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“ These are the general conclusions which I have 1776. attained. None of them are very favourable to your A. 67. scheme of entail, nor perhaps to any scheme. My observation, that only he who acquires an estate may bequeath it capriciously, if it contains any conviction, includes this position likewise, that only he who acquires an estate may entail it capriciously. But I think it may be safely presumed, that'he who inherits an estate, inherits all the power legally concomitant;' and that “He who gives or leaves unlimited an estate legally limitable, must be presumed to give that power of limitation which he omitted to take away, and to commit future contingencies to future prudence.' In these two positions I believe Lord Hailes will advise you to rest ; every other notion of possession seems to me full of difficulties, and embarrassed with scruples.

If these axioms be allowed, you have arrived now at full liberty without the help of particular circumstances, which, however, have in your case great weight. You very rightly observe, that he who passing by his brother gave the inheritance to his nephew, could limit no more than he gave; and by Lord Hailes's estimate of fourteen years' purchase, what he gave was no more than you may easily entail according to your own opinion, if that opinion should finally prevail.

“ Lord Hailes's suspicion that entails are encroach, ments on the dominion of Providence, may be extended to all hereditary privileges and all permanent institutions; I do not see why it may not be extended to any provision for the present hour, since all care

• I had reminded him of his observation mentioned, p. 270,

1776. about futurity proceeds upon a supposition, that we

know at least in some degree what will be future. Ætat. 67.

Of the future we certainly know nothing ; but we may form conjectures from the past ; and the power of forming conjectures, includes, in my opinion, the duty of acting in conformity to that probability which we discover. Providence gives the power, of which reason teaches the use. I am, dear Sir,

“ Your most faithful servant, “ Feb. 9, 1776.


“ I hope I shall get some ground now with Mrs, Boswell ; make my compliments to her, and to the

little people.

“ Don't burn papers ; they may be safe enough in your own box,--you will wish to see them here, aster."



“ To the letters which I have written about your great question I have nothing to add. If your conscience is satisfied, you have now only your prudence to consult. I long for a letter, that I may know how this troublesome and vexatious question is at last decided. I hope that it will at last end

3 The entail framed by my father with various judicious clauses, was settled by him and me, settling the estate upon the heirs male of his grandfather, which I found had been already done by my grandfather, imperfectly, but so as to be defeated only by selling the lands. I was freed by Dr. Johnson from scruples of conscientious obligation, and could, therefore, gratify my father. But my opinion and partiality for male succession, in its full extent, remained unshaken. Yet let nie not be thought harsh or unkind to daughters : for my notion is, that they should be treated with great affection and tenderness, and always participate of the pros. perity of the family.

well. Lord Hailes's letter was very friendly, and

1776. very seasonable, but I think his aversion from entails

Etat. 67. has something in it like superstition. Providence is not counteracted by any means which Providence puts into our power. The continuance and propagation of families makes a great part of the Jewish law, and is by no means prohibited in the Christian institution, though the necessity of it continues no longer. Hereditary tenures are established in all civilized countries, and are accompanied in most with hereditary authority. Sir William Temple considers our constitution as defective, that there is not an unalienable estate in land connected with a peerage: and Lord Bacon mentions as a proof that the Turks are Barbarians, their want of Stirpes, as he calls them, or hereditary rank. Do not let

Do not let your mind, when it is freed from the supposed necessity of a rigorous entail, be entangled with contrary objections, and think all entails unlawful, till you have cogent arguments, which I believe you will never find. I am afraid of scruples.

“ I have now sent all Lord Hailes's papers ; part I found hidden in a drawer in which I had laid them for security, and had forgotten them. Part of these are written twice ; I have returned both the copies. Part I had read before.

“ Be so kind as to return Lord Hailes my most respectful thanks for his first volume : his accuracy strikes me with wonder; his narrative is far supe

1776. riour to that of Henault, as I have formerly men

tioned. Ætat. 67.

166 ( am afraid that the trouble, which my irregularity and delay has cost him, is greater, far greater, than any good that I can do him will ever recompense ; but if I have any more copy, I will try to do better.

“ Pray let me know if Mrs. Boswell is friends with me, and pay my respects to Veronica, and Euphemia, and Alexander. I am, Sir,

“ Your most humble servant, February 15, 1776.



" Edinburgh, Feb. 20, 1776

“ You have illuminated my mind, and relieved me from imaginary shackles of conscientious obliga, tion. Were it necessary, I could immediately join in an entail upon the series of he irs approved by my father ; but it is better not to act too suddenly.”



I am glad that what I could think or say has at all contributed to quiet your thoughts. Your resolution not to act, till your opinion is confirmed by more deliberation, is


have been scrupulous, do not be rash. I hope that as you think more, and take opportunities of talking with

very just. If

men intelligent in questions of property, you will be 1776. able to free yourself from every difficulty.

Ætat. 67. $6 When I wrote last, I sent, I think, ten packets. Did you receive them all ?

S«. You must tell Mrs. Boswell that I suspected her to have written without your knowedge, and therefore did not return any answer, lest a clandestine correspondence should have been perniciously dis. covered. I will write to her soon.

so I am, dear Sir,

"“ Most affectionately yours, «« Feb. 24, 1776.


Having communicated to Lord Hailes what Dr, Johnson wrote concerning the question which perplexed me so much, his Lordship wrote to me; Your scruples have produced more fruit than I ever expected from them; an excellent dissertation on general principles of morals and law.”

I wrote to Dr. Johnson on the 20th of February, complaining of melancholy, and expressing a strong desire to be with himn ; informing him that the ten packets came all safe; that Lord Hailes was much obliged to him, and said he had almost wholly removed his scruples against entails.



“ I have not had your letter half an hour : as you lay so much weight upon my notions, I should think it not just to delay my answer.

• A letter to him on the interesting subject of the fainily settle, ment, which I had read.

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