Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

reason yet no preaching, because the orator has an opportunity of haranguing often to a larger auditorythan he can persuade to read his lucubrations: but I desire it may be remembered, that there is neither liberty, arts, sciences, learning, or knowledge in these countries.

But another method has been thought on in these Western parts of the world, much less effectual, and yet more mischievous than the former, namely, to put the press under the protection of the prevailing party, and authorise libels on one side only, and deny the other side the opportunity of defending themselves.

cent man,

What mischief is done by libels to balance all these evils? They seldom or never annoy an innoor promote any considerable error. Wise and honest men laugh at them, and despise them, and such arrows always fly over their heads, or fall at their feet. Most of the world take part with a virtuous man, and punish calumny by their detestation of it. The best way to prevent libels is not to deserve them. Guilty men alone fear them, or are hurt by them, whose actions will not bear examination, and therefore must not be examined. 'Tis fact alone which annoys them; for if you tell no truth, I dare say you may have their leave to tell as many lies as you please.

The same is true in speculative opinions. You may write nonsense and folly as long as you think fit, and no one complains of it but the bookseller. But if a bold, honest, and wise book sallies forth, and attacks those who think themselves secure in

their

[ocr errors]

their trenches, then their camp is in danger, and they call out all hands to arms, and their enemy is to be destroyed by fire, sword, or fraud. * But 'tis senseless to think that any truth can suffer by being thoroughly searched, or examined into; or that the discovery of it can prejudice right religion, equal government, or the happiness of society in any respect: she has so many advantages above error, that she wants only to be shown to gain admiration and esteem; and we see every day that she breaks the bonds of tyranny and fraud, and shines through the mists of superstition and ignorance: and what then would she do, if these barriers were removed, and her fetters taken off?

IDEM.
Wol. i. No. 32, and vol. ii.

ONE of the greatest blessings we enjoy, one of the greatest blessings a people can enjoy, is liberty; but every good in this life has its alloy of evil; licentiousness is the alloy of liberty; it is an ebullition, and excrescence; it is a speck upon the eye of the political body, which I can never touch but with a gentle, with a trembling hand, lest I destroy the body, lest I injure the eye upon which it is apt to appear. There is such a connection between licentiousness and liberty, that it is not easy to correct the one, without dangerously wounding the

other;

[ocr errors]

*Every man has liberty to speak what he pleases against. the people, but against a prince no man can talk without a thousand apprehensions and dangers.

MACHIAVEL.

Discourses, b. i. cb. lvii

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

other; it is extremely hard to distinguish the true limit between them; like a changeable silk, we can easily see there are two different colours, but we cannot easily discover where the one ends, or where the other begins.

We are told that Augustus, after having established his empire, restored order in Rome, by restraining licentiousness. God forbid we should in this country have order restored, or licentiousness restrained, at so dear a rate as the people of Roine paid for it to Augustus.

12

Let us consider that arbitrary power has seldom or never been introduced into any country at once. It must be introduced by slow degrees, and as it were step by step, lest the people should see its approach. The barriers and fences of the people's liberty must be plucked one by one, and some plausible pretences must be found for removing or hoodwinking, one after another, those centries who are posted by the constitution of a free country for warning the people of their danger. When these preparatory steps are once made, the people may then indeed, with regret, see slavery and arbitrary power making long strides over their land; but it will be too late to think of preventing or avoiding the impending ruin.

edi The stage and the press are two of our out centries; if we remove them, if we hoodwink them, if we throw them into fetters, the enemy may surprise us.

LORD CHESTERFIELD.

Miscel, works by Matty, vol. iv.

IT

It is apprehended, that arbitrary power would steal in upon us, were we not careful to prevent its progress, and were there not an easy method of conveying the alarm from one end of the kingdom to another. The spirit of the people must fre-quently be roused, in order to curb the ambition of the court, and the dread of rousing this spirit must be employed to prevent that ambition. Nothing is so effectual to this purpose as the liberty of › the press, by which all the learning, wit, and genius of the nation may be employed on the side of freedom, and every one be animated to its defence. As long therefore as the republican part of our government can maintain itself against the monarchical, it will naturally be careful to keep the press open, as of importance to its own preservation.

HUME. Essays, vol. i. p. 23.

Ir is to discussion, and consequently to the liberty of the press that the science of physics owes its improvements. Had this liberty never subsisted, how many errors, consecrated by time, would be cited as incontestible axioms! What is here said of physics, is applicable to morality and politics. If we would be sure of the truth of our opinions we should make them public. It is by the touchstone of discussion that they must be proved. The press therefore should be free. The magistrate who prevents it, opposes all improvement in morality and politics; he sins against his country, he choaks the very seeds of those happy ideas which the liberty of the press would produce.

And who can estimate

estimate that loss! Wherever this liberty is withheld, ignorance, like a profound darkness, spreads over the minds of men. It is then that the lovers of truth, at the same time that they seek it, fear to find it ; they are sensible that they must either conceal, basely disguise it, or expose themselves to persecution, which every man dreads.

But what whimsical opinions will not such a liberty bring forth? Be it so: these opinions, destroyed by reason as soon as produced by caprice, will effect no alteration in the tranquility of a

4

state.

[ocr errors]

There are no specious pretexts with which hypocrisy and tyranny have not coloured their desire of imposing silence on men of discernment: and there is no virtuous citizen that can see in these pretexts any legitimate reason for remaining silent.

The publication of truth can be displeasing to those impostors only, who too frequently gaining the attention of princes, represent an enlightened people as factious and a barbarous people as docile. But what does experience teach us upon this subject? That all intelligent people are deaf to the idle declamations of fanaticism, and shocked by all acts of injustice.

1

When a government prohibits writing on matters of administration, it makes a vow of blindness, a vow which is common enough. As long as my finances are well regulated, and my army well disciplined, said a great prince, let who will write will w

сс

against

« ÎnapoiContinuă »