網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

and are calculated to render him by whom they are listened to, light and frivolous of temper, and unstrung for the graver duties of human life.

But idle words, in the sense of innocent amusement, are not vicious. “ There is a time for all things." Amusement must not encroach upon or thrust aside the real business, the important engagements, and the animated pursuits of man. But it is entitled to take its turn unreproved. Human life is so various, and the disposition and temper of the mind of so different tones and capacity, that a wise man will “frame his face to all occasions.” Playfulness, if not carried to too great an extreme, is an additional perfection in human nature. We become relieved from our more serious cares, and better fitted to enter on them again after an interval. To fill up the days of our lives with various engagements, to make one occupation succeed to another, so as to liberate us from the pains of ennui, and the dangers of what may in an emphatical sense be called idleness, is no small desideratum. That king may in this sense be admitted to have formed no superficial estimate of our common nature, who is said to have proclaimed a reward to the individual that should invent a new amusement.

And, to consider the question as it stands in relation to the subject of the present Essay, a perpetual gravity and a vigilant watch to be placed on the door of our lips, would be eminently hostile to that frankness which is to be regarded as one of

the greatest ornaments of our nature. “It is meet, that we should make merry and be glad.” A formal countenance, a demure, careful and unaltered cast of features, is one of the most disadvantageous aspects under which human nature can exhibit itself. The temper must be enterprising and fearless, the manner firm and assured, and the correspondence between the heart and the tongue prompt and instantaneous, if we desire to have that view of man that shall do him the most credit, and induce us to form the most honourable opinion respecting him. On our front should sit fearless confidence and unsubdued hilarity. Our limbs should be free and unfettered, a state of the animal which imparts a grace infinitely more winning than that of the most skilful dancer. The very sound of our voice should be full, firm, mellow, and fraught with life and sensibility; of that nature, at the hearing of which every bosom rises, and every eye is lighted up. It is thus that men come to understand and confide in each other. This is the only frame that can perfectly conduce to our moral improvement, the awakening of our faculties, the diffusion of science, and the establishment of the purest notions and principles of civil and political liberty.

ESSAY XVII.

OF BALLOT.

The subject of the preceding Essay leads by an obvious transition to the examination of a topic, which at present occupies to a considerable extent the attention of those who are anxious for the progress of public improvement, and the placing the liberties of mankind on the securest basis: I mean, the topic of the vote by ballot.

It is admitted that the most beneficial scheme for the government of nations, is a government by representation : that is, that there shall be in every nation, or large collection of men, a paramount legislative assembly, composed of deputies chosen by the people in their respective counties, cities, towns, or departments. In what manner then shall these deputies be elected ?

The argument in favour of the election by ballot is obvious.

In nearly all civilised countries there exists more or less an inequality of rank and property: we will confine our attention principally to the latter.

Property necessarily involves influence. Mankind are but too prone to pay a superior deference to those who wear better clothes, live in larger

houses, and command superior accommodations to those which fall to the lot of the majority.

One of the main sources of wealth in civilised nations is the possession of land. Those who have a considerable allotment of land in property, for the most part let it out in farms on lease or otherwise to persons of an inferior rank, by whom it is cultivated. In this case a reciprocal relation is created between the landlord and the tenant: and, if the landlord conducts himself towards his tenant agreeably to the principles of honour and liberality, it is impossible that the tenant should not feel disposed to gratify his landlord, so far as shall be compatible with his own notions of moral rectitude, or the paramount interests of the society of which he is a member.

If the proprietor of any extensive allotment of land does not let it out in farms, but retains it under his own direction, he must employ a great number of husbandmen and labourers ; and over them he must be expected to exercise the same sort of influence, as under the former statement we supposed him to exercise over his tenants.

The same principle will still operate wherever any one man in society is engaged in the expenditure of a considerable capital. The manufacturer will possess the same influence over his workmen, as the landed proprietor over his tenants or labour

Even the person who possesses considerable opulence, and has no intention to engage in the

ers.

pursuits of profit or accumulation, will have an ample retinue, and will be enabled to use the same species of influence over his retainers and tradespeople, as the landlord exercises over his tenants and labourers, and the manufacturer over his work

men.

A certain degree of this species of influence in society, is perhaps not to be excepted against. The possessor of opulence in whatever form, may be expected to have received a superior education, and, being placed at a certain distance from the minuter details and the lesser wheels in the machine of society, to have larger and more expansive views as to the interests of the whole. It is good that men in different ranks of society should be brought into intercourse with each other; it will subtract something from the prejudices of both, and enable each to obtain some of the advantages of the other. The division of rank is too much calculated to split society into parties having a certain hostility to each other. In a free state we are all citizens : it is desirable that we should all be friends.

But this species of influence may be carried too far. To a certain extent it is good. Inasmuch as it implies the enlightening one human understanding by the sparks struck out from another, or even the communication of feelings between man and man, this is not to be deprecated. Some degree of courteous compliance and deference of the ignorant to the better informed, is inseparable from the ex

« 上一頁繼續 »