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serves to propagate new religions; they acquire fresh vigour beneath the executioner and the axe, and like some vivacious insects, multiply by dissection. It is also impossible to combat enthusiasm with reason, for though it makes a show of resistance, it soon cludes the pressure, refers you to distinctions not to be understood, and feelings which it cannot explain. A man who would endeavour to fix an enthusiast by argument, might as well attempt to spread quicksilver with his fingers. The only way to conquer a visionary, is to despise him; the stake, the faggot, and the disputing doctor, in some measure ennoble the opin ions they are brought to oppose; they are harmless against innovating pride; contempt alone is truly dreadful. Hunters generally know the most vulnerable part of the beasts they pursue, by the care which every animal takes to defend the side which is weakest; on what side the enthusiast is most vulnerable, may be known by the care which he takes in the beginning to work his disciples into gravity, and guard them against the power of ridicule.
When Philip the second was King of Spain, there was a contest in Salamanca between two orders of friars for superiority. The legend of one side contained more extraordinary miracles, but the legend of the other was reckoned most authentic. They reviled each other, as it is usual in disputes of divinity; the people were divided into factions, and a civil war appeared unavoidable. In order to prevent such an imminent calamity, the combatants were prevailed upon to submit their legends to the fiery trial, and that which came forth untouched by the fire was to have the victory, and to be honoured with a double share of reverence. Whenever the people flock to see a miracle, it is an hundred to one but that they see a miracle; incredible therefore were the numbers that
were gathered round upon this occasion; the friars on each side approached, and confidently threw their respective legends into the flames, when lo! to the utter disappointment of all the assembly, instead of a miracle, both legends were consumed. Nothing but thus turning both parties into contempt, could have prevented the effusion of blood. The people now laughed at their former folly, and wondered why they fell out.
TO THE SAME.
THE English are at present employed in celebrating
a feast which becomes general every seventh year; the parliament of the nation being then dissolved, and another appointed to be chosen. This solemnity falls infinitely short of our feast of the lanterns in magnificence and splendour; it is also surpassed by others of the East in unanimity and pure devotion; but no festival in the world can compare with it for eating. Their eating indeed amazes me; had I five hundred heads, and were each head furnished with brains, yet would they all be insufficient to compute the number of cows, pigs, geese, and turkies, which upon this occasion die for the good of their country!
To say the truth, eating seems to make a grand ingredient in all English parties of zeal, business, or amusement. When a church is to be built, or an
hospital endowed, the directors assemble, and instead of consulting upon it, they eat upon it, by which means the business goes forward with success. When the poor are to be relieved, the officers appointed to dole out public charity, assemble and eat upon it: nor has it ever been known, that they filled the bellies of the poor till they had previously satisfied their own. But in the election of magistrates, the people seem to exceed all bounds; the merits of a candidate are often measured by the number of his treats; his constituents assemble, eat upon him, and lend their applause, not to his integrity or sense, but the quantities of his beef and brandy.
And yet I could forgive this people their plentiful meals on this occasion, as it is extremely natural for every man to eat a great deal when he gets it for nothing; but what amazes me is, that all this good living no way contributes to improve their good humour. On the contrary, they seem to lose their temper as they lose their appetites; every morsel they swallow, and every glass they pour down, serves to increase their animosity. Many an honest man, before as harmless as a tame rabbit, when loaded with a single election dinner, has become more dangerous than a charged culverin. Upon one of these occasions, I have actually seen a bloody-minded man-milliner sally forth at the head of a mob, determined to face a desperate pastry-cook, who was general of the opposite party.
gin a liquor wholly their own. This then furnishes an obvious cause of quarrel, whether it be most reasonable to get drunk with gin, or get drunk with brandy? The mob meet upon the debate; fight themselves sober; and then draw off to get drunk again, and charge for another encounter. So that the English may now properly be said to be engaged in war; since while they are subduing their enemies abroad, they are breaking each other's heads at home.
I lately made an excursion to a neighbouring village, in order to be a spectator of the ceremonies practised upon this occasion. I left town in company with three fiddlers, nine dozen of hams, and a corporation poet, which were designed as reinforcements to the gin-drinking party. We entered the town with a very good face; the fiddlers, no way intimidated by the enemy, kept handling their arms up the principal street. By this prudent manoeuvre they took peaceable possession of their head quarters, amidst the shouts of multitudes, who seemed perfectly rejoiced at hearing their music, but above all at seeing their bacon.
I must own I could not avoid being pleased to see all ranks of people on this occasion, levelled into an equality, and the poor, in some measure, enjoy the primitive privileges of Nature. If there was any dis tinction shown, the lowest of the people seemed to receive it from the rich. I could perceive a cobler with a levee at his door, and an haberdasher giving audience from behind his counter. But my reflections were soon interrupted by a mob, who demanded whether I was for the distillery or the brewery? As these were terms with which I was totally unacquainted, I chose at first to be silent; however, I know not what might have been the consequence of my reserves
had not the attention of the mob been called off to a skirmish between a brandy-drinker's cow, and a gindrinker's mastiff, which turned out greatly to the satisfaction of the mob in favour of the mastiff.
The spectacle, which afforded high entertainment, was at last ended by the appearance of one of the candidates; who came to harangue the mob; he made a very pathetic speech upon the late excessive impor tation of foreign drams, and the downfall of the distillery: I could see some of the audience shed tears. He was accompanied in his procession by Mrs. Deputy and Mrs. Mayoress. Mrs. Deputy was not in the least in liquor; and for Mrs. Mayoress, one of the spectators assured me in my ear that,-She was a very fine woman before she had the small-pox.
Mixing with the crowd, I was now conducted to the hall where the magistrates are chosen ; but what tongue can describe this scene of confusion; the whole crowd seemed equally inspired with anger, jealousy, politics, patriotism, and punch; I remarked one figure that was carried up by two men upon this occasion. I at first began to pity his infirmities as natural, but soon found the fellow so drunk that he could not stand; another made his appearance to give his vote, but though he could stand, he actually lost the use of his tongue, and remained silent; a third, who though excessively drunk could both stand and speak, being asked the candidate's name for whom he voted, could be prevailed upon to make no other answer, but tobacco and brandy. In short, an electionhall seems to be a theatre where every passion is seen without disguise; a school where fools may readily become worse, and where philosophers may gather wisdom,