Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXXIV. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
LETTER XXXIV. - 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.
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- To the Right Honourable Charles James Fox.
- Personal Nobility Or , Letters to a Young Noble Man
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- 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.
An ancient mansion, or an old oak, undecayed, are venerable. The mind approaches them with a kind of awe. So an ancient family, long famous for its virtues and prosperity, and still flourishing, is naturally productive of esteem. But if the old mansion is reduced to a mere heap of rubbish, and the old oak rotten, we pass them unnoticed, or consider them as incumbrances of the ground. Apply this image to fallen, corrupt nobility.
To use a vulgar phrase, you must keep it up, my Lord. Send a poor puny, degenerate lord, descended from the conqueror, with no abilities of mind and body, and a healthy, virtuous, and able plebeian, into a foreign country, among perfect strangers, without any distinction of dress; and the strangers will soon determine which is the nobleman. Nature produces gold, the king stamps it, and it passes current as a guinea; but if the guinea has been clipt, or if there is too much alloy in it, it will be rejected at the exchange. The pure gold without any stamp at the mint, will always retain its value according to its weight. Stamp your gold, however, with virtuous qualities, such as affability, gentleness, courage, good temper, magnanimity, learning, eloquence, generosity, and it will never suffer the disgrace of being cut asunder by the sheers, and cast into the crucible.
I am far from disparaging nobility. The times are rather unfavourable to it; and I am endeavouring to render it really venerable, by founding its fancied superiority on real preeminence. Noblemen may indeed value themselves highly; but self-value does not increase their real value. Their real value is that alone at which they are esteemed by the public. It is not the seller, but the buyer, that determines the price of a commodity.
Convinced as I am that you have early imbibed these sentiments, I should not inculcate them again, had you not informed me, that two or three young lords, with whom you often associate, had endeavoured to persuade you, that there is a dignity in birth, independent of personal merit, or beneficent exertion. They spend their time chiefly in the stable, at the tavern, and at the gaming-house; they substitute a horse-laugh in the place of all argument; and they would willingly reduce you, by ridiculing your virtues, to a level with their own degenerate state. But what say the people at large, on whom both you and they must depend for a continuance of your honours and privileges? They bid you cast your eyes over the British channel, and learn in time a lesson of caution.
Only consider the useless life of these young noblemen, whose fortunes are princely, and whose titles, in sound, right honourable. They rise at twelve, they dress, they ride, they dine, they game, they go to some public place, they sup, they drink to excess, and then retire again, and renew the same contemptible round on the morrow. Can you wonder that the people view their civil distinction with an evil eye? When such an one is on his departure, let him take a retrospective view of his life: What have I done? may he ask: my life has been useless to others, and to myself dishonourable. Am I one of the lords of the creation, as well as a lord in civil rank, distinguished above others by my country? If nature had made me a tree, or an animal without reason, I might probably have been more useful than I have been, and more truly estimable.
Never let the false wit and rude conversation of such degenerate nobles, stop you in your honourable career. Treat them with politeness, but act and speak with spirit; and, above all, persevere in the path of honour which you have chosen, and mark the end of your choice.
I am, &c.