Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XLII. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
LETTER XLII. - 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 have not forgotten that I promised you a letter on Philosophy. Her name is abused in the present age, but she herself must ever be estimable. True philosophy is true wisdom.
Many men assume to themselves the title of philosophers, who are very superficially furnished with learning or science; and who rely entirely on the strength of their own reason, and the short experience of their own lives. As an instance of their superiority, they controvert all the opinions which have been long established among mankind, as prejudices. They may sometimes be right in abstract theory; but they would do well to consider whether the removal of prejudices, which for ages have been found beneficial to mankind at large, conducive to good order, exciting merit, raising emulation, and affording comfort and amusement, is not as unworthy of philosophy, as it is of benevolence. Austere in their manners, uncandid in their judgment, dogmatical in their doctrines, they are not to be imitated by a learned, generous, liberal-minded, good-natured nobleman. Their philosophy is not the philosophy which I recommend to your Lordship. It is too mean for a mind cultivated by elegant letters, polished by the fine arts, and attentive to whatever embellishes as well as informs the fine faculties of the human intellect. It is founded on metaphysical refinement, narrow calculation, parsimonious economy, and, upon the whole, unfit for a creature furnished with fine feelings and an imagination, as well as with reason. It allows nothing to ornament, little to pleasure, and keeps the eye steadily fixed, like the sordid miser, on mere worldly utility. It is inimical to the honourable distinctions of rank. It would strip all the gold and carving from the roof, as an appendage which adds nothing to the solidity of the edifice.
You, my Lord, will derive your philosophy from the sources of all elegance, the polished writers of the best ages of antiquity. You will find a spirit in them which ennobles man's nature. Plato, Xenophon, Cicero, and those of the moderns who have trod in their footsteps, will be your masters in philosophy; and while you catch their sentiments, you will imitate their example. They were noble by Nature's patent. They stand among the minute philosophers of recent times like giants among pigmies.
Theirs is the school for the acquisition of dignity. Greatness of soul is more necessary to make a great man, than the favour of a monarch and the blazonry of the herald; and greatness of soul is to be acquired by converse with the heroes of antiquity; not the fighting heroes only, but the moral heroes; those who wrote and acted with grace and spirit which few modern philosophers of the minute school, with all their assuming pretensions, have fully understood, or been able to emulate.
To the ancients I refer you for a just taste of the beautiful and sublime in manners and morals, as well as in composition. Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, Tully, Seneca; be these your guides in philosophy. After drinking at their fountains, you will learn not to overvalue the shallow streams and narrow rivulets of the soidisant philosophers of recent times. You will have a touchstone to discriminate infallibly between gold and baser metal. You will see the essential difference, however speciously disguised, between sophistry and philosophy.
Under philosophy in this Letter, your own good sense will inform you, that I do not mean natural and experimental philosophy. The moderns excel the ancients in these particulars, as much as manhood usually excels childhood, or adolescence.
I mean the philosophy which Cicero calls vitœ dux, virtutis indagatrix; and of which he says, in a beautiful apostrophe to her, Tu inventrix legum, tu magistra morum et discipliœ. Est autem unus dies benè ex preceptis tuis actus—peccanti immortalitati anteferendus.
It is that philosophy which separates, by a moral chemistry, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, dispelling the clouds of error, and dissolving the enchantments of fancy.
To her guidance I commend you, my Lord, and doubt not but that she will conduct you to the pulchrum et honestum, to all that truly ennobles human nature. She will lead you, I hope, ultimately to what modern philosophy explodes, the Christian religion.
I am, &c.