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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Toryism in a Nutshell

"Politics, however, was the subject on which our entertainer chiefly expatieted;  for he asserted that liberty was at once his boast and his terror.  After the cloth was removed, he asked me if I had seen the last Monitor?  to which, replying in the negative, "What! nor the Auditor, I suppose?" cried he.  "Neither, sir," returned I.  "That's strange, very strange!" replied my entertainer.  "Now, I read all the politics that come out:  the Daily, the Public, the Ledger, the Chronicle, the London Evening, the Whitehall Evening, the seventeen Magazines, and the two Reviews;  and, though they hate each other, I love them all.  Liberty, sir, liberty is the Briton's boast!  and, by all my coal-mines in Cornwall, I reverence its guardians."--"Then, it is to be hoped," cried I, "you reverence the King?"  "Yes," returned my entertainer, "when he does what we would have him;  but if he goes on as he has done of late, I'll never trouble myself more with his matters.  I say nothing.  I think, only, I could have directed some things better.  I don't think there has been a sufficient number of advisors:  he should advise with every person willing to give him advice, and then we should have things done in another guess manner."  "I wish," cried I, " that such intruding advisors were fixed in the pillory.  It should be the duty of honest men to assist the weaker side of the constitution, that sacred power that has for some years been every day declining, and losing its due share of influence in the state.  But these ignorants still continue the same cry of liberty, and, if they have any weight, basely throw it into the subsiding scale."  "How!" cried one of the ladies, "do I live to see one so base, so sordid, as to be an enemy to liberty, and a defender of tyrants?  Liberty, that sacred gift of Heaven, that glorious privilege of Britons!"  "Can it be possible," cried our entertainer, "that there should be found at present advocates for slavery?  Any who are for meanly giving up the privileges of Britons?  Can any, sir, be so abject?"  "No, sir," replied I, "I am for liberty! that attribute of gods! Glorious liberty! that theme of modern declamation! I would have all men kings!  I would be a king myself.  We have all an equal right to the throne:  we are all originally equal.  This is my opinion, and was once the opinion of a set of honest men who were called Levellers.  They tried to erect themselves into a community where all should be equally free.  But, alas! it would never answer:  for there were some among them stronger, and some more cunning than others, and sure as your groom rides your horses, because he is a cunninger animal than they, so surely will the animal that is cunninger or stronger than he, sit upon his shoulders in turn.  Since, then, it is entailed upon humanity to submit, and some are born to command and others to obey, the question is, as there must be tyrants, whether it is better to have them in the same house with us, or in the same village, or still further off, in the metropolis.  Now, sir, for my own part, as I naturally hate the face of a tyrant, the farther off he is removed from me the better pleased am I.  The generality of mankind also are of my way of thinking, and have unanimously created one king, whose election at once diminishes the number of tyrants, and puts tyranny at the greatest distance from the greatest number of people.  Now the great, who were tyrants themselves before the election of one tyrant, are naturally averse to a power raised over them, and whose weight must lean heaviest on the subordinate orders.  It is the interest of the great, therefore, to diminish kingly power as much as possible;  because, whatever they take from that is naturally restored to themselves;  and all they have to do in the state is to undermine the single tyrant, by which they resume their primeval authority.  Now, the state may be so disposed, or its men of opulence so minded, as all to conspire in this business of undermining monarchy.  For, in the first place, if the circumstances of our state be such as to favour the accumulation of wealth, and make the opulent still more rich, this will increase their ambition.  An accumulation of wealth, however, must necessarily be the consequence, when, as at present, more riches flow in from external commerce than arise from internal industry;  so that the rich, with us , have two sources of wealth, whereas the poor have but one.  For this reason, wealth, in all commercial states, is found to accumulate;  and all such have hitherto in time become aristocratical.  Again, the very laws of this country may contribute to the accumulation of wealth;  as when, by their means, the natural ties that bind the rich and the poor together are broken, and it is ordained that the rich shall only marry with the rich;  or when the learned are held unqualified to serve their country as counsellors, merely from a defect of opulence, and wealth is thus made the object of a wise man's ambition:  by these means, I say, and such means as these, riches will accumulate.  Now, the possessor of accumulated wealth, when furnished with the necessaries and pleasures of life has no other method to employ the superfluity of his fortune but in purchasing power.  That is, differently speaking, in making dependents, by purchasing the liberty of the needy or venal, of men who are willing to bear the mortification of contiguous tyranny for bread.  Thus each very opulent man generally gathers around him a circle of the poorest of the people;  and the polity abounding in accumulated wealth may be compared to a Cartesian system, each orb with a vortex of its own.  Those, however, who are willing to move in a great man's vortex, are only such as must be slaves, the rabble of mankind, whose souls and whose education are adapted to servitude,and who know nothing of liberty except the name.  But then there must still be a large number of the people without the sphere of the opulent man's influence;  namely, that order of men which subsists between the very rich and the very rabble;  those men who are possessed of too large fortunes to submit to the neighboring man in power, and yet are too poor to set up for tyranny themselves.  In this middle order of mankind are generally to be found all the arts, wisdom, and virtues of society.  This order alone is known to be the true preserver of freedom, and may be called  THE PEOPLE.  Now, it may happen that the middle order of mankind may lose all its influence in a state, and its voice be in a manner drowned in that of the rabble;  for, if the fortune sufficient for qualifying a person at present to give his voice in state affairs be ten times less than was judged sufficient upon forming the constitution, it is evident that great numbers of the rabble will thus be introduced into the political system, and they, ever moving in the vortex of the great, will follow where the greatness shall direct.  In such a state, therefore, all that the middle order has left is to preserve the prerogative and privileges of the one principle governor with the most sacred circumspection.  For he divides the power of the rich, and calls off the great from falling with tenfold weight on the middle order placed beneath them.  The middle order may be compared to a town of which the opulent are forming the siege, and of which the governor from without is hastening the relief.  While the besiegers are in dread of an enemy over them, it is but natural to offer the townsmen the most specious terms;  to flatter them with sounds, and amuse them with privileges;  but if they once defeat the governor from behind, the walls of the town will be but a small defence to its inhabitants.  What they may then expect, may be seen by turning our eyes to Holland, Genoa, or Venice, where the laws govern the poor, and the rich govern the law.  I am then for, and would die for monarchy, sacred monarchy:  for if there be anything sacred amongst men, it must be the anointed SOVEREIGN of his people;  and every dimunition of his power, in war or in peace, is an infringement upon the real liberties of the subject."
The Vicar of Wakefield, Chapter Nineteen, by Oliver Goldsmith

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