Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

to him when he was a school-boy, which was at a time when the feuds ran high between the round-heads and cavaliers. This worthy knight, being then but a stripling, had occasion to inquire which was the way to St. Anne's lane; upon which the person whom he spoke to, instead of answering his question, called him a young Popish cur, and asked him who had made Anne a saint! The boy, being in some confusion, inquired of the next he met, which was the way to Anne's lane; but was

called a prick-eared cur for his pains, and instead of being shewn 10 the way, was told, that she had been a saint before he was born,

and would be one after he was hanged. Upon this, says Sir Roger, I did not think fit to repeat the former question, but going into every lane of the neighbourhood, asked what they called the name of that lane. By which ingenious artifice he found out the place he inquired after, without giving offence to any party. Sir Roger generally closes this narrative with reflexions on the mischief that parties do in the country; how they spoil good neighbourhood, and make honest gentlemen

hate one another ; besides that they manifestly tend to the 20 prejudice of the land-tax, and the destruction of the game.

There cannot a greater judgment befal a country than such a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This

influence is very fatal both to men's morals and their under30 standings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense.

A furious party-spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and, when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny, and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancour, and extinguishes all the seeds of good-nature, compassion, and humanity.

Plutarch says very finely, that a man should not allow himself to hate even his enemies, because, says he, ‘if you indulge this 40 passion on some occasions, it will rise of itself in others; if you

[blocks in formation]

hate your enemies, you will contract such a vicious habit of mind, as by degrees will break out upon those who are your friends, or those who are indifferent to you n' I might here observe how admirably this precept of morality (which derives the malignity of hatred from the passion itself, and not from its object) answers to that great rule which was dictated to the world about an hundred years before this philosopher wrote; but instead of that, I shall only take notice, with a real grief of

heart, that the minds of many good men among us appear soured 10 with party-principles, and alienated from one another in such

a manner, as seems to me altogether inconsistent with the dictates either of reason or religion. Zeal for a public cause is apt to breed passions in the hearts of virtuous persons, to which the regard of their own private interest would never have betrayed them.

If this party-spirit has so ill an effect on our morals, it has likewise a very great one upon our judgments. We often hear a poor insipid paper or pamphlet cried up, and sometimes a noble

piece depreciated, by those who are of a different principle from 20 the author. One who is actuated by this spirit is almost under

an incapacity of discerning either real blemishes or beauties. A man of merit in a different principle, is like an object seen in two different mediums, that appears crooked or broken, however straight and entire it may be in itself. For this reason there is scarce a person of any figure in England who does not go by two contrary characters, as opposite to one another as light and darkness. Knowledge and learning suffer in a particular manner from this strange prejudice, which at present prevails amongst

all ranks and degrees in the British nation. As men formerly 30 became eminent in learned societies by their parts and ac

quisitions, they now distinguish themselves by the warmth and violence with which they espouse their respective parties. Books are valued upon the like considerations: an abusive scurrilous stile passes for satire, and a dull scheme of party notions is called fine writing.

There is one piece of sophistry practised by both sides, and that is the taking any scandalous story, that has been ever whispered or invented of a private man, for a known undoubted

truth, and raising suitable speculations upon it. Calumnies that 40 have been never proved, or have been often refuted, are the

ordinary postulatums of these infamous scribblers, upon which they proceed as upon first principles granted by all men, though in their hearts they know they are false, or at best very doubtful. When they have laid these foundations of scurrility, it is no wonder that their superstructure is every way answerable to them. If this shameless practice of the present age endures much longer, praise and reproach will cease to be motives of action in good men.

There are certain periods of time in all governments when 10 this inhuman spirit prevails. Italy was long torn in pieces by the

Guelfes and Gibellines , and France by those who were for and against the Leaguen: but it is very unhappy for a man to be born in such a stormy and tempestuous season.

It is the restless ambition of artful men, that thus breaks a people into factions, and draws several well-meaning persons to their interest by a specious concern for their country. How many honest minds are filled with uncharitable and barbarous notions, out of their zeal for the public good? What cruelties and outrages would

they not commit against men of an adverse party, whom they 20 would honour and esteem, if instead of considering them as

they are represented, they knew them as they are? Thus are persons of the greatest probity seduced into shameful errors and prejudices, and made bad men even by that noblest of principles, the love of their country. I cannot here forbear mentioning the famous Spanish proverb, If there were neither fools nor knaves in the world all people would be of one mind.

For my own part, I could heartily wish that all honest men would enter into an association, for the support of one another

against the endeavours of those whom they ought to look upon 30 as their common enemies, whatsoever side they may belong to.

Were there such an honest body of neutral forces, we should never see the worst of men in great figures of life, because they are useful to a party; nor the best unregarded, because they are above practising those methods which would be grateful to their faction. We should then single every criminal out of the herd, and hunt him down, however formidable and overgrown he might appear: on the contrary, we should shelter distressed innocence, and defend virtue, however beset with contempt or

ridicule, envy or defamation. In short, we should not any 40 longer regard our fellow-subjects as Whigs or Tories, but should

PARTY SPIRIT.

43 make the man of merit our friend, and the villain our enemy.-C.

No. 126. Strictures on party-spirit continued ; illustrations taken

from the Spectator's experience among the county people, Sir
Roger's neighbours.
Tros Rutulusve fuat, nullo discrimine habebo.

VIRG. Æn. X. 108.
Rutulians, Trojans, are the same to me.

DRYDEN. In my yesterday's paper I proposed, that the honest men of all parties should enter into a kind of association for the defence of one another, and the confusion of their common enemies. As it is designed this neutral body should act with a regard to nothing but truth and equity, and divest themselves of the little heats and prepossessions that cleave to parties of all kinds, I have

prepared for them the following form of an association, which 10 may express their intentions in the most plain and simple

manner.

We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do solemnly declare, that we do in our consciences believe two and two make four; and that we shall adjudge any man whatsoever to be our enemy who endeavours to persuade us to the contrary. We are likewise ready to maintain with the hazard of all that is near and dear to us, that six is less than seven in all times and all places; and that ten will not be more three years hence than it is at present. We do also firmly

declare, that it is our resolution as long as we live to call black black, 20 and white white. And we shall upon all occasions oppose such

persons that upon any day of the year shall call black white, or white black, with the utmost peril of our lives and fortunes.

Were there such a combination of honest men, who without any regard to places would endeavour to extirpate all such furious zealots as would sacrifice one half of their country to the passion and interest of the other; as also such infamous hypocrites, that are for promoting their own advantage under colour of the public good; with all the profligate immoral retainers to

each side, that have nothing to recommend them but an implicit 30 submission to their leaders; we should soon see that furious

party-spirit extinguished, which may in time expose us to the derision and contempt of all the nations about us.

A member of this society, that would thus carefully employ himself in making room for merit, by throwing down the worthless and depraved part of mankind from those conspicuous stations of life to which they have been sometimes advanced, and all this without any regard to his private interest, would be no small benefactor to his country.

I remember to have read in Diodorus Siculus an account of a very active little animal, which I think he calls Ichneumon,

that makes it the whole business of his life to break the eggs 10 of the crocodile, which he is always in search after. This in

stinct is the more remarkable, because the Ichneumon never feeds upon

the eggs he has broken, nor any other way finds his account in them. Were it not for the incessant labours of this industrious animal, Egypt, says the historian, would be over-run with crocodiles; for the Egyptians are so far from destroying those pernicious creatures, that they worship them as gods.

If we look into the behaviour of ordinary partizans, we shall find them far from resembling this disinterested animal; and

rather acting after the example of the wild Tartars, who are 20 ambitious of destroying a man of the most extraordinary parts

and accomplishments, as thinking that upon his decease, the same talents, whatever posts they qualified him for, enter of course into his destroyer n.

As in the whole train of my speculations I have endeavoured as much as I am able to extinguish that pernicious spirit of passion and prejudice, which rages with the same violence in all parties, I am still the more desirous of doing some good in this particular, because I observe that the spirit of party

reigns more in the country than in the town. It here con30 tracts a kind of brutality and rustic fierceness, to which men of

a politer conversation are wholly strangers. It extends itself even to the return of the bow and the hat; and at the same time that the heads of parties preserve towards one another an outward show of good breeding, and keep up a perpetual intercourse of civilities, their tools that are dispersed in these outlying parts will not so much as mingle together at a cockmatch. This humour fills the country with several periodical meetings of Whig jockies and Tory fox-hunters; not to mention

the innumerable curses, frowns, and whispers it produces at a 10 quarter-sessions.

« ForrigeFortsett »