An Essay Picked by blupete

"On Court Influence" 1

January 3, 1818

"To be honest as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand."
It is not interest alone, but prejudice or fashion that sways mankind. Opinion governs opinion. It is not merely what we can get by a certain line of conduct that we have to consider, but what others will think of it. The possession of money is but one mode of recommending ourselves to the good opinion of the world, of securing distinction and respect. Except as a bribe to popularity, money is of very limited value. Avarice is (oftener than we might at first suspect) only vanity in disguise. We should not want fine clothes or fine houses, an equipage or livery-servants, but for what others will think of us for having or wanting them. The chief and most expensive commodity that money is laid out in purchasing, is respect. Money, like other things, is worth no more than it will fetch. It is a passport into society: but if other things will answer the same purpose, as beauty, birth, wit, learning, desert in art or arms, dress, behavior, the want of wealth is not felt as a very severe privation. If a man, who, on whatever pretensions, is received into good company, behaves with propriety and converses rationally, it is inquired after he is gone, nor once thought of while he is present, whether he is rich or poor. In a mixed intercourse of private society every one finds his level, in proportion as he can contribute to its amusement or information. It is even more so in the general intercourse of the world, where a poet and a man of genius (if extrinsic circumstances make any difference) is as much courted and run after for being a common ploughman, as for being a peer of the realm. Burns, had he been living, would have started fair the Lord Byron in the race of popularity, and would not have lost it.

The temptation to men in public life to swerve from the path of duty, less frequently arises from a sordid regard to their private interests, than from an undue deference to popular applause. A want of political principle is, in nine cases out of ten, a want of firmness of mind to differ with those around us, and to stand the brunt of their avowed hostility or secret calumnies.

"But still the world and its dread laugh prevails!"
An honest man is one whose sense of right and wrong is stronger than his anxiety that others should think or speak well of him. A man in the same sense forfeits his character for political integrity, whose love of truth truckles to his false shame and cringing complaisance, and who tampers with his own convictions, that he may stand well with the world. A man who sells his opinion merely to gain by his profligacy, is not a man without public principle, but common honesty. He ranks in the same class with a highwayman or a pickpocket.--It is true, interest and opinion are in general linked together; but opinion flies before, and interest comes limping after. As a woman first loses her virtue through her heart, so the yielding patriot generally sacrifices his character to his love of reputation.

It is usually supposed by those who make no distinction between the highest point of integrity and the lowest mercenariness, that Mr Burke changed his principles to gain a pension: and that this was the main-spring of his subsequent conduct. We do not think so; though this may have been one motive, and a strong one to a needy and extravagant man. But the pension which he received was something more than a mere grant of money--it was a mark of royal favour, it was a tax upon public opinion. If any thing were wanting to fix his veering loyalty, it was the circumstances of the king's having his "Reflections on the French Revolution" bound in morocco (not an unsuitable binding), and giving it to all his particular fiends, saying "It was a book which every gentleman ought to read!" This praise would go as far with a vain man as a pension with a needy one; and we may be sure, that if there were any lurking seeds of a leaning to the popular side remaining in the author's breast, he would after this lose no time in rooting them out of the soil, that his works might reflect the perfect image of his royal master's mind, and have no plebeian stains left to sully it. Kings are great critics: they are the fountain of honour; the judges of merit. After such an authority had pronounced it "a book which every gentleman ought to read," what gentleman could refuse to read, or dare to differ with it? With what feelings a privy-counsellor would open the leaves of a book, which the king had had richly bound, and presented with his own hand! How lords of the bed-chamber would wonder at the profound arguments! How peeresses in their own right must simper over the beautiful similes! How the judges must puzzle over it! How the bishops would bless themselves at the number of fine things; our great classical scholars, Doctors Parr and Burney, sit down for the first time in their lives to learn English, to write themselves into a bishopric! Burke had long laboured hard to attain a doubtful pre-eminence. He had worked his way into public notice by talents which were thought specious rather than solid, and by sentiments which were obnoxious to some, suspected by others. His connexions and his views were ambiguous. He professedly espoused the cause of the people, and found it as hard to defend himself against popular jealousy as ministerial resentment. He saw court-lacqueys put over his head; and country squires elbowing him aside. He was neither understood by friends nor enemies. He was opposed, thwarted, cross-questioned, and obliged to present a "certificate of merit" (as he himself says) at every stage of his progress through life. But the king's having pronounced that "his book was one which every gentlemen ought to read," floated him at once out of the flats and shallows in which his voyage of popularity had been bound, into the full tide of court-favour; settled all doubts; smoothed all difficulties; rubbed off old scores; made the crooked straight, and the rough plain; --what was obscure, became profound;--what was extravagant, lofty; every sentiment was liberality, every expression elegance; and from that time to this, Burke has been the oracle of every dull venal pretender to taste and wisdom. Those who had never heard of or despised him before, now joined in his praise. He became a fashion; he passed into a proverb; he was an idol in the eyes of his readers, as much as he could ever, in the days of his youthful vanity, have been in his own; he was dazzled with his own popularity; and all this was owing to the king. No wonder he was delighted with the change, infatuated with it, infuriated! It was better to him than four thousand pounds a-year for his own life, and fifteen hundred a year for his widow during the joint-lives of four other persons. It was what all his life he had been aiming at.--"Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all!" It was what the nurses had prophecied of him, and what the school-boy had dreamt; and tickled his vanity more than his pension: it was this that raised his gratitude, that melted his obdurate pride, and it opened the sluices of his heart to the poison of corruption, that exorcised the low, mechanic, vulgar, morose, sour principles of liberty clean out of him, left his mind "swept and garnished," parched and dry, fevered with revenge, bloated with adulation; and made him as shameless and abandoned in sacrificing every feeling of attachment or obligation to the people, as he had before been bold and prodigal in heaping insult and contumely upon the throne. He denounced his former principles, in the true spirit of an apostate, with a fury equal to the petulant and dogmatical tone in which he had asserted them; and then proceeded to abuse all those who doubted the honesty or wisdom of this change of opinion. He, in short, looked upon every man as his enemy who did not think "his book fit for a gentleman to read;" and would willingly have committed every such presumptuous sceptic to the flames for not bowing down in servile adoration before this idol for his vanity and reputation. Hence the frantic philippics in his latter revolutionary speeches and writings, and the alteration from a severe and stately style of eloquence and reasoning in his earlier compositions to the most laboured paradoxes and wildest declamation. We do not mean to say that his latest works did not display the greatest genius. His native talents, blazed out, undisguised and unconfined in them. Indignatio facit versus. Burke's best Muse was his vanity or spleen. He felt quite at home in giving vent to his personal spite and venal malice. He pleaded his own cause and the cause of the passions better and with more eloquence, than he ever pleaded the cause of truth and justice. He felt the one rankling in his heart with all their heat and fury; he only conceived the other with his understanding coldly and circuitously.--The "Letters of William Burke" give one, however, a low idea of Burke's honesty, even in a pecuniary point of view.--(See Barry's "Life.") He constantly tells Barry, as a source of consolation to his friend, and a compliment to his brother, "that though his party and not hitherto been successful, or had not considered him as they ought, matters were not so bad with him but that he could still afford to be honest, and not desert the cause." This is very suspicious. This querulous tone of disappointment, and cockering up of his boasted integrity, must have come from Burke himself; who would hardly have expressed such a sentiment, if it had not been frequently in his thoughts; or if he had not made out a previous debtor and creditor account between preferment and honesty, as one of the regular principles of his political creed.

The same narrow view of the subject, drawn from a supposition that money, or interest in the grossest sense, is the only inducement to a dereliction of principle or sinister conduct, has been applied to shew the sincerity of the present laureate in his change of opinions; for it was said that the paltry salary of 100£. a year was not a sufficient temptation to any man of common sense, and who had other means of gaining an ample livelihood honourbly, to give up his principles and his party, unless he did so conscientiously. That is not the real alternative of the case. It is not the hundred pounds salary; it is the honour, (some may think it a disgrace) conferred along with it, that enhances the prize. "And with it words of so sweet breath composed as made the gift more rare."* It is the introduction to Carlton-House, the smile, the squeeze by the hand that awaits him there, "escap'd from Pyrrho's maze and Epicurus' sty." The being presented at court is worth more than a hundred pounds a-year. A person with a hundred thousand pounds a-year can only be presented at court, and would consider it the greatest mortification to be shut out. It is the highest honour in the land; and Mr Southey, by accepting his place and discarding his principles, receives that highest honour as a matter of course, in addition to his salary and his butt of sack. He is ushered into the royal presence as by a magic charm, the palace-gates fly open at the sight of his laurel-crown, and he stands in the midst of "Britain's warriors her statesmen, and her fair," as if suddenly dropped from the clouds. Is this nothing to a vain man? Is it nothing to the author of "Wat Tyer" and "Joan of Arc" to have those errors of his youth veiled in the honours of his riper years? To fill the poetic throne of Dryden, of Shadwell, of Cibber, and of Pye? To receive distinctions which Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton never received, and to chaunt to the unaverted ear of sovereignty strains such as they never sung? To be seen on each returning birth-day joining the bright throng, the lengthened procession, gay, gilt, painted, coronetted, garlanded, that as it passes to and from St James's, all London, in sunshine or in shower, pours out to gaze at? We tremble for the consequences, should any thing happen to disturb the Laureate in his dream of perfect felicity. Racine died broken-hearted, because Louis XIV. frowned upon him as he passed; and yet Racine was as great a poet and as pious a man as Mr Southey.
*We hope Mr Southey has not found the truth of the latter part of the passage. "Rich gifts wax poor, when givers prove unkind." To move in the highest circles, to be in favour at courts, to be familiar with princes, is then an object of ambition, which may be supposed to fascinate a less romantic mind than Mr Southey's setting the lucrativeness of his conversion out of the question. Many persons have paid dear for this proud elevation, with bankrupt health and beggared fortunes. How many are ready to do so still! Mr Southey only paid for it with his opinion; and some people think it as much as his opinion was worth. Are we to suppose Mr Southey's vanity of so sordid a kind, that it must be bribed by his avarice? Might not the Poet-laureate be supposed to catch at a title or a blue ribbon, if it were offered him, without a round salary attached to it?

Why do country gentleman wish to get into parliament, but to be seen there? Why do overgrown merchants and rich nabobs wish to sit there, like so many overgrown schoolboys? Look at the hundreds of thousands of pounds squandered in contested elections? It is not "gain but glory" that provokes the combatants. Do you suppose that these persons expect to repay themselves by making a market of their constituents, and selling their votes to be best bidder? No: but they wish to be thought to have the greatest influence, the greatest number of friends and adherents in their county; and they will pay any price for it. We put into the lottery, indeed, in hopes of what we can get, but in the lottery of life honour is the great prize. It is the opinion of the people for which the candidate at the election contends; and on the same principles he will barter the opinion of the people, their rights and liberty, and his own independence and character, not for gold, but for the friendship of a court-favourite. Not that gold has not its weight too, for the great and powerful have that also to bestow:--it is true, that

----------"In their Livery
Walk Crowns and Crownets, Realms and Islands
As Plates drop from their Pockets."
But opinion is still a more insinuating and universal menstruum for dissolving honesty. That sweet smile that hangs on princes' favours is more effectual than even the favours themselves!


On Court Influence (Concluded)

January 10, 1818

"To be honest as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten "thousand."
We are all of us more or less the slaves of opinion. There is no one, however mean or insignificant, whose approbation is altogether indifferent to us; whose flattery does not please, whose contempt does not mortify us. There is an atmosphere of this sort always about us, from which we can no more withdraw ourselves than from the air we breathe. But the air of a Court is the concentrated essence of the opinion of the world. The atmosphere there is mephitic. It is a subtle poison, the least exhalation of which taints the vitals of its victims. It is made up of servile adulation, of sneering compliments, of broken promises, of smiling professions, of stifled opinions, of hollow thanks, of folly and lies--
"Soul-killing lies, and truths that work small good."
It is infected with the breath of flatterers, and the thoughts of Kings! Let us now see how its influence descends:--from the King to the people, to his Ministers first, from the Ministers to both Houses of Parliament, from Lords to ladies, from the Clergy to the Laity, from the high to the low, from the rich to the poor, and "pierces through the body of the city, country, court"--it is beauty, birth, wit, learning, riches numbers; it is fear and favour; it has all the splendour that can seduce, all the power that can intimidate, all the interest that can corrupt, on its side; so that the opinion of the King is the opinion of the nation; and if that opinion is not a wise one, hangs like millstone round its neck, oppresses it like a night-mare, weighs upon it like lead, makes truth a lie, right wrong, converts liberty into slavery, peace into war, plenty to famine, turns the heads of a whole people, and bows their bodies to the earth. "Whosoever shall stumble against this stone, it shall bruise him: but whomsoever it falls upon, it shall grind him to powder." The whisper of a King rounded in the ear of a favourite is re-echoed back in speeches and votes of Parliament, in addresses and resolutions from associations in town and country, drawls from the pulpit, brawls from the bar, resounds like the thunder of a people's voice, roars in the cannon's mouth, and disturbs the peace of nations. The frown of monarchs is like the speck seen in the distant horizon, which soon spreads and darkens the whole hemisphere. Who is there in his senses that can withstand the gathering storm, or oppose himself to this torrent of opinion setting in upon him from the throne and absorbing by degrees every thing in its vortex--undermining every principle of independence, confounding every distinction of the understanding, and obliterating every trace of liberty? To argue against it, is like arguing against the motion of the world with which we are carried along: its influence is as powerful and as imperceptible. To question it, is folly; to resist it, madness. To differ with the opinion of a whole nation, seems as presumptuous as it were unwise: and yet the very circumstance which makes it so uniform, is that which makes it worth nothing. Authority is more absolute than reason. Truth curtesies to power. No arguments could persuade ten millions of men in one country to be all of one mind, and thirty millions of another country to be of just the contrary one; but the word of a King does it! We do not like to differ from the company we are in. How much more difficult is it to brave the opinion of the world! No man likes to be frowned out of society. No man likes to be without sympathy. He must be a proud man indeed who can do without it; and proud men do not like to be made a mark for "scorn to point his low and moving finger at." No man likes to be thought the enemy of his king and country, without just cause. No man likes to be called a fool or a knave, merely because he is not a fool and a knave. It is not desirable to have to answer arguments backed with informations filed ex officio; it is not amusing to become a bye-word with the mob. A nickname is the hardest stone that the devil can throw at a man. It will knock down any man' s resolution. It will stagger his reason. It will tame, his pride. Fasten it upon any man, and he will try to shake it off, at any rate, though he should part with honour and honesty along with it. To be shut out from public praise or private friendship, is to be lampooned in newspapers or Anti-Jacobin reviews, to be looked blank upon in company, is not "a consummation devoutly to be wished." The unfavourable opinion of others gives you a bad opinion of yourself or them; and neither of these conduces to persevering, high-minded integrity. To wish to serve mankind, we should think well of them. To be able to serve them, they should think well of us. To keep well with the public, is not more necessary to a man's private interest than to his general utility. It is a hopeless task to be always striving against the stream: it is a thankless one to be in a state of perpetual litigation with the community. The situation of a strange dog in a country town, barked at and worried by all the curs in the village, is about as enviable as that a person who affects singularity in politics. What is a man to do who gets himself into this predicament, in an age when patriotism is a misnomer in language, and public principle a solecism in fact? If he cannot bring the world round to his opinion, he must as a forlorn hope go over to theirs, and be content to be knave--or nothing.

Such is the force of opinion, that we would undertake to drive a first Ministers from his place and out of the country, by merely being allowed to hire a number of dirty boys to hoot him along the streets from his own house to the treasury and from the treasury back again. How would a certain distinguished character, remarkable for uniting the suaviter in modo, with the fortiter in re, and who, with an invariable consistency in his political principles, carries the easiness of his temper to a degree of apparent non-chalance, bear to have a starling in his neighbourhood taught to repeat nothing but Walcheren, or to ring the changes in his ears upon the names of Castles, Oliver, and Reynolds? Can we wonder then at the feats which such Ministers have performed with the Attorney-General at their backs, and the country at their heels, in full cry against every one who was not a creature of the Ministers,--for whose morals they could not vouch as government -spies, or whose talents they did not reward as government-critics?--Mr Coleridge, in his Literary Biography, lately published, complains with pathetic bitterness of the wanton and wilful slanders formerly circulated with so much zeal in the Anti-Jacobin against himself, Mr Southey, and his other poetical friends, merely for a difference of political opinion; and he significantly assigns these slanders as the reason why himself and his friend remained so long adverse to the party who were the authors of them! We will venture to go a little further, and say, that they were not only the reason of their long estrangement from the Court-party, but of their final reconciliation to it. They had time to balance, and reflect, and to make a choice of evils--they deliberated between the loss of principle and of character, and they were undone. They thought it better to be the accomplices of venality and corruption than the mark for them to shoot their arrows at: they took shelter from the abuse by joining in the cry. Mr Southey says that he has not changed his principles, but that circumstances have changed, and that he has grown wiser from the events of five-and-twenty years. How is it that his present friend and associate in the Quarterly Review, who was formerly a contributor to the Beauties of the Anti-Jacobin, has not changed too? The world has gone round in his time too, but he remains firm to his first principles. He worships the sun wherever he sees it. Court-favour, "the cynosure of longing eyes," sheds a more steady influence on its votaries than vague popularity. The confined, artificial air of a Court has a wonderful effect in stopping that progress of the mind with the march of events, of which Mr Southey boasts, and prematurely fixes the volatility of genius in a caput mortuum of prejudice and servility, in those who are admitted within the magic circle! The Anti-Jacobin poet and orator, Mr Canning, has not become a renegado to the opinions of the Court: the Jacobin poet and prose-writer, Mr Southey, has become a renegado to his own.--In an article in the Quarterly Review (some months back) there was an argument to shew that the late war against France was all along the undoubted result of popular opinion, "because from the first party-spirit ran so high upon this subject, that any one who expressed an opinion against it did so at the hazard of his reputation, fortune, or even life." The author of this singular argument, we believe, was one of those, who did not at the critical period here alluded to approve of it, and who has since become a convert to its justice and humanity. His own statement may account for his change of opinion. What a pity for a man to hazard his life and fortune in a cause by maintaining an opinion, and to lose his character afterwards by relinquishing it. The present Poet-laureate has missed indeed the crown of martyrdom, and has gained a crown of laurel in its stead!

The same consistent writers, and friends of civil and religious liberty, who are delighted with the restoration of the Bourbons, of the Pope, and the Inquisition, have lately made an attempt to run down the Dissenters in this country; and in this they are right. They dwell with fondness on "the single-heartedness of the Spanish nation," who are slaves and bigots to a man, and scoff at the Presbyterians and Independents of this country (who ousted Popery and slavery at the Revolution, and who had a main hand in placing and continuing the present family on the throne) as but half-Englishmen, and as equally dissaffected to Church and State. There is some ground for the antipathy of our political changelings to a respectable, useful, and conscientious body of men: and we will here, in discharge of an old debt, say what this ground is. If it were only meant that the Dissenters are but half Englishmen, because they were not professed slaves--that they are disaffected to the Constitution in Church and State, because they are not prepared to go all the lengths of despotism and intolerance under a Protestant hierarchy and Constitutional King, which they resisted "at the peril of their characters, their fortunes, and their lives," under a persecuting priesthood and an heriditary Pretender, this would be well: but there is more in it than this. Our sciolists would persuade us that the different sects are hot-beds of sedition, because they are nurseries of public spirit, and independence, and sincerity of opinion in all other respects. They are so necessarily, and by the supposition. They are Dissenters from the Established Church: they submit voluntarily to certain privations, they incur a certain portion of obloquy and ill-will, for the sake of what they believe to be the truth: they are not time-servers in the face of the evidence, and that is sufficient to expose them to the instinctive hatred and ready ribaldry of those who think venality the first of virtues, and prostitution of principle the best sacrifice a man can make to the Graces or his Country. The Dissenter does not change his sentiments with the seasons: he does not suit his conscience to his convenience This is enough to condemn him for a pestilent fellow. He will not give up his principles because they are unfashionable, therefore he is not to be trusted. He speaks his mind bluntly and honestly, therefor he is a secret disturber of the peace, a dark conspirator against the State. On the contrary, the different sects in this country are, or have been, the steadfast supporters of its liberties and laws: they are checks and barriers against the insidious or avowed encroachments of arbitrary power, as effectual and indispensable as any others in the Constitution: they are depositaries of a principle as sacred and somewhat rarer than a devotion to Court-influence--we mean the love of truth. It is hard for any one to be an honest politician who is not born and bred a Dissenter. Nothing else can sufficiently inure and steel a man against he prevailing prejudices of the world, but that habit of mind which arises from non-conformity to its decisions in matters of religion. There is a natural alliance between the love of Civil and religious liberty as much as between Church and State. Protestantism was the first school of political liberty in Europe: Presbyterianism has been one great support of it in England The sectary in religion is taught to appeal to his own bosom for the truth and sincerity of his opinions, and to arm himself with stern indifference to what others think of them. This will no doubt often produce a certain hardness of manner and cold repulsiveness of feeling in trifling matters, but it is the only sound discipline of truth, or inflexible honesty in politics as well as in religion. The same principle of independent inquiry and unbiassed conviction which makes him reject all undue interference between his Maker and his conscience, will give a character of uprightness and disregard of personal consequences to his conduct and sentiments in what concerns the most important relations between man and man. He neither subscribes to the dogmas of priests, nor truckles to the mandates of Ministers. He has a ridged sense of duty which renders him superior to the caprice, the prejudices, and injustice of the world; and the same habitual consciousness of rectitude of purpose which leads him to rely for his self-respect on the testimony of his own heart, enables him to disregard the groundless malice and rash judgments of his opponents. It is in vain for him to pay his court to the world, to fawn upon power; he labours under certain insurmountable disabilities for becoming a candidate of its favour: he dares to contradict its opinions and to condemn its usages in the most important article of all. The world will always look cold and askance upon him; and therefore he may defy it with less fear of its censures. The Presbyterian is said to be sour: he is not therefor over-complaisant--

"Or if Severe in thought,
"The love he bears to virtue is in fault."
Dissenters are the safest partizans, and the steadiest of friends. Indeed they are almost the only people who have an idea of an abstract attachment to a cause or to individuals, from a sense of fidelity, independently of prosperous or adverse circumstances, and in spite of opposition. No patriotism, no public spirit, not reared in that inclement sky and harsh soil, is "the hortus siccus of dissent," will generally last: it will either bend in the storm or droop in the sunshine. Non ex quovis, ligno fit Mercurius. You cannot engraft a medlar on a crab-apple. A thorough-bred Dissenter will never make an accomplished Courtier. The antithesis if a Presbyterian Divine of the old school is a Poet-laureate of the new. We have known instance of both; and give it decidedly in favour of old-fashioned honesty over new-fangled policy.

We have known instances of both. The one we would willingly forget; the others we hope never to forget nor can we ever. A poet-laureate is an excrescence even in a Court; he is doubly nugatory as a Courtier and a Poet; he is a refinement upon insignificance, and a superfluous piece of supererogation. But a Dissenting Minister is a character not so easily to be dispensed with, and whose place cannot well be supplied. It is the fault of sectarianism that it tends to scepticism; and so relaxes the springs of moral courage and patience into levity and indifference. The prospect of future rewards and punishments is useful set-off against the immediate distribution of places and pensions; the anticipation of faith call off our attention from the grosser illusions of sense. It is a pity that this character has worn itself out; that that pulse of thought and feeling has ceased almost to beat in the heart of a nation, who, if not remarkable for sincerity and plain downright well-meaning, are remarkable for nothing. But we have known some such, in happier days; who had been brought up and lived from youth to age in the one constant belief of God and of his Christ, and who thought all other things but dross compared with the glory hereafter to be revealed. Their youthful hopes and vanity have been mortified in them, even in their boyish days, by the neglect and supercilious regards of the world; and they turned to look into their own minds for something else to build their hopes and confidence upon. They were true Priests. They set up an image, in their own minds, it was truth: they worshipped an idol there, it was justice. They looked on man as their brother, and only bowed the knee to the Highest. Separate from the world, they walked humbly with their God, and lived in thought with those who had borne testimony of a good conscience, with the spirits of just men in all ages. They say Moses when he slew the Egyptian, and the Prophets who overturned the brazen images; and those who were stoned and sawn asunder. They were with Daniel in the lions' den, and with the three children who passed through the fiery furnace, Meschech, Shadrach, and Abednego; they did not crucify Christ twice over, or deny him in their hearts, with St Peter; the Book of Martyrs was open to them; they read the story of William Tell, of John Huss and Jerome of Prague, and the old one-eyed Zisca; they had Neale's History of the Puritans by heart, and Calamy's Account of the Two Thousand Ejected Ministers, and gave it to their children to read, with the pictures of the polemical Baxter, the silver-tongued Bates, the mild-looking Calamy, and the old honest Howe; they believed in Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History: they were deep-read in the works of the Fratres Poloni, Pripscovius, Crellius, Cracovius, who sought out the truth in text of Scripture, and grew blind over Hebrew points; their aspiration after liberty was a sign uttered from the towers, "time-rent," of the Holy Inquisition; and their zeal for religious toleration was kindled at the fires of Smithfield. Their sympathy was not with the oppressors, but with oppressed. They cherished in their thoughts--and wished to transmit to their posterity--those rights and privileges for asserting which their ancestors had bled on scaffolds, or had pined in dungeons, or in foreign climes. Their creed too was "glory to God, peace on earth, good will to man." This creed, since profaned and rendered vile, they kept fast, through good report and evil report. This belief they had, that looks at something out of itself, fixed as the stars, deep as the firmament, that makes of its own heart an altar to truth, a place of worship for what is right, at which it does reverence with praise and prayer like a holy thing, apart and content: that feels that the greatest being in the universe is always near it; and that all things work together for the good of his creatures, under his guiding hand. This covenant they kept, as the stars keep their courses: this principle they stuck by, for want of knowing better, as it stick by them to the last. It grew with their growth, it does not wither in their decay. It lives when the almond-tree flourishes, and is not bowed down with the tottering knees. It glimmers with the last feeble eyesight, smiles in the faded cheek like infancy, and lights a path before them to the grave!--This is better than the life of a whirligig Court poet.



1 Hazlitt's "On Court Influence" is to be found in Political Essays (1819).


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