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and the bill not brought into the House till the 8th of June. It was committed three days, and then heard of no more. In this bill there was a clause inserted, (whether industriously with design to overthrow it,) that the author's name and place of abode should be set to every printed book, pamphlet, or paper; to which I believe no man, who has the least regard to learning, would give his consent; for beside the objection to this clause from the practice of pious men, who, in publishing excellent writings for the service of religion, have chosen, out of an humble Christian spirit, to conceal their names; it is certain that all persons of true genius or knowledge, have an invincible modesty and suspicion of themselves, upon their first sending their thoughts into the world; and that those who are dull or superficial, void of all taste and judgment, have dispositions directly contrary: so that, if this clause had been made part of a law, there would have been an end, in all likelihood, of any valuable production for the future, either in wit or learning: and that insufferable race of stupid people, who are now every day loading the press, would then reign alone, in time destroy our very first principles of reason, and introduce barbarity among us, which it already kept out with so much difficulty by so few hands.
Having given an account of the several steps made toward a peace, from the first overtures begun by France, to the commencement of the second session; I shall, in the Fourth Book, relate the particulars of this great negociation, from the period last mentioned to the present time; and because there happened some passages in both Houses, occasioned by the treaty, I shall take notice of them under that head. There only re
mains to be mentioned one affair of another nature, which the lords and commons took into their cognizance, after a very different manner, wherewith I shall close this part of my subject.
The sect of quakers among us, whose system of religion, first founded upon enthusiasm, has been many years growing into a craft, held it an unlawful action to take an oath to a magistrate. This doctrine was taught them by the author of their sect, from a literal application of the text, "Swear not at all;" but, being a body of people wholly turned to trade and commerce of all kinds, they found themselves, on many occasions, deprived of the benefit of the law, as well as of voting at elections, by a foolish scruple, which their obstinacy would not suffer them to get over. To prevent this inconvenience, these people had credit enough in the late reign to have an act passed, that their solemn affirmation and declaration should be accepted, instead of an oath in the usual form. The great concern in those times was, to lay all religion upon a level; in order to which, this maxim was advanced, "That no man ought to be denied the liberty of serving his country, upon account of a different belief in speculative opinions;" under which term some people were apt to include every doctrine of christianity. However, this act in favour of the quakers was only temporary, in order to keep them in constant dependence; and expired of course after a certain term, if it were not continued. Those people had, therefore, very early in the session, offered a petition to the House of Commons, for a continuance of the act, which was not suffered to be brought up. Upon this, they applied themselves to the Lords; who passed a bill according
ly, and sent it down to the commons, where it was not so much as allowed a first reading.
And indeed, it is not easy to conceive, upon what motives, the legislature of so great a kingdom could descend so low, as to be ministerial and subservient to the caprices of the most absurd heresy that ever appeared in the world; and this in a point, where those deluding or deluded people stand singular from all the rest of mankind, who live under civil government: but the designs of an aspiring party, at that time, were not otherwise to be compassed, than by undertaking any thing that would humble and mortify the church; and I am fully convinced, that if a set of sceptic philosophers (who profess to doubt of every thing) had been then among us, and mingled their tenets with some corruptions of Christianity, they might have obtained the same privilege; and that a law would have been enacted, whereby the solemn doubt of the people called sceptics, should have been accepted, instead of an oath in the usual form : so absurd are all maxims formed upon the inconsistent principles of faction, when once they are brought to be examined by the standard of truth and reason.
THE FOUR LAST YEARS
WE left the plenipotentiaries of the allies, and those of the enemy, preparing to assemble at Utrecht on the first of January, N. S. in order to form a congress for negotiating a general peace; wherein, although the Dutch had made a mighty merit of their compliance with the queen, yet they set all their instruments at work, to inflame both Houses against her majesty's measures. M. Bothmar, the Hanover envoy, took care to print and disperse his memorial, of which I have formerly spoken: Hoffman, the emperor's resident, was soliciting for a yacht and convoys to bring over prince Eugene at this juncture, fortified, as it was given out, with great proposals from the Imperial court: the earl of Nottingham became a convert, for reasons already mentioned; money was distributed where occasion required; and the
dukes of Somerset and Marlborough, together with the earl of Godolphin, had put themselves at the head of their junto and their adherents, in order to attack the court. Some days after the vote passed the House of Lords for admitting into the address the earl of Nottingham's clause, against any peace without Spain; M. Buys, the Dutch envoy, who had been deep in all the consultations with the discontented party for carrying that point, was desired to meet with the lord privy seal, the earl of Dartmouth, and Mr Secretary St John, in order to sign a treaty between the queen and the States, to subsist after a peace. There the envoy took occasion to expostulate upon the advantages stipulated for Britain with France: said, "It was his opinion, that those ministers ought, in respect of the friendship between both nations, to acquaint him what these advantages were; and that he looked upon his country to be entitled by treaty, to share them equally with us; that there was now another reason why we should be more disposed to comply with him upon this head; for, since the late resolution of the House of Lords, he took it for granted, it would be a dangerous step in us to give Spain to a prince of the house of Bourbon; and therefore that we should do well to induce the States, by such a concession, to help us out of this difficulty."
Mr St John made answer, "That there was not a man in the queen's council capable of so base a thought: That if Buys had any thing to complain of, which was injurious to Holland, or justly tending to hurt the good correspondence between us and the States, he was confident her majesty would at all times be ready to give it up; but that the ministers scorned to screen themselves at the expense of their country: That the