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"If nothing may be published but “ what civil authority have previously “ approved, power muft always be the «« standard of truth.”
Would not one think that problem was thus solved at once? Is not this an alternative which even Dr. Johnson's predilection for power would hardly adnrit?
Hold a little, till we have shewn you the evils on the other side.
“ If every dreamer of innovations may “ propagate his projects, there can be no “ settlement; if every murmurer at go“ vernment may diffuse discontent, there “ can be no peace, if every sceptic in “ theology may teach his follies, there “ can be no religion.”
Is it not better that power should be. the standard of truth, than that we should have no settlement, no peace, no religion ?
But, says another writer, as honest a man, and at least as fair a reasoner, as Dr. Johnson, “ If men were not to de“ clare their opinions in spight of estab“ lishments either in church or state, 56 truth would soon be banished the “ earth * ;” and to this agrees John Milton. What is then to be done ?
Why, says a moderator, punish the authors of these wicked publications ; for Dr. Johnson tells you, “It is yet al“ lowed that every society may punish, “though not prevent, the publication of * Dedication of the Ejay on Spirit.
is opinions which that society shall think “ pernicious.”
We could mention very good sort of men, and no fools, who would not allow this to every society. But be this as it may, this allowance does not satisfy our Biographer; for, says he, “ This punish“ment, though it may crush the author, “ promotes the book; and it seems not “ more reasonable to leave the right of “ printing unrestrained, because writers “ may be afterwards censured, than it r would be to sleep with our doors un“bolted, because by our laws we can “ hang a thief.” The conclufion is, hang every man who prints or publishes without a license.
Hardy must be the man who can publish this sophistry with so many contradictory facts staring him in the face. And distressing must be the dilemma which obliges Dr. Johnson to admit either that the minority have propagated no projects of innovation, diffused no discontents by, murmuring at government; or that his friends the ministers of state have not been able to protect the settlement, and keep the public peace. If there can be no religion upon the supposition that every sceptic may teach his follies, I am afraid the Doctor himself can have no religion; for such sceptics may and do teach their follies every day with all freedom.
Perhaps Perhaps times and seasons might be noted in some old almanac when the good Doctor himself stole fome trifles into the world through the press, which did not much favour the legal settlement of the crown, or tend to abate the difcontents of the people.
Had the minister of the day, who then slept with his doors unbolted, caught the thief with the dark-lanthorn in his pocket, and consigned him over to the constable, the culprit undoubtedly would have availed himself of Milton's plea, and we should have heard with a vengeance of the wicked enmity of power to the cause of truth and loyalty. But pensions and preferments are won: derful enlighteners; and the free circu