Front Page Titles (by Subject) LETTER LVI. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
LETTER LVI. - 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.
There is a syren, whose enchanting voice may render all that I have said of no avail. Sloth is her name. Shut your ears against her song, and fly from her as from a pestilence. It is the great misfortune of rank and abundance, that it wants spurs to activity. It knows not those powerful incentives to exertion which arise from necessity struggling for abundance, or from obscurity emerging into light.
Pains must be taken to create incentives. The desire of honour, fame, popularity, naturally stimulates the heart to laudable and useful efforts, and rouses those who else would wallow in the stye of Epicurus.
Therefore acquiesce not in the honour which your forefathers earned. To you it may be but a splendid disgrace. Therefore aspire at a well-earned fame, which may render you respected throughout life, and survive to distant ages. Therefore despise not the people, to promote whose happiness is the duty of every one who shares in government or legislation; despise not their plaudits, for they are honest rewards bestowed on merit, by hands which move in unison with hearts attached by nature, though sometimes misled by passion, to every thing upright and fair.
Let the attainment of these distinctions call you from the slumbers of indolence on the rose-beds of the Sybarites. Motives like these are indeed subordinate to the sublime ones of virtue and disinterested generosity. But in the present infirm state of human nature, they are found useful, because they operate when better ones are ineffectual. Nay, they often lead to true virtue of the purest kind. He who has once been roused to virtuous action, and tasted the sweets, not only of its consciousness, but of fame and applause, will go on in the glorious career, and finish as he began and proceeded, an honour to his country and to human nature.
Admit a little virtuous enthusiasm into your temper. Cold discretion, subtle policy, mean distrust, craft and caution, may indeed guard against danger; but they lead not, unless mixed with a little virtuous enthusiasm, to those heights of excellence, which have saved a country, by withstanding powerfully the encroachment of tyrants, and the madness of the people. These qualities are all consistent with selfishness. They want, and therefore cannot confer, dignity.
I am combating indolence. I can call forth no auxiliary so potent as virtuous enthusiasm. Catch the pure flame, my Lord, and let it fire all the latent sparks of virtue in your breast, those sparks which become extinct in thousands and tens of thousands, through the want of it. May it burn with steady heat, and after warming and enlightening all around you in life, burst from your urn, and while it points to heaven, diffuse a glory round your tomb, not to be rivalled by the blazonry of the herald painter! What can the chisel of the sculptor do, compared to the image engraven on the hearts of a grateful people? I admire the fine figures of Lord Chatham in Westminster Abbey and Guildhall; but I admire them for the sculptor's skill; I look not there for an idea of the Man. All the civilized world have erected monuments to him in their hearts and imaginations.
It is certain, after all, that many casual circumstances must concur to call forth extraordinary exertions, and to give universal celebrity. Those circumstances may not happen to you. But though you should not be able to eclipse all others in the cabinet, in the senate, or in the field, yet you may adorn nobility with some of its most amiable graces in the circles of private life. Every thing pleasing and beneficent, all that adds to the sweetness of domestic life, and the delight and ornament of neighbourly intercourse, will be required from you, in peculiar perfection, as a nobleman. Birth, education, privileges of various kinds, lead the public to expect in a nobleman, a gentleman of the highest polish, a philanthropist, a man anxious to do good, and to diffuse pleasure and satisfaction, wherever the sphere of his influence extends. But this demands great activity. Indolence will render your best intentions abortive, and cause you, amidst a thousand opportunities of pleasure, honour, and beneficence, to live and die a cypher. It will conduct you to the family vault with nothing but an “Hic jacet “on your tomb. Walk into Westminster Abbey, and learn to scorn such insignificance.
Yet at the same time remember, that innocent insignificance is far more estimable than mischievous abilities, and that accursed ambition which pursues fame, grandeur, and despotic power, through fields of blood. What are tigers, wolves, and hyænas to sanguinary despots?
I am, &c.