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Johnson arraigned the modern politics of this country, as entirely devoid of all principle of whatever kind.Politics (said he) are now nothing more than means of rising in the world. With this sole view do men engage in politics, and their whole conduct proceeds upon it. How different in that respect is the state of the nation now from what it was in the time of Charles the First, during the Usurpation, and after the Restoration, in the time of Charles the Second. Hudibras affords a strong proof how much hold political principles had then upon the minds of men. There is in Hudibras a great deal of bullion which will always last. But to be sure the brightest strokes of his wit owed their force to the impression of the characters which was upon men's minds at the time; to their knowing them, at table and in the street: in short, being familiar with them; and above all, to his satire being directed against those whom a little while before they had hated and feared. The nation in general has ever been loyal, has been at all times attached to the monarch, though a few daring rebels have been wonderfully powerful for a time. The murder of Charles the First was undoubtedly not committed with the approbation or consent of the people. Had that been the case, Parliament would not have ventured to consign the regicides to their deserved punishment. And we know what exuberance of joy there was when Charles the Second was restored. If Charles the Second had bent all his mind to it, had made it his sole object, he might have been as absolute as Louis the Fourteenth.” A gentleman observed he would have done no harm if he had.—Johnson. “Why, Sir, absolute princes seldom do any harm. But they who are governed by them are governed by chance. There is no security for good government.” Mr. Cambridge said, “ There have been many sad victims to absolute government."-J.“ So, Sir, have there been to popular factions.”—B. “ The question is, which is worst, one wild beast or many?"
Talking of different governments, Johnson said, “ The more contracted a power is, the more easily it is destroyed. A country governed by a despot is an inverted cone. Government there cannot be so firm as when it rests upon a broad basis gradually contracted, as the Government of Great Britain, which is founded on the parliament, then is in the privy-council, then in the king."-Boswell.“ Power when contracted into the person of a despot may be easily destroyed, as the prince may be cut off. So Caligula wished that the people of Rome had but
one neck, that he might cut them off at a blow.” GENERAL OGLETHORPE. “ It was of the Senate he wished that. The Senate by its usurpation controuled both the emperor and the people.”
At another time Johnson said, “ The mode of government by one may be ill adapted to a small society, but is best for a great nation.—The characteristic of our own government at present is imbecility. The magistrate dare not call the guards for fear of being hanged.-The guards will not come, for fear of being given up to the blind rage of popular juries *."
Patriotism having become one of the topics, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start : "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest.
-“ I maintained (says Mr. B.) that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged (not by Johnson), to name one exception, I mentioned an eminent person, whom we all greatly admired."
* This was a just observation before the riots in 1780. Since that time the advantage of a vigorous government has been universally acknowledged.
-JOHNSON.“ Sir, I do not say that he is not honest; but we have no reason to conclude, from his political conduct, that he is honest. Were he to accept of a place from this ministry, he would lose that character of firmness which he has, and might be turned out of his place in a year. This ministry is neither stable nor grateful to their friends, as Sir Robert Walpole was; so that he may think it more for his interest to take the chance of his party coming in.”
He said, “ Lord Chatham was a Dictator; he possessed the power of putting the State in motion; now there is no power, all order is relaxed." -Boswell. “Is there no hope of a change to the better?"-JOHNSON. “ Why yes, Sir, when we are weary of this relaxation. So the city of London will appoint its mayors again by seniority*.”-B." But is not that taking a mere chance for having a good or a bad mayor?” J. Yes, Sir; but the evil of competition is greater than that of the worst mayor that can come; besides, there is no more reason to suppose that the choice of a rabble will be right, than that chance will be right.”
Of a person who differed from him in politics, he said, “ In private life he is a very honest gen
* City dissensions ran high at the time; and some Aldermen were put aside to elect others to the chair.
tleman; but I will not allow him to be so in public life. People may be honest, though they are doing wrong: that is between their Maker and them. But we, who are suffering by their pernicious conduct, are to destroy them. We are sure that ******** acts from interest. We know what his genuine principles were. They who allow their passions to confound the distinctions between right and wrong are criminal. They may be convinced; but they have not come honestly by their conviction.”
Talking of the accusation against a gentleman for supposed delinquencies in India, Johnson said, “ What foundation there is for accusation I know not; but they will not get at him. Where bad actions are committed at so great a distance, a delinquent can obscure the evidence till the scent becomes cold; there is a cloud between, which cannot be penetrated ;-therefore all disa tant power is bad. I am clear that the best plan for the government of India is a despotic governor; for if he be a good man, it is evidently the best government; and supposing him to be a bad man, it is better to have one plunderer than many. A governor whose power is checked lets others plunder, that he himself may be allowed to plunder; but if despotic, he sees that the more he lets others plunder, the less there will be for himself, so he restrains them; and though he