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For the Mirror.
Romulus et Liber pater, et cum Castore Pollux,
Men, who either possess a natural softness of temper, or who have been unfortunate in the world from accident or imprudence, or perhaps think they have been so from over-rating their own deserts, are apt to ascribe to human nature a variety of vices and imperfections. They consider these as the chief ingredients of the composition of mankind, and that their virtues and good qualities are only exceptions from the general rule, like accidental strokes of genius, or colouring in the works of a painter, whose performances, on the whole, are coarse and irregular.
Nothing can be more groundless and unjust this accusation, I am convinced that, upon a thorough examination, though we might discover many vicious and profligate individuals, we should find, in general, that human nature is virtuous and well-disposed, and little merits the abuse that peevish or unfortunate men are inclined to bestow upon it.
One charge, much insisted upon against mankind, is public ingratitude. With what justice or truth this is urged, we may judge, by examining the be. haviour of men from the earliest period to the present times; and, in doing so, I'flatter myself we shall be able to discover that the reverse is true, and that a strong spirit of gratitude has appeared on all occasions where it was due, though in different ages and countries it has been expressed in a different In Egypt and ancient Greece, the tribute paid by the public voice to the benefactors of mankind, was to consider them as objects of divine worship, and for that purpose to inroll them among the gods. Such was Ceres, for the invention of corn ; Bacchus, for the discovery of wine ; and a variety of others, with whom every school boy is acquainted. If a man of superior strength and valour happened to repel an invader, destroy a monster, or perform any notable deed of public service, he was revered while living, and after his death his memory was respected, and a species of inferior worship was paid to him, as a hero, or a demi-god.
In later times, in the Grecian states, the general who fought a successful battle, or destroyed an enemy's fleet, had statues erected to him by the public voice, and at the expence of the public. The Romans did not think of honouring their active or fortunate commanders with statues ; but they had their triumphs and ovations bestowed by the public, and supported by the voluntary applause and attend. ance of a grateful populace.
I should be extremely sorry if the moderns yielded in the article of public gratitude either to the Greeks or Romans. I shall not enter upon the practice or manners of other European nations; but I can venture to assert, with some degree of confidence, that the people of Great Britain possess a degree of public gratitude unexampled in any other age or country.
In making this assertion, I do not allude to public monuments, hereditary pensions, or thanks of parliament, which, though of a public, and seemingly of a general nature, may nevertheless proceed from a very limited cause. I allude to that universal effusion of honest gratitude which the good people of England frequently bestow on successful com.
manders, by putting up their pictures as signs for their taverns and alehouses, and frequenting these more than any other, till the reputation of the original begins to be obscured by the rising glory of some new favourite.
I must, at the same time, observe, that great statesmen have seldom experienced this mark of public applause. The late Mr. Pitt was, indeed, an exception from the remark ; but he was in fact, a minister of war only, and never meddled with finance. A first Lord of the Treasury, let him be as wise as Ximenes, and as moderate as Fleury, cannot expect to be revered on the sign-post of an alehouse ; every article of consumpt there has felt the weight of his hand ; and whether the company get drunk in wine or punch, or enjoy the cool collations of tea and coffee, still the reckoning recalls ideas that lead to execrations on the whole system of finance and taxation, from the department of the first minister to the walk of the lowest exciseman; and, by an easy transition, the dislike of the system and the offices passes, in some degree, to the persons of those who fill them.
But as the same cause of unmerited obloquy does not exist with respect to our admirals and generals, they have been often and much the objects of this species of public gratitude. It is needless to go far back. In the year 1739, Admiral Vernon took Porto-bello, with six ships only. The public gratitude to him was boundless. He was sung in ballads. -At the ensuing general election in 1741, he was returned from three different corporations ; but, above all, his portrait filled every sign-post; and he may be figuratively said to have sold the ale, beer, porter, and purl of England for six years.
Towards the close of that period, the Admiral's favour began to fade apace with the colours of his uniform ; and the battle of Culloden was total annihilation to him. When the news of that victory reached England, a new object presented itself to the public favour; and the honest Admiral, in every sign-post, made way for the more portly figure of the glorious Duke of Cumberland.
The Duke kept possession of the sign-posts a long time. In the beginning of last war, our Admiral in the Mediterranean, and our Generals in North America, did nothing that could tend, in the least degree, to move his Royal Highness from his place; but the doubtful battle of Hamellan, fol. lowed by the unfortunate convention of Stade, and the rising glories of the King of Prussia, obliterated the glorious Duke of Cumberland as effectually as his Royal Highness and the battle of Culloden had effaced the figure, the memory, and the renown of Admiral Vernon.
The Duke was so totally displaced by his Prussian Majesty, that I have some doubts whether he met with fair play. One circumstance, indeed, was much against him; his figure being marked by a hat with the Kevenhuller cock, a military uniform, and a fierce look, a very slight touch of the painter converted him into the King of Prussia ; but what crowned the success of his Prussian Majesty, was the title bestowed upon him by the brothers of the brush, The glorious Protestant Hero;' words which added splendour to every sign-post and which no British subject could read, without peculiar sensations of veneration and of thirst.
For two years the glorious Protestant Hero was unrivalled; but the French being beat at Minden upon the ist of August 1759, by the army under
Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, the King of Prussia began to give place a little to two popular favourites who started at the same time, I mean Prince Ferdinand and the Marquis of Granby. Prince Ferdinand was supported altogether by his good conduct at Minden, and his high reputation over Europe as a general;—the Marquis of Granby behaved with spirit and personal courage every where ; but his success in the sign-posts of England was much owing to a comparison generally made between him and another British general of higher rank, but who was supposed not to have behaved so well. Perhaps, too, he was a good deal indebted to another circumstance, to wit, the baldness of his head.
The next who figured in the sign-post way was the celebrated John Wilkes, Esq.--This public honour conferred on him was also an effusion of gratitude ; for he was supposed to have written the Earl of Bute, who was both Scotsman and a favourite, out of power, and to have resisted and explained the illegality of general warrants. Besides, he fought a bloodless duel with E. Talbot, and was shot in the cause of liberty by Mr. Martin of the treasury. All these were great weights in the scale of popularity; and, though Mr. Wilkes never attained the glory either of Admiral Vernon or the Duke of Cumberland, yet his visage has filled many a sign-post, and much ale and gin has been sold under his auspices.
These are the last whom the people of Great Britain have thought worthy of being so honoured ; and though the thing itself may seem ludicrous, yet the tale has a moral, by no means flattering to the well-wishers of this country. We have been now for five years employed in attempting to reduce our rebellious colonies; we have been two years at war with France, and one with Spain; many troops have