Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 51

[+] | [-] | reset
 

Though he himself made free with his countrymen, he would not suffer any other person to glance a sarcasm at them with impunity. One of the company chancing to mention lord B—'s inglorious peace, the lieutenant immediately took up the cudgels in his lordship's favour, and argued very strenuously to prove that it was the most honourable and advantageous peace that England had ever made since the foundation of the monarchy. — Nay, between friends, he offered such reasons on this subject, that I was really confounded, if not convinced. — He would not allow that the Scots abounded above their proportion in the army and navy of Great-Britain, or that the English had any reason to say his countrymen had met with extraordinary encouragement in the service. 'When a South and North-Briton (said he) are competitors for a place or commission, which is in the disposal of an English minister or an English general, it would be absurd to suppose that the preference will not be given to the native of England, who has so many advantages over his rival. — First and foremost, he has in his favour that laudable partiality, which, Mr Addison says, never fails to cleave to the heart of an Englishman; secondly, he has more powerful connexions, and a greater share of parliamentary interest, by which those contests are generally decided; and lastly, he has a greater command of money to smooth the way to his success. For my own part (said he), I know no Scotch officer, who has risen in the army above the rank of a subaltern, without purchasing every degree of preferment either with money or recruits; but I know many gentlemen of that country, who, for want of money and interest, have grown grey in the rank of lieutenants; whereas very few instances of this ill-fortune are to be found among the natives of South-Britain. — Not that I would insinuate that my countrymen have the least reason to complain. Preferment in the service, like success in any other branch of traffic, will naturally favour those who have the greatest stock of cash and credit, merit and capacity being supposed equal on all sides.'

But the most hardy of all this original's positions were these: That commerce would, sooner or later, prove the ruin of every nation, where it flourishes to any extent — that the parliament was the rotten part of the British constitution — that the liberty of the press was a national evil — and that the boasted institution of juries, as managed in England, was productive of shameful perjury and flagrant injustice. He observed, that traffick was an enemy to all the liberal passions of the soul, founded on the thirst of lucre, a sordid disposition to take advantage of the necessities of our fellow creatures. — He affirmed, the nature of commerce was such, that it could not be fixed or perpetuated, but, having flowed to a certain height, would immediately begin to ebb, and so continue till the channels should be left almost dry; but there was no instance of the tide's rising a second time to any considerable influx in the same nation. Mean while the sudden affluence occasioned by trade, forced open all the sluices of luxury and overflowed the land with every species of profligacy and corruption; a total pravity of manners would ensue, and this must be attended with bankruptcy and ruin. He observed of the parliament, that the practice of buying boroughs, and canvassing for votes, was an avowed system of venality, already established on the ruins of principle, integrity, faith, and good order, in consequence of which the elected and the elector, and, in short, the whole body of the people, were equally and universally contaminated and corrupted. He affirmed, that of a parliament thus constituted, the crown would always have influence enough to secure a great majority in its dependence, from the great number of posts, places, and pensions it had to bestow; that such a parliament would (as it had already done) lengthen the term of its sitting and authority, whenever the prince should think it for his interest to continue the representatives, for, without doubt, they had the same right to protect their authority ad infinitum, as they had to extend it from three to seven years. — With a parliament, therefore, dependent upon the crown, devoted to the prince, and supported by a standing army, garbled and modelled for the purpose, any king of England may, and probably some ambitious sovereign will, totally overthrow all the bulwarks of the constitution; for it is not to be supposed that a prince of high spirit will tamely submit to be thwarted in all his measures, abused and insulted by a populace of unbridled ferocity, when he has it in his power to crush all opposition under his feet with the concurrence of the legislature. He said, he should always consider the liberty of the press as a national evil, while it enabled the vilest reptile to soil the lustre of the most shining merit, and furnished the most infamous incendiary with the means of disturbing the peace and destroying the good order of the community. He owned, however, that under due restrictions, it would be a valuable privilege; but affirmed, that at present there was no law in England sufficient to restrain it within proper bounds.