Vicesimus Knox tries to persuade an English nobleman that some did not come into the world with “saddles on their backs and bridles in their mouths” and some others like him came “ready booted and spurred to ride the rest to death” (1793)

Vicesimus Knox

In the preface to a series of letters written to a young English nobleman in 1793, Vicesimus Knox declares his own love of liberty and explains how the next generation of English aristocrats might reconcile true liberty and peace with their social station, and so avoid what was happening to the aristocracy in France:

If zeal in a good cause has led to any ardour of expression, I trust I shall need no pardon. I have no sordid interest to serve in what I have done. I have not been obsequious to power. I have nothing to ask of it, nothing to expect from it, and from the candid judgment of the public I have nothing to fear. I have employed my literary leisure in a way that I thought might be useful; and if one idea only is serviceable to the country, it will be acknowledged as meritorious, when the temporary prejudices of party shall be lost in the radiance of eternal truth. I am attached to the king and to the lords; but I am more attached to the commons; and I will adopt the saying of Rumbald in the reign of Charles the Second, as recorded by Burnet: "I do not imagine the Almighty intended, that the greatest part of mankind should come into the world with saddles on their backs and bridles in their mouths, and a few ready booted and spurred to ride the rest to death."

Like Adam Smith, his near contemporary, Knox tutored young members of the nobility, trying to instill in them some love of liberty and respect for the rights of others. In this quotation Knox uses an old adage of freedom lovers, that some privileged men are not born to ride on saddles placed on the backs of the poor and weak.