Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER XLIX. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
LETTER XLIX. - 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 met with the following passage in Lord Bolingbroke's “Idea of a Patriot King,” on the behaviour of princes; and as it is equally applicable to nobles, I shall transcribe it for your consideration.
“Let not princes flatter themselves. They will be examined closely in private as well as in public life; and those who cannot pierce further, will judge of them by the appearances they give in both. To obtain true popularity, that which is founded in esteem and affection, they must therefore maintain their characters in both, and to that end neglect appearances in neither; but observe the decorum necessary to preserve the esteem, whilst they win the affections of mankind. Kings, they must never forget that they are men; men, they must never forget that they are kings. The sentiments which one of these reflections of course inspires, will give an humane and affable air to their whole behaviour, and make them taste in that high elevation all the joys of social life. The sentiments which the other reflection suggests, will be found very compatible with the former; and they must never forget that they are kings, though they do not always carry the crown on their heads, nor the sceptre in their hands. Vanity and folly must entrench themselves in a constant affectation of state; to preserve regal dignity. A wise prince will know how to preserve it when he lays his majesty aside. He will dare to appear a private man, and in that character he will draw to himself a respect less ostentatious, but more real, and more pleasing to him, than that which is paid to the monarch. By never saying what is unfit for him to say, he will never hear what is unfit for him to hear. By never doing what is unfit for him to do, he will never see what is unfit for him to see. Decency and propriety of manners are so far from lessening the pleasures of life, that they refine them, and give them an higher taste. They are so far from restraining the free and easy commerce of social life, that they banish the bane of it, licentiousness of behaviour. Ceremony is the barrier against this abuse of liberty in public; politeness and decency are so in private; and the prince, who practises and exacts them, will amuse himself much better, and oblige those who have the honour to be in his intimacy, and to share his pleasures with him, much more than he could possibly do by the most absolute and unguarded familiarity.”
The sentiments of the above passage I chose rather to express in the words of a celebrated nobleman than in my own, that they might have the greater authority.
But let me appeal to your own reflection, Do you not think that great men, by breaking down the outworks of their grandeur, have endangered the citadel? Do you not think, that if an audience is permitted to go behind the curtain and the scene, much of the stage effect will be lost? And have you not observed, that many persons in very high stations have stript off all their external state, dressed in a style of vulgarity, associated with persons of no respectable character, played in public at low, degrading games, and pursued vulgar and barbarous diversions? They must have a very great fund of personal superiority to maintain, under all this voluntary abasement, the superiority which their titles arrogate, and their country allows. But unfortunately, such humiliation, such company, such amusements, have a tendency to destroy whatever personal merit, education, or early habits may have produced or improved. Nobility has let itself down, and perhaps will find it difficult to rise to its primitive elevation. What is once despised seldom resumes its honours. Contempt, like the breath of the south, taints the purest viands; and no art can restore them. That too much familiarity breeds contempt, the observation of mankind has reduced to a proverbial maxim. An institution founded, like nobility, on opinion, must be supported by opinion; and so weak is human nature, that a little paint and gilding is necessary to preserve many estimable things in a due degree of esteem. We are not yet a nation of philosophers; but we are a nation of acute observers and jealous politicians. Those who wish to enjoy the privileges of great rank must be contented to wear some of its drapery, though it may feel like an incumbrance. Strip man of his dress—and what a poor puny biped!
There is an inflation of character, an empty pomp, as far from true greatness, as the unwieldy size of a bloated glutton from the plump condition of sound health. This is displayed by men of great pride and little ability. The dignity I advise you to assume is the natural result of internal greatness; it sits easy, it gives no offence, it pleases because it is becoming, and every body pays it a willing deference.
Such nobility is of indisputable service to society. It raises a virtuous emulation. It appears with a grave and venerable air, which places the human species in a most favourable light; and by exhibiting appearances of perfection, facilitates the approach to it. Men will always imitate what they sincerely admire. But asses in lions skins invite the contumelious kick of every mean quadruped. I am happy that you have already taken care that no one can justly say that you have disgraced your ancestors by voluntary degradation.
I am, &c.