Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Christ is traced to Adam. Why, then, not trace the rights of man to the creation of man? I will answer the question. Because there have been upstart governments, thrusting themselves between, and presumptuously working to un-make man.

If any generation of men ever possessed the right of dictating the mode by which the world should be governed forever, it was the first generation that existed; and if that generation did not do it, no succeeding generation can show any authority for doing it, nor can set any up. The illuminating and divine principles of the equal rights of man (for it has its origin from the Maker of man) relates not only to the living individuals, but to generations of men succeeding each other. Every generation is equal in rights to the generations which preceded it, by the same rule that every individual is born equal in rights with his contemporary

Every history of the creation, and every traditionary account, whether from the lettered or unlettered world, however they may vary in their opinion or belief of certain particulars, all agree in establishing one point, the unity of man; by which I mean that men are all of one degree, and consequently that all men are born equal, and with equal natural right, in the same manner as if posterity had been continued by creation instead of generation, the latter being only the mode by which the former is carried forward; and consequently, every child born into the world must be considered as deriving its existence from God. The world is as new to him as it was to the first man that existed, and his natural right in it is of the same kind.

The Mosaic account of the creation, whether taken as divine authority or merely historical, is full to this point, the unity or equality of man. The expression admits of no controversy. “And God said, let us make man in our image. In the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” The distinction of sexes is pointed out, but no other distinction is even implied. If this be not divine authority, it is at least historical authority, and shows that the equality of man, so far from being a modern doctrine, is the oldest upon record.

It is also to be observed that all the religions known in the world are founded, so far as they relate to man, on the unity of man, as being all of one degree. Whether in heaven or in hell,

or in whatever state man may be supposed to exist hereafter, the good and the bad are the only distinctions. Nay, even the laws of governments are obliged to slide into this principle, by making degrees to consist in crimes, and not in persons.

It is one of the greatest of all truths, and of the highest advantage to cultivate. By considering man in this light, and by instructing him to consider himself in this light, it places him in a close connection with all his duties, whether to his Creator, or to the creation of which he is a part; and it is only when he forgets his origin, or, to use a more fashionable phrase, his birth and family, that he becomes dissolute. It is not among the least of the evils of the present existing governments in all parts of Europe, that man, considered as man, is thrown back to a vast distance from his Maker, and the artificial chasm filled up with a succession of barriers, or sort of turnpike gates, through which he has to pass. I will quote Mr. Burke's catalogue of barriers that he has set up between man and his Maker. Putting himself in the character of a herald, he says: “We fear God we look with awe to kings — with affection to parliaments — with duty to magistrates — with reverence to priests — and with respect to nobility.” Mr. Burke has forgotten to put in “chivalry.” He has also forgotten to put in Peter.

The duty of man is not a wilderness of turnpike gates, through which he is to pass by tickets from one to the other. It is plain and simple, and consists but of two points: his duty to God, which every man must feel, and with respect to his neighbor, to do as he would be done by. If those to whom power is delegated do well, they will be respected; if not, they will be despised. And with regard to those to whom no power is delegated, but who assume it, the rational world can know nothing of them. ...

The rights of men in society are neither devisable or transferable, nor annihilable, but are descendable only; and it is not in the power of any generation to intercept finally, and cut off the descent. If the present generation, or any other, are disposed to be slaves, it does not lessen the right of the succeeding generation to be free; wrongs cannot have a legal descent. When Mr. Burke attempts to maintain that the “English na

tion did, at the Revolution of 1688, most solemnly renounce and abdicate their rights for themselves, and for all their posterity forever,” he speaks a language that merits not reply, and which can only excite contempt for his prostitute principles, or pity for his ignorance.

In whatever light hereditary succession, as growing out of the will and testament of some former generation, presents itself, it is an absurdity. A cannot make a will to take from B his property, and give it to C; yet this is the manner in which (what is called) hereditary succession by law operates. A certain former generation made a will to take away the rights of the commencing generation and all future ones, and convey those rights to a third person, who afterwards comes forward, and tells them, in Mr. Burke's language, that they have no rights, – that their rights are already bequeathed to him, and that he will govern in contempt of them. From such principles, and such ignorance, good Lord deliver the world!

But, after all, what is this metaphor called a crown, - or rather, what is monarchy? Is it a thing, or is it a name, or is it a fraud? Is it a "contrivance of human wisdom," or human craft, to obtain money from a nation under specious pretences? Is it a thing necessary to a nation? If it is, in what does that necessity consist? what service does it perform? what is its business? and what are its merits? Does the virtue consist in the metaphor, or in the man? Does the goldsmith that makes the crown, make the virtue also? Does it operate like Fortunatus's wishing-cap, or Harlequin's wooden sword? Doth it make a man a conjurer? In fine, what is it? It appears to be something going much out of fashion, falling into ridicule, and rejected in some countries both as unnecessary and expensive. In America it is considered as an absurdity, and in France it has so far declined that the goodness of the man, and the respect for his personal character, are the only things that preserve the appearance of its existence.

If government be what Mr. Burke describes it, “a contrivance of human wisdom,” I might ask him if wisdom was at such a low ebb in England, that it was become necessary to import it from Holland and from Hanover? But I will do the country the justice to say that was not the case; and even if it was, it mistook the cargo. The wisdom of every country, when

properly exerted, is sufficient for all its purposes; and there could exist no more real occasion in England to have sent for a Dutch stadtholder, or a German elector, than there was in America to have done a similar thing. If a country does not understand its own affairs, how is a foreigner to understand them, who knows neither its laws, its manners, nor its language? If there existed a man so transcendently wise above all others, that his wisdom was necessary to instruct a nation, some reason might be offered for monarchy; but when we cast our eyes about a country, and observe how every part understands its own affairs; and when we look around the world, and see that, of all men in it, the race of kings are the most insignificant in capacity, our reason cannot fail to ask us What are those men kept for?

If there is anything in monarchy which we people of America do not understand, I wish Mr. Burke would be so kind as to inform us. I see in America a government extending over a country ten times as large as England, and conducted with regularity for a fortieth part of the expense which government costs in England. If I ask a man in America if he wants a king, he retorts, and asks me if I take him for an idiot. How is it that this difference happens? Are we more or less wise than others? I see in America the generality of people living in a style of plenty unknown in monarchical countries; and I see that the principle of its government, which is that of the equal rights of man, is making a rapid progress in the world. ...

JAMES BOSWELL

THE JOURNAL OF A TOUR TO THE HEBRIDES WITH SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

1786

[The tour to the Hebrides took place in 1773, and Johnson published his account of it in 1775. Two years after his death, Boswell brought out this Journal, which was a kind of preliminary section of the Life that followed five years later. (The greater part of the earlier work was incorporated in the later.) On the inception of the biography, see Boswell's remarks on page 626, below. Two other preliminary sections, the Letter to Chesterfield and the Conversation with George III, were published in 1790. The success of the Life was immediate, and destined to be lasting beyond that of any other biography in the language. For the attitude toward it of Dr. Johnson's friends, see Miss Burney's Diary, page 523, above. The biography is not divided into chapters or sections; the passages reprinted below may be found in the edition of Dr. Birkbeck Hill, vol. I, pp. 227–259, 297–309, 337-343, 452-461, 476-482; vol. II, 37-46, 270-276, 290—294, 337-343; vol. III, 74-90; vol. IV, 40-42, 74-75,359-371, 490-496.)

Saturday, 25th September. DR. JOHNSON went to bed soon. When one bowl of punch was finished, I rose, and was near the door, in my way upstairs to bed; but Corrichatachin said it was the first time Col had been in his house, and he should have his bowl; and would not I join in drinking it? The heartiness of my honest landlord, and the desire of doing social honor to our very obliging conductor, induced me to sit down again. Col's bowl was finished, and by that time we were well warmed. A third bowl was soon made, and that too was finished. We were cordial and merry to a high degree, but of what passed I have no recollection, with any accuracy. I remember calling Corrichatachin by the familiar appellation of Corri, which his friends do. A fourth bowl was made, by which time Col and young Mackinnon, Corrichatachin's son, slipped away to bed. I continued a little with Corri and Knockow, but at last I left them. It was near five in the morning when I got to bed.

« ElőzőTovább »