Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXXIII. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
LETTER XXXIII. - Vicesimus Knox, The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5 
The Works of Vicesimus Knox, D.D. with a Biographical Preface. In Seven Volumes (London: J. Mawman, 1824). Vol. 5.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
- To the Right Honourable Charles James Fox.
- Personal Nobility Or , Letters to a Young Noble Man
- Letter I.
- Letter II.
- Letter III.
- Letter IV.
- Letter V.
- Letter VI.
- Letter VII.
- Letter VIII.
- Letter IX.
- Letter X.
- Letter XI.
- Letter XII.
- Letter XIII.
- Letter XIV.
- Letter XV.
- Letter XVI.
- Letter XVII.
- Letter XVIII.
- Letter XIX.
- Letter XX.
- Letter XXI.
- Letter XXII.
- Letter XXIII.
- Letter XXIV.
- Letter XXV.
- Letter XXVI.
- Letter XXVII.
- Letter XXVIII.
- Letter XXIX.
- Letter XXX.
- Letter XXXI.
- Letter XXXII.
- Letter XXXIII.
- Letter XXXIV.
- Letter XXXV.
- Letter XXXVI.
- Letter XXXVII.
- Letter XXXVIII.
- Letter XXXIX.
- Letter Xl.
- Letter Xli.
- Letter Xlii.
- Letter Xliii.
- Letter Xliv.
- Letter Xlv.
- Letter Xlvi.
- Letter Xlvii.
- Letter Xlviii.
- Letter Xlix.
- Letter L.
- Letter Li.
- Letter Lii.
- Letter Liii.
- Letter Liv.
- Letter Lv.
- Letter Lvi.
- Letter Lvii.
- The Spirit of Despotism.
- Section I.: Introductory.
- Section II. Oriental Manners, and the Ideas Imbibed In Youth, Both In the West and East Indies, Favourable to the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section III. Certain Circumstances In Education Which Promote the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section IV. Corruption of Manners Has a Natural Tendency to Promote the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section V. An Abhorrence of Despotism and an Ardent Love of Liberty Perfectly Consistent With Order and Tranquillity; and the Natural Consequence of Well-informed Understandings and Benevolent Dispositions.
- Section VI. On the Venality of the Press Under the Influence of the Despotic Spirit, and Its Effects In Diffusing That Spirit.
- Section VII. The Fashionable Invectives Against Philosophy and Reason, a Proof of the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section VIII. Of Loyalty, and Certain Mistaken Ideas of It.
- Section IX. On Taking Advantage of Popular Commotions, Accidental Excesses, and Foreign Revolutions, to Extend Prerogative and Power, and Encroach On the Liberties of the People.
- Section X. When Human Life Is Held Cheap, It Is a Symptom of a Prevailing Spirit of Despotism.
- Section XI. Indifference of the Middle and Lower Classes of the People to Public Affairs, Highly Favourable to the Encroachments of the Tory Principle, and Therefore to the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section XII. The Despotic Spirit Is Inclined to Discourage Commerce, As Unfavourable to Its Purposes.
- Section XIII. The Spirit of Despotism Displaying Itself In Private Life, and Proceeding Thence to Avail Itself of the Church and the Military.
- Section XIV. The Despotic Spirit Inclined to Avail Itself of Spies, Informers, False Witnesses, Pretended Conspiracies, and Self-interested Associations Affecting Patriotism.
- Section XV. The Manners of Tory Courtiers, and of Those Who Ape Them, As People of Fashion, Inconsistent With Manliness, Truth, and Honesty; and Their Prevalence Injurious to a Free Constitution, and the Happiness of Human Nature.
- Section XVI. The Spirit of Truth, Liberty, and Virtue, Public As Well As Private, Chiefly to Be Found In the Middle Ranks of the People.
- Section XVII. On Debauching the Minds of the Rising Generation and a Whole People, By Giving Them Military Notions In a Frée and Commercial Country.
- Section XVII. Levity, Effeminacy, Ignorance, and Want of Principle In Private Life, Inimical to All Public Virtue, and Favourable to the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section XIX. Certain Passages In Dr. Brown’s “estimate” Which Deserve the Serious Consideration of All Who Would Oppose the Subversion of a Free Constitution By Corruption of Manners and Principles, and By Undue Influence.
- Section XX. On Several Subjects Suggested By Lord Melcombe’s Diary; Particularly the Practice of Bartering the Cure of Souls For the Corruption of Parliament.
- Section XXI. On Choosing Rich Men, Without Parts, Spirit, Or Liberality, As Representatives In the National Council.
- Section XXII. Of the Despotic Influence of Great Merchants Over Their Subalterns, of Customers Over Their Tradesmen, and Rich Trading Companies Over Their Various Dependents, In Compelling Them to Vote For Court Candidates For Seats In Parliment, Merely T
- Section XXIII. Of the Pageantry of Life; That It Originates In the Spirit of Despotism; and Contributes to It, Without Advancing Private Any More Than Public Felicity.
- Section XXIV. Insolence of the Higher Orders to the Middle Ranks and the Poor; With Their Affected Condescension, In Certain Circumstances, to the Lowest of the People.
- Section XXV. Of a Natural Aristocracy.
- Section XXVI. The Excessive Love of Distinction and Power Which Prevails Wherever the Spirit of Despotism Exists, Deadens Some of the Finest Feelings of the Heart, and Counteracts the Laws of Nature.
- Section XXVII. On the Opinion That the People Are Annihilated Or Absorbed In Parliament; That the Voice of the People Is No Where to Be Heard But In Parliament; and On Similar Doctrines, Tending to Depreciate the People.
- Section XXVIII. The Fashionable Contempt Thrown On Mr. Locke, and His Writings In Favour of Liberty; and On Other Authors and Books Espousing the Same Cause.
- Section XXIX. Of the Despotism of Influence; While the Forms of a Free Constitution Are Preserved.
- Section XXX. The Spirit of Despotism Delights In War Or Systematic Murder.
- Section XXXI. On the Idea That We Have Arrived At Perfection In Politics, Though All Other Sciences Are In a Progressive State.
- Section XXXII. On Political Ethics; Their Chief Object Is to Throw Power Into the Hands of the Worst Part of Mankind, and to Render Government an Institution Calculated to Enrich and Aggrandize a Few, At the Expense of the Liberty, Property, and Lives of
- Section XXXIII. On Trafficking With the Cure of Souls, (cura Animarum,) For the Purposes of Political, I. E. Moral, Corruption.
- Section XXXIV. Of Mr. Hume’s Idea, That Absolute Monarchy Is the Easiest Death, the True Euthanasia of the British Constitution.
- Section XXXV. The Permission of Lawyers By Profession, Aspiring to Honours In the Gift of the Crown, to Have the Greatest Influence In the Legislature, a Circumstance Unfavourable to Liberty.
- Section XXXVI. Poverty, When Not Extreme, Favourable to All Virtue, Public and Private, and Consequently to the Happiness of Human Nature; and Enormous Riches, Without Virtue, the General Bane.
- Section XXXVII. On the Natural Tendency of Making Judges and Crown Lawyers, Peers; of Translating Bishops and Annexing Preferments to Bishoprics, In, What Is Called Commendam.
- Section XXXVIII. That All Opposition to the Spirit of Despotism Should Be Conducted With the Most Scrupulous Regard to the Existing Laws, and to the Preservation of Public Peace and Good Order.
- Section XXXIX. The Christian Religion Favourable to Civil Liberty, and Likewise to Equality Rightly Understood.
- Section Xl. the Pride Which Produces the Spirit of Despotism Conspicuous Even On the Tombstone. It Might Be Treated With Total Neglect, If It Did Not Tend to the Oppression of the Poor, and to Bloodshed and Plunder.
- Section Xli.: Conclusion.
- Antipolemus; Or, the Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity, Against War. a Fragment; Translated From the Latin of Erasmus.
- Preface. By the Translator.
- Antipolemus; Or, the Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity, Against War.
Expect not that I shall assume the office of dictating to you every book which you are to place in your library. Choose for yourself; go into the booksellers’ shops, and make purchases according to your inclination. You will have a great pleasure in exercising your own judgment in selecting your library. You will love your books the better for it, and read them with more avidity. It is a misfortune attending great riches and high rank, that their possessors do not act enough for themselves; but procure the easiest and pleasantest things to be done for them by their dependents, agents, factors, and officious friends. In vain has Providence given them eyes, hands, and common sense; they must see, act and think, by the organs of others. If such be the privilege of noble birth, it should be deprecated as a calamity. The powers of action and of thinking are gifts of nature, superior to any which monarchs have to bestow. Beware of falling into that indolence, to which a facility of obtaining substitutes, in your Lordship's situation, too easily seduces the incautious.
I will not therefore undertake to furnish your English library. Look into the catalogues; frequent the shops; obtain a knowledge of books sufficient for your purpose, by actual inspection. You will have great pleasure in finding a book you want in a catalogue; and will hasten, with all the ardour of an amateur, to purchase it before it is gone. Much literary amusement and knowledge may be acquired by collecting your own books in person. Arrange them according to your own judgment; and let not your library be furnished, as it is papered or painted, by the yard and without your own interposition.
Maps, charts, chronological tables, globes, telescopes, and all the proper furniture of the library, you will not fail to procure; but you will choose for yourself by actual observation, and by comparison: the very choice is an improving amusement; and you will like the various articles better, and use them more attentively, when they have cost you some time, and some pains in their selection.
Do you not think it a great disgrace to nobility, that certain rich lords (I hope they are few) possess little or no library, never purchase a book, and consider all money thrown away, that is not expended on horses, dogs, wine, and elections? Such men are all body without mind; corpus sine mente, as Horace says. But if such should increase, will not the peerage sink in public esteem; and may not an enlighted people rise with indignation, and demolish the aristocracy? Noblemen are lights upon a hill, they attract universal attention. If their light burns dimly, or emits an evil odour in the socket, there is danger lest it should be extinguished, and the useless beacon levelled with the earth. There are times when the people are ready enough to pay homage to talents and virtue, but they were never less disposed to worship golden calves.
“Nobility (says Agrippa, as quoted by Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy) is a sanctuary of knavery and haughtiness, a cloak for wickedness, and the execrable vices of pride, fraud, contempt, boasting, oppression, dissimulation, lust, gluttony, malice, ignorance. and impiety.”
God forbid that this representation should be generally just in our country. If the people should be of opinion that it is so at any time, depend upon it the pageant is at an end, and dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, and barons, come off the stage Messrs. Egalites.
Whether such an event would be beneficial to mankind, I presume not to decide; but I ardently wish to preserve an institution that may raise human nature, and stimulate to generous exertion. Such I think the order of nobility, under due regulations; for honour is the nurse of virtue, as well as of the arts.
In the fabric of the political edifice, nobility has been a beautiful and substantial column; may it remain so, and may you, my Lord, form one of its most admired embellishments. In order to be so, much time must be spent in your library. It is mind, and mind only, which can give real and lasting dignity. Externals are very proper to set it off, as foils to increase the brilliancy of a jewel; but the foil gives no real value to French paste.
But what shall we say of those noblemen who never read? Their minds are no less coarse and empty than those of their footmen. Let us bear with them, however, while we can: but your spirit will, I hope, always keep you distinguished from those that are only to be tolerated.
I am, &c.