged by the laws of this kingdom, and authorized to fpeak the fenfe of fome part of it. On account of the ambiguity and uncertainty of unauthorized general defcriptions, and of the deceit which may be practifed under them, and not from mere formality, the houfe of Commons would reject the moft fneaking petition for the most trifling object, under that mode of fignature to which you have thrown open the foldingdoors of your prefence chamber, and have ufhered into your National Affembly, with as much ceremony and parade, and with as great a bustle of applaufe, as if you had been vifited by the whole reprefentative majesty of the whole English nation. If what this fociety has thought proper to fend forth had been a piece of argument, it would have fignified little whofe argument it was. It would be neither the more nor


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