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THE ELECTORS OF GREAT BRITAIN.
They bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
Yet still revolt when truth would set them free ;
Licence they mean, when they cry liberty,
To improve the golden moment of opportunity, and
O catch the good that is within our reach, is the great art of life. Many wants are suffered, which might once have been supplied; and much time is lost in regretting the time which had been lost before.
At the end of every seven years comes the Saturnalian season, when the freemen of Great Britain may please themselves with the choice of their representatives. This happy day has now arrived, somewhat sooner than it could be claimed.
To select and depute those, by whom laws are to be made, and taxes to be granted, is a high dignity and an important trust: and it is the business of every elector to consider, how this dignity may be well sustained, and this trust faithfully discharged.
It ought to be deeply impressed on the minds of all who have voices in this national deliberation, that no man can deserve a seat in parliament who is not a PATRIOT. No other man will protect our rights, no other man can merit our confidence.
A PATRIOT is he whose public conduct is regulated by one single motive, the love of his country; who, as an agent in parliament, has for himself neither hope nor fear, neither kindness nor resentment, but refers every thing to the common interest.
That of five hundred men, such as this degenerate age affords, a majority can be found thus virtuously abstracted, who will affirm? Yet there is no good in despondence: vigilance and activity often effect more than was expected. Let us take a patriot where we can meet him; and that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain from those which may deceive: for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight.
Some claim a place in the list of patriots by an acrimonious and unremitting opposition to the court.
This mark is by no means infallible. Patriotism is not necessarily included in rebellion. A man may hate his king, yet not love his country. He that has been refused a reasonable or unreasonable request, who thinks his merit underrated, and sees his influence declining, begins 'soon to talk of natural equality, the absurdity of many made for one, the original compact, the foundation of authority, and the majesty of the people. As his political melancholy increases, he tells, and perhaps dreams, of the advances of the prerogative, and the dangers of arbitrary power; yet his design in
all his declamation is not to benefit his country, but to gratify his malice.
These, however, are the most honest of the oppopents of government; their patriotism is a species of disease; and they feel some part of what they express. But the greater, far the greater number of those who rave and rail, and inquire and accuse, neither suspect nor fear, nor care for the public; but hope to force their way to riches by virulence and invective, and are vehement and clamorous, only that they may be sooner hired to be silent.
A man sometimes starts up a patriot, only by disse minating discontent and propagating reports of secret influence, of dangerous counsels, of violated rights, and encroaching usurpation.
This practice is no certain note of patriotism. To instigate the populace with rage beyond the provocation, is to suspend public happiness, if not to destroy it. He is no lover of his country, that unnecessarily disturbs its peace. Few errors, and few faults of government can justify an appeal to the rabble; who ought not to judge of what they cannot understand, and whose opinions are not propagated by reason, but caught by contagion.
The fallaciousness of this note of patriotism is particularly apparent, when the clamour continues aftes the evil is past. They who are still filling our ears with Mr. Wilkes, and the freeholders of Middlesex, lament a grievance that is now at an end. Mr. Wilkes may be chosen, if any will choose him, and the precedent of his exclusion makes not any honest, or any decent man, think himself in danger. It may
be doubted whether the name of a patriot can be fairly given as the reward of secreț satire, or open outrage. To fill the newspapers with sly hints of core
ruption and intrigue, to circulate the Middlesex Journal and London Pacquet, may indeed be zeal; but it may likewise be interest and malice. To offer a petition, not expected to be granted; to insult a king with a rude remonstrance, only because there is no punishment for legal insolence, is not courage, for there is no danger; nor patriotism, for it tends to the subversion of order, and lets wickedness loose upon the land, by destroying the reverence due to sovereign authority.
It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see public dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. Bút he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy: he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism therefore may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities; who tells, that the last peace was obtained by bribing the princess of Wales; that the king is grasping at arbitrary power; and that because the French in the new conquests enjoy their own laws, there is a design at court of abolishing in England the trial by juries.
Still less does the true patriot circulate opinions which he knows to be false. No man, who loves his country, fills the nation with clamorous complaints, that the protestant religion is in danger, because popery is established in the esctensive province of Quebec, a falsehood so open and shameless, that it can need no confutation among those who know that of which it is almost impossible for the most unenlightened zealot to be ignorant. That Quebec is on the other side of the Atlantic, at
too great a distance to do much good or harm to the European world:
That the inhabitants, being French, were always papists, who are certainly more dangerous as enemies, than as subjects:
That though the province be wide, the people are few, probably not so many as may be found in one of the larger English counties :
That persecution is not more virtuous in a protestant than a papist ; and that while we blame Lewis the fourteenth, for his dragoons and his galley, we ought, when power comes into our hands, to use it with greater equity :
That when Canada with its inhabitants was yielded the free enjoyment of their religion was stipulated; a condition, of which king William, who was no propagator of popery, gave an example nearer home, at the surrender of Limerick :
That in an age, where every mouth is open for liber. ty of conscience, it is equitable to shew some regard to the conscience of a papist, who may be supposed, like other men, to think himself safest in his own religion ; and that those at least, who enjoy a toleration, ought not to deny it to our new subjects.
If liberty of conscience be a natural right, we have no power to withhold it; if it be an indulgence, it may be allowed to papists, while it is not denied to other sects.
A patriot is necessarily and invariably a lover of the people. But even this mark may sometimes deceive us.
The people is a very heterogeneous and confused mass of the wealthy and the poor, the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad. Before we confer on a man, who caresses the people, the title of patriot,