Front Page Titles (by Subject) An ACCOUNT of A CONVERSATION concerning A RIGHT REGULATION of GOVERNMENTS For the common Good of Mankind in A LETTER to the Marquiss of Montrose , the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg and Haddington , From London the first of December, 1703. - Selected Discourses and Speeches
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An ACCOUNT of A CONVERSATION concerning A RIGHT REGULATION of GOVERNMENTS For the common Good of Mankind in A LETTER to the Marquiss of Montrose , the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg and Haddington , From London the first of December, 1703. - Andrew Fletcher, Selected Discourses and Speeches 
Selected Discourses and Speeches: A Discourse of Government with Relation to Militias (Edinburgh, 1698); Two Discourses concerning the Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1698); Speeches by a Member of the Parlaiment (Edinburgh, 1703); A Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Government (Edinburgh, 1704).
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An ACCOUNT of A CONVERSATION concerning A RIGHT REGULATION of GOVERNMENTS For the common Good of Mankind in A LETTER to the Marquiss of Montrose, the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg and Haddington, From London the first of December, 1703.
You desire to know the sentiments of some considerable persons of the English nation, touching our affairs, and the common interest of both kingdoms. And I think I cannot give you more satisfaction in these particulars than by an account of a conversation I lately had with the Earl of Cr-m-rty, Sir Ed. S—m-r, and Sir Chr. M-sgr-ve; in which if the defence I made for you do not give you satisfaction, I shall be glad to hear a better from yourselves. If you ask how I had the fortune to meet with men of sentiments so different from my own, that was partly owing to chance, and partly to the frank and courteous way which is so natural to the Earl of Cr-m-rty. For some days ago, walking slowly and alone in the Mall, the Earl and Sir Chr-st-ph-r overtook me: and though during the whole time I was last in Scotland, I had not waited on the Earl, he with a very obliging air said to me, that if I expected not other company, they would be glad of mine; asking me withal if I was acquainted with Sir Chr. I said I had formerly the honour of some small acquaintance with him, which I should be very willing to renew. And after some compliments passed on all sides, finding I was not engaged, he invited me to dine with him, telling me he would give me the opportunity of doing as I desired; and therefore we should pass the time together till the hour of dinner. So we presently went to his lodging in Whitehall, and entering into a room from whence we had a full view of the Thames and city of London. You have here, gentlemen, said the Earl, two of the noblest objects that can entertain the eye, the finest river, and the greatest city in the world. Where natural things are in the greatest perfection, they never fail to produce most wonderful effects. This most gentle and navigable river, with the excellent genius and industrious inclination of the English people, have raised this glorious city to such a height, that if all things be rightly considered, we shall find it very far to surpass any other. Besides the beauty and conveniences of the river, the situation of this city is such, that I am persuaded if the wisest men of the nation had been many years employed to choose the most advantageous, they could not have found a better: and as the prosperity of a country depends in a great measure upon the situation of the capital city, the good fortune of this nation in that particular, has chiefly contributed to the great riches and power they now have. My lord, said Sir Chr—, you are so fully in the right, that notwithstanding the extent, and particularly the great length of the buildings; yet should they be removed but one half-mile either east or west, such an alteration would be disadvantageous. For to the eastward some rows of buildings do in a straight line cross the fields, and meet the river again at Blackwall; and to the westward the buildings run along a rising ground which overlooks Hyde Park, and the adjacent fields. The whole town lies upon a shelving situation, descending easily, and as it were in the form of a theatre towards the south and river, covered from the north, northeast, and northwest winds: so that in very cold and stormy weather, by means of the buildings of the city and on the bridge, it is both warm and calm upon the river; which being as it were the string to the bow, affords the great conveniency of a cheap and speedy conveyance from one part to the other. The shelving situation of the city is not only most fitted to receive the kind influences of the sun, but to carry off by common-shores and other ways the snow and dirt of the streets into the river, which is cleansed by the tides twice every day. But above all, the ground on which the city stands being a gravel, renders the inhabitants healthful, and the adjacent country wholesome and beautiful. The country of Kent furnishes us with the choices fruit; Hertfordshire and Cambridge-shire with corn; Lincolnshire, Essex, and Surrey with beef, veal, and mutton; Buckinghamshire with wood for fuel; and the river with all that the seas and the rest of the world affords. And this in so great plenty, that in times of peace, the common fuel, though brought two hundred miles by sea, is yet sold at a reasonable rate; and in so great variety, that we may find more sorts of wine in London than in the countries which produce the richest and the most. In a word, all the useful and superfluous things that nature produces, or the wit of man has invented, are to be found here, either made by our artificers, or imported by our merchants. That which is to be admired, said I, is the perfect peace and tranquility in which the inhabitants live; proceeding either from their natural temper, or the good order and plenty of the place, and the security they enjoy from the attempts of any enemy by being situated in an island. So that this great city without walls or guards is as accessible at all hours of the night as the most inconsiderable village. But that which charms me most is the liberty and rights they are possessed of in matters civil and religious. To these advantages I might add many things which render this city great, convenient, and agreeable; such are: the important transactions of a parliament; the judgments in Westminster Hall; the business of the Exchange, navigation, and commerce; the affairs and diversions of the court, together with the recreations and pleasures of the town. These last words have spoiled all, said Sir Chr., and unluckily revived in me the image of that corruption of manners which reigns in this place, has infected the whole nation, and must at length bring both the city and nation to ruin. And if one may judge by the greatness of the corruption, this fatal period is not far off. For no regulations of government are sufficient to restrain or correct the manners of so great a number of people living in one place, and exposed to so many temptations from the bad example they give to one another. And the frequency of ill example, which can never fail to be where so great numbers live together, authorizes the corruption, and will always be too strong and powerful for any magistracy to control. For though every man may have his own scheme to reform and regulate these disorders, yet experience has taught us that no human prudence can preserve the manners of men living in great cities from extraordinary corruption; and that where great power, riches, and numbers of men are brought together, they not only introduce a universal depravation of manners, but destroy all good government, and bring ruin and desolation upon a people. What great corruptions do you find in this place, so obstinate and incorrigible? said the Earl. No laws or regulations, replied Sir Chr—, are sufficient to restrain the luxury of women, to banish so many thousands of common prostitutes, or to prevent a far greater number of that sex from being debauched by the innumerable occasions and opportunities which so vast a city affords, where by means of a masque, a hackney-coach, a tavern, and a play-house, they are at liberty to do what they please. Even the poorer sort of both sexes are daily tempted to all manner of lewdness by infamous ballads sung in every corner of the streets. One would think, said the Earl, this last were of no great consequence. I said, I knew a very wise man so much of Sir Chr—’s sentiment, that he believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation. And we find that most of the ancient legislators thought they could not well reform the manners of any city without the help of a lyric, and sometimes of a dramatic poet. But in this city the dramatic poet no less than the ballad-maker has been almost wholly employed to corrupt the people, in which they have had most unspeakable and deplorable success. Then Sir Chr— continuing his discourse, said, in this city gamesters, stockjobbers, jockys, and wagerers make now the most considerable figure, and in few years have attained to such a degree of perfection in their several ways, that in comparison to many of the nobility, gentry, and merchants of England, those in Newgate are mere ignorants, and wretches of no experience. In the summer they infest all the places of diversion throughout England, and may be justly called the missioners of this city. Sure, said the Earl, remedies may be found for many of these abuses. The too expensive apparel of women might be restrained, masques might be prohibited; vinters forbidden to receive women in their houses, and all stockjobbing, gaming, and wagering suppressed. But who, said Sir Chr—, is to do this? for though these things might be easily done in a small city, yet in this place I am confident that the authority of the Queen and parliament would not be found sufficient for such a performance. I am fully persuaded of her Majesty’s sincere intentions to discourage vice; yet some wise counsellor will not fail to tell her that it would be of dangerous consequence to forbid gaming, which consumes so much of the time, and takes up the thoughts of a great number of men, who, if they had not that diversion, might probably employ their leisure in thinking too much upon affairs of state. Might not we, said the Earl, play, like the Turks, only to pass the time? No, replied Sir Chr—, you have to do with Christians, who have a Christian liberty to play for money, provided they do not abuse it; though all men know, that if the thing be allowed, the abuse is inevitable. And yet this is not the worst; for the infection of bad manners has so thoroughly corrupted this place, that many even of those who ought by wholesome laws to reform others, are themselves infected by the contagion; so that when the country has sent persons to represent them in parliament, they in a short time seem rather to be the only representatives of this corrupt city, and artfully betray the nation, under the fairest pretences to good principles, contrary to their known duty, and the important trust reposed in them. I said, Sir Chr—’s observations were very impartial, and that I wished all those who were guilty of such practices, would impartially apply so just a censure to themselves. Sir Chr— continuing, said: all abuses, when introduced among great multitudes, become not only more enormous, but more incorrigible. The justices of London and Westminster will inform you of a thousand evils and incorrigible practices, which wholly proceed from the great number of the inhabitants and vast extent of our buildings, where all manner of crimes are easily concealed. Besides, the poor and indigent are so numerous in this place, that the ill practices to which men are tempted by poverty, are but too frequent: and the luxury of all other ranks and orders of men makes every one hasten to grow rich; and consequently leads them to betray all kind of trust reposed in them. In a word, this city abounds with all manner of temptations to evil; extreme poverty, excessive riches, great pleasures, infinite bad examples, especially of unpunished and successful crimes. Here Sir Chr— was interrupted by a servant, who acquainted us that Sir Ed. S—m-r was coming upstairs. He is welcome, said the Earl; and the more because he comes so early, for I expected him not until the hour of dinner. Upon this Sir Edw-rd S-m-r entered the room, and after he had saluted the Earl and Sir Chr—, the Earl presented me as his countryman and old acquaintance to Sir Edw-rd; and when we had placed ourselves in the chairs that were brought for us, said with a smile, that I was one of those who in the late session of the Scots parliament had opposed the interest of the court. My Lord, said I, does that character recommend met o Sir Ed— S—m-r? Sir, says Sir Ed—, it is to me a great recommendation of my Lord’s good nature, to allow you to wait upon him: but it seems you are one who signalized yourself in the late session of your parliament, by framing Utopias and new models of government, under the name of limitations; in which you had the honour to be seconded and assisted by several men of quality, of about two or three and twenty years of age, whose long experience and consummate prudence in public affairs could not but produce wonderful schemes of government. This rough and sudden attack made me take the freedom to ask him, if he thought that men wanted any more than the knowledge and the will to govern themselves rightly. To which, continuing in his former strain, he answered, that young men were always ignorant, confident, and of insupportable arrogance. Yet, said I, do you not think that young men in parliament are much more capable to resist corruption, and oppose ill men, than they would be in a court, where by temptations arising from vanity and pleasure, they are in hazard of being corrupted themselves? Whereas in parliament meeting with no temptation but bribery, which that age abhors, or the ambition of getting a place by arts they are unacquainted with, the concern and assiduity of youth in their first applications is of great moment and highly useful, especially in men of quality, whose example and early virtue is of the greatest influence. And if with these qualifications they have also the talent of speaking well, it is not to be imagined how much their pleading for justice, with that sincerity and unaffected eloquence so natural to youth, does inflame the minds of men to all kind of virtue. You begin to declaim, as if they overheard you, said the old gentleman; but you must not think such stuff will have any influence upon me, or that I am so credulous to believe that boys of those years can have any right notion of government: an art which demands the longest experience and greatest practice. This kind of dialect I knew to be the usual way of Sir Edw-rd S—m-r, and therefore without the least show of resentment contented myself to say, that I was indeed of opinion, that to oppose the ill designs of inveterate knaves, is a work of great difficulty for young men to undertake; and that the common method of all governments now received in the world, to allow almost everything that tends to the corruption of manners, and then to restrain those corruptions, does not only require the longest experience and greatest prudence, but is far beyond the power of both. Yet to say that young men cannot understand the nature of government, and such regulations as are most conducing to the happiness of mankind, when at the same time they are thought capable of mathematics, natural philosophy, the art of reasoning, and metaphysical speculations, which contain things more difficult to conceive than any in the art of government, seems absurd. But by the present manner of education, the minds of young men are for many years debauched from all that duty and business to which they are born; and in the place of moral and civil knowledge and virtue, addict themselves to mathematical, natural, and metaphysical speculations, from which many are never able to withdraw their thoughts. For the interest of some governments requiring that men should know little of public affairs, the art of government has been looked upon as a kind of knowledge dangerous to be learned, except by those who are advanced in years; and this only so far as the experience and practice of those corrupt constitutions and ways of living now in use among men will allow. Whereas young men have great advantages to find out what is right or amiss in government, by having never been engaged in the ill administration of affairs, nor habituated to bad customs and indirect practices, nor biased by selfish ends, to entertain any other opinion of constitutions, laws, and regulations, than what is just and right. And as their capacity for more abstracted sciences shows them sufficiently capable of understanding the art of government; and the innocence of their manners demonstrates that they are less biassed in judgment than other men; so in zeal and forwardness to put things in execution they are undoubtedly superior to all that are more advanced in years. The only difficulty in the education of youth is to fix their application on things useful. And do you not think the young men you mentioned very happy, who instead of studying physics and metaphysics, have employed their thoughts in an active way to advance the interest and service of their country? Their relations have taken care to marry most of them young, in order to prevent innumerable inconveniences; and if they enter into a good economy of their private fortunes, they may certainly acquire greater riches than they can hope to have a venture for at court. And if they despise the ridiculous vanity of great titles, which is the peculiar folly of this age, of what use and ornament may they not be to their friends and country, the care of which has possessed them so early? It is the experience of such men that will hereafter deserve to be valued, and not of those who from their youth have given themselves up to dissimulation and bad arts for worse ends, and are only skilled in the pernicious practices that tend to destroy the public liberty. Still declaiming! said he, and the result of all is, that there are not two more proper qualities for government, than want of experience, joined to the violent disposition of youth. But, said I, when these are corrected by the advice, and controlled by the votes of men of riper years, do you think them still dangerous?
Would they not be more dangerous, if the old men had only the power of advising, and that, for example, in the senate of a common-wealth all things were to be determined by the votes of the young men?
Would there not be yet greater danger, if the young men had the disposal of all places and advantages, and that the old men, in order to obtain them, should be obliged to flatter, and give such advice as they knew would please, and at the same time be pernicious to the state?
Who can doubt it?
Now if the young men, by reason of frequent disputes, heats, and factions among themselves, should choose one of their own number, and invest him with an unlimited power, though he were younger by many years than the gentlemen in question: I say, if any people should be so governed, would you not look upon it as a mad kind of government?
And yet many nations think they can be no way secure under any other sort of government than that which often falls into this very inconveniency. You mean, said he, a young prince in an absolute monarchy. Pray, said I, what think you of a young prince in a limited monarchy, not accountable to any? Do you doubt of instruments to execute his will, and of the confusion things may be brought to before redress can be obtained? Do you not think such a one equally dangerous to the state as the young men we have mentioned? Ay! but, said the knight, they bring faction into the state. I confess, said I, the young prince does not, because he is uncontrolled; so far you are right. But pray, Sir, what is it in those young noblemen, or in the proceedings of our parliament in general, that you think deserves so much blame? That they would talk, said he, of such limitations on a successor as tend to take away that dependence which your nation ought always to have upon us, as a much greater and more powerful people. I said, we are an independent nation, though very much declined in power and reputation since the union of the crowns, by neglecting to make such conditions with our kings, as were necessary to preserve both: that finding by experience the prejudice of this omission, we cannot be justly blamed for endeavouring to lay hold on the opportunity put into our hands, of enacting such conditions and limitations on a successor, upon the expiration of the present entail, as may secure the honour and sovereignty of our crown and kingdom, the freedom, frequency, and power of our parliaments, together with our religion, liberty, and trade, from either English or foreign influence. Sir Edw-rd all in a fret; hey day, said he, here is a fine cant indeed, independent nation! honour of our crown! and what not? Do you consider what proportion you bear to England? not one to forty in rents of land. Besides, our greatest riches arise from trade and manufactures, which you want. This was allowed by me: but I desired to inform him, that the trade of Scotland was considerable before the union of the crowns: that as the increase of the English trade had raised the value of their lands, so the loss of our trade had sunk the rents in Scotland, impoverished the tenant, and disabled him in most places from paying his landlord any otherwise than in corn; which practice has been attended with innumerable inconveniencies and great loss: that our trade was formerly in so flourishing a condition, that the shire of Fife alone had as many ships as now belong to the whole kingdom: that ten or twelve towns which lie on the south coast of that province, had at that time a very considerable trade, and in our days are little better than so many heaps of ruins: that our trade with France was very advantageous, by reason of the great privileges we enjoyed in that kingdom: that our commerce with Spain had been very considerable, and began during the wars between England and that nation; and that we drove a great trade in the Baltic with our fish, before the Dutch had wholly possessed themselves of that advantageous traffic. Upon the union of the crowns not only all this went to decay; but our money was spent in England, and not among ourselves; the furniture of our houses, and the best of our clothes and equipage was bought at London: and though particular persons of the Scots nation had many great and profitable places at court, to the high displeasure of the English, yet that was no advantage to our country, which was totally neglected, like a farm managed by servants, and not under the eye of the master. The great business both of Scots and English ministers was to extend the prerogative in Scotland, to the ruin of liberty, property, and trade: and the disorders which were afterwards occasioned by the civil war, gave the last and finishing blow to the riches and power of the nation. Since that time we have had neither spirit, nor liberty, nor trade, nor money among us. And though during the time of the usurper Cromwell we imagined ourselves to be in a tolerable condition with respect to this last particular, by reason of that expense which was made in the nation by those forces that kept us in subjection; yet this was a deceitful substance, not unlike a plumpness in the natural body proceeding from a disease. The business of a Scots minister is to get as much money as he can from our impoverished country, whilst he is in employment, well knowing that all regulations that may be established in order to enrich the nation, either by trade, manufactures, or husbandry, will require time before they can produce any considerable effect, and on that account will be of little advantage to him during his administration. I take all this freedom, said I, before the Earl of Cr-m-rty, though he be a Scots minister of state, because it is well known avarice is none of his faults, and that no person in our government is more ready to promote any new and solid project of improvement. I am obliged for the good character you give me, said the Earl; but very sorry I can promote none of your projects: they are I fear too great for our nation, and seem rather contrived to take place in a Platonic commonwealth than in the present corruption of things. My lord, said I, no man is more sensible how little is to be done in this age: but I think it the greatest of all follies to offer an expedient, which obtained will not answer the end, and to labour and toil for that which will not avail: such measures proceed in part from our ignorance of the ill condition we are in, and the means of recovery; but principally from a meanness of spirit, which hinders us always from applying the true remedies, if they are attended with the least appearance of difficulty or danger. And nothing does so much point out the want of sense and courage in particular men, or the degeneracy of an age and nation, than to content themselves to prosecute any considerable end by ineffectual and disproportionate means. Now the ill condition of Scotland proceeding from these causes; that our money is carried away and spent at court by those who attend there for places and pensions; that by the influence of English ministers upon our government, we are brought wholly to depend on that court; that by reason of the prince’s absence, the laws are not put in execution: I say, these being the causes of our present ill condition, what other remedies can be found, than that the parliament of Scotland should for the time to come bestow all pensions and offices both civil and military; that our parliaments should be annual and not interrupted in their sessions, and have power to appoint committees for the administration of the government during the intervals of sitting? If these things are granted, said the Earl, I would know what power or authority is left to the prince. As great power, said I, as princes formerly enjoyed in most of the limited monarchies of Europe; their parliaments or diets were fixed, and at least annual: the chief officers of the crown and the counsellors of the prince were named by the states of most kingdoms; but the executive power of the government and the command of armies were vested in the prince, together with the prerogative of giving authority to the laws and currency to the coin, and a superiority in dignity and revenue, suitable to so high a station. But, said the Earl, you diminish his power of administration, not only by refusing him the nomination of great officers, but even the inferior: you encroach upon his power as general, by taking from him the nomination of military officers; and you lessen the grandeur of his court, by refusing him the distribution of pensions. To this charge I made answer, that if princes might not appoint the principal officers of the crown, nor their own counsellors, the nomination of inferior officers seems to be below their care and dignity; that standing forces being pernicious to all governments, and national militias only safe and useful, it is but reasonable the people should have the choice of those who are to command them; that his lordship could not forget that the limitations in question were demanded for a kingdom, where the prince does not actually reside, as a remedy against the influence of a powerful court, on which otherwise we should be necessitated always to depend. And I think for a nation in these circumstances to have the power of conferring pensions, can no way lessen the grandeur of a court, where no court is. The Earl said that no considerations whatever ought in such a degree to diminish the prince’s power, which is the very essence of monarchical government; that no case could exist by which the essential part of any government could be so far lessened; and therefore such circumstances of affairs as I brought for reasons, being only accidents, could not be made use of to destroy the substance of a government. I told him I had always thought that princes were made for the good government of nations, and not the government of nations framed for the private advantage of princes. Right, said he, but then you must accommodate all monarchical government to the nature of princes, else you will make a heterogeneous body of the prince and state. I understand you not, said I, unless you mean that all limitations are contrary to the nature of princes, and that they will endure them no longer than necessity forces. And what hopes, said Sir Edw. S—r, can you have of enjoying them long, when your prince may be assisted by the power and riches of a far greater nation, which is highly concerned to take them a way? I cannot think, replied I, that the people of England are obliged by their interest to oppose these limitations in Scotland, unless they think themselves concerned in interest to make us at all times their secret enemies, and ready to embrace every opportunity of declaring ourselves openly for such. For since we are not only become sensible of our present ill condition, but fully understand both the causes and the remedy; to oppose us in the prosecution of those means which are absolutely necessary to attain so just an end, would be no less than to declare open enmity against us. We shall run a great risk indeed, said Sir Edw-rd, in so doing! Sir, said I, no man is more fully persuaded than I am, of the great disproportion there is between the power of the one and the other nation, especially in the present way of making war. But you should consider, that by declaring yourselves in such a manner to be our enemies, you would drive us to the necessity of taking any power that will assist us, by the hand. And you can no way avoid so great danger, but by doing justice to yourselves and us, in not opposing any conditions we may make with the successor to our crown. The Earl of Cr-m-rty said, that in his opinion there was an easy remedy to all these inconveniencies; which was a union of the two nations. I answered, I was sorry to differ so much from his lordship, as to think the union neither a thing easy to be effected, nor any project of that kind hitherto proposed, to be a remedy to our present bad condition: that the English nation had never since the union of the two crowns shown any great inclination to come to a nearer coalition with Scotland; and that I could not avoid making some remarks upon all the occasions that had given a rise to treat of this matter during my time. I have observed that a treaty of union has never been mentioned by the English, but with a design to amuse us when they apprehended any danger from our nation. And when their apprehensions were blown over, they have always shown they had no such intention. In they year 1669, endeavours were used in Scotland to establish a good militia; which on account of a clause procured by the duke of Lauderdale to be inserted in the act, in order to make his court, so alarmed the English nation, that in the following year a treaty of union was proposed. But so soon as they perceived that our militia was ordered in such a manner as neither to be lasting nor formidable, they presently cooled, and the union vanished. Upon the late revolution this treaty was again proposed: but when they saw we had chosen the same person for our king, and made the same entail of our crown they had done, the union, as a thing of no farther use to their affairs, was immediately dropped. For the same reasons, I suppose, the late treaty was set on foot; and after they had nominated a successor without asking our opinion or concurrence, they thought this the only way to amuse us, and oblige us to take the same person. Now as I have shown how little the English nation has been really inclined to the union, so I must acknowledge that the Scots, however fond they have formerly been of such a coalition, are now become much less concerned for the success of it, from a just sense they have that it would not only prove no remedy for our present ill condition, but increase the poverty of our country.
How, I pray? said the Earl.
I am of opinion, said I, that by an incorporating union, as they call it, of the two nations, Scotland will become more poor than ever.
Because Scotsmen will then spend in England ten times more than now they do; which will soon exhaust the money of the nation. For besides the sums that members of parliament will every winter carry to London, all our countrymen who have plentiful estates will constantly reside there, no less than those of Ireland do at this time. No Scotsman who expects any public employment will ever set his foot in Scotland; and every man that makes his fortune in England will purchase lands in that kingdom: our trade, which is the bait that covers the hook, will be only an inconsiderable retail, in a poor, remote, and barren country, where the richest of our nobility and gentry will no longer reside: and though we should allow all the visionary suppositions of those who are so fond of this union, yet our trade cannot possibly increase on a sudden. Whereas the expenses I mentioned will in a very short time exhaust us, and leave no stock for any kind of commerce. But, said the Earl, you do not distinguish right, nor consider where the fallacy of your reasoning lies. You talk of Scotland and Scots money, and do not reflect that we shall then be a part of Britain; England will be increased by the accession of Scotland, and both those names lost in that of Britain: so that you are to consider the good of that whole body, of which you then become a citizen, and will be much happier than you were, by being in all respects qualified to pretend to any office or employment in Britain, and may trade or purchase in any part of the island. But, by your leave, my lord, let me distinguish plainly, and tell you, that if I make a bargain for the people that inhabit the northern part of this island, I ought principally to consider the interest of those who shall continue to live in that place, that they may find their account in the agreement, and be better provided for than they are. For if the advantages of getting employments, trading, and purchasing in any part of the island are the only things to be considered, all these may be as well obtained by anyone who would change his country in the present state of things. And if in the union of several countries under one government, the prosperity and happiness of the different nations are not considered, as well as of the whole united body, those that are more remote from the seat of the government will be only made subservient to the interest of others, and their condition very miserable. On the other hand, besides our fishery, which God and nature has given us, together with the great privileges already granted to our African company, a distinct sovereignty does always enable a people to retain some riches, and leaves them without excuse if they do not rise to considerable wealth. So that if a sufficient provision be made to prevent the exhausting of our money by the attendance of Scotsmen at court, and to take away the influence of English ministers upon our affairs, no condition of men will be more happy. For we shall then be possessed of liberty; shall administer our own affairs, and be free from the corruptions of a court; we shall have the certain and constant alliance of a powerful nation, of the same language, religion, and government, lying between us and all enemies both by sea and land, and obliged in interest to keep perpetual peace and amity with us. And this you cannot but allow to be a much happier condition than any we ever could propose to ourselves by all the projects of union that have hitherto been formed. Here the Earl endeavoured by many arguments to show that our country would be the place, where all manufactures, as well for the use of the whole island, as for exportation, would be made by reason of the cheapness of living, and the many hands that Scotland could furnish. I said the contrary was not only most evident; but that the union would certainly destroy even those manufactures we now have. For example, the English are able to furnish us at an easier rate with better cloth than we make in Scotland: and it is not to be supposed they will destroy their own established manufactures to encourage ours. Corn and all manner of provisions are cheaper and more plentiful in the six northern counties than in Scotland. The number of our people was never so great as commonly imagined, and is now very much diminished by the late famine; by extraordinary levies of soldiers; and chiefly by ill government, which having given no encouragement to industry of any kind, has necessitated great numbers of men to abandon the country and settle themselves in other nations, especially in Ireland. Besides, the natural pride of our commonalty, and their indisposition to labour, are insuperable difficulties, which the English have not to contend with in their people. But sure you will allow, said the Earl, that a free commerce with England, and the liberty of trading to their plantations, which cannot be expected without a union, must be of incomparable advantage to the Scots nation, unless you will disown one of your darling clauses in the act of security. My lord, said I, the clause you mean is placed there without the condition of a union; and your lordship cannot forget, was brought in by the court as an equivalent for all limitations, and in order to throw out another clause, which declares that we would not nominate the same successor with England, unless sufficient limitations were first enacted. This was done to mislead the commissioners of burghs, who for the most part are for anything that bears the name of trade, though but a sham, as this was. And nothing could be more just than to turn it upon the court by adding both clauses; which sunk your party in the house for a long time after. For my own part, I cannot see what advantage a free trade to the English plantations would bring us, except a farther exhausting of our people, and the utter ruin of all our merchants, who should vainly pretend to carry that trade from the English. The Earl, who knew the truth of these things, was unwilling to insist any longer upon this ungrateful subject; and therefore proceeding to another argument, said that when we shall be united to England, trade and riches will circulate to the utmost part of the island; and that I could not be ignorant of the wealth which the remotest corners of the north and west of England possess. I answered, that the riches of those parts proceed from accidental causes. The lead and coal mines, which employ so much shipping, enrich the north. The western parts of England, besides mines of tin and lead, have many excellent harbours lying in the mouth of the Channel, through which the greatest trade of the world is continually passing. I desired him to consider that Wales, the only country that ever had united with England, lying at a less distance from London, and consequently more commodiously to participate in the circulation of a great trade than we do, after three or four hundred years, is still the only place of that kingdom, which has no considerable commerce, though possessed of one of the best ports in the whole island; a sufficient demonstration that trade is not a necessary consequence of a union with England. I added, that trade is now become the golden ball, for which all nations of the world are contending, and the occasion of so great partialities, that not only every nation is endeavouring to possess the trade of the whole world, but every city to draw all to itself; and that the English are no less guilty of these partialities than any other trading nation. At these words Sir Chr— was pleased to ask me what were those partialities in point of trade, of which the English were guilty, and towards what nations: that for his part, he accounted them the frankest dealers, and the justest traders of the world. I said I would not insist upon the ill usage of the Scots nation in their late attempt to settle in Darien, nor enquire how far the late erected council of trade did in that affair second the partialities of a court engaged in mysterious interests with France; but desired to know his opinion of the usage their own colony in Ireland had received from them, and that he would excuse me, if I should let fall any expression about that matter which might seem hard; because in case he could give me satisfaction in this particular, I should very much incline to an incorporating union of the two nations. He answered, that he was very indifferent what course the Scots should take in the matter of a union, yet would not refuse to argue the point with me; and as to my question concerning Ireland, he said, he was of opinion, that a good measure of strictness and severity is absolutely necessary to keep them from the thoughts of setting up for themselves, and pretending to depend no longer upon England. I said that some late writers had undertaken to prove by authentic records, that the relation of that country to England was founded rather upon a very strict union than a conquest. But certainly, though the native Irish were conquered, your own colony was not; which yet you favoured no longer than till you saw them begin to flourish and grow rich. And to show what we are to expect, if ever we begin to thrive, though never so long after our union, I shall give some instance of your conduct towards Ireland in relation to trade. A law was made that no tobacco should be planted either in England or Ireland; and another, that no person, except of England or Ireland, might trade to the English plantations. Yet in the time of King Charles the second, great hardships and impediments were laid upon all those who should trade from Ireland to the English plantations, though they were still obliged to observe the law against planting tobacco in Ireland. And till the time of the late King no law was made in England for encouraging the woollen manufacture, but the like encouragements were given to the people of Ireland. Yet during that reign a law was made, which prohibits the exportation of all woollen manufactures from Ireland to foreign parts, and lays so high a duty upon all that shall be imported from thence into England, as amounts to a prohibition. I forbear to mention any other hardships put upon those of that country, and chiefly the Scots who are settled in the northern parts, though that colony still increases, to our loss and your advantage. You speak of a conquered nation, said Sir Chr—, who have no sovereign rights belonging to them. I speak of a nation, said I, who affirm you have no shadow of right to make laws for them; that the power which the King’s council has assumed was gotten by surprise; and that their first submission was founded on a treaty of union, which now on account of some rebellions suppressed, is called a conquest. But sure, as I said before, you never conquered your own colony, and therefore ought to do them justice. Now if after a union with us the least commotion should happen in Scotland, suppose on account of church government; might we not expect that the suppression of this would likewise be called a conquest, and we or our posterity be treated as a conquered people? But can there be a more certain indication of what we may expect in point of trade from a union, than the usage of the postnati, who settled in England and the plantations, upon the faith of rights declared and ratified by both houses of parliament, confirmed by the decisions of all your courts, and affirmed by the Lord chief Justice Coke in the most hyperbolical terms, to be according to common and all law, which yet have been wholly violated and taken away, even to the prejudice of the English nation by the loss of such a number of people? These things seem indispensably to require a guaranty, when the two parliaments come to be united, where we may possibly have fifty votes to five hundred, in a house already abounding so much in partialities, that the members who serve for one part of the kingdom are frequently found in opposition to the representatives of another, for the sake only of the particular interest of their own countries. Indeed, replied Sir Chr—, if your diffidence be so great, there can be no union. Sir, said I, if the matters of fact I mention are true, as I think they are undeniable, I am contented to make you judge of what we may expect from the nature of the thing, and genius of your people. In the first place, what security can a lesser nation, which unites to a greater, have, that all the conditions of union shall be duly observed, unless a third be admitted for guaranty of the agreement? And I suppose you would rather choose to hear no more of a union, than that Holland or France should be the guarantees. True, said he; but guarantees are only proper in treaties of peace between nations not united: unions of nations, especially incorporating unions, of which we are speaking, suppose no breach of conditions; and we do not find that the nations which were so united to the republic of Rome had any guarantees for their security. Sir, said I, the union of those nations, and their admission to the rights and privileges of the city of Rome, could have no guarantees, because they were noble conditions given by that wise and generous state to nations they had conquered, and had in their power to use as they pleased: and if Ireland be yours by conquest, why do you not use them as well? It will certainly be our interest, said Sir Chr—, to observe the conditions on which we unite with Scotland. Do you think, replied I, that you always follow your interest? I must acknowledge, said he, not always. Then, said I, if at any time you should depart from your true interest in this matter, we shall want a guarantee and find none. On the other hand, if the temper, conduct, and inclinations of your people be considered, it will appear that, except the union with Wales, which is still attended with great imperfections and inconveniencies, they have never shown the least disposition to unite with any other nation, though such as either stood upon equal terms with them, or such as they conquered, or even planted. How your colonies in America are treated is well known to all men. You never could unite with Normandy, which had conquered you, nor with any part of France that you had conquered. But your oppressions in both were the principal cause of your expulsion from those countries. You could not unite with the states of Holland, when England was likewise a republic. And since the time of the late revolution, which was effected by the assistance of the states, and saved these these nations from utter ruin, you can hardly endure the name of a Dutchman; and have treated them on all occasions with such scurrilous expressions, as are peculiar to the generality of your people. And if I should but touch upon the usage we continually meet with from this nation, I should not be believed, if all Europe were not sufficiently informed of their hatred to all strangers, and inveterate malice against the Scots. I know very well, that men of gravity and good breeding among you are not guilty of scurrilous reflections on any nations. But when we are to consider the case in question, we must have a just regard to the temper and general disposition of the people. At these words Sir Edw-rd, all in a flame, cries out, what a pother is here about a union with Scotland, of which all the advantage we shall have, will be no more than what a man gets by marrying a beggar, a louse for her portion? Upon this I turned to the Earl and Sir Chr—, and said, that if Sir Edw-rd had spoken these words in the House of Commons, I might not take notice of them, or question his freedom of speech in that place; but since he is pleased to express himself after this manner in a private conversation, I shall likewise take the liberty to say, that I wonder he is not afraid such language should make us suspect him not to be descended of the noble family whose name he bears. Sir Edw-rd going on with great passion: what account, said he, should we make of Scotland, so often trampled underfoot by our armies? Did not protector Seymour at the battle of Musselburgh give you such a rout as destroyed the best part of your nobility and gentry? And of late years did not the very scum of our nation conquer you? Yes, said I, after they had with our assistance conquered the King and the nobility and gentry of England: and yet that which you call a conquest was a dispute between parties, and not a national quarrel. It was, said he, inseparable from the fortune of our Edwards to triumph over your nation. Do you mean Edward of Carnarvon, said I, and his victory at Bannockburn? No, replied he, I mean Edward the first and third, whose heroic actions no princes have ever equalled. Sure, said I, you do not mean the honour of the first, or the humanity of the third so signally manifested at Berwick: nor the murder of Wallace by the first Edward, or the poisoning of Randolph earl of Murray by the third, after they had both refused to give battle to those heroes. Sir Chr—, whose temper and gravity could not bear this upbraiding each other with old stories, interrupted these sallies, and desired I would farther explain myself touching a union between England and Ireland. The better conditions you give them, said I, the greater wisdom you will show. But you do not consider, said Sir Chr—, that Ireland lies more commodiously situated for trade, and has better harbours than England; and if they had the same freedom and privileges, might carry the trade from us. Ay, said I, there it is: trade is the constant stumbling block, and ball of contention. But do you think, that if Ireland, by a just and equal union with England, should increase in riches, such an increase would prove so prejudicial to England, where the seat of the government is?
Then, said I, it were better to exclude Ireland wholly from trade; for in that case the trade of England would increase by so much as Ireland now possesses; and the power and riches of England confined at home would be no longer in danger of passing into any other nation.
I believe you may be in the right.
You will certainly find me to be so, said I, if in order to manage this new accession of trade, all the people of Ireland should be brought over to England; for in this case the value of England would increase much more than can be expected to accrue from Ireland in the present circumstances of things, that country being frequently not only unprofitable but burdensome to England.
I agree with you.
But, said I, if Ireland should be left without inhabitants, I fear the French King would take hold of the occasion, and possess himself of the whole country. That would only weaken him, said he, who, grasping at the possession of the Spanish monarchy, has no number of people to spare. But, said I, a port in the province of Munster so near the entry of the Channel, and over-against Brest, might be of use to him, require no great number of men to maintain, and be of the most dangerous consequence to us. So that for argument sake we must suppose Ireland sunk in the sea; and then you will cease to fear either that they may set up for themselves, or carry away the trade from England. And being possessed of all their people and riches, you will be no longer liable to the expense of defending that kingdom. From these suppositions, said he, the consequence is just. Do you not think, continued I, that for the same reasons it might be the interest of England to bring the people of the six northern counties into the south, provided that country could also be sunk? For trade will certainly increase, and be more easily managed, when brought within a less compass. Besides, you would then have so broad a ditch to secure you against the Scots, that you would be rid of any trouble from them also. He could not but acknowledge the parity of reason, and said, that if nature had made such a ditch from the beginning, the happiness of England had been complete. I added, that Wales being a country inconsiderable either for soil or commerce, that people might be much more advantageously employed in trading here than in keeping goats at home; and your union with them become much stricter by bringing them nearer London: and then I think that country might likewise be sunk with advantage. Though you banter, said he, yet the consequence will undeniably follow from your suppositions. And do you not think, said I, the same arguments would prove that all the considerable trade of the world might be brought into one city, and all mankind to live within and about that place?
For what end then, said I, did God create such vast tracts of land, capable of producing so great variety and abundance of all things necessary and useful to men? In order, I suppose, that these countries might not be inhabited, and that mankind might confine themselves to islands, strait, barren and unwholesome situations, and live upon trade. Can there be a greater disorder in human affairs? Besides, we know that such numbers of men did not meet together in morasses, and other inconvenient places out of choice; but were forced and driven by the violence of tyranny to shelter themselves in difficult and inaccessible situations, as is plain by the examples of Holland, Venice, Tyre, and other cities: and when they were come together, they were necessitated, in order to subsist, to apply themselves to manufacture, navigation, and the like arts. But if the governments of the world were well regulated, and men might have the liberty of choosing, they would not be confined to such narrow, barren, and unwholesome places, nor live so much at sea, or in the exercise of a sedentary and unmanly trade, to foment the luxury of a few; but would disperse themselves over the world in greater or lesser numbers, according to the goodness of the soil, and live in a more free and manly way, attended with a more equal distribution of riches than trade and commerce will allow. Trade is not the only thing to be considered in the government of nations: and justice is due, even in point of trade, from one nation to another. For every good government has always encouraged industry, because all mankind have a right to the fruits of their own labour. And on that account all governments which put discouragements on the industry of their subjects are not upon a right foot; but violent, and consequently unjust. Soft and fair, and Sir Chr—, the consequences of these maxims reach farther than perhaps you imagine. We must not rely too much upon our own speculations, or think the world can ever be rightly governed; but must take things as they are, and consider the interest of the society in which we live. And if any profitable trade be in the possession of our neighbours, we may endeavour to dispossess them of that advantage for the good of our own society. Though this should be granted, said I, yet you ought not to deny to a people, who like Ireland live under your government, the fruits of their industry. This sure is great injustice.
Not at all, said he; for as I told you, they may break with us, and set up a distinct government in opposition to our right, and perhaps with the ruin of this nation. What can tempt and provoke them so much, said I, to do so, as unjust usage? But the surest way, replied he, is to put it out of their power to separate from us. If so, said I, you must own your way of governing that people to be an oppression; since your design is to keep them low and weak, and not to encourage either virtue or industry. For the light of nature teaches that men ought not to use one another unjustly on any account, much less under the specious pretext of government. But we have a right, answered he, to use them at discretion, because we have conquered them.
Then you have a right to do injustice.
It is not injustice, said he, because it is our right. And you do not consider that things just in themselves are not always so in relation to government; that the condition of human affairs necessarily obliges those that govern to attend the good and interest of the whole society, and not to be overscrupulous in doing exact justice to particular persons; especially if their interest should happen to be different from that of the community. And for this reason, those countries which are most remote from the seat of the government ought not to expect an equal participation of liberty and immunities with those that lie at less distance. For if they should enjoy the same privileges, the subjection of such nations could not be secured. You know that under the Roman government the liberties and privileges of those who lived in and about the city of Rome, were far greater than the rest of Italy enjoyed, which yet was possessed of many more than any of the provinces. I doubt not, said I, this order was very proper to retain the dominion of the world in the power of one city. But I think those nations might have lived more happily under another kind of regulation; and am fully persuaded, that all great governments, whether republics or monarchies, not only disturb the world in their rise and fall; but by bringing together such numbers of men and immense riches into one city, inevitably corrupt all good manners, and make them incapable of order and discipline, as you have already owned, and experience has but too well demonstrated. Rome, the greatest of all, incessantly disturbed her neighbours for seven hundred years; and after the conquest of almost all the known world, was corrupted by excess of riches and power, and spread the infection over all the parts of that empire, which at length brought in so many barbarous nations, and caused so many wars and so great effusion of blood, that the world suffered as much by the overthrow and destruction, as by the rise and continuance of that mighty power. Yet, said he, I think it is necessary that a considerable body of people should be united under one government, and by that means enabled to defend themselves against a powerful enemy, because by the successful ambition of some men, we frequently see great and formidable powers arise in the world, to the disturbance of all their neighbours. In that I perfectly agree with you, said I. Pray then, replied he, what numbers would you allow in such a body of men: or rather, what extent of territory would you think necessary to a right division of the world into several distinct governments, since you are so much an enemy to all great and overgrown powers? You seem willing, said I, to confer such an office upon me, that those who do not know my name will take me for a second Phaleg. Not to lay then too great a burden upon you at once, answered he, I desire you to acquaint us into what parts you would divide Europe, most commodiously to obtain the true ends of government. I replied, that God and nature seemed to have marked out certain portions of the world for several great societies of men; having divided them from each other by seas and mountains, or some remarkable difference of the soil and climate. This island of Britain and that of Ireland seem conveniently situated for one government: Spain and Portugal for another, because they lie together in one compact body, and are divided from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenean mountains. In like manner France is contained within the Alps, Jura, the Vosges, the Ardennes, and the Pyrenees. Italy is separated from all other parts by the Alps; and the three adjacent islands seem naturally to belong to that country. The seventeen Provinces, the circles of Westphalia and lower Saxony, with the archbishopric of Cologne and kingdom of Denmark, seem commodiously placed to be united under one government. The rest of Germany, with the Swiss Cantons and the provinces that lie between those countries and the Adriatic sea, might very well compose another. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Liefland, and the northern parts of European Muscovy, lying under the same climate, may be conveniently joined together. Poland, Prussia, Lithuania, and the southern parts of the European Muscovy, with the little Tartary, might likewise be properly united. The countries that lie to the north of Macedonia and Albania, and on the south of the Carpathian mountains, from Austria, Stiria, and Carniola to the Euxin sea, might be a ninth distinct government, and Macedonia, Albania, Thessaly, Epirus, Achaia, Morea, Negropont, Candia, and the adjacent islands, a tenth. And now I think I may rest, and take breath after so long a journey, leaving to any other the liberty of making the like through the other three parts of the world. What all this tends to I cannot imagine, said Sir Chr—, for by your division, our own government would continue to be of as great extent as now. You shall know that, said I, before we part. In the meantime, to justify in some measure the reasonableness of this division, you may consider that almost every one of the ten parts, into which I have divided Europe, speaks a language distinct from all the rest, and that the people are generally of the same temper and like dispositions. Sir Edw-rd, impatient to hear a discourse about so many things and places with which he is so little acquainted, thought fit to interrupt us; and directing his words to me: sir, said he, are you undertaking to teach us geography? Else what can you mean by such a division of Europe? Will you not allow, said I, a private man to make an imaginary division of countries; when it is well known that a great king in the beginning of the last age contrived one of the same nature? and you do not yet fully know what use I shall make of this division. You have led me into such a maze, said he Earl, and raised so many new thoughts in me, that without regard to our former reasoning, I must pursue some of them. That which occurs to me first, is, that if governments so equal in strength either on account of their riches or situation should come to be established, mankind might live in greater peace than they do: especially if these governments were by mutual alliances obliged to preserve the common tranquillity. But you are to observe, said Sir Chr—, the imperfection of this project to preserve peace in the world. For though one or two of these governments might not dare to disturb and injure the rest, yet nothing can hinder one half of them from combining against the other. And as such wars would be managed by a far greater number of forces than the present, mankind must of consequence be made more miserable. The nature of human affairs is such, said I, that a perpetual peace is not to be preserved among men; yet certainly some constitutions of government are better fitted to maintain the public tranquillity than others. And in place of the continual great and ruinous wars, which questions about the succession of princes, and their ambitious designs, have entailed upon the world, things might be brought to less frequent contentions, and the public animosities either prevented from proceeding to open breaches; or if at some times wars could no way be avoided, they might be neither lasting nor bloody. If you can show, said he, how so happy a state of things may be introduced into the world, you will do the greatest service imaginable to mankind. For matters are now brought to such a pass, that in every war almost all Europe and America with a great part of Asia and Africa become engaged. You are in the right, said I; and these universal wars, as I may call them, which with little interruption have continued more than thirty years, have so distressed this part of the world, and occasioned such disorder in the affairs of men, that Europe is thought to be diminished a full fifth in value. For wars, besides that they are become universal, are now wholly managed by the force and power of money, and by that means most grievously oppress and afflict not only the places that are the theatres of action, but even the remotest village and most solitary cottage. And the French King having by the oppression of his subjects, and exact economy of his affairs, been able to keep such great numbers of troops on foot, has obliged the rest of Europe to a proportionable expense, and thereby made all wars by land at least twice as chargeable as formerly they were; and by sea to exceed all example. But to give you my opinion of this matter, I think mankind might be best preserved from such convulsions and misery, if instead of framing governments with regard only to a single society, as I believe all legislators have hitherto done, we should constitute such as would be no less advantageous to our neighbours than ourselves. You talk strangely, said Sir Chr—, as if our advantage were not frequently inconsistent with that of our neighbours. I am of opinion, replied I, that the true interest and good of any nation is the same with that of any other. I do not say that one society ought not to repeal the injuries of another; but that no people ever did any injustice to a neighbouring nation, except by mistaking their own interest. You talk, said he, of injustice, but I speak of advantage. If you go about, said I, to take away by force any advantage that belongs to a neighbouring people, you not only do injustice to them, but injure yourself by the example. Whatever the example be, replied he, the advantage will accrue to my country. For The present, and in appearance, said I. But a citizen in the service of his country, said he, is not obliged to the same scruples as in his private affairs; and must be true to his public trust, and take care that the commonwealth suffer no prejudice. Then, said I, no man can be a good citizen of a particular commonwealth, and a citizen of the world; no man can be a true friend to his country and to mankind at the same time. I confess, said he, this conclusion naturally follows: but we may not dispense with the interest of our country as with our own; and you know the precepts contained in the sermon on the mount relate to the actions of private men. Do you think then, said I, that one nation cannot do injustice to another? Yes, answered he, when that which is done is to the prejudice of both. And do you not also think, said I, that one nation may make an unjust war against another?
Then if your country should make such a war with success, they would have accomplished an unjust design. True, said he; but if thereby any advantage accrue to the nation, this becomes an acquired right to the people, and ought to be defended by all those who are intrusted with the public affairs. Now if afterwards it should happen, said I, that such a neighbouring nation should renew the war, in order to recover what they had lost, would that war be unjust on their part?
I think not.
Then you lay a foundation as well for your neighbours to make a just war against you, as for your own nation to make an advantageous war (which you say is not unjust) against them. This sure is far from the design of abolishing wars so far as may be possible. By what other means then, said he, may we hope to obtain this good end? The most effectual way, replied I, is, that all such governments as are of a sufficient force to defend themselves, should be rendered either incapable or unfit to make conquests. For the ambitious desires of men to increase their dominions have always been the principal cause of dis urbing the peace of the world. It is impossible, said Sir Edward S—m-r, to take away that natural and generous inclination which is found in the best of men, to extend the empire of their country; especially among us, who have such great examples in our history to encourage us, and so noble and populous a city; which by being situated near the South-east point of the island, lies as conveniently to command the north of France and all the Low Countries, as the three kingdoms. But sir, said I, do you approve what Sir Chr— has said, that wars are to be abolished by all possible means? Suppose I do, said he; yet how can so strong an inclination, found not only in particular men, but sometimes in the whole body of a people, bye altered? If the dominions of a state, said I, might not be increased by conquest.
How is that possible?
If, for example, said I, every one of those ten portions of Europe I mentioned before had ten or twelve sovereign cities well fortified within its territories, each of them possessing and governing the adjacent district: such a government strengthened with forts in passes, and other convenient places, might be very capable to defend itself, and yet altogether unfit for conquest.
Because, said I, a conquest divided into twelve parts would be of little account, they could not be made adjacent to the several cities to which they ought to belong. But, said he, such conquered places might be governed in common to the advantage of the whole union. That, replied I, would be like a possession in common, for which no man has any particular affection, and on that account lies always neglected. But you talk, said Sir Edw-rd, of sovereign cities; I fancy you mean republics; which is nothing to us, who live under the benign influence of monarchy. You may suppose those cities, said I, to be the capitals of sovereign and independent kingdoms or countries. For of such sovereignties united under one monarch we have many examples. And the prince may either keep his court in each of them successively; or, which is better, reside in the country, and permit no more buildings about his palaces than are absolutely necessary for his domestics, and the dispatch of public business, and not to harbour a crew of lazy, profligate, and vicious wretches, fit only to render his court a mere sink of corruption, and a seminary to propagate all manner of vice through the whole nation. So that we may proceed to reason concerning the excellency of those governments, which consist of divers sovereignties united for their common defence, whether cities or kingdoms; whether independent already, or to be made so in order to put such a design in execution; whether governed by a prince, or by a great council of delegates. But certainly, said he, if these distinct sovereignties were incorporated under one head and city, such a government would be of greater force. If you mean, said I, to disturb their own peace, and that of their neighbours, I grant your assertion.
You must acknowledge, said I, that a great city is more tumultuous and disorderly, and therefore more capable of disturbing its own peace than small ones, and much more violently inclined to conquer other countries, because better able to retain the conquest. But sure, said he, if divers small sovereignties were united under one prince, his authority would better preserve peace among them, than if they were governed by a council of delegates, which in my opinion is only proper to set them together by the ears. I am very glad, said I, that you think such united governments more suitable to monarchies than to commonwealths; for if that be true, there will be greater hopes of introducing them into the world. And indeed a prince seems much more fitted to be at the head of such a league, than a council, as to the military part, in which principally such a union has occasion to exert its power. So that I have nothing more to do than to prove that such governments are of all others the best to preserve mankind, as well from great and destructive wars, as from corruption of manners, and most proper to give to every part of the world that just share in the government of themselves which is due to them. If you can prove, said Sir Chr—, what you undertake, I shall have no more to say. It is indeed, said I, a most surprising thing to me, that not only all those who have ever actually formed governments, but even those who have written on that subject, and contrived schemes of constitutions, have, as I think, always framed them with respect only to particular nations, for whom they were designed, and without any regard to the rest of mankind. Since, as they could not but know that every society, as well as every private man, has a natural inclination to exceed in everything, and draw all advantages to itself, they might also have seen the necessity of curbing that exorbitant inclination, and obliging them to consider the general good and interest of mankind, on which that of every distinct society does in a great measure depend. And one would think that politicians, who ought to be the best of all moral philosophers, should have considered what a citizen of the world is. It is true, something like a consideration of the common good of mankind appeared in the constitution of the Achaian league; and if any of the ancients ever had a right view in this affair, the founders of the government were the men. But the mighty power of the Roman commonwealth oppressed them in the very infancy of their establishment, and so deprived posterity of a perfect knowledge of the tendency of that constitution. Most governments have been framed for conquests; that is, to disturb the peace of mankind: though I know that some were less fitted for conquest than others, as the aristocratical. But there was nothing even in those constitutions that could sufficiently restrain the desire of enlarging their dominions, though no way formed to that end; which has frequently brought great calamities upon many of those governments, as the examples of Venice and Sparta demonstrate. In the last of which the wise legislator having formed the manners of the people for war, and the constitution altogether unfit to retain conquests, I would willingly persuade myself, that he designed these two things should balance each other, in order to keep that people always exercised to arms, and yet not give them the occasion of rising to such a height, as would inevitably precipitate them into ruin. And this, I think, should have been obvious to all legislators, that whoever contrives to make a people very rich and great, lays the foundation of their misery and destruction, which in a short time will necessarily overtake them. For such vicissitudes of human affairs are as certain as those of heat and cold in the revolution of the year; and no condiiton of men, or public societies, is durable and lasting, except such as are established in mediocrity. Now in small governments laws may be duly executed, and the manners of men in a great measure preserved from corruption: but because such governments are not of force sufficient to defend themselves, a considerable number of them should be united together for the common safety; by which union and league they will be enabled to resist a powerful invasion, and yet remain incapable of conquest. The three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland may serve for an example of this: which, though situated on islands, are yet in their present condition exposed to the fate of a single battle, if a great army of enemies could be landed near London. But if good forts were erected in the most considerable passes, and twelve cities with all the seaports well fortified, the loss of many battles would not determine the matter. And considering that our naval force might in a great measure intercept the supplies of the enemy, we might defend ourselves against all our neighbours. And as such a constitution would be altogether unfit to molest them, so it would give them little encouragement to disturb our peace. At this rate, said Sir Chr—, if we should continue long in peace, and unaccustomed to war, we might become a prey to the first invader. I answered, that I did not think we ought to be wholly unconcerned in the affairs of the Continent; but that such a constitution would certainly keep us from the danger of making conquests abroad, which in the present state of things any ambitious prince may attempt. Our militias might be usefully and honourably employed in assisting our neighbours to form the like leagues on the Continent; and a gradual propagation of such excellent governments would become easy, when mankind should be convinced of the great happiness and security they would enjoy by living under them. And though these leagues might possibly at some time make wars upon one another on occasion of a sudden pique, or to take revenge for some unneighbourly action; yet such wars could not be lasting, because nothing but hopes of making acquisitions and conquests can make them so. And as to the advantage of having twelve cities governing themselves happily and virtuously, instead of one great vicious and ungovernable city, I leave it to your consideration, who have so judiciously shown, that great cities do not only corrupt the manners of their own inhabitants, but those of whole nations, and destroy all good government. Cities of a moderate extent are easily governed, and the example and authority of one virtuous man is often sufficient to keep up good order and discipline; of which we have divers instances in the history of the Grecian republics: whereas great multitudes of men are always deaf to all remonstrances, and the frequency of ill example is more powerful than laws. But, said Sir Chr—, to reduce London within the compass of the old walls, seems a thing impracticable. This difficulty will be removed, replied I, when this city shall be only the capital of the neighbouring counties. It will be thought injustice, said he, to remove the seat of the government from a place which has been so long possessed of that great advantage. The injustice, said I, has been greater, that one place has so long enjoyed those profits which ought to have been divided among the considerable cities of the nation. I am afraid, said he, that all endeavours to disturb the affairs of so great a body of people, only out of a remote prospect of bettering their condition by a new regulation, may fall under the imputation of folly: and that men would think it hard to be plunged into such difficulties, so to great a change would necessarily occasion. Sir, said I, if a French King, when he is in peace with other nations, should suddenly attack us with his whole power, how can we resist him in our present condition; having no fortified cities, and the great seat of all our riches and power exposed to the very first insult of the invader? One would think such a people were predestinated to ruin. You talk of the folly and hardship of putting men into some difficulties by a new regulation of their affairs, and seem not to consider how much more cruel a thing it would be to suffer these nations to be enslaved by a foreign invasion, or inevitably lose their liberty by that corruption of manners which this vicious and profligate city diffuses into every part. I did not foresee, said Sir Chr—, what use you would make of my complaint against the depravation of manners that reigns in this town, but acknowledge the consequence you draw to be just; and that if we design to diminish the corruption, we must less the city. What visions have we here? said Sir Edw-rd, destroy the greatest and most glorious city of the world to prosecute a whimsical project! Sir, replied I, you have heard what I have answered to Sir Chr— and besides, do you not think the remoter parts of England injured by being obliged to have recourse to London for almost everything, and particularly for justice? Do you not think them wronged, in that almost all the treasure of England is yearly laid out in this place, and by that means the substance of the other parts exhausted, and their rents and revenues diminished? This, said he, is of little importance to the nation, so long as they continue to rise in the counties that lie nearest to the capital. I do not know that, replied I, but am of opinion, that if instead of one, we had twelve cities in these kingdoms possessed of equal advantages, so many centres of men, riches and power, would be much more advantageous than one. For this vast city is like the head of a rickety child, which by drawing to itself the nourishment that should be distributed in due proportions to the rest of the languishing body, becomes so over-charged, that frenzy and death unavoidably ensue. And if the number of people and their riches would be far greater in twelve cities than now in one, which I think no man will dispute; and that these cities were such as are situated in convenient distances from each other, the relief and advantages they would bring to very part of these kingdoms would be unspeakable. For example, if the people of Yorkshire or Devonshire were not obliged to go farther than York or Exeter to obtain justice, and consequently had no occasion to spend money out of those counties, how soon should we see another face of things in both? how soon would they double and treble their present value? That London should draw the riches and government of the three kingdoms to the south-east corner of this island is in some degree as unnatural as for one city to possess the riches and government of the world. And, as I said before, that men ought to be dispersed over all countries in greater or lesser numbers according to the fertility of the soil; so no doubt justice should be administered to all in the most convenient manner that may be, and no man be obliged to seek it at an inconvenient distance. And if the other parts of government are not also communicated to every considerable body of men; but that some of them must be forced to depend upon others, and be governed by those who reside far from them, and little value any interest except their own, studying rather how to weaken them in order to make sure of their subjection; I say, all such governments are violent, unjust, and unnatural. I shall add, that so many different seats of government will highly encourage virtue. For all the same offices that belong to a great kingdom must be in each of them; with this difference, that the offices of such a kingdom being always burdened with more business than any one man can rightly execute, most things are abandoned to the rapacity of servants; and the extravagant profits of all great offices plunge them into all manner of luxury, and debauch them from doing good: whereas the offices of these lesser governments extending only over a moderate number of people, will be duly executed, and many men have occasions put into their hands of doing good to their fellow citizens. So many different seats of government will highly tend to the improvement of all arts and sciences; and afford great variety of entertainment to all foreigners and others of a curious and inquisitive genius, as the ancient cities of Greece did. I perceive now, said Sir Edw-rd, the tendency of all this discourse. On my conscience he has contrived the whole scheme to no other end than to set his own country on an equal foot with England and the rest of the world. To tell you the truth, said I, the insuperable difficulty I found of making my country happy by any other way, led me insensibly to the discovery of these things, which, if I mistake not, have no other tendency than to render, not only my own country, but all mankind as happy as the imperfections of human nature will admit. For I considered that in a state of separation from England, my country would be perpetually involved in bloody and destructive wars. And if we should be united to that kingdom in any other manner, we must of necessity fall under the miserable and languishing condition of all places that depend upon a remote seat of government. And pray where lies the prejudice, if the three kingdoms were united on so equal a foot, as for ever to take away all suspicion and jealousy of separation? that virtue and industry might be universally encouraged, and every part contribute cheerfully and in due proportion to the security and defence of this union, which will preserve us so effectually from those two great calamities, war and corruption of manners. This is the only just and rational kind of union. All other coalitions are but the unjust subjection of one people to another. Here I stopped; but after some pause finding the rest of the company silent, I continued to say, that I would not pretend to determine whether each of the portions into which I had divided Europe, should be confined to the precise number of Twelve cities: though possibly if there were more, they might be subject to some confusion; and if not so many, would not answer the end: that I would not determine whether they should altogether consist of cities that are already considerable, as in these islands are London, Bristol, Exeter, Chester, Norwich, York, Stirling, Inverness, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Londonderry; or whether some other places more conveniently situated for strength, and more capable of fortification, might not rather be of the number. But this easy division of territory I think indispensably necessary, that to every city all the next adjacent country should belong. I was going on to open many things concerning these leagued governments, when a servant came to acquaint us that dinner was set on the table. We were nobly entertained, and after dinner I took leave of the company, and returned to my lodgings, having promised to meet them again at another time to discourse farther on the same subject.
My lords, I shall add nothing to this account, being persuaded that so long a narration has already sufficiently tired you.