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ing vigour and activity by a restless faction, and if it receives countenance by the most ardent and enthusiastic applauses of its object, in the great council of this kingdom, by men of the first parts, which this kingdom produces, perhaps by the first it has ever produced, can I think that there is no danger? If there be danger, must there be no precaution at all against it? If you ask whether I think the danger urgent and immediate. I answer, thank God, I do not. The body of the people is yet sound, the constitution is in their hearts, while wicked men are endeavouring to put another into their heads. But if I see the very same begininngs, which have commonly ended in great calamities, I ought to act as if they might produce the very same effects. Early and provident fear is the mother of safety, because in that state of things the mind is firm and collected, and the judgment unembarrassed. But when the fear, and the evil feared, come on together, and press at once upon us, deliberation itself is ruinous, which saves upon all other occasions ; because when perils are instant, it delays decision; the man is in a flutter, and in a hurry, and his judgment is gone, as the judgment of the deposed king of France and his ministers was gone, if the latter did not premeditately betray him. He was just come from his usual amusement of hunting, when the head of the column of treason and assassination was arrived at his house. Let not the King, let not the Prince of Wales be surprised in this manner, Let not both houses of par. liament be led in triumph along with him, and hare law dictated to them by the Constitutional, the Revolutional, and the Unitarian Societies. These insect reptiles, whilst they go on only caballing and toasting, only fill us with disgust; if they get above their natural size, and increase the quantity, whilst they keep the quality, of their venom, they become objects of the greatest terror. A spider in his natural size is only a spider, agly and loathsome, and his flimsy net is only fit for catching flies. But, good God ! suppose a spider as large as an ox, and that he spread cables about us, all the wilds of Africa would not produce anything so dreadful
Quale portentum neque militaris
Think of them, who dare menace in the way they do in their present state, what would they do if they had power commensurate to their malice. God forbid I ever should have a despotic master-but if I must, my choice is made. I will bave Louis the XVIth rather than
Monsieur Bailly, or Brissot, or Chabot : rather George III., or George IV., than Dr. Priestly or Dr. Kippis, persons, who would not load a tyrannous power by the poisoned taunts of a vulgar lowbred insolence. I hope we have still spirit enough to keep
us from the one or the other. The contumelies of tyranny are the worst
part of it.
But if the danger be existing in reality, and silently maturing itself to our destruction, what, is it not better to take treason unprepared, than that treason should come by surprise upon us, and take us unprepared ? If we must have a conflict, let us have it with all our forces fresh about us, with our government in full function and full strength, our troops uncorrupted, our revenues in the legal hands, our arsenals filled and possessed by government, and not wait till the conspirators met to commemorate the 14th of July, shall scize on the tower of London and the magazines it contains, murder the governor, and the mayor of London, seize upon the king's person, drive out the House of Lords, occupy your gallery, and thence, as from an high tribunal, dictate to you. The degree of danger is not only from the circumstances which threaten, but from the value of the objects which are threatened. A small danger menacing an inestimable object is of more importance than the greatest perils, which regard one that is indifferent to us. The whole question of the danger depends upon facts. The first fact is, whether those who
sway in France at present, confine themselves to the regulation of their internal affairs, or whether upon system they nourish cabals in all other countries, to extend their power by producing revolutions similar to their own. 2nd. The next is, whether we have any cabals formed or forming within these kingdoms, to co-operate with them for the destruction of our constitutiou. On the solution of these two questions, joined with our opinion of the value of the object to be affected by their machinations, the justness of our alarm, and the necessity of our vigilance must depend. Every private conspiraey, every open attack upon the laws is dangerous. One robbery is an alarm to all property, else I am sure we exceed measure in our punishment. As robberies increase in number and audacity, the alarm increases. These wretches are at war with us upon principle. They hold this government to be an usurpation. Such is their language.
The whole question is on the reality of the danger. Is it such a danger as would justify that fear, qui cadere potest in hominem constantem et non metuentem? This is the fear, which the principles of jurisprudence declare to be a lawful and justifiable fear. When a
man threatens my life openly and publicly, I may demand from him securities of the peace. When every act of a man's life manifests such a design stronger than by words, even though he does not make such a declaration, I am justified in being on my guard. They are of opinion, that they are already one-fifth of the kingdom. If so, their force is naturally not contemptible. To say that in all contests the decision will of course be in favour of the greater number, is by no means true in fact.
For, first, the greater number is generally composed of men of sluggish tempers, slow to act, and unwilling to attempt; and, by being in possession, are so disposed to peace that they are unwilling to take early and vigorous measures for their defence, and they are almost always caught unprepared.
Nec cöiere pares ; alter vergentibus annis
Credere fortunæ. Stat magni nominis umbra. A smaller number, more expedite, awakened, active, vigorous and courageous, who make amends for what they want in weight by their superabundance of velocity, will create an active power of the greatest possible strength. When men are furiously and fanatically fond of an object, they will prefer it, as is well known, to their own peace, to their own property, and to their own lives; and can there be a doubt in such a case that they would prefer it to the peace of their country ? Is it to be doubted that, if they have not strength enough at home, they will call in foreign force to aid them? Would you deny them what is reasonable for fear they should ? Certainly not. It would be barbarous to pretend to look into the minds of men. I would go further, it would not be just even to trace consequences from principles, which, though evident to me, were denied by them. Let them disband as a faction, and let them act as individuals; and when I see them with no other views than to enjoy their own conscience in peace, I for one shall most cheerfully vote for their relief.
A tender conscience, of all things, ought to be tenderly handled ; for if you do not, you injure not only the conscience, but the whole moral frame and constitution is injured, recurring at times to remorse, and seeking refuge only in making the conscience callous. But the conscience of faction is the conscience of sedition, the conscience of conspiracy, war, and confusion.
Whether any thing be proper to be denied, which is right in itself, because it may lead to the demand of others, which it is improper to grant; abstractedly speaking, there can be no doubt that this ques
tion ought to be decided in the negative. But as no moral questions are ever abstract questions, this, before I judge upon any abstract proposition, must be embodied in circumstances; for since things are right or wrong, morally speaking, only by their relation and connexion with other things, this very question of what it is politically right to grant depends upon this relation to its effects. It is the direct office of wisdom to look to the consequences of the acts we do; if it be not this, it is worth nothing, it is out of place and of function ; and a downright fool is as capable of government as Charles Fox. A man desires a sword; why should he be refused ? A sword is a means of defence, and defence is the natural right of man; nay, the first of all his rights, and which comprehends them all. But if I know that the sword desired is to be employed to cut my own throat, common sense, and my own self defence, dictate to me, to keep out of his hands this natural right of the sword. But whether this denial be wise or foolish, just or unjust, prudent or cowardly, depends entirely on the state of the man's means.
A man may
ill dispositions, and yet be so very weak as to make all precaution foolish. See whether this be the case of these dissenters, as to their designs, as to their means, numbers, activity, zeal, foreign assistance.
The first question to be decided, when we talk of the church's being in danger from any particular measure, is, whether the danger to the church is a public evil; for to those who think that the national church establishment is itself a national grievance, to desire them to forward or to resist any measure upon account of its conducing to the safety of the church, or averting its danger, would be to the last degree absurd. If you have reason to think thus of it, take the reformation instantly into your own hands whilst you are yet cool, and can do it in measure and proportion, and not under the influence of election tests and popular fury. But here I assume that by far the greater number of those who compose the house, are of opinion, that this national church establishment is a great national benefit, a great public blessing, and that its existence or its non-existence of course is a thing by no means indifferent to the public welfare: then, to them its danger or its safety must enter deeply into every question which has a relation to it. It is not, because ungrounded alarms have been given, that there never can exist a real danger; perhaps the worst effect of an ungrounded alarm is to make people insensible to the approach of a real peril. Quakerism is strict, methodical, in its nature highly aristocratical, and so regular, that it has brought the whole community to the condition of one family; but it does not actually interfere with the government. The principle of your petitioners is
no passive conscientious dissent on account of an over-saupulons habit of mind; the dissent on their part is fundamental, goes to the very root; and it is at issue not upon this rite or that ceremony, on this or that school opinion, but upon this one question of an establishment, as unchristian, unlawful, contrary to the Gospel, and to natural right, Popish and idolatrous. These are the principles violently and fanatically held and pursued-taught to their children, who are sworn at the altar like Hannibal. The war is with the establishment itself, no quarter, no compromise. As a party, they are infinitely mischievous ; sce the declarations of Priestly and Price declarations, you will say, of hot men. Likely enough--but who are the cool men, who have disclaimed them ? not one-no, not one.
Which of them has ever told you, that they do not mean to destroy the church, if ever it should be in their power? Which of them bas told you, that this would not be the first and favourite use of any power they should get ? not one-no, not one. Declarations of hot men! The danger is thence that they are under the conduct of hot men; falsos in amore odia non fingere.
They say, they are well affected to the state, and mean only to destroy the church. If this be the utmost of their meaning, you must first consider whether you wish your church establishment to be destroyed; if you do, you had much better do it now in temper, in a grave, moderate, and parliamentary way. But if you think otherwise, and that you think it to be an invaluable blessing, a way fully sufficient to nourish & manly, rational, solid, and at the same time humble piety; if you find it well fitted to the frame and pattern of your civil constitution ; if
you find it a barrier against fanaticism, infidelity and atheism; if you find that it furnishes support to the human mind in the affliction and distresses of the world, consolation in sickness, pain, poverty, and death; if it dignifies our nature with the hope of immortality, leaves inquiry free, whilst it preserves an authority to teach where authority only can teach, communia altaria æquè ac patriam, diligite, colite, fovete.
SPEECH ON THE ARMY ESTIMATES OF 1790, AND ON
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
(On the 9th February, 1790, a memorable debate took place in the House of Commons on the subjectof the increase of the army. Fox strongly opposed any increase of the forces, and took the opportunity of praising the French