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But, if you please, you may let your lands, and so get the value, part in money, and part in homage. I should agree with you in that. BOSWELL. “So, sir, you laugh at schemes of political improvement." JOHNSON. Why, sir, most schemes of political improvement are very laughable things.”
A PARTY of literary friends spending the evening together at the Mitre tavern in Fleet-street, Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much eagerbess, to shine, and disputed very warmly with Johnsou against the well-known maxim of the British constitution, “ the king can do no wrong ;" affirm. ing, that “ what was morally false could not be politically true; and, as the king inight, in the exercise of his regal power, command and cause the doing of what was wrong, it certainly night be said, in sense and in reason, that he could do wrong." JOHNSON. “ Sir, you are to consider, that in our constitution, according to its true principles, the king is the head; he is supreme; he is above every thing; and there is no power by which he can be tried : therefore it is, sir, that we hold the king can do no wrong; that whatever may happen to be wrong in government, may not be above our reach, by being ascribed to majesty. Redress is always to be had against oppression, by punishing the immediate agents. The king, though he should cominand, cannot force a judge to condemn a man unjustly; therefore, it is
the judge whom we prosecute and punish. Politi. cal institutions are formed upon the consideration of what will most frequently tend to the good of the whole, although now and then exceptions may occur. Thus it is better, in general, that a ration should have a supreme legislative power, although it may at times be abused : and then, sir, there is this consideration—that if the abuse be enormous, Nature will rise up, and, claiming her original rights, over., turn a corrupt political system.”
· In the year 1769, politics being mentioned, he said, “ This petitioning is a new mode of distress. ing government, and a mighty easy one. I will untake to get petitions either against quarter guineas or half guineas, with the help of a little hot wine. There must be no yielding to eucourage this; the object is not important enough. We are not to blow up half a dozen palaces, because one cottage is burning."*
He observed, “ Providence has wisely ordered, that the more numerous men are, the more difficult it is for them to agree in any thing; and so they are governed. There is no doubt, that if the poor should reason, We'll be the poor no longer; we'll make the rich take their turn'--they could easily do it, were it not that they can't agree. So the common soldiers, though so much more numerous than their officers, are governed by them for the same reason."
Dr. Maxwell said of Johnson, “He detested the idea of governing by parliamentary corruption ; and asserted most strenuously, that a priuce,steadily and
* Unquestionably we should, if the burning this ope cot. tage threaten a general conflagration.--Ed,
conspicuously pursuing the interests of his people, could not fail of parliamentary concurrence. А prince of ability, he contended, might and should be the directing soul and spirit of his own adininistra. tion; in short, his own minister, and not the mere head of a party : and then, and not till then, would the royal dignity be sincerely respected.
“ He seemed to think, that a certain degree of crown influence over the houses of parliament, (not meaning a corrupt and shameful dependence) was very salutary, nay, eren vecessary, in our mixed government, · For,' said he, if the members were under vo crown influence, and disqualified from receiving any gratification from court, and resembled, as they possibly might, Pym, and Haslerig, and other stubborn and sturdy members of the long parliament, the wheels of governmeot would be totally obstructed. Such men would oppose, merely to show their power, from envy, jealousy, and perversity of disposition; and not gaining themselves, would hate and oppose all who did : not loving the person of the prince, and conceiving they owed him little gratitude, from the mere spirit of insolence and contradiction, they would oppose and thwart him on all occasions.
“The inseparable imperfection annexed to all human governments, consisted, he said, in not being able to create a sufficient fund of virtise and principle, to carry the laws into due and effectual execution. Wisdom might plan, but virtue alone can execute, Aud where could sufficient virtue be found ? A variety of delegated, and often discretionary, powers, must be entrusted somewhere; whieh, if not governed by integrity and conscience, would be, cessarily be abused, till at last the constable would sell his for a shilling.”
He had great compassion for the miseries and distresses of the Irish nation, particularly the papists; and severely reprobated the barbarous debilitating policy of the British government, which, he said, was the most detestable mode of persecution. To a gentleman, who hinted such policy might be necessary to support the authority of the English govern. ment, he replied, by saying, “Let the authority of the governinent perish, rather than be maintained by iniqnity. Better would it be to restrain the turbulence of the natives by the authority of the sword, and to make them amenable to law and justice by an effectual and vigorous police, than to grind them to powder by all manner of disabilities and incapacities. Better to hang or drown people at once, than, by an unrelenting persecution, to beggar and starve them."
Sir Alexander Macdonald observed, that the chancellors in England are chosen from views much in ferior to the office ; being chosen from temporary political views. JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, in such a government as ours, no man is appointed to an office because he is the fittest for it, nor hardly in any other government; because there are so many connections and dependencies to be studied. A despotic prince may choose a man to an office, merely because he is the fittest for it. The king of Prussia
iday do it.”
In the Scottish schoolmaster's cause, which has been noticed at length under the head EDUCATION, in Part I, lord Mansfield said, in the house of lords, "My lords, severity is not the way to govern either boys or men. Nay,” said Johnson, " it is the way to govern them; I know not whether it be the way to mend them.”
Upon the state of the nation in 1775, he thus discoursed : “Sir, the great misfortune now is, that government has too little power. All that it has to bestow, must, of necessity, be given to support itself; so that it cannot reward merit. No man, for instance, can now be made a bishop for his learning and piety; his only chance for promotion is his being connected with somebody who has parliamentary interest. Our several ministers in this reigu have out-bid each other in concessions to the people. Lord Bute, though a very honourable man a man who meant well--a man who had his blood full of prerogative~was a theoretical statesman, a book-minister and thought this country could be governed by the ivfluence of the crown alone. Then, sir, he gave up a great deal : he advised the king to agree that the judges should hold their places for life, instead of losing them at the accession of a new king. Lord Bute, I suppose, thought to make the king popular by this concession; but the people never minded it; and it was a most impolitic measure. There is no reason why a judge should hold his office for life, more than any other person in public trust. A judge may be partial otherwise than to the crown: we have seen judges partial to the populace. A judge may become corrupt, and yet there may not be légal evidence against him. A judge may become froward from age. A judge may grow unfit for his office in inany ways : it was desirable that there should be a possibility of being delivered from him by a new king. That is now gone by an act of parliament ex