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the lefs convincing on account of the party it came from. But this is only a vote and refolution. It ftands folely on authority; and in this cafe it is the mere authority of individuals, few of whom appear. Their fignatures ought, in my opinion, to have been annexed to their inftrument. The world would then have the means of knowing how many they are; who they are; and of what value their opinions may be, from their perfonal abilities, from their knowledge, their experience, or their lead and authority in this state. To me, who am but a plain man, the proceeding looks a little too refined, and too ingenious; it has too much the air of a political stratagem, adopted for the fake of giving, under an high-founding name, an importance to the public declarations of this club, which, when the matter came to be closely infpected, they did not altogether fo well deserve. It is a policy that has very much the complexion of a fraud.
I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman of that fociety, be he who he will; and perhaps I have given as good proofs of my attachment to that caufe, in the whole courfe of my public conduct. I think I envy liberty as little as they do, to any other nation. But I cannot stand forward, and give praife or blame to any thing which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a fimple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakednefs and folitude of metaphyfical abftraction. Circumftances
ftances (which with fome gentlemen pafs for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its diftinguishing colour, and difcriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political fcheme beneficial or noxious to mankind. Abstractedly speaking, government, as well as liberty, is good; yet could I, in common fenfe, ten years ago, have felicitated France on her enjoyment of a government (for fhe then had a government) without enquiry what the nature of that government was, or how it was administered? Can I now congratulate the fame nation upon its freedom? Is it because liberty in the abftract may be claffed amongst the bleffings of mankind, that I am seriously to felicitate a madman, who has escaped from the protecting restraint and wholesome darkness of his cell, on his restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Am I to congratulate an highwayman and murderer, who has broke prifon, upon the recovery of his natural rights? This would be to act over again the scene of the criminals condemned to the gallies, and their heroic deliverer, the metaphyfic Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.
When I fee the fpirit of liberty in action, I fee a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can poffibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air is plainly broke loofe: but we ought to fufpend our judgment until the firft effervefcence is a little fubfided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we fee fomething deeper
than the agitation of a troubled and frothy furface. I must be tolerably fure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a bleffing, that they have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver; and adulation is not of more fervice to the people than to kings. I should therefore fufpend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was informed how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the difcipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-diftributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the folidity of property; with peace and order; with civil and focial manners. All these (in their way) are good things too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lafts, and is not likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to fee what it will please them to do, before we rifque congratulations, which may be foon turned into complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the cafe of feparate infulated private men; but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Confiderate people before they declare themselves will obferve the ufe which is made of power; and particularly of fo trying a thing as new power in new perfons, of whofe principles, tempers, and difpofitions, they have little or no experience, and in fituations where thofe who appear the most stirring in the fcene may poffibly
not be the real movers.
All these confiderations however were below the trafcendental dignity of the Revolution, Society, Whilft I continued in the country, from whence I had the honour of writing to you, I had but an imperfect idea of their tranfactions. On my coming to town, I fent for an account of their proceedings, which had been published by their authority, containing a fermon of Dr. Price, with the Duke de Rochefaucault's and the Archbishop of Aix's letter, and feveral other documents annexed. The whole of that publication, with the manifest design of connecting the affairs of France with those of England, by drawing us into an imitation of the conduct of the National Affembly, gave me a confiderable degree of uneafinefs. The effect of that conduct upon the power, credit, profperity, and tranquillity of France, became every day more evident. The form of conftitution to be fettled, for its future polity, became more clear, We are now in a condition to difcern, with tolerable exactnefs, the true nature of the object held up to our imitation. If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates filence in fame circumstances, in others prudence of an higher order may justify us in fpeaking our thoughts. The beginnings of confufion with us in England are at present feeble enough; but with you, we have seen an infancy fill more feeble, growing by moments into a ftrength to heap mountains upon mountains, and to wage war with Heaven itself, Whenever our neighbour's houfe is on fire, it
cannot be amifs for the engines to play a little on our own. Better to be despised for too anxious apprehenfions, than ruined by too confident a fecurity.
Sollicitous chiefly for the peace of my own country, but by no means unconcerned for your's, I wish to communicate more largely, what was at firft intended only for your private fatisfaction. I fhall ftill keep your affairs in my eye, and continue to address myself to you. Indulging myself in the freedom of epiftolary intercourfe, I beg leave to throw out my thoughts, and exprefs my feelings, just as they arife in my mind, with very little attention to formal method. I fet out with the proceedings of the Revolution Society; but I fhall not confine myself to them. Is it poffible I fhould? It looks to me as if I were in a great crifis, not of the affairs of France alone, but of all Europe, perhaps of more than Europe. All circumftances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about in many inftances by means the most abfurd and ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and apparently, by the most contemptible inftruments. Every thing feems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all forts of crimes jumbled together with all forts of follies. In viewing this monstrous tragi-comic fcene, the most oppofite paffions neceffarily fucceed, and fometimes mix