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life, or distorted or discoloured; nothing is real, vivid, true; all is scenical, and, as it were, exhibited by candlelight. And then to call it a History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire! Was there ever a greater misnomer ? I protest I do not remember a single philosophical attempt made throughout the work to fathom the ultimate causes of the decline or fall of that empire. How miserably deficient is the narrative of the important reign of Justinian! And that poor scepticism, which Gibbon mistook for Socratic philosophy, has led him to misstate and mistake the character and influence of Christianity in a way which even an avowed infidel or atheist would not and could not have done. Gibbon was a man of immense reading; but he had no philosophy; and he never fully understood the principle upon which the best of the old historians wrote. He attempted to imitate their artificial construction of the whole work — their dramatic ordonnance of the parts — without seeing
that their histories were intended more as documents illustrative of the truths of political philosophy than as mere chronicles of events.
The true key to the declension of ne Roman empire -- which is not to be found in all Gibbon's immense work — may be stated in two words:— the imperial character overlaying, and finally destroying, the national character. Rome under Trajan was an empire without a nation.
August 16. 1833.
DR. JOHNSON'S POLITICAL PAMPHLETS.
- TAXATION. — DIRECT REPRESENT. ATION. - UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE. RIGHT OF WOMEN TO VOTE.- HORNE TOOKE. – ETYMOLOGY OF THE FINAL IVE.
I LIKE Dr. Johnson's political pamphlets better than any other parts of his works :
particularly his Taxation no Tyranny is very clever and spirited, though he only sees half of his subject, and that not in a very philosophical manner. Plunder — Tribute — Taxation — are the three gradations of action by the sovereign on the property of the subject. The first is mere violence, bounded by no law or custom, and is properly an act only between conqueror and conquered, and that, too, in the moment of victory. The second supposes Law; but law proceeding only from, and dictated by, one party, the conqueror; law, by which he consents to forego his right of plunder upon condition of the conquered giving up to him, of their own accord, a fixed commutation. The third implies compact, and negatives any right to plunder, — taxation being professedly for the direct benefit of the party taxed, that, by paying a part, he may through the labours and superintendence of the sovereign be able to enjoy the rest in peace. As to the right to tax being only commensurate with direct representation, it is a fable, falsely and treacherously brought forward by those who know its hollowness well enough. You may show its weakness in a moment, by observing that not even the universal suffrage of the Benthamites avoids the difficulty; — for although it may be allowed to be contrary to decorum that women should legislate; yet there can be no reason why women should not choose their representatives to legislate ; — and if it be said that they are merged in their husbands, let it be allowed where the wife has no separate property ; but where she has a distinct taxable estate, in which her husband has no interest, what right can her husband have to choose for her the person whose vote may affect her separate interest ? — Besides, at all events, an unmarried woman of age, possessing one thousand pounds a year, has surely as good a moral right to vote, if taxation without representation is tyranny, as any ten-pounder in the kingdom. The truth, of course, is, that direct representation is a chimera, impracticable in fact, and use less or noxious if practicable.
Johnson had neither eye nor ear ; for nature, therefore, he cared, as he knew, nothing. His knowledge of town life was minute; but even that was imperfect, as not being contrasted with the better life of the country.
Horne Tooke was once holding forth on language, when, turning to me, he asked me if I knew what the meaning of the final ive was in English words. I said I thought I could tell what he, Horne Tooke himself, thought. Why, what?” said he.“ Vis,” I replied; and he acknowledged I had guessed right. I told him, however, that I could not agree with him; but believed that the final ive came from ick — vicus, oixos; the root denoting collectivity and community, and that it was opposed to the final ing, which signifies separation, particularity, and individual property, from ingle, a hearth, or one man's place or seat: oíxos, vicus, denoted an aggregation of ingles. The alteration of the c and k of the root into the