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BIFRE the philosophical works of Lord are the doctrines which, sometimes concealed, BOLINGBROKE had appeared, great things sometimes openly and fully avowed, are found were expected from the leisure of a man, who to prevail throughout the writings of Lord from the splendid scene of action, in which his BOLINGBROKE ; and such are the reasonings. talents had enabled him to make so conspicu- which this noble writer and several others have ous a figure, had retired to employ those talents been pleased to dignify with the name of phiin the investigation of truth." Philosophy be- losophy. If these are delivered in a specious gan to congratulate herself upon such a prose- manner, and in a style above the common, they lyte from the world of business, and hoped to cannot want a number of admirers of as much have extended her power under the auspices of docility as can be wished for in disciples. To such a leader. In the midst of these pleasing these the editor of the following little piece has expectatiuns, the works themselves at last ap- addressed it: there is no reason to conceal the peared in full body, and with great pomp. design of it any longer. Those who searched in them for new discover- The design was, to shew that, without the ies in the mysteries of nature; those who ex- exertion of any considerable forces, the same pected something which might explain or direct engines which were employed for the destructhe operations of the mind; those who hoped tion of religion, might be employed with equal to see morality illustrated and enforced; those success for the subversion of government; and who looked for new helps to society and go that specious arguments might be used against vernment; those who desired to see the cha- those things which they, who doubt of every racters and passions of mankind delineated; thing else, will never permit to be questioned. in short, all who consider such things as phi- It is an observation which I think Isocrates losophy, and require some of them at least, in makes in one his orations against the every philosophical work, all these were cer- sophists, that it is far more easy to maintain a tainly disappointed; they found the landmarks wrong cause, and to support paradoxical opiof science precisely in their former places. nions to the satisfaction of a common auditory, and they thought they received but a poor re- than to establish a doubtful truth by solid and compense for this disappointment, in seeing conclusive arguments. When men find that every mode of religion attacked in a lively something can be said in favour of what, on manner, and the foundation of every virtue, the very proposal, they have thought utterly end of all government, sapped with great art indefensible, they grow doubtful of their own and much ingenuity. What advantage do wo reason; they are thrown into a sort of pleasing derive from such writings? What delight can surprize; they run along with the speaker, a man find in employing a capacity which charmed and captivated to find such a plentiful might be usefully exerted for the noblest pur- harvest of reasoning, where all seemed barren poses, in a sort of sullen labour, in which, if and unpromising. This is the fairy land of the author could succeed, he is obliged to own, philosophy. And it very frequently happens, that nothing could be more fatal to mankind that those pleasing impressions on the imaginathan his success?
tion, subsist and produce their effect, even I cannot conceive how this sort of writers after the understanding has been satisfied of propose to compass the designs they pretend to their unsubstantial nature. There is a sort of have in view, by the instruments which they gloss upon ingenious falsehoods, that dazzles employ. Do they pretend to exalt the mind of the imagination, but which neither belongs to, man, by proving him no better than a beast? nor becomes the sober aspect of truth. I have Do they think to enforce the practice of virtue, met with a quotation in Lord Coke's reports by denying that vice and virtue are distin- that pleased me very much, though I do not guished by good or ill fortune here, or by hap- know from whence he has taken it: “ Interdum piness or misery hereafter? Do they imagine fucata falsitas, (says he,) in multis est probathey shall increase our piety, and our reliance bilior, et sæpe rationibus vincit nudam veritatem." on God, by exploding his providence, and in- In such cases, the writer has a certain fire and risting that he is neither just nor good ? Su alacrity inspired into him by a consciousness
that let it fare how it will with the subject, his sensible of our blindness. And this we must ingenuity will be sure of applause ; and this do, or we do nothing, whenever we examine alacrity becomes much greater if he acts upon the result of a reason which is not our own. the offensive, by the impetuosity that always Even in matters which are, as it were, just accompanies an attack, and the unfortunate within our reach, what would become of the propensity which mankind have to the finding world, if the practice of all moral duties, and and exaggerating faults. The editor is satise the foundations of society, rested upon having fied that a mind, which has no restraint from a their reasons made clear and demonstrative to sense of its own weakness, of its subordinate every individual ? rank in the creation, and of the extreme danger The editor knows that the subject of this of letting the imagination loose upon some letter is not so fully handled as obviously it subjects, may very plausibly attack every thing might ; it was not his design to say all that the most excellent and venerable; that it would could possibly be said. It had been inexcusnot be difficult to criticise the creation itself; able to fill a large volume with the abuse of and that if we were to examine the divine reason; nor would such an abuse have been fabrics by our ideas of reason and fitness, tolerable even for a few pages, if some underand to use the same method of attack by which plot of more consequence than the apparent some men have assaulted revealed religion, we design, had not been carried on. might with as good colour, and with the same Some persons have thought that the adransuccess, make the wisdom and power of God tages of the state of nature ought to have been in his creation appear to many no better than more fully displayed. This had undoubtedly foolishness. There is an air of plausibility been a very ample subject for declamation; which accompanies vulgar reasonings and now but they do not consider the character of the tions taken from the beaten circle of ordinary piece. The writers against religion, whilst experience, that is admirably suited to the they oppose overy system, are wisely careful narrow capacities of some, and to the laziness never to set up any of their own. If some inof others. But this advantage is in great accuracies in calculation, in reasoning, or in measure lost, when a painful, comprehensive method, be found, perhaps these will not be survey of a very complicated matter, and looked upon as faults by the admirers of Lord which requires a great variety of considera- BOLINGBROKE; who will, the editor is afraid, tions, is to be made ; when we must seek in a observe much more of his Lordship's characprofound subject, not only for arguments, but ter in such particulars of the following letter, for new materials of argument, their measures than they are like to find of that rapid torrent and their method of arrangement; when we of an impetuous and overbearing eloquence, must go out of the sphere of our ordinary ideas, and the variety of rich imagery for which thai and when wo can never walk sure, but by being writer is justý admired.
EDMUND BURK E.
A LETTER TO LORD * * *
aggravate and inflame the old. Besides this,
the mind of man itself is too active and restless Shall I venture to say, my Lord, that in a principle ever to settle on the true point of our late conversation, you were inclined to the quiet. It discovers every day some craving party which you adopted rather by the feelings want in a body, which really wants but little. of your good nature, than by the conviction of It every day invents some new artificial rule to your judgment? We laid open the foundations guide inat nature which, if left to itself, were of society, and you feared, that the curiosity the best and surest guide. It finds out imagiof this search might endanger the ruin of the nary beings prescribing imaginary laws; and wnole fabric. You would readily have allowed then, it raises imaginary terrours, to support a my principle, but you dreaded the consequen- belief in the beings, and an obedience to the ces ; you thought, that having once entered laws. Many things have been said, and very upon these reasonings, we might be carried well undoubtedly, on the subjection in which insensibly and irresistibly farther than at first we should preserve our bodies to the goverwe could either have imagined or wished. But ment of our understanding; but enough has not for my part, my Lord, I then thought, and am been said upon the restraint which our bodily still of the same opinion, that errour, and not necessities ought to lay on the extravagant truth, of any kind, is dangerous ; that ill con- sublimities and eccentric rovings of our minds. clusions can only flow from false propositions; The body, or, as some love to call it, our infe. and that, to know whether any proposition be riour nature, is wiser in its own plain way, true or false, it is a preposterous method to and attends its own business more directly examine it by its apparent consequences. than the mind with all its boasted subtilty.
These were the reasons which induced me In the state of nature, without question, to go so far into the enquiry; and they are the mankind was subjected to many and great inreasons which direct me in all my enquiries. conveniences. Want of union, want of mutual I had indeed often reflected on that subject assistance, want of a common arbitrator to before I could prevail on myself to communi- resort to in their differences. These wero cate my reflections to any body. They were evils which they could not but have felt pretty generally melancholy enough; as those usually severely on many occasions.
The original are which carry us beyond the mere surface of children of the earth lived with their brethren things; and which would undoubtedly make the of the other kinds in much equality. Their lives of all thinking men extremely miserable, diet must have been confined almost wholly to if the same philosophy which caused the grief, the vegetable kind; and the same tree, which did not at the same time administer the comfort. in its flourishing state, produced them berries.
On considering political societies, their ori- in its decay gave them an habitation. TH gin, their constitution, and their effects, I have mutual desires of the sexes uniting their bodie sometimes been in a good deal more than doubt, and affections, and the children, which are ti whether the Creator did ever really intend man results of these intercourses, introduced first for a state of happiness. He has mixed in his the notion of society, and taught its convecup a number of natural evils, (in spite of the niencies. This society, founded in natural boasts of stoicism they are evils,) and every appetites and instincts, and not in any positive endeavour which the art and policy of mankind institution, I shall call natural society. Thus has used from the beginning of the world to far nature went and succeeded; but man would this day, in order to alleviate, or cure them, has go farther. The great errour of our natur is, only served to introduce new mischiefs, oi to not to know where to stop, not to be satisfiod
with any reasonable acquirement; not to com- airs of liberty, as daily raisu our ardour for pound with our condition; but to lose all we more. The miseries derived to mankind from have gained by an insatiable pursuit after more. superstition, under the name of religion, and Man found a considerable advantage by this of ecclesiastical tyranny, under the name of union of many persons to form one family; he church government, have been clearly and use therefore judged that he would find his account fully exposed. We begin to think and to act proportionably in an union of many families from reason and from nature alone. This is into ono body politic. And as nature has true of several, but still is by far the majority formed no bond of union to hold them together, in the same old state of blindness and slavery; he supplied this defect by lcavs.
and much is it to be feared that we shall This is political society. And hence the perpetually relapse, whilst the real productivo sources of what are usually called states, civil cause of all this superstitious folly, enthusisocieties, or governments; into some form of astical nonsense, and holy tyranny, holds a which, more extended or restrained, all man- reverend place in the estimation even of those kind have gradually fallen. And since it has who are otherwise enlightened. 80 happened, and that we owe an implicit Civil government borrows a strength from reverence to all the institutions of our ancestors, ecclesiastical; and artificial laws receive a we shall consider these institutions with all sanction from artificial revelations. The ideas that modesty with which we ought to conduct of religion and government are closely connectourselves in examining a received opinion; but ed; and whilst we receive government as a with all that freedom and candour which we thing necessary, or even useful to our wellowe to truth wherever we find it, or however it being, we shall in spite of us draw in, as a may contradict our own notions, or oppose our necessary, though undesirable consequence, an own interests. There is a most absurd and artificial religion of some kind or other. To audacious method of reasoning avowed by this the vulgar will always be voluntary slaves ; some bigots and enthusiasts, and through fear and even those of a rank of understanding supe. assented to by some wiser and better men; it riour, will now and then involuntarily feel its is this: they argue against a fair discussion of influence. It is therefore of the deepest conpopular prejudices, because, say they, though cernment to us to be set right in this point; they would be found without any reasonable and to be well satisfied whether civil governsupport, yet the discovery might be productive ment be such a protector from natural evils, of the most dangerous consequences. Absurd and such a nurse and increaser of blessings, as and blasphemous notion! as if all happiness those of warm imaginations promise. In such was not connected with the practice of virtue, a discussion, far am I from proposing in the which necessarily depends upon the knowledge least to reflect on our most wise form of goof truth; that is, upon the knowledge of those vernment; no more than I would in the freer unalterable relations which Providence has or parts of my philosophical writings mean to dained that every thing should bear to every object to the piety, truth and perfection of our other. These relations, which are truth itself, most excellent church. Both I am sensiblo the foundation of virtue, and consequently, the have their foundations on a rock. No discoonly measures of happiness, should be likewise very of truth can prejudice them. On the conthe only measures by which we should direct trary, the more closely the origin of religion our reasoning. To these we should conform and government are examined, the more clearly in good earnest; and not think to force nature, their excellencies must appear. They come and the whole order of her system, by a com- purified from the fire. My business is not with pliance with our pride, and folly, to conform to them. Having entered a protest against all our artificial regulations. It is by a conformity objections from these quarters, I may the more to this method we owe the discovery of the few freely enquire from history and experience, truths we know, and the little liberty and ration- how far policy has contributed in all times to al happiness we enjoy. We have something alleviate those evils which Providence, that fairer play than a reasoner could have expected perhaps has designed us for a state of imperformerly; and we derive advantages from it fection, has imposed; how far our physicai which are very visible.
skill has cured our constitutional disorders; The fabric of superstition has in this our and whether it may not have introduced new age and nation received much ruder shocks ones, curable perhaps by no skill. than it had ever felt before; and through the In looking over any state to form a judgmeni chinks and breaches of our prison, we see such on it; it presents itself in two lights, the exter glimmerings of light, and fcel such refreshing nal and the internal. The first, that relation