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character of a nation is changed and stamped, are more practicable in a barbarous age, than in one so far advanced as that of the Tudors; under a despotic government, than under a free one; and among an ignorant, rather than an inquiring people. Obedience is then either yielded to a power which is too strong to be resisted; or willingly given to the acknowledged superiority of some commanding mind, carrying with it, as in such ages it does, an appearance of divinity. Our incomparable Alfred was a Prince in many respects favourably circumstanced for accomplishing a great work like this, if his victory over the Danes had been so complete as to have secured the country against any further evils from that tremendous enemy. And had England remained free from the scourge of their invasions under his successors, it is more than likely that his institutions would at this day have been the groundwork of
If you allude to that part of the Saxon law, which required that all the people should be placed under borh, I must observe that even those writers who regard the name of Alfred with the greatest reverence always condemn this part of his system of government.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
It is a question of degree. The just medium between too much superintendance and too little,..the mystery whereby the free will of the subject is preserved, while it is directed by the fore purpose of the state, (which is the secret of true polity)...is yet to be found out: But this is certain, that whatever be the origin of government, its duties are patriarchal, that is to say, parental: superintendance is one of those duties, and is capable of being exercised to any extent by delegation and subdelegation.
MONTESINOS. The Madras system, my excellent friend Dr. Bell would exclaim if he were here. That which, as he says, gives in a school to the master, the hundred eyes of Argus, and the hundred hands of Briareus, might in a state give omnipresence to law, and omnipotence to order: This is indeed the fair ideal of a commonwealth.
SIR THOMAS MORE. And it was this at which * Alfred aimed. His
* Alfred's sense of the necessity of discipline is strongly expressed in the terms of his agreement with the Danish King Gutbrun. “ In primis est, quod statuerunt, ut unum Deum diligere velint, et omnem gentilismum sedulo rejicere; et constituerunt etiam secularem disciplinam, pro eo quod sciebant, quod non possent multos aliter gubernare ; et multi nollent ad Ecclesiasticam emendationem aliter flectere, sicuti debebant."
means were violent, because the age was barbarous: experience would have shown wherein they required amendment, and as manners improyed the laws would have been softened with them. But they disappeared altogether during the years of internal warfare and turbulence which ensued. The feudal order which was established with the Norman conquest, or at least methodized after it, was in this part of its scheme less complete: still it had the same bearing. When that also went to decay, municipal police did not supply its place. Church discipline then fell into disuse; clerical influence was lost; and the consequence now is, that in a country where one part of the community enjoys the highest advantages of civilization with which any people upon this globe have ever in any age been favoured, there is among the lower classes a mass of ignorance, vice and wretchedness, which no generous heart can contemplate without grief; and which, when the other signs of the times are considered, may reasonably excite alarm for the fabric of society that rests upon such a base. It resembles the Tower in
your own Vision, its beautiful summit elevated above all other buildings, the foundations placed upon the sand and mouldering.
You will not, I hope, come to that conclusion! You will not, I hope, say with the evil Prophet,
The fabric of her power is undermined ;
The Earthquake underneath it will have way, And all that glorious structure, as the wind
Scatters a summer cloud, be swept away!
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Look at the populace of London, and ask yourself what security there is that the same blind fury which broke out in your childhood against the Roman Catholics may not be excited against the government, in one of those opportunities which accident is perpetually offering to the desperate villains, whom your laws serve rather to protect than to punish!
It is an observation of Mercier's that despotism loves large cities. The remark was made with reference to Paris, only a little while before the French Revolution! But even if he had looked no farther than the history of his own country and of that very metropolis, he might have found sufficient proof that insubordination and anarchy like them quite as well.
SIR THOMAS MORE. London is the heart of
system, but it is also the hot-bed of corruption. It is at once the centre of wealth and the sink of misery; the seat of intellect and empire, .. and yet a wilderness wherein they, who live like wild beasts upon their fellow creatures, find prey and cover. Other wild beasts have long since been extirpated : even in the wilds of Scotland, and of barbarous, or worse than barbarous Ireland, the wolf is no longer to be found; a degree of civilization this to which no other country has attained. Man, and man alone, is permitted to run wild. You plough your fields and harrow them; you have your scarifiers to make the ground clean; and if after all this weeds should spring up, the careful cultivator roots them out, by hand. But ignorance and misery and vice are allowed to grow, and blossom and seed, not on the waste alone, but in the very garden and pleasure ground of society and civilization. Old Thomas Tusser's coarse remedy is the only one which legislators have yet thought of applying !
What remedy is that?
SIR THOMAS MORE.
'Twas the husbandman's practice in his days and mine :