Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

A parallel between ALEXANDER and a Highwaymak.

[Advent. No. 47.]

M A N, though as a rational being he has thought

IV fit to stile himself the lord of the creation, is yet frequently the voluntary slave of prejudice and custom; the most general opinions are often absurd, and the prevailing principles of action ridiculous.

It may, however, be allowed, that if in these instances reason always appeared to be overborne by the importunity of appetite; if the future was sacrificed to the present, and hope renounced only for pofleffion ; there would not be much cause for wonder : but that man should draw absurd conclusions, contrary to his -immediate interest ; that he should even at the risque of life, gratify those vices in some, which in others he punishes with a gibbet or a wheel, is in the highest degree astonishing; and is such an instance of the weakness of our reason, and the fallibility of our judgment, as should incline us to accept with gratitude of that guidance which is from ABOVE.

But if it is strange, that one man has been immor. talized as a God, and another put to death as a felon,, for actions which have the same motive and the same tendency, merely because they were circumstantially different; it is yet more strange, that this difference has always been such as increases the absurdity; and that the action which exposes a man to infamy and death, wants only greater aggravation of guilt, and more extensive and pernicious effects, to render him

the object of veneration and applause. 1 BAGshot, the robber, having lost the booty of a week among his associates, at hazard, loaded his pistols, mounted his horse, and took the Kentish road, with a resolution not to return till he had recruited his purse. Within a few miles of London, just as he heard a village-clock ftrike nine, he met two gentlemen in a post-chaise which he stopped. One of the gentlemen immediately presented a pitol, and at the

fame

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

fame time a servant rode up armed with a blunderbuss.
The robber, perceiving that he should be vigorously
opposed, turned off from the chaise and discharged a
piltol at the servant, who instantly fell dead from his
horse. The gentlemen had now leaped from the
chaise : but the foremost receiving a blow on his head
with the stock of the pistol that had been just fired,
reeled back a few paces; the other having fired at the
murderer without success, attempted to dismount him
and succeeded; but while they were grappling with
each other, the villain drew a knife, and stabbed his
antagonist to the heart. He then, with the calm :
intrepidity of a hero who is familiar with danger,
proceeded to rifle the pockets of the dead; and the
Survivor having recovered from the blow, and being
imperiously commanded to deliver, was now obliged
to comply. When the victor had thus obtained the
pecuniary reward of his prowess, he determined to
lose no part of his glory which as conqueror was now
in his power : turning, therefore, to the unhappy gen-
tleman, whom he had plundered, he condescended to
infuit him with the applause of conscious superiority;
he told him that he had never robbed any persons who
behaved better; and as a tribute due to the merit of
the dead, and a token of his esteem for the living, he
generously threw him back a shilling to prevent his
being stopped at the turnpike. '

He now remounted his horse, and set off towards
London : but at the turnpike, a coach that was pay-
ing the toll obstructed his way; and by the light of
the flambeau that was behind it, he discovered that his
coat was much stained with blood : this discovery
threw him into such confusion, that he attempted to
fuih by; he was however prevented ; and his appear-
ance giving great reason to suspect his motive, he was
seized and detained.

In the coach were two ladies, and a little boy about. five years old. The ladies were greatly alarmed, when they heard that a person was taken who was supposed to have just committed a robbery and a murder: they asked many questions with great eagerness, but their

C..

enquiries were little regarded, till a gentleman rode up, who seeing their distress, offered his affittance. The elder of the two ladies acquainted him, that ber husband Sir HARRY FREEMAN was upon the road in his return from Gravesend, where he had been to receive an only son upon his arrival from India, after an absence of near fix years; that herself and her daughter-in-law were come out to meet them, but were terrified with the apprehension that they might have been stopped by the man who had just been taken into custody. Their attention was now fud. denly called to the other side of the coach by the child, who cried out in a transport of joy, “ There is my grand papa.” This was indeed the survivor of the three who had been attacked by BAGSHOT : he was mounted on his servant's horse, and rode Nowly by the fide of the chaise in which he had just placed the body of his son, whose countenance was disfigured with blood, and whose features were still impressed with the agonies of death. Who can express the grief, horror, and despair, with which a father ex

hibited this spectacle to a mother and a wife, who - expected a son and a husband, with all the tenderness

and ardour of conjugal and parental affection; who had long regretted his absence, who had anticipated the joy of his return, and were impatient to put into his arms a pledge of his love which he had never seen.

I will not attempt to describe that distress, which tears would not have suffered me to behold: let it fuffice, that such was its effect upon those who were present, that the murderer was not without difficulty conducted alive to the prison ; and I am confident that few who read this story, would have heard with regret that he was torn to pieces by the way.

But before they congratulate themselves upon a fense, which always diftinguishes right and wrong by spontaneous approbation and censure; let them tell me with what sentiments they read of a youthful mo. narch, who at the head of an army in which every man became a hero by his example, paffed over moun. tains and defarts, in search of new territories to in.

vade, and new potentates to conquer; who routed armies which could scarce be numbered, and took cities which were deemed impregnable. Do they not follow him in the path of slaughter with horrid complacency? and when they see him deluge the peaceful felds of industrious fimplicity with blood, and leave them desolate to the widow and the orphan of the possessor, do they not grow frantic in his praise, and concur to deify the mortal who could conquer only for glory, and return the kingdoms that he won ? . To these questions, I am confident the greater part of mankind must answer in the affirmative ; and yet nothing can be more absurd than their different appre. hensions of the Hero and the Thief.

The conduct of BAGSHOT and ALEXANDER had in general the same motives, and the fame tendency ; they both rought a private gratification at the expence of others; and every circumstance in which they dif, fer, is greatly in favour of BAGSHOT.

BAGSHOT, when he had lost his last shilling, had lost the power of gratifying every appetite whether cri. minal or innocent; and the recovery of this power, was the object of his expedition.

ALEXANDER, when he set out to conquer the world, possessed all that BAGSHOT hoped to acquire, and more; all his appetites and passions were grati. fied, as far as the gratification of them was possible ; and as the force of temptation is always supposed proportionably to extenuate guilt, ALEXANDER's guilt was evidently greater than BAGSHOT's, because it cannot be pretended that his temptation was equal.

But though ALEXANDER could not equally increase the means of his own happiness, yet he produced much more dreadful and extensive evil to society in the attempt. BAGSHOT killed two men ; and I have related the murder and its consequences, with such particulars as usually rouze that sensibility, which often lies torpid during narratives of general calamity. ALEXANDER, perhaps, destroyed a million : and whoever reflects, that each individual of this number ·lad some tender attachments which were broken by

D2

his

his death; fome parent or wife, with whom he min-, gled tears in the parting embrace, and who longed with fond solicitude for his return; or, perhaps, some infant whom his labour was to feed, and his vigilance protect; will see, that ALEXANDER was more the peft of society than BAGSHOT, and more deserved a gibbet in the proportion of a million to one.

It may, perhaps, be thought absurd, to enquire into the virtues of BAGshor's character, and yet virtue has never been thought incompatible with that of ALEXANDER. ALEXANDER, we are told, gave proof of his greatness of mind, by his contempt of danger; but as BAGSHOT's danger was equally voluntary and imminent, there ought to be no doubt but that his mind was equally great. . ALEXANDER, indeed, gave back the kingdoms that he won; but after the conqueft of a kingdom, what remained for ALEXANDER to give ? To a prince, whose country he had invaded with un-> provoked hostility, and from whom he had violently wrested the blessings of peace, he gave a dominion over the widows and orphans of those he had slain, the tinsel of dependent greatness, and the badge, of royal subjection. And does not BAGSHOT deserve equal honour, for throwing back a fhilling to the man, whose person he had insulted, and whose son he had ftabbed to the heart? ALEXANDER did not ravish or massacre the women' whom he found in the tent of Darius; neither did honest BAGSHOT kill the gentleman whom he had plundered, when he was no longer able to refift. '

If BAGSHOT, then, is juftly dragged to prison, amidst the tumult of rage, menaces, and execrations; let ALEXANDER, whom the lords of reason have extolled for ages, be no longer thought worthy of a triumph.

As the acquisition of honour is frequently a motive to the risque of life, it is of great importance to confer it only upon virtue ; and as honour is conferred by the public voice, it is of equal moment to strip those vices of their disguise which have been mistaken for virtue. The wretches who compose the army of a tyrant, are associated by folly in the service of rapine

and

« ПредишнаНапред »