Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XXXIX. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
LETTER XXXIX. - 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.
I did promise you a letter upon History. But why need I urge you to study it? You know its value to a statesman and an orator. It is indispensably necessary. But it is a most extensive field. A life may be spent in traversing it. You never can, consistently with your other engagements, read the history of all ages and all countries. The life of an antediluvian, and the constitution of one, would be necessary to read attentively, all that have been written on History alone, much more to study all the sciences and parts of knowledge which I have already recommended.
What must be done? Quid brevi fortes jaculamur œvo multa? My Lord, grasp as much as you can; and what you cannot hold or reach, must be suffered to escape. An avarice of knowledge is a laudable avarice indeed; but yet, even here, contentment must be learned, if we would be happy. Alps on Alps arise. But if we cannot reach the summit, we may reach some desirable eminence, enjoy a noble prospect, and sit down, if we are wearied, far more elevated, and more rationally happy than the shepherd in the vale. Our view is greatly extended, though we still know that our sensible horizon falls infinitely short of the rational.
Let us endeavour to abbreviate our historical labour, by selecting whatever is useful, and foregoing whatever may be dispensed with, though entertaining to the imagination, and calculated to gratify curiosity.
You must read the Grecian, the Roman, the English historians, and the history of modern Europe. No man can pretend to letters who is utterly unacquainted with these.
We have abundance of histories of Greece and Rome compiled by the moderns. But my advice is, “go to the fountain-head.” Read Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, and Tacitus; or, if you will drink at the streams, read Rollin; after these read whatever historian you best approve, remembering, as I have more than once repeated, that what you read from choice and inclination, will make the deepest impression, and be retained the longest in the memory. Only give me leave to say, that as there is such choice of historians, you should read those chiefly that have written in the most classical style, lest in acquiring information you contract a barbarism of language, and impede your progress toward one grand purpose of your studies, parliamentary eloquence. Great stores of eloquence are to be derived from Livy. His speeches are full of weight and dignity; and he who can imitate them successfully, will always be impressive.
There is a great deal of history very uninteresting. This must be studied, if studied at all, in chronological tables, and referred to when occasion requires, by dictionaries and indexes. I cannot consent that a warm and vivid genius like yours should be chilled by mere dates, proper names, and dull matters of fact. Survey those historical pictures, where the drawing is strong, and the colouring rich; and you will receive such pleasure as will fix the transactions indelibly in your memory. The faint narrations of uninteresting events will waste your time, and soon vanish from your mind. They are only fit for dull matter-of-fact men.
Modern History, whether from the inferior genius of the historians, or the little heroism of modern manners, is far less striking to the imagination than ancient; but to a statesman it is highly useful. Procure the best historians of every country. Your own will of course claim your peculiar attention. Many complain that we have no good historian of our country. You will consult the most approved; and fame points them out sufficiently to your notice. Rapin, Hume, Robertson, Smollet, and the authors to whom they refer in their margins, will furnish you with as much knowledge in this province as you can easily retain. As to party, you must judge for yourself how far it misled the minds of these popular writers. As a critic and man of taste, I think you will agree with me that we have not yet a classical writer of English history. Where are the living pictures of Livy? But information must be obtained, whether the modes of receiving it are pleasant or disgustful.
Voltaire writes modern history in an entertaining manner; and to him you will have recourse. The difficulty will be to prevail upon yourself to read dull annalists, dreary treaties and negotiations, and dry proceedings of councils, conventions, and senates. But if necessary to your own honour and your country's, you will submit with patience to the toil: I wish you soon to emerge from the dark mine to pleasanter scenes, where not only reason and memory are exercised, but the imagination delighted.
I am, &c.