Page images
PDF
EPUB

prosperity would naturally continue trust in those hands which had used it fortunately. The patriots gratified themselves with expectations that some sinistrous accident, or erroneous conduct, might diffuse discontent and infiame malignity. Their hope is malevolence, and their good is evil.

Of their zeal for their country we have already had a specimen. While they were terrifying the nation with doubts whether it was any longer to exist; while they represented invasive armies as hovering in the clouds, and hostile fleets as emerging from the deeps ; they obstructed our levies of seamen, and embarraffed our endeavours of defence. Of such men he thinks with unnecessary candour who does not believe them likely to have promoted the miscarriage which they desired, by intimidating our troops or betraying our counsels.

It is considered as an injury to the Publick by those sanguinary statesmen, that though the fileet has been refitted and manned, yet no hoftilities have followed; and they who fat wishing for misery and slaughter are disappointed of their pleasure. But as peace is the end of war, it is the end likewise of

preparations for war; and he may be justly hunted down as the enemy of mankind, that can choose to snatch by violence and bloodshed, what gentler means can equally obtain

The ministry are reproached as `not daring to provoke an enemy, lest ill success should discredit and displace them. I hope that they had better reasons; that they paid some regard to equity and humanity; and considered themselves as entrusted with the safety of their fellow-subjects, and as the

destroyers

destroyers of all that should be fuperfluously Naughtered. But let us suppose that their own safety had fome influence on their conduct, they will not, however, sink to a level with their enemies. Though the motive might be selfish, the act was innocent. They who grow rich by administering physick, are not to be numbered with them that get money by dispensing poison. If they maintain power by harmlessness and peace, they must for ever be at a great distance from ruffians who would gain it by mischief and confusion. The watch of a city may guard it for hire ; but are well employed in protecting it from those who lie in wait to fire the streets and rob the houses amidst the conflagration.

An unsuccessful war would undoubtedly have had the effect which the enemies of the ministry so earnestly desire ; for who could have sustained the disgrace of folly ending in misfortune? But bad wanton invasion undeservedly prospered, had Falk. land's Island been yielded unconditionally with every right prior and posterior; though the rabble might have shouted, and the windows have blazed, yet those who know the value of life, and the uncertainty of publick credit, would have murmured, perhaps unheard, at the increase of our debt and the loss of our people.

This thirst of blood, however the visible pro, moters of fedition may think it convenient to shrink from the accusation, is loudly avowed by Junius, the writer to whom his party owes much of its pride, and some of its popularity. Of Junius it cannot be said, as of Ulybes, that he scatters ambi8

guous

guous expressions among the vulgar; for he cries havock without reserve, and endeavours to let slip the dogs of foreign or of civil war, ignorant whither they are going, and careless what may be their prey.

Junius has sometimes made his satire felt, but let not injudicious admiration mistake the venom of the fhaft for the vigour of the bow. He has sometimes sported with lucky malice; but to him that knows his company, it is not hard to be sarcastick in a mask. While he walks like Jack the Giant-killer in a coat of darkness, he may do much mischief with little strength. Novelty captivates the superficial and thoughtless; vehemence delights the discontented and turbulent. He that contradicts acknowledged truth, will always have an audience; he that vilifies established authority will always find abet tors.

Junius burst into notice with a blaze of impudence which has rarely glared upon the world before, and drew the rabble after him as a monster makes a show. When he had once provided for his fafety by impenetrable secrecy, he had nothing to combat but truth and justice, enemies whom he knows to be feeble in the dark. Being then at liberty to indulge himself in all the immunities of invisibility; out of the reach of danger, he has been bold; out of the reach of shame, he has been confident. As a rhetorician, he has had the art of persuading when he seconded desire; as a reasoner, he has convinced those who had no doubt before; as a moralist, he has taught that virtue may disgrace; and as a patriot, he has gratified the mean by insults on the high. Finding sedition ascendant, Vol. VIII.

K

he

he has been able to advance it ; finding the nation combustible, he has been able to infiame it. Let us abstract from his wit the vivacity of insolence, and withdraw from his efficacy the sympathetick favour of plebeian malignity; I do not say that we shall leave him nothing; the cause that I defend scorns the help of falsehood; but if we leave him only his merit, what will be his praise ?

It is not by his liveliness of imagery, his pungency of periods, or his fertility of allusion, that he detains the cits of London, and the boors of Middlesex. Of style and sentiment they take no cognizance. They admire him for virtues like their own, for contempt of order and violence of outrage, for rage of defama : tion and audacity of falsehood. The supporters of the Bill of Rights feel no niceties of composition, nor dexterities of fophiftry; their faculties are better proportioned to the bawl of Bellas, or barbarity of Beckford; but they are told that Junius is on their fide, and they are therefore sure that Junius is infallible. Those who know not whither he would lead them, resolve to follow him; and those who cannot find his meaning, hope he means rebellion.

Junius is an unusual phænomenon, on which some have gazed with wonder and some with terrour, but wonder and terrour are transitory passions. He will foon be more closely viewed or more attentively examined, and what folly has taken for a comet that from its flaming hair shook peftilence and war, inquiry will find to be only a meteor formed by the vapours of putrefying democracy, and kindled into flame by the effervescence of interest struggling with con

viction;

vićtion; which after having plunged its followers in a bog, will leave us inquiring why we regard it.

Yet though I cannot think the style of Junius fecure from criticism, though his expressions are often trite, and his periods feeble, I should never have stationed him where he has placed himself, had I not rated him by his morals rather than his faculties. What, says Pope, must be the priest, where a monkey is the god? What must be the drudge of a party of which the heads are Wilkes and Crosby, Sawbridge and Townsend ?

Junius knows his own meaning, and can therefore tell it. He is an enemy to the ministry, he sees them growing hourly stronger. He knows that a war at once unjust and unsuccessful would have certainly displaced them, and is therefore, in his zeal for his country, angry that war was not unjustly made, and unsuccessfully conducted. But there are others whose thoughts are less clearly expressed, and whose schemes perhaps are less consequentially digested ; who declare that they do not wish for a rupture, yet condemn the ministry for not doing that, by which a rupture would naturally have been made.

If one party resolves to demand what the other resolves to refuse, the dispute can be determined only by arbitration; and between powers who have no common superiour, there is no other arbitrator than the sword.

Whether the ministry might not equitably have demanded more, is not worth a question. The utmost exertion of right is always invidious, and where claims are not easily determinable is always dangerous.

« PreviousContinue »